The Politically Incorrect Show - 22/11/2001
Someone just asked me if I employed a particular "method" to learn Objectivism. I adore answering questions like that. Here's the response I gave. Some (though not the person who asked the question, who knows me quite well) might be surprised by it. Interestingly, having posted it off, I showed it to Joe Rowlands, of ImportanceofPhilosophy.com, with whom I often exchange musings about such matters. He told me he'd already received the same question from the same person ... & given the same answers (although there was a degree of difference on the question of OTHER philosophies)!
Anyway, here IS the answer I gave, verbatim, apart from the added bits in square brackets. I'd be interested in feedback, both from others with the same question in their mind & from seasoned Objectivists as to whether they think my advice was good or bad:
No, I didn't. I'm sure that doesn't surprise you. If you're using OPAR [Objectivism, the Philosophy of Ayn Rand, by Leonard Peikoff], that'll be fine to begin with, though you're hardly a beginner. Now, I'm sure I asked you this, but I don't remember if you answered - have you read the epistemology book, & ESPECIALLY Leonard's analytic/synthetic dichotomy essay? THAT is utterly superb & tells you SO MUCH about Objectivism by implication that it's just about a one-stop lesson in the whole of it.
My reservations about using a "method" are that, first, to repeat, *I* didn't learn it that way, yet, as David Kelley says in Deborah's book, I have ended up with one of the best understandings of it in the business; & second, it CAN encourage a rationalistic approach which is DEADLY. The sort of "if this, then that" approach which removes itself from the world of empirical facts. [I stress here that I wasn't meaning to denigrate logic, just to emphasis that it can't be "logic" in a vacuum, that it must be derived from & applied to reality.]
I tell each person who asks a question like this to devise his own "method." Start with what interests you. Let's say it's politics, or art. Find out what Objectivism has to say about THAT. THEN, see what Objectivism has to say about the link between what it says about that & what it says about other things. Then establish exactly what that is, & why. Before you know it you'll have covered epistemology & metaphysics. THEN, see what OTHER philosophers have said on these matters - & you'll find yourself driving a bulldozer through them.
All the while, of course, the trick is to remember that this is a philosophy for LIVING, so you have to discard old habits & integrate O/ism into your daily life. THAT takes time & effort. An easy substitute is to recite & dogmatise & pass gratuitous judgements. I think I've said my piece about THAT already :-)
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