Ayn Rand on Donahue 1979

Ayn Rand is new to me, but her opening remarks on altruism and the oppression and corruption which stem from a state sanctioned misnomer that it is a moral compulsion to be altruistic are fascinating.

YouTube playlist of all 5 parts

30 comments on “Ayn Rand on Donahue 1979

  1. You should read her stuff on Christianity. She thinks it is wrong to teach people that they should sacrifice for others. She thinks Christ’s example on the cross sets a terrible precedent for describing love. She thinks everyone should only act out of self-interest…

    She thinks she is so rational and yet very irrational at the same time on the issue that matters most. As with most atheist, she doesn’t think love is real believing that selfishness is the ideal for humanity.

    I had fun reading her stuff…

  2. ..although, I think to be fair, what she is actually saying is that it is prescribed altruism which is divisive–but like I say, I’ll read more on her before I nail my flag to the mast.

  3. Watch out. She was a monster, a total proponent of capitalism and selfishness. So far past right wing and libertarianism that she’s in another galaxy. Nasty and dangerous.

  4. Jim:

    You will get a lot of viewpoints offered to you on the merits of Ayn Rand. Many people, myself included, have found her philosophy of Objectivism to be the most rational system of morality ever presented, designed to maximize one’s happiness for living on earth and for interacting productively with other men. Then there are those, like SarahHeartburn above, who will offer you a seriously different opinion! :-)

    It is true that Rand was an atheist. It is true that Rand was a strong proponent of Capitalism, as the only moral economic/political system. It is true that she identified altruism – the idea that self-sacrifice is a virtue – as evil, and promoted the idea of living one’s life based upon the principal of “rational” self-interest (not hedonism, as self-interest is often portrayed.) She had very good reasons for all of these views. It is not true she was a monster and it is ludicrous to say that she did not think love was real!

    Some people automatically reject Rand, unread, out of an unstated fear that their ideas will not be able to stand up to an honest comparison with her arguments. All I can suggest to you is that you look further into her writings and form your own conclusions. You might try reading her very long (1,200 page) but very enjoyable novel, Atlas Shrugged. This book is seeing a huge resurgence this year because people are discovering that although it was written over 50 years ago, it describes, with chilling precision, the events that are currently unfolding in this country. If non-fiction is more your style, I would suggest a couple of her collections of articles, either The Virtue of Selfishness and/or Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. Rand is one of the clearest writers I have ever encountered. If you read her works, you will be able to follow the logic that leads her from the facts of reality to the moral conclusions on how to properly lead one’s life. You can then judge for yourself whether you find her arguments rational. To get a quick sampling of he work, try the articles discussing Man’s Rights and Government available online at the Ayn Rand Center.

    Jim, you sound like an open-minded individual. Best wishes on your intellectual explorations.

    Regards,

    C. Jeffery Small

  5. >SarahHeartburn said
    >Watch out. She was a monster… Nasty and dangerous.

    Yes, it’s terrible when someone advocates that we should be happy, that our cardinal moral values should be reason, purpose and self-esteem, and that people should be left free and prevented from using violence against each other. That’s just *monstrous*. ??

    I think it’s to Donahue’s great credit that he invited Rand onto his show, although I don’t think he really understood the material, such as when he presses her on the issue of selfishness vs. altruism. He is not getting her point at all; he is still thinking in conventional terms of altruism as charity, and selfishness as mindless thuggery.

    Ayn Rand maintained that charity is totally acceptable under rational egoism, yet thuggery is not, in fact it is the only ideology that will prevent it. Many people don’t fully understand the radical meaning she attached to terms such as selfishness and altruism, and why. It’s all in the definitions, and is described in detail in The Virtue of Selfishness.

  6. Ayn Rand was the only philosopher in history who understood the significance of the work of Aristotle and went on to correct the errors in his thinking. She created her philosophy of Objectivism, the first and only fully integrated philosophy in history. She said once that to live on earth as a fully human being it requires only one action, “all you have to do is think”.

  7. I did not say that her philosophy was not consistent. I found her philosophy to be very consistent with the idea of selfishness. Atheism and selfishness are consistent as a philosophy. Most atheists will not be consistent because they do not want to sacrifice altruism for political reasons.

  8. Most atheists will not be consistent because they do not want to sacrifice altruism for political reasons.

    With your permission, I would like to make this statement
    into a bumper sticker and tee shirt. It’s a classic.

  9. I also don’t know much about her, but I have DEFINITELY heard of her, usually in a negative connotation. I’m looking forward to researching her and all the new thoughts it will spark regarding capitalism, altruism, atheism, and so on.

    Become a ‘Randroid’… a term no doubt intended to make her fans sound like mindless robots. If I agree with her principles, I’ll gladly accept that title, just as I would gladly take up the mantel of ‘nerd’, ‘geek’ and other terms that describe how I’m intellectually aware.

  10. I don’t have anything more to add to this discussion, but I would like to congratulate Kaybee in post #12 for her comments on the “Randroid” remark. This is an excellent example of someone with a well developed self-esteem who is an independent thinker. Follow her example; think for yourself; form your own conclusions; and never be intimidated by ad hominems or arguments from intimidation.

    Regards,

    C. Jeffery Small

  11. ^A little melodramatic don’t you think?

    You are all of course entitled to form your own opinions. It is just my hope for Jim to avoid becoming one of as Kaybee described them Rand’s ‘mindless robots’. It is my opinion that Objectivism is one of the most pointless of all ‘philosophies’ (if it can even be regarded as one) and Rand herself as Sarah described as something of a monster. Since I enjoy coming to this site I would obviously be dismayed if Jim fell into such hokem. As for the rest of you, I don’t come here to read your articles so feel free to believe whatever you like!

  12. Of course I do not think that. In fact it would obviously be a contradiction in terms :-)

    However.. I do think characterising my little play on words as an “ad hominem or argument from intimidation” even in the slightest is quite clearly so!

  13. Having just watched a Channel Four documentary about why various religious types believe in God I now think Ayn Rand’s critique of ‘epistemological agnosticism’ is one of the greatest essays I have ever read.

  14. Michael:

    Being quite serious here, are you saying that you do not consider you use of the term “Randroid” to be an ad hominem? If that doesn’t qualify, I don’t know what would.

    ad hominem: 1: appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect 2: marked by or being an attack on an opponent’s character rather than by an answer to the contentions made (Merriam-Webster Online)

    You then continue to describe the Objectivist philosophy as “pointless” and “hokem”(sic), without providing a single fact to back up your claim, thereby offering two more examples of the same thing.

    If you think that some or all Objectivists are “mindless robots”, then you demonstrate that you know nothing about Rand’s philosophy and shouldn’t be commenting at all. Objectivism requires its adherents to fully focus and apply fact-based reasoning and independent judgment when forming conclusions. Anyone not dedicated to this rigorous mental process would not be an Objectivist. If you have encountered people who promote the philosophy based upon some form of unthinking “faith”, then Rand herself would have been the first to reject them.

    Furthermore, I don’t think there is much need to fear that Jim will become a mindless robot. He seems quite capable of coming to his own conclusions on this and other matters.

    Regards,

    C. Jeffery Small

  15. Michael states: You are all of course entitled to form your own opinions.

    Being a little paranoid, aren’t we?

  16. Jeffry,

    First of all my opening comment was obviously just a pun, and clearly not intended to terrorise or stifle the enthusiasm of anyone. Even the Randiest Randroid should be able to see that so kindly chillax.

    Secondly I thought I was offering and opinion, rather than an argument, in my second comment. Saying that since you are so keen to take this oh so seriously I will respond to a couple of your remarks.

    “If you think that some or all Objectivists are “mindless robots”, then you demonstrate that you know nothing about Rand’s philosophy and shouldn’t be commenting at all”

    Funny that you should chastise me for commiting the ad hominem fallacies and then follow it up yourself with an nice strawman. The ‘mindless robots’ characterisation was taken from Kaybees interpretation of my ‘Randroid’ comment and is not my position at all. My beef is with Rand’s Objectivism, not its propenents in general. Also, would you like to show how you could prove the premise ‘there are no objectivists who are “mindless robots”‘, as before you take a straw position and use it to tell me I can’t comment you might want to check if that position is even cogent.

    “Objectivism requires its adherents to fully focus and apply fact-based reasoning and independent judgment when forming conclusions.”

    If only! Objectivism is a highly utopian doctrine that could hardly be described as ‘fact based’. More accurate would be to say that it starts with presuppositions of how man should be, and then attempts to reduce experience into them. In fact it is my opinion that her idea of man’s conciousness enjoying dominion over him (she says herself “everything we do and are proceeds from the mind”) falls at the first hurdle due to the provable existance of innate predispositions!

    “Anyone not dedicated to this rigorous mental process would not be an Objectivist. If you have encountered people who promote the philosophy based upon some form of unthinking “faith”, then Rand herself would have been the first to reject them.”

    Perhaps, perhaps not, although one could argue that due to the obvious flaws in Objectivism, she was actually promoting it on faith herself.

    Favela,

    Being a little presumptious, aren’t we?

  17. Having now read a little more on Rand I can see why she divides a room. I have to say, however, that I think the reason for this is that much of what she says could so easily be taken the wrong way, but for a little fact checking. There’s no quick way into her major points if you allow your emotional reaction to her direct challenge cloud what it is she is actually proposing.

    With that in mind I will read more on her, but I appreciate all your comments so far.

  18. Michael said ‘[Rand]….falls at the first hurdle due to the provable existance of innate predispositions!’
    ————————————-

    Interesting argument.

    What do you mean by a predisposition that is both ‘provable’ and ‘innate,’ and if something actually were innate, like free will, then wouldn’t that characteristic have to be a foundation of proof rather than a consequence?

    Descartes couldn’t find anything, though he tried, neither could Frege, nor Wittgenstein, nor the Existentialists.

    If by ‘predisposition’ you mean some sort of automatic reflex then that is merely a physical response, like a nervous reaction, or a percept, whose existence Rand did not dispute.

    In the realm of cognition, as far as I know, all the documentary evidence we have accumulated from case studies of feral children supports the blank slate view of John Locke – and Ayn Rand.

  19. Hi Paul

    Thank you for your neutral tone, I appreciate it.

    “What do you mean by a predisposition that is both ‘provable’ and ‘innate,’”

    I mean ‘provable’ in the empirical sense, and by ‘innate’ I mean a priori (existing before experience) as opposed to a posteriori (dependent on it), nativism.

    “if something actually were innate, like free will, then wouldn’t that characteristic have to be a foundation of proof rather than a consequence?”

    Forgive my dullness, but I’m not sure I fully understand this. Could you dumb it down for me?

    “Descartes couldn’t find anything, though he tried, neither could Frege, nor Wittgenstein, nor the Existentialists.”

    Perhaps, although Kant and Schopenhauer certainly believed they did.

    “If by ‘predisposition’ you mean some sort of automatic reflex then that is merely a physical response, like a nervous reaction, or a percept, whose existence Rand did not dispute.”

    No I didn’t mean purely physical predispositions, although I do believe some exist, such as handedness. Obviously I don’t mean reflex, since as you said would be a nervous reaction, pointless to dispute!

    “In the realm of cognition, as far as I know, all the documentary evidence we have accumulated from case studies of feral children supports the blank slate view of John Locke – and Ayn Rand.”

    Now, the study of feral children is no doubt an interesting area, although I do believe there are problems in using it to disprove the idea of nativism. For one, feral children are usually completely unable to communicate with researchers. For another, many of the books and studies written about them are based on dubious and even fraudulant sources ( here ) Additionally, the sheer ability of the feral child to take on the characteristics of the animals they are forced to socialise with can actually be construed as an innate predispostion towards adaptability!

    If we leave the wild children alone and look at cognition in a wider sense, there are actually a number of cognitive scientists who’s work supports the idea of innate predisposition. If you are interested, the work of Steven Pinker, E.O. Wilson or Jerry Fodor would be a good start. Additionally you could look into Chomsky’s ideas on universal grammar, one of the most important works in 20th century linguistics and one which has definitely found empirical support (Study of creole languages etc.)

  20. Michael said ‘I mean ‘provable’ in the empirical sense, and by ‘innate’ I mean a priori (existing before experience) as opposed to a posteriori (dependent on it), nativism.’

    Great, thanks. Now I know we are more or less on the same page.

    When I said ‘if something actually were innate, like free will, then wouldn’t that characteristic have to be a foundation of proof rather than a consequence?’ – I was referring to the question of ‘what is the nature of proof?’

    According to Aristotle and Objectivism the reason that we need to prove something is twofold:

    Firstly, A is A. Reality is what it is; it exists independent of our thoughts, actions, and opinions. The laws of reality are eternal, immutable, unassailable, etc..

    Secondly, we humans possess free-will. We can *wilfully* depart our thoughts from reality and fabricate religions [and much else besides] that have nothing whatsoever to do with reality – only we cannot hope to be spared the painful consequences. Reality is rather unforgiving.

    Proof is important therefore, proof keeps us on track, true to reality. It gives us the ability to make sense of the past, understand the present, grasp causes, and project the future.

    Great.

    But can you actually prove something as fundamental as ‘A is A’ itself?

    Can anyone even prove ‘free-will’?

    Rand would agree with Aristotle that you cannot.

    You *can* validate ‘A is A’ and ‘free-will’ by showing that an argument requires them or by showing that opposition is self-contradictory and self-refuting, but you cannot *prove* them.
    They are, to quote Aristotle, ‘axioms,’ principles that are reaffirmed through their denial.

    Proof, therefore, is a narrower term than ‘validate.’

    The very idea of proof *presupposes* existence [of the thing you are trying to prove], identity [that the thing is what it is], consciousness [we are aware of the thing we are trying to prove], free-will, causality and the validity of the senses – all of which are *valid*, but which are, by virtue of their fundamental, axiomatic nature, unprovable.

    Now imagine someone comes along and says ‘Guess what – I have this great theory – there’s no such thing as free-will and I can prove it!’

    Therein lies the problem with non-axiomatic a priori ideas.

    Michael went on to say “…Additionally, the sheer ability of the feral child to take on the characteristics of the animals they are forced to socialise with can actually be construed as an innate predisposition towards adaptability!”

    If that is the case, then I’m not sure that Ayn Rand would disagree with that type of predisposition.

    What she rejected was the notion of innate ideas.

    You correctly name Kant as the arch-exponent of innate ideas. Like Hegel, Schleiermacher, and Schopenhauer, he came from a strict Pietist background thoroughly immersed in a belief in the ‘Inner Light,’ of ‘God within us,’ the ‘clear and distinct idea’ of God and the divine, ‘the blessed feeling’ – accepted on faith.

    So whenever, I hear the word ‘innate’ I feel an urgent need to know how someone knows that – is it a physical or biological characteristic, is it developmental, or some other actualised potential? Is it an axiom?

    And though I am usually averse to using evidence from the special sciences to support a philosophical viewpoint, all I can say to counter the charge that Objectivism is ‘pointless’ and ‘hokem’ is that – as a sort of shorthand argument – as far as I understand it, everything I know, from both inside philosophy, and outside – The Pirahã language and the well documented case studies involving feral children – tends to support Ayn Rand’s philosophical position.

    As for the work of Steven Pinker, E.O. Wilson, Jerry Fodor, and Noam Chomsky – I thank you for the recommendation but though have some familiarity [and disagreement] with Chomsky on several issues I lack sufficient expertise in psychology and linguistics to evaluate their current positions, and I am therefore, unable to offer a fair or accurate analysis their findings from my philosopher’s armchair.

    But I would urge everyone to pay attention to Ayn Rand. There are unquestionably more kooks who oppose her than support her, but unless you subscribe to the argumentum ad kookymundiam the number kooks for/against her is of no significance either way.

    For those epistemologically inclined, I reckon Ayn Rand’s ‘Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology’ especially the extended edition with her thoughts on time etc. is a must-read.

  21. “According to Aristotle and Objectivism………….we humans possess free-will.”

    Then surely John, Rand’s views on free will are in direct contradiction of her views on causation/the law of identity?

    “I would urge everyone to pay attention to Ayn Rand. There are unquestionably more kooks who oppose her than support her, but unless you subscribe to the argumentum ad kookymundiam the number kooks for/against her is of no significance either way.”

    Interesting choice of lexis. So if you disagree with Rand’s ideas you ‘oppose’ her? I suppose therefore if you agree with the idea of archetypes then you are ‘supporting’ Plato? Perhaps you would prefer if every objection was labelled as and objection to ‘Rand’s Objectivism’, rather than just simply ‘Rand’?

    Anyone who wants a good grounding in what Rand and Objectivism is all about should go here.

    This article is fun too.

  22. Michael said ‘Then surely John, Rand’s views on free will are in direct contradiction of her views on causation/the law of identity?’
    ————————————————

    Absolutely not.

    The law of causality affirms a necessary relationship between entities and their actions. It does not, however, provide us with an exhaustive list of the kinds of entities or actions that are possible. It does not say, for example, that only hydrodynamic causation is legitimate but thermodynamic and aerodynamic causation are not.

    By the same token, with reference to the actions of human consciousness, the law of causality by itself, does not exclude the reality of free will.

    It says only that if such an irreducible choice does exist, then it, too, as a form of action, is necessitated by an entity of a specific nature.

    Man is an entity of this kind.

    Because man’s consciousness possesses a certain identity, he must act in a certain way. He must continuously choose between focusing his mind and not focusing his mind, between thinking and not thinking. Given that basic choice a certain kind of effect must follow.

    Free will therefore is not a violation of the law of causality, but an instance of it.

    Man’s power of free will is certainly unique to man, but that is not evidence of, nor indicative to, some exemption to the laws of reality.

    Michael said ‘Interesting choice of lexis. So if you disagree with Rand’s ideas you ‘oppose’ her? I suppose therefore if you agree with the idea of archetypes then you are ’supporting’ Plato? Perhaps you would prefer if every objection was labelled as and objection to ‘Rand’s Objectivism’, rather than just simply ‘Rand’?’

    No. I chose my words carefully. I would have said ‘criticize’ but that word barely covers the kind of smears, fabrications and insults that Objectivists have to endure.

    It seems that every time someone writes something positive about Ayn Rand their comments are taken as a cue for various ill-considered replies which have little or nothing to do with Ayn Rand’s known position on anything.
    By “oppose” I refer to the kind of unthinking, visceral antagonism whose viciousness is only exceeded by its total lack of even a shred of justification.

    Take your comments above, for example. All your elementary-level objections demonstrate the same principle: that you obviously have only a very vague and superficial understanding of Objectivism.

    Instead of admitting that and declaring the nature of your reservations you prefer to dismiss Objectivists as “Randroids” and “Rand’s mindless robots,” that Objectivism is “hokem” and “one of the most pointless of all ‘philosophies’ (if it can even be regarded as one}” that Objectivism is “highly utopian doctrine that could hardly be described as ‘fact based'” that “it starts with presuppositions of how man should be, and then attempts to reduce experience into them” that Objectivism has “obvious flaws,” that Ayn Rand was “something of a monster” who promoted her ideas “on faith.”

    You then underscore your comments by asserting that “Anyone who wants a good grounding in what Rand and Objectivism is all about should go here” [a notorious trolls’ cave] which rather begs the question of how would *you* know what a good grounding is, and how would *you* know whether the links you provided are fair and accurate or not?

    Well, let’s find out shall we. Let’s start with the article that you judge to be “fun.”

    Entitled “Retouching Rand” by a certain Neil Parille, who admits that he doesn’t understand Objectivist philosophy [!!] the article begins thus:

    “One of the most genuinely weird features of Objectivism is the compulsion amongst orthodox Objectivists to mythologize Ayn Rand. This compulsion extends to even the most trivial aspects of her personality or life story, which, in classic cult of personality style, are the subject of deliberate and extensive rewriting, airbrushing, and half-truths until they are in accord with Objectivism’s internal mythology.”

    Ignoring Parille’s attempt to set a world record for the number of question-begging epithets and straw men that can be crammed into a short paragraph, his thesis amounts to the charge that the Ayn Rand Institute has “surreptitiously and comprehensively rewritten Rand’s own work” in order to deflect attention from her “amply” documented “bad side;” her bad side including her split with the philosopher John Hospers, who believes in ESP, and the Holzers, who believe in animal rights. [Neither ESP nor animal rights exist.]

    Apparently, her journal which was never intended for publication has been “edited,” God forbid, in order to sustain the myth that Ayn Rand emerged fully formed like some Eastern guru, who, being perfect, never had any occasion to correct herself or her opinions.

    This claim is made despite Ayn Rand’s well-known about-turns on American participation in WWII, Richard Nixon, and ARI’s publication of the complete hand-written annotations to the facsimile text of the 50th Anniversary edition of Anthem [only 3 lines remain of p. 205, 7 lines of p.236 !!]
    These…ahem… tiny details don’t quite fit the trolls’ cave mythology thesis so they are ignored.

    Other so-called theories that they prefer to publicize include the utterly insane and preposterous contention that Ayn Rand was an admirer of a serial child-killer.

    That is the level that the trolls’ cave occupies.

    I shall not dignify their slanders with further comment except to quote my colleague Andrew Medworth who wrote the following in response to a similar “discussion” following an article entitled The Rare Banker on the Samizdata blog.

    “What a depressing discussion. This is yet another example of an Internet debate (if it really deserves that name) about Ayn Rand and her ideas which is of no value whatsoever.

    Nothing of substance or interest (or even real relevance to the topic of the original post) is being discussed. Occasionally someone says something which sounds like it might turn into something interesting (such as Perry’s views on the relation between Rand’s ideas and Popper’s, which I would be very interested in hearing more about) but almost immediately the thread goes astray once again. The problem starts very early (around the fourth comment) and the whole thing just goes downhill from there.

    I have seen this sort of thing many times, and it irritates and depresses me. As the Chairman of the Ayn Rand Forum, which is currently (to my knowledge) the only UK-based organisation promoting Ayn Rand’s ideas, I have a great deal of interest in figuring out how to stimulate meaningful and useful discussion of Objectivism among those who really ought to be interested in it. Advocates of political liberty such as “Samizdatistas” certainly number among those we are most keen to reach.

    Having (unfortunately) been a participant in many discussions similar to this one over the years, I strongly recognise the pattern here. Someone (in this case “Ivan”, on May 2nd at 10:44pm) uses the word “cult”, and the whole thing sinks into a downward spiral.

    I’m not trying to defend the way certain Objectivists responded to this, but what non-Objectivists have to understand is how incredibly irritating this whole “Objectivism is a cult” idea is. This notion really is viciously false. Objectivism is not a cult, and none of her serious followers whatsoever that I have ever met behave in a “cultish” manner or have a “cultish” attitude of any sort. I believe such attitudes are ruled out by the logic of Objectivism itself. After all, Objectivism’s primary advice is to be rational, and to think for oneself. If, after serious and honest thought, you disagree with Ayn Rand, Objectivism requires you to reject Rand. Substituting Ayn Rand’s consciousness for your own is, for Objectivism, an impossible and entirely illegitimate thing to do.

    Perhaps a personal perspective will shed some light here. I was blown away by Atlas Shrugged at the age of 18, and I devoured everything else I could find on Rand and her ideas. I soon ran into discussions on the Internet rather like this one, and became worried that I would be sucked into some kind of nightmare Objectivist commune where I would be required to recite Galt’s speech every day before breakfast, confess my deviations from the Atlantis Scripture to an Enforcer and be given a certain number of Hail Peikoffs in atonement, etc etc. (Obviously I am exaggerating my concerns slightly for effect, but you get the point.)

    I remember quite clearly when my fears in this regard began to subside. It was when I actually began meeting Objectivists in person. Over the past four years, I have met probably the majority of Objectivists who live in the UK, and also a great many professional Objectivist intellectuals around the world. I have had dinner with Harry Binswanger and his wife. I have met Leonard Peikoff himself. I have had lengthy personal discussions with Yaron Brook. I have met and corresponded with Tara Smith. I have met Tore Boeckmann, John Lewis, Lisa VanDamme, Alex Epstein, Christian Beenfeldt, and Craig Biddle. I have taken courses or attended lectures in person with Shoshana Milgram, Pat Corvini, John Allison, Robert Mayhew and Brian Simpson. I have also run (in person) into many of the most prominent Objectivist bloggers, such as Diana and Paul Hsieh and Gus van Horn.

    I have met many more Objectivists than I can possibly name here. Do you know what every single one of them has in common? They are incredibly nice people. They are friendly, helpful, intelligent, and fun to be around. Over the years I have asked hundreds if not thousands of questions about Ayn Rand’s ideas in face-to-face discussion, including expressing disagreement with or reservations about some of them. In no case have I ever experienced intimidation, personal attacks, or even the slightest moral reproach for doing so. No-one has ever said mere disagreement with Objectivism is evidence of dishonesty, or any other equivalent nonsense. Instead I have experienced patience, listening ears, and friendly benevolence, from person after person.

    (Perhaps this is because, when I raised my questions and criticisms, I did not do so from a basis of utter and obvious ignorance of the relevant literature. Nor did I hold laughably inaccurate views of what Rand’s ideas consist of, arrogantly assume they were correct, and accompany my questions with gratuitous personal insults against Ayn Rand and her admirers. In other words, I asked my questions honestly and with an assumption of good faith and character on the part of the advocates of the views I was questioning: a practice which certain participants in the present discussion would do well to learn to imitate.)

    I personally know a couple of people currently studying at the Objectivist Academic Center, the Ayn Rand Institute’s programme for graduate-level study of Ayn Rand’s ideas, and their experience has been the same (the teachers in that programme are among ARI’s most senior people). Given that many of the people I listed knew Ayn Rand personally, I believe that had I known Ayn Rand, my experience with her would have been the same – to the power ten.

    You might wonder why I am going on about this at such length. After all, philosophy isn’t supposed to be about personalities, is it? But every discussion about Objectivism almost immediately seems to turn into a discussion of personalities and psychologies, as here. And as here, it’s almost never Objectivists who start it, but opponents of Objectivism. They engage in incredibly vague and non-specific, but simultaneously vicious and damaging, personal attacks on Ayn Rand and her admirers.

    Like many Objectivists, I see with my own eyes the injustice, rudeness and plain bigotry of these attacks, and you know what? THEY PISS ME OFF. (Forgive me for writing in such a manner, but it is the only way I can adequately convey my sentiments on this subject.) I am sick and tired of seeing my friends, people I like and admire, smeared and unjustly insulted by trolls who understand Objectivism about as well as the average house plant.

    In the past, I was led to respond in kind. But this, as we have seen here, serves merely to reinforce the existing stereotype of Objectivists, and persuades no-one. It is vital that Objectivists behave impeccably in every discussion, given the stereotype which exists. Besides, I have wasted more than enough of my life on Internet trolls already.

    My view now is that such trolls must be excluded from any discussion of Objectivism, if it is to be fruitful. No-one who writes about Ayn Rand with such ignorant bile can helpfully contribute to such an exchange. Such remarks are not written by people who honestly want to understand the issues better or who are open to rational persuasion, but by smear artists who enjoy heated argument for its own sake. Feeding the trolls is always a grave mistake. (The same applies, by the way, to any “Objectivist trolls”, of which some do regrettably seem to exist though I have never met any, who engage in similar bad debating tactics against those who disagree with Objectivism.)

    Interestingly, the Internet often lags behind the rest of the media and the intellectual world when it comes to discussion of Objectivism. Ayn Rand’s ideas are already making unprecedented inroads into academia, and are being treated increasingly seriously by many sections of the mainstream media, as evidenced by the original post which inspired this thread. We have Objectivist intellectuals in many of the most important philosophy departments in the world, as well as in other disciplines. There is a professional society affiliated with the American Philosophical Association, which fosters the scholarly study of Rand’s ideas. Tara Smith’s latest book was published by Cambridge University Press, which must now surely silence any remaining voices who claim Rand “isn’t real philosophy”. (I understand that this book, by the way, has sold better than CUP expected in their wildest dreams.) A major publication is forthcoming from Blackwell’s, and Rand is also increasingly being referenced seriously and respectfully in general mainstream textbooks (such as the latest edition of Robert Solomon’s “Introducing Philosophy”, published by Oxford University Press).

    Those who claim that Objectivism is just some silly religion, in short, are simply being left behind by the excellent work Objectivist intellectuals and the ARI are doing. Given time, probably just a few short years, they will be widely recognised as the irrelevance they are. For the time being, they are best ignored and excluded.

    Objectivism is not some revelatory dogma designed to take over people’s lives: it is a philosophy which helps people understand and deal with the world. It contains powerful new ideas and integrations which have helped me to understand where the world is going and why, in a way nothing I else I have ever read has done. They have had a similar effect, as the above article shows, on John Allison and the BB&T bank. And one day, I hope (and believe) they will have a similar effect on the world.”

  23. Her views on free will contradict her views on ‘the law of identity’ because she believes that the law of causation precipitates it. In other words determinism, which obviously is incompatible with the idea of free will.

    You probably already know this as you guys are so close but Piekoff even wrote himself (in Objectivism – The philosophy of Ayn Rand’)

    “Every entity has a nature….it has certain attributes and no others. Such an entity must act in accordance with it’s nature. The only alternative would be for an entity to act apart from it’s nature or against it, both of which are impossible”

    Again, determinism = incompatible with free will.

    But nice rant.

    One closing point for you to consider, given that ‘Atlas Shrugged’ has been one of the bestselling books around for decades, why do you think it is possible for you to have “met probably the majority of Objectivists who live in the UK”??

  24. Also..I’m sorry but I could not leave this little comment alone..

    “You then underscore your comments by asserting that “Anyone who wants a good grounding in what Rand and Objectivism is all about should go here” [a notorious trolls’ cave]”

    How utterly hypocritical for you to deride my apparently ill considered use of portmanteau, and then characterise ARCHN as a ‘troll’s cave’. I have Nyquist’s book and he is anything other than a ‘troll’. In fact I believe that if you can characterise Nyquist as a ‘troll’ then I should have no hesitation in characterising you as a ‘randroid’, as you concede any higher ground with which to object.

    Finally..

    “It contains powerful new ideas and integrations which have helped me to understand where the world is going and why, in a way nothing I else I have ever read has done.”

    Spoken like a true Scientologist………..oh wait.

  25. I enjoy watching Formula 1 Grand Prix. After the race is over, pundits sit around talking for half an hour about what might have been going through the mind of a specific driver, or team principal. In comparison to the excitement of watching the cars hurtling around the track, it’s entertainment factor is up there with watching paint dry.

    Similarly, listening to a true philosopher give a first-hand account of their life’s work, can be an almost transcendental experience, because of how it chimes with our own experiences and our own internal dialogue–despite that on some level we tell ourselves we can never truly understand the mind of a genius. Whereas attempting to pass-on the importance of that personal experience to someone else–even someone who might ostensibly share the view that such an experience is vital to knowing how to think clearly about a wide range of subjects–inevitably becomes a debate about the validity of what is being said, rather than what it felt like to hear it being said for the first time.

    We dismiss readily those who live as if second-hand accounts of profound experiences stand as proof that their extraordinary claims are true. Anyone who insists that they don’t need to understand what the radioactivity of a rock tells us about the age of the Earth, because a third-party account of the life of a character in a special book makes no mention of dinosaurs, has immediately made it clear, no matter what else they may add to their statement, that their ability to form their own thoughts has been severely inhibited by a fundamental confusion between revealed knowledge and attained wisdom.

    Ayn Rand seems to divide a room because she is not afraid to say this of both “sides” in a conversation which will never convince the very group it should most strongly address, that even the concept of their being “sides” in matters of morality, is anathema to seeking the truth. Paradoxically the group to which I refer is the one in which I most closely identify with–or as Julius Henry “Groucho” Marx once put it, “why would I want to join a club that would have me as a member?”

    It might be easy to interpret this as doubt about one’s convictions, as if doubt isn’t a good thing, if it is used to ensure one is always attempting to find a path through the cluttered opinions of others, which leads either to new knowledge, or an affirmation of that which was once believed to be valuable, despite that a respect for informed scepticism might chip away at its lustre.

    For example, mathematical axioms, in his younger years, troubled Russell no end. He later learned to accept them as mere conduits through which understanding may flow–almost analogous to literary hooks, or poetic licence in a verse about an amorphous concept, which is both familiar and ordinary but nevertheless shared by all people and also therefore profound and exceptional.

    It would seem to be, that the greatest problem which exists in the world today, is society itself. We have become so capable of building our opinions not upon how closely we identify with people who share that opinion, but upon how vehemently as a group we can reject the opinions of others. Either by ridicule, financial burden or theological idealism. When what we should all of us be capable of doing, intellectually, whenever we face a shared problem, is act as if the decisions we make on behalf of others were being made by them on behalf of us. “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” – Confucius, 500 years before Christ.

    If we are ever to make null the effects of this innate human inability to truly live by the golden rule, we might do well to study those who claim to have transcended their selfish evolutionary origins and, as Sam Harris put it, “become the Tiger Woods of compassion”. Which immediately begs the question, if Christians want to ascribe these qualities to Jesus Christ, why do they do such a poor job of grafting his message onto their own actions? Why do the money lenders in the temple have so much control over the very rock upon which they built this church? Surely, an honest answer to these questions is not that it is because Jesus failed as a contemplative thinker, but that it is precisely because so many of his followers do not know what it means to think for themselves, that definitions of words like ‘altruism’ and ‘morality’ become so divisive when left in the hands of those who understand the founding ethical values of their own religion the least.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s