Object Lesson

Friday, May 09, 2008

Transcript

Think you know reality? Ayn Rand did, and through her novels and nonfiction she gave legions of followers a practical philosophy by which to live. Brooke looks at the enduring legacy of the original Objectivist.

Comments [49]

azulprofundo

...continued....

This explains why Objectivism is so hard for most people to accept or practice. Evolution and environment have naturally given priority to people's emotions, a priority based not on logic, but on reproductive success. Men rape women, even though they know they are violating the golden rule and ruining their entire lives; parents blow up at their children, even though they know that their anger will have no effect; adolescents play computer games all night, even though they know they could be running a business; people waste their time commenting articles, even though they know noone will listen. This nature, once fixed, is extremely difficult to alter after the age of 7. Many people are exposed thereafter to Objectivism, but do no have the emotional control to erradicate unnecessary emotions, such as compassion and irrational fear. As a result they revert to their natural state.

Does Objectivism give anyone purpose outside themselves? No. Is Rand a romantic novelist? Yes. But to be romantic is to be the happiest human one can possibly be. Such I think, is a philosophy for the ages.

Dec. 06 2008 02:30 PM
azulprofundo

After listening to the program and reading every comment, I was sdurprise to find that not one person brought up the philosophical bases from which Rand derives her ideas, nor tried to refute them. I derived many of Rand's ideas even before I read her works: I realized that my own survival and happiness is all that is relevant to me; survival, because I cannot experience happiness or wonder or any pleasurable emotion whatsoever in death, and happiness, because, a priori , positive emotion must be the final end of every action I undertake.

Every major drive that humans posses is tied to obtaining positive emotions, and avoiding negative ones: The drives to have sex, to bond with our children, to love our partners, to eat, to drink, to interact and bond with other humans, to breathe if breathing is restricted, to find warmth or coolness, to find safety, to feel compassion, and, most importantly, to thirst for knowledge. Objectivism is merely an prioritization of human emotions, based on how some logically affect or exclude others, i.e., one may feel compassion for a drowning man, but if one does not love this man, and would significantly endanger one's own life to save him, then one would be risking all happiness forever for the possibility of some happiness now. I find this logically inconsistent, and so does Rand. However, Objectivism should not be thought of as "Rand's philosophy," but rather as that philosophy which is most logically consistent, whether propounded by Rand or someone else.

Dec. 06 2008 02:29 PM
Micheal E. Russell from TN

To be human is to be egomaniac. Are we not all self-focused? Are we not all afraid? (but only when it effect us) Do we not all read and write these comments to enjoy the tone of our own voices, the credibility of our own intellect? Even created in the image of God who himself declares himself a jealous God; are his children to be any different, craving absolute adoration?

Oct. 25 2008 07:08 AM
Joyfulchap from Corte Madera, CA

[45]
Posted by: Neil Fazel May 24, 2008 - 02:36PM
Manhattan

Hmm, so if someone was masochistic and wanted to be abused, then you would go ahead and abuse them?
---------------------------------------------------------

I think you may have missed the second part of the statement..."as long as it does not sacrifice your self."

Jun. 18 2008 08:44 AM
Neil Fazel from Manhattan

"I am nothing more than a reader of Rand, but I suspect she would be more a subscriber of the platinum rule - treat others the way they want to be treated - and would add - as long as it does not sacrifice your self."

Hmm, so if someone was masochistic and wanted to be abused, then you would go ahead and abuse them?

May. 24 2008 02:36 PM
Ed Kless from Dallas, TX

@Julie Baxter, post 35 - "How about 'Treat others as you would like to be treated.' You know, the Golden Rule. Is that so hard?"

The problem with Golden Rule is it presupposes that others what to be treated the way you do. What if they don't?

I am nothing more than a reader of Rand, but I suspect she would be more a subscriber of the platinum rule - treat others the way they want to be treated - and would add - as long as it does not sacrifice your self.

On another note - some of the comments that equate the current government with objectivists are absurd. Washington DC could not be farther from Galt's Gultch.

May. 20 2008 11:31 AM
Dean Brooks from Vancouver, Canada

This strikes me as a standard NPR piece and a very typical treatment of Rand in the early 21st century. It is not egregiously or absurdly anti-Rand, something that was more common when I first read her thirty years ago. The open hatred and fear that often was present in early reviews is absent. Kent Strock's rejoinder that Rand is “in NO way” a philosopher, dismissing her books and ideas as contributing nothing, is more typical of that earlier era.

The piece suffers from the usual kind of journalistic attention deficit disorder. It supplies a grab-bag of supporters and critics in no particular order, first acknowledging that Rand exerts a fascination on many readers, then declaring that such fascination is juvenile and annoying; dwelling at some length on Rand's affair with Nathaniel Branden, but never listing her major works or offering a clear summary of her argument. It's a kind of gossipy radio stew with no definite conclusion, meant to provoke rather than explain.

I concede this is "balanced" writing -- that is, not hostile in intent or basic form. By the historical standard of Rand criticism, or the standard of talk radio, this is no worse than average. It is actually a sign of Rand's continuing progress in the culture, that 26 years after her death, sales of her books are near an all-time high and media coverage of her, while still pretty unfocused, is increasingly routine.

May. 19 2008 01:45 AM
jeff hirschorn from New York City

....continued

Lets not forget that Cigarettes, Reality TV, McCarthyism and Leave It To Beaver "penetrated American cultural consciousness to a degree” where these tableaux are “short hands for an entire system of ideas" Yikes!!!! Let's not forget that Mao's little red book had a huge impact on China's political consciousness that doesn't mean it was great political thinking.

Not to give Rand that much credit or blame. I think her work was used by cynical men for unethical purposes more often then not. It's disheartening to think that some of them might have mistaken an excellent Romance novelist’s work as a basis for social political and economic philosophy. Men thinking with the intellectual maturity of high school students in puberty I suspect. Gillespie’s comments sharpen the focus on a distance he and Rand’s followers are too blind to see and yes blindness of mind can be a weakness. Not to worry; If Rand and her current followers need a Philosophy syllabus I can e-mail it to them. I feel charitable today!!

May. 18 2008 08:43 PM
jeff hirschorn from New York City

Amy Benfer's comments about Rand and her pseudo philosophy were insightful. Like Amy I became a brief acolyte of Rand in high school. She's a fun read for a teenager. Upon entering my first college philosophy class I was aghast that Rand was not on the syllabus. When I approached my professor about this obvious error he tapped me on the head and smiled with gentle condescension. "Ayn Rand" he said "is not a philosopher she is a Romance Novelist. Her ideas he proffered are "poorly" synthesized from the dialogue of ideas of the philosophers you will learn about in this intro class. Needless to say I quickly discovered how right he was and never looked back.
What's sad, is that too many men who have had a great impact on our society and our political and economic system (Ronald Reagan and Alan Greenspan) to name two remained Acolytes of Rand's naive vision. It is not so much a tribute to her great authorship that she has “penetrated the American cultural consciousness” as Nick Gillespie claims but a sad commentary on American cultural consciousness. Many of the effects for worse not better are obvious in our society today. The twisted remnants of the Reaganomics offered up by George Bush come to mind.

continued....

May. 18 2008 08:42 PM
Robert E. Milenberg

In response to Michael E. Russell in post 21,
1)"Objectivism . . . fails to see the individual in full context, as a connected, integral part of the world, . . ."
The metaphysical connection between individual and the world is the law of causality, the political connecntion between the individual and other individuals are the principles of individual rights. This is plainly presented in Rand work.
2)"Rand's heroes advance technology and create great things, for their own purposes, but to what end?"
Life is the standard of moral value in Objectivism, and the ultimate end to which all actions lead. The relationship one bears to others in this respect is mutual self betterment through trade, and thus the mutual pursuit of the value of life.

May. 16 2008 03:07 PM
Robert E. Milenberg

In response to Mel in post 31
1) "Cult. Cult. Cult."
Objectivism advocates complete intellectual independence for the individual. Under Objectivist principles this means that each person must draw every conclusion he holds, choose every goal he pursues and every act he uses to pursue it through the independent use of his own mind. A cult is characterized by a charismatic leader who controlls the minds and behavior of his followers. Thus, Objectivism is not, and can never be, a cult.

May. 16 2008 02:54 PM
Robert E. Milenberg

In response to the first post by Kent Strock
1)"Whenever Rand is discussed strong emotions are going to reign, which speaks much to the limits of her work."
Strong emotions, or weak ones, reign only in the mind of an irrational person, and this speaks only to the moral failure of those who allow it.
2)"She batted around ideas in novels, but is no way a philosopher . . ."
Rand wrote a number of non-fiction treatises in which she explains the abstract details of her philosophy, showing the derivation of man's need for a moral code, the virtues which follow from man's nature, the metaphysical and epistemological basis of it and them, and their application to political philosophy and art, laying down principles of a complete philosphy of life. This clearly qualifies her as a philosopher.
3)"No self-respecting philosopher would teach a class or go to her for challenging thought."
True, no self-respecting philosopher, at least in academia as far as I know, has ever taught a class, and if the creation of a philosophy which is diametrically opposed to every school of philosophical thought, past and presented, is not a source of challenging ideas then I would have to wonder what you think would be.
Given the extent of your ignorance and the paltriness of your thought, if you were to have challenged Rand she would have dissected you like a frog.

May. 16 2008 02:37 PM
Robert E. Milenberg

Here, a cursory explanation of basic fundamentals of Objectivism was presented, as was only possible in the short space of 15 minutes, the antirationals were given their chance to criticize, and Nick Gillispie's response that " . . . attacks on them [Rand's novels] are swipes by people who would rather not seriously engage her ideas," justly and correctly swept them aside. I would judge this show to be a very brief, but balanced and fair treatment of Rand.

May. 16 2008 02:14 PM
Roger MacInness

If you honestly want to know if Ayn Rand has anything valid to say, go to www.aynrandlexicon.com. Click on any letter, read what she has to say on any word or phrase located there that interests you. If you don't want to read her books after that, I don't know what more to tell you.

May. 15 2008 01:14 PM
Julie Baxter from Austin, Texas

"Objectivism taught me how to value other people in the proper context, in the only way that allows for both self-respect AND respect for the rights of others."

How about "Treat others as you would like to be treated." You know, the Golden Rule. Is that so hard?

May. 14 2008 11:08 AM
Charles T. from Florida

What a surprise: an NPR comments forum is a hotbed for critics of Ayn Rand.

To anyone reading these comments who isn't familiar with Rand's ideas and who doesn't happen to already be dedicated or predisposed to Leftist, collectivist, anti-individual ideologies: please keep in mind the bias of these critics when you read their malicious, ill-informed attacks on Rand. They fear her ideas because they know the power of those ideas to set you free from their influence, so they will lie to you about them.

Objectivism taught me how to value other people in the proper context, in the only way that allows for both self-respect AND respect for the rights of others. The Leftists (and "Rightists" too) will require you to disregard one or the other, or both.

Read some Rand, and decide for yourself. There are objective principles that can guide you through your life, providing you with integrity and dignity, and they don't require you to be "heartless" or cruel to anyone, including yourself.

May. 14 2008 08:26 AM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

I never had a problem with Rand. Her unrelenting emphasis on the individual helped inform my reluctance to ascribe to the violent revolutionary fever of the late ’60s and early to mid-‘70s, yet never excused me from facing the stringently unfair history of slavery within our capitalist system. Even now it is being exposed much more extensively by Douglas Blackmon in his “Slavery by Another Name”.

It never struck me as a conflict to seek what was best for me while still seeking the best for others. I see nothing amiss with Warren Buffet’s or Bill and Melinda Gates’ philanthropy. If Ms. Rand inspired a few like that, more power to her.

Others, who choose to listen to her too literally, have missed the moral of the story of her life, about which I have Helen Miren and Christopher Menaul with their “The Passion of Ayn Rand” to thank for illuminating. Of course, even Bill Buckley had a few choice words about her.

May. 13 2008 11:09 PM
Steve Maggi from Austin, TX

The "objectivists" (how Orwell would be proud of such word twisting) are forgetting the opening element of the piece, banker John Allison has to peddle grants to get universities to "teach" Atlas Shrugged—Rand's bloated screed and a frequent fig-leaf defense CEOs use for their greed.

Rand is a poor-man's Nietzsche at best and will be relegated to the trash bin with Hubbard, Erhard, and Kristol.

May. 13 2008 11:05 PM
Mel from columbia, SC

Shallow. Shallow. Shallow.

That applies to the interview.

That applies to Any Rand.

Cult. Cult. Cult.

Well, I'm not 100% sure if that applies to NPR in these days when they have dumped the real news people and are subsidized by hamburger. But, it does apply to the Randians.

It is an alluring kind of cult. I saw it in college. People who are not sure of themselves need something like that.

May. 13 2008 05:51 PM
Julie Baxter from Austin, Texas

"completely neglect Ayn Rand's books"

What? You're forgetting that lovely rape scene!

Which is a pretty apt metaphor to describe what Rand's followers in the current maladministration have done to America.

May. 13 2008 03:50 PM
Matt from West Lafayette, Indiana

Brooke,
How did you decide at what point in the story to completely neglect Ayn Rand's books and what people have to say about her books in favor of the intellectual denigration of all information previously presented? No really, how do you make these decisions? Halfway? After two, three, or four clips from supporters?
As a regular listener I am interested to hear your response.
Matt

May. 13 2008 03:33 PM
Greg from USA

"The effort to try to live up to her impossible standard will practically guarantee to make the Objectivist aspirant often anxious and hostile, as the behavior of many self-professed Objectivists demonstrates."

Care to provide any actual examples?

Didn't think so.

May. 13 2008 11:23 AM
Julie Baxter from Austin, Texas

"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. "

--John Kenneth Galbraith

May. 13 2008 09:51 AM
Kenneth Koff from Los Angeles, CA

For decades America's intellectuals, university professors, pundits, and, yes, smarmy radio commentators have unsuccessfully tried to trash Ayn Rand her beliefs, and her novels. They usually quote her out of context, attribute grossly distorted ideas to her, and often slip in half-baked assumptions when, with unconcealed contempt, they spew venom and hatred for this brilliant and uncomprising genius.

May. 13 2008 02:19 AM
Mark Plus from Mayer, AZ, USA, Earth

As one of the other posters mentioned, the late psychotherapist Albert Ellis published a critique of Ayn Rand's ideas back in 1968 titled "Is Objectivism a Religion?" Ellis answered in the affirmative because Rand taught empirically indefensible ideas about "human nature." The effort to try to live up to her impossible standard will practically guarantee to make the Objectivist aspirant often anxious and hostile, as the behavior of many self-professed Objectivists demonstrates. Ellis by contrast emphasized a radical acceptance of human imperfection and fallibility, which provides a better foundation for building a relatively enjoyable life based on realistic expectations.

May. 12 2008 05:45 PM
C. Jeffery Small from Mercer Island, WA

I think the true nature of this piece is fully summed up in the commentator's closing comment:

"There's a lot to be said for the consolation of philosophy."

It is not surprising that Rand's views on various issues and the comprehensive nature of her philosophy are misunderstood and/or misrepresented in this report. But what is always appalling in what is purported to be journalism, is the substitution of wisecracks like the one quoted above for meaningful analysis. Taken out of a fuller context and understanding of her views on life, I'll grant that the statement by Rand on the nature of death quoted from the Donahue show are confusing. However, it is the job of the journalist to investigate a subject in as much depth as required in order to present to their audience a truthful understanding of that on which they are reporting. Instead, this throw-away comment tries to bolster, through implication only, the main thesis that Rand was irrational and therefore not worthy of further consideration. There are other examples of this technique used throughout the piece.

My recommendation to anyone reading this who is unfamiliar with Rand's fiction and non-fiction writings is to acquaint yourselves with these works and then draw your own conclusions. I suspect that most people with an independent mind will come away with an opinion of her abilities as both a novelist and a philosopher quite different from that implied in this report.

May. 12 2008 01:58 PM
Guy Barnett from Hamilton, ON

The raido program mentions that Ron Paul, a libertarian, is a supporter of Ayn Rand's ideas. Rand was staunchly opposed to libertarianism. Rand's philosophy, Objectivism, should not be equated with libertarianism, as they are two very different things. If you are interested in learning more about Rand's ideas, please read her for youself and check out: www.aynrand.org

P.S. For those that dismiss Rand's philosophy, please read her non-fiction book "Introduction to Objectivist Espistemology".

May. 12 2008 01:48 PM
Michael E. Russell from San Diego, CA

(continued from last post...)
Objectivism rightly glorifies the value of the individual, but it fails to see the individual in full context, as a connected, integral part of the world, and thus it defines freedom with too limited scope. Without completing the circle, Rand fails to produce any meaning. Her philosophy frees the individual from the tyranny of the other, but falls short of providing us with the motivation for living.

True, love may be as Rand Says, the clear admiration of quality in another, but only if that admiration is reflected, consensual, and honest, and that kind of love requires that we value the other as an equal to ourselves. Taken to its logical end, that kind of recognition of equality must eventually spread across the entire species, as relationships between loved-ones extend.

In unnecessarily limiting the definition of the SELF, Rand's heros create great things and advance technology for their own purposes, but to what end? Without any direction or connection to others, their efforts become as mortal and as meaningless as they themselves, just like todays CEO's.

May. 12 2008 09:45 AM
Michael E. Russell from San Diego, CA

(continued from last post ...)

Objectivism rightly glorifies the value of the individual, but it fails to see the individual in full context, as a connected, integral part of the world, and thus it defines freedom with too limited scope. Without completing the circle, Rand fails to produce any meaning. Her philosophy frees the individual from the tyranny of the other, but falls short of providing us with the motivation for living.

True, love may be as Rand Says, the clear admiration of quality in another, but only if that admiration is reflected, consensual, and honest, and that kind of love requires that we value the other as an equal to ourselves. Taken to its logical end, that kind of recognition of equality must eventually spread across the entire species, as relationships between loved-ones extend.

In unnecessarily limiting the definition of the SELF, Rand's heros create great things and advance technology for their own purposes, but to what end? Without any direction or connection to others, their efforts become as mortal and as meaningless as they themselves, just like todays CEO's.

May. 12 2008 09:43 AM
Michael E. Russell from San Diego, CA

Second, the Philosophy of Objectivism is insufficient. Rand successfully argues for the freedom of the individual, but never advances any argument about the underlying reasons WHY a person should exist, or HOW they should use their unlimited freedom, nor does she understand any underlying connections one may have to the universe. Solipsism, the concept that you're the only being in the universe, is also logically sound.

I think Rand is right about most things, even though she couldn't live up to her own philosophy. Western societies are built on the foundations of individualism. One should never subvert one's sacred freedoms.

(continued next post...)

May. 12 2008 09:43 AM
Michael E. Russell from San Diego, CA

After many years of study, I came to the conclusion that Rand's Objectivism, although valid and a logically sound understanding of parts of human nature, is fatally flawed on two accounts.

First, although rationalists are correct that reason alone is the best way to find 'objective' (or inter-subjective) truth, they fail to examine the foundations of their own FAITH IN REASON and admit the fundamental fact that any epistemic community is based on an irrational leap. ALL forms of knowledge are essentially built on irrational foundations, as if building 'Castles in the sky'. For Objective Rationalists this rises to a mater of hypocrisy. One should not claim the overwhelming power of 'objective reason' on the lie that it is somehow ultimately rational. This key point escapes most people with only a shallow understanding of Philosophy and Rand's Objectivism, and I can excuse the ignorance of their actions, as it may be due to limited education and/or intellectual ability and not technically an ethical flaw. Unfortunately, I fear that the deeper understanding of the nature of epistemic truths will continue to escape the majority of humanity, and therefor I see no immediate end to the very sins of unjust greed Rand preached against.

(continued next post...)

May. 12 2008 09:42 AM
Jim Buckley from Bothell Washington

Evolutionary psychology and evolutionary biology have lots to say about altruism and selfishness. Some of you might want to check them out. Much of Ayn Rands' philosophies have some root in empirical data being collected right now by pioneers in the scientific field.
Regards,
Jim

May. 11 2008 10:42 PM
Alfred Centauri

Chari Kolp said:

"Ayn Rand's "philosophy" may be all right with the selfish, egotistical and ruthless individuals in our midst, but it is not a beneficial doctrine for society as a whole."

Chari, do look up the difference between egoist and egotist, please: http://philosophy.lander.edu/ethics/ethical_ego.html

Chari Kolp continued:

"For several years, nay, decades, this country had been misgoverned and badly administered by people who obviously share Rand's values. Enron, the Katrina disaster and Countrywide are just three examples."

According the Rand, the principal moral virtues to guide our life are:

Rationality, Honesty, Independence, Justice, Integrity, Productiveness, and Pride

And you believe that such values are shared by those that have misgoverned for decades? That seems quite odd to me. I think the only reasonable conclusion is that they _don't_ share these values. I'm curious, why would you think otherwise?

May. 11 2008 10:14 PM
Gideon Reich from Aliso Viejo, California

It is certainly true that many young people get enamored by Ayn Rand's ideas in their late teen and then for various reasons abandon them. I was one of these young people. However, unlike others, I have returned to them.

Rather than talk about people who supposedly "outgrow" her ideas, you should consider the possibility that Objectivism is a philosophy that, while easy to sympathize with on a superficial level, is in fact quite challenging to put into practice and thus, sadly many people fail to live up to it and abandon it for easier alternatives such as going along with the altruist or pragmatist crowd.

Yet, unlike the alternatives her ideas are true, right and practical. In the end, each person has to decide for themselves whether Ayn Rand was right and what he or she should do about it. The only way to do that is to read and carefully consider her ideas in her novels and nonfiction. Also there are now even more accessible shorter presentations of her ideas such as Craig Biddle's Loving Life. For many other resources, including the application of her ideas to current events see the Ayn Rand Institute (http://www.aynrand.org).

May. 11 2008 09:29 PM
Fred Groh

The discussion of Rand’s ideas, such as it is, centers on remarks about a love affair in which Rand was involved. I gather we are to conclude from this source’s remarks that Rand’s philosophy is both morally odd (or worse) and unlivable.
There is nothing wrong with judging a philosopher by his private conduct with other people, provided you know the nuances and complexities of his real-life relationships with those people, which the source gives no evidence of knowing in Rand’s case. He provides no evidence that she lived a private life of “turbulent unreason” or that her “vaunted reason” “went out the window” at the end of the relationship. A journal kept by Rand in connection with the relationship, examined in “The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics” by James Valliant, shows she lived the life of reason she advocated, even through the difficult ending of that relationship.
There is a difference between the soundness of a philosophy and the fidelity with which a given person lives it, including the person who originates it, because the failure may lie in circumstances the philosophy does not encompass. No one thinks Christianity presents an unsound morality because there are professed Christians who lapse in abiding by it, including Christians in religious orders. The testimony of those who knew her is that Rand never failed to practice what she preached, but even if she had, that would not be enough to show that Rand’s philosophy fails.

May. 11 2008 08:57 PM
Monica Hughes from Denver, CO

Another review of Tara's Smith's book may be found here:

http://www.theobjectivestandard.com/issues/2007-spring/egoism-explained.asp

While I think the first review is good, the one I've linked in this comment focuses a bit more on some of the commonplace misunderstandings of Objectivist ethics.

May. 11 2008 08:30 PM
Monica Hughes from Denver, CO

An interesting piece. But -- pimply teenage boys? Come on, NPR, you can do better than that. :) I’m a 33 year old female that discovered Ayn Rand at 29, prefer her nonfiction, and even depart from some of her opinions. Imagine that! :) In any case, I have not yet encountered a cogent argument for the dismissal of Rand's actual ideas. Most of the objections offered above are simply strawmen, red herrings, or ad hominem attacks. For a great summary of the Objectivist ethics, try Tara Smith's recent book, entitled Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics. A review of the book may be read here: http://ndpr.nd.edu/review.cfm?id=8123

May. 11 2008 08:12 PM
Alissa Reeves from Knoxville Tennessee

I challenge anyone and everyone I can find to read "We the Living" AND "Atlas Shrugged" during this 2008 election year.
Compare the words of the socialist organizations, marxist meetings and liberal minds represented in these books to Barack Obama.
It is shocking and disturbing.

(small aside note: I do not find any of Ayn Rands plays, short stories, small novels or even Atlas Shrugged as a manifesto for egomaniacs. The Fountain Head, however, is a egomaniac parade- Howard Roark is disgusting.)

May. 11 2008 07:45 PM
Monica Hughes from Denver, CO

Steve Maggi --

Ben Stein?! You're kidding, right? I assume you're referring to Stein's recent crockumentary advocating Intelligent Design, but since you don't say so, I can't be sure. Perhaps you're not referring to this, I don't know. But if you are, I'd like to see some hard facts. And if not, some clarification.

Let me help you out with what Objectivists have *actually* had to say about Stein's film Expelled:

http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=17473&news_iv_ctrl=1221

http://www.ariarmstrong.com/2008/04/shermer-lockitch-flunk-expelled.html

http://www.ariarmstrong.com/2008/04/ben-steins-expelled.html

http://gusvanhorn.blogspot.com/2008/04/ben-steins-exposed.html

May. 11 2008 06:21 PM
Steve Maggi from Austin, TX

Mr. Reynolds,

I have accidently read Rand's nonsense under the assumption Atlas Shrugged was some obscure piece of literature, not a manifesto for egomaniacs.

It's also funny you defend her by saying read what she has to say, not listen to what she actually said when interviewed as this piece played nor how she actually behaved when she was alive.

Objectivism is a valid as Scientology and Intelligent Design. None can stand up to real scrutiny and their proponents prefer to avoid it which is why they go on the offensive instead with litigation, rote sayings and poorly made films starring Ben Stein.

May. 11 2008 05:03 PM
Trey Givens from New York, NY

Actually, contrary to some of the assertions made here and in this piece, Objectivism is receiving increasing attention in academia apart from grants from BB&T.

May. 11 2008 02:22 PM
Robert Reynolds from Houston, TX

I am always amused by the number of "experts" on Rand and philosophy that suddenly appear on internet comment forums, and at how casually they dismiss her life's work.

For anyone who is honest about considering ideas: read Rand's work. Read what she had to say and decide for yourself if she was correct -- Miss Rand wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

May. 11 2008 02:00 PM
JoshLev from NJ

Just like the Shakers the real disciples of Ayn Rand's brand of complete selfishness as godhead are dead or will be soon. Teaching and selfishness are opposites, of course.

May. 11 2008 12:55 PM
Chari Kolp from Clinton, Il

Ayn Rand's "philosophy" may be all right with the selfish, egotistical and ruthless individuals in our midst, but it is not a beneficial doctrine for society as a whole. For several years, nay, decades, this country had been misgoverned and badly administered by people who obviously share Rand's values. Enron, the Katrina disaster and Countrywide are just three examples.

May. 11 2008 12:26 PM
Steve Maggi from Austin, TX

Pronounced MAH-jee, like DiMaggio's name.

Brooke, good job busting the Rand apologist by using her own words (from an interview) to refute his nonsense.

Many of Rand's disciples tend to be much like her. Frustrated, mediocre hacks who also can't hold up their own so-called standards. She's just the Libertarian L Ron Hubbard. How fitting this show debuted on the 58th anniversary of Dianetics appearing.

May. 10 2008 10:22 AM
Neil Fazel from Manhattan

[continued from previous comment]

The reason Rand's books and philosophy remain popular are because she removes uncertainties from life and presents her followers with a black and while view of the world. One in which there is a unambiguous answer to everything; this answer could be found through reason. Even though that's not necessarily how the world really is, her philosophy provides a simplified view of life and makes it easy for its adherents to ignore the side effects of their actions and just do what's in their own immediate interest without much introspection and agony.

Rand grew up in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. She saw the horrors of communism. In typically Manichean fashion, she came up with the idea that if communism was bad, then capitalism was absolute good. She transformed her trauma into a philosophy and then a religion, one that has outlived its usefulness, because it encourage people to deny reality by basing their lives on the notion of rationality and the possibility of fully achieving it. Her followers tend to remain wedded to their beliefs despite evidence to the contrary (Aan Greenspan comes to mind), and this makes Objectivism not only a religion, but a dangerous religion.

May. 10 2008 10:17 AM
Neil Fazel from Manhattan

I discovered Rand when I was at grad school at the University of British Columbia. I grew up in Iran during the revolution and war and Rand's philosophy was a nice way of clearing my head of the religious non-sense I had picked when I was growing up. It worked up to a point; then I realized the gaping hole in Rand's philosophy.

Who said that rationality was even possible? Isn't there a large body of research documenting that we are irrational even when we pretend to be rational? (Dan Ariely's book, "Predictably Irrational", has even become a bestseller and it deals with this topic. A Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded to Daniel Kahneman for his work in behavioral finance, based on the notion that people are inherently irrational when making financial decisions.)

I was a member of the Objectivist Club at UBC. I tried to discuss my thoughts with my fellow club members and they didn't like it. When I insisted, they would refuse to discuss. That's when I realized that Rand's philosophy was another religion, one whose prophet was Ayne Rand, its gospels were Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, it St. Paul was Leonard Peikoff, its Judas was Nathaniel Branden, etc. (There is even an analysis of Rand's philosophy by Albert Ellis in the book "Is Objectivism a Religion?")

May. 10 2008 10:16 AM
David Rowe from Princeton, NJ

Well, I am not altogether sure what this has to do with media - good try with the connections to some movies that may get made. But good, critical piece!

Very often, ethical egoists argue that self-interest is the only philosophy that really respects the human being, that has a high regard for the integrity of individual human life. This was Rand, whose argument was “you only have one life to live; this life is extremely important. If you are altruistic you might be willing to sacrifice yourself for others, which diminishes the value of your own life. Altruism doesn’t allow the value of other human beings." The idea is that Egoism sees every human life as having ultimate value; thus what you do in the name of yourself is both the most honest and humanistic thing you can do. As I think Brooke points out, people like this because it seems to say it’s okay to look out for myself because I am celebrating human life. Happiness, for Rand, is man's highest purpose. It is man's non-contradictory joy. One of her books' titles gives it away. "The Virtue Of Selfishness."

But this view breaks down when various individuals' rights come into conflict with each other. Then the person with the greatest power ends up with the greatest rights. The logical extension of this thought is Hitler. His might makes right.

Her worldview is so weak because there is no guarantee that the monsters will not win.

May. 09 2008 11:30 PM
kent strock from Indiana

Whenever Rand is discussed strong emotions are going to reign, which speaks much to the limits of her work. Two important points mentioned in the piece is that cash strapped universities had to be bribed by uneducated capitalist to teach classes and the last point of the piece that claims she was a philosopher. She is in NO way a philosopher.

She batted ideas around in NOVELS, but is in no way a philosopher either in discoursive form or in her rigor of thought. One could say that she adopted a different form for framing philosophical questions, but the problem is that she is either ignorant or ignores all other philosophical treatments of these questions and her form adds absolutely NOTHING.

If anyone is actually interested in thought on the nature of the subject/individual outside of the traditional forms then one must take up Nietzsche and all the complications and demands he puts forward.

NO self-respecting philosopher would teach a class or go to her for challenging thought. That should have been the focus of the piece. Why and how she has become a poster child and the need to bribe institutions.

May. 09 2008 07:14 PM

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