A phase

I haven’t written much about philosophy this year because writing about it means reading and thinking, and I haven’t felt like doing either for some time now—it’s a kind of burnout. The nature of morality is something that I’ve been avoiding for a while, and with good reason. I’ll write about it when I write about it. But this doesn’t preclude me from writing about familiar topics and people, Rand for instance. It performs the function of a clearinghouse/ repository, if nothing else.

I chanced upon someone blogging his progress on AS, and read the last few posts. An interesting one goes like so

I did find myself agreeing with John Galt’s monologue more often than I disagreed with it. I think liberal unease with Rand is due surely in part to the absolutism of her ideas but also largely in part to her word choice. She promotes self-reliance; Henry David Thoreau promotes self-reliance. She promotes civil disobedience; so does he. And yet, Thoreau remains a liberal hero and Rand a liberal nemesis. Why?

Her reliance on words like “greed” and “selfishness” and the misunderstood “egoist” doesn’t help, but her choice of “egoist” instead of “egotist” for a chapter heading is likewise telling: An egoist is someone who considers himself first, while an egotist is someone who only considers himself. Galt, when discussing sacrifice, importantly notes that it is not a violation of his philosophy for people to help other people; it is a violation for people to be forced or coerced through guilt or shame to help other people. Finally, Rand gets to the point: Compassion, charity, and such are meaningless unless their origins are intrinsic.

This is something that many people miss (in many cases deliberately, I think). He explains what he means by “intrinsic” in another post

In other words, in Rand’s world, the ideal of doing things for others is always intrinsically motivated, never extrinsically motivated. People ought to care about other people to the extent that they want to, not because they’re told to or feel obliged to.

This meaning of the word “intrinsic” is different from the way Rand uses it while referring to the nature of values

There are, in essence, three schools of thought on the nature of the good: the intrinsic, the subjective, and the objective. The intrinsic theory holds that the good is inherent in certain things or actions as such, regardless of their context and consequences, regardless of any benefit or injury they may cause to the actors and subjects involved. It is a theory that divorces the concept of “good” from beneficiaries, and the concept of “value” from valuer and purpose—claiming that the good is good in, by, and of itself.

He does come to a somewhat wrong conclusion though-

Just as we have to have some restrictions on free speech to protect the safety of people–such as, for instance, laws against shouting “fire” in a crowded theater–we have to have some restrictions on free trade. Some companies, left unfettered, will indeed behave in a responsible way; many others will not. If we are to treat companies as individuals (as so many conservatives appear to want), then we must do that in the negative as well as the positive: We must not merely grant companies the rights, but also the responsibilities, that go with being an individual in a free society. Most notably: The responsibility not to use force or cause undue harm to others.

A proper law is not a restriction on free trade. A law that prescribes punishment for arson is not a restriction on free trade just because it prevents you from burning down your competitor’s business, or vice versa. A law that prescribes compensation for those affected by an oil spill is a law that protects property rights. A law that places an ad-hoc ceiling on such compensation, though, is against free trade.

It’s interesting to see people read Rand for the first time and come to a reasonable conclusion. I say this because I came across the man/woman who drew testicles

On the whole, I see no reason to revise the opinion of Ayn Rand I expressed in succinct hieroglyphics all those years ago.

I don’t see anything wrong as far as vulgarity or profanity is concerned. Really. Every expression has its place. Given the fact that I haven’t seen Tehelka write anything positive about Rand (its always a put-down; apparently, even a back-handed compliment is above them), I think they should use these testicles on their masthead. The “ehe” is a great spot for the same.

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  • bernmarx  On September 19, 2010 at 5:37 am

    Thanks for positive comments. :) I do admit, with regards to your comments about another blogger, that early in my own reading of Atlas Shrugged, I was quite vulgar, snarky, and dismissive. It’s a book that the “cool kids” among the intellectual liberals seem to hate as a matter of course, and it took me a while to shake out of that mindset; I’m not surprised others are less successful, or less willing, to do that.

    • Aristotle The Geek  On September 21, 2010 at 1:05 am

      Some of the hate comes because she advocates ethical and political positions that are diametrically opposite to what the left stands for. I understand the hate of those who are part of this left, who know what they are opposing, and their nature. They have to hate her just like she hated their guts. But the mindless, causeless, hate that has its origins in lack of understanding, and the willingness to do so too, which is what most of the blogging and pieces in the media are all about, that’s irritating. One can agree with a lot of what she says without being her greatest fan.

      • bernmarx  On September 23, 2010 at 1:10 am

        Understood. I also don’t think a lot of her “supporters” understand her, either; I realize Rand would likely despise Obama, but I think she’s have a pretty negative impression of Palin as well.

        • Aristotle The Geek  On September 23, 2010 at 3:37 am

          Depends on who you identify as Rand’s supporters. There are people who have followed her ideas for years, if not decades. Some of them call themselves Objectivists, others don’t because they disagree with her on certain issues, but none of them are misled by the false dichotomy of “conservatives vs. liberals.” They hate both groups equally. For example, here’s a piece blasting a conservative idiot who calls for the reinstatement of the draft-

          Just as the country that sent those 4.7 million young men off to the Great War disrupted or ended those young lives for a larger purpose, today, the country that is America must decide whether it is prepared to disrupt or end young lives for another, greater, purpose.

          No, that was not President Barack Obama reading from the Progressivism hymnal to underscore his collectivist agenda. It was Tony Blankley, prominent conservative columnist, pleading for the return of the military draft….

          And here’s Rand writing about conservatives

          Today’s “conservatives” are futile, impotent and, culturally, dead. They have nothing to offer and can achieve nothing. They can only help to destroy intellectual standards, to disintegrate thought, to discredit capitalism, and to accelerate this country’s uncontested collapse into despair and dictatorship.

          The most immoral contradiction—in the chaos of today’s anti-ideological groups—is that of the so-called “conservatives,” who posture as defenders of individual rights, particularly property rights, but uphold and advocate the draft. By what infernal evasion can they hope to justify the proposition that creatures who have no right to life, have the right to a bank account?

          It was the so-called “conservatives” . . . who ran to the government for regulations and controls [over the broadcasting industry], and who cheered the notion of “public property” and service to the “public interest.”

          and so on. She also gave a speech in the ’60s entitled “Conservatism: An Obituary” which was later edited into an essay for her book on capitalism.

          So yes, those supporters who are familiar with her ideas will hate Palin just like they do Obama, or they did Bush, because none of these characters even remotely subscribe to the following: reason, individualism, rational selfishness/egoism and laissez-faire capitalism.

          • bernmarx  On September 23, 2010 at 5:48 am

            By using the quote marks around supporters, I had intended to refer to the current Tea Party Randians, such as and particularly Pamela Geller, who runs Atlas Shrugs while idolizing Sarah Palin.

            I respectfully disagree with you that Obama does not “even remotely” subscribe to reason or individualism.

          • Aristotle The Geek  On September 23, 2010 at 5:16 pm

            I am not familiar with Geller, but her blog primarily seems to be about Islam, or rather anti-islam. And she sounds more like a conservative rather than a Randian. I am not sure if she believes in laissez-faire capitalism and limited government. Does she fight against the FCC, the FTC, the SEC and the FDA? Does she oppose the “War on Drugs”? Is she against the draft? Pro “pro-choice”? Pro gay rights? Is she an atheist, and not merely non-religious or agnostic? If not, it’s just that her positions intersect with some of Rand’s. Just like much of the Tea Party.

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