Ayn Rand

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Native Skeptic
 
Reply Tue 25 May, 2010 01:34 pm
@greenghost08,
greenghost08;168639 wrote:

I have to concede ignorance of Kant. I just dont know enough about him from his own works to say anything. If what Rand said is true Im no fan. It's mostly the extreme altruism that I'm not for.


Kantian Moralism isn't necessarily altruistic.

The aspect that may give it that perception would be the ideology that a selfish act cannot be moral. Doing an act to gain for oneself is not moral. An act for authority cannot be moral. These are the aspects that Ayn Rand disagrees with most(in terms of morals and ethics).

I have to agree with Kant on that one too. An act for oneself may benefit others, but that is not worthy of recognition. And as for an act for authority, what makes a moral distinct from a law?
 
harlequin phil
 
Reply Tue 25 May, 2010 02:17 pm
@jack phil,
jack;168643 wrote:
Randroids.

Atlas Shrugged is synonymous with Christ Squirmed. I cannot tell why Christians have any support for this author.


maybe, like me, they enjoy the story.
 
Nullifidian
 
Reply Tue 25 May, 2010 03:55 pm
@greenghost08,
prothero;141953 wrote:
I think you(nulli) misunderstood what he(prothero) was talking about. He didnn't say that the those types of mental endeavors you mentioned are inferior or no-exsistent.


Nor did I take it that way. You seem to be trying to draw a generalization out of a critique of the historical examples prothero mentioned. prothero seemed to me to be arguing that the greatness of Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, as well as the works of Mozart were the result of those men's singular vision. While artistic expression is harder to pin down, which is why I didn't address it (though I do not believe that Mozart's work is due to his singular genius either), there is a strong argument to be made against the Great Man theory in the history of science. In fact, for the last 50-60 years, nobody within the field of history of science has taken it seriously for the reasons I outlined above in the case of Darwin.

Quote:
In fact those examples are what prot was talking about in terms of the superior way of doing science and thought.
Yes, I got that this is what prothero thought was a superior way of doing science and thought. The point is that it never actually happened the way prothero seems to think it did, that his own historical examples undercut his thesis, and that it is certainly not applicable now when new, breakthrough research can have dozens or even hundreds of people working at the same experiment.

Quote:
Your argument looks like this to me.
(I:Individual, G: Group)
(Prot) I > G
(Null) I< G because the I > G. Its a contradiction.
It is a contradiction. It is also not my argument.

Quote:
In terms of what else you said about Atlas Shrugged, it's one of those books that you have to agree with the authors view point for it to be a pleasant read.
Well, that is true, but the converse is not necessarily true. Just because a person dislikes Atlas Shrugged, it doesn't follow that they disliked it because they disagreed with the author's viewpoint. As I said above, I was a young conservative when I first encountered Rand's works in general, and I was still a young conservative (though wavering) when I undertook to read Atlas Shrugged. Now it is true that Rand's philosophy, such as it is, is not entirely compatible with conservatism but it's as close as you can get without actually already being a devotee.

Nevertheless, agreeing with the author's viewpoint does seem to be the only way you can get around the dull, sermonizing style, the cardboard characters, improbable coincidences and impossible contrivances (like the perpetual motion machine that lies at the heart of Galt's Gulch).

Edit: I think this above paragraph is a bit too simple. Atlas Shrugged is definitely a bad book-it's the worst one I've ever read-but there's also the element that I didn't notice at the time, but which became clear in retrospect: Rand spends a lot of her time haranguing liberals and the entire New Deal project. In fact, she never includes a Great Depression so the New Deal seems arbitrary and perverse. Now, a liberal would read that and take offense. I didn't pay much notice at the time, because it wasn't my ox being gored, and I never read Rand again after abandoning my youthful conservatism. Nevertheless, I can see why that too would make Rand's work difficult to take for certain people.

Quote:
Another example like that is the bible. Lots of people like the bible but I hate hows it written. I'm an athiest who doesn't like most of whats said in the book. So me reading it is like getting teeth pulled.
But do you hate how it's written because you're an atheist, or do you hate how it's written because it was cobbled together by committee out of dozens of individual religious texts, some of which are mutually inconsistent?

In other words, do you hate the Bible because it is badly written, or would you hate Paradise Lost and The Divine Comedy
Quote:
I thought it was one of the best books I've ever read and I know no substitute. If you no any other books or thinkers who promote egoism, selfishness, capitalism, atheism, and the like; point me in their direction. So far Anton Lavey is the only one who fits all of that without being an objectivist.
Egotism and selfishness are on display in Max Stirner's The Ego and His Own, capitalism is defended by thousands of other writers from Adam Smith to Robert Nozick and Friedrich Hayek, and likewise atheism has several defenders, like J.L. Mackie in The Miracle of Theism.

Now, if you want all those in a single book, I don't know of any, but I also question why someone would need them together in a single book anyway. If I want vampires and werewolves in a single book, I can read Twilight, but the mere fact of their existence in the same book doesn't make Twilight any better than reading Bram Stoker's Dracula and Guy Endore's The Werewolf of Paris separately.
 
greenghost08
 
Reply Tue 25 May, 2010 08:53 pm
@Nullifidian,
Nullifidian;168764 wrote:


Egotism and selfishness are on display in Max Stirner's The Ego and His Own, capitalism is defended by thousands of other writers from Adam Smith to Robert Nozick and Friedrich Hayek, and likewise atheism has several defenders, like J.L. Mackie in The Miracle of Theism.


I know of the austrians are great defenders of capitalism and I also know of the atheists. I didn't know of Max Stirner. I'll have to check him out. The reason I want them all together is that I think those things go together very well to make a compelling philosophy I can get behind. Sorry my reply is so short. I'm very sleepy.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Tue 25 May, 2010 10:12 pm
@nicodemus,
She presented reason as man's only absolute, right? Well, what is "reason"? And who gets to play referee?

I like her positivity toward life on Earth.

Her tone is often shrill. She often comes across as someone contemptuous of criticism, or even doubt.

Her view of religion seems reductive. She only sees the bad, never the good. And yet where in the world, for the senses, are her own principles to be found?

In "reason"? But what is "reason"? Everyone has their reasons. It's not as if philosophers agree.

Her view of Kant strikes me as ridiculous. Were we supposed to avoid reasoning about this reason she praises so highly? Were we supposed to stick with Aristole while developing new technology with which to wipe out all the infidels who put property rights above the commonwealth? Her views on the Vietnam War and the colonization of North America are a little one-sided, a little harsh.

Basically, if a society isn't sufficiently Randian, a Randian society has the right to destroy it or shall we say liberate it.

To be fair, she was trying to protect the brave, the intelligent, and the industrious, from the fearful, the less intelligent, and the slothful.

She didn't want good men sacrificed to bad men.

But there is a danger in refusing to see the limitations in these abstractions.

I'm sure she's having tea with Jesus now, and all is well.
 
Deckard
 
Reply Tue 25 May, 2010 10:20 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;168883 wrote:

To be fair, she was trying to protect the brave, the intelligent, and the industrious, from the fearful, the less intelligent, and the slothful.

To be fair, socialism has the same aims.

Socialism doesn't want good men sacrificed to bad men.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Tue 25 May, 2010 10:28 pm
@Deckard,
Deckard;168886 wrote:
To be fair, socialism has the same aims.

Isn't that strange? And they both have a point. At this point in history, capitalism is becoming a sort of evil socialism. (?) The banks get billions and billions of tax dollars. Of course Rand would have hated that. But the deeper problem is to make a god of this abstraction money.

Instead of having a sort of common sense attitude that every law abiding working member of the "tribe" should have access to necessities, we make a god of the invisible hand. (?) But this is of course hypocrisy. What is the proportion of "welfare" given to the rich as compared to that given to the poor? Let's not count the old, for that is another issue. Tax dollars to corps versus tax dollars to the poor. I suspect the rich get more than poor. Hell, that last bailout may have given the rich a lead for centuries. The idea is what? That we must or it will all fall down. Hmm. I wonder how long that excuse has been in the works. And if it's true, that's even worse.

But I'm no expert on the matter. Smile
 
Deckard
 
Reply Tue 25 May, 2010 10:50 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;168889 wrote:
Isn't that strange? And they both have a point. At this point in history, capitalism is becoming a sort of evil socialism. (?) The banks get billions and billions of tax dollars. Of course Rand would have hated that. But the deeper problem is to make a god of this abstraction money.

Instead of having a sort of common sense attitude that every law abiding working member of the "tribe" should have access to necessities, we make a god of the invisible hand. (?) But this is of course hypocrisy. What is the proportion of "welfare" given to the rich as compared to that given to the poor? Let's not count the old, for that is another issue. Tax dollars to corps versus tax dollars to the poor. I suspect the rich get more than poor. Hell, that last bailout may have given the rich a lead for centuries. The idea is what? That we must or it will all fall down. Hmm. I wonder how long that excuse has been in the works. And if it's true, that's even worse.

But I'm no expert on the matter. Smile

Rand demonizes the poor and the powerless and paints them up as so many bloodsuckers when in fact it is the rich and powerful that are the parasites. In Atlas Shrugged, Rand co-opted the General Strike and made it elitist and anti-socialist. The trick was to take the socialist critique of capitalism and invert it into a capitalist critique of socialism. Her fiction turns the world upside down and turns social justice inside out.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Tue 25 May, 2010 11:02 pm
@Deckard,
Deckard;168891 wrote:
Rand demonizes the poor and the powerless and paints them up as so many bloodsuckers when in fact it is the rich and powerful that are the parasites. In Atlas Shrugged, Rand co-opted the General Strike and made it elitist and anti-socialist. The trick was to take the socialist critique of capitalism and invert it into a capitalist critique of socialism. Her fiction turns the world upside down and turns social justice inside out.


Well said. Isn't it largely founded on a hyper-cynical interpretation of Christianity? Rand always reminded me of a terribly humorless and literal doppelganger of Nietzsche. As a teenager with a cruder understanding of religion, she was valuable to me. She's definitely to the point. But I suppose she just utterly misses how social we humans are. Her cowboy vision might be OK for an endless frontier, but not for the real world, where space and resources are limited. It's also naive. As if revolutions don't happen when folks get desperate. The elites stopping the world and its profit for the cause of property rights? What a strange expression of idealism!
 
prothero
 
Reply Wed 26 May, 2010 12:45 am
@nicodemus,
I have to say Ayn Rand exaults capitalism over socialism, and individualism over collectivism and considering her background it is no surprise.
Although individual acheivements always occur in a social context, and one is never completely free of the influence and contributions of others, predessesors or teachers, I think the notion that major breakthroughs in art, in music, in literature, are often the result of the vison and energy of individuals (not committees and groups and governments) is a valid point of view. Buildings built by committees rarely have the inspiration and beauty of those designed primarily by a man or a woman with a vision.
Rand salutes the individual who remains true to their vision, their inspiration. Of course we are all indebted to others, to those who have gone before and to those who encourage and support us but individual acheivment and vision is not to be dismissed as a factor that can change the world and accomplish great things.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Wed 26 May, 2010 01:43 am
@prothero,
prothero;168936 wrote:
I have to say Ayn Rand exaults capitalism over socialism, and individualism over collectivism and considering her background it is no surprise.
Although individual acheivements always occur in a social context, and one is never completely free of the influence and contributions of others, predessesors or teachers, I think the notion that major breakthroughs in art, in music, in literature, are often the result of the vison and energy of individuals (not committees and groups and governments) is a valid point of view. Buildings built by committees rarely have the inspiration and beauty of those designed primarily by a man or a woman with a vision.
Rand salutes the individual who remains true to their vision, their inspiration. Of course we are all indebted to others, to those who have gone before and to those who encourage and support us but individual acheivment and vision is not to be dismissed as a factor that can change the world and accomplish great things.

I respect what you say here, and this is to show the good aspects of Rand. It does come to my mind that any major building is the work of many hands, even if designed by a single mind. Of course this single is educated in the context of particular humans within a particular culture. And then also within the context of history.
I think the abstraction of money is something to consider. And we aren't talking about gold but fiat currency, pure symbol, liquid buying power. I'll agree that money is a powerful invention, a convenient way to store and transport value. But I fear that the abstract nature of money feeds into a certain island attitude that neglects just how interdependent we are, especially these days.
Doesn't money essentially organized social relations? The dirty work gets done because someone is poor enough to get stuck doing it. And maybe dirty work isn't such a bad thing, if it's relatively safe. But in any case, behind the abstraction of money, there is always the possibility of violence. We can walk the streets in safety because we don't look at one another as pure raw material. We depend on one another's sanity, and should beware one another's desperation.

I know that capitalism is amazing productive. This should not be ignored. And I also know that we do not live by any means in an environment of pure capitalism. The major point I want to make is that any tribe of people that will leave a law-abiding working member go without necessities, when there are more than enough resources for all, as far as basic necessities go, is flawed. We would never do this on a family level, or even within a small town perhaps. But on a national level, where the population is in the millions, it's easy to see the other in terms of abstractions.

I'm not blind to the addicts, the criminals, etc. Many of the poor are not helping themselves. Agreed. But I can't help but think that a fair amount of crime and addiction is related to a secret sense of self-contempt, if not an imitation of the self-seeking implicit in the nature of capitalism. Capitalism is something of a cynical system, I think, and the cynics have largely been right. But the world is shrinking. Do we not have a "tragedy of the commons" on our hands? Not only between individuals and corporations but also between nations. I agree that we are born with different talents, health, parents. And that only the absolute destruction of freedom and variety could really even pretend and only pretend to provide "equality of opportunity." I'm not going to be as abstract as that.

I'm just saying that all non-criminal members of society who contribute to this society significantly should not want for food, shelter, and medical care. If we don't have enough doctors, perhaps we should make it easier to become a doctor. Is it insane for me to envision a more educated self-sufficient society that invests in its infrastructure, and especially in energy sources that don't motivate it to drop bombs? Is the export of industry a good thing? Or are we making an empire necessary? Perhaps we are too far gone already in this respect. It's not in the least as simple as blaming the rich. We have been islands across the board, living in our boxes with our toys as if there were no outer world, excepting of course our little world, and the tv news. Granted, the rich are generally well aware of the world-at-large, but what attitude do they take toward it? Has multiculturalism justified a screw-you toward one's own country? Ah, but we are so culturally pluralistic, that we are sown together by nothing but our love of money.
I'll shut up now. I don't have a solution. Like so many other humans, I can imagine what I cannot deliver, a world where no honest person who is willing to work has to worry about the availability of food, shelter, medical care. All this technology and still so much squalor and desperation. I know the problems are not just political, but "spiritual."
 
greenghost08
 
Reply Wed 26 May, 2010 09:30 am
@Reconstructo,
MY response to recon is this movie YouTube - The Incredible Bread Machine Film. It shows why you cant provide the basics for everyone. It brings up the example of a country(sri lanka) that collapse because it made food free.
 
prothero
 
Reply Wed 26 May, 2010 03:17 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;168943 wrote:
II'll shut up now. I don't have a solution. Like so many other humans, I can imagine what I cannot deliver, a world where no honest person who is willing to work has to worry about the availability of food, shelter, medical care. All this technology and still so much squalor and desperation. I know the problems are not just political, but "spiritual."

In the end one has to judge political and economic systems by their actual results not by their theoretical intentions.

Socialism and communism were intended to equalize opportunity and to more fairly distribute the wealth of a society; a noble goal with the best of intentions. Unfortunately such systems are based on false premises about the reality of human nature and of the physical world.

We may all be equal before the law. We may all deserve the opportunity to compete and succeed in our respective cultures and societies. We are not however all equal in our energy, our ambition, our vision, our willingness to work, or our ability to innovate. We are also not equal in our mental or intellectual abilities or our physical attributes. We are also not equal in our home environments, our neighborhoods or our personal relationships. No amount of government intervention or planning can ever create "equality and fairness" and equality of opportunity and a fair game never results in equal achievement (equality of results) The sheer size scope and extent of a government which could or would attempt to create fairness and equality would create tyranny; not a utopian world of equality and fairness.

Markets (and I mean real markets not the oligopoly or collusion monopolies we currently have) have historically been the greatest generators of wealth and prosperity of any economic system. Markets (theoretically anyway) are based on the free decisions of both consumers and producers and thus represent a sort of idealized form of economic democracy. We have done the centrally planned economy, we have done high marginal tax rates, we have done government redistribution and support programs. Nothing has lifted so many people out of abject poverty, and created so much wealth, as markets. Look at the effect of market reforms on China and India, more people escaped poverty in the last twenty years than in decades of government enforced equality and fairness and planned economies.

It is true we have the technology and we have the wealth so that ideally there would be no starvation in the world, people would have basic clothing and warm dry shelter, and access to at least basic effective medical care and family planning. There is no scientific or technical barrier to this utopian ideal. The barriers are political (primarily bad government) and as you indicate spiritual (lack of will). The solution to this problem though is not more government, larger government, more government welfare, government redistribution or government planning. There is role for government; it could break up monopolies instead of creating, sustaining and bailing them out. It could identify and educate its best and it's brightest (regardless of race, culture, neighborhood, religion or sex). It could set the ground rules for a fair game without trying to fix the game (assure a given outcome). Those political systems and economic systems which harness the power of their individual citizens and allow them the freedom to innovate, to create, to prosper and to be rewarded for their efforts; in the end create more wealth, more prosperity, more freedom than attempts to use government to make everything "equal and fair".

The sad fact is we are not all equal. The sad fact is people will not put forth their best efforts without reward and incentive. The sad fact is there are more than a few who lack motivation as much as opportunity and who are more than happy to let others work while they share in the rewards. I actually support government efforts for full employment, minimum wages, social programs to eradicate hunger and homelessness, access to basic medical care, etc. It is just than in the end the notions of individual responsibility, individual achievement, individual effort, individual freedom and self reliance are valuable ones. You can in fact tax and regulate the incentive and innovation out of a political or an economic system. This is a fact and one that the advocates of government as the solution to all social and economic problems seem to forget. In the end free individuals pursuing their own enlightened self interest are the most effective and most efficient way to make progress and allocate resources.

The real question is not if we need government regulation but how much and what type. The real question is not if the distribution of wealth should be equal but how much disparity and inequality are necessary to incentivize and motivate and thus maximize wealth generation and general prosperity, In these reasonable informed people can disagree.

In Ayn Rand's view it is government interference with individual vision and freedom which is both immoral and which results in lack of creativity, effort and achievement. In this I think she has a point and I think actual experience (as opposed to utopian theorizing) supports her.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sat 29 May, 2010 03:49 pm
@prothero,
prothero;169221 wrote:
In the end one has to judge political and economic systems by their actual results not by their theoretical intentions.

Socialism and communism were intended to equalize opportunity and to more fairly distribute the wealth of a society; a noble goal with the best of intentions. Unfortunately such systems are based on false premises about the reality of human nature and of the physical world.

We may all be equal before the law. We may all deserve the opportunity to compete and succeed in our respective cultures and societies. We are not however all equal in our energy, our ambition, our vision, our willingness to work, or our ability to innovate. We are also not equal in our mental or intellectual abilities or our physical attributes. We are also not equal in our home environments, our neighborhoods or our personal relationships. No amount of government intervention or planning can ever create "equality and fairness" and equality of opportunity and a fair game never results in equal achievement (equality of results) The sheer size scope and extent of a government which could or would attempt to create fairness and equality would create tyranny; not a utopian world of equality and fairness.

Markets (and I mean real markets not the oligopoly or collusion monopolies we currently have) have historically been the greatest generators of wealth and prosperity of any economic system. Markets (theoretically anyway) are based on the free decisions of both consumers and producers and thus represent a sort of idealized form of economic democracy. We have done the centrally planned economy, we have done high marginal tax rates, we have done government redistribution and support programs. Nothing has lifted so many people out of abject poverty, and created so much wealth, as markets. Look at the effect of market reforms on China and India, more people escaped poverty in the last twenty years than in decades of government enforced equality and fairness and planned economies.

It is true we have the technology and we have the wealth so that ideally there would be no starvation in the world, people would have basic clothing and warm dry shelter, and access to at least basic effective medical care and family planning. There is no scientific or technical barrier to this utopian ideal. The barriers are political (primarily bad government) and as you indicate spiritual (lack of will). The solution to this problem though is not more government, larger government, more government welfare, government redistribution or government planning. There is role for government; it could break up monopolies instead of creating, sustaining and bailing them out. It could identify and educate its best and it's brightest (regardless of race, culture, neighborhood, religion or sex). It could set the ground rules for a fair game without trying to fix the game (assure a given outcome). Those political systems and economic systems which harness the power of their individual citizens and allow them the freedom to innovate, to create, to prosper and to be rewarded for their efforts; in the end create more wealth, more prosperity, more freedom than attempts to use government to make everything "equal and fair".

The sad fact is we are not all equal. The sad fact is people will not put forth their best efforts without reward and incentive. The sad fact is there are more than a few who lack motivation as much as opportunity and who are more than happy to let others work while they share in the rewards. I actually support government efforts for full employment, minimum wages, social programs to eradicate hunger and homelessness, access to basic medical care, etc. It is just than in the end the notions of individual responsibility, individual achievement, individual effort, individual freedom and self reliance are valuable ones. You can in fact tax and regulate the incentive and innovation out of a political or an economic system. This is a fact and one that the advocates of government as the solution to all social and economic problems seem to forget. In the end free individuals pursuing their own enlightened self interest are the most effective and most efficient way to make progress and allocate resources.

The real question is not if we need government regulation but how much and what type. The real question is not if the distribution of wealth should be equal but how much disparity and inequality are necessary to incentivize and motivate and thus maximize wealth generation and general prosperity, In these reasonable informed people can disagree.

In Ayn Rand's view it is government interference with individual vision and freedom which is both immoral and which results in lack of creativity, effort and achievement. In this I think she has a point and I think actual experience (as opposed to utopian theorizing) supports her.


This is an excellent response. I suppose I'm personally undecided on such difficult issues.
 
greenghost08
 
Reply Sat 29 May, 2010 09:31 pm
@Reconstructo,
YouTube - The Means of Innovation (by Jeffrey Tucker)



This video does good to question that bit about genius types coming up with things
 
Deckard
 
Reply Sat 29 May, 2010 11:23 pm
@greenghost08,
greenghost08;170652 wrote:
YouTube - The Means of Innovation (by Jeffrey Tucker)
This video does good to question that bit about genius types coming up with things

This is contra Ayn Rand no? She definitely believed in genius types or what she called prime movers.


Nice lecture here by Barry Schwartz.

Swarthmore College Faculty Lectures Blog Archive The Costs of Living: How Market Freedom Erodes the Best Things in Life
 
TomBlackstone1
 
Reply Fri 22 Mar, 2013 12:21 pm
I wrote a book about philosophy that includes a lot of information about Ayn Rand's Objectivism. If anyone is interested, they can read it here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/280330 .

Ayn Rand was my introduction to philosophy. Prior to reading her, I associated the idea of a meaningful, purposeful life with religion. But I couldn't believe in God because the idea of God just didn't make sense. So this left me in a quandry. Through the character of Howard Roark, Ayn Rand showed me that it was possible to have a meaningful, satisfying life dedicated to a rational code of morality that didn't require faith. This changed my life for the better and I have never been the same since.

I have gone on since then and read many of the "classics" of philosophy and found that to a large extent they express the same ideas that Rand does. This is especially true of the texts of the Greeks. However, ancient Greek philosophy tends to be hard for new students to read as it appears to refer to a society very different from our own. Rand's novels, on the other hand, take place in twentieth century America and use language that is more familiar to young people. As a result, it tends to stick in their minds more easily. This is I think why so many young people are getting into philosophy by first reading her novels. It is a trend that I expect will continue, whether traditional philosophers like it or not.
 
 

 
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