Western Standard

The Shotgun Blog

« The State of Broadcasting | Main | "totalitarian tide of intrusive state control" »

Sunday, February 07, 2010

"To the ashcan — go!"

There are moments when, very quietly but persistently, the little voice in my brain says: "Please, someone save Objectivism from the Objectivists." I've heard it often enough. Way back when I was a teenager progressing through Rand's formidable output, I heard it first. Stuff which seemed plain common sense when she wrote it, was transformed into stark nonsense when uttered by her legion of admirers. I recall, years ago, the noted Toronto columnist Robert Fulford writing a piece that was highly critical of Rand and her admirers. It was a rather disappointing piece. Its analysis summing as: Rand was an odd woman, who wrote odd books and whose admirers are equally odd. It was disappointing because I expected something a little more incisive. Fulford is a very fine and perceptive writer. Even if he finds Rand's ideas repugnant, he could have done better than a flip dismissal. 

As I grew older I realized Fulford's point. It's not that I agreed with his analysis, not then and not now, but I sort of got where he was coming from. You see he had actually met Objectivists. Having met a very large number too, my own anecdotal assessment is that about three-quarters are high-functioning neurotics. Highly intelligent, quite disciplined, but utter social misfits with low self-confidence. They are walking, and sadly talking, liabilities to the philosophy. Now this will seem like an admission of guilt. Wacky people adhere to wacky ideas. Hardly. Some of the most wacky ideas in history were adhered to by perfectly ordinary and decent people. Take socialism as a modern example. Some very important ideas, like representative government, were early on advocated by people who were certifiable flakes. I don't think the wall between personal philosophy and personal psychology is an iron one. There is some overlap. Jean Jacques Rousseau, for example, was the embodiment of his beliefs. An emotional mess of a man advocating an emotional mess of a philosophy. 

But new and radical philosophies tend to attract marginal people, those somehow discontented with life as it is. The early Church Fathers were unlikely to have been laugh-riots. Something very far in the flesh from, say, William F Buckley, Jr. They were misfits attracted to what was then an extreme, radical and highly subversive worldview. The type of people we today associate with kind-hearted country vicars would, in Imperial Rome, probably have been good upstanding pagans, and would have regarded Christianity as something profoundly weird and unhealthy. Only in the last decade or so has Objectivism become mainstream enough to attract a large number of "ordinary" adherents.

I'm going to great lengths to explain all this, and it's really just a preface, because the very name Ayn Rand has acquired an odour. Mention her name positively in polite society, even among perfectly well educated right-wing people, and you might as well have passed gas, or remarked on how tasty squirrel meat really is. Rand, to very many people, means weird. It's not that they've studied the philosophy at any length, they've perhaps read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. But the name is positively toxic. The intellectually scrupulous will be sniffing at all this. What does it matter? Ideas should stand on their own merits. So they should, but they don't. Not even in academia, in fact in modern academia especially not.

Murray Rothbard in his article Keynes the Man, notes how Lionel Robbins, an early advocate of Austrian economic ideas in Britain, was "seduced" by Keynes. Not Keynes' ideas, but Keynes personally. It works for intellectuals and ordinary people alike. What they believe often reflects who they know and live with. Spouses adopting their partner's worldview for the sake of domestic peace. "OK Honey, we'll raise the children Catholic." It's a sentiment that has precious little to do with the finer points of transubstantiation versus consubstantiation. Without an understanding of the personal element, it's difficult to see how ideas get transmitted and impact a society. I'm not advocating a psychological theory of history, driven by great men and women, but instead an understanding of how ideas travel through a society. Those seeking to sell Rand need to keep that in mind.

I was reminded of the odour when reading this piece by Anthony Daniels, reviewing a recent biography of Ayn Rand. Not by Daniels' piece itself, but by the comments. Write anything even remotely critical about Rand and - through the magic of Google - you'll have several dozen comments comparing you to Whittaker Chambers and Ellsworth Toohey. Some advice: You will never be taken seriously if the extent of your criticism is crude character assassination. Anthony Daniels is very, very far away from Ellsworth Toohey. He is one of the finest writers in English today. His critical descriptions of life in the welfare state induced slums of Britain, approach literature. His piece is hardly a drive-by smear, though I strongly disagree with many of his conclusions. If anything Daniels is struggling desperately to say something positive about a woman he, rather clearly, finds repulsive. 

The Russian tradition to which Rand belongs is not that of Gogol, Turgenev, and Chekhov but that of Dobrolyubov, Pisarev, and Chernyshevsky: that is to say, of angry literary and social critics, pamphleteers and ideologues. She was neither fully a philosopher, nor fully a novelist, but something in between the two—the characters in her novels are not creatures of flesh and blood but opinions on legs, and her expository prose has the quality of speechifying. This is not to say that a woman of her intelligence and life experience had nothing interesting to say or no insights to convey. She did, on occasion, put things very well. She was often shrewd, seeing the dangers of statism very clearly, when few others did.

Rand’s statement that racism is the lowest and most primitive form of collectivism is a striking apothegm. Likewise, she was among the first to appreciate that the notion of collective rights (a mirror image of racial discrimination) would “disintegrate a country into an institutionalized civil war of pressure groups, each fighting for legislative favors and special privileges at the expense of one another.” This could hardly be expressed better; neither could her observation that “Even if it were proved … that the incidence of men of potentially superior brain power is greater among the members of certain races than among the members of others, it would still tell us nothing about any given individual and it would be irrelevant to one’s judgment of him.”

Daniels, like many critics of Rand on the Right, concede she had a first class brain, and wrote passionate and powerful criticisms of the over-mighty state. His comparisons to Russia suggest her oddness to him. Daniels, again like many critics of Rand, finds her thoughts compelling but, at some level, so alien that they seem beyond the purview of Anglo-Saxon thought. The grand sweep of her narratives, the lengthy idea laden speeches, are something out of 19th century literature, either Russian or French. Since her favourite novelists were of the French and Russian romantic school, it's a basically sound judgement. Daniels specifically compares her to Chekhov and Chernyshevsky, rather than Dostoevsky (whom she admired, albeit with reservations). She is thus an angry polemicist rather than a novelist. This is another common criticism of Rand. Her novels aren't really novels, they're quasi-philosophical treatises disguised as novels, and liberally peppered with sex. That conclusion depends on your definition of art. Her professed goal was to, in her writings, project an ideal man. If you don't think that's the purpose of literature, or at least a plausible function for literature, then her novels come off as hundreds of pages of didactic badgering. For generations raised on naturalism and its descendants in art, it's a common enough reaction to Rand, and why few serious novelists take her seriously. 

If Rand's approach to art is the first "alienating" thing about her works, the second is her idea of selfishness. She did not mean it in the colloquial sense. It was something closer to the idea of enlightened self-interest. Rand eschewed the employment of that term because it had, to her, connotations of altruism. Most readers take her at her nominal word. They then condemn her for being "selfish" in the conventional sense. Daniels seems to make this assumption, and it skews much of his piece accordingly:

Rand treats the physically ill as if their misfortunes were always their own fault, and a sign of their moral and human worthlessness. In The Fountainhead, for example, she compares “the bright, the strong, the able boys” of Ellsworth Toohey’s class during his childhood with Skinny Dix, who “got infantile paralysis, and would lie in bed.” This comparison is indicative of a truly loathsome and disgusting hardness of heart and lack of compassion as well as a crude intellectual error (made, no doubt, partly as a result of her loathing for Roosevelt—infantile paralysis does not affect the intelligence and therefore cannot be taken as a symbolic opposite of ability).

She implied no such thing. Skinny Dix - and points to Daniels for actually reading The Fountainhead, surprising few of her critics bother reading as far as the cited passage - is a minor character, mentioned a few times in passing. Rand is not calling such people worthless. He is brought into the story as a point of contrast. The chapter cited deals with the childhood of Ellsworth Toohey. Skinny Dix is a sickly boy whom Toohey dotes upon, for a time, as a display of his moral (altruistic) superiority. Other school children want to play with their physically strong and healthy fellows. Ellsworth deliberately does the opposite. Skinny Dix isn't an inferior being, just a sick boy whom Toohey exploits. The whole purpose of the chapter is to show how altruism is used by Toohey as a weapon over other people. 

Daniels' own response to Rand is indicative of the hold of altruism over the western mind. Whenever we see weakness or sickness, we are to stop thinking and start sentimentalizing. Starving children on television? Handover your wallet now, or feel guilty. Such soft feelings have aided and abetted the shabby foreign aid programs of the last fifty years. This is something separate, though often conflated, with basic human compassion, something Rand did display in her novels - in The Fountainhead note the relationship between Roark and Mallory, and in Atlas Shrugged between Rearden and the 'Wet Nurse' - and in her personal life. Skinny Dix is Exhibit A in the case of Rand as selfish brute. I'm not accusing Daniels of dishonesty, though I'm sure many will. When you've got a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When you believe someone to be callous, everything begins to look like a callous act. He carries on:

Rand’s hardness of heart was not only confined to the page. There is a chilling account in the biography of how she treated her long-suffering husband, Frank O’Connor, when he suffered from dementia:

She nagged at him continually, to onlookers’ distress. “Don’t humor him,” she [said]. “Make him try to remember.” She insisted that his mental lapses were “psycho-epistemological,” and she gave him long, grueling lessons in how to think and remember. She assigned him papers on aspects of his mental functioning, which he was entirely unable to write.

This downright cruelty (as well as downright stupidity) derived from her overvaluation of supposed intellectual consistency in the conduct of daily life. She believed that it was more important to adhere to a principle than to behave well. Among her many bad ideas was the compatibility of all human desiderata, and that any conflict of a man’s interests was merely the consequence of his not having thought through his situation sufficiently, and applied a fundamental and indubitable principle correctly and consistently. For Rand, there was no ambiguity in the world: if it is true that man has free will and is responsible for his conduct, it cannot also be that there is a condition such as dementia that robs a man of his capacity for choice. Hence her husband’s lapses were wilful and deliberate, to be corrected by Randian brainwashing. This is authentically horrible.

Well, no. How many people in the 1950s and 1960s understood what dementia, if that's what Frank O'Connor had, was and how it worked? This was an age when Freud's stool based theories dominated popular discourse. The physiological workings of brain disease was very poorly understood by professionals. Rand would not have been alone in assuming a personal lapse on the part of her husband. That was a common enough approach to erratic personal behaviour. That something physical was at play would have been something of a leap, especially for a laywoman. She was ignorant, as were virtually all of her contemporaries, of what mental illness was. In her own way, within the knowledge she possessed, she was trying to help her husband. Daniels, rather than viewing the whole affair as a tragedy, it's instead further proof of Rand the egotistical brute. In passing I have to make mention of this humdinger:

She believed that it was more important to adhere to a principle than to behave well. 

Isn't behaving well a principle? Something of value you see defend and adhere to? Should Rand have been overcome by some sort of mystical intuition that her approach wasn't tough love, but genuinely harmful? Once more upon the same theme:

From the correct psychological insight that the allegedly compassionate sometimes use the existence of the weak and needy as a tool for their own social ascent and attainment of power—whole political parties, in almost every country, are founded upon this principle—it does not in the least follow that there are no people in need of assistance or that compassion for them is ipso facto bogus and a cover for the will to power. From the insight that government assistance to the unfortunate increases the number of the unfortunate, often imprisoning them in their misfortune, it does not follow in the least that it is right for human beings to be utterly callous and indifferent to the fate of the unfortunate.

Hammer and nail. Or perhaps hammer into anvil, from Daniels perspective? She never, ever, ever, ever advocated callousness. She did advocate, and did practice, personal private charity when she believed it to be appropriate. She denounced altruism - the elevation of others above self - and advocated instead an ethical approach summarized by this quote from Atlas Shrugged:

 I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.

In other words independence, not callous indifference. The novels are replete with acts of compassion between the heroes. They value each other and respond accordingly. Moving on to architecture: 

Like his creator, he claims an originality that he does not have. Here he describes how a house may have what he calls “integrity”:

Every piece of it is there because the house needs it—and for no other reason. The relation of masses was determined by the distribution of space within. The ornament was determined by the method of construction, an emphasis of the principle that makes it stand.

This is pure, unadulterated Le Corbusier. Indeed, it could have been written by him. (Roark also praises Le Corbusier’s favourite thing in all the world, reinforced concrete.) We all know what Le Corbusier led to; the very idea that a house “needs” things while the desires of human beings can be disregarded is one that would occur only to someone with a reptilian mind.

No, it is not. Rand's admiration for Frank Lloyd Wright is public record. So is her hatred of Le Corbusier. In The Fountainhead there is a passing reference, an attempt by Rand to differentiate Roark's style of building from that of the Bauhaus group (referred to as architects in Germany). There are several passages in the novel about how Roark's patrons find his buildings so easy to live with, how it's as if they were custom build for them alone. Daniels' quote above is of Rand's own summarization of Louis Sullivan's form following function. Rand is often denounced for her "extremist" portrayals of villains and heroes, so also in her portrayal of early twentieth century architecture. Sullivan's designs seem almost quaint to modern eyes. Rand's contempt is for the kind ornamentation seen in early skyscrapers, most of which have since been knocked down. See here for examples. They look much as Rand described them, elongated wedding cakes. Styles of architecture designed for an agrarian society of centuries past, absurdly employed in designing modern office buildings. To Rand this was proof of a derivative mentality. Doing something solely because others had done it before. That is the mentality she is reacting against in the above quote, and in the novel. He continues. Rand as selfish brute then segues into the Rand the Nietzschean:

Humanity, according to Rand, is divided into heroes, creators, and geniuses on the one hand, and weaklings, parasites, and the feeble-minded on the other. Needless to say, the latter outnumber the former by a very wide margin, but only the former are truly human in the full sense of the word. But let us leave aside for a moment the empirical justification for such a sharp division of mankind into two categories: it never seems to occur to Rand that her classification does not provide a very strong rationale for the limited government and free market that she claims so strongly to admire. On the contrary, it would seem to justify the reign of philosopher-kings, though she claims also to hate Plato passionately.

No, again a miss. Refer to the characters of Eddie Willers in Atlas Shrugged, and Mike Donnigan in The Fountainhead. These were characters she included specifically to fight any charge she was only defending men of genius. She sought to praise all those she believed to be moral, whatever their level of ability. Her emphasis on men of genius was to highlight a vital point, that such men and women move civilization forward. The philosophical and political attitudes of mid-twentieth century America were levelling, and Ayn Rand was responding to them. She believed in freedom, in part, because she wanted men of genius to be left alone. Something she knew, from personal experience, would not happen in a society ruled by philosopher kings. In fact near the end of Atlas Shrugged the main hero, John Galt, is offered absolute power over the American economy, but refuses. We conclude, at long last I know, with this:

Nathaniel Branden was still Rand’s sexual partner and intellectual eunuch when he wrote, with her complete nihil obstat, the following:

There is no greater self-delusion than to imagine that one can render unto reason that which is reason’s and unto faith that which is faith’s. Faith cannot be circumscribed or delimited; to surrender one’s consciousness by an inch is to surrender one’s consciousness in total. Either reason is absolute to a mind or it is not—and if it is not, there is no place to draw the line, no barrier faith cannot cross, no part of one’s life faith cannot invade: one remains rational until and unless one’s feelings decree otherwise.

One doesn’t know whether to remark more on the arrogance, self-delusion, or sheer ignorance of this. According to the passage above, the man who was probably the greatest scientist of all time, Sir Isaac Newton, was not rational. Ayn Rand was the only rational being in history. 

Again, a swing and a miss. Sir Isaac Newton was rational in his scientific endeavours, rather less so in his personal life and philosophical beliefs. Not uncommon in great men, even great scientific minds. The delusion, here, is from Daniels, that Rand was so utterly innocent of human realities not to imagine that people have complex motivations and values, sometimes contradictory ones. It was rather Branden's point that people do in fact have "mixed premises," to use one of her favourite phrases. 

What Rand, in this case being repeated by Branden, is saying is that such compromises are unstable. If you accept both reason and faith as valid means of cognition, where do you draw the line between the two? Where does reason end and faith begin? It's a question that has plagued Christian thinkers since at least Jerome. It was addressed, at pontifical level, as recently as John Paul II in his work Fides et Ratio. In other words, Rand is bringing up a vital philosophical question. Her answer is that you can't silo off your psycho-epistemology, or in her analogy you can't mix food with poison. Given enough time, one will corrupt the other.

Daniels, however, is not a philosopher but a psychiatrist. It is with that eye that he is reviewing Rand's life, the book being reviewed is almost incidental to the piece. He is accepting the widely agreed to definition of selfishness and egotism. Much of his professional career has consisted of engaging with people who are seen as selfish in the conventional sense. Contrary to the rather hysterical denunciations of some, Daniel is not a villain bent on destroying Rand. I'm sure he has hobbies, but a serious thinker who has taken a mistaken, though in the modern intellectual context understandable approach. I began this post with a secular prayer of sorts, asking to save Objectivism from the Objectivists. Providing intelligent responses, which have been as scarce as hen's teeth in The New Criterion's comments page, would be a good start. Not assuming those who criticize your values are all wicked, or crazy, would be the next step.

Posted by Richard Anderson on February 7, 2010 | Permalink


Ah, good. Exactly the kind of objective response the Daniels piece needed.

Posted by: Deco | 2010-02-07 9:43:23 PM

Good post. I liked your description of Objectivists at the beginning as it reminds me of the first group of libertarians (many Objectivists) I encountered while at University. I joined them as they were forming Canada's first Libertarian Party in 1973.

In the 15th paragraph from the the end you stated,"...She denounced altruism - the elevation of self above others.." I presume you meant to say: "others above self".

Posted by: John Chittick | 2010-02-07 10:34:05 PM

Yes I did John. That's been corrected. Thanks

Posted by: Publius | 2010-02-08 8:09:33 AM

I define Rand's beliefs as shown in Howard Roark's jury summation, then I add to that John C Calhouns discourse on government, and I have much of what I need to define America and how it grew so prosperous, as cited in The Changing Face of Democrats on Amazon and claysamerica.com. Too bad so many in America today rely on Old World philosophers like Rousseau, Robespierre, Marx and Obama. claysamerica.com

Posted by: clay barham | 2010-02-08 8:23:36 AM

I begin with an extension of sympathy to Publius. Those who make the mistake of reading the Daniels article will never get that time back. I have sympathy in another sense too: the Daniels piece, once read by someone who does study Objectivism well, calls out for a repairman. I had considered writing a response to it myself, but I have spent sufficient time repairing similar misrepresentations in the past (see my Defending Ayn Rand video series on youtube, and several of my blog posts), and I'm currently hip-high in a battlefield of collectivist excrement, wielding reason as a sword, rather than as a shield. However, a short response to Publius' piece *is* merited.

To Publius' assessment of Daniels' article, I'll simply say: Daniels' evaluated neither Rand nor her philosophy, but rather evaluated an altruist's twisted conception of it. However, I must say that I disagree with the comment that Rand's name has acquired an odour.

The odour one smells rises not from Rand or from her works, but from the utter bullshit (and I mean that word in its technical, H.G. Frankfurt sense) written about her and her philosophy. It rises not from the pages of Atlas Shrugged, but from those of The New Criterion, and countless other anti-reason publications.

Indeed, that stench has filled the air for centuries since the time of Locke. A long line of hit men for the irrational collectivist army has been churning out the same anti-reason, anti-technology, anti-pursuit-of-happiness, anti-individualist, anti-capitalist message ever since (but, most especially, since the time of the Philosophes). Rand is not alone on their hit list: the list includes Aristotle, and Newton, and Locke; it includes every man or woman who helped Man to command nature by obeying it; it includes everyone who, figuratively, would give "God" the finger while rushing out of Eden's gate with a basket of apples. It includes virtually every human being who chooses to be an adult, rather than to remain a child; rather than to delegate the job of thinking and earning - surviving and achieving happiness - to foster parents with a book of commandments in one hand and a gun in the other. If you're reading this blog, the hit list probably includes you.

Rand merely has become the *focus* of their centuries-long assault because Rand succeeded where the Philosophes and Nietzsche utterly failed: she discovered the demonstrable, *rational* connection between reality and morality (including the reality of man's nature) - between IS and OUGHT - and thereby demonstrated that history's attempt to reduce morality to obedience - obedience of the majority, or of a gang with guns calling itself "government", or of an alleged supernatural being - was not merely unnecessary, but was actually (wittingly or unwittingly) an effort to achieve human misery and death (none of which matters, of course, to those who believe in an effortless existence after death). By revealing the connection between reality and morality, she increasingly has undermined society's self-delusion that it needs a religion or a gaggle of signatories to an IPCC report to tell it the nature of the universe; that it needs nuns or government employees to teach its children how to think and choose; that it needs to pay people to redistribute wealth from those who produce it to those who do not; that it needs police chiefs who equate "keeping the peace" with allowing hooligans and terrorists to seize and destroy property because "the safety of police officers is job 1"; that it needs to use soldiers as police officers so as to "bring democracy" to hardened theocrats and savages who would destroy western society if they only had a button to do so (no, I'm not talking about Naomi Klein or Sid Ryan...they don't live in the places I'm talking about).

Rand, and misrepresentations of her philosophy, are now the focus of their attacks because the dishonest means of existence of millions and millions of people paid to mooch, to loot, to delude, and to imprison those who think and produce for themselves might otherwise come to an end. Rand's words threaten to convince people that everyone should get what they earn and what they deserve and that, my friends - getting what one deserves, and only what one deserves - is something that fills the moochers, looters, deluders, and imprisoners with dread.

Don't worry about the stench of what is written by those who dread the end of their rotten, ill-gotten existence. So long as the stink continues, it is evidence that Rand is having an effect. Worry only if the air clears.

Paul McKeever
Leader, Freedom Party

Posted by: Paul McKeever | 2010-02-08 8:40:00 AM

"she discovered the demonstrable, *rational* connection between reality and morality (including the reality of man's nature) - between IS and OUGHT"

lol. By discover I suppose you mean "she said it was true" and then went from there? When confronted with a logical problem Rand always just pretends they don't exist.

I think Rand is essentially an intellectual coward. She embraces the fact that the universe is god-less, but some how manages to convince herself that Protestant work-ethic is a universal and eternal truth. Absurd and a waste of time.

The best arguments for that branch of classical liberalism is not that the free-market is a moral good (or moral necessity). The best argument is a practical, pragmatic one- in many cases, the best way of distributing goods and organizing society is through a market system.

Posted by: i saw dasein | 2010-02-08 9:31:44 AM


I was not specifically discussing those who are trying to deliberately distort her works, but those who have been, more or less, innocently taken in by distortions and bad presentations of her ideas. The willfully dishonest were not my concern, the misled were. That odour needs to be cleared. You are quite right about that other odour, but the genuinely dishonest are not the greatest danger - they trip themselves up sooner or later - it's the misled that are worrisome. Otherwise good people accepting bad principles.

Posted by: Publius | 2010-02-08 9:34:55 AM

As a professional philosopher, and a (non-neurotic) Objectivist, I have to write in defense of Rand's bridging of the IS - OUGHT gap.

Her innovative approach is to analyze the presuppositions of there being such a thing as values. She finds the base of values in the existence of alternative conditions of an acting organism--ultimately, in its life or death.

I refer you to my article in the philosophic journal, The Monist, of January 1992, "Life-Based Teleology and the Foundations of Ethics."

Okay, you're not going to look that up. Just establishing my bona fides. So here's the central passage from Rand, on which that article is based.

"To challenge the basic premise of any discipline, one must begin at the beginning. In ethics, one must begin by asking: What are values? Why does man need them?

"'Value' is that which one acts to gain and/or keep. The concept 'value' is not a primary; it presupposes an answer to the question: of value to whom and for what?

"It presupposes an entity capable of acting to achieve a goal in the face of an alternative. Where no alternative exists, no goals and no values are possible. . . .

"There is only one fundamental alternative in the universe: existence or nonexistence—and it pertains to a single class of entities: to living organisms. The existence of inanimate matter is unconditional, the existence of life is not: it depends on a specific course of action. Matter is indestructible, it changes its forms, but it cannot cease to exist. It is only a living organism that faces a constant alternative: the issue of life or death. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action. If an organism fails in that action, it dies; its chemical elements remain, but its life goes out of existence. It is only the concept of 'Life' that makes the concept of 'Value' possible. It is only to a living entity that things can be good or evil."

She goes on to give a science-fictional example to illustrate her point. An "immortal, indestructible robot" which is unaffected by anything it does. Such a robot, she argues, could have no goal or values. Lacking a stake in any outcome of its actions, nothing could be good for it or bad for it. Only to a living organism, a being with survival needs, can things be beneficial or harmful. (I argue further along these lines in my book, The Biological Basis of Teleological Concepts, available at Amazon, last I looked.)

You may agree or disagree with her argument, but it is an original and thought-provoking one.

Posted by: Harry Binswanger | 2010-02-08 12:45:55 PM


I would never accuse you of being a neurotic ;)

All the best.

Posted by: Publius | 2010-02-08 1:14:14 PM

I do not know where to begin with this piece. Take, for example, this statement:

"But new and radical philosophies tend to attract marginal people, those somehow discontented with life as it is."

Are we to believe that *most* people are not "somehow discontented with life as it is?" Almost all of the people in my life are non-Objectivists. The only Objectivists I know, save a friend or two in the flesh, are online. I regard most of the people in my life as discontented with life, even if they will only admit this to you after a few alcoholic beverages. They are discontented with their relationships, with their jobs, with their early choices in life, and only half-heartedly make the effort to improve their life as it is. They also lack genuine curiosity and a real interest in self-improvement. If that makes me "marginal," I am happy with the label. Exceptional people are marginal by definition.


Ryan Jamieson

Posted by: Ryan Jamieson | 2010-02-09 5:54:28 AM

Haven't you heard, Ryan? Only the wholesale adoption of a socialist mindset can make one truly happy. And if you're still unhappy after that, it's because you're being unfairly exploited by someone else. Probably by one of those evil capitalists who Rand wrote so glowingly about in her books.

Posted by: Dennis | 2010-02-09 11:13:19 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.