Friday, March 27, 2009

Edicts Of Ayn Rand Or Tolerance For All Ideas.

Is that an either-or? Most people in Indian Universities seem to think so. To be honest of the views of people on Objectivism – are mostly subjectivist or intrincist or a hash of both. This issue came up explicitly when I was remarked at, time and again, from different people that "everything about me is about Ayn Rand". Most people in college who know me associate me with Ayn Rand and think I am one of those "Ayn Rand types". These are the subjectivists. To them, some people have a thing for Ayn Rand and some others have a thing for Che Guevara. It's not much of a difference. They don't even care to think of the kind of a mental process would lead to a person upholding reason and what kind of a mental process leads to ideas of Che. Some subjectivists, even openly admit that Atlas Shrugged is a book about big business with loads of long speeches. Of course, I don't expect anybody to understand the whole book in their first read, but evaluating probably one of the greatest book of our time with a bored, unimportant look convinces me all the more that they think "anything goes". I wonder whether they really care to understand the book in the first place. They fail to understand that the luxuries that they enjoy today, from matchsticks to cyclotrons are not metaphysically given. They are a product of reason – to which they remain disinterested to. Sadly, this does prevent them from carrying Ayn Rand's books in between classes to look cool and to be counted as a "rebel".

The intrincist goes the other way. He thinks everything about an Objectivist is primarily and fundamentally about Ayn Rand. To him, an Objectivist is not one who processes Ayn Rand's philosophy, judges it as great for man's life and applies the Objectivist framework to the best of his knowledge to his life. Far from it, an Objectivist to the intrincist, is a person who follows the edicts of Ayn Rand dogmatically. Any mention of an Objectivist, and they immediately think that everything about him is only about Ayn Rand, not Objectivism. They mean it in the sense that reason is not an Objectivist's means of knowledge, but the edicts of Ayn Rand are. To them, the choice is intrincism or subjectivism. It's either the dogma of Ayn Rand or "anything goes" including glorifying killers like Che Guevara on t-shirts. To the subjectivist, people supporting the ideas of Ayn Rand are "extreme" and "stifling" and to the intrincist, people supporting the ideas of Ayn Rand are "dogmatic moralizers" or "angry emotionalists." Such an alternative is patently false.

As Peikoff writes in Fact and Value:

"Do any of you who agree with her philosophy respond to it by saying "Yeah, it's true"—without evaluation, emotion, passion? Not if you are moral. A moral person (assuming he understands philosophy at all) greets the discovery of this kind of truth with admiration, awe, even love; he makes a heartfelt positive moral evaluation. He says: Objectivism is not only true, it is great! Why? Because of the volitional work a mind must have performed to reach for the first time so exalted a level of truth—and because of all the glorious effects such knowledge will have on man's life, all the possibilities of action it opens up for the future." [Bold Added]

I think, any person who agrees with the ideas of Ayn Rand, is an Objectivist, not a Randian or whatnot. He upholds the fundamental of the philosophy: objectivity. Objectivity denotes a certain kind of a relationship between concepts and reality; concepts are a result of a volitional
observation of existence by the human consciousness. Another Ayn Rand's seminal discovery is that any kind of cognition or fact amounts to an evaluation for man – carbon is good for man and the global warming agenda is anti-man. There can be no thought for thought's sake or "pure thought" without any value-judgments to draw. Even a pebble on the street is evaluated by man as harmless to man. One cannot value with without a process of evaluation. Yet, this is what everybody think of when they talk of a "spiritual" or an "intellectual" realm of a person. This is why they award the same status to Ayn Rand and Che Guevara. For them, ideas, concepts or theories are other-wordly "spiritual" matters which cannot be looked upon judged and evaluated in the cold light of reason. It does not matter whether the question is: is capitalism is a superior system, morally and politically, than communism. Most students just simply repeat what is taught in classrooms: they are two different schools and cannot be judged on a rigid standard of objectivity. Translation: it doesn't matter what kind of a thought process led to such an irrational idea and what kind of an effect such a philosophy will have on man's life.

Judging any Objectivist merely to be "a follower of Ayn Rand" misses the whole point about an objectivist; an objectivist is a person who seeks to advance his life, spiritually and materially, knowing fully well that any good (the rational) can only be achieved by the means of reason and not by means of evasion. "The most eloquent badge of the authentic Objectivist who does understand Ayn Rand's philosophy," Peikoff writes in the same essay,

"is his attitude toward values (which follows from his acceptance of reason). An Objectivist is not primarily an academician or a political activist (though he may well devote his professional life to either or both pursuits). In his soul, he is essentially a moralist—or, in broader terms, what Ayn Rand herself called "a valuer."

A valuer, in her sense, is a man who evaluates extensively and intensively. That is: he judges every fact within his sphere of action—and he does it passionately, because his value-judgments, being objective, are integrated in his mind into a consistent whole, which to him has the feel, the power and the absolutism of a direct perception of reality. Any other approach to life comes from and pertains to another philosophy, not to Objectivism."

It's a shame that most students in India see Ayn Rand and Objectivism as a subjective fancy or an intrinsic edict coming from Ayn Rand instead of God. In reason, they are two ways to get Objectivism fundamentally wrong.


Evan said...

I like what you have written here about how others see or misunderstand Objectivism. I've been an admirer of Ayn Rand since I first discovered her book "The Virtue of Selfishness" in about 1964. I've even been lucky enough to have seen her speak in person at several New York conferences and Nathaniel Branden Institute in about 1968. For me, the most important concept that I have taken away from Objectivism is the simple notion that the objective world is reality and it requires human reason to understand it and survive. I can sum up this understanding with an old philosophical canard that I remember from my youth. I remember being challenged with this banal question "If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?" Upon first hearing this question as a youth, I thought it a mysterious and profound notion. Now as an old "objectivist", I finally know without doubt, the answer to that question, and why it is so banal. Of course the falling tree makes a sound. No hearing thing is necessary to create a sound. What is required is the falling tree energy, the collision with the ground, the vibrations that would most certainly occur and air (or some other sound carrying medium). Only a non-objectivist would answer otherwise. Does this make a good point or not?

khartoum said...

Thanks Evan.

I am just 22 and am really jealous of people who got the chance to watch Ayn Rand in action.

Yeah, I think it is a good point that you make because you assert the primacy of existence view in regard to the tree-sound example. A thing is what it is and so is a tree. If its identity dictates a sound when it falls -- there has to be a sound, regardless of the fact whether one is there to hear it or not.

Thanks for stopping by.