The Hatred of Objectivism is the Hatred of objectivity.


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The Hatred of Objectivism is the Hatred of objectivity.

I have wondered why modern intellectuals have such a deep hatred for Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism—a hatred that they would not accord even to Lenin and Hitler or other sundry assortments of evil.

I believe I may have an answer.

Today’s intellectuals are predominately products of the modern education system, which has bombarded them with the tenets of skepticism, environmentalism, multiculturalism, altruism, pragmatism: knowledge is impossible, no one can know anything for certain, there is no independent reality, all ethics are arbitrary, the individual is evil or impotent to deal with the challenges of life, the collective—or the state—is all, self sacrifice is the moral ideal, sacrifice progress to the “environment,” submit to the dictates of the tribe, etc.* None of these systems purports to be systems of objectivity. Very much the opposite, they are openly hostile or subtle in their attacks upon the concept.

To the degree that people swallow these notions—and the worse of today’s intellectuals have swallowed them completely—they surrender their mind, which they know, at least intuitively, is their only tool of survival. This surrender cannot be done without intellectual and psychological impunity. Such surrender has dire consequences--to the degree it is taken. By giving up their tool of survival, they make themselves unworthy of survival. They become a creature that does not want to live, a hater of man and of life. Worse, the surrender is voluntary and done for the most cowardly motive of all: the approval of the pack.*

Needless to say, it is no wonder these creatures hate Ayn Rand and Objectivism.

The philosophy of Objectivism is not a separate, independent “species” of objectivity. It is the very concept of “objectivity” (little ‘o’) that Ayn Rand has identified and built her monumental system from. In philosophy, objectivity is known as the “correspondence theory of truth.” Modern intellectuals, as an example of their colossal ability for intellectual dishonesty, treat the concept of “objectivity” as merely a member among a species of subjectivity. And that "species" are, for example, dialectical, feminist, analytic, jungian, orthodox, religious, tolerant or whatever. They merely bunch Objectivism in the mix. In fact, they regard the entire enterprise of a mankind’s capacity to philosophize as an indulgence in parlor game word tactics. They don’t regard philosophy as an urgent and inescapable necessity of survival—they regard it as all “linguistic contortions” whereby one merely paints the other guy into a verbal maze.

Ultimately, it’s a game to them.

The rational man regards objectivity as vital to “control nature” and he "controls" it by comprehending it. (“Nature to be commanded must be obeyed.”) The modern anti-objectivity intellectual’s form of “control” is to attack an opponent with linguistic sucker punches to the brain. As far as he is concerned, philosophy is all about “words, words, words.” And it is no wonder that, also, they regard the enterprise of philosophy as mere polemics.

Somewhere Ayn Rand wrote that all evil philosophies are systems of rationalization. The behavior of today’s intellectuals is proof. Skepticism and subjectivism is the ultimate recourse of evasion.* When faced with an objective criticism of their ideas, many of them suffer a painful cognitive dissonance that sends them into a hyper-screech---since opposing well-reasoned thoughts are out of their paradigm. They plunge into tantrums if their “linguistic constructs” are not regarded as equal with a rigorously logical and objective presentation. Such a position easily diminishes their status in this “word game” called philosophy. You see, it's an 'ego thing' for them. Rather, it's a second-hander's concept of 'ego'.

Then there are those religionist-subjectivist mentalities that seem unable to grasp the concept of objectivity at all. They observe that Objectivism deals with the fundamental questions of life--questions that have been systemized by a philosopher—and then they observe similar, but non-essential traits, among actual religions and conclude that “Objectivism is a cult!”

It's worthy to observe here that Barbara Branden has noted that Objectivism is the exact opposite of religion. "It is the attraction to reason," she states, "to the intelligible, the graspable, the definable." And while it can be said that many "cult-like" mentalities are attracted to Objectivism because of these qualities--it can also be said that Objectivism's qualities are the reason why other mentalities are repelled by it.

Objectivism is the ultimate threat to all these types—--and they know it. Objectivism cannot be tolerated, it cannot be apart of any intellectual discourse—because it blasts away all of their torturous equivocations and evasions and exposes them for what they really are: empty shells that once had a chance to be human*—-for what is a human being, but a “rational creature?” And what is rationality without the concept of Objectivity?

If you wonder why the current systems of “rationalizations” are so in vogue, it’s because modern intellectuals have embraced them and took it to the rest of the culture. It is objectivity---and thusly—OBJECTIVISM that they distain.

Ayn Rand never demanded the “submission of individual judgment” to her mind. The idea is preposterous on its face—given every factor of this philosophy, and the very concept that gave it its name---namely Objectivism. Objectivists are usually accused of having surrendered their mind to Ayn Rand, but such accusations don't speak to the facts--it is really a matter of projection on the part of the subjectivist. What modern intellectuals demand, on the other hand, is unquestioning obedience to their dictates—not because they are true, but because they have uttered them. That's all apart of their subjectivism. And the target of their vile words and hatred are aimed at a single target: reality.

Personally speaking, what attracted me to Objectivism is the fact that it “squares” with reality, and that it’s also a marvel of integration which demands independence of thought. A human being’s guide ultimate guides are reason and reality—YOUR reason, the individual, which, of course, slams into the emotional fancies of modern intellectuals.

***

[feed-back to this article is more than welcomed]

(Note from MSK:

* Phrases plagiarized from Michael Smith. See here for the initial identification and here for citation of the plagiaries.

The plagiarized passages are identified in bold and linked to their citation. There are small differences because the original work of plagiary identification on another forum is what is presented (this article was also presented on another forum). The article is left up out of respect to the posters on this thread, so as not to make hash out of their discussion. OL extends its deepest apologies to Michael Smith.)

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Heya Victor,

Just checking back with the site after a couple months of RL creativity/productivity (yay me, paid my rent with the money I got from a puppet show I created!).

I think there is a great deal to be said for rationality, I greatly appreciate it in the people that I encounter on a daily basis and it is the central, defining reason why I have ever posted on an Oist message board--clear thinking is a thing of beauty, isn't it?

Now to your article. I disagree strongly with a lot of what you said, but my strongest reaction to your words is a pretty thorough-going sadness. There's a "rollicking" quality to rants like yours; it's easy to climb onboard and just go for the ride if you're so inclined. Yeah! Damn Intellectuals! Damn hate-filled Subjectivists! Rah! "Us and Them." It's as old as civilization itself.

But have you ever thought seriously about "hate?" You say that "modern intellectuals" have a "deep hatred" of Ayn Rand (you go on to say that it's a greater hatred than that they reserve for Hitler--um...I'd love to know where you found that "fact;" most intellectuals that I've known--and I've known my share--barely know Ayn Rand ever existed). One of the saddest things to me about human interaction is that it is far easier for most people to shout "fuck you" when they've been hurt, than for them to say "ow, that really hurts." Ayn and her adherents over the years have said a lot of hurtful, condemnatory, intolerant, prejudicial things about other intellectuals, ancient and modern, so it doesn't surprise me one jot that many folks would answer in kind. Your article amounts to the same thing, you're reacting to antagonism with antagonism.

What I most respect about Michael Kelly and Barbara Brandon is that they are committed to recovering the rational value of Objectivism from the swamp of human cyclical viciousness that has all but consumed the movement at the highest levels of organization (all but consumed our planet at the highest levels of organization, for that matter).

I think what makes philosophy a "game" is its remoteness from reality--hold on, hold on. What makes philosophy remote from reality, when it is remote from reality ('cause it's not always), is it's lack of emotional coherence with the life of the individual espousing the philosophy; it is a metric of alienation, rather than a personal expression of values (an awful lot of philosophy is heady, disconnected stuff, you gotta admit).

There's a point, pretty early on, in a lot of philosophical discussions, when the grounded, heart-felt philosophy leaves the earth and becomes intellectual strong-arming and logical intimidation. In your piece, the disconnect happens in the first sentence. Obviously, something has infuriated you, something you generalize as "modern intellectuals," but what that is, we're left to guess.

So what did these people say to you most recently to set you typing? As a person like yourself, trying to find communion with other intelligent people on the internet, I'm much, much more interested in your personal experience than with your, I'm sorry, pretty standard polemic.

Y'see, Victor, what happened between you and the person or persons behind your article is unique, individual and therefore, interesting, possibly even illuminating or inspiring. But you gave us what I call a "bad people are bad" rant. People who reserve a greater hatred for Ayn Rand than they do for Adolf Hitler--even if such exist!--are a sorry straw man to hang your argument on. Furthermore, by occulting the actual, individual experience which prompted your article, you end up making a basically collectivist plea for agreement and validation when you assume that your reader will project his or her "similar" experiences onto your generalization. "Us and Them" is about as collectivist as you can get!

It makes me very sad to read articles like yours. In relationship counseling we ask the question, "Would you rather be right or happy?" The point being that forcing the other person to agree with you, decimating them by force of mere logic and rhetorical facility does not lead to a happy union. Maybe if more Randians would allow people to disagree with them without the Randians feeling honor-bound to destroy them with words, more Randians might find the world to be a little more receptive to their ideas.

-Kevin

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I agree with a lot of what both of you say, but Victor, this kind of a rant doesn't mean much if you can't concretize it. Tell us what particular intellectuals think this way.

A good place to find this kind of vitriol against Ayn Rand and Objectivism is reviews of Objectivist books on Amazon.com. Many of these reviews make me think "Did this person actually read the book he is reviewing?" Because the review has very little correspondence to the book. They often sound like the critic who said he read between the lines of Atlas Shrugged, "To a gas chamber-go!" People who so obviously misrepresent a book or idea are clearly dishonest, and we can often identify their motives from what they say. However, I have no idea if these reviewers are professional intellectuals or not.

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Hi Kevin,

Thanks for your feed-back. I will be writing (or finishing up) an article that answers--I think--to the objections that you brought up to my article here.

It will be entitled: Objectivism Amidst the Modern Anti-reason Climate.

Look for it, and I would be interested to hear your feed-back once again.

Thanks,

Victor

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Hi Saul,

You wrote:

I agree with a lot of what both of you say, but Victor, this kind of a rant doesn't mean much if you can't concretize it. Tell us what particular intellectuals think this way.

I wish you would have pointed out where you disagree with me. Concretize my examples? A valid point. I figure that speaking to an Objectivist audience (or at least those who are familiar with Rand) that it wasn't necessary. Apparently not! Still, it does make for better writing. Thanks.

You also say: A good place to find this kind of vitriol against Ayn Rand and Objectivism is reviews of Objectivist books on Amazon.com. Many of these reviews make me think "Did this person actually read the book he is reviewing?" Because the review has very little correspondence to the book.

Yes! THIS is the type of intellectuals I'm speaking about [the type of intellectuals who are not acquaintances or friends with Kevin.] Of course, it’s not limited to book reviewers.

Thanks.

-V-

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Victor,

Dayaamm! You sure have decided to change your rhetoric.

Good for you.

(btw - I agree with much of what Kevin says. I don't always agree with him, but time and time again, I have seen him hold a rather obvious position that is contrary to something I think, then watch in wonder as he links his conclusions to my premises - and convinces me that he is right - or that we both are, but from different angles. Not always, but enough to make him someone dear to me. I assure you that anything he said was not as a criticism of your worth or value, but was stated with the best of intentions.

I was amused by a remark in your article.

Worse, the surrender is voluntary and done for the most cowardly motive of all: the approval of the pack. Needless to say, it is no wonder these creatures hate Ayn Rand and Objectivism.

Hmmmm... I know of at least one place that where core people purport to love Ayn Rand and Objectivism, but their actions and words display this problem...

Michael

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Mr. M,

You say...

"btw - I agree with much of what Kevin says."

Please, I appreciate your feed-back. You say you agree with "much" of what Kevin says. Where would you disagree with him...as it pertains to my article?. Also, generally speaking, would you agree with the general thesis of my article? Do you read--or come across--the vitriolic hatred that is reaped upon Rand...or the blatant intellectual dishonesty in reviewing her. "To the gas chambers--go!" has become a "good review" by today's standard! If not, wait till you read my next article.

In regard to your last line…I know what you are alluding to. Of course, I’m speaking of those intellectual circles outside of Objectivism. [such a trouble maker, you are]. :)

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Victor,

I believe there are some people who hate Ayn Rand and Objectivism. I don't buy into the standard rhetoric your article displayed, though. I think the time for that kind of hostility to Objectivism has passed, especially with the changes the world has seen since Reagan (whose think tanks were peppered with Rand admirers.) I see the influence of Rand in too many areas these days to go into in this post. The fall of the iron curtain is one quick example. Today Communism is nowhere near the serious issue it was when she was alive. Nor is Behaviorism in psychology. I could go on and on and on. Rand's works are actually helping change the world for the better. Rand promoters are not doing so well.

I wrote about this issue in a rant of my own called "The Ayn Rand Love/Hate Myth." I used to hold many of the opinions about the hatred of modern intellectuals to Objectivism you mentioned, especially when I got caught up in the "save the world" mentality on SoloHQ. But then I decided to take my Objectivist glasses off and look again. So I started with Rand's own book sales and became appalled at the obviousness of what I had been missing. The rest is in my rant. (The other three articles in that series deal with other aspects of this love/hate myth. I intend to write more over time.)

I do admit that a handful of Rand critics are extremely hostile in their manner of presenting critiques of Objectivism and/or Rand. To mention a few, Greg Nyquist, Scott Ryan, Bob Wallace, Jeff Walker, etc. I think that is a shame, too, because some of their points need to be discussed seriously without all the bombast (on both sides). Part of their truculent attitude is due to Rand's constant published attacks on modern intellectuals, but I can see part also being due to feeling threatened. Still, the vehemence of her attacks on modern thinkers kind of sets the mood for those who wish to make reasoned criticicism. The feeling is that if she can call thinkers whim-worshipping witch doctors (for one very light example) and so forth, they can call her names right back.

(Now we have the boneheaded notion promoted by Valliant that much of this hostility is due to the Brandens. Rand critics obviously would be hostile irrespective of any biography of Rand, regardless of whether she was presented as saint or ax-murderer, as they have been ever since she started writing.)

Where I disagree with Kevin is that my impression is not that any particular person infuriated you. I also did not get sad reading your rant. I believe you got caught up in the "save the world" message Rand presents at times and let it all hang out, especially since you were originally posting on a venue where Rand-worship is encouraged and "enemies" are sought out. (You originally did this on SOLOP, correct? Or was your article published elsewhere first?)

However, your arguments against "modern intellectuals" are standard ones found in Rand's essays with nothing new really added. I would like to invite you to take off your Objectivist glasses for a minute and look again. See what exists without any preconceived value judgment for a small amount of time. Then, with this new information, put the glasses back on and judge.

It can be quite an eye-opener.

Michael

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Victor,

I see little value in lumping all "modern intellectuals" together, as though there are no important differences between astronomy professors and Lit Crit mavens--and as though there are no relevant differences between Camille Paglia and Stanley Fish (both prominent Lit Critters).

In my field, psychology, Ayn Rand is simply not on most people's radar screens. To get most psychology professors to pay attention to Rand, you'll have to be prepared to explain what's important about her ideas, and what makes them relevant to psychological research. Except in the presence of a few zealots, you won't be called on prove that she is less pernicious than Lenin or Hitler.

As Michael points out, Rand was awfully quick to condemn "modern intellectuals," regardless of what they had to say.

For instance, in her published Journals, Rand referred to Noam Chomsky as an "elite social-metaphysical witch doctor." This estimate was apparently based on attending one public lecture about language structure that he gave in 1961.

Yet, in 1972, when Rand reviewed B. F. Skinner's book Beyond Freedom and Dignity, the only published review that she praised was Chomsky's, in the New York Review of Books. In fact, she quoted Chomsky's review at some length.

Might she have been just a little hasty in her initial judgment?

Robert Campbell

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There are a number of Objectivist bromides that I am sick to death of hearing. One of them is the standard, knee-jerk put-down of contemporary psychology as still being in its "infancy" and "not really" a bona fide science. Don't tell the bromide-peddlers, but while (all too many) Objectivists were sitting under the shade tree, condescendingly making their snide comments about "the shrinking scale of modern science," the very real science of psychology (along with neuro-science) has made great strides toward understanding the neural basis and nature of consciousness -- just as biology has largely cracked the mystery of life by uncovering the chemical basis of life. I won't be surprised if 20 years from now, when conceptualization and intiation of action are fully understood in causal terms, Objectivist arm-chair theorizers will still be playing the intellectual "hare," not realizing that the scientific "tortoise" has left them in the dust.

REB

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Michael [and OL gang]

Good God!

I get the feeling that I wasn't really listened to. That can really upset an artist. I think you saw the words of my article on your screen and it translated to: bla, bla, bla.

Before continuing any dialogue on this issue or any other, I want, for the state of a better understanding, to make a few general points. The views expressed in both articles—The hatred of Objectivism is the hated of objectivity and my new article—is not the offspring of being caught up in a whirlwind SOLOP atmosphere. Long before posting or “cruising the net", I have been coming to the conclusions expressed. Those conclusions are the culminated result of reading, thinking, personal experience and observation. I am not talking from my ass.

I am at a lost to understand the relevance of your citing the sales of books or the rippled cultural influence of Rand’s thought. Of course there are exceptions—in some pockets. So what does that mean? The popular intellectual atmosphere of the whole modern world, the Western civilized world, has embraced multiculturalism—and that other inconvenient truth—environmentalism. I am not touting the “Orthodox Objectivism bromides” when I say that altruism and subjectivism is alive and well in ethics, as it is in politics. I can see it. And while communism is dead—its spirit is not.

You write, “However, your arguments against ‘modern intellectuals’ are standard ones found in Rand's essays with nothing new really added.

So what? My own observations and experiences substantiate Rand’s claims. She is right. She was right to blast them to hell. Look at what they are endorsing and perpetrating.

I can see it for myself what they are perpetrating. And I give many tips why this is so in my new article. And no, I don’t think that hostility to Rand is the result of something like this: “Gee, she said so many mean things about us, so let’s call her names right back!” The hostility to Rand is the hostility to little ‘o’ objectivism. It’s a hatred of objectivity—Randian or not.

The intellectual notions popularity espoused by today’s commentaries and intellectuals have embraced contrary philosophies--that clash head-on---right down to the very root of the concept of objectivity or objectivism or Objectivism. That’s what I see.

I would hope to be accorded the respect of an independent, thinking individual—and not as some splintered fragment of either SOLOP left-overs or other sundry so-called Orthodox Objectivists—no matter how similar my views may sound to those already expressed. And no, I am not here to “save the world”--but

  • The culture can change or collapse or Rand’s philosophy could more fully take grip. I don’t know. Men have free-will.

Now, I may sound like I'm being really pissy here and have a lot of rage. No, not at all. I am serious, but my tongue was firmly planted in my cheek and a little smile was on my face. Now treat me like an individual!

:)

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Victor,

I rarely see anyone coming down hard on Rand. The ones who do that the most - from what I have seen so far - are ex-Objectivists, rarely intellectuals of other schools of thought who were never Objectivists. Once in a while one will pop up, but this is so rare as to stand out when it happens.

You belittle the sales numbers of Rand's books as a parameter of her influence. Do you think of the half-million books sold each year, no intellectuals buy them or read them? Only the uneducated masses? :D

Tell me one thing. Why is the western world such a wonderful place to live in? It really is, you know. I personally think it is due to the predominance of reason and objectivity. Seriously.

The USA certainly is a better place now than it was over 30 years ago when I left. I look (both with and without my Objectivist glasses on) and I don't see the widespread culture of hatred of reason painted in your article. I see some crap, but mostly I see marvels and good people. I'm glad to be here.

To be fair, the interaction between the Western world with the Islamic world bothers me - on both sides. And both sides are big enough to make things really ugly on this planet if they ever decide to clash big time. (What's happened so far has been merely an appetizer.)

Sorry for the following aside, but I have a great idea to help cure this. Western ideas need to penetrate into Islamic culture for any real change to occur. Cultural penetration mostly happens through heroes. One day I want to create an individualist hero of fine morals palatable to the moderate Islamic public. A modern-day Sinbad, so to speak. I think this would be a tremendous success in that world and would do a whole lot more good at eliminating terrorism and unreason than condemnations or war.

Michael

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Robert, [nice to meet you…so to speak]

Now, you wrote: As Michael points out, Rand was awfully quick to condemn "modern intellectuals," regardless of what they had to say. For instance, in her published Journals, Rand referred to Noam Chomsky as an "elite social-metaphysical witch doctor." This estimate was apparently based on attending one public lecture about language structure that he gave in 1961.

You are suggesting that Rand’s estimate of Chomsky in 1961 was pre-mature and a little harsh for it merely being one lecture---or at least, that’s the implication of your commit. If I’m wrong, please, feel free to correct me. If not, I don’t agree with YOUR estimate: how many lectures would one have to attend to get a clear idea of what a person is preaching? Given the content of that specific lecture, [whatever it was] are you saying that it was utterly inappropriate to summarize and evaluate its intellectual quality? Do I have that right? If I’m wrong, what would your point be?

Hey, I didn’t attend that lecture, and I’m pretty confident that neither did you. Who knows what he could have been preaching that made it all too clear to Rand. After all, I have heard she was a pretty smart woman.

And then you go on to say: Yet, in 1972, when Rand reviewed B. F. Skinner's book Beyond Freedom and Dignity, the only published review that she praised was Chomsky's, in the New York Review of Books. In fact, she quoted Chomsky's review at some length.

Now wait a minute, Robert. What’s your point? Rand’s estimate of Chomsky has not substantially changed in eleven years! Who cares if she quotes—in a specific context--Chomsky to illustrate a point she has to make about Skinner. So Chomsky has made some particularly succinct points about Skinner and Rand acknowledges it. So what?

In regards to Chomsky, her estimate in 1972 was to view him as a “Cartesian linguist advocating a theory to the effect that man’s mental processes are determined by innate ideas—and who, politically, belongs to the Left.” Do you take issue with Rand’s estimate of Chomsky? Is he not these things? I say he is. I have read his books and heard him in interview.

Finally you ask: Might she have been just a little hasty in her initial judgment?

No. You are suggesting that Rand's 1961 estimate of Chomsky contradicts her 1972 estimate... and based on what? Because she quotes him! And?

...No, I don't see your point. Her estimate of him did not change.

-V-

**

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Hi Victor,

See pp. 683-684 of Journals of Ayn Rand for Rand's notes on talks by Noam Chomsky (and several others) on linguistics and philosophy.

Chomsky's talk was titled "Some observations on linguistic structure." It is clear, both from Rand's notes and from what Chomsky was publishing during that phase of his career, that he was focusing on some rather technical issues pertaining to sentence structure.

If Rand had read anything by Chomsky before May 21, 1961, when she made the journal entry, or attended any other lecture by him, this has yet to be documented.

Rand does not seem entirely sure what the point of Chomsky-style grammar is. She makes fun of his tree structures as "pure Rube Goldberg." She also asks what the relationship between sentence structure and meaning might be in Chomsky's theory (a good question, which I rather doubt that Chomsky made much of an effort to answer on that occasion).

(Unfortunately, David Harriman, the editor of Rand's published journals, had less of an idea than she did about what Chomsky was talking about. He inserted a note explaining that Chomskyan tree diagrams for sentence structure are part of "modern symbolic logic," which is incorrect.)

In 1961, Chomsky had apparently already decided that language learning requires some kind of innate representation of types of sentence structures, but he had not yet pressed a case for his view. In the absence of complaints from Rand about innate ideas (no remarks on the subject in her journal entry). I think it safe to conclude that he didn't bring the issue up in his talk.

In 1961, Chomsky had yet to publish anything on politics. He didn't start doing that until he had become more of a "public intellectual."

So Rand's take on Chomsky in 1961 was not a reaction to his advocacy of innate ideas, or to his New Left politics. I doubt she knew about either at the time.

Rand quoted Chomsky in 1972 because he was one of the few intellectuals making arguments in principle against behaviorism--and because his arguments were cogent. I doubt she knew that he had already taken B. F. Skinner's attempt to explain language learning apart in 1959. Chomsky, in fact, helped to overthrow behaviorism and replace it with modern cognitive psychology.

A couple of lessons here:

One is that the same person can put forward brilliantly good ideas and brilliantly bad ones. Chomsky's arguments against Skinner are brilliantly good. His advocacy of innate grammatical structures (in Chomskyan notation!) may be brilliant--at least it has some rhetorical effectiveness--but isn't so good. His insistence that all political evils in the world since 1945 must be laid at the feet of the United States government is a bad one, and some of Chomsky's defenses of it strike me as dishonest.

The second is that Rand was in no position to make the judgment about Chomsky that she scribbled down in 1961. In 1972, she at least seemed willing to acknowledge that he had some good points as well as some bad ones.

Robert Campbell

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I have wondered why modern intellectuals have such a deep hatred for Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism --  

[ . . . ]

Today’s intellectuals are predominately products of the modern education system, which has bombarded them with the tenets of skepticism, environmentalism, multiculturalism, altruism, pragmatism: knowledge is impossible, no one can know anything for certain

[ . . . ]

[feed-back to this article is more than welcomed]

I too encourage you to put some flesh on the frame that you have developed. I also agree with Robert on 'lumping.'

I would point out that "today's intellectuals" and "the tenets of skepticism" are phrases that fairly engender questions like: "who? which intellectuals? where are they? what did they write?' and "which tenets? who wrote them? where did you find them?" (all of these are perhaps elaborations of the very Missouran "how do you know? Show me, please."). There's plenty good thoughtful takedowns out there on the big rink.

For a single danged "today's intellectual" (like a Bruno Latour, who spouts book-length social constructivist twaddle) I figure there are a crowd of other "today's intellectuals" also in the ring or nearby (there to put the twaddle to the mat).

Similarly, the "skepticism" of a CSICOP or Skeptic or Skeptical Inquirer is not quite what I think you mean -- but you can probably find an exemplar of the kind that gets up your nose, no? -- and then we help dig up several coherent critical analyses that take them down a peghold or two -- via the hard cold knife of reason(!) . . .

Me, I consider some a them danged 'tenets of skepticism' to be fine tools of reason. I consider the modern intellectual Susan Haack a mighty tonic for the excesses of oft-twaddling modern intellectuals like Judith Butler (for a Latour, a Leavitt, for a Freudian pseudopsychologist, a Crews, for a Judith Butler, a Martha Nussbaum. For each twaddler, there is usually a chorus of critics on hand. If you haven't already discovered the great "Butterflies and Wheels" site, become acquainted with reason's allies, including the sharp and critical Ophelia Benson.

-- in a later note, Victor, you sense that no one here is "really listening" and figure some folks' takeaway was "bla bla bla." Maybe.

Rather, I just like when an argument fully engages a target. I like your further comments in which you give examples, and grapple with the argument and implications of those "modern intellectuals." Thanks for the phrase about the McGill professor quoted in a news article re: a Rand chair.

How about we eschew the "They" rhetoric if we can't name and quote the danged "Thems" who deserve a takedown?

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Will,

The basic thrust of my argument is this: Today’s students do not learn the important ideas were discovered by Western intellectuals—such as free market economics, individualism, limited government, the role of reason in history. Students aren’t taught that western wealth has improved our lives dramatically, and that this wealth is the result of the fact that capitalism made it possible, and that the root cause of it all is human reason. The industrial Revolution proved that man’s survival and progress depend on science and technology. Ayn Rand, being the twentieth-century’s greatest champion of reason and individualism---this makes her an outsider among today’s intellectuals—collectivist intellectuals of the old Left [or the New Earth First Left variety] or the relgious right and even the Neo-cons. We are immersed in a world that prizes subjectivity, relativism, environmentalism, multiculturalism, altruism, statism—and a plethora of other “ism” with objectivism [Rand or or general philosophy wise] on the outside looking in. It is all around us.

Is this a reasonable summation or not? [granting all exceptions].

Did I not substantiate my argument? (And when I speak of “modern intellectuals” I grant that there are exceptions). I am speaking of the overall state.

Victor

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Will,  

The basic thrust of my argument is this: Today’s students do not learn the important ideas were discovered by Western intellectuals—such as free market economics, individualism, limited government, the role of reason in history. Students aren’t taught that western wealth has improved our lives dramatically, and that this wealth is the result of the fact that capitalism made it possible, and that the root cause of it all is human reason.  

[ . . . ]

(And when I speak of “modern intellectuals” I grant that there are exceptions). I am speaking of the overall state.

I read the original piece "The Hatred of Objectivism is the Hatred of objectivity." Its argument is plain: 'Modern intellectuals' are awful creatures (and they hate Objectivism by virtue of their hatred for objectivity)."

The piece asserts "They become a creature that does not want to live, a hater of man and of life" and "Needless to say, it is no wonder these creatures hate Ayn Rand and Objectivism."

I read its plain meaning: these creatures, 'the worse of today's intellectuals,' accept all the muck from schools/society/bad thought (which muck denies objectivity) -- thus mucked with, they hate life. Thus they hate Ayn Rand.

The argument notes "omewhere Ayn Rand wrote that all evil philosophies are systems of rationalization. The behavior of today’s intellectuals is proof."

-- now, as with Kevin, Saul and Robert, I want flesh on these bones. All these creatures, all this evul, I want a face, faces, names, identities on which we may fasten proper o-istic loathing.

Here's an example of a similarly-diffuse denunciation, by Diana Mertz Hsieh on her SOLO blog today; in this argument a lot of charges are flung about, but the charges are applied to a class of ThemFolk -- or more precisely, to smearing "'critics'" -- here's how it goes:

the common smears of principled, committed Objectivists as

hysterical, moralizing, unthinking, cultish Randroids typically

offered by many supporters of Nathaniel Branden, David Kelley, Chris

Sciabarra, and the like.

Here the argument takes a full-on plunge into THEY territory (emphasis added):

Based upon stories I've heard over the years, I suspect more than a

little projection -- and shame -- at work. Many such people once

swallowed Objectivism whole in a rather dogmatic way, then later

puked it up when it didn't sit so well with them. They probably

engaged in a great deal of "me-too" moralizing along the way. They

are deeply ashamed of this "Randroid" phase, so much so that they

cannot bear to examine it in the bright and honest light of reason.

Instead, like Nathaniel and Barbara Branden, they blame Objectivism

for that unpleasant time in their lives. They never consider whether

they ought to have chewed the philosophy a bit rather than

swallowing it whole. They never imagine that anyone might accept

Objectivist principles except by their own dogmatic methods. Or

rather, they refuse to consider and refuse to imagine that, since

doing so would require them to take responsibility for their past

dogmatism and moralizing, even if it was no more than an innocent

error.

The post paraphrases the actual 'smears' from THEM (redacted/paragraphed for ease of reading):

I have something of a personal stake in exposing the nature of these

kinds of smears, since I'm now a routine target of them. I don't

mind that much: mere insults don't even register with me these days,

except as a source of amusement. I'm more worried by the various

fabrications about me circulating in dank corners.

For example, that I must have some mysterious personal reasons for

breaking with David Kelley and Nathaniel Branden since I've never

bothered to explain any substantial philosophic reasons for doing

so;

that all my writings on the various false friends of Objectivism are

nothing more than frantic attempts to ingratiate myself with ARI;

that ARI and/or its associates demanded that I publicly denounce

Chris Sciabarra;

that I decided to live off the fat of the ARI hog TOC refused my

demands for money and a job (!!);

that I embraced the Objectivist orthodoxy because I couldn't handle

my own disturbing doubts about Objectivism raised in graduate

school;

that I baited Chris Sciabarra into giving me the name of the

particular ARI scholar (about whom he lied for years) for the first

time just recently;

that I left TOC due to petty sulking over cuts to my favorite

programs;

that I'm seething with hatred for homosexuals despite my clear

statements in "Dialectical Dishonesty";

that I'm unwilling to consider any philosophic issue unless

discussed by Ayn Rand since I accept Objectivism as a "closed

system";

that I'm the obedient slave of Linz Perigo (or vice versa); and so

on. Yes, those are all real-life examples.

No, these are not real-life examples, far from it -- these are all paraphrases, with no hope for the reader to actually examine the supposed smeary ugliness that poor Diana must suffer from THEM.

(She doesn't give one single reference to a real-life example from her rollcall of horror. This is weak, weak and unconvincing. Why not link to and expose the perfidy? Why take the time to summarize -- and likely consult the actual internet postings she is thinking of -- but not reference the reality of such bad behaviour?)

Victor, in regard to your piece, I don't say it has zero value. I say it would have greater value with names and quotes. Mine is a criticism, but a constructive one. I don't mean to take away anything from your argument. I merely hope you will add to it, add depth, add examples, add identities and behaviours and so on.

The same increased value would apply to the The Horrible Evul Them and Their LIES! argument of DMH above.

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Good Will is hunting!

You have reiterated my position pretty well. I was wondering if you also read my other article which is sort the sequel to The Hatred of Objectivism is the Hatred of Objectivity. In that, I cite the McGill University’s thumbs down on that Nazi Ayn Rand.

http://www.wheelerdesignworks.netfirms.com...topic.php?t=641

Did you read that?

Hostility in the schools:

Today’s humanities courses and philosophy departments are widely hostile to “Western values” and reason. This is easily verifiable as an overall phenomenon, so I don’t see that my not providing specific names from specific university’s across North America weakens my argument. But it can be done.

Let me ask you: Do you deny that the popular intellectual trends of today---relativism in ethics, statism in politics, multiculturalism and environmentalism in cultural affairs and altruism in foreign policy [hell, altruism in politics and ethics, too] are not all around us? Maybe a little research will shed light on the fact—not my opinion—but the fact that reason and individualism are not poplar. There is a down right hostility to it. Is this what you disagree with?

If so...

what are your views on current intellectual trends in the university’s--and the cultural at large? All this fussing over the word “they” that you make—as if it invalidates my argument---leaves this question: since you seem to disagree with the central thrust of my article, what do you say is the case? Would you argue that Objectivism or objectivity has the floor in Academia? I say it doesn’t. And you don’t need to hunt down specific names of certain people to know this!

There are also my own personal experiences that I touch on in the new article. The students that I encountered where veritable cliché-riddled puppets of common left-wing and right-wing bromides---students who yet were to read Marx, Hegel or Kant, et al—but who nevertheless made casual statements that rung of these philosopher's positions. The students were text-book examples of Rand’s “Philosophy: Who needs it.” It was amazing to behold.

Then there is the case of the TA [i didn't get his name] who stood up during a guest appearance lecture from Gary Hull and saluted: “Hail! Hail!” The TA’s problem with Objectivism’s was its position in metaphysics [facts are facts-existence exists]: it that it excludes other “truths” and thus Gary Hull [and presumably his ilk] are “metaphysical dictators".

Yes, I call this a hatred for objectivity. The fact of the matter, Will, this this guy is not unique. I experience and hear of reports and examples like this all the time.

Then there is the University of Toronto’s Objectivist club. The hostility was such, that the editor, Laura Brent, of the campus newspaper—The New Intellectual—felt compelled to issue the following admonition.

“This issue expresses the views of the University of Toronto Objectivists Club regarding the events of September 11. These views, which are based on the philosophy of Ayn Rand, are fundamentally opposed to the ideas of the majority: we uphold the supremacy of reason, individual rights and capitalism…if you agree with these ideas, demonstrate your support…if you disagree with us, you are free to voice your objections as loudly and as often as you wish…if you attempt to use force against any of us [there had been threats of force and actual fist fights], be warned that we will not stand idly by.”

[All italics mine in above quote]. I'm sorry, Will. If I had the names of all those who issued threats, I would have advanced them. I didn't know I would be called on it so many years later. I suppose the editor's claim that "...These views, which are based on the philosophy of Ayn Rand, are fundamentally opposed to the ideas of the majority: we uphold the supremacy of reason, individual rights and capitalism" rubs you the wrong way. Why didn't she provide all the names of this majority?

Golly, who is she talking about? Only nobody felt inspired to challenge that part of her writing--just all claims to objectivity. That's what bothers people, you see.

Hostility in the Arts

What’s more, I also recall seeing a play, here in Toronto, by Sky Gilbert called “The Emotionalists.” It was a three-act play that focused on Rand's affair with Branden. This play was a hatchet job of screw-ball comedy and hostility. It reduced Rand to a rip-roaring clinging-vine caricature that had the audience laughing at Rand. Ah, that Rand...what a sad person!The 'hostile' part, Will, was the sub-text of the play: it consisted of trying to convey Objectivism as just another “species of subjectivity” and that, ultimately, Rand was just another “emotionalist”—just like all of us other clay-of-feet mortals.

One reviewer wrote:

I read the play quickly, interested to find out how the characters would be portrayed. On the whole, although I found it worth reading, I was a bit disappointed. The author gets across his beef with Rand's corrosive philosophy and his view of her as a shrill, hypocritical egotist, a bit too unrelentingly to allow her character much scope. One wonders why the people in her circle remain enthralled. Perhaps it is a case of taking the mystique of the historical character too much for granted, and therefore failing to set up the false idol in a convincing way, for the reader, before pulling it down.

[bolds mine] Interesting, huh? [Oh, sorry, did you want the name of the reviewer?] You see, we all construct our own realities, and metaphysics is nothing more than a canvas--and our subjectivity is the colors in which to fashion our own personal subjective truths. That was the moral of the story. [in the program material, it acknowledges Barbara Branden’s bio; no bashing here, that was the fact].

Closing:

William, let’s try to clear this up, huh? What—specifically—is the thorn in your paw when it comes to my article? That I don’t provide a laundry list of specific names of people? Is that it? [Do you also want their email addresses and telephone numbers?]

Seriously, you say my article doesn’t have zero value to it. Wonderful! What parts do you agree with and would commend as accurate? Will, please tell me where we are on the same page. That would be great. I think we'll have a most interesting conversation if we first establish our common ground.

-Victor-

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Victor, you wrote:

What’s more, I also recall seeing a play, here in Toronto, by Sky Gilbert called “The Emotionalists.” It was a three-act play that focused on Rand's affair with Branden. This play was a hatchet job of screw-ball comedy and hostility. It reduced Rand to a rip-roaring clinging-vine caricature that had the audience in stenches.

Victor, something about that comment doesn't smell right. :-)

REB

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Roger,

Doesn't smell right? What? The play didn't smell right. When I was watching it, I was thinking 'Why did I pay $25 bucks to see this?'

It was truly horrible by anyone's standards.

From the review...Rand's "corrosive philosophy"...how does that remark smell?

[edit: strike that, I see the type-o.] ;)

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Heya Victor,

I, of course, do not presume to speak for William, but seeing as there are several of us having similar trouble with your article and seeing as you're getting farther from the issue and not closer, by my lights, I have this to say:

I don't believe anyone is asking for a laundry list (I don't believe that you truly believe William is--it doesn't help the communication process to willfully misrepresent the other person's argument when you don't like it). I don't think anyone's saying that your argument, per se, is wrong or illegitimate even. What I think William was getting at, and what he very eloquently and no less logically set forth--and what I definitely believe--is that your article adds nothing new to a rant that's as old as Objectivism itself.

Why simply repeat Rand's thoughts? Sooooooo many Oists are content with doing just that, I know--and if that's your goal, great! You did it! But OL is singularly concerned with personal creativity, which means making a personal contribution to the culture and the living discourse. I may be missing something, but do you truly think you're adding anything to the discourse with the article in question?

Giving examples, bringing the article closer to you as a living, breathing person will make the piece stronger. I'm talking as a fellow writer here. Michael Kelly's genius (Kat's too!) in creating this board was putting the focus squarely on creativity. The focus here is not so much on being right (which, I think, is the focus of your article and the focus of a lot of Objectivists full stop) so much as being good (good in a dual sense, good morally and good aesthetically within the context of Objectivism).

So, in my not particularly humble opinion, your article is "right" but it is not very "good." I'm not setting up a dichotomy, I'm not talking about right vs. good, style over substance. I'm talking about capital "A" Art. Some art is good and wrong; some other art is bad but none the less proceeds from solid premises. The art we all want is both good and right in the same moment.

Objectivism is a fascinating subject to me; on the one hand there's all this emphasis on context and specificity, and on the other hand, objectivists really seem to love making broad context-free generalizations about every damn thing! I'm learning that the context, in the best such cases, is fully understood by others in the Oist community. But in a lot of cases, the context is far more nebulous. One thing's for sure: specificity and solidly implying context are hallmarks of good writing.

There's a lot of real benevolence on this board, if you look for it. People here really want others to succeed, excel and thrive. I wish you and your writing only the best!

-Kevin

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Victor,

Your article is, as I believe Kevin pointed out, a restating, yes indeedy.

And that's OK. It is a restating of the common classic frustration that a lot of people have experienced when swimming in the intellectual and academic waters.

There are, and there will always be, people like you described. This is simply a given. I don't need to know who they are until I cross paths with them. In my case, if we're talking about the ones residing within the academic community, I wish I could do something about them but that is not the work I do; I'm not sure who does that work. It's a damn shame that these sort are in a position to influence younger, sponge-like minds, but, have a little faith. It really isn't that easy to pull the wool over the eyes of very many college kids; at least here in the U.S. That is because we are booyah super-materialists, super capitalists- we want our success and we want money to buy our shit, and no collectivist or commie or whatever prof is going to get a significant piece of that. It's because capitalism is that fucking good.

In business, the irrational basically get cut down in time, so I don't worry much about that, either.

In politics, the collectivist-types? Well, I don't believe that there is a great deal of sincerity in high-level politics on either side of the spectrum, because there are so many deeper, hidden agendas in play. And, even so, if you run into someone whose politics give you the irrational willies, you can go activist, join up, and see if you can help keep their sorry ass out of office.

If it's just a pure intellectual that's like what you describe, well, fuck 'em, because for the most part I don't ever see them doing/producing/prime moving. Mostly, from what I've ever seen out of 'em,they just rattle on with other intellectual types while the rest of us go to work. I don't have a disdain for intellectuals, other than the lazy slug hanger-onner types; especially the ones that are good at grant-writing. Oh well...

I just don't find the current threat nearly how Ayn described it being back then. I'm more worried about terrorists and fundamentalist whack jobs (of all kinds including fundie Christians). Most of us like our money and our power too much, even if we can't spell epistemology. You don't need to- you just need to practice the basic values that the founding fathers (U.S.) established, and you're pretty much good to go.

Victor, I do understand when people write articles like yours. I've written them myself, in the past. But honestly, speaking to purpose- can you idenifty a productive purpose for writing it? What will it do? Remember, where you place it, you are preaching to the choir, anyway.

Best,

Rich E.

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Hi Rich,

I will respond to your feed-back and Kevin's. I'm a little busy now. But I will say this mush: I appreciate what you are saying...and I agree with some of, but not all of it. And I will not be using OL as a "debate forum"; with my articles I thought I was offering information that might be interesting. The theme of "The Hatred of..." IS all too clear to me and I don't consider it debate-worthy. They are my observations and experiecnes and I communicate both with honesty.

One more thing, I quote you below:

But honestly, speaking to purpose- can you idenifty a productive purpose for writing it? What will it do? Remember, where you place it, you are preaching to the choir, anyway.

And I place that quote from a MSK quote:

"Victor, I rarely see anyone coming down hard on Rand. The ones who do that the

most - from what I have seen so far - are ex-Objectivists, rarely

intellectuals of other schools of thought who were never Objectivists.

Once in a while one will pop up, but this is so rare as to stand out when

it happens."

Or this quote from Kevin:

But have you ever thought seriously about "hate?" You say that "modern intellectuals" have a "deep hatred" of Ayn Rand (you go on to say that it's a greater hatred than that they reserve for Hitler--um...I'd love to know where you found that "fact;" most intellectuals that I've known--and I've known my share--barely know Ayn Rand ever existed).

#-o

I suppose MSK and Kevin missed choir practice that day! :D

Victor

ps

Given my sense of humor and appreciation for irony, I had to do it. :-&

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One more thing:

I quote William: "...now, as with Kevin, Saul and Robert, I want flesh on these bones. All these creatures, all this evul, I want a face, faces, names, identities on which we may fasten proper o-istic loathing."

And now I quote Kevin: "I don't believe anyone is asking for a laundry list [of names] (I don't believe that you truly believe William is--it doesn't help the communication process to willfully misrepresent the other person's argument when you don't like it)." [Did I do that!?] 8-[

Gentlemen, I want you to know this: In my posting of these apparent contradictions and incongruent quotes among different individualists—I’m not displaying any “Big O-rage.” It’s rather fun and enlightening.

Having said that, I don’t think my article is a “given.” Views seem to differ even here. However, while it is true that this post is rather polemist-like in tone, I can assure you that my contributions have been [and will be] varied and interesting. The best is still to come. I think I'm a valuable member; it's only been a few days. It’s all good! (as they say).

Victor :D

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