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Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 3:32amSanction this postReply
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Interesting.  I'm always curious about methods of arguments and how it might be possible to persuade somebody of something.  I wouldn't entirely give up on changing this guys views.  You just haven't tried the right techniques yet ;)

Here's a brief summary of a method I am developing for trying to persuade other people to change their values (edited from what I posted on another messageboard).  Why not give my method a try?

When trying to change someone's mind, you need to speak to their values, not yours. You can't lecture to people in your own terms. That's the  mistake most people are making when trying to change minds. They imagine that its just a matter of lecturing to the other guy and the other guy will come around.  That doesn't work. You need to try to see things from the other guys point of view.  There are usually several different ways of arguing for something. You can't pick arguments that work for you. . You have to find out what the other person values and then develop arguments in terms of the other person's values. So my first major point is this:  Work out what the other person values, and develop arguments pitched at the other person's values, not yours.

The next major point I want to make is that you need to be patient and only advance your viewpoint gradually.  You also need to concentrate on things you have in common to start with.   If your arguments are good ones then people will come around eventually, but usually not right away. People with strong views usually only change gradually.  You need to just pick one or two things you want to change his mind about initially, and try to avoid issues where you would disagree. Don't try to change someone's mind about everything in other words. Just pick a few things that you might have in common. 

There is a theory of Volition that I recently came across that is quite intriguing. O.K, really ultra-quick summary ;)  Here's it is: 

What people think they want is not neccesserily what they really want. When arguing your world-view you need to show why some element of your world-view is what the other person really wants, even if they currently think that they don't want it. What people would come to believe after they knew more, thought faster etc is their Extrapolated Volition. You are trying to help them extrapolate wink.gif  Do you get this? 

I will give you a hypothetical example to illustrate what I mean.  Suppose you were arguing with a religious person. In order to talk the other person out of it you definitely don't go lecturing to him about your values.   You need to find what he finds attractive about it in terms of his values.    You start by being all ears.  You ask questions and you listen.  You need to find out exactly what is it that the other person finds attractive about his religion. Forget the actual content of the religion.  Look at the values.  You need to find some values in common with your own.  So ignore the areas of disagreement and look for some values that you both agree on.     

O.K, let's say you've done that, and after questioning you worked out the other person liked his religion because of three major values, which you also like:   (a) A sense of Purpose and Meaning, (b) The possibility of transcendence and (c) An understaning of good and evil. So a person might like that religion because he thinks that it provides (a), (b) and (c) for him. (This is not meant to be a full explanation of religious values, I'm just giving you a hypothetical example.  In real life the other guy might give you a list of values that is quite different to the one I have given). 

Now,  in order to change the other guys  mind, you don't argue against the content of the religion, you focus on the values. You need to show why you think that your own world-view actually does a better job of providing these values than the religion.

In the example given, you would try to argue that your world-view does a good job of delivering values (a),(b),(c) that the other guy liked.   What he really wants is (a),(b) and (c), not the religion itself. You see?

To sum up the method:

(a)  Don't start by lecturing someone about your own world-view.  Instead simply ask questions about the other person's world-view and listen carefully to the answers.

(b)  Ignore the specifics of the other person's world-view.  Instead focus on the values that the other person finds attractive.  You need to work out what values the other person likes.  Then you need to find values in common with your own. 

(c)  Take your own world-view and start trying to explain why it is that you think your own world-view delivers upon the values that the other guy likes.

(d)  If you can show that your world-view better delivers upon the values that you both have in common, then the other person will eventually come around to your own world-view.


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Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 5:10amSanction this postReply
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I really enjoyed your article Kathryn and agree wholeheartedly with your conclusions. I've been through many similar experiences and have come to the same realisation as you about the nature of friendship and the proper understanding of Objectivist principles here. In fact, my partner is a Roman Catholic, something that would've bothered me once but, alas, no longer!

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Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 3:05pmSanction this postReply
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Kathryn,

Aristotle's NICOMACHEAN ETHICS discusses two types of friendships:
  1. Friendships of character
  2. Friendships of utility
Your friendship with Billy sounds more like the latter than the former.  His presence provides you with useful values for now.  As a 38 year old, I can say without reservation that as my understanding of human nature grew through Objectivism, and as I met more Objectivists, this distinction became more and more clear to me.

For example, not all Objectivists necessarily share enough common "optional" values with each other to form close friendships of utility, even though most can certainly form friendships of character.  Conversely, as you have experienced, many people can form friendships of utility through common "optional" interests despite profound differences in character.

As I have grown older, I have learned to practice "segmented judgment" so as to optimize the value of each relationship to me.  The principle is to interact in precisely the ways needed with others to maximize the realization of my own values without sanctioning or appeasing the irrational values of those others.  It is no easy task, but I see no other right way to live.

Luke Setzer

(Edited by Luther Setzer on 7/29, 3:07pm)


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Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 12:40pmSanction this postReply
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Kathryn,

I liked your essay.... you have made a great effort to be comprehensive and fair, without compromising what seems right to you.


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Monday, August 2, 2004 - 12:00pmSanction this postReply
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Kathryn,

First of all, I must say I was engrossed with your article the way a good writer can rope in a reader and keep them reading. I kept wondering: "whatís going to happen with Kathryn and her friend? Are they going to stay friends or will the differences tear them apart?" Iím glad you both are able to share the values you have in common.

As far as the explicit differences are concerned Ė enjoy the challenge of a provocative viewpoint. A worldview is not the kind of thing a person changes easily. However, youíve planted a seed which in years or decades might become very helpful for your friend if he ever finds his philosophy isnít serving him well. You both have years ahead to see whose ideas will hold up in reality even if neither of you doubt your current path.

Being conscious precedes even being right and you friend is open to considering and thinking about the big ideas. Thanks for the uplifting story.

Rick


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Monday, August 2, 2004 - 9:09pmSanction this postReply
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heh. what i was thinking when i read it was: you should ask him if he enjoys your time together.

if he says yes, ask him: doesn't that then mean it's immoral and selfish of him to spend time with you?


of course, that may end the friendship....

:)
eli


also, none of my friends are objectivists. i don't think i ever met one in real life.

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Saturday, June 18, 2005 - 7:52pmSanction this postReply
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Kathryn,

This came up as a random article and all I can say is, wow. This is the exact situation I have with my closest friend. Ever since he went to the philosophy department at my university he's been a devout communist, etc. I also decided that I valued his friendship too much to discard it on that differing ideals alone.

We also have drawn out debates (one lasted 8 hours!) that, given that neither of us budge on our positions would seem like mental masturbation to an observer (or would it be mental intercourse since it's a dialogue?), help us sharpen our wits and is just plain fun. He's waiting for me to "get a heart" and I'm waiting for him to "get a brain." :)

Funny thing though, he always says that if my vision of capitalism was what was practiced he wouldn't be opposed to it at all. I presented capitalism to him much like Rand presented it to me (but didn't say I got it from Rand), yet he hates Rand. Just another reason why I don't drop Rand's name when in unfriendly territory, i.e. the philosophy department.

Sarah

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Monday, January 1 - 12:31pmSanction this postReply
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Here we are 13+ years later ... I think you could make a 4-square chart of Character vs Utility and Objectivist vs Secular and be surprised where you put the people you know.

 

I know very few Objectivists at all, and those only online. I have not much Utility need for other people. One of my hobbies is numismatics, and I do go to local meetings, for instance, but I have no "numismatic friends" to whom I would turn for "numismatic advice" or "numismatic support."  The same is true of my other active hobby, astronomy. I was a member of the local club for two years. I even placed half a dozen articles in the newsletter in addition to interviewing half a dozen local leading lights to record their contributions, histories, and views on the future of the hobby. I let my membership lapse and never talked to anyone from there again.  We have Objectivist Meet-ups here in Austin. I have been to maybe a dozen in the last six years, attending in clusters of involvement. As much as I enjoyed the intellectual engagement, I did not make any friends. 

 

But I do have friends of character. Many of their personal values are very different from mine. We met through the Texas Military Department. Not one is an atheist, an egoist, or an individualist (though a couple say that they are "libertarian"). They understand and accept duty, which Ayn Rand roundly condemned (though not in her speech at West Point). But they have character.  They have personal integrity, i.e., they are morally integrated. Just for one aspect, millions of Americans are "patriotic" but only 1% of them serve. These friends of mine do not serve blindly. They are educated, literate, thinking, conscious people who have been  or are operationally successful in life outside of the military. (Not everyone in uniform merits my approval. We have our slackers; but they stand out as individuals who are in the wrong place; and no one likes a goldbrick.) You can have all kinds of faults. I know that I do: one of my NCOs showed me a picture of myself in uniform on the "Foxhole Atheists" website. He does not approve of my metaphysics, but he still invited me out for beer. I am smart and I work hard and when I am wrong I fix it. To me, those are aspects of my character that supersede any social utility I might have demonstrated by walking papers from office to office.



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Wednesday, March 28 - 6:02amSanction this postReply
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This came up again as a random past article. The classic study of the the authoritarian personality is from 1950 and was defined by the communists, fascists, and other movements of the early 20th century. Since then, we have benefited from the insights and exposition of Ayn Rand, Nathaniel Branden, and others on this problem. Whether someone is an individualist or a collectivist is a matter of psychology, not ideology. I had a one-on-one with another non-commissioned officer in my unit. He outranks me one stripe and he made sure that I knew it. He called himself a "libertarian." I accepted his label. I believed him when he said that he does not care what another person puts in their own body or who they marry. But he is not an individualist. He said that he would never allow himself to lose an argument with a junior in front of subordinates. I do not mean refusing orders. We were talking about arguing philosophy. He would never allow himself to lose a philosphical argument if it meant losing status in front of others. I do not feel that way. Not even about orders. I take George Orwell's point of view from Homage to Catalonia, which is also echoed in Extreme Ownership:How the US Navy SEALS Lead and Win. It might take ten painful minutes to explain your order to an unwilling subordinate. But, if you accept your responsibility as a leader, you understand the need to do so. Of course, it is not usually the case. Usually, someone with stripes or bars tells you to do something and of course you do it. But if it seems stupid, you also have a responsibility to speak up. "I am not questioning your orders. I am just pointing out a flaw in your plan." 

 

A story I heard from an early convention of the Libertarian Party, maybe from Erwin S. Strauss, or maybe from Michael Hoy, was how they were all lined up by state in alphabetical order. These radical individualists had no better way to sort themselves out. Each state had their signs on posts. When their favored candidate was called, they pounded their sticks and hooted and cheered. Libertarians are collectivists -- at least some of them...

 

On the other hand, we all know that the first people purged after a communist revolution are the communist revolutionaries.  As Ayn Rand pointed out, integrity is more than not taking the watch from your neighbor's pocket.  That is why some of my best friends have been communists: over the years, you find someone of exceptional integrity. You may wonder how someone so good can believe ideas that are so bad. They feel the same way about you. Hopefully, you have impressed them by the actions of your integrity. 



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Wednesday, March 28 - 2:27pmSanction this postReply
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Whether someone is an individualist or a collectivist is a matter of psychology, not ideology.

 

I don't agree with that.  Individualism has a clear meaning as an ideology.  That does not take away from the fact that a person's psychology can reflect individualistic or authoritarian traits.  They are different subject areas despite the abstract rendering of a common theme in each one.

 

The failure to recognize this can lead to further faulty reasoning, like that shown in saying, "Libertarians are collectivists -- at least some of them."  That ignores the fact that acceptance of the principles of libertarianism means being an individualist in the political realm.  And with that said, it is a kind of conflation to say that they are collectivists.  Collectivism in politics means the initiation of force and is, therefore, contradictory to individualism in politics (respect for individual rights).  Fuzzy thinking.
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"Individualism regards man—every man—as an independent, sovereign entity who possesses an inalienable right to his own life, a right derived from his nature as a rational being."  Ayn Rand, Virtue of Selfishness

 

In that statement Rand touches on metaphysics, epistemology, morality and politics.
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"The mind is an attribute of the individual. There is no such thing as a collective brain."  Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual

 

In that statement, Rand displays an intellectual orientation towards the individual (as opposed to a group) based upon the mind.
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Individualism can be looked at inside the political, the cultural, the moral, the epistomological and the psychological subject areas.  If knowledge were imagined to be a large, layered structure of some sort, then "individualism" would be seen as a vertical swath running through many of the horizontal layers. 

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Individualism is most important in the political realm because it can recognize our individual rights - implementing the moral concept that our lives are an end in themselves.  (Or its political importance can be due to collectivism (individualism's absence), for violating those rights - treating individuals' lives as a means to some other end). 
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Individual rights are, by definition, moral principles.  And morality is a more fundamental level than politics - being the level upon which politics rests. 

 

Individualism also exists in parts of the culture quite apart from politics.  Are organizations organized around a recognition of individual efforts and results?  Are individual choices seen as important?

 

Epistemologically, individualism arises out of choice - that place where human nature, epistemology and the beginnings of morality intersect.  Groups don't choose - individuals do.  Choice is an individual mental exercise. 

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Hopefully, choices are born of sound reasoning, but too often, sick cultures, bad premises, and/or neurotic defensiveness of an individual will encourage emotionalism and a substitute of political correctness and/or peer pressure in place of individualism (independent critical reasoning) in the psychological process of choosing. 

 

So, individualism is also a proper subject for psychology. 



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