Why is Objectivism Not Spreading, While Ayn Rand is Wildly Popular?


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Answers?

Disagree with the Premise?

Edited by Philip Coates
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Because a large number of Ayn Rand fans will agree with portions of her philosophy but not others.

Obvious Example: conservatives agreeing with her economics but neither her epistemology, ethics, positions on social issues, nor atheism. Although I wouldn't call these actual Ayn Rand fans; they're far too hypocritical.

Objectivism is a radical philosophy that goes against the entire Judaeo-Christian tradition and pretty much every idea in it. Hell, it goes against every single one of the world's traditional belief systems. You can't expect it to spread widely, unfortunately.

Its not even necessarily "Cafeteria Randianism," some people find Rand's work inspiring on a 'sense-of-life' level, even if they aren't heavily intellectual themselves nor particularly interested in philosophy... they'll utilize the spiritual fuel in Rand's novels but not spend much time contemplating the philosophical analysis.

Ayn Rand is also wildly unpopular. Much of her fame is infamy.

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Reading, or the lack of, has something to do with it. Shortened attention spans. Very few people (and I am talking general mainstream, here) have the moxy and/or desire to study intellectual anything. How do you discuss Aristotle with someone that thinks wrestling is real? Dumbing down.

The fact that there has always been a not-always-positive (socially) effect on newly-born Randians. The liberating effect is so profound that many of them (I include myself, looking back) are very volatile, harsh, unpleasant people to deal with. Bad buzz in the field, over decades.

The completely dessicant, museum-like nature of ARI. I'll leave that there.

But Atlas continues to be read. Heck, one of my nineteen-year old students (my protege, actually) just started up on it--he is a high-level, scholarship kid at Edison College. It gets talked about among the young, it always shows up around there and we know that.

There are a lot of reasons. There's a lot competing with it.

You could make a giant list.

Best,

rde

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I'll disagree with the premise. Wild popularity is a wildly imprecise term but nevertheless an observable phenomenon. As a dead novelist who continues to sell, or to be read, she is less wildly popular than Jane Austen and rather more than L Ron Hubbard, despite the greater financial success of the Scientology business.

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Objectivism isn't spreading among the general population for the same reason that interest in a specific school of archeology or physics, etc., isn't spreading: Specialized fields of study don't attract a lot of people, and philosophy, including Objectivism, is a specialized field of study.

Also, Objectivism isn't spreading among those who are serious about philosophy because many Objectivists -- I would say most -- don't handle philosophical argument and criticism very well, from Peikoff on down. They don't treat philosophy with seriousness and respect. When they don't have an answer to a question, or when they don't have evidence when challenged to back up a claim, they bluff, bluster, abuse and accuse, shut down discussion, pout and storm out of the room. When shown to be wrong, they refuse to admit to their errors and correct them, but instead they whine that they are being attacked, and they besmirch the character of those who have shown them to be wrong.

Peikoff does it. Phil Coates does it. Newberry does it. As do Pigero, Rowlands, Cresswell, Hsieh and a large portion of the gaggle of Objecti-hatchlings over at OO. None of these people appear to realize that they're not succeeding in their goal of "spreading Objectivism," but are actually impeding it with their crappy personality issues.

Want to help spread Objectivism? Maybe consider the possibility that you're the type of person who is so revolting that you should be advocating something that is the opposite of Objectivism -- say, socialism or fascism -- thus driving people away from it in the way that you currently drive them away from Objectivism.

J

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Also, Rand relied on science to bear out her assumptions about the human cognitive process, and the role of conscious reason and emotion, which underlay her philosophy. And science is not doing that. John McCaskey anyone?

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And also...I think her new readers of AS were attracted for reasons of patriotism and conservative-individualist-economics.

They want their cake without wanting to know the recipe.

I'd imagine most would tune out when they got to Galt's speech - moreso, would find "I swear by my life..." horrifying.

Egoism is never going to go down well.

(Funny, even Objectivists often shy away from using that excellent word, I notice.)

Tony

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And also...I think her new readers of AS were attracted for reasons of patriotism and conservative-individualist-economics.

They want their cake without wanting to know the recipe.

I'd imagine most would tune out when they got to Galt's speech - moreso, would find "I swear by my life..." horrifying.

Egoism is never going to go down well.

(Funny, even Objectivists often shy away from using that excellent word, I notice.)

Tony

Tony: well said. And too bad.

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And also...I think her new readers of AS were attracted for reasons of patriotism and conservative-individualist-economic

Tony

That there are always new readers is not in doubt, which raises the vexed question of wild popularity/ perpetual bestsellerdom yet again. Your guess as to who seeks out the book is a good one. My impression is that many other new readers are assigned AS in school or urged to read it by Objectivist activists (take a bow, Adam Selene!)Without the movement, tattered and fretful as it may be, how wide would the Rand readership really be?

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And also...I think her new readers of AS were attracted for reasons of patriotism and conservative-individualist-economic

Tony

That there are always new readers is not in doubt, which raises the vexed question of wild popularity/ perpetual bestsellerdom yet again. Your guess as to who seeks out the book is a good one. My impression is that many other new readers are assigned AS in school or urged to read it by Objectivist activists (take a bow, Adam Selene!)Without the movement, tattered and fretful as it may be, how wide would the Rand readership really be?

Carol,

I'm too far removed (in a few ways) to estimate the effectiveness of the 'movement', or individuals recommending Rand, but more power to them. I admire their unflagging work.

You can only keep taking water to the horses, you can't make them think - but enough of Objectivism's political and economic theory will be retained from AS, I'm certain. That's what keeps me optimistic about Rand's influence.

PDS,

I wish it were otherwise, too. As all here, I look forward to the USA rising again to its previous stature - but this time with conviction - with a rational morality.

There are some of us who need an exemplary model of individual liberty once more.

Tony

Edited by whYNOT
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1. Too many alpha-males infesting the philosophical movement, from local groups on up to "the top." Tends to drive out females, which reduces the attraction to the movement for males ~and~ females.

2. Males predominate in intellectual circles, while females predominate in literary circles. Rand's novels attract male readers, too -- while her philosophy tends not to attract females in the same proportion. See #1.

3. The philosophy makes very explicit some ideas which the novels convey in action and dialogue and less bluntly. Prime example: atheism. (John Galt does not go on a rant against God and religion.)

4. Many people would rather live privately in an exciting fictional world than publicly in a contentious, rancorous philosophical environment. You don't have interpersonal conflicts when you read a novel (unless it's for not doing your share of the housework!).

I know there are other factors, some already mentioned here. I think the personalities in the movement, especially at "the top," also have turned many people off. That's why having leaders like Yaron Brook and Ed Hudgins is important, though not sufficient.

I also think that the absence of compelling, excellent commentary like Rand wrote in the 60s (and to a lesser degree, in the 70s) deprives the movement of some of the fire and excitement it had in the pre-Split days.

Just some thoughts...

REB

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,

I wish it were otherwise, too. As all here, I look forward to the USA rising again to its previous stature - but this time with conviction - with a rational morality.

There are some of us who need an exemplary model of individual liberty once more.

Tony

Oh, Tony, there cannot be another another river of history to step into twice, a nation's stature can only ever be a relative, subjective thing - I honour your ideals, but I believe America is too large and diverse and top=heavy to be again what it was, morally. In the 21st century we must look to many beacons of light, and take what comfort we can.

Carol

free in Canuckistan

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Also, Rand relied on science to bear out her assumptions about the human cognitive process, and the role of conscious reason and emotion, which underlay her philosophy. And science is not doing that. John McCaskey anyone?

Carol,

I find it surprising that you would say that. The Cognitive Revolution in psychology has largely validated much of what Rand wrote in her Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology as well as her thinking regarding the relationship between cognition and emotions. Because of its unscientific implications, psychology has yet to fully embrace volition, but there are signs that some theorists are moving in that direction.

What basis do you have for your claim?

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1. Too many alpha-males infesting the philosophical movement, from local groups on up to "the top."

Alpha males? Like Leonard Peikoff?? I know where you’re coming from, but I’d say there’s too many wannabe alphas, and a severe lack of the genuine article.

The hour's come, but not the man.

Sir Walter Scott,
The Heart of Midlothian
, Chapter 4

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Also, Rand relied on science to bear out her assumptions about the human cognitive process, and the role of conscious reason and emotion, which underlay her philosophy. And science is not doing that. John McCaskey anyone?

Carol,

I find it surprising that you would say that. The Cognitive Revolution in psychology has largely validated much of what Rand wrote in her Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology as well as her thinking regarding the relationship between cognition and emotions. Because of its unscientific implications, psychology has yet to fully embrace volition, but there are signs that some theorists are moving in that direction.

What basis do you have for your claim?

I was not thinking of psychology, where I know cognitive therapy and volition are hugely efficacious. I was thinking of neuroscience and brain-mapping which theorize about the perception of reality and the roles and sequences of emotion and volition. For a full answer I will have to try and look up everything I have read in the last year or so, which left me with the impression that the relationship between the conscious and the subsonscious is not what AR decided it was. This could take me a while.

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Objectivism isn't spreading among the general population for the same reason that interest in a specific school of archeology or physics, etc., isn't spreading: Specialized fields of study don't attract a lot of people, and philosophy, including Objectivism, is a specialized field of study.

Also, Objectivism isn't spreading among those who are serious about philosophy because many Objectivists -- I would say most -- don't handle philosophical argument and criticism very well, from Peikoff on down. They don't treat philosophy with seriousness and respect. When they don't have an answer to a question, or when they don't have evidence when challenged to back up a claim, they bluff, bluster, abuse and accuse, shut down discussion, pout and storm out of the room. When shown to be wrong, they refuse to admit to their errors and correct them, but instead they whine that they are being attacked, and they besmirch the character of those who have shown them to be wrong.

Peikoff does it. Phil Coates does it. Newberry does it. As do Pigero, Rowlands, Cresswell, Hsieh and a large portion of the gaggle of Objecti-hatchlings over at OO. None of these people appear to realize that they're not succeeding in their goal of "spreading Objectivism," but are actually impeding it with their crappy personality issues.

Want to help spread Objectivism? Maybe consider the possibility that you're the type of person who is so revolting that you should be advocating something that is the opposite of Objectivism -- say, socialism or fascism -- thus driving people away from it in the way that you currently drive them away from Objectivism.

J

Boy, that is what I was going to say. And there I was being all Zen, and shit.

Edited by Rich Engle
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The douchebaggery amongst some Objectivists really is an important turn-off factor. It drives people away from Objectivism easily.

Its ironic that the philosophy attracts so many wannabe-Alphas, especially when Roark is anything but. He has no desire to rule or be ruled. That's the proper attitude for an Objectivist, not alpha-maleness (and last I checked, social animals =/= pack animals).

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Ayn Rand was primarily a writer of fiction, and it was her novels through which many people got first acquainted with her ideas.

People also have the tendency to be 'patchworkers', i. e. they will pick and choose from a 'novel of ideas' what suits them and integrate it into their own philosophy.

So they will not necessarily 'adopt' all the author's ideas.

As for why Objectivism is not spreading: imo declaring it to be a "closed system" is the biggest obstacle. The world is in permanent transformation, science moves on, ethics keep evolving - closed systems simply cannot survive.

Edited by Xray
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Also, Rand relied on science to bear out her assumptions about the human cognitive process, and the role of conscious reason and emotion, which underlay her philosophy. And science is not doing that. John McCaskey anyone?

Carol,

I find it surprising that you would say that. The Cognitive Revolution in psychology has largely validated much of what Rand wrote in her Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology as well as her thinking regarding the relationship between cognition and emotions. Because of its unscientific implications, psychology has yet to fully embrace volition, but there are signs that some theorists are moving in that direction.

What basis do you have for your claim?

I was not thinking of psychology, where I know cognitive therapy and volition are hugely efficacious. I was thinking of neuroscience and brain-mapping which theorize about the perception of reality and the roles and sequences of emotion and volition. For a full answer I will have to try and look up everything I have read in the last year or so, which left me with the impression that the relationship between the conscious and the subconscious is not what AR decided it was. This could take me a while.

I would be fascinated to read any references you might be able to find.

I stand prepared to declare Ayn Rand and Objectivism absolutely, unequivocally null and void and to embrace socialism as my life's creed.

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