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Michael -- thanks for these "inner sanctum" views of the Randians (James or Ayn?) haha. My Dad's grad school -- NYU Law -- is a hot-bed of Ayn Randians and they fit nicely with the recent outing of the Leo Straussians.

Coincidentally I happen to be reading "Moral Minds: How Nature Designed our universal sense of right and wrong" by Harvard professor Marc D. Hauser (2006).

The book was pretty much denied any real consideration by the mainstream press -- too controversial.

He focuses on what I think is the sublime kernal of Ayn Rand's philosophy-fiction -- the nonverbal "forced" yet "romantic" sex by Howard Roark (certainly Rand's Freudian slip of elevating animal passion as the premier act of "cold," calculating reason). In analyzing the Honor Killing and Passion Crime paradoxes -- laws skewed against females (what's Rand projecting?). Hauser states:

"The main point is that the moral faculty may guard its principles but once its guard has been penetrated, we may use these principles to guide how we consciously reason about morally permissible actions. If this captures the link between operative moral principles and our moral actions, then we will have identified an important difference between the moral and linguistic domains of knowledge." (p. 159)

"When we judge an action as morally right or wrong, we do so instinctively, tapping a system of unconsciously operative and inaccessible moral knowledge." (p. 420)

The Missing Link is the choice to think or not to think. That choice includes the choice not to rationalize (form arguments to defend your spurious emotions), but to actually understand the issues at stake in any given instance.

You could have made that choice before writing your little 'essay', but you did not, hence your say, and then gloss past this remark, "but I believe a close reading of her work will reveal it." From that you leap to species differences...that is so blatantly absurd you prove her point. One could say you prove your own caricature of her ideas, which is perhaps what you fear.

In a well-known essay David Ramsey Steele observed:

Rand fed the appetite for certainty. She spoke as if she had a fully worked-out system which accounted for everything. Such a system, if it could exist at all, would be a vast structure made up of minutely-reasoned segments. Rand's theories. such as they are, do not form a vast structure, and she had no talent for minute reasoning. The impression of all-encompassing explanation is given by bold, broad, sweeping, imprecise assertions. An unrelenting covering fire of vituperation and demeaning is maintained against anyone who might point to any of the difficulties with these assertions.... The doctrinal structure of Randism is bluff, buttressed by abuse of all critics.

RnBram illustrates the point to perfection.

I think her views on missing links and sub-human beings fits into her utopian view of the world. Her theory of "Two Kinds of People" is yet more of Rand's quest to over simplfy the world and create an epic struggle between good and evil.

And of course, as usual, it's just a HAG on her part (Half Ass Guess).

It's embarrasing how immature her understanding of evolution was and how she jumps to epic conclusions based on feeling.

She saves herself in this case by making it clear to her readers that this is speculation only. But her journals reveal this speculation lasted for 20 or more years, so why didn't she bother to pick up a copy of Darwins, "Origins of Species"???

This article belongs at ARCHN, it's that bad.

The only point the DSR quote illustrates is that he is anti-conceptual -- he dismisses Rand for not being concrete-bound enough! A philosophic system identifies fundamental principles, it doesn't enunciate specific minutia, nor should it.

You've misread Steele. He isn't calling for the exposition of minutiae, but for "minutely reasoned" arguments to justify Rand's "fundamental principles." For instance, it's one thing to assert that the mind-body problem has been solved; it's another thing to actually solve it. The solution must consist of minutely reasoned arguments in order to address all the complexities of the issue and to answer the countless objections that can be raised against any proposed solution.

The only alternative to such argumentation is handwaving ... which is the technique Rand characteristically employs. In other words, "bluff, buttressed by abuse of all critics."

Here are some philosophical principles:

* Stuff exists

* Stuff does stuff

* People need stuff to live

* people need to do stuff to get stuff

* people need to think about stuff to know how to get stuff in order to obtain stuff.

I call my philosophy stuffism.

Rand, stripped of her verbiage boils down to these kinds of banalities.

Here are some philosophical principles:

* Stuff exists

* Stuff does stuff

* People need stuff to live

* people need to do stuff to get stuff

* people need to think about stuff to know how to get stuff in order to obtain stuff.

I call my philosophy stuffism.

Rand, stripped of her verbiage boils down to these kinds of banalities.

>I call my philosophy stuffism.

I find your ideas intriguing, and I'd like to subscribe to your newsletter.*

(*With apologies to Homer Simpson.)

There is no entry on Ayn Rand in either The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, or The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Make of that what you will, I have no opinion as I have never read Rand.

Oops! The above comment is mine.

Hi,
I was also on the ARCHN blog. I was the one who posted the comment about disliking Dawkins as much as Rand and you directed me to the book Darwinian Fairytales.
I couldn't find a way to contact you on your site, so I commented here. As I told the guys over at ARCHN, I am considering starting a new Ayn Rand critique blog.
I enjoyed reading your articles about Rand and wondered if you have any IM like AIM, or MSN or google talk ?

Hi Meg,

Thanks for contacting me. I'm afraid I don't IM, though - I spend waaaay too much time online as it is!

However, you can find my email address on my author Web site.

Darwinian Fairytales is a very entertaining demolition of Dawkins and "evolutionary psychology."

I would certainly read your Rand critique blog, if you start one.

Quit amazing, to me, that nearly everyone, haters & worshipers of Rand totally miss her point. And her point...? Was a spiritual point.

Ayn Rand's "Forest"

by Gand

"Intellectuals" love to denigrate the work of Ayn Rand, indeed the person as well. Greatness always elicits this response from smaller minds.

Mostly it (the denigration) is either personal attack or taking a microscope to each "tree" in the Rand forest of work; the structure of the fiction, the mechanics of her philosophy, the "social" aspects, etc. Few bother to observe the forest itself. I'll talk more about this in a moment, but first . . . .

To me, Rand was a spiritualist. That's right, this avowed atheist wrote about spirituality!

I don't know if you saw the movie "A Beautiful Mind." It was a fair movie, as modern movies go. One scene that I like is when Nash looks at a board filled with numbers and text and certain sections highlight and step out of the background. It was a way of illustrating the identification of patterns in Nash's mind. Patterns others didn't see.

When I first read "Atlas Shrugged," a similar experience happened to me. Certain phrases congealed, were back lit, and stepped foreword out of the text. I don't recall all of them and I can't quote them verbatim, but here is a small list:

"Who is John Galt?" (but of course!)

"We never did have to take it seriously, did we?"

and most importantly . . . .

"A face without Pain, Fear or Guilt"

The last first; it is the one that really hit me and especially within the context of an epic mythology (which is what the book was). I immediately saw the following pattern in those words:

Guilt relates to the Past,

Pain relates to the Present,

and Fear relates to the Future.

Past, Present, Future; pretty well covers things doesn't it? You see, the secret to controlling people is to induce self-hate, and if you can apply it to the entire time perspective, you have complete control of that perspective.

All authoritarian "institutions," whether religious, cultural, educational, financial, commercial, governmental attempt (indeed their survival depends upon) to illicit self-hate in individuals for all that has happened, all that is happening, and all that may happen. If you can do this, you totally disarm the individual. You can then control them, all the other tools in the authoritarian tool kit will work.

"Who was John Galt?" He represented an idealized . . . fully realized or actualized . . . human being. One who could look in the mirror and not feel guilt about the past, pain in the present, or fear about the future.

You see, unless you love and honor your "Self," you have no basis for loving others or for loving life. It is the foundation that gives life meaning, that allows each to realize and recognize truth, beauty, achievement, honor, spirituality, honesty, creativity, production. Without it (self-love) you are adrift as a individual. Subject to finding meaning as it may be dictated to you, but never finding or formulating that meaning yourself, based on your experience, through your own mind, your own judgment.

Real personal happiness becomes impossible. Fear, pain, and guilt become all too real.

"We never did have to take it seriously, did we?"

No, we didn't. Once you "allow" yourself to love yourself, once you discover that true self, then all the noise, all the hate, fear, stress, loathing, guilt, rules, laws, "beliefs" and propaganda you are subject to melts away and becomes just what it is . . . meaningless noise.

This is why Rand is hated. This is why intellectuals must focus on "a tree," or the author . . . . One can always find imperfection in another or when they fracture and break the context of the work. Focus on anything but the message. Never, never look at the forest.

Rand also had the "nerve" to do two things intellectuals cannot stand . . . . She not only wrote fiction (gasp), but she wrote it in its most powerful and enduring form . . . as mythology. Name one (so called) modern intellectual who would even attempt this? You can't because they can't.

She wrote about people as "ideals," as "heroic." In other words, people who loved themselves, loved life, loved others, and loved truth. People not subject to control, self-realized people. Rand then had the nerve to actually author a epistemology to back up her fiction, to give it intellectual structure. Unforgivable!

Rand pulled the pants down on all those who teach self-hate, and she is despised for it. She exposed intellectuals for what they really are . . . ignorant and inferior. Incapable of creative thought of their own. Incapable of real love of as an individual. Unable to identify truth if it is not politically acceptable by some organization (which ironically puts the food on their table or the title on their door).

The next time you look in the mirror, see if you can find "A face without Pain, Fear or Guilt."

And take a walk in the forest.

it divides the world into authentic human beings and counterfeit human beings, with the latter being disposable. Rand's stated views on American Indians fit neatly into this model.

I guess this is why it seems to me that Finnish Randians and libertarians tend to be racist in an intellectual-ish, crypto-Nazi way.

Quit amazing, to me, that nearly everyone, haters & worshipers of Rand totally miss her point. And her point...? Was a spiritual point.

Which implies, that Randians are essentially adherents of a religion. That is all good and well, but they should realize that in a country where there is no state religion, other people might adhere to other religions or be genuine atheists.

It should also imply that Randian arguments aren't worth a halfpenny in an intellectual discourse: those of us who don't adhere to Christian religion, don't find Biblical quotes relevant either.

>Ayn Rand's "Forest"
>by Gand

I take it "Gand" is an amalgam of Galt and Rand ...

>She not only wrote fiction (gasp), but she wrote it in its most powerful and enduring form . . . as mythology. Name one (so called) modern intellectual who would even attempt this? You can't because they can't.

Camus comes to mind. The Stranger, The Plague ...

>She exposed intellectuals for what they really are . . . ignorant and inferior. Incapable of creative thought of their own. Incapable of real love of as an individual.

I know I'm feelin' the love here. So what "Gand" is saying is, Ayn Rand was not an intellectual. You know, I'm half inclined to agree with that.

Every time I think these people can't get any weirder, they prove me wrong.

>She not only wrote fiction (gasp), but she wrote it in its most powerful and enduring form . . . as mythology. Name one (so called) modern intellectual who would even attempt this? You can't because they can't.

I should have added an even more obvious choice than Camus - C.S. Lewis. He wrote mythological books like the Narnia series, with serious religious/philosophical themes.

He's more popular and influential than Ayn Rand, and a better writer, too.

Michael,

I wrote an essay on Rand and evolution a while ago, which you can google on the web.

Rand, in her Journals, even speculated that we are living in the midst of people who look human but are not.

Neil's essay can be found here.

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