Robert Campbell

Ayn Rand to the Reverend Dudley, October 23, 1943

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??

Not likely, since she was born before him. I do call her "Beck," though--especially when we're riding through the glen, as it were. Heh.

REB

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I’m not sure where you got the idea that Ayn Rand believed the idea of God was somehow “acceptable.”
I got the idea from certain passages in the letter she wrote to the Reverend Dudley:
[AR]: Since man is a rational being, his morality must be individualistic, for the mind is an attribute of the individual and there is no collective brain. If it is held that man is created by God, endowed with an immmortal soul and with reason as an attribute of his soul, it still holds true that he must act in accordance with his nature, the nature god gave him, an that in in doing so he will be doing god's will. But this implies that god endowed man with free will and the capacity of choice. It will not hold with god as a deterministic ruler.
Doesn't this allow the inference that a god who is no deterministic ruler would be acceptable to Ayn Rand?

Politely meeting the Rev half way?

Entertaining the 'god-notion' with the intent to show how Christianity had contradicted itself in its own identification of god? Perhaps a rare Sophist argument from her to expose the religion's false premises. .

Whatever, her "acceptability" was never an option.

Tony

Rand was was always very direct in her aproach to issues, which imo makes a Sophist-type argumentation unlikely.

As for "politely meeting the Rev"- maybe; but then she was not the type for compromising either.

I think she simply got carried away so much with the "free will" issue that she disregarded all other fundamental contradictions between the Christian religion and Objectivism (Original Sin, the "sacrificed" Jesus, etc.).

Edited by Xray

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Rand was was always very direct in her aproach to issues, which imo makes a Sophist-type argumentation unlikely. As for "politely meeting the Rev"- maybe; but then she was the type for compromising either. I think she simply got carried away so much with the "free will" issue that she disregarded all other fundamental contradictions between the Christian religion and Objectivism (Original Sin, the "sacrificed" Jesus, etc.).

No, I agree the compromise is most unlikely, knowing her stricture against "sanctioning evil."

Actually, re-thinking this, I believe it was less about pointing out the errors of the Christian perception of god, and all about the impossibility of the existence of god.

The ultimate contradiction: Man will be doing god's will - by being self-deterministic. His endowed nature must lead Man to reject his Maker.

You have to bear in mind, I think, that Original Sin and Christ's sacrifice are subordinate concepts to Man's volition.

Therefore, establish the truth of "free will" and they are wiped out; we start with a blank slate. Which is why it seemed she disregarded them.

Tony

Edited by whYNOT

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Xray,

Not one thing you posted contradicts what I wrote.

Let me try to make an analogy using "concept" as a container and content and see if this helps.

Suppose we have a conceptual container called "Government of a Geographical Territory."

Now suppose Person A puts "USA" in that container, but Person B uses it for "Constitutional Republic."

Now suppose both are discussing law and one asks, "Where does this law apply?" And you start getting conflicting answers. Finally it dawns on you that "law" can only apply to people within a geographical territory under a government, regardless of whether, in this case, it is a Constitutional Republic in general or the USA in particular.

Then you say, "'Constitutional Republic' to Person B is equivalent to the 'USA' to Person A."

Do you get the logic?

Michael,

I think I get the logic, but the 'contents' you used belong to the factual realm, to objective reality, and I think that's where the difficulty lies if one wants to enter "god" as a content in the 'container'. Since the term "god" has no objective referent, epistemologically speaking, it can be called a mental invention.

So what if if people fill up the container with whatever they personally connote with it? Suppose I have a container called "reality", a theist may even want to throw in "god" as 'real' (Neil S. Schulman here actuallly tried to do this when he argued that god does not belong to the supernatural realm), while an atheist would argue god does not belong in that container.

Getting back to metaphysics, the container called "Eternal Omnipotent Controller of Man" (for lack of a better phrase) holds "God" as the content to some people and holds "reality" as the content to Ayn Rand.

The container is identical. The content is different.

This is basic concept formation.

But with the various contents of the container contradicting each other so fundamentally, does it make sense to put them in the container together at all?

Edited by Xray

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Xray,

You are correct about a fundamental difference metaphysically--or at least in terms of our sensory perception. But that is not a characteristic of the "container." Instead it is a characteristic of the content.

Practice chunking up from content to container and you will begin to see it more clearly.

Here's one for you.

1. A news story of an accident.

2. A description of an accident in a work of fiction.

Both belong in the container of "literature about accidents," albeit one story has an actual sensory referent from reality and the other is simply imaginary and made up.

This kind of thinking gets easier the more you do it. It's like a muscle.

Gotta create and reinforce those neural pathways and let the dendrites and axons grow. :smile:

btw - If that one container bothers you so much, here is another that will bother the daylights out of a Christian: "deity." The Christian God is a deity and so is Ogun from Brazilian Yorubá deity religions like Umbanda or Candomblé (which have their roots in Nigeria).

Try to explain to a Christian that what he calls God, another calls Ogun (with drums and everything), and see how far that goes. :)

But from the outside, it looks beside the point. That's because it makes sense to have a mental container (i.e., a classification) for intangible superior beings that people believe in.

Michael

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Xray,

You are correct about a fundamental difference metaphysically--or at least in terms of our sensory perception. But that is not a characteristic of the "container." Instead it is a characteristic of the content.

Practice chunking up from content to container and you will begin to see it more clearly.

Here's one for you.

1. A news story of an accident.

2. A description of an accident in a work of fiction.

Both belong in the container of "literature about accidents," albeit one story has an actual sensory referent from reality and the other is simply imaginary and made up.

Michael,

These 'containers' are basically categories, of which one can create countless types.

For example, the category "working with metal" would imply contents like using an iron pot for cooking and working in an ore mine.

If the category/container is very broad, the variety of contents will be broad as well.

This is why sub-catgegories/sub-containers are formed.

For example, a container "recipies" will be subcategorized into cooking recipies, baking recipies, etc.

In the example you provided "literature about accidents" would be subcategorized into 'non-fictional' and 'fictional'.

btw - If that one container bothers you so much, here is another that will bother the daylights out of a Christian: "deity." The Christian God is a deity and so is Ogun from Brazilian Yorubá deity religions like Umbanda or Candomblé (which have their roots in Nigeria).

Try to explain to a Christian that what he calls God, another calls Ogun (with drums and everything), and see how far that goes. :smile:

But from the outside, it looks beside the point. That's because it makes sense to have a mental container (i.e., a classification) for intangible superior beings that people believe in.

Michael

Absolutely. Having an audiovisual linguistic symbol referring to intangible superior beings that people believe in is no "invalid concept" as Rand calls it, but reflects reality, the reality being that many believe in a god.

Rand's theory of concepts is very limited actually: "A concept has to involve two or more similar concretes" (ITOE, p. 148).

What Rand calls concepts are linguistic classifications of concretes.

Works fine with concrete objects like e. g. tables, but fails in dealing with more complex ideas.

Edited by Xray

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Xray,

I almost started to say welcome to concept formation Objectivist-style, but then you said, "What Rand calls concepts are linguistic classifications of concretes. Works fine with concrete objects like e. g. tables, but fails in dealing with more complex ideas."

There you go again.

I thought you read ITOE, fer Keriiiiiisakes.

Ever hear of abstracting from abstractions?

Look it up.

Michael

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I have to agree with the thesis that Rand's understanding of Christianity changed over time.

Its quite possible to enforce some sort of Promethean reading on the Jesus story (man killed by Those In Power for the crime of standing up for his beliefs) but this would go against the theology of almost every kind of Christianity that has been historically prominent.

Rand wasn't born Objectivist. Her philosophical positions were obviously the result of a long developmental process, during which she probably revised a lot of her ideas substantially. She probably hadn't developed her full technical philosophy by the time Atlas Shrugged was written.

We know she had a long phase of affinity for Nietzsche. Nietzsche was very fond of Jesus-as-understood-by-Nietzsche. Perhaps Rand adopted Nietzsche's reading of Jesus and thus considered Jesus a sympathetic figure (I know I did when I was younger).

Is Nietzsche's reading of Jesus reasonable? I wouldn't know, but as Nietzsche himself said "there was only ever one Christian and he died on the Cross." We can never know what Jesus really believed.

So in my mind, what Jesus really said was irrelevant. What matters is what has been argued in his name.

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Xray,

I almost started to say welcome to concept formation Objectivist-style, but then you said, "What Rand calls concepts are linguistic classifications of concretes. Works fine with concrete objects like e. g. tables, but fails in dealing with more complex ideas."

There you go again.

I thought you read ITOE, fer Keriiiiiisakes.

Ever hear of abstracting from abstractions?

Look it up.

Michael

Michael,

I have gone through ITOE so often that the book has come apart and I had to cellotape it. :smile:

The point I was trying to make is that Rand, in the section where she called "God" an 'invalid concept' (p.148) points out that "a concept has to involve two or more similar concretes" to bolster her argumentation.

"A concept has to involve two or more similar concretes, and there is nothing like God. He is supposed to be unique." (Rand, ITOE, p. 148).

So what are the 'concretes'?

Edited by Xray

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Xray,

This is not one of Rand's finest moments because the same argument could be used against the concept of reality, being that reality is "supposed to be unique."

But on point, the "container" I spoke about is an epistemological (mental) thing. I often see you switch between epistemological and metaphysical, then say something really wrong about the Rand's epistemological position because it does not line up with a metaphysical observation.

Here is a quote from ITOE (p. 21) that might help you:

In this process, concepts serve as units and are treated epistemologically as if each were a single (mental) concrete—always remembering that metaphysically (i.e., in reality) each unit stands for an unlimited number of actual concretes of a certain kind.

Note that she said, "treated epistemologically."

This means that there is a mental process going on that is not derived from perceptual concretes--which ultimately turn into units at a higher level of abstraction in her theory--but instead the mental process handles such units.

See the difference? The mental process is part of "the given" in man's nature (to use her term). The concept is going to get formed whether the abstract units it is derived from are valid or not.

The process of concept formation is a mental thing. Thus it is possible to make invalid concepts. Rand did a whole thing on the stolen concept fallacy and other forms of conceptual error. Even in ITOE (p. 49), take a look at the following quote (my bold):

The truth or falsehood of all of man's conclusions, inferences, thought and knowledge rests on the truth or falsehood of his definitions.

(The above applies only to valid concepts. There are such things as invalid concepts, i.e., words that represent attempts to integrate errors, contradictions or false propositions, such as concepts originating in mysticism—or words without specific definitions, without referents, which can mean anything to anyone, such as modern "anti-concepts." Invalid concepts appear occasionally in men's languages, but are usually—though not necessarily—short-lived, since they lead to cognitive dead-ends. An invalid concept invalidates every proposition or process of thought in which it is used as a cognitive assertion.)

But I don't blame you totally for the mistake.

Rand has a stylistic thing that I have a beef with. Often she uses the same term to mean 2 different things. In this case, one meaning for "concept" is simply a mental integration according to the process she describes. In another place, she uses the same word to mean only valid concepts. (And don't get me started about her "implicit concepts.")

She does this with art, too. And morality. And a few other terms. You have to get which meaning she means by looking at the context, and sometimes she does not make that easy.

I once outlined an article on this, but I haven't written it yet.

As an aside, Rand considers the process of forming valid concepts to include volition. In her theory, you have to do it on purpose. I'm not in full agreement with this. I hold that you can do it volitionally, but often it is a plain old automatic process, especially at the lower level. (If I remember correctly, Rand even said somewhere that a baby learns to see volitionally from the get-go.) Once again, this is the scope issue I have with some of Rand's ideas.

I do agree that you can only check the validity of a concept volitionally, but not that this is the only way to form a valid concept.

Michael

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Xray,

This is not one of Rand's finest moments because the same argument could be used against the concept of reality, being that reality is "supposed to be unique."

But on point, the "container" I spoke about is an epistemological (mental) thing. I often see you switch between epistemological and metaphysical, then say something really wrong about the Rand's epistemological position because it does not line up with a metaphysical observation.

Here is a quote from ITOE (p. 21) that might help you:

In this process, concepts serve as units and are treated epistemologically as if each were a single (mental) concrete—always remembering that metaphysically (i.e., in reality) each unit stands for an unlimited number of actual concretes of a certain kind.

Note that she said, "treated epistemologically."

This means that there is a mental process going on that is not derived from perceptual concretes--which ultimately turn into units at a higher level of abstraction in her theory--but instead the mental process handles such units.

See the difference? The mental process is part of "the given" in man's nature (to use her term). The concept is going to get formed whether the abstract units it is derived from are valid or not.

Michael,

But isn't Rand's epistemological position that perception is at the basis of every concept formation? Yes, concept formation is a processof mental integration, but in order to form e. g. the concept "furniture" (to use the example that is in the 'Abstraction from Abstractions' section in ITOE you quoted from), one first has to have observed, in some form, perceptual concretes linguistically labeled as (or 'subsumed under the concept') tables, chairs, etc.

What Rand calls "concept" and "subdivisions", one could call "class" and "subclasses", or "category" and "subcategories".

Classifying and categorizing are mental processes as well.

The concept/class "furniture" has the subdivisions/subclasses "table", "chair", "bed". These subdivisions/subclasses can again be concepts/classes themselves: "table", and then be subdivided/subclassifed again in "dining table", "desk", etc.

The process of concept formation is a mental thing. Thus it is possible to make invalid concepts. Rand did a whole thing on the stolen concept fallacy and other forms of conceptual error. Even in ITOE (p. 49), take a look at the following quote (my bold):

The truth or falsehood of all of man's conclusions, inferences, thought and knowledge rests on the truth or falsehood of his definitions.

(The above applies only to valid concepts. There are such things as invalid concepts, i.e., words that represent attempts to integrate errors, contradictions or false propositions, such as concepts originating in mysticism—or words without specific definitions, without referents, which can mean anything to anyone, such as modern "anti-concepts." Invalid concepts appear occasionally in men's languages, but are usually—though not necessarily—short-lived, since they lead to cognitive dead-ends. An invalid concept invalidates every proposition or process of thought in which it is used as a cognitive assertion.)

Per these principles, "God" qualifies as an "invalid concept".

Rand has a stylistic thing that I have a beef with. Often she uses the same term to mean 2 different things. In this case, one meaning for "concept" is simply a mental integration according to the process she describes. In another place, she uses the same word to mean only valid concepts. (And don't get me started about her "implicit concepts.")

She does this with art, too. And morality. And a few other terms. You have to get which meaning she means by looking at the context, and sometimes she does not make that easy.

I once outlined an article on this, but I haven't written it yet.

Imo Rand's inconsistent, often confusing use of terminology is an indicator that what she wrote was not (yet) a fully worked-out philosophy, that it was not (yet) a fully integrated system.

ITOE is a collection of a series of articles; maybe this also explains why the various parts often come across as disconnected.

As an aside, Rand considers the process of forming valid concepts to include volition. In her theory, you have to do it on purpose. I'm not in full agreement with this. I hold that you can do it volitionally, but often it is a plain old automatic process, especially at the lower level. (If I remember correctly, Rand even said somewhere that a baby learns to see volitionally from the get-go.) Once again, this is the scope issue I have with some of Rand's ideas.

Imo the "volition" premise doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Human beings are confronted with their surroundings and immersed in language. The mental integration of sensory processes, the cognitive development of the brain that enables it to form 'valid' concepts are processes that don't require volitional acts.

I do agree that you can only check the validity of a concept volitionally, but not that this is the only way to form a valid concept.

I too agree to this.

Edited by Xray

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Xray,

I almost started to say welcome to concept formation Objectivist-style, but then you said, "What Rand calls concepts are linguistic classifications of concretes. Works fine with concrete objects like e. g. tables, but fails in dealing with more complex ideas."

There you go again.

I thought you read ITOE, fer Keriiiiiisakes.

Ever hear of abstracting from abstractions?

Look it up.

Michael

Michael,

I have gone through ITOE so often that the book has come apart and I had to cellotape it. :smile:

The point I was trying to make is that Rand, in the section where she called "God" an 'invalid concept' (p.148) points out that "a concept has to involve two or more similar concretes" to bolster her argumentation.

"A concept has to involve two or more similar concretes, and there is nothing like God. He is supposed to be unique." (Rand, ITOE, p. 148).

So what are the 'concretes'?

Well, even though we're dealing with the concept of something that doesn't exist, the concept of "God" really ~does~ have a conceptual "paper trail" that fits Rand's model of concept-formation.

Correct me, anyone, if I'm wrong about this, but didn't Judaism begin as a poly-theistic religion--and only become (with some vacillation) monotheistic when the 10 Commandments included the injunction to "have no other God before me"? So, there were two or more "recognized" supernatural beings, and they were winnowed down to one. (Or should I say: One.) The "contrast objects" were, of course, ~non~ supernatural beings, including all those folks worshipping the Many gods, then the One True God.

For those who like old-and-moldy, rarely used Randian innovations, I'll just note that this is an example of the Fallacy of the Frozen Abstraction applied to religion. Recall in "Collectivized Ethics" (in The Virtue of Selfishness) that Rand says altruists have equated their particular ethical system with ethics in general, and excluded egoism and all the other alternative systems, thus "freezing" their abstraction to the more concrete level of one of its species, altruism. (Objectivists often do this, too, saying that only rational values are values, only rational moralities are moralities, etc.)

Well, isn't it apparent that the monotheist-come-lately Israelites were committing the very same error--compounding the error already made by them and their Egyptian and Babylonian predecessors in trying to form concepts that have no real referents and cannot be integrated with the rest of their knowledge? Trying to salvage an invalid concept by purging all but one of its units doesn't work!

REB

P.S. -- Does anyone else think that the monotheist notion of "God" is an example of an invalid, frozen, floating abstraction, or is that just overkill? :-)

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Roger,

Chicago Manual of Style says that the reason we should capitalize God is because it is a proper name. That suggests there are possible other characters like God, who might be designated by other proper names. I find it hard to think of the concept of God-like characters—whether there is only one such instance or more—as frozen, because so many different things pass for God in usage of the term.

You have previously touched on the issue of concepts of things having only one instance; yours was the case of Existence.* There I mentioned part-whole and thematic bases of concepts entwined with but in addition to similarity bases.* The issue had also come up in Paul Vanderveen’s “The Child’s Concept of Mind.”* Leaving aside popular mush-concepts of God, that is, sticking to the theological thinking that might be called classical, God is simple,* which makes the cognitive bases of its concept more problematic than for Existence or Self. Keeping God simple risks making it no different than Nothing.*

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Has anyone considered that "concept" is ambigouous? In one sense it's a technical term that Rand defined in her technical writings, and in another, looser sense it's a synonym for "notion." When the Objectivists talk about the concept of God they are using it in the second way, and the problems that arise from taking it the first way vanish like the morning dew.

Philosophers use what they call the principle of charity: when in doubt, interpret the text in the way that makes it come out right.

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Pete,

That still doesn't answer the question of an "invalid concept."

I hold that the Objectivist version concept has both form and content, even though they are mental. This implies that correspondence to reality is a characteristic of the content's quality (valid or invalid), not a defining characteristic of content per se.

Michael

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Roger,

That's a very clever notion.

I think going from pantheism to monotheism also indicates a characteristic of the human mind--the drive to find patterns.

Sometimes this drive gets so acute that otherwise good thinkers blank out huge chunks of reality because it does not fit the pattern they adopted as their explanation for things. A good example is the nonsense promoted by Popper folks, who claim that induction does not exist as a form of reasoning. Induction does not fit their all-or-nothing pattern of deduction.

I have read some Objectivist literature where the error is the contrary--the claim that all knowledge is inductive and that deduction is merely a form of handling inductions.

This takes a characteristic of a whole and replaces the whole with it-- the whole in this case being rational operations of the mind.

At any rate, I see the forging of one God out of many as a perfect reflection of what the mind naturally seeks in trying to understand things (i.e., to identify patterns--the larger the better).

The mind also naturally seeks to identify details, so I imagine if religion had started with one God, pantheism would have ultimately evolved in some manner, with Angels all over the place.

Michael

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I thought it would be good to bring into one frame two earlier posts on this topic.

I have to agree with the thesis that Rand's understanding of Christianity changed over time.

Its quite possible to enforce some sort of Promethean reading on the Jesus story (man killed by Those In Power for the crime of standing up for his beliefs) but this would go against the theology of almost every kind of Christianity that has been historically prominent.

Rand wasn't born Objectivist. Her philosophical positions were obviously the result of a long developmental process, during which she probably revised a lot of her ideas substantially. She probably hadn't developed her full technical philosophy by the time Atlas Shrugged was written.

We know she had a long phase of affinity for Nietzsche. Nietzsche was very fond of Jesus-as-understood-by-Nietzsche. Perhaps Rand adopted Nietzsche's reading of Jesus and thus considered Jesus a sympathetic figure (I know I did when I was younger).

Is Nietzsche's reading of Jesus reasonable? I wouldn't know, but as Nietzsche himself said "there was only ever one Christian and he died on the Cross." We can never know what Jesus really believed.

So in my mind, what Jesus really said was irrelevant. What matters is what has been argued in his name.

Here is an excerpt from a fascinating commentary by Chris Sciabarra which relates directly to this letter. The statements quoted by Rand in the first two paragraphs below are from The Letters of Ayn Rand, pp. 287-288.

. . .

I don't have a Nietzsche reference in front of me, but it is possible that this view of Jesus's egoist message being distorted into altruism ~may~ have been anticipated by Nietzsche himself. . . .

Chris Sciabarra

. . .

In a personal letter in 1946,* Rand related her idea of Jesus as proclaiming “the basic principle of individualism—the inviolate sanctity of man’s soul, and the salvation of one’s soul as one’s first concern and highest goal; this means—one’s ego and the integrity of one’s ego.” One great corruption of that individualism in Jesus’ teachings comes with the code of ethics put forth as the means of saving one’s soul: “One must love or help or live for others.” Who put forth this second doctrine? “Jesus (or His interpreters).”

One of the first books Rand bought after coming to America was Nietzsche’s The Anti-Christ. Within this work, Nietzsche sets down differences he sees between the exemplar to be read from the life of Jesus and morality proclaimed by institutional Christianity. One difference is Christianity’s exaggeration of the amount of pity needed in the world. “Christianity is called the religion of pity. [cf.] . . . Pity makes suffering into something infectious; sometimes it can even cause a total loss of life and of vital energy wildly disproportionate to the magnitude of the cause (—the case of the Nazarene). . . . Pity wins people over to nothingness! You do not say ‘nothingness’: instead you say ‘the beyond’; or ‘God’; or . . .” (AC 7; further, 17, 18, 26, 32, 33, 39–43).

There are several views of Nietzsche expressed in this work that Rand maintained in The Fountainhead, while leaving aside other Nietzchean doctrines, such as those I have replaced with ellipses points in the preceding quotation. Rand’s sensitivity to the possibility of incongruity between Jesus’ life and teachings, on the one hand, and Christianity, on the other, may have been taken home from The Anti-Christ. The particular doctrines in conflict in Rand’s eye, stated paragraph before last, are not among those in Nietzsche’s eye in Anti-Christ, but there is a prelude to the particular opponent-doctrines Rand stresses in Daybreak (132).

. . .

From SB composition of 29 May 2010. To be clear, by "opponent-doctrines" I was still referring to the suspected oppositions between Jesus and Christianity, suspected by Rand and by Nietzsche.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

PS

Turning to the reference Daybreak 132:

. . . It was the residuum of Christian states of mind left when the very much antithetical, strictly egoistic fundamental belief in the “one thing needful,” in the absolute importance of eternal personal salvation, together with the dogmas upon which it rested, gradually retreated and the subsidiary belief in “love,” in “love of one’s neighbour,” in concert with the tremendous practical effect of ecclesiastical charity, was thereby pushed into the foreground. The more one liberated oneself from the dogmas, the more one sought as it were a justification of this liberation in a cult of philanthropy: not to fall short of the Christian ideal in this, but where possible to outdo it, was a secret spur with all French freethinkers from Voltaire up to Auguste Comte: and the latter did in fact, with his moral formula vivre pour autrui, outchristian Christianity. . . .

Joining that one with the idea that there could be a division between Jesus and Christianity, such as is found in Anti-Christ 7, gets one to the vicinity of Rand’s idea in the Letter to Sylvia Austin. But only to the vicinity.

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Out of more than 2,000 letters by her, I have included approximately 35 to 40 percent of the total, omitting repetitious material and many routine business letters.

Michael Berliner,
Letters of Ayn Rand
, Preface

Here’s a serious headscratcher I’ve come across. I woke up this morning thinking I’d look into the Dudley letter again, and see if there’s the makings of a video essay. A ripe topic, to be sure. I googled “Ayn Rand Reverend Dudley” and one of the first items to come up is a reference to Jennifer Burns’ Goddess of the Market. What the heck? I don’t remember any reference to the letter in there, yet here it is. Or, no. I double check this material from Google Books with my copy, and this is a totally different book. Without reading it thouroughly I’ve come to the tentative conclusion that this is indeed by Jennifer Burns, since the style is such a good match. The date per Google is 2005, but the real book came out in 2009. So maybe it’s an earlier version?

http://www.google.com/#sclient=psy-ab&hl=en&site=&source=hp&q=ayn+rand+reverend+dudley&oq=ayn+rand+reverend+dudley&gs_l=hp.3...2651.9958.1.10201.26.25.1.0.0.0.164.2898.0j25.25.0.les%3B..0.0...1c.Gzdsq_TXB7U&psj=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.&fp=730c57e4cb66b204&biw=1270&bih=853

http://books.google.com/books?id=Fk99rSkg-vkC&pg=PA117&lpg=PA117&dq=ayn+rand+reverend+dudley&source=bl&ots=zCC060JFHD&sig=a2SxoCfd6gUSHGxiP6N9BykpqAA&hl=en#v=onepage&q=ayn%20rand%20reverend%20dudley&f=false

The takeaway is that the Dudley letter is in the Ayn Rand Archives, so the question of whether this letter was omitted from the Letters volume, deliberately as an editorial choice, now has some back up evidence.

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This may well be as systematic in the Letters as it is in the Mayhew Q&A volume, just harder to check. God knows what we're going to find when an outsider gets a look at the writings in The Early Ayn Rand.

Another example from the Letters, which I think has already come up here on OL, is to FLlWright, 15 May 44, as she started to work on the script of The Fountainhead:

Printed pp 113 - 114:

So far, it looks as if I will win the battle, and the book will be preserved on the screen. I am willing to take the chance, because my producer's enthusiastic.

Original:

So far, it looks as if I will win the battle [no comma] and the book will be preserved on the screen. I am willing to take the chance, because my producer's appreciation of the book is genuine, intelligent and enthusiastic.

Burns explained that Rand started out liking Blanke but changed her mind about him as the production went on.

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I double check this material from Google Books with my copy, and this is a totally different book. Without reading it thouroughly I’ve come to the tentative conclusion that this is indeed by Jennifer Burns, since the style is such a good match. The date per Google is 2005, but the real book came out in 2009. So maybe it’s an earlier version?

It's her doctoral dissertation. It can be bought in PDF format for $37.

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I think the letter is authentic and I even think Peikoff probably heard those same ideas espoused by Rand at some point. Here is my evidence. This is from Peikoff's radio-show on terrorism (I do not have the exact date of broadcast available).

“Kant we can agree is total evil, on the intellectual level. Adolph Hitler, total evil on the level of carrying out in action, but Jesus is certainly not evil. I think that as a person he was largely innocent. He was obviously mistaken, in my viewpoint. But, I think he was largely innocent, that he honestly believed what he said, or most of it. And on top of that, some of the things he said were not only true; they were vital to the future development of civilization, including the discovery of Objectivism. It has been said, and as far as I know, it’s correct, Jesus was the first person to stress the importance of the individual soul, not of the collective group, not of whether you are a Greek or a Roman or a Babylonian, but that you are an individual, a unique soul and that that matters to God. And this was the first evidence of individualism in the world. That’s often been said, and if it’s true, I take my hat off to Jesus, he was a moral leader, he took moral issues seriously, he did not compromise, he had a philosophy that I disagreed with, but he had good ideas too and the last thing I’d ever call him is evil. The Pope, all he was trying to do was give a philosophic answer, when there was no answer. He’s not a great man, I don’t admire him; I even heard that he has read Atlas Shrugged, so that makes him better and worse, more of an evader, but he’s not an originator of evil, or a killer. Evil is too strong a word for the Pope.”

- Leonard Peikoff on Terrorism Tape 13, Side B, at 4:51.

I am happy I came across this thread today, because I have recently been giving some thought to the relationship of faith to altruism. Rand held that altruism could not be defended in reason, but that the foundation and justification of altruism was faith. However, I've been contemplating if faith, by its nature must logically lead a person to altruism. I'm leaning toward no, as my answer. Although there are clearly many fundamental problems with faith, I don't think it logically and necessarily leads to any particular set of moral conclusions. Part of the reason why I find this topic interesting is because I don't know of any religions that do not preach altruism, but I'm beginning to think that it has more to do with the intentions or goals of the leaders of religious movements. The strong correlation between faith and altruism raised the issue for me. For example, in a recent article posted on dallasnews.com, a panel of religious experts contributed their various views (everything that I read was negative) on Ayn Rand. I haven't finished reading it, but I read enough that I think it should demonstrate my point.

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I think the letter is authentic

The fact that Burns cited the letter in her dissertation means she saw it in the archives before 2005, then the letter came up on eBay in 2011. I haven’t seen any serious claim that it’s not authentic, but if so this ought to settle it.

And on top of that, some of the things he said were not only true; they were vital to the future development of civilization, including the discovery of Objectivism. It has been said, and as far as I know, it’s correct, Jesus was the first person to stress the importance of the individual soul, not of the collective group, not of whether you are a Greek or a Roman or a Babylonian, but that you are an individual, a unique soul and that that matters to God. And this was the first evidence of individualism in the world.

I don’t think Jesus stressed individualism any more than Aristotle or Epicurus. This “first evidence of individualism” claim falls totally flat, from my reading of the history of ethics.

I am happy I came across this thread today, because I have recently been giving some thought to the relationship of faith to altruism. Rand held that altruism could not be defended in reason, but that the foundation and justification of altruism was faith. However, I've been contemplating if faith, by its nature must logically lead a person to altruism.

She definitely said Faith and Force were corollaries, as in they have a reciprocal one to one relationship, but I think she only said Altruism requires Faith, not that Faith necessarily leads to Altruism. If she did say that, it contradicts what she put in the Dudley letter.

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The letter is really a quite remarkable glimpse into Rand's thinking at that point in time.

Her description of Christianity is far more generous than I would have expected the author of The Fountainhead to give, and her connection to the concept to God and free will is remarkable as well.

I am half tempted to get off my duff and start a new thread on this particular subject. Anybody interested?

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