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How Would You Deal With a Hardcore Relativist Mystic?

February 14, 2010

A context-dropper forgets or evades any wider context. He stares at only one element, and he thinks, “I can change just this one point, and everything else will remain the same.”

What do you call a critic who attacks a straw man? - A dishonest prick!

What do you call a critic who attacks a straw man? - A dishonest prick!

I was engaged in an unusual online debate with a self-confessed Libertarian Catholic named Francis Bonganay. It started with Mr. Bonganay’s Facebook monologue on his Filipinos for Ron Paul group he created to perhaps recruit people in this country to support his preposterous, indefensible religious advocacy— to bring this nation back to the mystic rule of the murderous fat friars from 15th century up to the end of 18th century. Yes, it’s true and I’m not making this up.

While most civilized people today are criticizing the Catholic Church and other religions for meddling in the country’s political affairs, Mr. Bonganay is championing for the reunification of the Catholic Church and state. In fact he even created a Facebook group called “Catholics for the Restoration of Union of church and State” which now turned invisible. Here, Mr. Bonganay asserts that the “establishment of a state religion [is] often confused,” and that the “Catholic Church supports neither a theocracy nor a state church.”

But the central focus of this online debate is the following statement of Mr. Bonganay, which he posted on his Filipinos for Ron Paul group:

“Here is one of the reasons why I stopped toeing the Objectivist party line. Socialism is the virtue of charity perverted through the use of force. By using force charity no longer becomes a personal sacrifice where you knowingly take a loss for the betterment of someone else. Rand saw the effects of socialism and hated it. But then she went overboard and decided that charity was just as bad as socialism, hence her “Virtue of Selfishness.” I kinda notice how she never really distinguished between rationality and rationalism.”

I commented on this dishonest, buffoonish statement, saying “this guy doesn’t really know the difference between altruism and charity, between capitalism and statism, and between sacrifice and self-interest.” Record shows that I did not actually challenge him to a debate. I was simply asking him to explain how he understands Ayn Rand’s view on charity that “went above board” and “just as bad as socialism.” Record also shows that it was Mr. Bonganay who called this discussion a “Great Debate” as he announced on the discussion board of the group I created— Ayn Rand Fans in the Philippines.

The above-statement of this self-confessed Catholic Libertarian is a good example of context-dropping. What he did is that he tore the idea of “charity” and “socialism” from their respective contexts and then treated them as though they were self-sufficient, independent items. What he did is that he invalidated the thought process involved. Like Dr. Leonard Peikoff said, “If you omit the context, or even a crucial aspect of it, then no matter what you say it will not be valid.” So no matter what this Catholic Libertarian raise to support his fallacious argument is invalid- a ZERO!

Ayn Rand did everything in her lifetime to protect the integrity of her philosophy against the context-droppers, dishonest critics and plain ignorant mystics like Mr. Bonganay. Ayn Rand defined context-dropping as “one of the chief psychological tools of evasion.” She wrote that in regard to one’s desires, there are two major ways of context-dropping: the issues of range and of means.

Dr.  Peikoff, the intellectual heir of Ayn Rand, defined this dishonest act of context-dropping in the following manner:

A context-dropper forgets or evades any wider context. He stares at only one element, and he thinks, “I can change just this one point, and everything else will remain the same.” In fact, everything is interconnected. That one element involves a whole context, and to assess a change in one element, you must see what it means in the whole context.

Mr. Bonganay then replied to argue that it is Ayn Rand’s view that— “Socialism arises because of charitable impulses. Therefore to prevent socialism, stop charity. I disagree. What’s not to understand?”

I had a brief Facebook conversation with Mr. Bonganay wherein he stated buffoonish, ridiculous and utterly dishonest statement:

“I used to be a card carrying member of ARI until I sided with David Kelley in the split on whether or not objectivism was a closed (Rand only) or open system (we all have brains to contribute.).”

I hope this former “card carrying member of ARI” (Ayn Rand Institute) wouldn’t claim that he never made such a statement. What does this statement mean? It means that he’s trying to make an impression that he really understands the philosophy of Ayn Rand so he’s not actually distorting Ayn Rand’s view and definition of “charity” and “socialism.” Well, Mr. Bonganay, tell that to the marines (my apologies to the marines).

On February 9, Mr. Bonganay also posted the following on his Filipinos for Ron Paul group:

“When I got into objectivism, I naturally had my agreements and disagreements with it. It’s only natural in any healthy philosophy. Unfortunately, it was Rand’s way or the highway. All or nothing. She was infallible and who was I to question her greatness.”

So there should be no reason for this Catholic Libertarian to ask whether I have evidence to prove that he “read perhaps a few works of Ayn Rand.” I had to address this peripheral issue since he made it a big deal by saying I “perhaps broke into my house and rifled through my library with a little checklist to make sure.” Is Mr. Bonganay trying to fool anyone that he really “got into Objectivism?” Like I said, “anyone who genuinely and honestly understands Ayn Rand wouldn’t even attempt to make such a highly superficial and conceited evaluation of her view on charity and socialism.”

In his formal reply to my blog, he instead posted a flurry of questions that are clearly unrelated and irrelevant to the main issue. It appears that this Catholic Libertarian is totally ignorant of the mechanics of an informal or even a formal debate. He also droned on totally insignificant and random facts that had nothing to do with the main issue.

This Catholic Libertarian states:

Let’s go over this article in an orderly fashion. Rand may have liked Aristotle and Saint Thomas Aquinas, but I think I shall present my point in the manner of Socrates.

xxx

That I do not understand what I’ve read, that I have come up “with a total distortion of [Rand]’s view and philosophy”? Which, to you, naturally wouldn’t occur if I had owned and digested her entire bibliography and came to the same conclusion as you.

Again the burden of proof is on you.

1. What makes your interpretation of Rand’s writings correct and mine wrong?

2. What makes Leonard Peikoff’s interpretation or David Kelley’s or yours or even mine more authoritative than the other when we all claim that we know what Rand was saying?

3. What makes the arguments of ARI more valid than that of TAS?

4. Is there a spirit of Objectivism protecting and guiding a single orthodox Truth so that it transcends any possible human failing and error and remains infallible long after the passing of Ayn Rand?

5. How can I be sure that you speak with Rand’s voice, and not just what you imagine it to be?

Again, we can both agree that Rand is dead and therefore can no longer arbitrate which of the many contending views is the halal choice.

Again we can both agree that books cannot self-interpret themselves, only the readers can do so through reason.

And what happens when two readers come to different conclusions, who arbitrates and by what authority do they speak?

Every first year Political Science student knows that a debater has to stick to the main issue and to the facts of the case. I don’t think Mr. Bonganay has the IQ of a ten-year-old kid not to understand this established debate rule. In his reply, he did not even attack my arguments against his statement that Rand “went overboard and decided that charity was just as bad as socialism, hence her “Virtue of Selfishness,” and claim that it is Rand’s view that “socialism arises because of charitable impulses.”

If it were an oral argument in court Mr. Bonganay would have waived the opportunity to rebut my arguments, thus putting the life or liberty of his client at my disposal.

Since I am mature enough to understand that in a debate, we have to be guided by rational principles and rules, I addressed the unrelated, irrelevant and random issues that Mr. Bonganay raised. Thus the following is my reply to the evasion, context-dropping, straw man argument, and obfuscation of Mr. Bonganay.

My Answer to the statement of Mr. Bonganay:

Francis, in a debate you have to define your terms. I have defined mine as evidenced by my article above. Ayn Rand clearly defined her terms. It’s you who’s clearly cherry-picking and resorting to evasion and straw man fallacy. Wikipedia clearly defines Straw Man Fallacy as a “misrepresentation of an opponent’s position.” It further states that “to “attack a straw man” is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by substituting a superficially similar proposition (the “straw man”), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.”

Now, I think that you’re going to agree with me that the main focus of this debate/discussion is your statement that Ayn Rand “went overboard and decided that charity was just as bad as socialism, hence her “Virtue of Selfishness.” Then you back this premise of yours by assuming that it is Ayn Rand’s view that: “Socialism arises because of charitable impulses. Therefore to prevent socialism, stop charity. I disagree.”

If you read my article above and clearly understood the points I raised, you’d find out that I have CLEARLY defined my terms.

It is important for us to define terms here so that we be guided when we raise our arguments. I have defined “charity” and “altruism,” as well as “socialism.” Now it’s your turn. This is for me and the readers to know if you really understood the philosophy of Objectivism.

Let me answer the unrelated and irrelevant matters you adduced so you won’t think I’m resorting to evasion.

1. What makes your interpretation of Rand’s writings correct and mine wrong?

Answer: Because I clearly understood the philosophy of Ayn Rand and you don’t. My blog article is a clear proof. I have defined my terms there and I rebutted your assumption by giving my views on the issues of charity, altruism, and socialism. Go over that article again. I don’t think this matter is important in this debate/discussion.

2. What makes Leonard Peikoff’s interpretation or David Kelley’s or yours or even mine more authoritative than the other when we all claim that we know what Rand was saying?

Answer: Dr. Peikoff and David Kelley have nothing to do with this discussion. We have to stick to the facts of the issue. I don’t think I’m a second-hander to consider the “interpretation” Dr. Peikoff and Kelley. Ayn Rand made herself very clear, and anyone who read her works and made an effort to know where she was coming from would clearly understand her philosophy. Why is it that the “interpretation of Dr. Peikoff and Kelley important to you? Don’t you have your own mind to decide whether an issue is correct or not, whether a particular matter is right or wrong, whether the definition of a certain term is complete or incomplete? Dr. Peikoff is the legal and intellectual heir of Ayn Rand and I respect him. I don’t have any concern with the case of Mr. Kelley here since I DON’T THINK he’s part of this debate/discussion. If you’re honest enough, you wouldn’t even think of raising this matter. I have my own mind and I don’t think I have to rely on the opinion or interpretation of anyone to make my own conclusion. I read the works of Ayn Rand and I believe you do not really understand her philosophy in the same way that you failed to understand the real concept of capitalism. I don’t think this matter is important in this debate/discussion.

3. What makes the arguments of ARI more valid than that of TAS (The Atlas Society)?

Answer: Because I understand Ayn Rand’s ideas and the philosophy of Objectivism. I throw the same question at you: “What makes the arguments of ARI more valid than that of TAS?” Now if you said you were part of TAS and that’s how you understand Ayn Rand’s ideas on charity and socialism, then it really shows that TAS is nothing but a group of compromisers and people who distort Ayn Rand’s philosophy. But I don’t think that’s how people in TAS crudely and dishonestly interpret Ayn Rand’s view on “charity” and “socialism” which she clearly defined. Read my blogs to really know that I understand Objectivism. Again, I don’t think this matter is important in this debate/discussion.

4. Is there a spirit of Objectivism protecting and guiding a single orthodox Truth so that it transcends any possible human failing and error and remains infallible long after the passing of Ayn Rand?

Answer: Objectivism is a philosophy not a mystical ideology. If you honestly read the works of Ayn Rand, you’d know that she does not regard a human being as “infallible.” This is the reason why she said that as a human being, you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. “Your only choice is whether you define you philosophy by a conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation — or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears, thrown together by chance, but integrated by your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single, solid weight: self-doubt, like a ball and chain in the place where your mind’s wings should have grown.” If you really read Ayn Rand, let me refresh you that the basic tenet of her philosophy is: Existence exists, and she defined her philosophy in the following manner:
1. Metaphysics Objective Reality
2. Epistemology Reason
3. Ethics Self-interest
4. Politics Capitalism

5. How can I be sure that you speak with Rand’s voice, and not just what you imagine it to be?

Answer: I never said I speak Rand’s voice. But I said she’s the greatest philosopher ever lived on earth after Aristotle. Because what she said is true and can be validated. Because I believe that for us to gain proper knowledge on earth, we have to observe reality, start with what exists and never take things on faith. She was a philosopher, and it is the job of a philosopher to explain reality and man’s relationship to existence. Philosophy studies the fundamental nature of existence, of man, and of man’s relationship to existence. I understand her philosophy and this is the very reason why I hate people who claimed they read Ayn Rand’s works and that they were part of TAS or whatever group but still came up with nothing but distortion and perversion of her philosophy. Now that’s dishonesty. Again, I don’t think this matter is important in this debate/discussion.

You said: “One: You don’t know me. I’ve never met you before and I certainly don’t know you from Adam. Two: Because you don’t know me, you have no idea what my background is, and certainly no idea which books on Objectivism are on my shelf.”

Answer: Mr. Bonganay, I may not have barged into your house to see the contents of your bookshelf, but the fact is that you’re inviting anyone to make an interpretation about how you interpreted Ayn Rand by posting the following statement on the Ron Paul’s group:

“Here is one of the reasons why I stopped toeing the Objectivist party line. Socialism is the virtue of charity perverted through the use of force. By using force charity no longer becomes a personal sacrifice where you knowingly take a loss for the betterment of someone else. Rand saw the effects of socialism and hated it. But then she went overboard and decided that charity was just as bad as socialism, hence her “Virtue of Selfishness.” I kinda notice how she never really distinguished between rationality and rationalism.””

First, Objectivism is not and never a party line. It is a philosophy. Second, you’re wrong in assuming that Ms Rand “went overboard and decided that charity was just as bad as socialism, hence her “Virtue of Selfishness.”

Why did I assume that you somehow read “a few works of Ayn Rand” even without barging into your room? Here are my points:

First, because the matters that you distorted, namely, charity, socialism, and impliedly, altruism, are important parts of her philosophy. Anyone who genuinely and honestly understands Ayn Rand wouldn’t even attempt to make such a highly superficial and conceited evaluation of her view on charity and socialism. I am clearly repeating here almost everything I stated in my article.

Let me repeat what I stated above wherein I evaluation your assumption:

“It is clear that this Libertarian-mystic, like all of the dishonest critics of Ayn Rand, is attacking a straw man. It is utterly wrong- a sign of laziness or even dishonesty- to say that you understand Ayn Rand philosophy by simply reading The Fountainhead and her “Virtue of Selfishness.” If this guy really read and understand Ayn Rand, he’d know that she rejected altruism because it’s not simply the moral base of not only socialism but also all kinds of collectivism, and because this morality of slavery and death is the very foundation of two destroyers of modern civilization: Faith and Force. “

Second, it is because Ayn Rand clearly defined and explained her philosophy. Now, if you probably read The Virtue of Selfishness, which you mentioned, you’d understand that charity is not the same as and not synonymous to altruism. Even the dictionary clearly defines these terms. I have defined these terms and I even gave examples, but let me define these terms for you again.
Altruism (according to Mac Computer dictionary): the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others.
Charity (according to Mac Computer dictionary): the voluntary giving of help, typically in the form of money, to those in need. Take note the word “voluntary.
Socialism (according to Mac Computer dictionary): a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.

Now please do not tell me I never tackled these things in my article. I assume that you’re intelligent enough to know these terms. Read my article again.

Third, because anyone who happens to read your Facebook post would assume that you read any of the works of Ayn Rand. Now, I am not speaking of quantity here or the number of Ayn Rand books you read. That’s irrelevant. I am speaking of the quality of the assumption that you made by saying that Rand “went overboard and decided that charity was just as bad as socialism, hence her “Virtue of Selfishness,” and by claiming that she thought “socialism arises because of charitable impulses. Therefore to prevent socialism, stop charity. I disagree.” It’s the same as Pedro saying the Bible preaches death and slavery, so Juan has the right to assume that Pedro really read and understood the Bible.

Also, when you said that Ayn Rand “went overboard and decided that charity was just as bad as socialism, hence her “Virtue of Selfishness,” and by claiming that she thought “socialism arises because of charitable impulses, it is as if you’re saying that:

a. Ayn Rand’s rejection of socialism or any form of collectivism was founded on her rejection of “charity” not “altruism.”

b. all socialist and communist societies like Sovert Russia, China, Venezuela, etc. were based on the morality of “charity” when in fact there is no such thing.

b. the entire philosophy of Ayn Rand is defective since you are claiming that it is not altruism that she rejected but charity.

Furthermore, you have stated that you were part of Kelley’s group. You said in our Facebook discussion:
“I used to be a card carrying member of ARI until I sided with David Kelley in the split on whether or not objectivism was a closed (Rand only) or open system (we all have brains to contribute.).”

——-
Now, it’s my turn. Define the following terms and relate them to your understanding of Ayn Rand’s works and her philosophy of Objectivism:
1. Charity;
2. Altruism;
3. Socialism;
4. Collectivism/statism;
5. Self-interest;
6. Capitalism

Also, please respond to the following matters:

1. Kindly cite or quote any of the works of Ayn Rand that proves your premise that “she went overboard and decided that charity was just as bad as socialism.” I have to remind you that I discussed this matter in my article. I have to remind you as well that you still have never raised a valid argument to back your premise.

2. Kindly cite or quote any of the works of Ayn Rand that proves your argument that she thought “socialism arises because of charitable impulses. Therefore to prevent socialism, stop charity.” I have to remind you that I also discussed this matter in my article. I have to remind you as well that you still have never raised a valid argument to defend your premise.

3. What is your understanding of altruism with respect to the works of Ayn Rand, and how is it related to socialism?

4. What is your understanding of charity with respect to the works of Ayn Rand, and how is it related to socialism?

This is how rational people conduct a debate. They should only focus on the main issue at hand. This is why we have rational principles and legal procedures. In a civilized society, rational principles matter. We no longer live in the Dark Ages of the Catholic mystics who took faith as an absolute.

Mr. Bonganay, may I remind you that we have to stick to the real issue. I have defined my terms in my article above and it’s your turn to present yours and your argument. It is important for us not to include unrelated and irrelevant matters because it is clear that the main issue here is your understanding of Ayn Rand’s interpretation of “charity” and “altruism.” I don’t think that peddling unrelated and irrelevant matters here is necessary at all, like the issues on Dr. Peikoff and Kelley, as well as your funny assumption that I had to barge into your home to check what books you read. I see it necessary to repeat what I have posted on Ayn Rand’s Facebook group: “I have yet to see his solid argument to back this hilarious assumption, and I’m hoping to see an honest, honorable opponent who doesn’t resort to evasion, context-dropping, straw man fallacy, and argument from Intimidation…”

Furthermore since you claimed that you “used to be a card carrying member of ARI until I sided with David Kelley”, I don’t think that Kelley and the people in TAS would even come up with an interpretation that Ayn Rand “went overboard and decided that charity was just as bad as socialism” and that she thought ” “Socialism arises because of charitable impulses. Therefore to prevent socialism, stop charity.”

An honest man wouldn’t rely on the opinion of anyone about a certain individual. So many critics of Ayn Rand distorted her philosophy and it is sad that a lot of people believe them. A truly honest man would exert some effort to know the truth- to validate his points without relying on second-hand information. I don’t think that people in TAS wouldn’t come up with such a superficial and dishonest interpretation and distortion of Ayn Rand’s view on charity, socialism, and altruism. Do you?

***

I have sent a notice to Mr. Bonganay informing him to make a reply. I just found out that he posted the following monologue on his Filipinos for Ron Paul group:

“Hey guys, as I was preparing to write my reply to ol’ buddy Froilan’s “logical, reasonable” WTF, I suddenly remembered an incident a few Christmases ago.

Did you ever have a five year old try to convince you that Santa Claus is real? You know “Because I say so, so there!” That’s how I feel debating this guy. Waste of time, waste of breath. After all… who is this guy and why should I give two shits of his opinion?”

It’s really funny that Mr. Bonganay also made the term “Mac Computer Dictionary” a big deal. This is where I got the definition of the terms I stated above: charity, socialism and altruism. I am using Apple laptop so I just used the term “Mac Computer Dictionary” as my source. This guy really has an “m” problem. To prove that I never altered the meaning of these terms, let me to show their print-screens below:

The definition of "Socialism" from my Apple laptop or "Mac Computer dictionary" as I call it.

The definition of "Socialism" from my Apple laptop or "Mac Computer dictionary" as I call it.

The definition of "Altruism" from my Apple laptop or "Mac Computer dictionary" as I call it.

The definition of "Altruism" from my Apple laptop or "Mac Computer dictionary" as I call it.

The definition of "Charity" from my Apple laptop or "Mac Computer dictionary" as I call it.

The definition of "Charity" from my Apple laptop or "Mac Computer dictionary" as I call it.

To Mr. Bonganay, is there any more problem with my “Mac Computer Dictionary”? Or it’s “you” who clearly has a “mental” problem?

In my reply above, I did not raise any unrelated, irrelevant and random issues and facts because I believe that for an argument to be strong and unassailable, it must be free from obfuscation, impertinent assumptions, fallacious premises, and a furry of evasive questions.

Now it is clear that this Libertarian mystic, who boastfully and shamelessly announced this discussion as a “Great Debate”, is nothing but a hardcore relativist mystic who’s simply good at obfuscation, context-dropping, straw man argument and any other forms of dishonest trick. I risk being accused of raising an unrelated item if I state here that even a few members of his Filipinos for Ron Paul group do not understand what he’s droning on, particularly his advocacy for the reunification of church and state, and where he’s coming from. Yet this is how he understands Libertarianism being a political movement that is open to different ideas and ideologies. Mr. Bonganay considers himself a Libertarian, so under the Libertarian’s so-called principles of “openness” and acceptance of different kinds of systems and beliefs, he’s now advocating for his ugly, evil proposal: the medieval union of church and state.

Yes, I think that the anti-ideology of this so-called Catholic Libertarian is more dangerous than the lies of communism or socialism. And yes, this guy doesn’t really know what he’s talking about. He’s a total ignoramus who doesn’t really understand the philosophy of Objectivism, as well as the concept of laissez-faire capitalism. Mr. Bonganay is simply good at raising unrelated, irrelevant matters to obfuscate the real issue that he doesn’t really understand the philosophy of Ayn Rand and that he’s simply making a downright LIE when he claimed that he “used to be a card carrying member of ARI.” Really? I have to repeat here for the nth time what I said above since Mr. Bonganay kept on raising the conflict between Dr. Peikoff and Kelley, which is totally unrelated to the main issue: “I don’t think that’s how people in TAS crudely and dishonestly interpret Ayn Rand’s view on “charity” and “socialism” which she clearly defined.”

4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 15, 2010 3:38

    I think we can’t deal with hardcore relativist mystic. If debate is fruitless then the statement “I don’t agree ” is enough. A rational cannot deal objectively with irrational. Have you read the article of Ayn Rand ” How Does One Lead a Rational Life in an Irrational Society?” in the book, The Virtue of Selfishness. There is the answer.

    • February 15, 2010 3:38

      Yes. I must agree with you but I cannot just let this guy spread lies by claiming he “used to be a card carrying member of ARI” (whatever that term means) but then distort two very simple terms under Ayn Rand lexicon.

  2. Mike Cruz permalink
    February 15, 2010 3:38

    i posted this blog on the guy’s group. wala pala! puro lang para ere ang mokong. hahahaha!

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