Thursday, September 23, 2010
The recent blog template update seems to have brought with it a small pile of questions. Time to dispose of some more of the backlog...
Dear Uncle Gus,
When you discovered Ayn Rand and started talking about her philosophy, did people label you as an "idealist"? It's happening to me. I feel like that's their "subtle" way of telling me that the world is crap and I'd better get used to it .
What is an idealist, anyway?
Since I discovered Objectivism while I was attending a religious college, I managed to escape being charged with "idealism." Instead, I got slammed, when I did, for being an atheist and for being selfish.
I'll address two aspects of what may be going on in your case: the slamming itself and the specific accusation.
When someone acquires new knowledge of any kind, a natural impulse is to share it with as many people as possible. The urge is normal, but some people overdo it and some people react to it badly. This happens to some new Objectivists, but it is hardly unique to new Objectivists.
We all know, for example, a [fill in a computer operating system here] fan-boy who touts its virtues to the point that it seems like it's all he ever talks about. There's nothing necessarily wrong with this, but it does annoy some people. I know this, because I have found myself, at different times and on different issues over the years, on each side of that particular fence -- and, no, I haven't always handled it gracefully.
I don't know whether the above might describe your situation, but if you're catching flak all the time, the subtle message may simply be, "Can we please talk about something else for a while?" You may well want to be more selective about when you bring up your philosophy.
As for "idealism," what else that might mean depends on too much context for me to be able to do anything but throw out a few other possibilities. Many people wrongly see theory and practice as unrelated and, yes, have given up on the whole idea of understanding the world, as you hypothesize. (And, in those cases, since misery loves company, ...) Others are suspicious of any philosophy since every other philosophy they have ever encountered is hogwash. (Rand, though not using the term "hogwash," has noted this problem.) Others may be reacting badly to being challenged on issues they have strong opinions about.
Having said all that, it is clear that the word, "idealist" has many uses. Indeed it has multiple definitions, including:
a person who cherishes or pursues high or noble principles, purposes, goals, etc.You are an idealist in this sense, and that is a very good thing. Keep that alive.
Strange world, isn't it, where a word frequently used as an insult is actually a compliment?
Dear Uncle Gus,
Is it true, as Myrhaf says, that you are anti-tipping? If so, can you explain your stance?
The Reluctant Tipper
In "Dear Uncle Gus Jeopardy," you get bonus points for stating the question with a salutation and a closing. Well done!
Let me state for the record that, as tipping is an established rule of etiquette, I abide by that rule and am actually a good tipper.
That said, I don't like the rule for the reasons that Judith Martin (aka Miss Manners) has laid out.
Dear Uncle Gus,
Recently, a friend of mine from Barcelona was telling me that the government in that region of Spain is banning bull fighting because the majority of Catalonians believe it is inhumane. What should be the proper role of government in this (e.g., regarding dogfights in the U.S.)?
The proper role of government is the protection of individual rights, which only rational animals (i.e., human beings) possess. As inhumane as bull fighting and dog fighting are, bulls and dogs are property, which their owners may dispose of as they see fit, so long as they do not violate the rights of others in the process. Dog fighting, however barbaric, should be perfectly legal. Bull fighting, too, I am inclined to think, although I could see an argument against that, based on the danger it poses to the matador.
Neither majority opinion nor a laudable revulsion at how certain animal owners behave should be permitted to trump protection of the individual in the legal system of a nation.
If you'd like to ask a question, just type it into the box at the upper right labeled, "Ask Uncle Gus."
1-8-10: Added hypertext anchors.