Why I No Longer Consider Myself an Objectivist
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“Dagny hooks up with John Galt the first night she meets him, and D’Anconia thinks…that’s just fine?“
The thing is, if you’re an immigrant Russian chick trying to strike gold, the feelings of other men don’t really matter. The few Russians girls I have met were all quite aware that children would interfere with their lifestyle. So Rand kind of makes sense when you realise that she’s a woman with no responsibilities, LARPing about being with the number one oligarch..
“You don’t have to see through the eyes of others, hold onto yours, stand on your own judgment, you know that what is, is–say it aloud, like the holiest of prayers, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
Mercenary Moscow gold-digger! (Yes I know she’s from SPB but whatever, she still uses characteristic Russian comma splices)
And it kind of makes sense how the people who don’t outgrow Rand are the beta orbiter types.
It’s nice to see a critique of Rand that isn’t just some characterized hatred of a cartoon image people have of her. I agree that her strict materialism made her far less provocative as a philosopher, and am curious what it would look like if we were to apply Objectivism to a more imaginative set of principles.
You've neatly summed up all of the unease I've felt toward Rand despite the attractions of certain parts of her thinking. I don't know if I heard this from somewhere or coined it myself, but with her I've found it accurate to say that she praises the individual will or ego, while dismissing God, nature, and family (which I mean broadly enough to include all human relationships). Which is hardly an *Aristotelian* perspective on human life.
As a somewhat-aside I like your points about noesis and the "non-rational" elements of the mind. I've been on a slow deep dive into Platonism lately, starting with the Socratic dialogues themselves, and it's surprising me more and more how much insight is already there (including prefiguring much of interest in Aristotle himself).
Part of Rand's confusion on this seems to be the error she shares with all modern theories of reason and rationality -- that reason is restricted to the explicit, conscious, and discursive powers of the intellect. Ancient and medieval writers knew better, though that insight didn't survive the grinding machinery of the "enlightenment".
If I type up: “ibecindibceibiecbieibcbeiecindhJleonxsjbxkaoxnx” … this is a meaningless string of text. Any Materialist out there (be it Rand or others) now can do one of two things. They can (correctly) note that this is meaningless; and then look into their materialistic philosophies to answer “WHY?” And forever fail to do so (due to issues of regress, justification, grounding, etc)
OR they can acknowledge that their system cannot answer whether or not this has meaning or not *inherent* to it. And in doing so, their system crumbles because it has no basis to say whether language strings have any inherent meanings in them.
No materialist philosophy in general can move beyond the third-person world of “science” and give proper accounts of basic things like natural language. And so they die off in this mundane manner a la becoming irrelevant on the “basics”/fundamentals.
Wonderful essay. I myself am a follower of Classical philosophers, mainly Aristotle. I believe in Nous, free will, that life has many zero-sum situations (Ownership of land is like reproduction, “I control it and no one else”) and that creating new life ourselves is a necessary element of leading a good life. I believe in the existence of God and in human souls.
When I read Atlas Shrugged, oh, some almost 15 years ago now, i was struck by the prescience of some of her takes on what we today call the woke, and the concept of A is A. But i could never be a full blown objectivist, my faith deeply rooting me too much.
But the idea of a Thing always being what it is, still appeals to me, especially in this modern world in which so many actively try and destroy any sense of objective reality. A chair is a chair, whether you sit on it or not. Even if you use it as a table, it remains a chair, it was designed and made to be sat on. If you break it into pieces, it remains the pieces of a chair.
So too are men and women. A man is a man, no matter how much he may damage himself. A woman is a woman, no matter how much she surgically mutilates herself. Calling evil "DEI" or "Environmentalism" or "equity" Doesn't make it not evil.
Coincidentally, one of my favorite superheroes, after the original Captain Marvel (SHAZAM), is the Question. Created by an objectivist, his best run was the original Charlton Comics series where he was written by his Creator Ditko. A close second is his appearances in the animated series Justice League Unlimited, where he gets to give a Randian Objectivist lecture to Lex Luthor.
I got into libertarianism via Heinlein. Didn't encounter Rand until a few years after becoming an anarchocapitalist.
I found parts of Rand's works to be thrilling, but other parts left me a bit nauseous. All this hating on altruism bugged me. Especially considering how altruistic Rand's heroes acted. Blowing the family fortune pretending to be a playboy and not getting laid is rather altruistic in my book.
And you don't even need the issue of reproduction to run into zero sum games. First year economics covers plenty of free rider and public goods problems. And there is a backward bending supply curve for cheap labor that does need to be addressed.
One rather important public good: good government itself. Libertarian activism is expensive and time consuming. Somebody has to put in way more than they get back in tax cuts.
As a populist, I can better appeal to a much broader group's rational self-interest than I could as a pure libertarian.
I never understood the attraction to Ayn Rand's attempts at fiction writing. She couldn't write fiction at all. Also, every single self described Objectivist I ever met was an insufferable asshole. It sounds as though your former girlfriend may have been an Objectivist.
really well written. I went through my rand phase not long after high school when i was in college. i still read and can quote the books but now I look at them a little more critically.
In the 'Letters of Ayn Rand' and her correspondence with Isabel Paterson it was clear she was unable to ever accept the concept of original sin, which if she did could have seen the truth in traditional Catholicism. Could Rand argue say against the writings of Pope Leo XIII (particularly the encyclical Rerum Novarum) that was as anti-communist as Rand's We The Living.
"The Virtue of Selfishness"
Think about how vile that title actually is....
Yes, I read it. 45 years ago. It was vile.
Congratulations on your revelations. People get hooked on her as adolescents because only an adolescent can fail to see the evil.
We The Living and Anthem are her best.
In reading through comments here I notice that most readers take the Bible surface meanings literally. This is of course how the powers that be have controlled humanity for eons. Even for the practical atheist there is still that draw to that Armageddon psychology where by global warming the sins of mankind destroy the planet. The original teachings and philosophy of Qabalah is written in Genesis. But it's surface meaning must not be taken literally for it is speaking in terms of states of consciousness. The best example I can give you is God/Super-consciousness Adam/Self Conscious awareness, Eve/Subconsciousness, and now the quote "The desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee." The surface meaning is still used to control us to this day. But is it not true that in self conscious awareness we desire and our subconscious cannot desire, but rather by imagery it can answer any question we ask 1000 fold. Ask yourself why on any given subject and subconsciousness will flood your mind with answer upon answer. You then use your powers of self-consciousness to sift and sort through all the answers, while subconsciousness through memory verifies and validates, it cannot reject for that is a power of self consciousness-affirming and aligning to the Bible's above quote. We rule over subconsciousness-yet it is also our link of communication with Super-consciousness. Thus in awareness we lean towards Altruism and Unity rather than the ridiculous mass culture madness of separation. Shalom Ahebe
Ayn Rand PLAGIARIZED Hitler. See Chapter 4 of Volume II of Mein Kampf. Rand admitted that she could read German in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. She had a strong interest in National Socialism and German philosophy generally. She supervised the writing of the Ominous Parallels with an iron rod. https://sites.google.com/view/gbg-journal
I read both "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead" because my brother said they were good to read. I read several other books by Ayn Rand. It was after reading "Atlas Shrugged", I think, that I rejected some of her basic ideas. If I remember right, she thought that belief in God was a hindrance and if people could just get rid of this belief, things would improve. She also thought that people who did good were really receiving some sort of mental/emotional "reward" and that that was their true motivation for helping others. I told my sister that I no longer wanted to read Ayn Rand's book because she disliked people so much. And I felt she was wrong about God. My brother thought differently. You can tell by the way our lives turned out. Whenever a person writes a book, they should always consider the effect that book might have on the people that read it. I believe her book caused damage to my brother's life because his acceptance of her ideas caused him to not seek out better paths. And, in my mind, he was/is a very valuable and worthwhile person and his life could have been happier. I am glad you wrote this article.
You might find some answers here. See the post about Faith and Reason.
Start at Post 1. Thanks for an interesting article but too deep for me. :)