I’m so often surprised and embarrassed by many great people(usually scientists and engineers) that I admire when it comes to their understanding and outlook of what Philosophy really is and it’s importance to human existence and a person’s life.
“You have no choice about the necessity to integrate your observations, your experiences, your knowledge into abstract ideas, i.e., into principles. Your only choice is whether these principles are true or false, whether they represent your conscious, rational convictions—or a grab-bag of notions snatched at random, whose sources, validity, and consequences you do not know, notions which, more often than not, you would drop like a hot potato if you knew.” — Ayn Rand
Peter Norvig’s recent excellent essay called ‘On Chomsky and the Two Cultures of Statistical Learning’ has a comment near the end where he lumps in Philosophy with Religion and mysticism :
O’Reilly is correct that these questions can only be addressed by mythmaking, religion or philosophy, not by science.
In leading up to that quote he says that Philosophy only answers the ‘Why’ and not the ‘What’ and ‘How’. I can see why many people would view what’s called ‘Philosophy’ that way after the damage that’s been done to it by Academia and Religion over the centuries.
In Richard P. Gabriel’s most recent paper (highly recommended reading) ‘The Structure of a Programming Revolution’ he makes the following statement early on :
“Engineers build things; scientists describe reality; philosophers get lost in broad daylight.”
I get why he would write that considering a ‘philosopher of science’ : Philip Kitcher, that he then goes on to quote. This is likely his honest view of what Philosopher’s are. I really did expect much more from such a powerful thinker that I’ve always looked up to.
Also recently a twitter ‘conversation’ between myself Rob Lowe and Kent Pitman went something like this :
@RobLowe Can someone explain the vitriol whenever Ayn Rand comes up? "Atlas" is the greatest motivator for the individual that I can imagine. @RobLowe Yes, Atlas Shrugged inspires individual action, but it also lays foundation for ideas that #Greed is Good and #Charity is Bad. @KentPitman @roblowe Kent, that is a classic misunderstanding of #AynRand 's philosophy. @jng27 @RobLowe As a novel not a textbook, #AtlasShrugged has direct influence. #AynRand's philosophy, misunderstood or not, isn't relevant. @KentPitman @roblowe No. The book explores a number of philosophical themes that Rand would develop into the philosophy of #Objectivism. @jng27 @RobLowe Many don't cite & may not know of #Objectivism. They talk directly of #AtlasShrugged. Misunderstanding or no, impact is same @KentPitman The vitriol is due to willful non-thinking. #AynRand stated this herself. Thinking is man’s only basic virtue. @RobLowe
So Kent, a person who I admire highly for his achievements in the world of Common Lisp and who I had always thought was a rational thinker, views Objectivism as motivating greed and considering charity as bad. He also considers ‘Altas Shrugged’ as irrelevant in why people are vitriolic toward Ayn Rand. This is clearly not his own original thinking. I know for a fact that he is too smart for that. That view is also completely untrue and not the message of Objectivism. Also, her works including ‘Atlas Shrugged’ which put forward her philosophy in a novel, whether people read it or not, are why people are vitriolic to her views whether they realize it or not. Her arguments challenge people to look at reality.
What else would be the most likely reason that people would be vitriolic toward her ?
Then there are certain people behind the ‘New Atheist’ movement who I highly regard : Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett etc.
When it comes to using an objective Philosophy on which to build morality, they have all badly missed the mark. Sam Harris seems to have come the closest with his most recent book called ‘The Moral Landscape’ and the kinds of questions he poses in his writing.
Here’s what one of the greatest and yet most denigrated philosophers of the modern age had to say about Philosophy :
“In order to live, man must act; in order to act, he must make choices; in order to make choices, he must define a code of values; in order to define a code of values, he must know what he is and where he is – i.e. he must know his own nature (including his means of knowledge) and the nature of the universe in which he acts – i.e. he needs metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, which means: philosophy. He cannot escape from this need; his only alternative is whether the philosophy guiding him is to be chosen by his mind or by chance.” — Ayn Rand
So in response to Richard Gabriel’s paper : Which is paramount and precedes the other two ? Which makes the other two’s existence even possible? : Philosophy, Engineering or Science ?
“Philosophy studies the fundamental nature of existence, of man, and of man’s relationship to existence. In the realm of cognition, the special sciences are the trees, but philosophy is the soil which makes the forest possible.” — Ayn Rand
So a great programming language revolution would never happen without an objective Philosophy at it’s deepest core.
Objectivism is objectively the greatest system of Philosophy ever put together up until now. It is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Objectivists and Lisp hackers have a common shared experience and conviction about their respective tools that most people have never known and sadly, will never know.
What’s most telling about the people that reject Ayn Rand is the denigration and personal attacks against her because not a single one of them has ever been able refute her philosophy.