Alice in Objectivist Land, part six

NickOtani's picture
Submitted by NickOtani on Mon, 2007-07-09 14:59

On the day of the trial, the bailiff instructed all in the courtroom to rise. The judge walked in and took his seat, and the bailiff instructed all to sit. Then, the judged asked the prosecution to make his opening statement to the jury.

Dr. P got up and faced the jury, taking periodic puffs on his pen, and said, pointing to the defendants, “These people have repudiated the fundamental principles of Objectivism. They have criticized us and speculated on alternatives to determining facts, alternatives which ignore and violate the axiomatic concept that existence exists, which implies the law of identity and non contradiction and causality. They embrace philosophies which are irrational, philosophies like pragmatism and existentialism, philosophies which Ayn Rand abhorred and blamed for terrible problems in the world. These people are a threat to our flourishing survival, and anyone who sympathizes with them or looks the other way is just as guilty as they, is also a threat to our flourishing survival. We must eradicate this skepticism and irrationality from the earth and make this planet safe for productive people, those of us who do not evade the self-evident truth that A is A and all that is implied in it.

“They will tell us to be tolerant, that there are nice and gentle people out there who may disagree with us. I have no doubt this is true. Kant would probably have been a decent dinner guest, but Kant’s ideas were evil. They led to unspeakable acts of cruelty.

“We cannot afford to be tolerant when our lives are being threatened. We have to identify evil and root it out. That is our only chance.”

With that, Dr. P sat down. Alice felt a chill down her back. The judge then asked the defense attorney, Dr. K, if he wanted to make his opening statement now, and he indicated that he did.

“Wow!” exclaimed Dr. P, “Let’s take a deep breath and think about what we just heard. Are all those nice and gentle people out there are like Kant, or are they more like women and children who are Christian, Muslim, or Buddhist. Or, they could be atheists, like the defendants, just not the same kind of atheists as Dr. P. Perhaps they are like ordinary people who don’t really get into philosophy that much and simply want to pursue happiness. Perhaps they really haven’t thought about everything implied by A is A. To them, happiness is a warm puppy. Should they all be eradicated to make the earth safe for Objectivists like my esteemed colleague, Dr. P? If anyone disagrees with Dr. P, is he or she a threat to all Objectivists anywhere?

“Objectivism also teaches that we are not omniscient or infallible. We can learn. However, it is hard to learn something new when we think we already know everything. Yes, there comes a time when we have to take a stand, when we say, “This is important enough that I will die for it or kill other people for it.” And, we should be fairly certain of what we stand for if we are going to be willing to die or kill other people for it. And, if we are, should we be threatened by people who disagree with us, by little Buddhist children who believe in peace and goodness but not necessarily A is A? Is our Objectivism so fragile that we cannot survive among those who may not think exactly as we do?

“Okay, these defendants are not little Buddhist children. They are adults who have been around the block a few times, but they are not necessarily dishonest. They have real concerns about Objectivism and authentically hold views which conflict with a strict, Mr. P type view of Objectivism. Does this make them threats to you? Does this make them Kants? I don’t think it should. Does this mean I’ll be the next person to be prosecuted for not believing exactly as Dr. P believes? Will any juror who does not vote for the prosecution be the next to be prosecuted?

“I was going to save this for my closing but I may as well say it now. To those of you on the jury: You have a choice. Use it wisely. It may be the last one you have.”

Then, the judge turned again to the prosecutor and instructed him to call his first witness. The prosecutor, Dr. P, called the blind man, Mr. Blind Man, and Mr. Blind Man took an oath that he solemnly swore, to himself, to tell the truth and the whole truth. Then, he took a seat to the left of the judge.

“Please tell the jury what you heard from the defendants on 4/17/07, Mr. Blind Man” instructed Dr. P.

Mr. Blind Man complied, “I heard the Mad Hatter complaining about how he is called dishonest and immoral every time he disagrees with us Objectivists on any small matter, and I heard him talk about pragmatism as an alternative to Objectivism for determining facts. I also heard this little lady, Alice, say that reason doesn’t reach all situations, and sometimes one must take a shot in the dark. The Red Queen was acting in agreement and being cordial to them both.”

“Thank you, Mr. Blind Man,” said Dr. P. “I have no more questions.”

“You may cross examine,” the judge said to Dr. K, and Dr. K got up, smiled, and buttoned his jacket.

“Greetings, Mr. Blind Man,” said Dr. K. “Is it true that you Objectivists call the Mad Hatter dishonest and immoral every time he disagrees with you Objectivists?”

“Yes,” said Mr. Blind Man, guardedly.

“Then he is being honest about that, isn’t he?” asked Dr. K.

“Yes,” repeated Mr. Blind Man.

“If he were to lie to you Objectivists and pretend he always agrees with you,” continued Dr. K, “would you call him dishonest and immoral?”

“No,” answered Mr. Blind Man.

“So,” concluded Dr. K, “isn’t it ironic that by being honest and moral, the Mad Hatter is accused of being dishonest and immoral, but if he were dishonest and immoral, by lying about his honest disagreements, he would not be called dishonest and immoral?”

“Well,” said Mr. Blind Man, “we believe that when someone denies the basic fundamentals of Objectivism, they are being dishonest and immoral. Everyone must know those fundamentals. They are self-evident. And, since all other knowledge is derived logically from them, denying any small bit of integrated knowledge is denying those self-evident axioms.”

“Isn’t knowledge contextual?” asked Dr. K.

“Yes,” answered Mr. Blind Man. He was sounding more confident now, falling back on memorized rationales he had used before. “One can’t know more than one has experienced.”

“Did you ever find that elephant you were looking for the other day?” asked Dr. K.

“Yes,” responded Mr. Blind Man. “I did finally determine that the rope was not a rope but the tail of the elephant, upon further experience, and the columns were really the legs and the wall was really the side and the snake was really its trunk.”

“You had just jumped to a conclusion earlier?” asked Dr. K.

“Yes,” answered Mr. Blind Man.

“So,” continued Dr. K, “when you thought the tail was a rope, were you denying the law of identity and the basic fundamentals of Objectivism?”

“No,” said Mr. Blind Man, “I was just making an Objective inference based on limited experience.”

“But your other conclusion was more Objective, right?” asked Dr. K.

“It wasn’t in conflict with the first inference,” said Mr. Blind Man. “It just extended my Objective knowledge.”

“Oh? A rope and the tail of an elephant is only an extension of knowledge, not a conflict?” asked Dr. K.

“Yes,” answered Mr. Blind Man.

“Are you being honest and moral with us, Mr. Blind Man?” asked Dr. K.

“I don’t appreciate being called dishonest and immoral!” snapped Mr. Blind Man.

“Then perhaps you can appreciate how the Mad Hatter feels when you call him dishonest and immoral.” said Dr. K.

“Objection,” called out Dr. P. “Dr. K is not asking a question.”

“Sustained,” said the judge, and Dr. K continued.

“How does one determine truth in Objectivism?” asked Dr. K. “When, for example, can one be certain about a conclusion?”

“A conclusion is certain when the evidence in its favor is conclusive.” answered Mr. Blind Man.

“When is the evidence conclusive?” asked Dr. K.

“When it adds up to a proof,” answered Mr. Blind Man.

“When does the evidence add up to a proof?” asked Dr. K.

Mr. Blind Man said, “Right now we are in a court proceeding which has standards for determining legal proof.”

“Yes,” said Dr. K, “and even if the twelve jurors all agree with one proposition, they could still be wrong, right? Truth isn’t just majority rule or whatever is popular at certain times, is it?”

“Well,” said Mr. Blind Man, “I just don’t know.”

“By the way,” continued Dr. K, “did you attempt to join in the discussion with Alice, the Red Queen, and the Mad Hatter? Or, did you just jump to another contextual conclusion?”

There was a pause, and then Dr. K said, “No more questions,” and sat down.

To be continued

Bis bald,

Nick


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