Satanism and Objectivism: An Objectivist Response
Posted 12 April 2007 - 08:53 AM
By Andrew Russell
(Authors note: NEW AND IMPROVED VERSION!!!!!! Cross-Posted In Objectivism In Dark Places. Rewritten with more arguments and extended Trichotomic Analysis!)
This article presents an Objectivist response to the article "Satanism and Objectivism" by Nemo. The article is published at http://churchofsatan...ges/SatObj.html. Nemo, manifestly a LaVeyan Satanist, claims that Satanism is similar to Objectivism in a multitude of different ways, yet have 'vital differences.' Regardless of these differences, Nemo appears to consider Satanism and Objectivism to be brother and sister philosophies. This article will take the position that Satanism and Objectivism are not brother and sister philosophies at all and that LaVeyan Satanism is not an "Objective" philosophy (understood with Ayn Rand's philosophic trichotomies) but a "Subjective" philosophy. This issue will be discussed later in the essay. First, I wish to look at some of the allegations Nemo raises in his article.
"It is, in fact, an unproven assertion by Rand that one's metaphysical assumptions determine one's ethics." (Nemo 1997)
Nemo alleges that Rand held, as an assertion she did not prove, that metaphysics determines ethics. First, the idea that metaphysics eventually determines ethics is not new: it has existed since Plato. Plato attempted, like Rand, to build a fully consistent philosophic system that encompassed metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and politics. Immanuel Kant, Aristotle and Descartes were all system builders. The idea that metaphysics eventually determines ethics is in no way a radical one! If the assertion is unproven, then it has been unproven since Plato. What Nemo is attempting to deny is the fact that knowlege, especially philosophical knowlege, is heirarchial in structure: certain ideas logically depend upon the correctness of other ideas. Finally, the link between metaphysics and ethics is simple to demonstrate. The two fields are linked via epistemology. Epistemology is concerned with the nature of knowlege. Knowlege of what? What is one knowing when one knows "X is true"? What one knows is that X is a feature of existence, or reality. It can be seen that epistemology hence depends on the conclusions of metaphysics. For example, if a metaphysics stated (regardless of the contradiction involved) that there is no reality, then there can be nothing to know, and therefore no epistemology is possible. If a metaphysics stated that reality is beyond our understanding, no epistemology could ever be correct. A method of knowlege depends upon the nature of that which is to be known. It follows from here that if one has a valid method of knowing, then one can apply this method to ethical questions in order to yield moral knowlege.
"Second, Satanism does not hold that “a life appropriate to a rational being” is the sole standard of ethical right as does Objectivism. If anything, Satanism holds that indulgence in life or “fun” as perceived by the individual is the highest standard of ethics. Satanists see that Objectivism has enthroned reason above the individual as opposed to utilizing this sole means to knowledge as a tool to achieve a purpose. Satanism enthrones the individual as a whole, not reason, as the supreme standard to determine the value of actions (ethics)." (Nemo 1997)
Nemo is correct in recognizing that Satanism and Objectivism, both promoting standard-based ethical theories, support different standards. However, it should be clarified that Objectivism considers pleasure, fun and joy to all be fundamental requirements of a life proper to rational beings such as humans. Nemo alleges that Objectivism enthrones reason above the individual as the standard of value. This is not true. Reason is not the standard of value, but a means to attain knowlege about that which is valuable. That which is valuable to an individual is that which advances the individual's life on a level proper to that individual's nature.
The second problem with Nemo's allegation is his insistence on using 'the individual as a whole' as the supreme standard of value. What does this mean? In light of his definition of the Satanic standard of value as "fun as perceived by the individual," there appears to be a strong current of subjectivism in the Satanic ethics. Satanism claims to be a life-loving philosophy: what if one individual considered torture-murder fun? Does that make his torture-murders moral? If the answer is yes, then Satanic ethics boils down to 'anything goes' and if the answer is no, then fun cannot be the absolute standard of ethics.
The third problem with Nemo's paragraph is that it alleges Objectivists seperate the individual from their rational faculty. In short, Nemo is proclaiming that Objectivism commits the mind-body dichotomy. Rand argued strongly against such a dichotomy, seeing it as a horriffic fallacy that underpins such mockeries of ethics like the religious concept of Original Sin. To Objectivism, one cannot seperate the rational faculty from the individual without defying the law of identity.
"Third, Rand's philosophy rejects as ethical accepting the sacrifice of another to one's self (to paraphrase the end of Galt's oath from Atlas Shrugged). The Satanic view sees as ethical the reality of domination of the weak by the strong. The assertion in Objectivism is that the use of force to cause others to submit to the will of the stronger or cleverer individual is "wrong" for the individual. This is a second major assertion which Satanism finds unproven by the Objectivists. Consequently, the Satanist is far more flexible in the choice of actions available than is the Objectivist who cannot simply accept his personal needs as absolutely reliable to determine the best course of action in any circumstance." (Nemo 1997)
This paragraph is actually two propositions in one. The latter proposition, that Objectivists cannot accept his personal needs as absolutely reliable to determine the best course of action in any circumstance, will be dealt with first. Technically speaking, this proposition is true of Objectivism. Objectivists do not consider ones needs to be the sole determinant of the best means. Objectivism considers needs to be the determinants of the ends of specific courses of action, which can influence the means (in that some ends require specific means), but ultimately one's needs (evaluated by the standard of value) only determine ends directly (means indirectly, and often in concert with the nature of reality). The fact is that a need alone cannot be absolutely reliable to determine the best course of action. A need will tell you what you must aim for, but how you get there is based on many things such as personal circumstances. One must rationally decide the most efficient means to achieve their ends. Hunger does not grow wheat, boredom does not build a toy factory and thirst does not cause rain. The only situation in which needs can be satisfied merely by needing them, without any action to do so, would be a universe of pure metaphysical subjectivism; where rivers run with milk and honey at the command of whim.
The first proposition is that Objectivism is against the subjugation of the weak, wheras Satanism considers it moral and inevitable, and that Satanism considers this unproven by the Objectivists. It is correct that Objectivism considers the sacrifice of the weak to the strong immoral; indeed Objectivism considers any sacrifice of any person; weak or strong, to any other (or others). Fundamentally speaking, Objectivism is against sacrifice as an ethical principle. What is the fundamental cause of this difference? It is the views that both philosophies take on human nature. Satanism and Objectivism are both anthropocentrically-oriented philosophies. Therefore, it can be expected that both of their views on ethics will be inexorably influenced by their respective views on human nature. Satanism views human nature as, according to the Seventh Satanic Statement, "man as just another animal, sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all-fours, who, because of his “divine spiritual and intellectual development,” has become the most vicious animal of all!" (LaVey, 1969). In other words, humans are just another animal. Does free will or the rational faculty figure prominently in this statement? Except for the sarcastic mention of "intellectual development," nothing at all alludes to it. What is alluded to is that humans are allegedly the "most vicious animal of all." What does LaVey mean by vicious? Vice-ridden? Sinful? Evil? All of these are surprisingly moralistic implications. In light of Nemo's references to 'weak' and 'strong,' and LaVey's references to man as an animal, it seems that viciousness to LaVey and Satanism refer to predator-prey style animalistic pack behavior. This is certainly consistent with the 'sacrifice of the weak to the strong.' In short, it seems that the Satanic conception of human nature is akin to that of a pack of wolves where the weak are subjected to the whim of the strong.
Objectivism rejects this view of human nature entirely. To Objectivism, we may be animals, but we are rational animals. This faculty to reason, which operates volitionally, gives humans a unique reward; the manipulation of our environment to our ends, rather than the animal situation of adapting to the environment. Using our reason to understand our world and guide our actions, humans can reshape the world in the image of their values. We can produce for our needs, exchange values for mutual benefit, coexist benevolently neither sacrificing ourselves to others nor others to ourselves. In short, human reason renders human sacrifice obsolete. In short, the Objectivist conception of human nature is that of a heroic being that is neither a predator-parasite or prey-victim, but is a being of dignity with the potential for happiness and joy in life.
From these radically different views of human nature evolve the respective ethics of Satanism and Objectivism. It is now apparrent why Objectivism considers any form of coercion or sacrifice of the weak to the strong to be evil: it is subhuman. Humans should not have to lower themselves to moral cannibalism. Not only that, but for any alleged 'strong' to sacrifice the weak is a contradiction: if someone needs the sufferring others for sustenance, that person is in no way strong, but a selfless parasite.
Satanism's Place In The Objectivist Trichotomies
Ayn Rand was notorious for the rejection of false dichotomies. In her innovative solution to the Problem of Universals, Rand argued that two schools of thought reigned: Intrinsicism, which believed that the immediate referent of concepts was mind external (such as a Platonic form or an Aristotelian 'essence' that existed as a seperate property of something (i.e. roses had the property of 'roseness' independently of their scent, colors etc)) and Subjectivism, which believed that the immediate referent of concepts was arbitrary and need not have any relationship to reality. The error that each of these theories have is in that they have an incomplete picture of the relationship between reality and consciousness. Intrinsicism believed our consciousness plays no active part in the perception of reality and that no work was required beyond opening our mental eyes. Subjectivism believed that our consciousness governs the way we think and perceive to such an extent that we cannot be sure of its efficacy, even to the point where we cannot know we exist. Intrinsicism believed in reality unperceived by consciousness, wheras Subjectivism offered the alternative of consciousness that doesn't perceive reality. Ayn Rand rejected this false alternative, proposing her concept of Objectivity as consciousness actively perceiving and integrating the data from concrete reality, then forming concepts by integrating and differentiating groups of entities based on their empirical similarities and differences. The result was an original solution to the problem of universals, treating the immediate referent of concepts as a mental creation based on empirical observation; hence it was neither an intrinsic essence nor a subjective invention.
This IOS Trichotomy has profound implications. In Epistemology, Intrinsicism can result in demands for faith over reason, demands for apriori deduction over empirical evidence, and standards of truth that are shockingly akin to divine revelation. Subjectivism on the other hand can result in perpetual skepticism, a denial of truth, and in extreme cases outright epistemic nihilism. Objectivism, on the other hand, offers empirically-grounded logic, an understanding of context, and within-context certainty. In Ethics, Intrinsicism offers commandments, categorical imperatives and authoritarianism. Subjectivism responds with moral skepticism, moral relativism, and at worst moral nihilism. Objectivism offers rational standards, practical values, and human flourishing.
In addition to this Dichotomy, Rand attacked another popular dichotomy: the mind-body dichotomy. In contrast to the so-called "spiritualists" who claimed man is fundamentally a creature of spirit, not of this world, called to a higher realm, and the so-called "materialists" who claimed man is a passive product of worldly forces, Rand argued that humans are integrated organisms, that posess a mind and free will, yet are natural beings. Rand demonstrated that both sides of the dichotomy attacked the concept of a rational man: spiritualists saying that thought was not of reality and materialists saying reality controls thought. This false-dichotomy on human nature is a monumentally-damaging fallacy. The spiritualists are the religious, reality-denying, mystics and hippies and fundamentalists, who claim consciousness is not of this earth. They are fundamentally mystics of spirit, that surrender reason to the supernatural. The materialists are the Marxists, pseudoscientific, Behaviorist, reductivist determinists, who claim the mind is a superstition and consciousness is the slave of natural forces. They are the mystics of muscle, who subjugate reason to an aspect of concrete reality like Operant Conditioning or Dialectical Materialism. The Mystics of Spirit wanted mind without body. The Mystics of Muscle wanted body without mind. A ghost and a zombie as their symbols of humanity.
Moral philosophy has also been a victim of Randian dichotomy-demolition. Her rejection of the ethical false alternative between self-sacrifice and sacrifice of others to self, or rejection of Comte vs. Neitzsche, is her most infamous dichotomy-rejection. The false-alternative, she realized, was based on a view of sacrifice as a moral primary: someone is to be sacrificed, who? Rand, believing sacrifice to be the behavior of cannibals, rejected it in favor of principled egoism free of sacrifices.
In light of these two busted dichotomies, where does LaVeyan Satanism fit? First, LaVeyan Satanism does not have a developed epistemological or metaphysical theory. As such, I will confine this analysis to ethics. It is manifest that the Church of Satan is, in terms of the IOS Trichotomy, Subjectivist, and in terms of the Spirit-Muscle-Integrated Trichotomy, Satanists are Mystics of Muscles. Morally, Satanism is obviously a defender of the cannibal morality, demanding the sacrifice of others, "the weak," to self, "the strong." The position of Satanism in the third trichotomy is conceded by Nemo in the previously quoted paragraph. What about the second trichotomy? This assessment seems implied by the animalistic view of human nature promoted by LaVey. If we are merely animals, with no acknowleged free will or capacity for higher thought (except as a means of becoming 'alpha wolf'), then that view of human nature certainly subjugates reason to something else (instinct, maybe?). As for the designation of Satanism as Subjectivist, this seems implied by the denial of a relationship between ethics and epistemology/metaphysics (as if we do not need something to know or a way to know to reach moral knowlege!) as well as the statement that Satanism enthrones the whole individual, rather than 'just reason' as the authority in ethics.
Therefore, Nemo, who states "Satanism has far more in common with Objectivism than with any other religion or philosophy" (Nemo 1997) is mistaken. Satanism is fundamentally opposed to Objectivism in significant respects. Satanists, however, often enjoy Rand's writings. Could Satanists potentially have an Objectivist-Compatible Sense Of Life? If they do, it would imply that (possibly owing to the lack of metaphysical and epistemological philosophy within Satanism) that most Satanists do not swallow the full implications of their ethical theory and maybe they are closer to Objectivism than an analysis of their beliefs would entail. To those Satanists, who find Ayn Rand's depiction of the individual standing on his own judgement against the herd to be beautiful and inspirational, I implore them to read more Rand, to take some courses in philosophy generally, and explore some Objectivist literature. If they compare the totality of Objectivism to what LaVeyan Satanism fully implies, I am convinced that some of them will find out that they belong with us, rather than the vicious wolf-pack of Satanism.
Nemo (1997) "Satanism and Objectivism," http://churchofsatan...ges/SatObj.html
LaVey, A (1969) "The 9 Satanic Statements" http://churchofsatan.com (see Theory/Practice)
Posted 16 April 2007 - 04:58 PM
Still, Andrew did put some honest effort into this, so here it is.
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