Posts Tagged ‘ad hominem’

The subject of ‘Randroids‘ keeps coming up.  The Urban Dictionary defines it as “A blind follower of Ayn Rand & her philosophy of objectivism,” going on to say “…with emphasis on the more cultic aspects of the movement. Often marked by exclusivist rhetoric, dogmatic individualism, and determinedly narcissistic self-praise.”

I generally tend to think that labels are only really useful for telling the difference between a can full of peaches and a can full of peas, but let’s examine this further.

Obviously, it’s an attempt at ad hominem and is intended to belittle someone who self-identifies as ‘an objectivist‘ or who frequently quotes from Ayn Rand.  Ad hominem is a term referring to a fallacy in argumentation that involves attacking the individual making an argument rather than the premises they present.  In short, it’s a lazy person’s way to avoid addressing the facts involved in an issue and often times serves as an indicator that they are either ignorant of those facts or just plain wrong.  More often than not, it’s both.

Truth be told, I have run into a few ‘cultish’ types in the Objectivist community myself, but they are by far not a majority.  And the fact is that a lot of people engage in various forms of ad hominem as well as many other forms of fallacious argumentation.

One thing that I have learned over the years when it comes to ad hominem and other forms of personal attacks is to examine what is really being said and then, try to see if what they ‘mean’ and what they are actually ‘saying’ are really in tandem with one another.  In other words, is what they are saying (or the words they are choosing to say it) really that bad after all?

Consider ‘Randroid’.  It’s an obvious coinage merging the terms ‘Rand’ from the author’s last name and the word ‘android’ – the implication being that you are an unthinking robot.  But let’s first start with the definition of the word.  Dictionary.com says:

an automaton in the form of a human being.

The same source says of automaton that it is something capable of acting automatically or without an external motive force. And wikipedia says of automaton that it is a self-operating machine. The word is sometimes used to describe a robot, more specifically an autonomous robot.  Wiktionary goes on to say it is a machine or robot designed to follow a precise sequence of instructions; A formal system, such as finite automaton.  I saw a few other sources that described it as an ‘intelligent machine’ and having a free or independent will.

When it comes to words, I also like to go back to their originations to help get a better feel for their true meanings.  Automaton extends from Ancient Greek αὐτόματον (automaton), neuter of αὐτόματος (automatos, “self moving, self willed”) and android was coined from the Greek root ανδρ- ‘man’ and the suffix -oid ‘having the form or likeness of’.  Both terms have gotten more exposure from science fiction where they are often depicted as mindless monsters bent on destroying mankind, but – as with most things – reality works out differently.

In reality, we are learning that making a ‘human like’ machine that can act on it’s own volition requires an ‘intelligent’ – in fact – a ‘very VERY intelligent machine’.  In essence, the ideal android would be something that appeared and behaved in a manner identical to most biological humans but that also possessed the superior abilities of a machine.  A being who’s decision making was based on a logical process of ‘rules’ including many compiled in through very hard work of those that came before it or helped to develop it, but also many rules created through learning capabilities and drawn from the realities of the universe.

There is nothing more dispelling to an attempt at ad hominem or other means of tainting an argument by-way-of ridicule than to point out the obvious flaws in the attempt and then own the moniker with pride.

So based on the examination of the words and motivations involved, I re-assemble the definition:

Randroidn. a human being who behaves like an intelligent machine, following a logical set of rules – many of which were exemplified by Ayn Rand in her Objectivist epistemology – that extend from the nature of what ‘is’ (existence) and all that reasonably can be deduced or induced from it.

Randroid?  Yeah, I can live with that!

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