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.
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.
All well and good, but the sum of your post is to simply define hedonism as irrational, without bothering to actually defend the proposition that hedonism is irrational, nevermind proving it. "Hedonism is irrational because it's irrational" is an answer of sorts, but not a particularly objective or rational answer, insofar as it's not much more than empty tautology.
No one decided this. It's what means.
What you said makes no sense at all, as you'll discover when you try to decipher it.
All you've said is that, to discover what my rational self-interest is, I must first discover what my rational self-interest is. Completely circular.
Oh, yeah, baby. Ayn Rand wants you!
Tell you what. Give me a quote where Ayn rand said that, I'll send you a million bucks. She never said we can't sacrifice others to our own end, or any other end. She said it was morally wrong to sacrifice others for any reason. She is certainly on record as one who pointed out how this is a most common practice, and one of the essential evils of this world.
Those second-hand souls who have never discovered the requirements of their own nature to live, survive, and enjoy their lives as the fruit of their own effort, that this is what they must do to know they are of value, and are justified in their existense, and that they really do deserver to enjoy their own life, of course will never understand how there is a difference between creating your own wealth and life, or bludgeoning some else and taking theirs.
There is no point in reasoning with those who have intentionally dulled the source of their own moral values, be refusing to identify and recognize their own nature. If you do not know the difference between moral values and "optimization of results," you do not even understand what objectivism, even in it most primitive form (as originally explicated by Ayn Rand) is about.
Not a bad book, huh? :-)
Essentially, r9etb spotted the basic problem in #25 - "The problem here is that objectivists expect us to accept their underlying assertions as true and absolute." Of course, that's true of all systems of morality and ethics - all of them are based on unprovable assertions that must be taken as axiomatic for the system to work. If you happen to accept the axioms of objectivism, it'll work just fine. If not, it won't, and there's no objective (sorry) way to make it work. Rand's own prescription to "check your premises" works against her in this regard, unfortunately.
Yep. I skip that every time :-)
Pay up, Hank.
For the third time in this very thread, I give you Ayn Rand's very own words: 3. Man every man is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.
I've found on these threads that Rand's words are a source of extreme discomfort to those who are forced to logically defend them.
The problem here is: how do you logically prove that it's wrong to sacrifice others to ourselves, when there is ample evidence to the contrary?
You know, I actually forced myself to plow through it once. If you recall, Rand had the Dagney Taggart's taxi driver chuckle appreciatively after Galt left the air -- I had to conclude that any author who can make somebody chuckle after that has a rather tenuous grasp of human nature.
Well, I think it was more than that, but its what it was to you that matters in this case.
Let me quote Ayn Rand herself:
I am profoundly opposed to the philosophy of hedonism. Hedonism is the doctrine which holds that the good is whatever gives you pleasure and, therefore, pleasure is the standard of morality. Objectisim holds that the good must be defined by a rational standard of value, that pleasure is not a first cause, but only a consequence, that only the pleasure which proceeds from a rational value of judgment can be regarded as moral, that pleasure, as such, is not a guide to action nor a standard of morality. To say that pleasure should be the standard of morality simply means that whichever values you happen to have chosen, consciousnly or subconsciously, rationally or irrationally, are right and moral. This means that your are to be guided by chance feelings, emotions and whims, not by your mind... (From her Playboy inteview; I do not know what year.)
Well yes, it is absolute, self interests are a characteristic of individual humans. Whether, or not any other human is present doesn't change the fact that a man has self interests. The self interests are observable as a universal characteristic of men. The method of preserving those self interests is the moral code and it's guiding principles.
" 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."
Evolution, Darwinism and nature has no moral guide. It is morally neutral. It's rules are fundamentally those of physics. Moral codes and the principles they are founded on are created by rational beings. Social Darwinism is not Randian and definitely does not preserve the nature of man. It creates an artificial order in the world of men, where one , or a small group of men impose their will and promote their own interests and subvert the others by coercion. Rand's code disallows that fundamentally.
The use of coercion to promote one's interests at the expense of others does not promote any interest of mankind, but the interests of the particular men that weild the most effective forms of coercion. Rand pointed out that this is wrong. She wasn't the first; she just elaborated on it.
Absolutely not. Most have the equipment, but do not use it at all, or if they do, not very well. However, the principles of 'self-interest' are not a matter of subjective choice, in other words, the kind of things that are good for human beings and the kind that are not, so, just as one of our physical requirements is food, the kind of food that is correct or good or enjoyable by each individual is different.
What if it is in my rational self interest to become a dictatorial superman? Is my reasoning incorrect?
How can something impossible be in anyone's self-interest? However, you ought to be a dictatorial superman in one respect, you ought to ruthlessly rule your own life, and allow no one else to dictate any apsect of it. That would be in your self-interest.
A man might prefer to eat Cake for every meal, but that would not be in his rational self-interest or happiness.
Objectivism is quite the opposite of 'hedonism'.
Your understanding of this seems quite off-base.
I propose that "conservatives" who object to Rand do so purely on the basis of her atheism . . . religious people who feel that morality is not, can not be a 'rational' thing but is a gift from god.
To boil it down, they feel that 'individualism' is bad, because individuals should surrender their will to the authority of god.
This is just the same old rift between the 'social' conservatives and the 'economic' conservatives.
In case you forgot:
Do you have a moral code? Do you have a philosophy? Can you prove them?
Many religious folk feel that the individual should always be subordinate to "god's will".
The same old 'social' conservative v. 'economic' conservative debate.
Sorry best I can do...I am off to work.
But again, that's simply asserted, not proven, and it hardly makes objectivism and hedonism mutually exclusive in any case. Why is it that "only the pleasure which proceeds from a rational value of judgment can be regarded as moral"? Can you prove that, and can you do it objectively, and not normatively?
I value pleasure above pain - and who can argue that this is an irrational preference? - and therefore I pursue pleasure as an end unto itself, taking care to rationally maximize it whenever possible, and minimize pain wherever possible. So why am I not an objectivist?
The problem is that Rand wants to cast some personal preferences as "rational" and others as "irrational". Well, good luck, but personal preferences just don't lend themselves to that sort of categorization. Saying that altruism is an "irrational" personal preference, and self-interest is "rational" is virtually indistinguishable from saying that preferring chocolate ice cream is "rational", but preferring vanilla is "irrational". At best, it's a completely arbitrary decision, not provable or demonstrable in any sort of rational way, and at worst, what it does is simply define the speaker's (Rand's, in this case) preferences as "rational", and everyone else's as "irrational".
I'm a bit of an "armchair philosopher" and I like most of the objectivist philosophy. However, I believe one has have to have an objective moral foundation in order for objectivism to work. We are obviously moral creatures - by that I mean we all know right from wrong. This is an objective truth, but objectivism does a horrible time of showing how to arrive at an "objective morality" from a purely logic based system. In my particualr view this is where God comes in. If there is a God, then there is an objective morality, and this explains why we all seem to know what is right and wrong. From this foundation one does rationally know what is in his/her rational best interests - one can see why it is wrong to iniate force and so forth. From this point objectivism, for the most part works, and works very well IMHO.
Correct. Her statement about man's only moral purpose being happiness is so ridiculous it made me laugh.
It cannot come from God either, since God has sometimes commanded his followers to slaughter babies...
I've seen that question posed them in various forms many times over the years. They NEVER answer it.
I know this is going to be difficult for you, but I will try to help you understand these little words:
He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself.
In my post:
I quoted you: we can't sacrifice others to our own ends.
Tell you what. Give me a quote where Ayn rand said that, I'll send you a million bucks. She never said we can't sacrifice others to our own end, or any other end. She said it was morally wrong to sacrifice others for any reason.
I know this is difficult for you, but "must not" and "can't" do not mean the same thing. "Must not" is what is meant by morally wrong.
You still haven't answered the questions I asked inPost #50?
Do you have a moral code? Do you have a philosophy? Can you prove them?
Rand claimed that reason (the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by mans senses) is mans only means of perceiving reality, his only source of knowledge, his only guide to action, and his basic means of survival.
For some reason, you have decided to part ways with Rand, and to exclude the evidence of "nature" (and human history) from your moral considerations.
Which is to say, I am apparently supposed to ignore what I see if it does not confirm your preconceived notions.
You're saying that made me laugh. So, what is man's moral purpose in your view?
I conclude that you have a tenuous grasp human nature. People laugh for many reasons....humor, sadness, shyness, discomfort, pain....
So many atheists love to use this as an example of why the God of the bible cannot be. But if the God of the bible is, and it is as it says, He is and He knows the beginning and the end. If heaven is as the bible says, and God so chooses to take those babies to heaven, they are/were much better off than they were living here among evil humans. God would know this.
You've seen the evil people like Susan Smith and others can do to children. How do you know the same or worse was not being done to the babies in a civilization that God deplored?
Will check for your answer later...I am really off to work this time...
Crime often pays. If self-interest is the sole standard for judging, the only rational rule is "don't get caught".
For one thing, "happiness" is a subjective thing -- hardly the basis for a supposedly objective philosophy based on the claim that "Reality exists as an objective absolute facts are facts, independent of mans feelings, wishes, hopes or fears."
Rand and her disciples make grand claims to being the "only logical philosophy." If "happiness" is the highest moral goal, then either this statement is invalid, or the "highest moral goal" is not what Rand says it is.
At any rate, the combination of the two claims forms a contradiction -- not what one expects of a truly logical philosophy.