On Becoming a Randroid
February 18, 2004 12:26 PM   Subscribe

10 Easy Steps to Objectivism. When you have achieved true Objectivistivity, join Friend Bear on a visit to the Objectivist Theme Park, so that you too can be one with Ayn Rand's Floating Head.
posted by brownpau (46 comments total)
 
You know, it's very easy to mock Ayn Rand.
In my opinion, however, it should be made even easier. Ideally five year old children would learn to snigger at any mention of objectivism in the same way they snigger when someone says the word "poopy".
These links may help us towards that utopian society. For that I thank you brownpau.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 12:40 PM on February 18, 2004


This makes me painfully nostalgic for Forum 2000.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:44 PM on February 18, 2004


I normally am really wary of anything that's posted for the sole purpose of mocking someone else. But the first link is sophisticated enough it's actually interesting along with amusing.
posted by weston at 12:48 PM on February 18, 2004


Ayn Rand makes my head hurt.
posted by troutfishing at 12:50 PM on February 18, 2004


By the way, while visiting the dreamy Andrej Bauer's "10 Easy Steps" page, make sure to go to his pictures of mathematicians page. I love Andrej.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:50 PM on February 18, 2004


ayn rand makes my head float.
posted by quonsar at 12:59 PM on February 18, 2004


Ayn Rand was the fallen messiah. She had the message, then ruined it with paranoia and "US vs THEM" thinking.

everyone should read this essay by nathaniel branden. It clearly explains what objevtivists believe as well as concise explanations of the hazards of her dogma.

you have to admit that you aren't really being fair to her.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 1:16 PM on February 18, 2004


from the essay:

But twentieth-century philosophy has almost totally backed off from the responsibility of offering such a vision or addressing itself to the kind of questions human beings struggle with in the course of their existence. Twentieth-century philosophy typically scorns system building. The problems to which it addresses itself grow smaller and smaller and more and more remote from human experience. At their philosophical conferences and conventions, philosophers explicitly acknowledge that they have nothing of practical value to offer anyone. This is not my accusation; they announce it themselves.

[...]

Ayn Rand has an incredible vision to offer — in many respects a radiantly rational one. I am convinced that there are errors in that vision and elements that need to be changed, eliminated, modified, or added and amplified, but I am also convinced that there is a great deal in her vision that will stand the test of time.

Her vision is a very uplifting one, it is inspiring. It doesn't tell you your mind is impotent. It doesn't tell you that you're rotten and powerless. It doesn't tell you that your life is futile. It doesn't tell you that you are doomed. It doesn't tell you that your existence is meaningless. It tells you just the opposite.

It tells you that your main problem is that you have not learned to understand the nature of your own power and, therefore, of your own possibilities. It tells you that your mind is and can be efficacious, that you are competent to understand, that achievement is possible, and that happiness is possible. It tells you that life is not about dread and defeat and anguish but about achievement and exaltation.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 1:21 PM on February 18, 2004


"You are Greater than you think! You are Limitless! You are Infinite! You are Able! Expand! Expand"
posted by brownpau at 1:28 PM on February 18, 2004


"Serenity Now!!"
posted by jonmc at 1:29 PM on February 18, 2004


Tryptophan-5ht..............

That sounds like self help book tripe.
posted by jbou at 1:29 PM on February 18, 2004


In other words, it's watered down Nietzsche.
posted by raysmj at 1:31 PM on February 18, 2004


I find that by and large objectivism's detractors tend to be those who have not the capacity to believe in a philosophy without unknowable mystical components.

It IS interesting however that the objectivist "movement" was undone by the pursuit of these very things which, according to Rand's writings, should really be spurned... then again that is something often seen in philosophies and religions.
posted by clevershark at 1:35 PM on February 18, 2004


She took off her nightgown, stepped to the window, sighed deeply and said: "Your main problem is that you have not learned to understand the nature of your own power and, therefore, of your own possibilities. Your mind is and can be efficacious, that you are competent to understand, that achievement is possible, and that happiness is possible. Life is not about dread and defeat and anguish but about achievement and exaltation." He lit a cigarette and admired her naked body which was illuminated by silver moonlight.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 1:40 PM on February 18, 2004


Philosophies which amount to nada more than elaborate, tedious, wordy rationalizations for selfishness are commonplace. Their rational underpinnings are born and reborn in children taking candy from one another.

Some never move on.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 1:41 PM on February 18, 2004


jbou - i think you mean "optimistic" tripe.

fold - 'children taking candy from one another' its so much easier just vomit up what you've read about a subject rather than to actually analyze it yourself.

clevershark - agreed. The objectivist "movement" went down the shitter. I can't say i would ever claim affiliation with Rand's formal following. I consider myself a big fan of hers, but ANY large group of people with a homogenized dogma is dangerous, mindless, and generally repressive.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 1:59 PM on February 18, 2004


Wow. Andrej's 10 Easy Steps site is approved by the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute.
posted by CrunchyFrog at 2:02 PM on February 18, 2004


Yeah, I was pretty into objectivism.

It made me think a lot, at the time, during a hard part of my life.

Now it's really useful for

a) dismissing people
b) making fun of people
c) convincing others they are wrong
d) convincing myself that what I did was right.

But all in an ironic fashion, I assure you.
posted by jon_kill at 2:04 PM on February 18, 2004


Remixed Utilitarianism is too easy to mock.
posted by meehawl at 2:05 PM on February 18, 2004


its so much easier just vomit up what you've read about a subject rather than to actually analyze it yourself.

Wrongo, Buckwheat. I can't speak for foldy, but my opinion of Objectivism agrees with his (slighty less harsh, to be sure), I spent several years studying objectivism. Assuming vehement disagreement is just ignorance is pretty unreasonable, wouldn't you say?
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:18 PM on February 18, 2004


Philosophies which amount to nada more than elaborate, tedious, wordy rationalizations for selfishness are commonplace. Their rational underpinnings are born and reborn in children taking candy from one another.

Objectivism doesn't rationalize selfishness, it celebrates it. And while many (here, especially) may take issue with the axioms of Objectivism, its conclusions, indeed, logically follow from its premises. Do you approve only of inductive reason, foldy?


I'm not sure that Peikoff and company have done Rand's ideas any great service (I doubt Rand would have approved of the Iraqi "liberation", like Peikoff did), and the philosophy of Objectivism is still in its infancy. If anyone is interested in reading about the evolution of Objectivism (or rational egoism) and its future, David Kelley's book is fantastic.
posted by trharlan at 2:27 PM on February 18, 2004


Prior link had referrer code, I apologize. Clean link here.
posted by trharlan at 2:29 PM on February 18, 2004


wulgar - i would agree, that would be irrational. however he has either never read rand or was only skimming.

'children stealing from each other' is OLD thinking. The zero sum fallacy - wealth is neither created or destroyed, only shifted around. Patently false. Economies are not closed systems.

Who can actually argue against interest in one's own well being (greed) when executed morally and ethically?

Ayn Rand never said cook your books, then split town with your employees 401k (Ken). She said stick around, find a new way of doing business, double your profits and make you and your employees filthy stinkin rich.

meehawl is also uninformed. Atlas Shrugged was ALL ABOUT the evil of utilitarianism
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 2:49 PM on February 18, 2004


Not trying to split hairs, but Objectivists/libertarians/minarchists/anarchists often argue that their philosophies, in practice, reach a (the?) utilitarian end of producing the most good for the most people. In this respect, one could argue that they are utilitarian philosophies.
posted by trharlan at 2:59 PM on February 18, 2004


Atlas Shrugged was ALL ABOUT the evil of utilitarianism

Really? I must have missed that in the Executive Summary.

Most of Rand's career was about trying to deny or obfuscate her ham-fisted borrowings as she picked through the discarded detritus of failed or out-of-fashion laissez-faire ideologies from the 18th and 19th centuries.
posted by meehawl at 3:12 PM on February 18, 2004


Googlism for: ayn rand

ayn rand is sick
ayn rand is also the author of the fountainhead
ayn rand is immensely popular...
posted by azul at 3:14 PM on February 18, 2004


Maybe I am being too unfair - in foundation Objectivism most closely resembles Essentialism, while also acting as a weird orthogonality to certain streams of thought now promoted by many disciples of Jürgen Habermas.

The great thing about isms is that there are so many from which to choose.
posted by meehawl at 3:21 PM on February 18, 2004


meehawl: Every philosopher rips off those who came before him-- I'd bet that even Aristotle (who endorsed laissez-faire to a degree) ripped someone off (Thales, maybe?). You could say that Rawls came up with some new stuff, maybe, but he had to invent a ridiculous conceit to give his work the air of novelty. Do you assert that Rand ripped others off more than is typical? Can you link a more in-depth written assertion of this claim?
posted by trharlan at 3:24 PM on February 18, 2004


From the 10 Steps:
The Axiom of Identity can be rephrased by saying that things quite simply are what they are. A chair is a chair, and not a table. In philosophical language we say that a thing has identity. This also means that a thing is identical with its properties and characteristics. ....

What about when I sit on the table? What about when I stand on the chair and I use it as a ladder (to change the light)? What about when I burn the chair as firewood? What about doll chairs (small chairs that Barbies and star wars figures can sit it)? Are those chairs too?

There are no necessary and sufficient conditions for being a chair. Or being a bachelor [second example]. Or being anything. Now that's not to say that we don't agree on what's a chair. Or what's a bachelor. But we certainly don't do it via something called "Reason" or "Logic." We do have a sense of "chairness" and a sense of "bachelorhood," and it's the basis for our near perfect (except when telling jokes, or in art of various sorts) communication of those ideas.

This idea of a cloud of meanings comes for Wittgenstein, among others. It's also discussed obliquely in Dreyfus' (Heidegerrian? -- can't say precisely, haven't read any) critique of artificial intelligence. Here's another example of something that's easy to see and hard to explain / get around: Why is a sparrow a much better exemplar of the category "bird" than is a penguin or a flamingo?

That said, I prefer to call a spade a spade and certainly don't fall into the paralysis and powerlessness that comes from rejecting empericism and rationalism entirely. I just get pissed when I see Ayn Rand in the philosophy section at Barnes and Noble. She's a fine novelist. She's a really shitty philosopher (all I can hope is that she convinces people to read real philosophers).
posted by zpousman at 3:31 PM on February 18, 2004


Polite philosophers give a shout out to those who went before them. It's a respect thing.

Rand preferred to present her philosophy as springing fully formed from her imagination, soaring unencumbered by centuries of application, contest, and rejection within the philosophical discourse.

That is narcissistic behaviour, and symbolic of a unspoken perfectionist/evolutionist dialectic within Objectivism that closely parallels Marxism, and Mormonism come to think of it.
posted by meehawl at 3:48 PM on February 18, 2004


Ayn Rand is a shitty philosopher, and a shitty novelist.
posted by goneill at 4:46 PM on February 18, 2004


Making fun of any philosophy is entertaining: Let's try it with Descartes:
"What is it with old Rene and the pineal gland? This little squishy light-sensor being the connection between mind and matter? And that whole proof of god thingy, can you believe it?"

But seriously, Descartes did come up with some good ideas, especially in mathematics, just as Rand might have contributed something valuable.

I just can't think of anything right now.
posted by spazzm at 4:55 PM on February 18, 2004


Oh lord, where is Midas Mulligan when we need him? Most debate about Objectivism and Ayn Rand in general, tends to boil down to the very same generalizations and simplistic arguments as those seen here.

I've taken many great things away from reading Ayn Rand and I've also noticed many *many* fallacies in her philosophy as well. What I find so intriguing is that so many people take an absolutely polarized view of her work - you're either a zealot or a hater. I don't understand why this is because when reading her books I come across many passages where I think, "brilliant! she nailed it!" and others where I think, "good lord, she sounds like a freakin' Nazi."

I will agree that if you read Ayn Rand's personal commentaries and some of those of Leonard Peikoff her so-called "intellectual heir", there is much to argue about and much to dismiss.

But I find many of her messages: self empowerment, individualism, creativity, ingenuity, normative thought; and many of her criticisms: collectivism, utilitarianism (granted, she has a slightly twisted take on the subejct), thoughlessness, fear/insecurity, relativism to be very valid.

And goneill: I won't go so far as to say she's a shitty novelist but I will concede that she has a tendency toward the pedantic and to moralize.
posted by tgrundke at 5:12 PM on February 18, 2004


"I find that by and large objectivism's detractors tend to be those who have not the capacity to believe in a philosophy without unknowable mystical components."

I have no mystical components of any kind in my personal philosophy, nor hedonist elements. I simply believe that continued survival for as long as possible is the highest - and indeed only - priority of any sentience.
posted by Ryvar at 5:48 PM on February 18, 2004


her problem as a novelist was she had no problem taking 4 pages to spit a four sentence idea.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 5:48 PM on February 18, 2004


I could never figure out why her sex scenes were so rough. What was up with that? Was she into S&M?
posted by beth at 6:08 PM on February 18, 2004


The Heirs of Ayn Rand: Has Objectivism Gone Subjective? -- a Lingua Franca article from 1999 on objectivism and its adherents, with a neutral tone.

At an Objectivist lecture in the 1960s, someone asked if such heroes as Rand portrayed could exist in the real world. Yes, she replied, there were two in the room at that moment: She indicated Nathaniel Branden and herself.
posted by aaaaa at 6:23 PM on February 18, 2004


I'd suggest reading the link to Nathaniel Branden's critique of Objectivism. He does an excellent job of outlining the 'highs' as well as the 'lows' in Rand's philosophy.
posted by tgrundke at 6:50 PM on February 18, 2004


My view on Ayn Rand is that she espoused a certain philosophy and viewpoint that is relevant and cogent, which must be answered by those who take philosophy, the relation between the individual and society and economics seriously. I also think that she IS answerable, and was on a lot weaker ground when she dealt with the real world. In any case, she made me think, even if I concluded she was wrong.

Also, as a novelist, she sucked rocks.
posted by pyramid termite at 6:54 PM on February 18, 2004


There is a distinct difference between Objectivism and "Randism." I prefer to think of Objectivism as "enlightened" Randism -- accept the philosophy, but recognize the philosopher as a human being, warts and all.

And you're right, beth -- one of the most silly (and nearly disturbing) things about Rand's novels was the sex scenes. Ridiculous and degrading.

And I also find the lack of humor in Rand and her writings to be a serious flaw -- her philosophy of humor was quite simply wrong.

But on balance -- Objectivism is a rational, coherent philosophy that ennobles humanity. Not perfect -- but better than any other religion/philosophy/worldview, largely because it is correct and acknowledges humanity's strengths, weaknesses, and motivations.
posted by davidmsc at 7:11 PM on February 18, 2004


I could never figure out why her sex scenes were so rough. What was up with that? Was she into S&M?

"[Rand's] fascination with male figures displaying absolute, unswayable determination of their Will, seems to offer the best imaginable confirmation of Sylvia Plath's famous line, "...every woman adores a Fascist."
posted by boredomjockey at 7:15 PM on February 18, 2004


PhilosoWankerUB40Filter.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:50 PM on February 18, 2004


Objectivism is a rational, coherent philosophy that ennobles humanity. Not perfect -- but better than any other religion/philosophy/worldview, largely because it is correct and acknowledges humanity's strengths, weaknesses, and motivations.

It also stresses the importance of morality.
posted by hama7 at 8:07 PM on February 19, 2004


Ayn Rand never had a sense of humour. She had very logical, mathematical mind. Most humour involves leaps in logic, and she just couldn't make those leaps. Barbara Branden wrote that the experience of trying to explain a joke to Ayn Rand was something no one ever undertook more than once. It was a character flaw, since a sense humour is in large part of sense of balance and proportion. You see something is out of whack, and so you laugh. In large part her downfall was that she was never able to attain to a balanced view of herself or her actions.
posted by orange swan at 7:24 AM on February 20, 2004


I can't speak for foldy, but my opinion of Objectivism agrees with his (slighty less harsh, to be sure), I spent several years studying objectivism.

You've got me curious, Wulfgar!. I'd like to hear more. In what context did you study objectivism? Can you explain a bit more about your ultimate conclusion and why you reached it?
posted by tirade at 10:34 AM on February 20, 2004


I tell you who was a crappy philosopher: Descartes. I'll tell you who was another crappy philosopher: Hegel. I'll tell you who was entertaining before he went nuts: Nietzsche and Pascal. I'll tell you who should have quit while he was ahead: Kant.

I liked Branden's essay, but it didn't go deep enough. There is something essential in the observation that Rand had no sense of humor... and reason is a tool that only extends as far as you can reach and only works on the things you apply it to.

Hey, you might not like Objectivism or Utilitarianism, but they beat the pants of off Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Why? Branden broke with Rand. You don't get the skills to do that from following a prophet.
posted by ewkpates at 12:31 PM on February 25, 2004


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