Skip to comments.Ayn Rand and the Intellectuals
Posted on 05/01/2003 8:44:18 AM PDT by RJCogburn
HATING WHAT THEY DON'T UNDERSTAND Liberal intellectuals (almost a redundancy, that) hate author Ayn Rand.
They don't just dislike her, they hate her with a passion. The reason? Because she has single-handedly come up with a logical and reasonable philosophy that strips them bare and reveals all their scams and schemes so that people who know her philosophy (Objectivism) automatically spot one of their scams from a long ways away.
THEY CAN'T TELL YOU WHY
They don't subject her to the usual mild criticism or "shunning" to which they subject liberals who say something "slightly different" from "the norm." Their treatment of Rand and her works is visceral and vicious. There are many who merely dismiss her philosophy with the wave of a hand. But they cannot explain why they feel the way they do. If asked for a reason for their opposition to Objectivism, they can't answer and launch into a personal attack on her that amounts to a "fact-free opinion."
DENYING REASON AND LOGIC
If you point out the fact that Objectivism is a "philosophy of reason," they deny the existence of reason. If you point to the logic of Objectivism, they say there is no logic. Then they go on to tell you that "there are no absolutes." Of course, they don't even notice the fact that their very statement is a "statement of an absolute," and negates not only their entire philosophy, but the very statement they have made as well. I love being a proponent of a philosophy that allows me to "shut down" those who disagree with it so easily and completely, and with their own words.
I hasten to say that I do not accept all of Rand's opinions and that I am not an Objectivist. I am a "student of Objectivist philosophy" and am still learning all its facets. That could change later, although I don't think I'll ever agree that abortion is a good thing and that there is no "higher power" although I may not see that "higher power" the same way other people do.
OPPOSING BAD IDEAS WITH GOOD IDEAS
One professor said Rand was a "phony libertarian" who wanted to strip communists of their citizenship. She did not. In fact, she was one of the few people not on the Left who opposed the violation of the rights of communists and said so, in print. She said that stripping them of their rights "is an invalid means of opposing communism and that the proper way to oppose bad ideas was with good ideas."
To show you just how visceral and violent their hate is, there is a story told by Ronald Merril, in his book, The Ideas of Ayn Rand, where a woman's boyfriend was horrified when he saw her reading Atlas Shrugged and grabbed it, throwing it out the window. She watched as the gardener, upon seeing the title, threw it down and ran over it repeatedly. This is an excellent example of the violent reaction that her ideas often get from people who have never really investigated them, but have listened to what their liberal friends have said about her and her works. But again, if you ask them precisely what they don't like about her and her work, they can't answer and usually sneer some personal attack upon her.
IS OBJECTIVISM A "CULT?"
That's one of the criticisms that is most often hurled at Objectivism and its creator, that it is a "cult" that does not allow any dissention. That people have been, in effect, "excommunicated" for disagreeing with it in the slightest way. There is a certain amount of truth to that charge, but it only applies to the personal "circle of friends" she laughingly called her "collective." Rand wasn't perfect, although her mistakes are tiny when put alongside her ideas, which are destined to change the world, and already are. She did insist on complete agreement among those people and shunned those who disagreed with her. But that does not apply to those who believe in, and use her ideas to guide their lives, as I do. That's not a "cult, nor is it a "religion."
Objectivism today has two major factions, about even in strength. One faction is run by her "philosophical and financial heir, Dr.Leonard Peikoff. Peikoff was a member of her "collective" and, in my opinion, is an "opportunist," who took advantage of Rand's fall out with her original protégé, Nathaniel Branden and took over her fortune as well as the "mantle" as "The Voice of Objectivism." This faction, running the Ayn Rand Institute, and claims to be the only source for Objectivist information and ideas. But it is this group that operates somewhat as a cult in that Peikoff's contention that Objectivism, as Ayn Rand proposed it, was, and is, complete and not subject to any changes. To be an Objectivist to him, is to accept everything Rand said, as "gospel" and not deviate from it in any way. It is this which gives rise to the "cult" accusation.
But there is a second faction, run by Objectivist philosopher David Kelley, who started and runs the Objectivist Institute, a competing organization whose view of Objectivism is that it is not complete, and can be improved. It is this group who are not, and never will be, "cult-like." If you wish to associate with this group, you will never get any static whichever way you believe.
It is this division in "the ranks" that caused a severe setback in the acceptance of Objectivism for years. This division was worse than that created when Nathaniel Branden left. But the Objectivist Center has had a strong influence and the acceptance of Objectivism as an excellent guide for your life is rising again, as it must, because it is the only logical philosophy there is.
You may not agree totally with the basic tenets of Objectivism, but here you will not be met with a cold silence if you dare to suggest change. In the Objectivist Institute, you will be welcomed and your ideas debated respectfully. The concepts discovered by Objectivists are not subjective, but the final word on the details of Objectivism may not have yet been discovered. You might be the force by which we can improve the philosophy, no matter what Leonard Peikoff might say.
If you're still "drifting in a sea of opposing philosophies," and you don't know why what's happening in this world is happening, this philosophy will help you to understand. Things will become clear to you as never before, and you will be able to, as my older brother Bob said many years ago, "read between the lines" and be able to figure out why people do as they do. What brought me to Objectivism is my inability to understand why people like Nelson Rockefeller, who had more money than he could spend in three lifetimes, supported collectivism even though it was intent on taking his money away (If you want to know the answer to that, e-mail me).
But this philosophy answered most of my questions and therefore, I can follow it for the most part because it's a logical philosophy and its opponents can only stupidly deny the existence of logic to oppose it. They cannot give coherent answers as to why it is bad, so they make things up. If you want to know the truth, go to the source: The Objectivist Center.
Her contribution, such as it was, was to offer an attractive-sounding, if simplistic, defense of capitalism.
Unfortunately, her vision of heroic individualist industrialists does not address the sort of corporate conglomerates we see all around us today. The individual moral rules she embodied in her characters does not translate well into a huge multi-national corporate environment.
As an economist, she was a pretty ham-fisted novelist.
In terms of her influence, I think the most telling example is the man whom she excommunicated from her circle of disciples: Alan Greenspan.
And is a function that adds to the primary rational self interests.
I should have added the appropriate qualifier to the clause, "regardless of what that interest is." That is, that the rights of others can't be violated in the course of pursuing those interests. In general, Rand holds that: "It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. The government acts only as a policeman that protects mans rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders."
" there's no particular reason to claim that "my interests" are the true measure of morality at all."
The foundation isn't the nature of the interests, it's the nature of man himself. He is an individual with certain characteristics. Since their is no rational reason, natural, or contrived, for anyone else to claim authority over that individual; there is no justification to initiate a forceful conquest of anyone elses sovereignty of will. That's the basis of the noninitiation principle.
" Thus, if non-initiation of force is to be accepted as absolute, the basis for making the claim must come from a source other than application of reason -- from God, for example.
The application of reason is the only way anything can be known to be true. Absolute, means it is real and unique; it has an objective reality. The source of the concept, or thing is irrelevant to whether it is subjective, or objective. The fact that the noninitiation principle is the only moral guiding principle that allows men to maintain their essential nature, when those men are contained in a community is a fundamental characteristic that leads to it's absolute nature.
"When you get right down to it, the problem is in the claims of absoluteness: they cannot be proved by this allegedly logical philosophy. And without such proof, the foundation of objectivism collapses.
The proof lies in examining the opposite principle and comparing it to the noninitiation principle. The opposite principle is any principle, simple, or complex, that allows for the initiation of force for some individual interest. If that principle is held as the guiding foundation in a moral code that governs the interaction of men, some men will be redefined and forced to take on an artificial essential nature. Their real nature though, will still be intact.
It's also true that the principles of Objectivism cannot be proved as absolute, contradicting objectivism's claims to the contrary. There's plenty of evidence to prove just the opposite, in fact.
Objectivists claim that philosophies that contain contradictions are wrong. Et tu, Ayn Rand.
No, "reading between the lines" means to step back from the text, ignore the fancy rhetoric, and look at the actual structure of what is being said for hints of irony, sarcasm, or dishonesty. It is a check to see if the facts of what is being said match up with the tone.
That is supposed to be objective.
Why is being a hedonist irrational if one is perfectly content in being one?
It's not irrational, so long as being a hedonist is in your rational self-interest (as opposed to whatever you think your self-interest might be)
What does that mean? Something is either proved or it is not. It can be proved true, or proved false, but to be proved absolute means nothing. Absolute what?
Also, the purpose of proof is not to convince others, but to insure one's own reason is correct. Truth is truth, even if no one else knows it.
Objectivists claim that philosophies that contain contradictions are wrong.
I have never read that claim in those words in anything Rand wrote, but, it is true that objectivism recognizes that no two contradictory statements can both be true.
You are implying a contradiction in objectivism. Care to name one?
By the way: Do you have a moral code? Do you have a philosophy? Can you prove them?
Evidence in nature, supporting the theory of evolution, for example.
Let's take one of Rand's biggies -- we can't sacrifice others to our own ends. By what logic can you prove that it's immoral to sacrifice others to my own ends? Evolutionary theory suggests that it can be just fine -- and we, as putative products of evolution, are subject to the same objective, "discoverable" rules as any other animal.
For example, if I'm a Pharaoh, who's to say that it's wrong to sacrice others to my own selfish ends? After all, it happens at all levels of nature, and has demonstrably good results for certain individuals who are, after all, "ends in themselves."
For objectivism to be valid, you have to prove that the Pharaoh is wrong, based on objective evidence. Knock yourself out.
At best, objectivist practice is merely one choice among many. Indeed, the arguments for it are often based on an alleged optimization of results. (Though the claims to optimality are themselves open to question.) But in that case, objectivism reduces to a merely relativist philosophy.
I believe he defended her during the split of the group. Also, he invited her to Ford's inauguration and he attended her funeral.
She had an influence upon rank-and-file millions through her book and the movie, "The Fountainhead".
I feel she was a little loopy, but do appreciate her efforts against socialistic trends in the 50's.
There are times that we can act believing at the moment that our actions are perfectly rational. It is when we look back that we see that they were quite irrational. We can also see in hindsight those who were hurt by those actions. There are flaws in objectivism just as there are flaws in all philosophies. Moral relativism being the greatest.
No one "decides" what is rational and what is not. Rational has a specific meaning, namely, that reason is mankinds only means to discovering and understanding truth. Rational means using reason as the means of determining what is true or false, or right and wrong.
I will assume you really do not know how "whatever a person is content with" is different from and not the same as "rational self-interest," and are sincere in your question. What someone is "content" with means what ever they "feel OK with," with is subjectivism, and not based on reason. Rational self-interest first discovers what kind of being one is, what is good for that kind of being, and then chooses that rationally understood good, even if one feels horrible about it. It puts reason above immediate pleasure (hedonism) and contentment (subjectivism).
No one decided this. It's what means.
.............................this thread's about sex, right?
So I'm not an end in myself after all. My self-interest is not absolute, but subject to the existence of others. So Ayn's got herself a bit of a problem.
What it suggests, then, is that rights are in some sense a "law of nature." But as we've already seen, observation of nature does not support Rand's claims to have discovered those rules.
The foundation isn't the nature of the interests, it's the nature of man himself. He is an individual with certain characteristics.
But in Rand's formulation, man would have to be a product of evolution -- the basis of which is the passing along of genes by whatever means, and "survival of the fittest," which in practice appears to favor the strong and/or the sneaky.
The source of the concept, or thing is irrelevant to whether it is subjective, or objective.
Objectivists claim that their ideas can be proved through application of reason alone. That is untrue. What are we to make of a philosophy whose fundamental claims are false?
The proof lies in examining the opposite principle and comparing it to the noninitiation principle. The opposite principle is any principle, simple, or complex, that allows for the initiation of force for some individual interest.
OK, I'll bite. The scientific evidence strongly suggests that biological evolution is a real phenomenon. As we can easily observe, one of the primary drivers in biological evolution is the initiation of force. Success in initiating force leads to better predators. Success in avoiding extinction at the hands of predators -- by a variety of methods -- leads to better prey. Note that the "goal" of this process is not so much the good of the individual, but instead passing along successful genes to subsequent generations -- the good of the species, in other words.
If we were to follow Rand's recommendation, we would have to conclude that man's highest moral goal would be some version of Social Darwinism.
If that principle is held as the guiding foundation in a moral code that governs the interaction of men, some men will be redefined and forced to take on an artificial essential nature. Their real nature though, will still be intact.
Well yes... but you've begged the question of what that essential nature is in the first place. In Rand's atheist conception we, as products of evolution, have no logical basis for setting ourselves above the evolutionary principles that guide the rest of nature. Yet that is precisely what objectivism does -- and it does so by violating its own basic premises.
IF we are say that man is set apart from the rest of nature, we cannot do it by applying reason to what we see around us. Our reason for doing so HAS to come from some other source.