Thursday, March 27, 2014

More On Ayn Rand

Recently I did a post about Rachel Maddow lying about Ayn Rand (she tends to lie about everybody, of course — she's a leftist), and a basic thing about the Rand controversy struck me: A lot of people dislike Ayn Rand for the wrong reasons. Reasons to dislike her include:

1. She had the curse of omniscience. She thought she knew everything.
2. Related to #1, she didn't want to hear what anybody else had to say, and regarded all criticism of her as some kind of attack on reason itself. This is a leftist habit that maybe she picked up in Russia, and it's a shame to see a non-leftist indulging in it.
3. She surrounded herself with a gaggle of sycophants and acted like a cult leader or a North Korean interrogator, blessing or condemning her followers according to whims disguised as objective criticism.
4. She got her principles mixed up with her taste. That's easy to do, but most of us are aware that it's a danger, so we try to avoid it. Rand, on the other hand, seemed to think she didn't have such weaknesses, so she made very silly statements about smoking, tap dancing, and the realtive worth of various other cultural things. If I were like Rand, I'd turn my taste for Japanese cartoons (like Rika up there) into some kind of statement about some deep philosophical principle involved in them. I won't, because I know I like them because they're cute and clever, not because they illustrate some kind of ideological underpinning of something refined and exalted.
5. When she felt like doing something immoral, like having love affairs, she dressed it all up as though she was doing something noble.
6. She didn't know a damn thing about religion, so she condemned it, every bit of it, out of hand.
7. She was, evidently, a scientific ignoramus, kind of like Limbaugh, so she condemned sociobiology, one of the greatest scientific conceptions of our time.

So if she annoys you because of those things, fine. She annoys me. But don't let her defects blind you to her virtues. She made about as good an argument as can be made for the value of free-market capitalism. She detached religion from morality — probably because she disliked religion, but still — and showed that for many people at least, it isn't necessary to live an admirable life. Most importantly, she showed how fake altruism (although she just called it "altruism") was corrosive and, to use her term, "anti-life." She popularized the term "enlightened self-interest," although she didn't originate it, and that is one of the handiest ideas in the world.

I read Rand like I read Heinlein, soaking up the good parts, and ignoring the silly parts. You should do that too.
Quibcag: That's our old pal cutie-pie Rika Shiguma (志熊 理科) again, from Haganai (はがない), who certainly looks like a productive person in her little lab coat, there.


  1. Love affair{{s}}? How many?

    She knew plenty about religion and did not condemn it out of hand. She praised it, famously, for being at least a start of valuing the human individual soul. Then, she condemned it specifically for its most grievous faults and atrocities.

    I won't bother touching your other opinions, although they are all dubious.

    1. She believed in the _soul_? Tell me more! Fascinating.

    2. Now, Baloo, be nice! But I, too, am surprised to hear that she praised religion at all. _All_ my opinions are dubious? Wow! That's what I usually get from lefties and other true believers.

  2. You didn't go very deep if you don't know about Ayn Rand giving Western Religion credit for at least valuing and protecting the human individual soul. I use that word purposefully. Not the "god-given supernatural mystical" soul as in dualism, but rather as in "man is a creature of self-made soul." She claimed that religion was a primitive form of groping for the self-made soul.

    " ... as man is a being of self-made wealth, so he is a being of self-made soul—that to live requires a sense of self-value, but man, who has no automatic values, has no automatic sense of self-esteem and must earn it by shaping his soul in the image of his moral ideal, in the image of Man, the rational being he is born able to create, but must create by choice ..." Ayn Rand

    All the ones posted here about Rand are dubious. I am not commenting about any other.

  3. Ayn Rand definitely believed in the soul. Just that it wasn't supernatural.

    As for points 1-7, yeah dubious is a kind word. I've met personally some of the "sycophants". Anything but, and good people besides. Going to say it's safe to say you didn't actually know her so if you're going to hang a lot on a couple of books written after the woman had died by people who'd been kicked out of her life you might read James S. Valiants The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics which, among other things, compares what Rand was writing in her private journals to what the Brandens where claiming.

  4. I cannot exceed Michael Prescott's analysis of Rand.

    Prescott was a devotee for years. He turned against his former opinions and wrote several devastating critiques.

    I may have missed a few, but some important ones are at:

    1. Thanks for the links.

  5. To understand where Rand was coming from, you have to keep in mind two things:

    1) She escaped by the skin of her teeth from one of the most ruthless dictatorships in human history, only to find, to her utter shock, that all the fashionable intellectuals fortunate enough not to live under that dictatorship were praising it fulsomely, and shouting down its critics.

    2) She was a woman at a time when women mostly didn't write or talk about a lot of the things she wanted to discuss.