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This was a young Rand still formulating her ideas and she came to a really strange conclusion about someone who she tried to rationalize into an "individualist".

Ayn Rand corrected the error she made in this journal entry in the 1974 essay "Selfishness Without a Self" (published in Philosophy: Who Needs It?) and does so quite convincingly and agressively. She correctly labled this type of social outcast as the "tribal lone wolf". Here is a quote from the essay (page 50 of PWNI).

"To the tribal lone wolf , "reality" is a meaningless term; his metaphysics consists in the cronic feeling that life, somehow is a conspiracy of people and things against him, and he will walk over piles of corpses -- in order to assert himself? -- no, in order to hide (or fill) the nagging inner vacuum left by his aborted self... The grim joke on mankind is that he is held up as a symbol of selfishness."

So if you want a true understanding of this topic and Rand's view of it I suggest you track down Philosophy: Who Needs It and read that essay. Searching far and wide for the most objectionable writings you can find by a philosopher can give you justification for why you don't like them but it will never give you a true understanding of their philosophical system as a whole.

- Jason

Jason,

Thanks very much for your comment. I have read Philosophy: Who Needs It, and I remember the "lone wolf" essay, which originally appeared in The Ayn Rand Letter (a newsletter from the early '70s). Nevertheless, I stand by what I posted - Rand's infatuation with Hickman is indicative of a profoundly twisted psychology. And while she was only 23 at the time, that's still old enough to know better.

Objectivists like to make excuses for Rand on the assumption that she was a genius and thus can be forgiven her eccentricities. But ask yourself this: If your 23-year-old daughter (or friend, etc.) expressed glowing admiration for Jeffrey Dahmer or Scott Peterson, would you regard this as a sign of good mental health?

Rand's eccentricities at the age of 23 (or at any other age) have very little to do with how I judge her mature work -- which is the only work by her that deserves any attention. It would be silly for me to suddenly decide to condemn Rand's published work, which I consider to be on the whole very good and very well argued because of her psychological state at any point in her life. Her logic is for the most part clear and concise in her writing and I have great admiration for her style and methodology. My judgment of her work therefore has nothing to do with her personality or her personal, unpublished thoughts. If I were looking to Rand as some kind of prophet or political hero then these types of things might matter. They might be good reasons for deciding whether or not we LIKE Ayn Rand but they cannot be used as arguments against any part of her philosophical system. Arguments of this type can only be attacked with logical arguments of your own. I'm sure you are familiar with attack ad hominem and that is one of the many logical fallacies you are guilty of here if in fact you are trying to discount "Objectivism" and its adherents with this line of argument.

- Jason

Jason,

We'll have to disagree about the logic of Ayn Rand's published arguments - I think they have been thoroughly demolished by Robbins, Ryan, Nyquist, and even Ellis, among others. Many books and Web sites offer serious critiques of Rand's reasoning, so I won't belabor the point.

I don't think I'm committing an ad hominem, because my point is only that Rand's psychology, at least in her early years, seems to have been seriously skewed. Whether or not this affected her philosophy is another matter. I think it did, but I haven't tried to argue that point here.

As for her admiration of Hickman being only a quirk of her youth - this is possible, but we might want to ask if her later years showed evidence of healthy psychological functioning. If they did, then presumably she corrected the problem. If they did not, then perhaps the problem went uncorrected and even got worse.

My view is that her mental health was, if anything, worse in her later years; there is copious evidence that she was paranoid, hostile, clinically depressed, narcissistic, addicted to amphetamines and other stimulants (diet pills, coffee, cigarettes), and suffering from delusions of grandeur. Alan Blumenthal, a psychologist who was in her inner circle for years, now says she was afflicted by clinical paranoia, depression, and borderline personality disorder.

Did these problems affect her philosophy, i.e., her thinking? I hardly see how they could fail to affect it, and I think an unbiased reading of her work would turn up numerous clear instances; but that's a topic for another time.

I do appreciate your feedback, though. There's not much point in blogging if I'm just talking to myself!

Michael,
Can you provide a reference to Blumenthal's comments about Rand's psychology? I've not seen that before.

Jeff,

He's quoted in The Ayn Rand Cult, by Jeff Walker, available through Amazon. I don't have a copy handy, so I can't give a page reference, but the book has a good index. You can probably find the quote online by using Amazon's "search inside" feature; I would suggest entering the term "borderline," as I distinctly recall Blumenthal saying that Rand had Borderline Personality Disorder. If that fails, a search for "Blumenthal" should bring it up.

Walker's book is one-sided but nevertheless well worth reading. He did an extraordinary amount of research and dug up just about every bit of "dirt" on Rand that anyone had to offer, though I don't recall him mentioning the Hickman case. Funny he overlooked that.

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