Fallacious Arguments and Other Faux-Pas

Carolyn Ray, 2000

You now can download the mp3 of the talk that is based on this list.

  1. I argued that the concept IDENTITY refers to things, not to some real relation, because relations don't exist outside the mind. I argued my case thoroughly and forcefully, and gave lots of references. I was very polite about the whole thing. But my opponent never responded. I think I can take his silence as an admission that he was wrong.

  1. For gods' sake, snap out of it! You've been moping about that damned dog for the past two days. Look, everything dies, OK? But things are good--you have good friends, you have a good job, things are good, life is good. Negative things happen, but you deal with it. Now get over it.

  1. Kant isn't worth reading. Ask any Objectivist. Rand herself compares him to a hippopotamus doing a hoola dance. Why waste your time on that when you can read THE VIRTUE OF SELFISHNESS?

  1. I'm dismayed to see that so many Objectivists on the news groups are debating all kinds of proposed axiomatic concepts and whether they should be added to EXISTENCE, IDENTITY, and CONSCIOUSNESS. The bottom line is this: The literature discusses three axiomatic concepts, no more and no less. The mere question of whether there are more shows a fundamental ignorance of Objectivism that is inexcusable in any serious debate. My suggestion is that, if you don't know yet how many axiomatic concepts there are and why, you go reread Rand and count them yourself.

  1. The title of this book may evoke the kind of question that I hear once in a while: "Why do you use the word'selfishness' to denote virtuous qualities of character, when that word antagonizes so many people to whom it does not mean the things you mean?"

To those who ask it, my answer is: "For the reason that it makes you afraid of it."

But there are others, who would not ask that question, sensing the more cowardice it implies, yet who are unable to formulate my actual reason or identify the profound moral issue involved.

  1. In order to live a good and happy life, there are certain virtues that must be practiced. Honesty is one of them. So of course I would tell the truth if someone came to my door and asked me if I was alone in the house--what good is my life if I am living a lie?

  1. True, honesty is a virtue in the Objectivist ethics, and I'm living proof that the Objectivist ethics is good, solid system. But it isn't an intrinsic virtue--in other words, there are situations in which it is actually virtuous to lie rather than to tell the truth. For example, you wouldn't tell a scout from an invading army what your army's battle plans for the next day were. Basically, if someone is threatening your values, YOU LIE. So we agree on that, and that's just my point. So, no, I'm not going to tell my fiancée that I hit my first wife, because then she might not marry me. Marriage is a value to me, and blindly following intrinsicist rules like "Never lie" would be to throw it away.

  1. I've heard enough now to understand what you're saying about pesticides draining into the ocean, and I really think you should reconsider your position. Look at the kind of eco-terrorists who are engaged in environmentalist activities--they're all big government freaks. The problem with these people is that they don't understand that the market can take care of all the real issues they concern themselves with; and I'm sorry, but I can't see much value in dolphins at all--what did they ever produce? Who the hell cares? If you want a dolphin, get yourself a big tank and put him in there, and YOU foot the bill. If you continue with this absurd line of argument, you're no better than they are.

  1. I'm a radical individualist. I don't let people tell me what to think, or even what to wear. Most of the Herd, when they hear that rest of the Herd is doing something, like listening to alternative music, just go along and do it because it's what everybody else is doing. Well, you know what? I've never heard an alternative song. Just the very fact that everybody else is listening it is enough to tell me it's not worth hearing. I'm not a herd animal.

  1. Cathey: So you're saying that truth is objective, but it's not out there in the world. This doesn't make any sense. The word'objective' means that it's out there in the world! And truth is mind-independent--but you're saying that if there were no minds, there'd be no truth. I don't get it.

    Joey: We need to start with the basics. Existence exists--we know that for sure....

Cathey:'Existence exists'? What does that mean? Is that even grammatical?

Joey: Yes, existence exists. It's the most basic truth there is! If we can't agree on that, then there's nothing to discuss. A is A. Existence exists.

Cathey: Why do you keep saying that? What does it mean? And what's it got to do with a logical inference rule?

Joey: Well, now you're just being evasive--you know exactly what it means!

  1. Cindy: I think it's odd that so many Objectivists are ready to say that animals don't form concepts. I think I've seen evidence of it. Dogs, for example, aren't born considering lambs and kittens their friends; most dogs will chase such animals. But you can teach them to play with other animals, just by introducing them to one or two animals of that kind. And even wild animals, who ordinarily would eat a human being, can learn to make use of us in other ways; bears, for example, learn to beg for food from people in cars. There must be some abstraction going on there.

David: What do you mean, "abstraction"? Of course a dog can't form concepts--it's a DOG!

Cindy: But that's my point--why automatically assume that just because it isn't human, it can't form concepts? We can't get inside their heads to know what they're doing--but then again, I can't get inside _your_ head either.

David: But it's a DOG! I'm talking to ya! DOGS can't do that!

  1. You keep telling me that THE PASSION OF AYN RAND is a good movie, but I don't see how you can say that. Barbara Branden betrayed Rand, and I have no interest in supporting anything that she does. And Nathaniel Branden shouldn't be glorified in a movie--I think that AYN RAND: A SENSE OF LIFE did a much better job of portraying him, by leaving him out of the picture completely. So don't expect to convince me any time soon.

  1. I've noticed an alarming number of young Objectivists giving in to the doctrine of political correctness. They've stopped using the word'he' and'man' in their academic papers to illustrate examples that apply to all men. I suppose that the next step is to require us to refer to huwoman beings instead of human beings! Let us never mention males again, in fact--women don't need them at all! Clearly, even Objectivists can fall prey to the tribal oppressor-victim mentality of feminism.

  1. Day 1:

He: All that we have in common, all of our highest values all the things that are most important--you and I should be together. I love being your friend, but I want more.

She: You're my best friend, but I'm not in love with you. I'm sorry, that's just how I feel.

He: I know that. But I think that's because you're not fully appreciating what your values really are. If I could just make you see--I am the right man for you. You're not being rational!

Day 2:

He: Have you thought any more about what I said?

She: Actually, I have. I think I can make you see why this is rational. There are some important differences between us that don't matter for a friendship but would matter for long-term romance. I'm looking for someone who is more like me. Our interests are so different, we have different priorities: you want to spend every holiday from Christmas to President's Day with your mom and dad; I want to spend them kayaking down the Congo or hitch-hiking around Japan. You want kids; I don't. You're a nice-looking man, but I'm still not attracted to you. You're just not the man for me. And surely you must see I'm not the woman for you?

He: Those are just details! I can't believe you would throw away someone so right for you on the basis of such trivial things. We could work that stuff out. You obviously still don't understand the role of principles in a good life.

  1. Jedd: I have a real problem with the way Objectivists characterize productivity. They always talk in terms of producing something for someone else, and Rand, at least, tended to disparage activities that don't fall into this category--cooking a good meal doesn't count, gardening isn't productive, raising a decent human being isn't important. But these activities are productive--they just don't produce goods and services for sale to large numbers of people. Any activity that creates a value is productive, so if you engage in activities that produce values, even if they are just for yourself, then you are productive. What do you think of that?

Ellie May: I'm not sure--that might be a fallacy.

  1. I've never been so in love with anyone in my life, but it doesn't make any sense. He's not an Objectivist, and he didn't like ATLAS SHRUGGED, the best book ever written! We get along fine, we have a lot of fun, he makes me ecstatic, we never disagree about anything-- except economic principles. I can't believe that's going to come to this, but if he doesn't become an Objectivist then I'll just have to look for someone else.

  1. Wow! That guy has such a good sense of life! He's always smiling at everyone, always has a pleasant word to say. He once gave me a ride when my car broke down. And he wrote this great essay for the discussion list about the benevolent universe premise. He's really got his act together.

  1. One Guy: Ordinary Objectivists get bogged down in arguments with people about why you can't really get away with dishonesty, but I don't think they give the right reasons. It's not that someone will discover you eventually, but that you know that you lied. That's cognitive dissonance, and it's bad for your conceptual faculty and hence for your soul. You don't lie, period, unless it's really an extreme situation, because you don't want to mess up your own mind. Your reputation is secondary.

Another Guy: Well, I don't buy it. I tell little, what you'd call, "white lies" all the time. I wouldn't call myself dishonest, and I like to think of myself as a good person. I think the principle is much more flexible than you're making it out to be.

  1. I don't believe what you're saying. It's not that I have evidence to the contrary. In fact, I guess I'd have to admit that I have a lot of evidence that what you're saying is true. And it's true, I've never known you to lie. But I just don't want to believe it--it goes against some old impressions that I rather like. I'm not really interested in obtaining any more information on the subject, so I'll just maintain my former beliefs. And since what you're saying does contradict my impressions, it makes me very leery of your own credibility.

  1. Steve: You hear these idiots going on and on about global warming and the end of life on earth. They're just anti-capitalist, anti-achievement, anti-life bastards trying to use pseudo science to back up their hatred of the human race.

Carolyn: What makes you think it's pseudo science? There are a lot of scientists investigating the question, and there's plenty of data available. I've been meaning to investigate some of it myself, because the rise in cancer rates really concerns me, and that's supposed to be connected to the thinning of the ozone...

Steve: Look, there's no point. I couldn't tell you exact figures, OK? But I know this much: it's been proven that global warming is just a hoax, so I don't think you need to waste your time looking into the "data". Just read Bidinotto's article "The Green Machine." That'll cure your superstitions.

  1. I understand all the economic and theoretical arguments for the free market that Objectivists offer. I've made some of those arguments myself. But the fact remains that capitalism _does_ allow innocent people to suffer poverty. That really eats away at me. So far as I've seen, there's still nothing that Objectivists can say to answer that problem, and that's why I can't say that capitalism is the best economic system.