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That's a powerful rebuttal to Rand's position. Especially the contrast of your happiness to her miserable existence. She may have lived life the way she thought it should -- but she was one unhappy woman.

Further rebutting her, can you imagine a happier person than one without ambition? One who wants nothing from life other than a job they don't hate and a nice family? If you can go through life satisfied with little and avoiding the torment of guilt and regret by following the golden rule that seems to me to be the perfect way to live.

Not everyone pays a price for self actualizing, but few achieve what they set out to. If you can find happiness in your family and home, in your hobbies and day to day -- that's a grand thing. Many do. I'm sure Ayn would disapprove of such people.

Morality and happiness need not be intellectualized to death. It's found in The Golden Rule. You don't have to be religious to appreciate the idea of treating others as you would like to be treated. Most misery, like Ayn's -- is self inflicted. Treat your spouse like you want them to treat you and you'll have a good marriage. Same in business. Yes, you'll come across some louts in life but cutting them out of your life is a lot simpler than the precious energy and time consumed trying to get back at them or stew over them as Ayn would. "Savage" or literary giant -- that is the key to survival.

Ayn could've accomplished what she did without suffering the misery she brought on herself and others. And how sad is that?

Savages obviously survive, but flourish?

Whether Objectivists would assert that you're irrational is beside the point. Are you?
I.e. Could you create such well crafted, detailed, insightful novels without:

"...the faculty which… identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses. Reason integrates man's perceptions by means of forming abstractions or conceptions...The method which reason employs in this process is logic—and logic is the art of non-contradictory identification."

More widely, would it be possible to create an individual life or a society with modern communications technology, to name but one example, which we are using to discuss this without that faculty using that method?

Indeed, what faculty and method are we using when we discuss the issue?

That some (many?) are irrational some (most?) of the time, obviously doesn't preclude them being rational at others. At which times are they creating farms, factories, or even churches?

And is reason used only to create material goods? What then do we use when we discover the nature of the mind itself? Or express gratitude, or provide justice?

Using what faculty and what method do we discover the faculty and methods themselves?

You seem to restrict 'reason' to something like 'that which produces valid syllogisms'.

I agree with you to this extent. There are many areas where Rand might have stated things differently. When she speaks of survival, she clearly has in mind survival 'in the human way'. I.e. by using that faculty and those methods to produce that which makes life 'good'.

But 'who's to say' that modern technology is good? That clearly presupposes a standard. Whether she has properly validated that standard is what the (dis)agreement seems to come down to.

That's a point I'll take up in Part II. To be continued ...


Thanks for your comment. Rand, I'm afraid, mostly showed disdain for "average" people living their "average" lives. She was particularly vehement in her contempt for small town living, which she regarded as the epitome of mindlessness. In The Ayn Rand Cult, Jeff Walker writes: "Notes that Rand wrote in 1928 toward [her planned but never-written novel] The Little Street present a view she never relinquished, that of family life as the glorification of mediocrity, as a dull and purposeless existence of ridiculous pettiness, bovine contentment, and stupid, prison-like monotony." (p. 113) The book's hero "burns with 'disgust ... and with humiliation' at not being able to crush 'the mob' under his feet." (p. 276)


You wrote, "Savages obviously survive - but flourish?"

Some do, but this is only a side issue, since Rand is not logically entitled to talk about flourishing. Her whole argument up to the point when she brings human beings into the picture has been concerned with the biological survival of an organism, i.e., survival of the fittest, i.e., survival at any price. There is no discussion of "quality of life," nor could there be, because a) one would need a code of values in order to evaluate the quality of life, and Rand is still trying to lay the foundation for her moral code, and b) it is meaningless to talk about the quality of life of an amoeba or a muskrat or even a dog. Survival at any price is the law of the jungle, and this is what Rand builds her argument on.

Then she gets to "Man," and all of a sudden we hear that the issue is *not* survival at any price, after all. Instead it seemingly becomes flourishing, or thriving, or reaching one's full potential, etc. Rand can fire off all the rhetoric at her disposal, but she can't gloss over this fatal equivocation.

You wrote, "When she speaks of survival, she clearly has in mind survival 'in the human way'. I.e. by using that faculty and those methods to produce that which makes life 'good'."

But she has no logical right to speak of that which make life "good," because she is still laying the groundwork for her ethical concepts of good and bad. She has smuggled an "ought" into the argument, at a poiny when she is entitled only to speak of what "is."

Incidentally, I think Rand was wrong even to say that the basic imperative of all living things is to survive. The basic imperative actually is to reproduce. Survival is only a means to that end. Many living things take substantial risks in order to reproduce (not all the salmon that swim upstream make it), and some inevitably die after passing on their genes (e.g., the male black widow spider, which is eaten by its mate immediately after copulating). The organism is not driven primarily to survive, but to reproduce. Of course, if Rand had used this biological fact as the foundation of her ethics, she would have had to conclude that childbearing is a moral imperative!

As for reason, I would say briefly that Rand never clearly defined what it is, and her attempted definition is too vague to be very helpful. It is true that people can be rational at certain times and irrational at others, but my point is that they can survive even while being irrational, at least in some cases. And I disagree that all creative accomplishments are made possible by reason. I doubt very much that Mozart was reasoning in any meaningful sense of the term when he composed his symphonies, or that Michelangelo was reasoning when his chisel flew over the white marble. They were relying on intuition, impulse, "feel," all those right-brain functions that Ayn Rand was deeply suspicious of. We are creatures of reason, yes, but also of intuitiveness, emotion, holistic thinking, symbolic thinking, etc., etc. To say that "man is a rational animal" is no more exhaustive or accurate than to say "man is an intuitive animal" or "man is an animal capable of holistic thinking." We do our species a disservice when we define ourselves too narrowly, and rule some of our most interesting and creative faculties out of bounds.

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