language matters

Damien Grant's picture
Submitted by Damien Grant on Sun, 2012-06-17 00:38

There is a raging (and in my view pointless) debate on another thread, concerning the libertarian equivalent of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin; Is Obama a Marxist.

Joe Maurone pointed out some time back that the debates between the descendants of Ayn Rand can be intense and since then I’ve had a chance to review them and indeed they rival in intensity those that separate the descendants of the Prophet, only with less relevance to anything.

I was a little condescending when I was reading the different schools of thought only to find some short months later I have got caught into a debate with even less intellectual merit.

I have said, hypocritically, some highly intemperate things in the course of that debate and been told off by the host for doing such. On reflection he is right and an apology is in order.

Sorry.

It matters to me not at all if Obama is a socialist, Marxist, or mainstream western liberal. All right thinking people should be working for a republican president. If successful then the issue becomes moot. If not, the actions taken to moderate the effects of his presidency must continue, no matter that we disagree on his underlying agenda. If the barbarians are at the gate you must defend the gate, it matters not if they are Goths, Huns, Picks or Celts.

Moving on: I have said previously that the choice of language is important.

My view that the art of proselytizing libertarian ideas is hampered by what Perigo would, i suspect, call passionate language. Clearly my view is not shared by everyone and I am interested in why.

This matters. You can trace large shifts in public policy to dry intellectual papers. Barro and Gordon are American (I think) economists who wrote some ideas on the importance of the independence of the Reserve Bank, and it lead, starting in New Zealand, to independent Reserve Banks.

Milton Friedman started the whole Chicago school, Keynes changed the way governments thought about the business cycle, Ayn Rand, who I am reading again after a twenty year absence, is intense in her use of language yet somehow remarkable in the clarity of her ideas.

I think about this. It is important to me. I’ve speculated that inertia matters and that libertarians should do what Militant Tendency did in the UK and all join the National Party and take over the beast from the inside. I was being serious.

Hubbard is writing a book. I do wish him luck with that. I notice that Perigo seems defeatist, as if the tide is going out and there is nothing to stop it. Maybe he is right but before I lie down and die I want to know that I did something more than blog, but if that is all I do, language matters even more.


"Language Matters"

Michael Moeller's picture

Really? Then why did you write the following:

"It matters to me not at all if Obama is a socialist, Marxist, or mainstream western liberal."

You don't see the irony?

Differences in degrees do matter, Damien.

Michael

"Speak"

Jmaurone's picture

Damien: "Libertarians are the outsiders with their nose pressed against the glass with nothing other than a few well-placed bully pulpits to impact policy. Disagreements between those without power has no real effect on anything, is what I meant."

Ok, thanks for the clarification.

As for that, I don't know if the people behind the uprisings in the middle east would agree with that. Or the Tea Party, or Occupy Wall Street crowd, for that matter...

Since this is an Objectivist place, here's Ayn Rand's rebuttal to Damien's statement:

"Suppose you were a doctor in the midst of an epidemic. You would not ask: "How can one doctor treat millions of patients and restore the whole country to perfect health?" You would know, whether you were alone or part of an organized medical campaign, that you have to treat as many people as you can reach, according to the best of your ability, and that nothing else is possible."

"...what can one do? The answer is 'Speak' (provided you know what you are saying."

" A few suggestions: don't wait for a national audience. Speak on any scale open to you, large or small-to your friends, your associates, your professional organizations, or any legitimate public forum. You can never tell when your words will reach the right mind at the right time. You will see no immediate results-but it is of such activities that public opinion is made."

"Speak on any scale open to you, large or small--to your friends, your associates, your professional organizations, or any legitimate public forum. You can never tell when your words will reach the right mind at the right time."

"In an intellectual battle, you do not need to convert everyone. History is made by minorities—or, more precisely, history is made by intellectual movements, which are created by minorities. Who belongs to these minorities? Anyone who is able and willing actively to concern himself with intellectual issues. Here, it is not quantity, but quality that counts (the quality—and consistency—of the ideas one is advocating)..."

"If a dictatorship ever comes to this country, it will be by the default of those who keep silent. We are still free enough to speak. Do we have time? No one can tell. But time is on our side—because we have an indestructible weapon and an invincible ally (if we learn how to use them): reason and reality."

(Excerpts from "What Can One Do," from Philosophy: Who Needs It)

Granted, Rand talked about speaking, there, but the Tea Party, OWS, and the Middle East Uprisings are all the results of outsiders who heard something or other at some point, outside of the power structure.

less relevance to anything

Damien Grant's picture

Libertarians are the outsiders with their nose pressed against the glass with nothing other than a few well-placed bully pulpits to impact policy. Disagreements between those without power has no real effect on anything, is what I meant.

The ideas of libertarians seep into public consciousness, the debates they hold between themselves do not, which is not to say that the issues are not in themselves important but no one is really paying attention.

Mark: I’m not certain of my point, I am thinking aloud. I wrestle between my desire to throw a hand grenade into the room because I am so frustrated at the insurmountable degree of ignorance and stupidity that confronts me and a desire to pick up a tea spoon and begin shovelling the mountain of ignorance and stupidity aside. How I got a mountain into a room I am not sure. If I see a leftie with a stupid placard I immediately dismiss them as being crazies.

This is unfair because they might have a valid point but my bias against crazies means I am not going to listen to them. If I met the same leftie wearing a suit and tie in front of a lecture podium I would do them the courtesy of listening to what they had to say and they have a chance to influence me. Russell Norman is a case in point. He has gone from flag waving crazy to respectable and people are listening to him as a result. Presentation is a lot more effective but his message is the same and somehow my attempt to post a picture of the before and after Mr Norman went a little awry.

 

 

 

Damien

Mark Hubbard's picture

Linz has well pointed out the contradiction in your header post - and that was a great, passionate 'rant' in Granny Herald today.

I agree with you, entirely, that language is everything, thus it is not surprising that the Left have long been waging a fundamental attack on language itself; there's even one SOLO commenter who is a practitioner of this black art (Seymourblogger). That is the point I am making in this book review - and note footnote (1) - where my argument is that the lit theory deconstructionists fall into the same contradiction Hume does: they need to assume a solid language to argue it is slippery, just as Hume has to use reason to try and demolish it, thus both have lost their argument in their very argument of it. (And yet academia remains in thrall of it all, still, showing Linz's 'defeatism' is well placed).

So given you are correct, language does matter, to clearly transmit ideas and philosophy, so long as the 'clear' is enacted, what is wrong with passionate delivery? (And what, precisely, do you mean by that, as I suspect it can be broken into parts?)

Actually, what is your point?

Truth and Toleration...

Jmaurone's picture

Damien wrote: "Joe Maurone pointed out some time back that the debates between the descendants of Ayn Rand can be intense and since then I’ve had a chance to review them and indeed they rival in intensity those that separate the descendants of the Prophet, only with less relevance to anything."

Yes, I mentioned the intensity of the schisms in O'land, but the infighting itself wasn't the main point; I was specifically referring to a particular schism that led David Kelly to write The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand: Truth and Toleration in Objectivism (available online at that link). I don't know why you say "less relevance to anything, when the book's thesis (if not the schism itself) was most certainly relevant to the discussion of that thread (how and when one is to make such judgments of evil.)

What I originally wrote:

"Believe it or not, I appreciate your efforts in fairness, even if I disagree about Obama. If you're more Libertarian than Objectivist, you may not be aware of this book, and why it was written. But if you're going to debate this kind of topic on Objectivist forums, you may be interested in reading it, since it covers the same ground you discuss, i.e., when, how, and whether it's necessary or harmful to judge people as evil based on beliefs vs. actions, degrees of moral wrongdoing, etc...you'll see that not even the Objectivist community is united in such judgments...(And you thought the judgment against Obama was harsh; see what some Objectivists think of Libertarians, and the Objectivists who dare to talk to them...)"

Damien ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I have some more homework for you. Note in particular the quotes from Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison:

http://www.solopassion.com/nod...

I believe the essence of your error is in your words: "Ayn Rand, who I am reading again after a twenty year absence, is intense in her use of language yet somehow remarkable in the clarity of her ideas."

Do you think intensity and clarity are incompatible? I believe the opposite.

I noted with an approving chuckle your Herald column today on the teacher unions did not mince words, contrary to your stated policy—and the lefties have crawled from under their rocks to attack you for that very reason, calling the column a "rant," etc. If this be ranting, rant on, Bro Damien! Do not be cowered into being a blandifier.

It's true that I personally am blacklisted for my bluntness (and the views on whose behalf I am blunt). I have no intention of toning it down and it's pointless for you to presume to admonish me on the matter.

Before I lie down I'd like better to understand why it is in this abominable culture that it is a far greater sin to judge evil than to be evil.

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