Dragonfly

Critique of Objectivist ethics theory

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On Daniel Barnes' blog I found a link to an interesting article by Michael Huemer about Objectivist ethics. It discusses some of the big holes in the theory I've mentioned in earlier posts. Something for our Michael to chew on.

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On Daniel Barnes' blog I found a link to an interesting article by Michael Huemer about Objectivist ethics. It discusses some of the big holes in the theory I've mentioned in earlier posts. Something for our Michael to chew on.

I have come to a conclusion, which in a technical sense makes no difference to examination of the arguments, but I am convinced that Rand was primarily politically motivated and that her ethics were simply a ill-conceived reverse engineering type of effort that actually started from the premise that "Laissez-faire Capitalism must be good, so I'll find a way to justify it." After that, the ethics were just clumsily jammed together.

Of course, just in the LF Capitalist argument alone there's big problems.

I can't blame her for trying, but I conclude that her motivation is just a hatred of where she came from, so she assumed the opposite must be the ideal.

Bob

Edited by Bob_Mac

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Dragonfly,

I have known about the Huemer thing for a long time. He is one of the people I intend to feature on "Objectivism in Dark Places." I am really behind in that section, though. (I have to finish a project first.) I intend to discuss Robbins, Ryan, Prescott, Bass and some others. I have already started with Nyquist, but I have not gone very far as of yet (and there is Daniel's blog).

Bob,

It would be nice if life really were that simple, but it never is. Wouldn't it be great if everyone's motivation came from a single cause? All you would need to do is change the cause and you change the person. But people are complicated.

Your observations on Rand have seeds of truth in them, but it is a gross mistake to underestimate her. She had an extremely penetrating and objective intellect in addition to the parts you mentioned and she had an enormous amount of courage. Yes, she made early value judgments (like hating communism) and part of her motivation was probably to vindicate them, and yes, her rhetoric was often too bombastic for the subject matter, and yes, she had her bouts of self-aggrandizement.

But yes, she did forge a coherent philosophical system that is easily understood by common folks without years of specialized training, and yes, she did champion individual responsibility and productivity, and yes, she hated tyrants, and yes, she wrote some damn fine fiction.

She is well worth learning on her own terms. I highly recommend this, even if you disagree with parts after you digest what she means in the manner she means it. At the very worst you could get out of Rand, she raises the right questions.

Michael

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Objection (ii):

Premise 2 seems to be false. If I knew that I was inevitably going to get a million dollars tomorrow--there's no way I can avoid it--would that mean that the money will have no value? Again, Rand offers no defense of this assertion.

Perhaps her thought was that "good" is the same as "ought to be sought" or "ought to be chosen", and that since it makes no sense to say one should seek or choose what one either cannot get or cannot avoid, it follows that it makes no sense to say something one cannot get or cannot avoid is "good". But this simply illustrates why that definition of "good" is wrong. Nor does Rand offer any defense of this assumption (which she doesn't even explicitly state)--she seems simply not to have noticed that she was assuming it.

Let's try and find a situation where you will INEVITABLY gain 1,000,000 dollars. Well, I know that you still have the option to commit suicide in which case you would not receive it. So technically his premise is wrong in that there are still alternatives.

Objection (iii):

Premise 3 seems to be false. Rand claimed that living things face an alternative of existing or not existing but that non-living things do not. I can think of five interpretations of this, but all of them make it false:

First, it is not true that non-living things can't be destroyed. I once saw a house destroyed by flames, for example.

Second, it is true that the matter of which non-living things are composed can't be destroyed; but this is equally true of living things.

Third, it is not true that a non-living thing's continued existence never depends on its activities. If my computer ceases to function properly, this may cause me to destroy it.

Fourth, it is not true that positive action is never required to preserve a non-living thing's existence. A cloud, for instance, must absorb more water in order to continue to exist.

Fifth, it is true that non-living things do not possess free will. But this is equally true of almost all living things, and yet Rand claims that they (including plants, single-celled organisms, etc.) face an "alternative".

Thus, it seems there is no sense in which Rand's claim is true.

The faulty assumption here is that non-living things face things. They don't. They can't make decisions, the house did not face the decision of whether or not to burn down, the computer didn't choose to stop working, the cloud doesn't choose to absorb water. On the other hand, there are many instances where an animal will put itself in danger (protection of offspring etc.). Whether or not this decision is conscious, it is still an action where an alternative was available. The cloud can't self-terminate and the cohesion of water forces its growth.

If Rand meant "value" in the first sense, then her premise was close to true. (Not exactly, since it is possible to act to gain something even if you don't believe it to be good, but let's overlook that.) However, in this case, it has no ethical significance. In particular, the later steps 8 and 9 would not follow, since they claim that life is valuable--that is, good--whereas the premise from which they are derived is about what is valued--that is, held to be good.

Life is valuable because no value can be created without life.

If we read (6), as Rand suggests (p. 16n), to mean merely that the actions of living things result in the maintenance of their lives, then two problems appear. First, (7) will now be false. There are many things that living things' actions result in. For one thing, their actions result in the reproduction of their genes. For another, animals' actions result in production of body heat.

Second, it would follow, absurdly, that any object whose actions have results, has values. Thus, since when a rock rolls downhill, this results in its having greater kinetic energy, we must conclude that the rock acts to gain and/or keep kinetic energy, and therefore that kinetic energy is a value for the rock.

The reproduction of an organism's genes allow it to undergo mitosis. Without mitosis our cells would get too large and we couldn't function. The production of body heat allows us to maintain an optimal heat level at which to operate our bodily functions. How is that not necessary?

The second point ignores that the rock doesn't have the capability of valuing anything.

Objection (vi):

I have included 7, because it is necessary in order to get to 8. But 7 is false, however one reads it. If one interprets it as a claim merely about actual results of action, it is false as discussed above.

If one reads it as an observation about what organisms are evolutionarily 'programmed' for (that is, what traits are naturally selected for), it is false because the only trait that is selected for is that of producing more copies of one's genes. Thus, if anything is the ultimate 'value' for living things, it would be gene-reproduction (technically, 'inclusive fitness').

If one reads it as a claim about genuine teleology in nature, it is false because teleological physics is false.

If one reads it as a claim about the purposes or aims of living things, it is false because, for those living things that have purposes, they can often have other purposes. Rand frequently says that many human beings are aiming at self-destruction, for example. It is hard to believe that they are doing this for the sake of promoting their lives.

Consequently, conclusions 8 and 9 are unsupported, and in fact they are false. Many people value happiness or pleasure for its own sake, and not simply for the sake of further prolonging their lives. Rand herself, inconsistently, later declared happiness to be an end in itself. According to her theory, she should have said it was good only because it helped maintain your life.

Human beings that are aiming at self-destruction are missing the previous premise. So this one is inapplicable to them. Also, when she says that I would venture to assume that she doesn't assume that their intentions are self-destruction, just where they are aimed. Socialists really do believe that they are furthering their own life in many cases.

Happiness, on the other hand, is necessary for human life. People who no longer have the will to live are people devoid of happiness. So, steps taken in order to create happiness is in line with self-preservation.

Objection (vii):

This is probably the most egregious error. Premise 10 begs the question. Rand claimed to have an argument, a proof even, for ethical egoism. Yet 10 is one of the required premises of that 'proof'--and 10 essentially just is ethical egoism!

Some will dispute that this is really one of her premises. The reason I say it is is that without 10, the subsequent steps 11 and 13 do not follow. All Rand established up to that point, even if we ignore all the above objections, was that there is one and only one thing that is good for you, and that is your life. But obviously it does not follow that you should only serve your life unless we assume that you should only serve what is good for you. So, if 10 is not included as a premise, then Rand simply has a non sequitur.

Obviously, someone who held a non-egoistic theory--an altruist, say--would respond to the news of 8 and 9 (assuming Rand had demonstrated them) by saying: "Ah, so therefore, we should promote all life" or, "I see, so that means I should serve everyone's life. Thank you, Miss Rand; I previously thought I should serve other people's pleasure or desires (or whatever), because I thought that was what was good for them. But now that you've convinced me that life is the sole intrinsic value, I see that it was their life that I should have been serving all along." What argument has Rand given against the altruist, then? None.

This would be ignoring your life as value. If you ignore your life's value then you aren't following it at all. If I say, "life has intrinsic value, therefore I should serve everyone else's" that's ignoring the intrinsic value of my own life. If I say "life has intrinsic value, therefore I should serve myself," it still allows for everyone else to hold their life as intrinsic value. With self-sacrifice you cannot hold all life as intrinsic value.

Objection (viii):

Either 12 is false, or the inference to 13 rests on equivocation.

Rand explains that reason is our basic tool of survival. If her thesis is that any person who is not 100% rational, all the time, will die, then she certainly needs to provide argument for that. There seem to be lots of counter-examples, many of them pointed out by Rand herself.

If her thesis is something weaker, such as that any person who is not by and large rational will probably die, then 12 is plausible. But 13 does not follow. All that would follow would be, e.g., that one should be by and large rational.

The first part is a strawman, the part about 13 not following is just false. She says people should be 100% rational, that being the ideal. She does not say they need to be 100% rational to live.

3. General arguments against ethical egoism

Rand endorsed a version of 'ethical egoism': the view that a person should always do whatever best serves his own interests. I have discussed the following objections to this doctrine in my "Why I Am Not an Objectivist", so I will be brief here. Here is one general argument against egoism:

1.

If ethical egoism is true, then if you could obtain a (net) benefit equal to a dime by torturing and killing 500 people, you should do it.

2.

It is not the case that, if you could obtain a (net) benefit equal to a dime by torturing and killing 500 people, you should do it.

3.

Therefore, egoism is not true.

Well, he built a giant strawman right there and it still doesn't have a brain. He managed to completely leave the "ethical" out of the ethical egoism. In order to say that you have the right to torture and kill 500 people you must also grant other people that same right. Also, you must ignore the right to life. Both of those things are against your own rational self-interest. That's aside from the massive violation of those 500 people's rights.

That's all for tonight from me. I'm not sure how that is at all an effective refutation of Objectivist ethics.

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I've no time to answer all the points, I'll just take the last one as an example:

Well, he built a giant strawman right there and it still doesn't have a brain. He managed to completely leave the "ethical" out of the ethical egoism. In order to say that you have the right to torture and kill 500 people you must also grant other people that same right

Why? You're missing Huemer's point, which is not that Rand's conclusions are necessarily wrong, but that the claim that she can prove them is wrong. This is an example of begging the question. The fact that your life is valuable to you does not automatically imply that you have to respect the lives of others.

Also, you must ignore the right to life. Both of those things are against your own rational self-interest.

That is no proof. The question is: how do you know what your rational self-interest is? Presupposing the answer is no proof. The clearest example is Rand's surreptitious switch from "life qua existence" to "life of man qua man". The first refers only to life as such, survival as a living being, and Rand's argument is that man's ultimate value is his life. But then her argument fails, because someone who lives as a parasite or as a criminal can be very succesful in prolonging his life, and sometimes a quite comfortable life as well. Obviously this is not what Rand wants to prove, so now she suddenly switches from "life qua existence" to "life of man qua man" (read: life according to the Objectivist ideal). But that is just putting the desired answer into the argument which constitutes no proof at all, so the whole argument breaks down. The problem is that many people like Rand's answers so much that they blindly believe her claim that she can prove them, but that is an illusion. You cannot prove an "ought" from an "is".

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Dragonfly,

I have known about the Huemer thing for a long time. He is one of the people I intend to feature on "Objectivism in Dark Places." I am really behind in that section, though. (I have to finish a project first.) I intend to discuss Robbins, Ryan, Prescott, Bass and some others. I have already started with Nyquist, but I have not gone very far as of yet (and there is Daniel's blog).

Bob,

It would be nice if life really were that simple, but it never is. Wouldn't it be great if everyone's motivation came from a single cause? All you would need to do is change the cause and you change the person. But people are complicated.

Your observations on Rand have seeds of truth in them, but it is a gross mistake to underestimate her. She had an extremely penetrating and objective intellect in addition to the parts you mentioned and she had an enormous amount of courage. Yes, she made early value judgments (like hating communism) and part of her motivation was probably to vindicate them, and yes, her rhetoric was often too bombastic for the subject matter, and yes, she had her bouts of self-aggrandizement.

But yes, she did forge a coherent philosophical system that is easily understood by common folks without years of specialized training, and yes, she did champion individual responsibility and productivity, and yes, she hated tyrants, and yes, she wrote some damn fine fiction.

She is well worth learning on her own terms. I highly recommend this, even if you disagree with parts after you digest what she means in the manner she means it. At the very worst you could get out of Rand, she raises the right questions.

Michael

"But yes, she did forge a coherent philosophical system that is easily understood by common "

I quite emphatically disagree with the word "coherent". I will elaborate in another thread in the chewing on ideas section.

"At the very worst you could get out of Rand, she raises the right questions."

Yes, I agree with this. However, I do think some of her conclusions are more than wrong, and lean toward dangerous, especially for younger, more influencable folks.

Bob

Edited by Bob_Mac

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However, I do think some of her conclusions are more than wrong, and lean toward dangerous, especially for younger, more influencable folks.

Bob,

Danger? I will be very interested to see where you back up this opinion (and I mean this not in a hostile manner). I am aware of a couple of cases where people have committed suicide because of how they internalized Objectivism, blaming themselves for unwanted feelings that made them feel very unworthy, and once in a while I have come across a true-crime story where a murderer liked Rand, but then the murderer is always mentioned liking a lot of things. Then you get a scandal once in a while like the Lonnie Leonard sex abuse in therapy thing. But these are isolated cases, not trends. All systems of thought have their own isolated cases.

Your warning about the young sounds a great deal like an opinion given by John Robbins, who wrote a critique of Objectivism from a Calvinist viewpoint. But that can go both ways. Using danger to the young as a standard, there are several systems of thought that actually have been a danger to the young. I would say fundamentalist Christianity was right up near the top, easily forming adult racists and some very dangerous people when they have guns in their hands and get irritated, not to mention the snake-handlers. Fundamentalist Islamism turns the young into suicide bombers. Several strains of religion completely eschew medical science. All state war machines rely on some kind of philosophy to send the young to die, and such philosophy usually has a generous dose of collectivism built in. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

I see nothing like this happening with Objectivism (leaving aside the nuke-'em-all lunatics, who are merely a tiny minority). Of course, anyone with a severe personality disorder or mental imbalance can make any philosophy or religion under the sun dangerous to both young and old alike.

One thing I have noticed is that there is a general level of underachievement with some groups of Objectivists, and I suspect that the bitterness in blaming the world you often read in Rand's writings plus the shrugging idea have something to do with this. But then I see many high-end achievers outside of Objectivism who are Objectivists or Objectivism-friendly (Alan Greenspan, Terry Goodkind, John Aglioloro, Nathaniel Branden, Steve Ditko, Neil Peart just to name a few prominent ones, and at the end of The Passion of Ayn Rand by Barbara Branden, there is a veritable honor role of famous and productive people who were influenced by Rand). So I also think many of the underachievers come to Objectivism because they already have problems and the negative aspects I mentioned give them some kind of justification to themselves.

Another thing is that the catchwords in Objectivism can easily be abused by a guru-wannabe to induce tribal behavior in a crowd and gain a following. But from what I have observed so far, these guru-wannabes are usually pretty mediocre people and not very dangerous to anybody.

(Obviously, I don't consider ideas like "not finding God" or being "socially unaware" or things like that a danger.)

Other than this, I am hard put to see any real danger in Objectivism.

Michael

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Michael,

I'll hopefully have time to elaborate fully but here's a short version.

First of all I agree there are worst things for young minds, but that's not the point really. I do agree that fundamentalist religions are big trouble.

Why do I think Objectivism is dangerous to younger folks? The ideas themselves (though I disagree with many) I must admit are not particularly dangerous in and of themselves, but there's more to the story - much more. When young, discontented, malleable minds find Objectivism they tend to embrace much more than the ideas, they embrace the leader (Rand) lock, stock and barrel , and will usually emulate the behaviour and attitudes etc. of the leader and her followers and herein lies the danger.

Rand, in my opinion, was an angry venemous narcissist who did a good job of convincing her avid followers that this behaviour was justified and indirectly (or perhaps even directly) admirable qualities. To me, she's like an intelligent angry teenager that never grew up. For someone who does not have a well developed personality and who is angry and discontented there is a danger in finding justification in being this way (angry, narcissistic, condescending) and developing further anti-social behaviours.

I'm not talking about suicide, just the danger of becoming an (or more of an) angry, complaining, condescending underacheiver in my opinion is greatly enhanced by exposure to Objectivism at an young age. I just don't think it's healthy.

Bob

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Bob,

I agree that there is that appeal and justification to the angry alienated, but this is not universal nor an inevitable consequence, as evidenced by a huge list of high-end achievers who were influenced by Rand. So I don't agree with you about the severity of the problem. But I do agree with you that the problem exists and that it is a serious one.

Rather than throw out the good with the bad, I have been promoting a truly objective approach to Objectivism (and I see myself continuing in this vein). I have allied myself with many like-minded people and I interact freely and without hostility with critics of Objectivism. This stems from the conviction that this issue (among a few others) needs to be addressed and remedies provided. So part of the reason for OL is precisely this.

Objectivism is a magnificent system of fundamental ideas that can be used as a solid foundation and framework for achieving great things in life. Once again, the huge list of high-end achievers who openly state they were influenced by Rand is proof of this.

Michael

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When young, discontented, malleable minds find Objectivism they tend to embrace much more than the ideas, they embrace the leader (Rand) lock, stock and barrel , and will usually emulate the behaviour and attitudes etc. of the leader and her followers and herein lies the danger.

Rand, in my opinion, was an angry venemous narcissist who did a good job of convincing her avid followers that this behaviour was justified and indirectly (or perhaps even directly) admirable qualities. To me, she's like an intelligent angry teenager that never grew up. For someone who does not have a well developed personality and who is angry and discontented there is a danger in finding justification in being this way (angry, narcissistic, condescending) and developing further anti-social behaviours.

I wonder if this problem is nearly as extensive today as it was in the early days of Objectivism, while Rand was still alive as a direct role model and prior to some perspective being put on her life and characteristics. There are those younger-generation folk who rival the behavior of older-generation extreme types. But I don't think nearly as many percentagewise, and I notice that even amongst the ARI younger ones, some of them whose posts I've read on SOLO at least give lip service to disavowing Rand worship and emulation.

I also wonder if this problem has ever occurred amongst Rand admirers in other countries to the extent it occurred in the United States. Amongst followers in the UK, yes, to an extent though I think not as much of an extent. But are there percentagewise near as many of the Randroid type amongst Europeans influenced by Rand, and especially amongst persons from former Iron-Curtain countries? Near as I can tell -- I've made no attempt at systematic study of the issue -- those becoming interested by her work in former Iron-Curtain countries mostly find it such a welcome alternative view to the political ethos they've been taught, the political aspect is their main focus.

Ellen

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Jeff Kremer,

I am delighted to see the serious thought you are giving to the substantive issues of Prof. Huemer's remarks in your Post #4, especially your grappling with the concept of life at work in Rand's theory of value. There are a couple of books so far on this, beyond Rand's writings, that would be good to study if you find yourself pursuing this in the years ahead. These are:

1990

The Biological Basis of Teleological Concepts by Harry Binswanger.

2000

Viable Values by Tara Smith.

The most serious critiques of Rand's ethical system to be published so far are these:

1971

"On the Randian Argument" by Robert Nozick. This work is reprinted in his Socratic Puzzles. All of the works noted below, except the last, are epicycles and extensions of the criticisms in this essay. Nozick's essay was given a serious rebuttal by Douglas Den Uyl and Douglas Rasmussen in an essay that has been reprinted in Reading Nozick (Jeffrey Paul, editor).

1984

"Life and the Theory of Value: The Randian Argument Reconsidered" by J. Charles King.

"The Fundamental Moral Elements of Rand's Theory of Rights" by Eric Mack.

These essays are included in The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand (Den Uyl and Rasmussen, editors).

2002

"Is Benevolent Egoism Coherent?" by Michael Huemer. In The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies V3N2.

This essay received a serious rebuttal in "Egoism and Prudent Predation" by Michael Young,

which was in JARS V5N2 (2004).

2003

"Problematic Arguments in Randian Ethics" by Eric Mack. In JARS V5N1.

2006

Then Athena Said by Kathleen Touchstone.

Edited by Stephen Boydstun

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I also wonder if this problem has ever occurred amongst Rand admirers in other countries to the extent it occurred in the United States.

Ellen,

Maybe New Zealand...

:)

Michael

There's a cadre of Linz worshipers in New Zealand. And Linz praises AR's rage -- and uses her rage as what I'd call an excuse for his. But Linz has long objected to certain forms of Rand emulation, has he not? And he has no good words I've read to say about Harry B. and Peter Schwartz.

I've never been to New Zealand or met any of those people myself when they've visited the States. But the feeling I get of the way they act is different from that of the Rand-adulating New York O'ists of the '70s.

Ellen

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Ellen,

Around Perigo and his minions, the goddess is the same as for the 70's true-believers, except she is dead and nobody knew her personally. The form of worship, however, is much different (after all, there is the gay issue with Rand's pronouncements against homosexuality). Still it is worship. It is pure true-believer mentality—the need to overly-aggrandize and raise to moral perfection a central figure, with strong emotional appeal of serving something/someone outside of one's own life, and demonize another figure or figures to offset and illustrate it.

The power issues among the clergy are much different, which explains the distaste for Binswanger and Schwartz (and now Peikoff once again). The excommunication rituals are different, of course, but they exist, and pomp and public display (to teach the others a lesson) are made of them.

And the goddess is the same.

Let's say the NZ faction around Perigo is is a rebel denomination of the Church of Rand. It is even openly claiming to be the One True Way. (Ever see that show before in religion? You mentioned rage. Ever see a hellfire-and-brimstone backwater revival preacher? He, for example, has issues with Catholicism...)

Obviously, I cannot mean all people in New Zealand and I don't.

Michael

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Rand, in my opinion, was an angry venemous narcissist who did a good job of convincing her avid followers that this behaviour was justified and indirectly (or perhaps even directly) admirable qualities. To me, she's like an intelligent angry teenager that never grew up. For someone who does not have a well developed personality and who is angry and discontented there is a danger in finding justification in being this way (angry, narcissistic, condescending) and developing further anti-social behaviours.

Personally, I think Rand BECAME an "angry, venemous.." person. The difference in her persona between the early days and the post-Atlas, post-break days is significant. It is a shame, in my opinion, that the latter is the legacy that has survived (thanks in large part to LP).

RCR

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Ellen,

Around Perigo and his minions, the goddess is the same as for the 70's true-believers, except she is dead and nobody knew her personally. The form of worship, however, is much different (after all, there is the gay issue with Rand's pronouncements against homosexuality). Still it is worship. It is pure true-believer mentality—the need to overly-aggrandize and raise to moral perfection a central figure, with strong emotional appeal of serving something/someone outside of one's own life, and demonize another figure or figures to offset and illustrate it.

I could easily be wrong about the past of it, since I wasn't paying more than occasional notice prior to all the fuss starting to be made over PARC. But recall that Linz even resisted reading PARC, and he was the first to post defending Barbara on the initial SOLOHQ thread. (I'll look up the URL in a minute.) It seems to me that the situation abruptly changed when he had his falling out with Barbara; his tune then became AR champion against "smearer-in-chief."

I'm by no means applauding the cult stuff which surrounds Linz himself. But I'm not at all convinced that there was AR-as-goddess worship going on there until recent history.

Ellen

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I'm by no means applauding the cult stuff which surrounds Linz himself. But I'm not at all convinced that there was AR-as-goddess worship going on there until recent history.

This is correct, based upon my recollection. In the early days of SOLO, Linz "worshiped" (I think actually, "glorified" or "reveared" are better words) the sunny vision Rand promoted on her good days; literally her "sense of life" (hence SOLO). SOLO was a conscious effort to avoid the cult-of-personality and focus on the work; obviously the type and tone of "worship" has turned over the years.

RCR

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I had more trouble than I anticipated finding the URL referred to in my post #16, but here it is:

http://rebirthofreason.com/Articles/Fahy/H...ur_Horses.shtml

The thread was started by Casey Fahy on Wednesday April 6, 2005. His initiating post was objecting to what he saw as a book-banning campaign anti-PARC in progress by Branden cultists.

The first post on the thread was by Linz. I'll copy the whole post. This sounds far from the tune of a Rand worshipper to me. His tune re AR has changed since then, as well as his tune about BB.

Casey—I haven't read the book, & I shall withhold final judgement until I have. But some preliminary observations are in order.

1) I look in vain for evidence of the "Cult of the Brandens" that you talk about, at least as far as Barbara is concerned. It's true that Barbara has a devoted following, especially here, but I'm not aware of that being any kind of crime. Barbara is revered because she was the first to have the courage to tell the truth, because she told it so well, & for her often-sublime wisdom. She is not revered in the blind, unquestioning manner a cult-leader is.

2) I don't know of anyone here who would seek to have the book banned or burned, or who would refuse to read it on principle. That is *precisely* the approach Peikoff took to Barbara's book, & a little honesty in acknowledging his past authoritarian dishonesty in this matter wouldn't go amiss. He had to be dragged kicking & screaming into admitting The Affair. His side-kick, the dreadful Schwartz, took a different approach, saying, in effect, so what if it's true? What matters is what you *want* to believe about an historic figure! Is that primacy of consciousness/whim-worshipping subjectivism or what?! A little honesty about *that* would be in order also.

3) There are two or three psychotic individuals who got banned from SOLO for posting gutter-level stuff about the Brandens. Those self-same psychotics are now heralding this book as "Ayn Rand's Revenge," "The End of the Brandens," etc.. They've published a travesty of a review of it by one of them, a woman who's as mad as a meat-axe. When I see such demonstrably dysfunctional, incestuous neurotics gleefully applauding the book, I'm naturally suspicious. And *you* ought to be embarrassed!

4) No doubt, in this or that detail, the Brandens' biographies were mistaken. That's unavoidable. No doubt, in this or that detail, *this* book will be mistaken also. Big deal. It will be judged on its Big Picture integrity, or lack thereof. Barbara's has it in spades. I reserve judgement about Mr Valliant's.

Linz

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Personally, I think Rand BECAME an "angry, venemous.." person. The difference in her persona between the early days and the post-Atlas, post-break days is significant.

I agree that there was a hardening and a change.

Ellen

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Ellen RCR; I agree about the change in Rand after the Split. I think part of the problem was that Rand could not face how much she had enabled the Brandens. She had to rewrite her whole history. From some of my other posts the rewriting continues.

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Ellen,

Perigo's scramble has always been to gather a following where he is top dog, but his basic initial orientation is as an investigative journalist (he likes to trip people up in public). He was a red-blooded communist before he converted to Objectivism. (I once wrote a review of his biography when we were still communicating and he was "grooming" me as a writer. I called it The Troublemaker. Of course, I left out certain issues back then, and included others that I did not want to...)

There are seeds of true-believer in all red-blooded communists (the ideological kind). Perigo's history in the Objectivist subcommunity is that he wanted to get the lay of the land before laying the cornerstone of his own church and he cultivated friendships on both sides of the TAS/ARI divide (TOC/ARI back then). As he received an either/or letter from Hull about his relationship with David Kelley, he came out solid against ARI. They made the first strike so they were the enemy he needed. Remember that all true-believers need to demonize someone. ARI fit the bill perfectly back then. This was a total about-face from his previous position on ARI.

His biggest frustration with Rand back then was that she had those darn defects, so she was not really worship material. (Perigo himself was worship material, or at least he thought he was, but it was too early for godhood at that time. Subsequent events have not been very kind to that end.)

The one thing Perigo would never tolerate is someone from the outside sticking their noses in New Zealand politics, especially in the places where he was making his move (Libertarianz party and policies). For example, he finagled a job out of David Kelley, but fell out with him when he could not impose his will on their statistical analyses with respect to New Zealand. He also could not bash people in NZ when the organization he worked for praised NZ for being a good place to live. So he quit before he even got underway in his job.

Jim Peron came into NZ, but instead of bowing down before Perigo and becoming a minion, he did his own thing and became far, far more successful in implementing libertarianism. So out came Perigo with that pedophile business from several decades ago (indirectly through the Locke Foundation) and some really nasty behind-the-scenes screwing Peron over. Barbara would not jump on the bandwagon back then and trash her friend. This was the real source of her split with Perigo. I even tried to mediate a truce in the wings. Things got nasty (especially after the Drooling Beast episode) and then, out of pure spite, Perigo read PARC.

BINGO.

With PARC, he finally got an Ayn Rand he could worship, he could exact revenge on Barbara for refusing to bow before him over Peron (including revenge for the scare he got from the public discussion of his heavy drinking—he actually told me that being branded as an alcoholic could damage his image as an Objectivist leader, so he already thought of himself that way back then), and he got a real live, honest-to-Galt scapegoat he could demonize (to restore Rand as a heroine, of course) all in one fell swoop. There were some other issues like trying to justify his baby-bawling temper tantrums and running a rusty nail through Joe Rowlands (actually getting Rowlands to agree to pay him a salary to write a daily article on the website which Perigo defaulted on continuously), but these were secondary to establishing his goddess as worship-worthy and himself has head priest and protector of Her Honor. (His lack of erudition in Objectivism is not really a problem. How many backwater preachers have read the full Bible?)

All he had to do was turn off that little voice inside saying, "something still doesn't sound right," and betray everything he ever said about Barbara. But hell, who needs integrity with an opportunity like that?

:)

(I can go on about this all day and still not run out of stories.)

Michael

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His biggest frustration with Rand back then was that she had those darn defects, so she was not really worship material.

[....]

(I can go on about this all day and still not run out of stories.)

Michael,

Your hypothesis that all along Perigo wanted Rand to be a worshipable icon is intriguing, and maybe you're right, although the hypothesis doesn't entirely square with things I've heard about him from people who have known him a long while. I think you are right about his desire to be top dog in New Zealand and about various hassles which that desire has engendered. At any rate, maybe examining the Perigo dirty linen gets into more than is necessarily where one wants to go in regard to the original subject of the extent to which a Rand influence is damaging to the young person, especially, who comes under her spell.

Ellen

___

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Quote: Why do I think Objectivism is dangerous to younger folks? The ideas themselves (though I disagree with many) I must admit are not particularly dangerous in and of themselves, but there's more to the story - much more. When young, discontented, malleable minds find Objectivism they tend to embrace much more than the ideas, they embrace the leader (Rand) lock, stock and barrel , and will usually emulate the behaviour and attitudes etc. of the leader and her followers and herein lies the danger.

Bob,

I believe you are making a grave error. There are self-proclaimed Objectivists who are already given to bad behavior, but they are random individuals who have brought their inner baggage to Objectivism. It is not Objectivism that instigated it. There are self-proclaimed Christians who bring their inner baggage to the religion, but one can clearly argue that religions have inherent garbage—in that they are fundamentally wrong. The same cannot be said with Objectivism. Whatever its flaws and errors, it is a philosophy that is fundamentally correct. That is to say, it is true and right. Therefore, such a philosophy will yield more positive results to those who undertake to understand and apply it to their lives.

In her article, Barbara Branden’s philosophical indictment of the “true believer” mentality that infiltrates Objectivist circles is as cogent as anyone as ever written. She has identified the typical power monger and manipulator mentality all too common in actual cults.*(1) Too often Objectivist circles have been plagued with backbiting, hysterical denunciations, zealous sectarianism and unjust inquisitions.**(2) (Being the “cult of one” that I am, I try to distance myself from the party-line types).

Mind you, I do not agree with the idea that if one is to accept the benefits of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, then one must also be prepared to accept its “hazards.” (Insofar, that is, that those hazards are allegedly said to be inherent in the philosophy itself).

What are Objectivism’s hazards? It doesn’t matter to me if some proof-reader counted the number of times Rand used the word “contempt” in her writings. And generally speaking, I don’t agree with the injustice of saddling Ayn Rand with blame for the ill-behavior of her supporters. God, how tired I grow of listening to people who blame Ayn Rand for their own shortcomings!

I believe that fighting the problem of what has been identified in some other post as “Objectivism’s plague” starts with actually proscribing to the philosophy—and in this case, I mean this: Individual responsibility.

If I blame Ayn Rand for my mindless decisions to brand someone “irrational” merely because they have offended me---I am not taking responsibility. If I blame Objectivism for my choice to practice the virtue of justice, but misunderstand or purposely contort its application---I am not taking responsibility. If I blame a certain organization’s teachings because I thoughtlessly recycle ideas without applying first-handed independent judgment---I am not taking responsibility. And by blaming mommy or the devil or Rand, certain individuals are seeking scapegoats, which are not offered to explain poor choices, but to justify them. Why not focus some of your fire on those philosophies that deride or underplay individual responsibility, that downplay the pursuit for excellence to submission and resignation---that sacrifices the individual to some collective cause, that...well, you know where I am going with this.

Bob, what I want to say in a nutshell is this: Ayn Rand is not the bad guy in the history of philosophy. In the end, it's the individual that must take responsibility. Objectivism recognizes this more than any philosophy that you’ll ever come across. If you know of some other philosophy that does, please, I ask you, bring it to our attention.

-Victor

NOTE FROM ADMINISTRATOR:

** Plagiarized from Post 29 by Michael Stuart Kelly from the "Objectivism's Plague: Questions" thread on OL. The original passages read as follows:

(1)

Another type is the typical power monger and manipulator who can be found in all cults.

(Note: This is a borderline plagiarism since it is short and there is some paraphrasing, but it qualifies for the present context since the plagiary pattern is so well established.)

** Plagiarized from Post 21 by Barbara Branden from the "Objectivism's Plague: Questions" thread on OL. The original passage reads as follows:

(2)

The spectacle of people whose most fundamental dedication is not to the spread of important philosophical ideas, but to backbiting, hysterical denunciations, fanatical sectarianism, and inquisitions.

(Note: This is a borderline plagiarism since it is short and there is some paraphrasing, but it qualifies for the present context since the plagiary pattern is so well established.)

OL extends its deepest apologies to Barbara Branden.

Edited by Michael Stuart Kelly

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At any rate, maybe examining the Perigo dirty linen gets into more than is necessarily where one wants to go in regard to the original subject of the extent to which a Rand influence is damaging to the young person, especially, who comes under her spell.

Ellen,

LOLOLOLOLOLOL...

Whazza matter? Don't like the raunchy smell?

Dayaamm! I was just filling the wash tub...

:)

Michael

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I've no time to answer all the points, I'll just take the last one as an example:

Well, he built a giant strawman right there and it still doesn't have a brain. He managed to completely leave the "ethical" out of the ethical egoism. In order to say that you have the right to torture and kill 500 people you must also grant other people that same right

Why? You're missing Huemer's point, which is not that Rand's conclusions are necessarily wrong, but that the claim that she can prove them is wrong. This is an example of begging the question. The fact that your life is valuable to you does not automatically imply that you have to respect the lives of others.

Also, you must ignore the right to life. Both of those things are against your own rational self-interest.

That is no proof. The question is: how do you know what your rational self-interest is? Presupposing the answer is no proof. The clearest example is Rand's surreptitious switch from "life qua existence" to "life of man qua man". The first refers only to life as such, survival as a living being, and Rand's argument is that man's ultimate value is his life. But then her argument fails, because someone who lives as a parasite or as a criminal can be very succesful in prolonging his life, and sometimes a quite comfortable life as well. Obviously this is not what Rand wants to prove, so now she suddenly switches from "life qua existence" to "life of man qua man" (read: life according to the Objectivist ideal). But that is just putting the desired answer into the argument which constitutes no proof at all, so the whole argument breaks down. The problem is that many people like Rand's answers so much that they blindly believe her claim that she can prove them, but that is an illusion. You cannot prove an "ought" from an "is".

Dragonfly,

Regarding your last paragraph, what do we have here? To use the Objectivist lingo, have we a stolen concept or context dropping? Parasites, by definition, cannot live except by feeding off a host—a host that is, we can presume, rational! A criminal, meaning one where victims are involved, also lives the life of a parasite —especially career criminals. Such people could not live a “comfortable” life where it not for those who are living ethically. Somebody is getting it right for these parasites and criminals to get by--these creatures who suck the life blood of moral men for their own survival (such as it is and for how long it'll last). Tell me, who is really getting it right---at root?

Yes, this post doesn't answer all the objections you bring up in your post, but I just wanted to touch on what I did for now. :turned:

-Victor

Edited by Victor Pross

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