"Rand's Fallacy" according to Reasoner


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There is an article by Orion Reasoner called When Vanity Devours Sanity: Why SOLO Shattered and the Character-Cannibalizing Culture of "Objectivism" that was posted on May 22, 2006 on The Rational Argumentator site.

(The following is edited from my original post.)

I originally included the link to it here in the Rants section because Reasoner hits on the "vanity versus truth" dichotomy found in formal Objectivist organizations. I have been bothered by this from the day I came back to the USA and started reading and/or interacting with online Objectivist groups (but mostly SoloHQ until it retired).

The problem with vanity and narcissism is widespread among vocal Objectivists, but as I have implied in my "Ayn Rand Love/Hate Myth" series here in Rants, it is not that widespread with the general Rand admirer. He is too busy living to care.

When the Guru Bug bites, however, it seems like all interest in truth for truth's sake goes out the window and truth becomes a handmaiden to vanity, to be twisted out of shape at will and whim.

Reasoner did a poor job in this article (and I missed that on first read, as I mention in a post below), but the vanity issue in Objuectivism is now on the table. I do not sympathize or empathize with the overly-vain. I believe my writings and actions have amply demonstrated this.

That certainly is a valid subject to rant about.

Michael

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Michael, I am bewildered by what appears ro be your blanket endorsement of Reasoner's article. If he is correct, we all should abandon the total of Objectivism -- and ourselves -- at once. Surely you have objections to much -- if not most -- of what he says.

Barbara

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Barbara,

Thank you for your expression of bewilderment. (You were supposed to say that I was dishonest, evading, etc... :D )

I must beg the pardon of OL readers. I have had some personal family health problems of which you are aware and this made me careless with trying to keep up with my reading. There is just too much to do with no time. I did not read Reasoner's article very carefully before I wrote what I did. I even missed my own name (and yours) by skimming over that paragraph.

I am editing my previous post.

On second reading of the article, careful this time, I found Reasoner to be guilty of the narcissism and vanity he accuses others of (principally in his well-known "noble martyr for truth" role... er... but without ever saying any real truth, merely skirting around the vanity/truth dichotomy), and worse, guilty of Perigo-type insults and targeting people as if this behavior were a philosophical issue. It isn't. It's just name-calling. (He certainly shows who his mentor is in this respect - Perigo.)

Reasoner stated that Rand promoted egomania and not legitimate self-pride, and that this was the cause of vanity in Objectivism. That is so wrong that it does not need rebuttal. Just read Rand's works. His reasoning in general weaves all over the place. (It's embarrassing to have to state that I missed it on first reading. I can only plead carelessness from too much personal worry and too little time.)

People are vain for emotional reasons, not philosophical ones. I see many people in the Objectivist movement with an over-inflated sense of their importance, but I think this kind of insecurity (which is all it is at the core) is emotionally present in the person before he comes to the philosophy.

My own experience with artists has led me to believe that they are all vain to a certain extent, including Rand. If not, they don't fight against the others for their fame - they have no competitive motor. When vanity exceeds talent, though, they fade fast from the public eye. This of course was not Rand's case. Her talent was enormous.

Vanity in itself is an important issue. More needs to be written about it. And all vanity is not bad - in proper balance it is a good thing. Implying that vanity is all bad is very Christian.

Once again, I apologize for misreading Reasoner's article. I do wish he had written what I thought I read as that subject is important...

Michael

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Thanks, Michael. No harm done.

I can't find a single concept in Reasoner's article with which I agree, because he goes in for such sweeping and preposterous over-generalizations as to make nonsense of them all. His attacks on Rand and on Objectivim are utter drivel, so much so that I would feel embarrassment at the prospect of arguing with them or even presenting them. Whatever criticisms may be made of Rand and of Objectivism, they are not to be found in this article. And his assumption that all Objectivists (except himself, of course) are "psychopathically narcissistic egomaniacs," is simply stupid and requires no rebuttal. To argue with such a presentation would be equivalent to debating the Flat-Earthers.

Michael, you wrote: "People are vain for emotional reasons, not philosophical ones. I see many people in the Objectivist movement with an over-inflated sense of their importance, but I think this kind of insecurity (which is all it is at the core) is emotionally present in the person before he comes to the philosophy." I agree.

You also wrote: "My own experience with artists has led me to believe that they are all vain to a certain extent, including Rand. If not, they don't fight against the others for their fame - they have no competitive motor."

I don't question that many artists are vain. But the concept of "vanity" is associated with an unjustified high opinion of oneself, with boastfulness and blustering and smugness and self-glorifying -- and certainly with a deep insecurity about one's worth and/or the worth of one's work; Robert Browning called vanity "an itch for the praise of fools." Surely this cannot be said of all artists. Nor do I see that artists must "fight against the others for their fame." They may have to fight against misunderstandings, against unjustified attacks, against envy, against distortions of their work, against malice, and so on -- but the success of others is not an impediment to an artist's success and does not have to be fought. It's not the case that there is a limited amount of fame which, if it's given to some artists, cannot be given to others.

Finally, you wrote: "I originally included the link to it here in the Rants section because Reasoner hits on the "vanity versus truth" dichotomy found in formal Objectivist organizations." I disasgree that it's found in ALL such organizations, if you mean that it's somehow integral to such organizations. I see no hint of it, for instance, in TOC, and I have no doubt that it's absent in other organizations as well.

If I sound harsh, Michael, please believe that it's not directed at you, but at Reasoner's unreason.

Barbara

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Michael,

I think there's a genuine question in here, as to why Objectivism appeals to some individuals with narcissistic personalities.

But I don't see that Orion Reasoner did a decent job of either framing the question, or providing the elements of an answer. In fact, as you pointed out after rereading his piece, OR strikes his own narcissistic pose ("misunderstood genius" or "martyr for truth").

Nor do I see how all artists are narcissistic. Narcissists, as Barbara said, are constantly seeking to elicit admiration from people they despise.

Let's pick this one up again when you've gotten some sleep.

Robert

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Michael,

I think there's a genuine question in here, as to why Objectivism appeals to some individuals with narcissistic personalities.

Likewise.

Nor do I see how all artists are narcissistic.  Narcissists, as Barbara said, are constantly seeking to elicit admiration from people they despise.

Likewise.

Let's pick this one up again when you've gotten some sleep.

I vote "Aye." (Since three others have already seconded the motion, I'm too late to second it.)

Ellen

___

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That article isn't even half-cocked. Mostly it's assumptions, opinions, and psychologizing.

That doesn't mean there's a little to be seen in it, but it can be seen easier and elsewhere. Whew.

I'm not sure how much narcissism plays through. A good deal for some, I think- just like anywhere else. There are always those that appear in a community who do so partly to satisfy their narcissistic requirements (the first one being having a group to do it with).

Vanity, real vanity, is something that definitely travels with evolved, professional-type creatures. When like that, it's practically necessary, and it's downside is that it is something that has to be managed.

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MSK-

It was evasive to whine about health problems and fatigue, using it as an excuse to cover your miserable, unprepared post. If you try that again, be prepared to present evidence. At least scan in a doctor's excuse and put it up here so we can be sure you aren't up to more of your scumbag trickery.

But, as a not-so-true Objectivist, I am willing to forgive. Give me a dozen Our Peikoffs and 2 dozen Hail Galts, you'll be good to go until you have another one of these little "slips."

rde

I'm watching you, buddy-boy.

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Rich,

Well, let's just say that Orion Reasoner's piece exhibited psychological reasoning of poor quality.

I'd really like to see the term "psychologizing" retired, on account of its non-objectivity.

Robert

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Robert,

Agree. It needs to go bye-bye.

The funny thing about psycholo... er... spontaneous outbursts of poor quality psychological reasoning... is the trend of those who make the most sting about it (and psychology in general) often are the first to come out of the gate with it.

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