• entries
    209
  • comments
    2,708
  • views
    27,910

One-eyed Ogress of the Slagathon

Sign in to follow this  
william.scherk

123 views

A cunning lead in to what is actually quite old, my first online clang! on Objectivish subjects, in which I compare Atlas Shrugged to Battlefield Earth [from freedomofmind, at yahoogroups, post number 23918, posted Wed Jun 8, 2005 -- I think I may have killed the thread. Note that Monica Pignotti is known as an apostate of two totalistic systems, The Callahan Technique and Scientology, and is a recent convert to a healthy, normal skepticism, though still touchy it seems on the subject of Rand]

Snippet:

Is Objectivism a cult? In my opinion, no, not really. Is it attractive

to those who are vulnerable to the 'cult embrace'? Worth a thought, I

would say.

I close with a few selections from Branden, a couple of sharp quotes

from a 1999 Lingua Franca essay, two abstracts on current science from

'official' Objectivism, and a tag from a radio interview with

Objectivist educators Tara Smith and Betsy Speicher.

Thanks to those who developed this thread -- and to Monica for

opening the door to my comments! Freedom-of-mind is an excellent list

that helps sharpen my mind.

Re: new member posting re Rand

Like Monica Pignotti I disagree with aspects of Michael Shermer's

"The Unlikeliest Cult in History"

(www.skeptic.com/02.2.shermer-unlikely-cult.html), yet I would advise

those interested in the Rand/Cult donnybrook to read and consider his

complete essay. I wager that Shermer has a devotee's ability to be

utterly enthralled by succeeding enthusiasms: fundamentalist

christianity, objectivist philosophy, skepticism -- I note the wisdom

of his central observation that the most "rational" of enterprises,

science, may also be the object of cult-ish veneration.

Objectivism a cult? No, probably not, in my opinion. But maybe another

way of looking at the Cult/Rand meme: could we find cult-ish

tendencies within the present body of Objectivists? Maybe yes. Maybe

Shermer simply found a ready-made fit for his devotional tendencies

after he gave up god . . .

Maybe the observation of total immersion in and acceptance of Randian

tenets by its more extreme adherents means less that Objectivism is a

cult, more that Objectivism may tend to attract people who themselves

behave, at times, like cult followers -- followers who venerate an

ideal being holding final truth, who shows the only true and correct

way to live life.

Those who do interpret Rand this way frighten and appall me. I hope

that not too many of them live in my town, although I do understand

the appeal: a total system of thought and value can be very attractive

to those who welcome the enveloping embrace of something that explains

*everything*.

(of note also is the cultish take-up and elaboration of Objectivist

jargon: Altruism. Evaders. Evil. Sanction. Check your premises. Etc.)

With regard to Rand's magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, in which she laid

out concrete examples of her philosophy in action: Oi. Fantasy. Rant.

Haranguing dialogue. Characters with the depth and realism of

Skeletor, Lex Luthor, Bizarro Superman, She-Ra and Wonder Woman.

So far I have only read the first 650,000 of its 800,000 pages. At the

moment, as I struggle through the chapter "The Utopia of Greed," it

reminds me most of L Ron Hubbard's "Battlefield Earth," with Rand's

monsters slightly more horrid and evil than Hubbard's nightmarish

slavedrivers, the titanic struggle between good and evil only slightly

more titanic . . . mind you, Hubbard's book is also slightly longer,

at 1,000,000 pages of turgid, pulpy, entertaining hooey.

WRT Tara Smith, you can buy her book and audio CDs at the Ayn Rand

bookstore: http://www.aynrandbookstore2.com/store/products.asp?dept=45

(you can also listen to a radio interview with her here:

http://www.prodos.com/archive032artscienceselfishness.html -- of note

is the same stubborn neologism pointed out by Robert Bass in his The

Misuse of Language: "Selfishness" and "Altruism," cited below -- why

torture the word selfish, with its negative load of undue attention to

self, when a more precise term like 'self-interest' exists?). . . but

see also Smith's 'Why a Teleological Defense of Rights Needn't Yield

Welfare Rights' in The Journal of Social Philosophy, and 'Rights,

Friends, and Egoism' in The Journal of Philosophy.

Considering that the utmost aim of the 'official' Ayn Rand Institute

is to seed higher education with Rand . . . I might be forgiven for

likening the success of Rand thought on campus to the success of

Phillip Johnson's 'Wedge,' and the Discovery Institute: "Wow,

scientists are taking Intelligent Design seriously!!! It's being

discussed in books and journals and in lecture theatres . . . " Right.

Is Smith an unprincipled huckster? No. Is she an independent scholar

discovering the lost wisdom of Rand? Perhaps. But in the age of

Madonna Studies and the opaque goo of Judith Butler. . . give me

Patricia Churchland (Philosophy in the Age of Neuroscience) or Susan

Haack (Defending Science - Within Reason) rather than Smith's party

line.

I tend to disagree with the practical implications of Monica's notes

about science vis a vis Objectivism. For example -- Rand was not a fan

of Darwin. She was not able to make natural selection jibe with her

ironclad views about human nature, so she mostly ignored its

implications for her philosophy. Same with psychology, physics,

history, economics. For someone who styled herself reason incarnate,

she was eqivocal about the fruits of empirical inquiry.

Moreover, my recent reading of Randian disciples and subgroups

indicates very little overlap with fresh scientific findings at all.

Instead there is disengagement, disconnect, and heated harangues

against 'environmentalists.' Check any website associated with

'official' Objectivism, and there is almost nothing about real

scientific discourse, little to reflect the burgeoning literature of

psychology.

For example, altruism research -- on the too-numerous-to-mention

Rand-influenced lists, there is no discussion whatsoever about what

cognitive neuroscience suggests about altruism. Nothing of

evolutionary psychology. Altruism is evil, so any attempt to find its

roots in nature, human nature are flawed -- this seems to be the

general reaction.

In any case, to illustrate, consider what Rand herself proclaims about

altruism. I am left wondering where on earth she dug up these

definitions (from Robert Bass, cited below):

On altruism (All quotes from the entry on "altruism" in The Ayn Rand

Lexicon):

"The basic principle of altruism is that man has no

right to exist for his own sake, that service to others

is the only justification of his existence, and that

self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and

value." (Lexicon, p. 4)

"The irreducible primary of altruism ... is self-

sacrifice – ... which means: the self as a standard of

evil, the selfless as a standard of the good." (Lexicon,

p. 5)

"Altruism declares that any action taken for the benefit

of others is good, and any action taken for one's own

benefit is evil. Thus the beneficiary of an action is

the only criterion of moral value – and so long as that

beneficiary is anybody other than oneself, anything

goes." (Lexicon, p. 5, emphasis on "any," "only" and

"anything" added)

"Altruism holds death as its ultimate goal and standard

of value." (Lexicon, p. 7) http://personal.bgsu.ed

u/~roberth/misuse.html

Oi.

Consider also Randian thought's complete disdain and disengagment from

'emotion.' You simply don't find discussion of current research, let

alone classics from Damasio, Plutchik, Ekman. Zip. Nada (for a full

evocation of Rand's equivocation, read Nathanial Branden's notes on

'Hazards of Objectivism,' cited below).

Search up 'Steven Pinker' 'Human Nature' & 'Ayn Rand' -- find things

like this, from 'THE FORUM for Ayn Rand Fans,' topic 'Hardwired

"trust?"'

"Don't bother to examine a folly: ask only what it accomplishes.

I have to wonder if these "scientists" understand on some level

that altruism is irrational, yet seek to "I couldn't help it"

their way past that bothersome fact by "proving" that it is

"hardwired" into us. "

- and -

Havent you ever been tempted to ask these quacks if theres a gene for

scientific fraud?

http://forums.4aynrandfans.com/lofiversion...x.php/t916.html

Oi again.

Is Objectivism a cult? In my opinion, no, not really. Is it attractive

to those who are vulnerable to the 'cult embrace'? Worth a thought, I

would say.

I close with a few selections from Branden, a couple of sharp quotes

from a 1999 Lingua Franca essay, two abstracts on current science from

'official' Objectivism, and a tag from a radio interview with

Objectivist educators Tara Smith and Betsy Speicher.

Thanks to those who developed this thread -- and to Monica for

opening the door to my comments! Freedom-of-mind is an excellent list

that helps sharpen my mind.

WSS

____

The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand

"It's always important to remember that reason or

rationality, on the one hand, and what people may

regard as "the reasonable," on the other hand, don't

mean the same thing.

The consequence of failing to make this distinction,

and this is markedly apparent in the case of Ayn Rand,

is that if someone disagrees with your notion of "the

reasonable," it can feel very appropriate to accuse

him or her of being 'irrational' or 'against reason.'"

"She used to say to me, 'I don't know anything about

psychology, Nathaniel.' I wish I had taken her more

seriously. She was right; she knew next to nothing

about psychology. What neither of us understood,

however, was how disastrous an omission that is in a

philosopher in general and a moralist in particular.

The most devastating single omission in her system and

the one that causes most of the trouble for her

followers is the absence of any real appreciation of

human psychology and, more specifically, of

developmental psychology, of how human beings evolve

and become what they are and of how they can change."

"I remember being astonished to hear her say one day,

'After all, the theory of evolution is only a

hypothesis.' I asked her, 'You mean you seriously

doubt that more complex life forms -- including humans

-- evolved from less complex life forms?' She shrugged

and responded, 'I'm really not prepared to say,' or

words to that effect."

http://rous.redbarn.org/objectivism/Writin...AndHazards.html

Lingua franca -- September 1999

"Rand's feelings about academia did not mellow with age, as Mimi

Reisel Gladstein of the University of Texas at El Paso learned while

working on a critical study, The Ayn Rand Companion. Toward the end of

Rand's life, Gladstein wrote to her, informing Rand of the project.

Rand warned that, if the study appeared, she would sue. When Douglas

J. Den Uyl of Bellarmine College and Douglas Rasmussen of St. John's

University were putting together a collection titled The Philosophic

Thought of Ayn Rand, they faced similar discouragement from the

author. (Both volumes finally appeared in 1984, unlitigated.)"

http://web.archive.org/web/20020124040704

/http://www.linguafranca.com/9909/rand.html

Lingua franca -- September 1999

"Objectivism itself was a piece of property, and her concepts were not

available for unlicensed use. 'If you agree with some tenets of

Objectivism, but disagree with others,' she warned readers, 'do not

call yourself an Objectivist; give proper authorship for the parts you

agree with--and then indulge any flights of fancy you wish, on your

own.' An unauthorized interpretation of an Objectivist concept was,

ipso facto, a violation of her proprietary interest"

http://web.archive.org/web/20020124040704/http://w

ww.linguafranca.com/9909/rand.html

The Ayn Rand Institute: Science

"The Scientist Trap

Monday, June 18, 2001

By: Robert Tracinski

Honest scientists who think they are staying out of politics--are

trapped into giving their stamp of approval to the global-warming

hysteria."

The Ayn Rand Institute: Science

"The National Academy of Dubious Science

Monday, June 11, 2001

By: Robert Tracinski

The NAS panel told the president that the globe might be warming and

that the results might be bad."

http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pag...a_topic_science

PRODOS.COM internet radio - THE ART AND SCIENCE OF SELFISHNESS

Betsy Speicher: "Persuing my self-interest does NOT mean harming other

people ... Altruism creates victims and oppressors!"

Tara Smith: Putting others first (altruism) poisons relationships ...

It makes every person out there a walking I.O.U.

Topics covered include: Why is the concept of selfishness so

misunderstood and misrepresented? Isn't everyone selfish? If only!

Selfishness is not the same as gratifying your every desire. The

morality of selfLESSness creates irreconilable conflicts within us.

How the Ancient Greeks were accepting of self-interest. How ALTRUISM

painted self-interest as harming others. Who gave selfishness a bad

name and how they did it. Tricks used by advocates of selflessness -

For instance: The benevolence trap."

http://www.prodos.com/archive032artscienceselfishness.html

Sign in to follow this  


1 Comment


Recommended Comments

You said : " She was not able to make natural selection jibe with her

ironclad views about human nature, so she mostly ignored its

implications for her philosophy. Same with psychology, physics,

history, economics"

I think one must see Ms. Rand as a product of her times and thus also limited by those times.

The areas in psychology, physics etc. that she did not include because it just was not known at the time or she did not include for whatever reasons, then it is our job as the next generations of such thinkers, to fill-in those voids.

Share this comment


Link to comment
Guest
This blog entry is now closed to further comments.