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Mike11

Rand & the End of History

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If you define Modernism as a belief in inevitable progress leading to an ideal end point - the classless society or prefect liberal democracy for example, is Rand Post Modernist?

She did believe in the dialectic struggle between Egoism and Altruism but did she believe this struggle would come to an end? She wrote about Galt's society in which the struggle ended with a final victory for Egoism but did she really believe such was possible and if so was it inevitable in the same sense Marxists saw the end of history?

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You begin with a complexity as a single assumption and branch out from there. The easy answer is that Rand apparently did not think in those terms. It is possible that others in that broad circle did, but only vaguely. Hayek simply says that from the starting point of a truly free market, we have no way to know how institutions will develop. Perhaps farther afield, Isaac Asimov edited two volumes of Soviet Science Fiction. Given the Marxist eschatology, how do they perceive the Future? Easily enough, much as we do. Once the political questions are settled, we can get down to business (so to speak) and explore the universe.

If you define Modernism as a belief in inevitable progress leading to an ideal end point - the classless society or prefect liberal democracy for example, is Rand Post Modernist?

I do not define modernism that way. First of all, I look at History as having different "road marks." From my studies, I set up (1) From the Ancient World (Neolithic proto-literary through the End of the (Western) Roman Empire) ... to the Middle Ages (500 to 1500) to the Modern Era (1500-Present). And that only works for the West. After a survey class in History of China, I had to have a different taxonomy entirely (though interestingly overlapping). From my studies, Modernism is defined by secularism and pluralism. More than a rebirth of the Ancient World, the Modern rejects natal "classes" and makes all humans human (an idea from Christianity).

Also, modernism gives humans dominion over not just "nature" but "fate." The argument of free will versus determinism continues among philosophers, but no bourgerois believes it. The bourgeoisie also defines the modern world. (See Deirdre McCloskey's works on this.) The models are no longer the artistocratic virtues of Achilles or the peasant virtues of Saint Francis, but the merchant virtues of Benjamin Franklin. As Max Weber said about the City in the Middle Ages: Stadtluft macht frei - City air makes you free. Moreover, I point to Peter L. Bernstein's Against the Gods. While every age and people had "merchants" only after Pascal and Fermat removed risk from uncertainty did capitalism begin. That, too, is modernism.

Post Modernism is more than just "the end of history." It begins with equivocal multiculturalism (all social values are acceptable in context), because reality is only our perception and those perceptions are defined by society. Not clear to me after too many college classes with this "fashionable nonsense" (see Alan Sokol), is how these po-mo claimers get from their culural relativism to their absolutist indictment of capitalism; and that while our knowledge is impossible theirs is unarguable. From what I can tell, Paul Feyerabend is mimicking Dr. Simon Pritchett.

She did believe in the dialectic struggle between Egoism and Altruism but did she believe this struggle would come to an end? She wrote about Galt's society in which the struggle ended with a final victory for Egoism but did she really believe such was possible and if so was it inevitable in the same sense Marxists saw the end of history?

Again, as I understand the Hegelian "dialectic" that does not apply to Egoism versus Altruism, unless you refer to some other dialectic (Plato's symposia for instance). But it was no more a discussion for Ayn Rand than Carl Sagan or Richard Feynman would bother to chat worldviews with your Wiccan friends or their Christian or Muslim "opponents." Later this week, I am presenting on criminal forensics to a middle school program at the U of M Flint. As problematic as fingerprinting is, the idea behind it is different from that of tossing the accused into a pool to see if they float. Altruism is not "another discussion;" it is wrong.

Again, as for the eschatology, once we clear away the mess, we can get down to business. How the far future sees that looking back from the Oort Cloud or wherever or whenever or whatever, we cannot know: we can only speculate.

I see humans greatly, deeply, broadly, and intricately varied - individuals as starships ("The Ship Who Sang") and as mentating clusters (Sterling's "comprise") and as bodily beings sleeping in generation ships headed to new planets to be terraformed and more... You can't read enough science fiction.

Edited by Michael E. Marotta

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Wow. Thank you!

That was one heck of an answer. You've given me a lot of sources, a lot of information and a lot to think about. If you look at the topic subtitle you'll see I acknowledge going out of my depth here so it's going to take me a while to really chew through the sources and connect the dots.

That said, if you I read you right, and I very well may not be, you're stating a fundamental uncertainty toward the future which I believe is what Rand had to say as well.

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