Francisco Ferrer

Did Marx Teach Rand How to Think About Capitalism?

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The source for Kant, "the most evil man":

You may also find it hard to believe that anyone could advocate the things Kant is advocating. If you doubt it, I suggest that you look up the references given and read the original works. Do not seek to escape the subject by thinking: Oh, Kant didnt mean it! He did. . . .

Kant is the most evil man in mankinds history.

--Ayn Rand, Brief Summary, The Objectivist, Sept. 1971, p. 4

Thanks. Actually, I knew she said it in her "Brief Summary," forgot to mention that. But I think there was someplace earlier, where she put it, "in terms of his influence,..."

I'm inclined to think that Rand got most of her notions about modern philosophy second-hand. That is the most charitable way of explaining her confused and spurious history of ideas in the essay "For the New Intellectual." Biographer Anne Heller calls the essay "a mixture of historical parable and madcap fairy tale."

Jennifer Burns mentions Paterson but credits Leonard Peikoff as the fountainhead of Rand's hostility to Kant and modern thought in general.

I'm more than "inclined to think that Rand got most of her notions about modern philosophy second-hand" - and mostly from Peikoff. I'm sure of it, though not in a position to prove it. My source is a friend of mine, J. Roger Lee, who died several years ago, who was sometimes present at philosophy discussions at Rand's or Peikoff's apartment. He recounted how Peikoff would describe various modern philosophers to Rand, getting them botched in process, according to J. Roger, who had extensive familiarity with modern philosophy.

I think that Rand did very little reading of philosophy, and not even much reading of Aristotle.

The exception was Nietzsche, when she was young.

I think that she might have "inherited," as MSK put it, her initial hatred of Kant from Nietzsche, but that hatred wasn't the same thing as her turning Kant into antithetic opposite to her system. The latter could only happen when she'd developed her ideas which departed from Nietzsche.

More in a subsequent post.

Ellen

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.

FF:

I do not see what your point is with this post.

Precisely what are the distinctions that you perceive between Ayn and John?

Secondly, can you express it without denigrating either of them?

I'd appreciate that.

A...

trying to be the "Good Sheppard"

The point of the post, as it should have been clear in the first sentence, is that when one addresses a topic that has been previously explored by other thinkers, one does the minimal courtesy by recognizing what they have already contributed to our understanding.

Locke saw rights originating in a state of nature. The fruits of labor are by right the laborer's, for otherwise they would not exist. Additionally, the laborer must also own the part of nature that he has exploited because that resource, such land, cannot be simultaneously used for two separate purposes.

On the other hand, Rand says,

A “right” is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life. Life is a process of self- sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action-which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.)

Both regard rights and specifically the right to property as an essential aspect of survival.

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Nobody likes to say this, but I think Rand simply inherited her hatred of Kant from Nietzsche.

Here is a quote from Ayn Rand Explained, Marsha Enright's reworking of The Ideas of Ayn Rand by Ron Merrill (pp. 63-64):

Nietzsche viewed himself as leading the opposition to one of history's most influential philosophers, Immanuel Kant, Nietzsche accused Kant of attempting to set limits to the validity of reason as a means of rescuing Christian, altruistic morality. He agreed with Kant that reason and altruism were incompatible. Unlike Kant, he was prepared to jettison religion and altruism, so Nietzsche rejected Kant's attack on reason. Rand adopted this view of Kant as her own and never abandoned it. Like Nietzsche, to the end of her life she considered Kant her intellectual arch-enemy.

I haven't read a lot of Nietzsche yet. I tried to digest Thus Spoke Zarathustra when I was in high-school, but that didn't work out too well. :)

I do trust Merrill and Enright, so I'm betting when I look into Nietzsche and actually read his works, I am going to find a lot about Kant that sounds like Rand.

Michael

I have no problems with the idea that Rand "inherited" her initial hatred of Kant from Nietzsche, but I don't think the inheritance was "simply," since Rand couldn't have made Kant her opposite until she had her own system, which departed from Nietzsche.

I haven't read more than snatches of Nietzsche. The bombast never appealed to me. I'm suspicious, however, of the Merrill/Enright claim you quoted that "Nietzsche rejected Kant's attack on reason." My understanding of Nietzsche is that he wasn't big on reason, but instead on will and emotion.

I agree that Rand was more influenced by Nietzsche, and longer, than was indicated in the versions of Rand's life written while she was alive.

However, this influence isn't so expunged from her Journals as you might think. Instead, there's direct editorial acknowledgment in the discontinued "The Moral Basis of Individualism" of a change occurring while Rand was working on that projected monograph. She starts still taking "independence" as her primary virtue, but shifts to "rationality" partway through.

Although, according to Burns, details were changed to make Rand sound less tentative than she actually was, nonetheless her shift of emphasis in process was retained.

Ellen

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There is something important here, FF. Not so much the "borrowing from", but more the 'rejection of' prevailing ideas.

(Ellen Stuttle came up with a name once, something like "conceptual opposition" - I don't remember).

That makes two of us who don't remember. Your description doesn't even clue me in as to what context you might be thinking of.

Ellen

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I realize Hickman gives Rand people headaches, but there is no way to rationalize him out of existence. :)I think Rand's Nietzschean influence makes perfect sense as the reason for her admiration of his court-room demeanor. In my mind, it even absolves her from not seeing how the barbarism made this person an icky role-model for a hero. In Nietzsche's view (as I understand it right now), the superman, who is the next stage of evolution in humanity, does not have to concern himself with the morality of the masses. He has to invent his own. That is in perfect harmony with Rand's notes about Hickman.

Even before Nietzsche, there was Cyrus, whom Rand remembered as laughing defiantly at his captors.

The Hickman bit doesn't give me headaches, btw. Makes sense to me what Rand was seeing in the scene. Also, she set aside the whole project in disgust a few days after she started it. Something happened to leave her thinking she was being silly. But I think the emotional meaning to her of the scene remained, and was a progenitor of Roark.

Ellen

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I think that she might have "inherited," as MSK put it, her initial hatred of Kant from Nietzsche, but that hatred wasn't the same thing as her turning Kant into antithetic opposite to her system. The latter could only happen when she'd developed her ideas which departed from Nietzsche.

Ellen,

That is exactly what I think.

In fact, inheriting the enemies and villains of a charismatic mentor is a pretty common occurrence, even if the mentor is only in print. The rest is just making the abhorrence fit with later living and thinking as the person grows and a core story develops in his or her soul. (All exciting stories--even core stories--need a villain. :smile: )

This process also happens in religion. I even saw this a lot in classical music. I know I have done this.

In fact, here in RandLand, people demonize the Brandens who have no real idea about them. They simply inherit Rand's "demons" and a core story develops inside them where those demons represent evil incarnate and they give little thought to asking themselves, "Really? Let me look closer."

People don't give up their demons easily and it's hard to get them to be objective about the same, even when faced with clear facts. Oh, they are rational, but all their rational thought is employed toward proving the demons are evil and dismissing instances where they are not.

I believe this is not because they hate those demons qua demons. It's because they can't or won't give up the core story that moves them. And the story loses its edge without the demons. The core story is the source of their feeling of certainty in life.

The following is speculation until I actually read Nietzsche's works, but I think Rand got her own religious/philosophical core story from Nietzsche, with Kant as demon supreme, then gradually molded a new core story on top of it until she arrived at the motherlode of core stories for her life: Atlas Shrugged. (But she kept the demon Kant from before. :) This happens a lot in core story changes.)

Nathaniel Branden once said (I think it was in Judgment Day and/or MYWAR) that after she wrote that book, she stepped into it and never came back out. That, to me, is a very good depiction of a religious conversion, i.e., a massive shift in core story.

If you look at this process strictly from a core story angle, that is, a person adopting one core story when young, being dissatisfied with part of it, then creating a new one on top of the old, this is how founders develop new religions and denominations.

btw - I see people do an odd inversion with Rand's own life, which they see through the lens of the Atlas Shrugged core story. In other words, Rand's life to them is practically a chapter in that book. They don't see Atlas Shrugged through the lens of her actual life and resent it when others do. (Try telling them Rand was writing AS when NB was banging her. Kaboom! :smile: )

That, I believe, is the reason for such instant hostility from them to honest inquiry. Their core story gets threatened and not even Rand's actual life matters to the loss of that value.

Michael

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Also, she set aside the whole project in disgust a few days after she started it. Something happened to leave her thinking she was being silly.

Ellen,

Are you sure it was disgust and a feeling of being silly? I'm more inclined to believe she wasn't mature enough to tell that particular story and got frustrated after banging her head against the wall. That has happened to me several times.

Also, I recently read Ayn Rand: My Fiction-Writing Teacher by Erika Holzer. Erika suffered a similar fate of abandoning an idea for a novel in the beginning. Here is a passage from that book (p. 61). Her depiction rings true to me:

"What's the worst mistake you made here?" Ayn asked me after I had finally acknowledged the Frankenstein in my file cabinet and issued a call for help.

"It's a lousy idea for a novel," I said disconsolately.

"It's an excellent idea," Ayn countered, pushing up her glasses (which had a habit of slipping) with an automatic impatient gesture. "You chose a provocative theme on an important subject. It shows originality. You've given yourself a lot of leeway in choosing where to place the action. The antitrust laws affect businessmen all across the country, after all. I see an embarrassment of riches here when it comes to potential plot events and character conflicts. What is it you missed, Erica?"

Lump-in-the-throat time. "I suppose…that I'm kidding myself? That I don't have the talent to write novels?"

"You don't have the talent to write this novel -- not yet. Not your first time out. Your mistake was in not knowing that you weren't ready.

Knowing the creative storytelling process first hand since I suffer with my own angsts, that seems much more plausible to me as to why Rand abandoned her projected The Little Street.

Michael

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Also, she set aside the whole project in disgust a few days after she started it. Something happened to leave her thinking she was being silly.

Ellen,

Are you sure it was disgust and a feeling of being silly? I'm more inclined to believe she wasn't mature enough to tell that particular story and got frustrated after banging her head against the wall. That has happened to me several times.

To me, this part sounds describable as "disgust and a feeling of being silly":

Journals

pg. 48

Try to forget yourself - to forget all high ideas, ambitions, supermen and so on. Try to put yourself into the psychology of ordinary people, when you think of stories. Try to be calm, balanced, indifferent, normal, and not enthusiastic, passionate, excited, ecstatic, flaming, tense.

Learn to be calm, for goodness sake!

Look at everything through the eyes of a very skeptical, very prosaic businessman.

Think more of the psychology of your heroes, according to their characters.

Not so straight and crude. The same things can be more complicated and different, as they usually are in life.

Also, it doesn't sound to me as if she "got frustrated after banging her head against the wall," since (according to the editor) the notes seem to have been written in a rush over a few days and then abruptly abandoned.

Ellen

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Ellen,

I get my meaning from the quote you just posted. I don't get disgust at all... maybe a little silliness.

But certainly not because Rand is calling the material itself silly. She is telling herself she can't think straight enough to tell this story correctly because of her excessive enthusiasm. Essentially, she needs to learn skills in characterization. And to do that, she needs to calm down and use her reason, not her emotions. I.e., she's not ready to tell that story.

That's how I read it.

However, I'm only going on that quote, so I don't know if there is more stuff in the passage where it came from.

Michael

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"Progenitor of Roark"? We don't have to settle on Hickman for that. Pre-Roark, everything was his progenitor to him qua Rand developing her major heroic characters. A sniveling, scummy, coward child killer doesn't count.

--Brant

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"Progenitor of Roark"? We don't have to settle on Hickman for that. Pre-Roark, everything was his progenitor to him qua Rand developing her major heroic characters. A sniveling, scummy, coward child killer doesn't count.

--Brant

Brant,

Like it or not, Rand was attracted to what she saw as "the outside of Hickman" and the characteristics she attributed to him. Wording from her sketch is echoed in her description - and her characterization - of Roark. The proposed climax of The Fountainhead follows the model of the proposed climax of "The Little Street," and there are multiple other parallels in detail. That you want to dismiss the Hickman business doesn't mean that it didn't count to Rand.

Ellen

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But certainly not because Rand is calling the material itself silly.

I wasn't saying that Rand thought the material was silly. The feeling I get is that she felt that she was being silly.

My speculation - and of course, it's only that, since no textual information is provided - is that she learned something she hadn't known about Hickman and had a reversion of feeling. *

Speaking of Nietzsche, there are references both by the editor and by Rand in the material pertaining to "The Little Street."

Ellen

* Added: Wasn't there something about Hickman's breaking down and blubbering when he was sentenced? The sentencing was in February 1928, and the notes, which Rand didn't date, are estimated by the editor as having been written "circa February 1928." According to the editor, the material seems to have been written in "a short period." Then it stops, with the self-admonishing note wherein she tells herself to become a "writing engine."

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"Progenitor of Roark"? We don't have to settle on Hickman for that. Pre-Roark, everything was his progenitor to him qua Rand developing her major heroic characters. A sniveling, scummy, coward child killer doesn't count.

--Brant

Brant,

Like it or not, Rand was attracted to what she saw as "the outside of Hickman" and the characteristics she attributed to him. Wording from her sketch is echoed in her description - and her characterization - of Roark. The proposed climax of The Fountainhead follows the model of the proposed climax of "The Little Street," and there are multiple other parallels in detail. That you want to dismiss the Hickman business doesn't mean that it didn't count to Rand.

Ellen

I know. It's like me being a medic in the army and then not wanting to see any more blood and gore--if I could help it--and not volunteering for ambulance service when I lived in Park Ridge, NJ. If I had become a doctor--no chance of that--I wouldn't have been a pathologist or a surgeon. (I was taught surgery, btw: wound debridement, veinous cutdown, cricothyroidotomy, and limb amputation.)

--Brant

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There is something important here, FF. Not so much the "borrowing from", but more the 'rejection of' prevailing ideas.

(Ellen Stuttle came up with a name once, something like "conceptual opposition" - I don't remember).

That makes two of us who don't remember. Your description doesn't even clue me in as to what context you might be thinking of.

Ellen

Some time during those extensive debates this year; I recall being quite taken by your phrasing and responding to it.

It was this notion of contrasting/opposing ideas which we recognise in Rand's thinking - I don't think it met with your approval.

I remember the occasion and the idea, but not the wording or context..

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"I am an Aristotelian" - Rand, 4/17/1948

While looking for something else, I noticed this letter by Rand.

Letters

pp. 393-394

To Raymond B. Young, Jr.

April 17, 1948

Dear Mr. Young:

Thank you for the copy of your book, which you sent me.

I have read it and I find that your philosophical ideas are fundamentally opposed to mine. You seem to be a Platonist, you quote from Plato repeatedly, and on page 34 of your book, you say: "The prophetic genius of Plato affirms itself in all his opinions (his important errors are few and he corrected them later in his life)."

As a matter of fact, Plato is the source, root and spiritual father of Collectivism. Every collectivist philosophy is based on Plato. In Soviet universities, the courses given on Communist ideology begin (quite rightly) with Plato. Have you read Plato's Republic? If there is any one thinker who has caused the greatest intellectual harm to mankind, with the most disastrous practical consequences, it is Plato (with Hegel next).

Since you are interested in philosophy, you have probably heard the statement that every philosopher (and every man) is essentially either a Platonist or an Aristotelian. This is one of the truest statements ever made. Plato and Aristotle do represent the basic division of mankind. Aristotle is the father of Individualism and logic, the first and greatest rationalist. I am an Aristotelian.

I would suggest that you study this question thoroughly, if you have not done so. I can give you a helpful hint of what to look for: the crucial difference between Plato and Aristotle lies in their respective Theories of Knowledge and in their views on the nature of reality. That is the root. Their ethics, politics, etc., are the consequences.

I cannot undertake to discuss philosophical problems in correspondence, and I do not believe that I can be of much intellectual help to you, until you have studied this question by yourself and made your own choice.

Note:

[emphasis added] If there is any one thinker who has caused the greatest intellectual harm to mankind, with the most disastrous practical consequences, it is Plato (with Hegel next).

Not yet Kant, even as second-place.

Ellen

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Burns, as I recall, thinks that Rand got much of her philosophical knowledge (presumably including Kant) from Peikoff when he was in grad school. This would have started some time in the 1950s. She mentions Kant in "Faith and Force" (1960). Does anyone know of earlier mentions?

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In response to Reidy above, I resubmit what Ellen Stuttle posted earlier in the thread:

seddon, on 29 Apr 2006 - 1:18 PM, said:snapback.png

Essays on Ayn Rand's We the Living, edited by Robert Mayhew
Book review by Fred Seddon

[seddon is discussing Mayhews essay "We The Living: 36 and 59."]

[....] One small word replacement that caught my eye was the following word change--Kant to Spinoza. The 36 sentence reads, When his young friends related, in whispers, the latest French stories, Leo quoted Kant and Nietzsche (156). Mayhew conjectures that Rand did not regard Kant as the most evil philosopher (actually she said man not philosopher) in history when she left Russia or first got to the United States. (192) For me this poses the question When did she start hating Kant? Some time between 36 and 59 else why the name change. I prefer the 36 version because of the balance between the French stories and the German philosophies. Leos friends are reading light French stories, while he is reading heavy German philosophy. The light/heavy and French/German switch is lost when Spinoza is substituted for Kant. Anyway, Kant is not mentioned in the published Journals or Letters entries until 1960. So they are no help in this issue. She had written some anti-Kantian lines for Galts speech that she ultimately cut, but she does not mention him by name. If you have an idea, let me know.

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Ah, but obviously Kant was a marvellous fellow.

Short excerpts from a few random essays I found [on the morality of Kant and Nietzsche ].

KANT.

"Act only on that maxim which you can will to be a universal law". [iK:The Categorical Imperative]

"Furthermore, Kant made a crucial distinction between duty and inclination in order to separate the moral motive from all other motives. An act was only moral if you did it out of duty, regardless of your intentions". [Alexander V. Ragin, 2000]

--You're gaining anything out of it? Feel-good, or even a place in heaven? Then your dutiful sacrifice is insufficient, so your act is not moral. (To point out what I believe is a contradiction, that even the desire - the "inclination" - to be 'moral' would be self-aggrandizing or self-satisfying, and therefore 'immoral' - by Kant's lights...)

NIETZSCHE.

"...each one of us should devise his own virtue, his own categorical imperative". [FN]

"Nietzsche's gleeful metaphor for the higher man is the eagle who preys upon a herd of lambs. Of course, to the lambs the eagle appears as danger, as *evil*, but why, Nietzsche rejoins, should THAT matter to the eagle?"[Garrath Williams, 1999]

--It's like a Hobson's Choice. Run for your life from Immanuel, straight into the arms of Friedrich - and who could blame one?

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There is something important here, FF. Not so much the "borrowing from", but more the 'rejection of' prevailing ideas.

(Ellen Stuttle came up with a name once, something like "conceptual opposition" - I don't remember).

Tony,

I think I've figured out what phrase of mine you've misremembered and gotten garbled in meaning - "the proclaiming of opposites."

I wasn't talking about Rand's forming ideas which opposed prevailing ideas, although she did that.

I was talking about her tendency to invent psychological categories and descriptions which were the opposite of something of which she approved.

The first example I gave was in this post from the thread titled "Faith and Force..." (I originally wrote "Al-Anon," but Michael corrected me on the difference between "Al-Anon" and "AA"):

I think I'll start collecting Rand's assertions about "most people" which I come across.

Another which I noticed recently comes from "The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made," date 1973.

The essay can also be found in Philosophy: Who Needs It.

She starts that essay by quoting the [AA] serenity prayer:

"God grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, courage to change things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."

Three paragraphs farther along, she states:

Most men spend their lives in futile rebellion against things they cannot change, in passive resignation to things they can, and - never attempting to learn the difference - in chronic guilt and self-doubt on both counts.

In this case, I think it's obvious where she got the "observation": by taking the opposite of a statement of which she approved. The proclaiming of opposites is a technique I've noticed in a number of her essays.

In the next post on that thread, #7, I gave an example from the essay "Philosophy and Sense of Life."

Rand states how she thought a "sense of life" is formed - "by a process of emotional generalization which may be described as a subconscious counterpart of a process of abstraction [...]." She continues:

But it is a process of emotional abstraction: it consists of classifying things according to the emotions they evoke - i.e., of tying together, by association or connotation, all those things which have the power to make an individual experience the same (or a similar) emotion. For instance: a new neighborhood, a discovery, adventure, struggle, triumph - or: the folks next door, a memorized recitation, a family picnic, a known routine, comfort. On a more adult level: a heroic man, the skyline of New York, a sunlit landscape, pure colors, ecstatic music - or: a humble man, an old village, a foggy landscape, muddy colors, folk music.

Which particular emotions will be invoked by the things in these examples, as their respective common denominators, depends on which set of things fits an individual's view of himself. For a man of self-esteem, the emotion uniting the things in the first part of these examples is admiration, exaltation, a sense of challenge; the emotion uniting the things in the second part is disgust or boredom. For a man who lacks self-esteem, the emotion uniting the things in the first part of these examples is fear, guilt, resentment; the emotion uniting the things in the second part is relief from fear, reassurance, the undemanding safety of passivity.

The emotional reactions on which she bases the statement are her own. The rest is proclaiming, not discovering.

The Granddady of her "proclaiming of opposites" technique was the instigating contrast from which she developed The Fountainhead, originally titled Second-Hand Lives.

I've recently posted biographical descriptions of how Rand got her idea of two fundamentally opposite types of people, the "first-hander" and the "second-hander": The account from Ayn Rand and the World She Made is here. Barbara Branden's account from The Passion of Ayn Rand is here. As I noted in the second post, the version in Passion is close to identical to the Rand-approved telling in Who Is Ayn Rand?.

I think that Rand's idea of the two types - the "first-hander" and the "second-hander" - has some degree of reality to it, but also a lot of inventing.

In Rand's post-Atlas years, the "proclaiming of opposites" became an often-used technique, by her and, while he was associated with her, by Nathaniel Branden also.

Ellen

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Isn't this "opposites" accepting the premise of your opponent on the next level down, the level of creation? Who's the real creator here?

--Brant

the dialectic sounds quite distorting and the deductive triumphant over the inductive

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Rand on Kant, 1960

Since the 1960 lecture "Faith and Force" appears to be the first context in which Rand emphasized Kant, I'll post her initial public broadside:

"Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World"

(A lecture delivered at Yale University on February 17, 1960;

at Brooklyn College on April 4, 1960; and at

Columbia University on May 5, 1960)

Reprinted in Philosophy: Who Needs It, 1982

pp. 63-65, 1984 Signet paperback

Now, if you ask me to name the man most responsible for the present state of the world, the man whose influence has almost succeeded in destroying the achievements of the Renaissance - I will name Immanuel Kant. He was the philosopher who saved the morality of altruism, and who knew that what it had to be saved from was - reason.

This is not a mere hypothesis. It is a known historical fact that Kant's interest and purpose in philosophy was to save the morality of altruism, which could not survive without a mystic base. His metaphysics and epistemology were devised for that purpose. [*] He did not, of course, announce himself as a mystic - few of them have, since the Renaissance. He announced himself as a champion of reason - of "pure" reason.

[* so she says]

There are two ways to destroy the power of a concept: one, by open attack in open discussion - the other by subversion, from the inside; that is, by subverting the meaning of the concept, setting up a straw man and then refuting it. Kant did the second. He did not attack reason - he merely constructed such a version of what is reason that it made mysticism look like plain, rational common sense by comparison. He did not deny the validity of reason - he merely claimed that reason is "limited," that it leads us to impossible contradictions, that everything we perceive is an illusion and that we can never perceive reality or "things as they are." He claimed, in effect, that the things we perceive are not real, because we perceive them.

A "straw man" is an odd metaphor to apply to such an enormous, cumbersome, ponderous construction as is Kant's system of epistemology. Nevertheless, a straw man is what it was - and the doubts, the uncertainty, the skepticism that followed, skepticism about man's ability ever to know anything, were not, in fact, applicable to human consciousness, because it was not a human consciousness that Kant's robot represented. But philosophers accepted it as such. And while they cried that reason had been invalidated, they did not notice that reason had been pushed off the philosophical scene altogether and that the faculty they were arguing about was not reason.

No, Kant did not destroy reason; he merely did as thorough a job of undercutting as anyone could ever do.

If you trace the roots of all our current philosophies - such as Pragmatism, Logical Positivism, and all the rest of the neo-mystics who announce happily that you cannot prove that you exist - you will find that they all grew out of Kant.

As to Kant's version of the altruist morality, he claimed that it was derived from "pure reason," not from revelation - except that it rested on a special instinct for duty, a "categorical imperative" which one "just knows." His version of morality makes the Christian one look like a healthy, cheerful, benevolent code of selfishness. Christianity merely told man to love his neighbor as himself; that's not exactly rational - but at least it does not forbid man to love himself. What Kant propounded was full, total, abject selflessness: he held that an action is moral only if you perform it out of a sense of duty and derive no benefit from it of any kind, neither material nor spiritual; if you derive any benefit, your action is not moral any longer. This is the ultimate form of demanding that man turn himself into a "shmoo" - the mystic little animal of the Li'l Abner comic strip, that went around seeking to be eaten by somebody.

It is Kant's version of altruism that is generally accepted today, not practiced - who can practice it? - but guiltily accepted. It is Kant's version of altruism that people, who have never heard of Kant, profess when they equate self-interest with evil. It is Kant's version of altruism that's working whenever people are afraid to admit the pursuit of any personal pleasure or gain or motive - whenever men are afraid to confess that they are seeking their own happiness - whenever businessmen are afraid to say that they are making profits - whenever the victims of an advancing dictatorship are afraid to assert their "selfish" rights.

The ultimate monument to Kant and to the whole altruist morality is Soviet Russia.

Ellen

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Looks like it could have come out of her Saturday evening Collective talk-a-thon's. How could she otherwise have resisted putting some of it into Galt's speech?

--Brant

or did she?

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Imagining Peikoff: "I found a lot of this guy Kant in Galt's Speech complainiac." Imagining Rand: "I'll be damned! You're right!" Imagining Branden: "Glad I encouraged you to check it out." Peikoff: "Thank you." Rand: "Thank you." Branden: "You're welcome."

--Brant

off to the races!

(don't take this post too seriously)

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There is something important here, FF. Not so much the "borrowing from", but more the 'rejection of' prevailing ideas.

(Ellen Stuttle came up with a name once, something like "conceptual opposition" - I don't remember).

Tony,

I think I've figured out what phrase of mine you've misremembered and gotten garbled in meaning - "the proclaiming of opposites."

I wasn't talking about Rand's forming ideas which opposed prevailing ideas, although she did that.

I was talking about her tendency to invent psychological categories and descriptions which were the opposite of something of which she approved.

[...]

The emotional reactions on which she bases the statement are her own. The rest is proclaiming, not discovering.

The Granddady of her "proclaiming of opposites" technique was the instigating contrast from which she developed The Fountainhead, originally titled Second-Hand Lives.

I've recently posted biographical descriptions of how Rand got her idea of two fundamentally opposite types of people, the "first-hander" and the "second-hander": The account from Ayn Rand and the World She Made is here. Barbara Branden's account from The Passion of Ayn Rand is here. As I noted in the second post, the version in Passion is close to identical to the Rand-approved telling in Who Is Ayn Rand?.

I think that Rand's idea of the two types - the "first-hander" and the "second-hander" - has some degree of reality to it, but also a lot of inventing.

In Rand's post-Atlas years, the "proclaiming of opposites" became an often-used technique, by her and, while he was associated with her, by Nathaniel Branden also.

Ellen

That's it, thanks. "The proclaiming of opposites" is well put: A notion familiar to Objectivists, I should think.

I think one learns as we go along, that few things are mutually exclusive opposites, in reality. (And I'm sure Rand was well aware of this).

But what's important, over all? We have to start somewhere, to set parameters. Particularly for newer students of philosophy, I think it's an incredibly useful conceptual device to be able to 'identify by contrast' (so to speak) -- to set polar opposites which differ extremely, though perhaps only in a few, critical and pertinent areas that matter. To identify, not just what something is, but also what it is not.

However, the object is of course for the thinker himself to eventually derive and induce those characteristics from experience. Without a guiding light, the job is that much harder and slower.

As example:

There were some aspects of 'rational egoism vs. altruism' which had concerned me for many years. Now, although this would seem to be a most obscure quotation of Rand's I came across and noted (somewhere on the internet? somewhere...and I must caution that I haven't yet ascertained its pedigree), it made perfect sense to me, and I felt it corresponded exactly with her complete works:

"The true opposite and enemy of altruism is not selfishness, it is independence".

Simple, even obvious, but a major breakthrough for me. Fundamentally, no great change: the "opposites", rational egoism and altruism, remain in opposition -- but in my image, egoism shifts away by a tiny degree on the arc (in relation to altruism) narrowly supplanted by its close, causal relative, independence of mind. It throws a whole new light on the comprehensive, broader identity of altruism as seen by Rand.

That's what I mean. Without that "proclamation" (possibly articulated off-the-cuff by Rand, in an interview or somesuch) I would still be doubtful and perhaps confused. Conceptualizing can be difficult and time-consuming without the help of such a device.

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Tony,

I wonder if you completely missed the word "invent" in my description of what I meant by "the proclaiming of opposites."

I was talking about her tendency to invent psychological categories and descriptions which were the opposite of something of which she approved.

And if you noticed that I didn't mean what you'd remembered me as meaning, viz.:

There is something important here, FF. Not so much the "borrowing from", but more the 'rejection of' prevailing ideas.

(Ellen Stuttle came up with a name once, something like "conceptual opposition" - I don't remember).

Btw, I'm keeping watch for the statement you attribute to Rand, in case I come across it while looking through her Journals or Letters:

"The true opposite and enemy of altruism is not selfishness, it is independence".

If I do find it, I'll post the reference

Ellen

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