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Interviews with Ayn Rand
January 21, 2009 5:05 PM   Subscribe


 
Does she never go away? Silver Cross. Stake. Garlic. Fire. Holy Water. Six Exorcists.
posted by terranova at 5:11 PM on January 21, 2009 [22 favorites]


Evil (the soviets) begets evil (objectivists).
posted by Mick at 5:13 PM on January 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


SEE the HORRORS of the UNDEAD AYN RAND! MARVEL at her recursive arguments! SHRIEK at her ideology! CRINGE At the HORRIBLE HORDES turned by her SIREN CALL! AYN RAND! Unspeakable horrors await you when you view the MANY LOVES OF AYN RAND! SHe LOVES! She KILLS! COMING THIS CHRISTMAS!
posted by The Whelk at 5:23 PM on January 21, 2009 [48 favorites]


I remember the good old days when American romantic TV comedy was largely about "the gutter, and half-witted, retarded children."
posted by Dumsnill at 5:26 PM on January 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Obvious A is A
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:28 PM on January 21, 2009


3 minutes in and I was like "nope, that's it. can't do it"


maybe I'll try later.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 5:28 PM on January 21, 2009


All I know about Ayn Rand I learned from Matt Ruff''s "Gas, Sewer and Electric". It's seems to be enough.
posted by pointilist at 5:38 PM on January 21, 2009


Ayn Rand had asperger's.
posted by brevator at 5:39 PM on January 21, 2009


Yeah, it was nice to see the young Phil Donahue again, though. He was such a great talk show host back in the day.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:40 PM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, you just posted this so everyone can pile on her per usual.
posted by captainsohler at 5:41 PM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


DISCONTINUE GOOGLING RON PAUL
posted by DU at 5:44 PM on January 21, 2009 [11 favorites]


As more records are put up on YouTube, what other clips with Ayn Rand have yet to come out of the woodwork? Ayn Rand's cameo appearance in Hogan's Heroes? Gunsmoke? Upstairs, Downstairs? Ayn Rand on Laugh-In? Smothers Brothers? Red Skelton?
posted by TwelveTwo at 5:46 PM on January 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


Rand made two appearances on Donohue, if I recall aright. On the first one she spent most of the time screaming at an audience member whose question made it clear the woman had once subscribed to Rand's ideas but no longer did. The second went better because she appeared to be in a good mood (for her) and she held her own fairly well in terms of repartee. Which one is this? I tried watching it but didn't get far.
posted by orange swan at 5:47 PM on January 21, 2009


Disagree with her philosophy, but like that Donahue had her on. I enjoy seeing intellectuals in out-of-context places, like the way Chomsky randomly pops up in odd forums.

(don't agree with Chomsky much either)
posted by aerotive at 5:49 PM on January 21, 2009


In disgust, I called her a selfish bitch.
She thought I was just talking dirty to turn her on
posted by isopraxis at 5:51 PM on January 21, 2009 [10 favorites]


In 30 seconds of skipping around:

AR: "Altruism isn't helping others, it's sacrificing yourself for the good of others.
PD: "What's wrong with that?"
AR: "What's wrong with committing suicide?

-------

There's something wrong with this person. And the people that follow her.
posted by empath at 6:03 PM on January 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


I remember how much sense all this made to me back in high school. Rand's novels were very important to my intellectual development. A few years ago, I decided to revisit them, and briefly started to re-read Anthem. I determined that, much like pot, Ayn Rand is for kids. Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to go dig out my old Rush albums.
posted by Crotalus at 6:12 PM on January 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


My agent once told me that reading Ayn Rand changed his life. It sort of explained everything.
posted by unSane at 6:15 PM on January 21, 2009


That was so boring i couldn't watch it all. 'Men should show their feelings' yawn. I was expecting something to be irritated about. Is there anything of interest in the videos?
posted by bhnyc at 6:17 PM on January 21, 2009


AR: "Altruism isn't helping others, it's sacrificing yourself for the good of others.
PD: "What's wrong with that?"
AR: "What's wrong with committing suicide?


From what I've picked up about Objectivism, Ayn Rand believes that altruism is immoral because it is "anti-life", that is, sacrificing one's self for the sake of others is counter to natural laws that can be deduced through reason and objective reality. Altruism, therefore is no better off than suicide because it is anti-life and

I think the problem is that she is so entrenched in her worldview that she really could not see how this could be misinterpreted. Same can go for her followers.
posted by champthom at 6:20 PM on January 21, 2009


Err, didn't finish that sentence. I meant that altruism, therefore is no better off than suicide because it is anti-life and you're essentially depriving yourself.
posted by champthom at 6:21 PM on January 21, 2009




Ayn Rand factored into my "development" as well. Specifically I had a friend in highschool who loved her and it drove me nuts even then!
posted by delmoi at 6:30 PM on January 21, 2009


I have Rand in the brain lately.
posted by COBRA! at 6:35 PM on January 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think the problem is that she is so entrenched in her worldview that she really could not see how this could be misinterpreted completely wrong (in biological terms). ftfy. I don't know if that amounts to the same thing, but it always struck me as fairly out there.
posted by sneebler at 6:40 PM on January 21, 2009


altruism is immoral because it is "anti-life"
Darkseid's been going about that all wrong, then.

Oh, you just posted this so everyone can pile on her per usual.
captainsohler

I disagree. I have never heard Ayn Rand speak, and though I strongly disagree with many of her ideas, it is interesting to hear her talk about them in her own words.
posted by Sangermaine at 6:41 PM on January 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


I once asked a Rand fanboy, why he was trying to persuade me on the merits of objectivism; was it for his benefit or mine? He said it was for mine, I said that was very selfless of him. He promptly shut up.
posted by nola at 6:44 PM on January 21, 2009 [122 favorites]


One of the problems with Rand (and I say this as one of the former high school Randies who is deadly embarrassed by his past love of her work), is that she doesn't really think through her own philosophy and all its contradictions. She doesn't really think about what her words mean and thinks too narrowly. Every now and then she says something decent, but then she takes it to some ridiculous extreme.
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:57 PM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


More from Aynie
posted by terranova at 7:02 PM on January 21, 2009


SEE the HORRORS of the UNDEAD AYN RAND! MARVEL at her recursive arguments! SHRIEK at her ideology! CRINGE At the HORRIBLE HORDES turned by her SIREN CALL! AYN RAND! Unspeakable horrors await you when you view the MANY LOVES OF AYN RAND! SHe LOVES! She KILLS! COMING THIS CHRISTMAS!
posted by The Whelk at 10:23 PM on January 21 [3 favorites +] You already made this a favorite. [!]


Well goddamnit then I'm going to open another account and fav it again.
posted by fleetmouse at 7:02 PM on January 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


Specifically I had a friend in highschool who loved her and it drove me nuts even then!

Arguing with Randies is essentially no different than arguing with presuppositional apologists and Sean Hannity fans - you will make no ground with them. They have constructed defenses against introspection. They make up for lack of critical thinking with rafts of dogma-reinforcing buzzwordage. Unless the person is from work or family, the proper response is "Go away. You are a foolish person and your ideas are not worthy of serious consideration."
posted by fleetmouse at 7:11 PM on January 21, 2009 [8 favorites]


I get the feeling she did see the contradictions in her stated world view but didn't care because she knew she had a blockbuster on her hands.
posted by ducky l'orange at 7:17 PM on January 21, 2009


Become an objectivist in ten easy steps.
posted by netbros at 7:19 PM on January 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


Sure I thought Ann Rand was awesome when I was still 17, in high school and living with my parents.
Here was a voice as selfish and self centered as me!
ME ME ME
posted by 2sheets at 7:35 PM on January 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


The louder the shout, the bigger the doubt.





(pssst: this applies to ALL ideologies, including Ayn Rand's and yours)
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:46 PM on January 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


What happened to that dude that would shot up in threads like this and go on about how we need to listen to Dr. Ron Paul? Maybe he hangs out at Reddit now.
posted by chunking express at 7:52 PM on January 21, 2009


I have recently read The Fountainhead, and did find some of the ideas quite logical and striking. However, I do agree that they can oversimplify things. I have also watched these interviews, and she has some interesting points, if you understand the basics of objectivism.

Now, here's what I want (and I have failed to get it from other sources, even those that openly criticize Rand. Will MeFi have answers?): What, specifically, do you disagree with about what Ayn Rand has to say, and why, speaking as someone who actually understands the tenants of objectivism? Use specific and plausible examples and scenarios. Convince me. I have been told elsewhere that Ayn Rand is the quintessential sophomoric philosophy phase, without any valid criticism of her philosophy. I have read the responses so far on MetaFilter, which consist entirely of jokes and ad hominem attacks. The only response remotely engaging or with any intellectual mertic beyond name-calling is nola's, to which an objectivist could think: "I am doing it for myself. If I can get you to read and understand this philosophy, perhaps we would have more common ground and more topics to discuss. It could make our relationship more interesting, which provides obvious benefit to myself."

Please, can someone provide me with an "Ayn Rand rebuttal" without name-calling and immaturity? Even from MetaFilter, which I think is one of the most civil discussion sites on the internet, I have seen nothing.
posted by Bahro at 7:53 PM on January 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Fron netbros' link: Knowledge is awareness of reality, i.e., of what there is. I have knowledge when I am aware of something real. But since it is logically impossible for me to be aware of anything unreal, it follows that the proper way to acquire knowledge is to use logic.

*shakes head back and forth so fast jowls go yarbledy-yarbledy-yarbledy*

Is this the winning entry in a non sequitur pageant?
posted by fleetmouse at 7:54 PM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow, this is so fascinating. I've never seen Ayn Rand speaking, had no idea her name was pronounced Ain, did not know she was not American or British.

Now, having Wikipediaed her, understood she's Russian and listened to her comments, she makes much more sense to me. Coming out of the falsely sacrificial aspects of Soviet Communism to America in 1926, which had just emerged from WWI, the heyday of the roaring 20's, full of joy, jazz, rolling in bucks, I can well imagine the impression that this tremendous freedom America offered made on her. It makes sense that she preferred the clean ratiocination of Aristotle to the superstitious, magical thinking of decadent tsarist Russia at that time. The clicheed, rugged individualism that America is renowned for would have been quite dazzling.

So she pedestalized that individualism. It's a common mistake when something is adored without seeing its drawbacks. When I first became Tibetan Buddhist at 21, having just arrived in India from the West, in 1975, I pedestalized Tibetan society and only after learning the language, living among Tibetan refugees in India for 6 years, did I come to understand the polar opposite of Ayn Rand's belief system, blind altruism, is also seriously destructive. Ultimately leading to serious harm at every level of society, not least because 10% of the theocratic country controls the rest as feudal serfs, keeps the rest subservient, in fear of hell, illiterate and dependent on the reigning 10%.

Once I returned West, after a decade in India, I came to understand that the traditional female role of obedience to men and "family", abandoning oneself to others, is also a type of blind altruism, which results in a sick society, not least because women end up resenting their abandonment to others and stew in unexpressed rage, which impacts their children in particular. But giving up the role of "good woman", "good mother", "good wife" has traditionally meant such a loss of identity within the family, social approval from men or peers, religious frame of reference and society in general, the "self-sacrifice" role has been tolerated, enabled.

I think Ayn Rand makes some damn good points. Some of her good points are, imo, only within the context of her cultural and historical background. Though she expressed in grossly politically incorrect terms, there are definitely parts of affirmative action in the USA that not only did not work but made things worse.

She said that the most important parts of her philosophy were her "theory of concepts, my ethics, and my discovery in politics that evil—the violation of rights—consists of the initiation of force."

In light of abject sacrifice in Communism or Tibetan Buddhism, the pendulum swing to the other extreme, Rand's Objectivism, is just another mistaken reaction. Somewhere in the middle is, imo, a workable reality, healthy self interest balanced with loving kindness.
posted by nickyskye at 7:55 PM on January 21, 2009 [35 favorites]


Honestly, it wasn't as bad as I expected. I learned about her mostly from The Ayn Rand Cult and from someone who vehemently disagreed with her during my days on IRC. I've tried arguing with Randroids before, but as fleetmouse points out above, you can't make any headway. It's like an atheistic religious dogma. They have absolute faith in their beliefs, and an argument isn't a discussion of ideas, but instead a one-sided exercise in propaganda.
posted by wastelands at 7:56 PM on January 21, 2009


speaking as someone who actually understands the tenants of objectivism

As soon as I met the tenants of objectivism I realized I was in one of those awful Howard Roark buildings.
posted by fleetmouse at 8:03 PM on January 21, 2009 [25 favorites]


Now, here's what I want (and I have failed to get it from other sources, even those that openly criticize Rand. Will MeFi have answers?): What, specifically, do you disagree with about what Ayn Rand has to say, and why, speaking as someone who actually understands the tenants of objectivism? Use specific and plausible examples and scenarios. Convince me.

We're not your monkeys.
posted by the_bone at 8:03 PM on January 21, 2009 [12 favorites]


@the_bone: Of course you're not. I completely understand that. However, for such a cultured, intelligent, urbane group of people, surely someone should be able to present at least one valid argument against Objectivism. I'm not a "randroid" (Hey, is that more name calling? I'm sorry, I must have wandered into digg. Or is this eBaum's world? It is blue colored.), I'm willing to listen to arguments. Hell, even a link to a book that you think presents some valid counterpoints would be appreciated.

Nearly every other comment (save nickyskye's recent one and a few others) has been nothing but attacks directed at Ayn Rand's followers, none have been actual criticism of her philosophy.
posted by Bahro at 8:13 PM on January 21, 2009


Bahro, Google is your monkey, not us.
posted by unSane at 8:23 PM on January 21, 2009


I suppose, Bahro, that part of the reason you don't get the response you ask for in terms of a reasoned rebuttal of Rand's philosophy is that most of the people qualified to give it are intensely tired of doing so. There's certainly no shortage of critiques out there that are more serious than just snark, here might be one place to start, or here another.

Just as a non-snarky general description of what's often considered wrong with her philosophy, the essence of it is that she constantly reasons based on premises containing unspoken assumptions with which a reasonable person might disagree, and imposes false dichotomies as she does so.
posted by tyllwin at 8:29 PM on January 21, 2009 [11 favorites]


speculative masturbation, in otherwords
posted by klanawa at 8:30 PM on January 21, 2009


I determined that, much like pot, Ayn Rand is for kids.

I would maintain that pot is too good for Ayn Rand.

I had a very influenetantal English teacher. She was an Ex-Nun and married out of the Order for Love. She was a complete hardass when it came to things she knew about but still opened her class on English Literature by showing Fawlty Towers. She had us read Ayn Rand and then London Labour and the London Poor by Henry Mayhew. and THEN Siddhartha by Hesse. Then she'd synch it all up with our history teachers (and in one great moment, our History of Science teacher, Thanks Dr. Jones!) and do period fiction mixed with non-fiction.

It was a great way to run a broad review course, but I forget myself. I was asking her why she lead with Rand, when even at 16 I thought there was something wrong with her ideals (even if I thought the idea of the Total Will taken down by Lesser Men was kind of ..appealing, which I why I read all of her works) and she got very quiet and said:

"Ayn Rand is like a flu shot. She appeals to people, it makes them start to think about morality and philosophy. Then you go in with the harder stuff and make them question the thing that made them question."

She was a great teacher, for many other reasons. She would stay with talky, smart-ass students (like me) for as long as they liked after class. She tried to make the texts we read about sync up with what we covered in history. She turned me on to poetry and I got her "Watchmen" and, I'll never forget, she took off her little dime-store glasses and said "I think this is really interesting." She died early last year and I was unable to attend her funeral. It's my one big regret.
posted by The Whelk at 8:32 PM on January 21, 2009 [42 favorites]


Attempting to posit "one valid argument against Objectivism" (or one for it) is akin to arguing that "all opinions are valid." Have at it, Bahro; you can do it without anyone's help.
posted by Surfurrus at 8:34 PM on January 21, 2009


Hmm. So, Rand's favorite show was, apparently, Charlie's Angels. This, to me, completely invalidates her authority.
posted by ford and the prefects at 8:37 PM on January 21, 2009


As an architect, being asked what I think of Ayn Rand (Fountainhead specifically, which is all I've read) is one of the few things more annoying than being asked if I like the work of FLWright. My basic problem with her philosophy as I understand it, is that it somehow entirely discounts humanity somewhere along the way. It is like the economists who assume that all people make decisions based entirely on rational processes and anything else is just friction or error in the system. It is apparent that this is incorrect, but because the error is hard to quantify they can persist in the wrong approach.

For an individual who is suitably sophisticated and dedicated you could, I suppose, use Objectivism to assess the myriad benefits of apparently altruistic or self-sacrificial actions in order to determine those that are in your self-interest (preferably through the use of many measure and spreadsheets I suspect) and then engage in them. That way you would be a functioning member of society, reap the benefits of our social organism, and still be true to the inherent selfishness of Objectivist philosophy. Except, this is a purely academic view of the issue. Most people have a philosophical world view precisely because we can't make this in depth analysis of every little action. We need heuristics and assumptions to guide us. And used that way Objectivism has huge and apparent flaws. Also, it encourages a world view that it is ok to put yourself above other people, as in actually see them as worth less as a human being. I find more reward in being thankful for my gifts than in using them to claim that I'm worth more than someone else.

So, in sum, interesting, but not very useful. Destructive in the wrong mind. (And yes I like FLW, but I was inspired to the field by his mentor Louis Sullivan and his Kindergarten Chats).
posted by meinvt at 8:37 PM on January 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


Tyllwin, thank you for those links, I will read them in more depth as soon as I finish studying for my Biology final. This one in particular looks like what I was looking for.

But does that second link really need to start with "Ayn Rand was a truculent, domineering cult-leader, whose Objectivist pseudo-philosophy attempts to ensnare adolescents with heroic fiction about righteous capitalists."? Does that really contribute anything?
posted by Bahro at 8:40 PM on January 21, 2009


I don't think it got across, but she was such a hardass about literature and I was such an inane punk about the Death Of The Novel but I always really wanted to impress her so I would PRINT OUT stuff FROM THE INTERNET in 2000 to show her that TV and crap could also be Great Works and I always, always wanted her to rebutt. THe fact that I got her to read "Watchmen" and that she ..really liked it was the big ass total complete high point of my high school life. Even better than getting a blowjob in my mom's car for the first time. Cause that dude would be a jerk later and accuse me of being "shallow", but Mrs. Beaumont (God it feels weird typing her name) would never have e let me off the hook that easily. She'd dog me about what "shallow" means, Jesuit-Style.
posted by The Whelk at 8:41 PM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ayn Rand's biographic novel explains a lot about her myopia. Her escape from Russia left her with an arrogance/intransigence that pretty much crippled her intelligence. It sort of reminds me of someone who grows up in famine and never really gets over it. Who knows, she might have actually been a challenging philosopher had she been able to develop some introspection.
posted by Surfurrus at 8:41 PM on January 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Ayn Rand was a truculent, domineering cult-leader, whose Objectivist pseudo-philosophy attempts to ensnare adolescents with heroic fiction about righteous capitalists."? Does that really contribute anything?
if it's true, yes.
posted by klanawa at 8:44 PM on January 21, 2009


I get the feeling she did see the contradictions in her stated world view but didn't care because she knew she had a blockbuster on her hands.

You'll never convince me that at least a small part of the energetic antipathy Rand inspires here every time her name comes up is due to the fact that her novels are so massively and enduringly popular. Why don't those millions of readers realize how stupid they're being? How much snarkier do we have to get before they're finally shamed by their embarrassing taste?

Fine, she was a hateful old bat with cartoon ideas and the literary talent of a second rate pulp writer. People are still reading her for pleasure 50 years after the fact - which is more than you can say for, oh, Somerset Maugham.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:48 PM on January 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


People are still reading her for pleasure 50 years after the fact - which is more than you can say for, oh, Somerset Maugham.

The library copy of Atlas Shrugged I had would pop open to the sex scene cause of the huge crease in the book.
posted by The Whelk at 8:54 PM on January 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


meinvt: "Most people have a philosophical world view precisely because we can't make this in depth analysis of every little action. We need heuristics and assumptions to guide us. And used that way Objectivism has huge and apparent flaws."

This has always been my basic problem, as well. Setting aside whether Objectivism is "correct" in terms self-consistency, it never struck me as particularly useful, as a day-to-day decisionmaking heuristic. It requires impractical levels of analysis for even simple decisions. And that's always been the end of my interest right there.

There are simpler rationalist philosophies that don't have all the weird baggage of Objectivism, so I just don't see the appeal.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:06 PM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


You'll never convince me that at least a small part of the energetic antipathy Rand inspires here every time her name comes up is due to the fact that her novels are so massively and enduringly popular.

Dude they're bad, very bad. I'm not going to defend that statement, it is just a fact. I don't really feel the need to explain myself to someone who thinks otherwise. I'm sorry, I'm not usually so pigheaded and unwilling to articulate my reasons, but I just can't be bothered, in the same why Rand can't be bothered to put together a philosophy that isn't cobbled from other better thought out sources that she never even sites.
posted by nola at 9:06 PM on January 21, 2009


And I'm a fucking drywall hanger.
posted by nola at 9:11 PM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


nola,

Other very bad novels have been very popular for very inexplicable reasons.... I direct your attention to the phenomenon of "The da Vinci Code". Also, coincidentally or not, cobbled together from various sources that the author didn't care to site.
posted by Severian at 9:17 PM on January 21, 2009


But does that second link really need to start with "Ayn Rand was a truculent, domineering cult-leader, whose Objectivist pseudo-philosophy attempts to ensnare adolescents with heroic fiction about righteous capitalists."? Does that really contribute anything?

No, of course it doesn't. Nor do I consider it a truthful description of Rand and her work. In fact, I'd go so far as to say to it's mean-spirited and deliberate misrepresentation. I posted the link for the pages it links to, and not for that bit of snark. I don't hate her. I actually think Rand the novelist manages to pose interesting questions and offer occasionally insightful parables. It's a puzzle to me that Rand the straight-up philosopher seems not to grasp concepts that the novelist clearly does.
posted by tyllwin at 9:18 PM on January 21, 2009


I should mention that I fully support what you said about Ayn Rand's work being terrible.

At the tender age of a 7th grader I tried to read "Atlas Shrugged".... and failed miserably to get past the first chapter. Didn't like it one bit... it may be telling to point out that "Dune" and "Enders Game" were far more fascinating and not much farther down the shelf at my school library.
posted by Severian at 9:19 PM on January 21, 2009


You're coming in loud and clear Severian. Also I see you're from WI, my girlfriend is from Eau Claire and she took me up there last spring. I gotta say, for a southern boy I felt right at home, and everybody was really nice. The cheese was good too, I'm looking forward to our next trip.
posted by nola at 9:27 PM on January 21, 2009


Dude they're bad, very bad

Well, they're bad as literature. Overly verbose, poorly paced, and stylistically awkward. But no one reads them for their quality as literature, any more than people did Cement.
posted by tyllwin at 9:28 PM on January 21, 2009


I been Ayn Randed, nearly branded
Communist, 'cause I'm left-handed.
That's the hand I use, well, never mind!
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:37 PM on January 21, 2009


I think you only have to look at the current US and world economic situation to see what happens when capitalists act in their own self-interest and without regulation.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:39 PM on January 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


From now on, we should scratch the word "objectivists" and replace it with its more accurate terminology, "self-justificationists".
posted by markkraft at 9:55 PM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ayn Rand? Isn't she the one who built that underwater city?!

(Fragged the mutant bitch with my chaingun!)
posted by markkraft at 10:02 PM on January 21, 2009


As I said before, altruism appears anti-life only if you don't understand the selfish gene theory.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:08 PM on January 21, 2009


Become an objectivist in ten easy steps.
posted by netbros at 3:19 AM on January 22 [2 favorites -] Favorite added! [!]


Much funnier than what I thought it was.
posted by topynate at 10:23 PM on January 21, 2009


nickseye, thanks for saying something genuinely insightful about Rand. I think you're probably right that the transistion from Russia to 1920s America, seeing the tangible effects of two different worldviews, galvanized her philosophy in favor of America's, and led her to make stronger statements than she would have made otherwise.

It's a shame that people tend to either deify or despise her. I don't think either is warranted, and that kind of polarization just distracts from some genuinely interesting philosophical points she's made.

part of the reason you don't get the response you ask for in terms of a reasoned rebuttal of Rand's philosophy is that most of the people qualified to give it are intensely tired of doing so

No one seems to get tired of snarking about it, though.
posted by molybdenum at 10:53 PM on January 21, 2009


Oh jeez I god pwn3d by the netbros link. Well played, you bastard.
posted by fleetmouse at 10:54 PM on January 21, 2009


Anyone who wants to read the various nuanced and comprehensive critiques of Objectivism on this site can avail themselve of the search function. Hint: click here.
posted by jokeefe at 11:06 PM on January 21, 2009


Also, check out this post from Lobster Mitten.

And I sincerely hope that that's as much time as I will devote to Ayn Rand, in any form, for the rest of the year.
posted by jokeefe at 11:13 PM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Okay, just one more link, which might be one of those "cut to the chase" things: Why don't philosophy departments take Ayn Rand seriously? answered by a bunch of philosophers.
posted by jokeefe at 11:19 PM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Now, here's what I want (and I have failed to get it from other sources, even those that openly criticize Rand. Will MeFi have answers?): What, specifically, do you disagree with about what Ayn Rand has to say, and why, speaking as someone who actually understands the tenants of objectivism? Use specific and plausible examples and scenarios. Convince me.

Why is it important to convince you? Or to put it into objectivist terms, why is it important for us to convince you? After all, what difference does it make if there's one more objectivist fool out there to laugh at?

@the_bone: Of course you're not. I completely understand that. However, for such a cultured, intelligent, urbane group of people, surely someone should be able to present at least one valid argument against Objectivism.

Well, for starters Her single Axiom "A is A" doesn't lend itself to any deduction. It says nothing about any B. To say that all things flow from that single axiom is wrong. It's just mathematically, logically incorrect. Since Rand claims her philosophy is logically consistent, and it fails the very first step, it's clearly wrong.

Secondly, she actually has a lot more Axioms in her philosophy, and none of them are really justified, like the belief that doing anything selfless is equivalent to suicide. Even if you accept that doing something selfless is somehow a "loss of life" it begs the question of whether or not a piece of something is equivalent to the whole. For example, if I scrape some paint off of a car, is the paint scraping the same thing as a car? It's a piece of a car, but no one would look slip of paint and say "that's a car!" yet, that's what Rand wants to do about life (and there's no reason to think selfless acts are equivalent to loss of life in the first place)

Those are just a few of the many, many logical problems in her system, which is supposed to be logical and isn't. It says nothing about the profound practical and moral problems.

But, any objectivist is supposed to be an Atheist, you don't say you're an Objectivist, so maybe you're religious. But if you are, surely you've argued with Christians or other religious people about god. Coming up with a "good argument" about religion isn't going to get anyone to change their mind about it, they'll just justify it away. It's a useless exercise (Unless the person is already questioning their religion and is open to change)

With Randians, it's the same. They won't change and they'll just come up with some psudo-logical bullshit. It's even worse, though because Objectivists claim that they've arrived at their conclusions by rigorous deduction, as opposed to religious inspiration, so they ought to change their minds if presented with an appropriate argument, but instead they simply get confused and start spouting nonsense.

To put it simply, the problem isn't that there are no valid arguments about Objectivism, the problem is that Objectivists are all to stupid to understand them.
posted by delmoi at 11:48 PM on January 21, 2009 [19 favorites]


Nietzsche, who is probably at this very moment digging himself up out of his grave in order to kill himself three more times just because I've mentioned him in a thread about Ayn Rand, taught that we had to become friendly with all things. I think I've finally done that with Ayn Rand.

Ayn Rand, you see, is that crazy Grandma you had when you were about seven years old. You mother told you in hushed tones that she'd lived through lots of crazy shit in Soviet Russia, and sometimes Grandma would tell you stories of the old country, and you'd sit there with wide eyes as she'd sputter about those monsters and what they did, and how they oughta be strung up, and how this country was headed for the same thing, too, if it wasn't careful. And then sometimes Grandma would say the craziest shit, and you'd just sit there and think how insane she sounded and how crazy she was, but she's your grandma and she went through all that and besides she just sounds so severe, so you just sit there with your little seven-year-old self and look at your hands while Grandma talks about how you're an evil altruist because you let your sister ride your bike and she broke it because it would just be so much worse to have to explain to your Grandma that she's acting nuttier than my poop after I eat a whole bowl of Jordan almonds.

So yeah. I'm cool with Grandma now. Yeesh, she's crazy, but she gets a little respect since she's so close to death and she's only here a few times a year.

molybdenum: It's a shame that people tend to either deify or despise her. I don't think either is warranted, and that kind of polarization just distracts from some genuinely interesting philosophical points she's made.

Interesting? No. Though you're right; she shouldn't be despised. That's far too much energy to spend. Life is too short for such things.

tyllwin: part of the reason you don't get the response you ask for in terms of a reasoned rebuttal of Rand's philosophy is that most of the people qualified to give it are intensely tired of doing so

molybdenum: No one seems to get tired of snarking about it, though.


Well, sonny, it's like my Grandma Rand always used to tell me: it takes 42 muscles to make a reasoned rebuttal, but only 17 muscles to snark.
posted by koeselitz at 12:14 AM on January 22, 2009 [8 favorites]


Something in me dies a little when people I otherwise respect and who should know better tell me they're libertarian. In my purely anecdotal experience, this checklist accurately describes all of the folks I've met who prescribe to the philosophy:

[x] White
[x] Male
[x] Grew up in a middle-class or well-off household
[x] Household income very high
[x] Technical background (IT, engineering)
[x] Intelligent

In other words, they've done well for themselves and the world has never bit them on the ass. (They may have eaten ramen for a couple of weeks in college when their parent's check was late in arriving, and so they feel like they know what it's like to be poor.)

These folks generally seem to think that their households growing up and their current station in life are how things just are for any intelligent person; they consider themselves "self-made," blinded to the doors that have been open for them all of their life. That they have to squander their tax dollars or time on people who haven't had the backbone to do as well as they have is maddening to them.
posted by maxwelton at 12:23 AM on January 22, 2009 [44 favorites]


Baharo,
There are some interesting and in depth criticisms of objectivism at this
blog:

Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature

Be sure to read the comment section of the blog as well.
posted by yertledaturtle at 12:28 AM on January 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


Here's what I don't understand about Rand (maybe someone can explain?): her books are always about a fellow who goes and builds new huge engineering projects, or buildings, or something of the sort. Since it's the height of human achievement, why is it that she never did anything of the sort? Would that not be a living proof of her ideas, i.e. if she would go and become a world-class scientist or an inventor or an engineer? I understand that she wrote several books, but there are many people who wrote more books and at the same time did many other things as well, and her books are similar to blueprints for an industrial project, it's as if her protagonist would spend all of his life making blueprints and never even tried to implement them. Isn't that the natural second step, having a new idea of how real world works, to experiment by making the ideas work in... real world? Proof is in the pudding and all that? It seems as absurd as if a Parisian would talk all his life, incessantly, of how grand and perfect the city of London is, and having done this for 80 years, not go there to visit even once?

For that matter I think Rand would spare a lot of effort for herself and followers if she read a book written in around 1870s called "The Teenager" by Dostoevsky. It's almost mathematically calculated to answer all hopes of Objectivism without directly addressing its creed.
posted by rainy at 12:31 AM on January 22, 2009


What, specifically, do you disagree with about what Ayn Rand has to say

Most of Rand's oevre is rather impenetrable wank, but the moral basis of Pure Laissez-faire Capitalism she employs is where I can comfortably and clearly part company with whatever she's trying to construct.

Use specific and plausible examples and scenarios.

The progressivism of the late 19th / early 20th centuries was in direct response to the manifest failures of pure capitalism -- Randian moral philosophy apparently elides the problematic feedback effects of wealth concentration in any unregulated / non-socialist economy.

I consider myself an empiricist (in the sense of going with what works best), and find Randian utopianism to conflict with the Rawls' social justice Veil of Ignorance test, given the appreciable inequities of opportunity -- what the have-not moochers face from birth -- that pure unalloyed capitalism will inevitably create over time as inherited wealth enjoys its economic and social advantages obtained via successful rent-seeking.

In short, going with the Veil of Ignorance thing, I'd much rather be paradropped as a random newborn into eg. today's Norway or Singapore than whatever I expect the Randian libertopian paradise would be.

Note though thatI'm also a neo-Georgist which puts me in the left-libertarian column.

I'd like to think that there does exist a libertopia where the redistribution of rents -- from patents, copyrights, licenses, the ownership of land (and the natural resources therein)-- sufficiently counterbalances the economic and social advantages that accrue to wealthy families over time. A Randroid who agrees that absolute property in land is in practice the continuation of long-standing systemic social injustice is no enemy of mine.

From what I gather Rand herself rails against Wall Street money games -- her heroes are the individualistic Captains of Industry that actually created the wealth, and Galt's Gulch featured a privatized version of the Land Tax.
posted by troy at 12:36 AM on January 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


It's a shame that people tend to either deify or despise her. I don't think either is warranted, and that kind of polarization just distracts from some genuinely interesting philosophical points she's made.

Oh, I don't know. I think it's OK to despise someone who used pulp fiction as a vehicle for a philosophy of selfishness, one that would help shape the extreme capitalist libertarian agenda, that gave "philosophical" legitimacy to being a voracious economic predator and demanded people reject any sense of altruism.

Having said that, there are at least one or two Objectivists on Metafilter, one of whom doesn't fit the checklist maxwelton provided, and it would be interesting to hear what they have to say. Although after reading through this thread I wouldn't be surprised if they've already opted out. I can't say I'd blame them, either.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:55 AM on January 22, 2009


Also, yeah, I couldn't finish watching these. I got as far as the discussion on altruism, where she defines "sacrifice" as "giving up something that is of value to you for something else which is of lesser value, or a non-value". I think this is inaccurate. A person who sacrifices something does give up something of value to them (e.g., their life) but they do so for something which they consider greater, of more value (e.g., their country). If you, personally, don't see that the latter has more value than the former, that doesn't necessarily mean that this applies to everyone. "Value" is a subjective quality, so I can see why the concept of altruism becomes difficult when you believe in a purely objective universe.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:18 AM on January 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


It sounds like what Rand is trying to say in this interview series is that personal achievement is good and immaterial mysticism is bad.
posted by edmo at 2:37 AM on January 22, 2009


maxwelton: In other words, they've done well for themselves and the world has never bit them on the ass. (They may have eaten ramen for a couple of weeks in college when their parent's check was late in arriving, and so they feel like they know what it's like to be poor.)

Stereotypes do walk, but it's interesting that Rand's own origins invert at least some of those cliches.

I use the word Libertarian (among other, possibly better words) to signify a radical skepticism of convergent power.

One way of looking at any political orientation is as a model for predicting the consequences of making laws. They give us strategies for successful outcomes, but also flags and portents that we watch out for, limits we do not want exceeded.

While we may arrive at these limits by abstract theory or philosophy, they can be checked against the patterns we find in the litter and data of history, and some emerge as better than others. Obviously, we can become fascists without donning black shirts, or imperialists without appearing as Rome reborn, or keepers of gulags, or slaves, without drawing up our victims by race or education. And the failed society can be the one which forbids, or compels, the very same books or symbols.

But I think one of the strongest indicators of failure is nothing more than the consignment of some critical level of power into some critically small number of hands. So many histories of collapse start not with Yeats' gyre and falcon, but with a fragile equilibrium swallowed up in implosion.

Of course, we might even agree on this and still dispute the particulars. Those few hands can be the hands of public or private actors, corporation or sovereign, the People or the Party. There may be tension between the two, the wane of one enabling the other, or they may work in concert. The gross wisdom is that the Liberal is skeptical of the power of the private actor, and trusts in the power of the state, while the Conservative is the exact inverse. But most of us, I think, tend to fall between, and are unsatisfied with either title. All except the most polar Liberal believe in certain absolute forms of property, for certainly my kidneys would count as such. All but the most cowboy Conservative respect the authority of the courts - how else can I enforce a private contract?


Objectivism is not Libertarianism, because Libertarianism is slightly more inclusive of different kinds of Libertarians. Rand seems to discover in classical Stoicism, Satanism, and the Nietzsche of Zarathustra, an anthem of one sharpened note. I.
posted by kid ichorous at 3:08 AM on January 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wait?! She's called 'Ein?' Ohhhh... I've been callin her Anne! Awwww I've been making an idiot outtamyself...
posted by Effigy2000 at 3:43 AM on January 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


The louder the shout, the bigger the doubt.

So the secret to being right is to whisper? Oh, no, that's not a logical fallacy...

That's a MASSIVE logical fallacy.
posted by grubi at 5:43 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ayn Rand: too nutty to take seriously; too camp to hate.
posted by octobersurprise at 5:54 AM on January 22, 2009


I remember when I had a job shelving books at the local library back in high school. One day, I paused to flip through Atlas Shrugged, having read the back of the book which appealed to my teenage contrariness. Suddenly, I heard someone library-yell "What the hell do you think you are doing?!" One of my coworkers, an older punk rocker, came charging down the aisle and batted the book from my hands.

"There. I just saved you two years of your life. You now owe me a Coke," he said.

Thus ended my demographically required flirtation with Rand. Though after buying Scott a soda, I did wonder if he was being truly altruistic.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:56 AM on January 22, 2009 [23 favorites]


My counter-argument for the Randians has always been: Altruism *is* a form of selfishness. Constructive selfishness, to be sure, but selfishness nonetheless.

When I say that, I don't use the word "selfishness" as a pejorative at all; I am merely saying that what we perceive as altruism (freely giving of one's self) is actually something we do for self-satisfaction or self-preservation. It fits with biology, it fits with sociology, it fits with politics.

Want to be selfish? Help your fellow people. Share.
posted by grubi at 6:01 AM on January 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


Another argument against objectivism is this: objectivist principles are what broke our economy. Pure, destructive selfishness does not build, it only destroys. Constructive selfishness is its opposite. "Enlightened self-interest" actually requires enlightenment.
posted by grubi at 6:05 AM on January 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


The louder the shout, the bigger the doubt.

So the secret to being right is to whisper? Oh, no, that's not a logical fallacy...

That's a MASSIVE logical fallacy.


There are a tragically comical number of logical fallacies that one needs to ignore in order to accept your rewording as somehow equivalent to the original quote.
posted by Bokononist at 6:10 AM on January 22, 2009


But, you know, say what you will about Rand, The Fountainhead movie is all kinds of awesome. Gary Cooper, Patricia Neal, King Vidor, lots of midcentury moderne, all TOWERING TO NEW DRAMATIC HEIGHTS! This re-cut of scenes from the movie set to Tal Bachman's "She's so high" says it so well.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:13 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I didn't go to a particularly good high school, but I'd always thought my junior-year English teacher was a pretty smart guy. He was an aging hippie who would occasionally play really beautiful classical guitar for us; the next year he became Vice Principal.

We read Anthem (well, I'm not entirely sure that I actually read all of it), but the only impression I remember getting was that it was just a really shitty book; nothing at all about philosophy. If he glossed over the Objectivism during discussions--and it's likely that he did--it must have been intentional. I hadn't thought about that before, but I suppose it gives me a new perspective on him.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:15 AM on January 22, 2009


American talk TV has progressed straight down the toilet, hasn't it. That was the point of all this, right?
posted by Bokononist at 6:44 AM on January 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


But, you know, say what you will about Rand, The Fountainhead movie is all kinds of awesome.

'Tis. In fact, you just inspired me to torrent a copy.

The rumored Angelina Jolie production of Atlas Shrugged falls into the Ghostbuster 3 category of "I'll believe it when the DVD arrives from Netflix". But if it is to be made, I insist that they make it as a period piece and in the King Vidor style - so that we'll be treated to shots of Angelina standing ramrod straight in cream-colored silk gowns with fragile shoulders exposed, her face an expressionless mask as she struggles to master the passion she still feels for the Francisco of Javier Bardem, turning to lift a Bakelite rotary telephone as, with an accountant's cold precision, she gives the order to have her passenger car attached to the Taggart Comet so she can supervise the constuction of the John Galt Line.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:12 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am merely saying that what we perceive as altruism (freely giving of one's self) is actually something we do for self-satisfaction or self-preservation.

I think the typical counterargument to this is embodied in the apocryphal story about "Lincoln and the pig." I'm not sure if this link will work, but here's a discussion of it.

Basically, that sort of egoist argument doesn't hold water, because it presupposes that you get satisfaction out of altruistic actions. This is, in itself, altruistic. A true egoist wouldn't give a damn one way or another, and thus would have no desire* to help anyone else.

You may think that you're helping others out of self-satisfaction, but it's a false egoism; the altruism occurs when you take satisfaction, or expect to take satisfaction, from helping someone or something else at all. The perfect egoist ought to be able to watch a man drown, or the piglets smother, without any care at all, and not worry about losing a wink of sleep over their own inaction later.

Anyway ... you can keep this argument going on all day (and the discussion in the linked book is good), but that's the pretty much the standard Moral Philosophy 101 response to the egoist argument.

* At least not outside what can be attributable to pure biological compulsion. This gets into a different argument, one of free will versus biology, pretty quickly though.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:18 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


There are a tragically comical number of logical fallacies that one needs to ignore in order to accept your rewording as somehow equivalent to the original quote.

Not really, no. "The bigger the shout, the bigger the doubt" implies that the volume of the arguer is directly related to quality of the argument. Which is preposterous.
posted by grubi at 7:36 AM on January 22, 2009


Kadin:

I don't think it matters if you get a warm feeling from doing the task or you get something else out of it; the point is: you do it because you want to. When we do what we want, it is because we find pleasure in it. All I propose is being unafraid to embrace that pleasure that comes from sharing. If you get no pleasure in doing something from others (either directly or indirectly), then there's nothing anyone can say that will get you to do it.

Altruism, as it exists in a practical sense, is simply constructive selfishness. But (and here's the thing): that's perfectly fine.
posted by grubi at 7:41 AM on January 22, 2009


Bahro, what makes it sophomoric (from what i can tell basically from the wikipedia page) is that it doesn't even understand the problems of philosophy, let alone solve them. To try to solve issues of ontology and epistemology by just laying down "axioms" like "existence exists" and "consciousness exists" is completely useless, if you understand why there are questions to begin with. Okay, so is she a dualist then? If so, how are "existence" in the outer sense and consciousness connected? Very few philosophers explicitly reject the existence of existence or the experience of consciousness (though some may take issue with saying consciousness "exists" - you may want to be more careful and say it "happens" or "I experience it" or something - but that is why we have to first figure out what we mean by "exists") - but maintaining those as axioms is getting ahead of ourselves. They're the questions, when we're looking at metaphysics, and really the basics of how classic philosophy developed its original problems...

We might ask which is primary (empiricist-idealist issue), or how a person can be both at once (the mind-body problem), etc... starting with these "axioms" (or assumptions put in this way) is going to get messy fast, because they're very rigid and not very clear (what is existence? what is consciousness? what does it mean to exist? issues of time, unity, place, selfhood, language, matter, movement, potential, etc etc etc need to be addressed - unless she wrote a brilliant philosophical masterpiece that answered all this, these axioms are useless)

This thread gets into more, esp on the ethical stuff (where she wants to be some kind of egoist, but doesn't clarify well how her version of egoism works... and egoism has been proposed in many forms, but you have to be clear about the details there, otherwise - why would anything ever go wrong?)

IN the end, she just isn't much of a philosopher, and people don't spend much time defending or exploring simplistic ideas - there are too many thinkers out there who have explored things more deeply or interestingly to get stuck on a novelist who thought she could explain things, but for most of us, isn't even asking interesting questions.
posted by mdn at 8:10 AM on January 22, 2009 [11 favorites]


mdn's back!
posted by COBRA! at 8:16 AM on January 22, 2009


we'll be treated to shots of Angelina standing ramrod straight in cream-colored silk gowns with fragile shoulders exposed, her face an expressionless mask as she struggles to master the passion she still feels for the Francisco of Javier Bardem, turning to lift a Bakelite rotary telephone as, with an accountant's cold precision, she gives the order to have her passenger car attached to the Taggart Comet so she can supervise the constuction of the John Galt Line.

THIS COULD BE MY FAVORITE MOVIE EVER.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:33 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


As Speculative Fiction, Ayn Rand was awesome for this 15-year old. Very empowering concepts. And in concert with an understanding of how PIMPED OUT her life was, it was just a pole on the spectrum of possibilities, and a far farther one for a young woman than there would otherwise be, unless Lucretia Borgia had been a better writer.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:09 AM on January 22, 2009


Hmm, how would I cast Atlas Shrugged, if Angelina is Dagny Taggart? How about:

Ralph Fiennes as Ragnar Danneskjöld
Clive Owen as Howard Reardon
Antonio Banderas as Francisco d'Anconia
Rene Zellwegger as Lillian Reardon
Scarlett Johansen as Cherryl Brooks
Tom Cruise as James Taggart

But who is John Galt? Maybe Daniel Craig?
posted by orange swan at 9:10 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just saw the words "Ayn Rand" and popped in for some in-thread entertainment.

And I brought popcorn!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:28 AM on January 22, 2009


Since it's the height of human achievement, why is it that she never did anything of the sort?

she wrote two best selling novels that are still selling very well - millions of copies - that qualifies as a material achievement of a high order - (although i'm damned if i'll say it was a literary achievement)

---

What, specifically, do you disagree with about what Ayn Rand has to say, and why, speaking as someone who actually understands the tenants of objectivism?

her claim that people can use reason as an absolute and their primary means of functioning in the world doesn't agree with my experience or observation of the people around me - i don't believe that people are capable of being rational all the time; that a certain concentrated effort must be made and even then, the human mind is very good at tricking itself into thinking it is following logical propositions when it is merely following beliefs and rationalizing them

that is not to say that reason is bad or that people shouldn't use logic and reason in their daily lives - but whether it be my hatred of tomato juice or your falling in love with so and so, there is much about us that is inexplicable - and life is just too short to put everything we do and think under a microscope so we can be sure that we are living entirely according to reason

i don't even think we're wired that way

i also don't know how one measures intangibles such as virtue, or love, or happiness - and it seems to me that one would have to measure them in order to judge them accurately - and it also seems to me that dollar bills are woefully inadequate as tools to measure what are emotional, not intellectual, values

also i'd be interested to know what an objectivist justification for childbirth and child raising might be like - because i can't conceive of anything less altruistic than that

in fact, i've read quite a bit of her and i don't really recall that she addressed that area of life - it's kind of funny that she would forget about something as basic as having a family and the future of the human race, right?
posted by pyramid termite at 9:31 AM on January 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


Ayn Rand : Philosophy :: Marquis de Sade : Sexuality.

Both dispossessed aristocrats absolutely suffused with rage (as was Nabokov, by the way).

Sort of changes how a person sees the French Revolution to realize how much of all that was a kind of mercy killing.
posted by jamjam at 9:41 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


A single actual argument against Ryndism? Sure, this Bob the Angry Flower cartoon provides an excellent anti-Rynd argument, and its mildly amusing to boot.

Far from being worthless parasites, the people who aren't Ryndian Supermen are kind of necessary for the everyday functioning of society. I think that about wraps it up for Atlas Shrugged, don't you?
posted by sotonohito at 9:44 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


netbro's link (objectivist in ten easy steps) got my interest,
in a tourist kind of way.
then got me a little wigged out with step 8.
but then I learned about a magic square.
and felt much better.
but then I learned about, uh, magic squares
and got kind of wigged out again.

thanks metafilter+internets!

+maths!
posted by ilovemytoaster at 10:27 AM on January 22, 2009


Another thought about Rand (based off of some of the comments here and my own past experience):

She claims that all her world views derive from the logical extension of her first axiom, "A is A." But in reality, I think that her "philosophy," such that it is, is primarily a cobbled together pseudo-logical justification of her personal tastes and idiosyncrasies. For example, her perverted Nietzschean worship of the capitalist ubermensch seems to be a symptom of her own sexual fantasies of being dominated and possessed by powerful men -- see her biography and the psuedo-rape sex scenes from her novels. Her aesthetic philosophy -- which denigrates "primitive" or "jungle" music -- seems to be based on an implicit strain of almost Aryan racism: only music based on Western "rational" compositional practices is good, anything that derives from any other source (like jazz with its derivation from slave music and African tribal music) is inherently degraded, primitive, and irrational. I remember as a 17-18 year old being somewhat distraught by the contradiction between my love of jazz and my belief in Objectivism (although I did try to use Objectivist "principles" to prove that my musical tastes were the best). Well, one of them got tossed out the window, I'll let you guess which.
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:34 AM on January 22, 2009


Rand seems to discover in classical Stoicism, Satanism, and the Nietzsche of Zarathustra, an anthem of one sharpened note. I.

Love for this sentence. Dang, that's nice.
posted by jokeefe at 10:36 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


The irony is that Rand's idealised society contains so many of the elements that make Soviet Communism so horrible; veneration of material progress above all else; cults of personality; dismissal of the ordinary individual as unimportant in the face of the plans of the "great men."
posted by rodgerd at 10:51 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]



I remember how much sense all this made to me back in high school. Rand's novels were very important to my intellectual development. A few years ago, I decided to revisit them, and briefly started to re-read Anthem. I determined that, much like pot, Ayn Rand is for kids. Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to go dig out my old Rush albums.


Neither pot nor Rush push a specious, selfish and destructive ideology.
posted by cmoj at 10:56 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


The louder the shout, the bigger the doubt.

So the secret to being right is to whisper? Oh, no, that's not a logical fallacy...
That's a MASSIVE logical fallacy.

There are a tragically comical number of logical fallacies that one needs to ignore in order to accept your rewording as somehow equivalent to the original quote.

Not really, no. "The bigger the shout, the bigger the doubt" implies that the volume of the arguer is directly related to quality of the argument. Which is preposterous.


The saying is a call to introspection, about why it would bother us so much that someone else believes something that we don't. It asks us to consider that we may feel threatened by these other ideas because we are, actually, not as sure of ourselves as we would like.

In light of this interpretation, there would be an irony in my going on now to point out the logical fallacies that would need to be indulged to allow translating "The louder the shout, the bigger the doubt" to "The secret to being right is to whisper". But I will point to this and let just a sprinkle of irony fall around me.
posted by Bokononist at 10:58 AM on January 22, 2009


what's interesting to me is that no one who interviews her ever asks "so, this female character you wrote in The Fountainhead, who can only respect a man who rapes her... where exactly did that idea come from? what are you saying about women? how should people see and react to this characterization?"

it's an odd thing that Objectivists never really talk about.
posted by shmegegge at 11:01 AM on January 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


I did once ask that question, shmegegge, and was told what's-her-name wanted it but wouldn't admit it, which is why her attacker was laughing mockingly throughout the attack. She was being a silly silly woman.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:23 AM on January 22, 2009


am I the only one here that is a Rand fan? : (
posted by flyinghamster at 11:41 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


oh one more thing. false dichotomies.
posted by flyinghamster at 11:48 AM on January 22, 2009


Do you guys really find it so offensive that a woman might be portrayed as an emblem of shackled, hard-wired social altruism beneath which lies baser desire, that can only accessed through a gendered violence? I mean, it's wrapped up in complicated implications, but I don't have a problem with the rape in The Fountainhead as much as I do with the rapes in American Psycho. At least there's some sentience, however fucked up, given to Dominique. Her femininity IS treated as a strike against her by the author. Rand was trying to channel reality, where the same crippling of women as women is ( and especially was) true, and not only within a sphere of gendered violence. Gendered violence as ironic transcendence isn't unique to Rand. I find Dominique one of the most interesting characters Rand wrote, coming from Rand, the, well, putting it delicately, sex-positive megalomaniac.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:58 AM on January 22, 2009


Rand was trying to channel reality, where the same crippling of women as women is ( and especially was) true, and not only within a sphere of gendered violence. Gendered violence as ironic transcendence isn't unique to Rand.

I think you're giving too much credit to the author who described it as not really rape, and if it was, it "came with a gilt-edged invitation."
posted by rodgerd at 12:46 PM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Do you guys really find it so offensive that a woman might be portrayed as an emblem of shackled, hard-wired social altruism beneath which lies baser desire, that can only accessed through a gendered violence? I mean, it's wrapped up in complicated implications, but I don't have a problem with the rape in The Fountainhead as much as I do with the rapes in American Psycho.

Do I have a problem with that portrayal? Not especially. Do I assume that's what she was getting at? Not really. But I've always hoped those questions I posted would be asked in earnest. I don't think they're landmine questions or anything, I just think it's worth someone asking her how far her use of archetypal characters should be taken in that instance. Is this meant to be an endorsement of a particular sexual politic? Is it a description of an unfortunate consequence of male dominated society? Has she ever met someone who felt that way about sex? Should we take what, to my mind, is a very hard piece of character motivation to swallow and assume she's trying to reveal to us some deeper set of universal desires we aren't normally aware of? Or is she simply making an allegorical point? As you said, there are complicated implications, and I wish someone had explored them with her. It seems to be a subject objectivists don't want to bring up, and I think that's telling of the sort of myopic vision I typically associate with objectivists. I could, of course, be wrong.
posted by shmegegge at 12:50 PM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


and fwiw, I have less of a problem with American Psyho's rapes than Rand's, because Ellis isn't glorifying it, he's making it horrific. At first glance, Rand seems to be glorifying it, and that worries me. This is why I've hoped that someone would ask her about it.
posted by shmegegge at 12:52 PM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Altruism, as it exists in a practical sense, is simply constructive selfishness. But (and here's the thing): that's perfectly fine.

I basically agree and I pretty much have felt this way since I was 16. I think I basically reinvented a bastardized version objectivism on my own and came up with arguments against it soon after. It wasn't until college that I really learned about Rand or objectivism and tried to use my arguments on a friend who started reading Rand. He didn't really respond to anything I said so I'm not sure if I did a good or bad job of convincing him. I haven't read any of her works or even taken a philosphy course so I wouldn't doubt that I have many, many flaws in my arguments.

One thing that dissapoints me about philosophy is that it seems to entirely ignore psychological development. Again, I could be mistaken. So not only do I have a layman's understanding of philosophy I decided to throw in a layman's understanding of psychology as well. I have cobbled together these two things with a bit of 'state machine' terminology thrown in for good measure.

Basically, I think that all actions are selfish in that each action we perform is ultimately determined by a path of least resistence in our brains. When we are young this path is formed without any of our own intelligence to guide it. Rather, it depends on how we are raised and some biological 'default values' for our brains and hormones. As we grow more and more self-aware our brains can begin to manipulate themselves. But how we choose to manipulate ourselves is still determined by our own history as well as ongoing events that occur in our lives.

At some point our brain pathways essentially lock into place. We can still change how our own brains perform with drugs or an amount of mental training, but only to a limited degree. I believe that these pathways constitute the 'axioms' for our personal belief structure. It is our studying of our internal axioms that cause some of us to strive for a logically consistant belief structure. Perhaps we begin to see how one axiom hurts another axiom and so we try to reform our pathways to either remove one belief or to at least bring it into line with the others. Depending on which axioms are enforced, we end up with different belief systems yet again. Sometimes, by applying our axioms slightly differently the 'results', the change in behavior, can appear dramatic even if there was only a small change in internal beliefs. Think of some people who grapple with being raised religious who become staunch atheists at some point.

My belief system is fairly 'altruistic' and due to my internal axioms I see no reason to try to subvert this altruistic system in favor of less altruisitic axioms.

I'm sure a psychology or philosphy buff can point out a number of flaws in my reasoning. This wouldn't surprise me as I've never written about it before so a lot of my thoughts are jumbled.
posted by Green With You at 1:18 PM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Try not to toss around the word axiom lightly. For purposes of this thread (and due to laziness) Wikipedia's definition will do:
In traditional logic, an axiom or postulate is a proposition that is not proved or demonstrated but considered to be either self-evident, or subject to necessary decision. Therefore, its truth is taken for granted, and serves as a starting point for deducing and inferring other (theory dependent) truths.
Ethical precepts and economic and political policies are normative, not axiomatic (actually normative is usually contrasted with descriptive but whatever). Even if you can show that policy or precept X is historically the best or leads to the greatest good, it's still not axiomatic because it's based on observation and induction (not to mention the principle that you can't derive a norm from an observation without a value judgement). No argument with inductively formulated premises can have a necessarily true conclusion, though the argument may be formally valid and the conclusion true beyond a reasonable doubt.

People often attempt to lionize this or that pet idea by describing it as axiomatic. It adds a nice gloss of philosophical bafflegab to bamboozle the bozos.
posted by fleetmouse at 1:47 PM on January 22, 2009


shmegegge: and fwiw, I have less of a problem with American Psyho's rapes than Rand's, because Ellis isn't glorifying it, he's making it horrific. At first glance, Rand seems to be glorifying it, and that worries me. This is why I've hoped that someone would ask her about it.

Easton isn't glorifying it? There's a good case to be made that he is. Even beyond the fact that, y'know, his books don't seem to have literary purpose beyond being easily-marketed film options. American Psycho doesn't seem to have any point to most of the people I've talked to who rave about it beyond "the '80's were a selfish and indulgently cruel decade" - yes, it's kind of neat, the trick of boring and thus challenging the reader with treatises on the relative merits of Genesis and using that boredom as an emblem of the emptiness of the protagonist - and even that point isn't explored in a way that actually goes anywhere. First, there are a lot of ways to make the argument that that statement is wrong; second, even if it's true, it's been repeated ad nauseum, and Ellis' restatement doesn't add anything.

I don't think Bret Easton Ellis really meant primarily to make a grand statement about an American decade. What's more likely to me is that he's simply trying to uncover something about moral existence by trying to empty a character of all soul or life and then drawing that character out as broadly as possible. He calls himself a moralist, but that's really, I think, because he doesn't know what the word means and thinks he's being novel in trying to define it negatively.

Most of the literary people I talk to who seem to like him tend to be getting off on the Beckett-esque challenge to the reader: can you look long and hard at this grotesque thing? But, again, that's been done. It's been done to death, and now it's just novelty and fetish.

That's what Bret Easton Ellis, I think: a fetish. People are thrilled by the grotesque, and he's good at presenting it. That's why his books make more popular movies than most. So that, in the end, he is "glorifying" rape, though he's certainly not urging anybody to do it, and nobody would be convinced to (I hope) by American Psycho. It's a glorification of the enjoyment of the grotesque. It makes no difference that he's not encouraging the act. He's putting something out there that any good writer or thinker should know will have this effect: people naturally think a serial killer who writes or talks sincerely about the qualities of Huey Lewis and the News is pretty cool.

A more interesting book might delve into the reasons why people think serial killers are so cool.
posted by koeselitz at 2:59 PM on January 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


The problem with Ayn Rand, for someone who was asking earlier in the thread, is that she starts from some statement (in her case, "A=A") and uses a long chain of shaky assumptions to reach her conclusion (in her case, "people should be THIS individualistic/selfish"). I think she has a book that fully explains how her philosophical system works.

To be fair, many other famous philosopher/thinkers have done this as well (Descartes, Sartre) I mean, honestly, it seems more likely they had an ideal of human behavior in their heads, then came up with some questionable scheme of "logic" to support it. I mean, having your ideal is all well and good, but it seems people trip up when they say "you must believe this because look at MY UNFAILING AND AIRTIGHT SERIES OF CONCLUSIONS!" (Oh, uh, really?)

The one thing I liked about Ayn Rand is that she put a lot of emphasis on individuality in a time when people were being told to live their lives for other people. The thing I didn't like was that she is basically telling you to "be yourself" by "thinking the way I do."
posted by uxo at 3:22 PM on January 22, 2009


A=A
In my dictionary, under "Tautology", it says "See 'Tautology'".
posted by Grangousier at 3:37 PM on January 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


Neither pot nor Rush push a specious, selfish and destructive ideology.

Well, Rush did write 2112, inspired by Rand's works...
posted by Saxon Kane at 5:21 PM on January 22, 2009


then I learned about a magic square.
and felt much better.
but then I learned about, uh, magic squares
and got kind of wigged out again.


Shh. Settle down. Have a magic square.
posted by padraigin at 5:37 PM on January 22, 2009


Well, Rush did write 2112, inspired by Rand's works...

. . . as is like 40% of their oeuvre.
posted by absalom at 6:23 PM on January 22, 2009


Well, Rush did write 2112, inspired by Rand's works...

I'm no Rush scholar, but I never felt proselytized by them. The Danielson Famile or Norman Greenbaum ostensibly tries to spread the word of the god, but they're not converting anyone any more than Rush.
posted by cmoj at 6:40 PM on January 22, 2009


Saxon Kane: Well, Rush did write 2112, inspired by Rand's works...

absalom: . . . as is like 40% of their oeuvre.


Yeah, but do you notice there's sometimes a disconnect?

I was sitting and listening to one of my favorite Rush songs a while ago, a little ditty called "The Spirit of Radio," when it really struck me; some of this stuff is clearly not Randian:

One likes to believe in the freedom of music
But glittering prizes and endless compromises
Shatter the illusion of integrity

For the words of the prophets were written on the studio wall
and Concert halls
And echoes with the sounds of salesmen...

posted by koeselitz at 9:25 PM on January 22, 2009


@the_bone: Of course you're not. I completely understand that. However, for such a cultured, intelligent, urbane group of people, surely someone should be able to present at least one valid argument against Objectivism. I'm not a "randroid" (Hey, is that more name calling? I'm sorry, I must have wandered into digg. Or is this eBaum's world? It is blue colored.), I'm willing to listen to arguments. Hell, even a link to a book that you think presents some valid counterpoints would be appreciated.

I guess the most glaring problem with Rand is that she bases her philosophy on a set of self constructed axioms that seem at best improperly established, and at worst, utterly wrong. Objectvist epistemology is based exclusively upon these axioms that Rand regards as self evident, consequently so all 'objectivist' ethics, aesthetics, and beliefs directly trace origin to these (overly?) simple precepts.

Rand establishes her initial axiom as A=A, or expressed another way, "existence exists." This is immediately problematic to philosophers. For at least a thousand years philosophers have been examining the concept of 'existence' and it's Why What and How. Never mind though! Rand has dispensed with this problem by claiming existence must exist by it's inherent property of, well, existing. This sounds on the surface like a logically consistent and pithy statement however it's actually total deceptive bullshit. The conclusion to her argument is implied by it's premise, rather than positing any actual evidence. It's the equivalent of a prosecutor standing up in court and claiming that "the defendant is guilty because he committed the crime!" Formally, this statement may be valid but it fails to explain why it arrives at it's conclusion. It's begging the question, or circular reasoning.

Since we exist, Rand goes on to claim that axiomatically, our individual existence, or survival is our highest purpose, because the only other choice is death. As far as I can parse from her beliefs, that what ensures our survival is self interest, therefore it is the only rational choice we can make, and since survival is our highest purpose it follows that what is Rational is also Moral.

Survival = Reason = Selfishness = Moral

Thus selflessness (altruism) is irrational, and that which is irrational is immoral. Thus Altruism = Evil. Ok, what the hell? We went from "existence exists" to "altruism is evil?" You want to call something selfless "evil" just by improperly redefining your terms? Like a house built on sand, everything from the initial premise might be constructed properly, but since the foundation is completely fucked, the house will never stand. Objectivism starts with a silly assumption, and simply gets more outlandish as greater layers of abstraction are infered from it's faulty premises.

Part of the reason why people seem to reserve special snark for Randians is because their philosophy defines it's terms in such a way that it's adherents regard it's reasoning as the *only* rational approach to adopt.. If you don't agree, you must be irrational, and irrational = Evil. As such Ayn Rand had a predilection for simply not engaging critics, because she seemed to percieve that they had nothing to offer her. If you look at the youtube videos with this article, she reacts dismissively to a critic and then claims later that she has sought her whole life for a worthy opponent to debate her ideals, yet ever has never encountered one. Think of how arrogant and presumptive this statement is... In several thousand years of scholarship, and amongst the intelligent minds of her generation, she could not find ONE person to challenge and refine her ideas in a debate? That sounds like a bunch of crap, especially for someone whose assumptions about morality were highly controversial, and generally seen as not particularly well reasoned.
This attitude seems to persist among her adherents, and why they get slapped with the pejorative "Randroid" term.

Its a cliche that Objectivism seems often to make many folks more insufferable and overly self assured upon it's adoption, largely because of the contempt it inspires in it's adherents for the opinions and even lives of others.
posted by Thoth at 12:28 AM on January 23, 2009 [6 favorites]


George Bernard Shaw once remarked that the Irish Troubles would end once the teaching of Irish history became compulsory in England, and forbidden in Ireland.

In the same spirit, I have observed elsewhere that the works of Ayn Rand should be required reading for a certain kind of smart-but-beaten-down fourteen-year-old girl, and forbidden to everyone else.
posted by pnh at 3:10 AM on January 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bob the Angry Flower to the side, what always bugged me about Randites/Libertarians is that their proposed systems are all but designed to produce a hereditary aristocracy. They deny this, but they never mention what, exactly, will prevent it, which seems (to me) to be sufficient evidence to dismiss the whole thing as mysticism and/or utopianism.

I'm a utilitarian type of person, my major questions about Libertarianism/Randism are not how well the epistemology is reasoned (not to dismiss the value of such inquiry, just that it isn't my main focus), but rather the more immediate questions of "will this work?" and "how can this be abused?" I fail to see how anyone can see the end result of Randism/Libertarianism can be anything but hereditary aristocracy of the worst sort.

1) The free market rules all, no regulations, no FDA to assure food safety, no OSHA to ensure job safety, no corporate oversight or watchdogs of any sort. Because the magic of the Free Market will make sure nothing bad happens.
2) Absolutely no government programs of any sort, free schooling is right out.
3) Unions are EVIL because they're (shudder) collectivism, and, of course, thanks to point 1 the Good and Saintly Creative Productive Supermen can (and will) simply hire private armies to break any attempt at forming a union.

Given that as a starting point, how does this *not* result in the working class becoming illiterate serfs (enslaved by a company store type setup) in a few very short generations? In the first generation, when the working people are still educated, the higher wages and standards of living gained by unionization and government regulation haven't been completely rolled back, you may see some limited social mobility. But as time passes that will vanish, as more and more working people (as opposed to our Creative Supermen aristocrats) are unable to afford education for their children. How, really, can an illiterate, uneducated, kid, forced (no regulations or EVIL government control now!) to work 18 hours a day in a factory from age 7, be anything but a beaten down serf?

What we're seeing in Libertarianism/Randism is short signed, non-enlightened, self interest of the worst sort. In the long run a world of a few well off aristocrats and a teaming sea of illiterate, beaten down, serfs is actually a bad deal for the aristocrats. It produces fewer innovations, fewer of the good things in life.
posted by sotonohito at 3:59 AM on January 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Unions are EVIL because they're (shudder) collectivism

A philosophy based on free markets should not in theory oppose labor unions, since they're just expressions of collective bargaining.

2) Absolutely no government programs of any sort, free schooling is right out.

I'd hope not. Human intelligence is one of the few investments that pays reliable dividends to society. But the IQ of the cruise missile takes the greater fraction of your dollar, and one can't consider government at its largest scale while ignoring the tendencies towards waste and war.
posted by kid ichorous at 5:39 AM on January 23, 2009


That sounds a little too Jeremy Bentham. Let's just say that, as far as I'm concerned, funding public education should not be inconsistent with libertarian beliefs. DARPA, on the other hand...
posted by kid ichorous at 5:45 AM on January 23, 2009


kid ichorous Re: Unions. Let's see what the Libertarian Party has to say:
We support the right of free persons to voluntarily associate in, or not associate in, labor unions. An employer should have the right to recognize, or refuse to recognize, a union as the collective bargaining agent of its employees. We oppose government interference in bargaining. Therefore, we urge repeal of the National Labor Relations Act, and all state Right-to-Work Laws which prohibit employers from making voluntary contracts with unions.

We support repeal of laws that impede the ability of any person to find employment, such as minimum wage laws, so-called “protective” labor legislation for women and children, & governmental restrictions on the establishment of private day-care centers. We deplore government-fostered forced retirement, which robs the elderly of the right to work. We oppose all government welfare, relief projects, and “aid to the poor” programs.
source My emphasis.

So, yeah, what I said. No unions (evil Collectivism), children working 18 hour shifts, etc. The company has a right to refuse to recognize unions, and presumably to fire employees for attempting to form unions. Not to mention strike breakers, Pinkertons, and all the other lovely tactics used in the Robber Barron age.

You may not see a problem with unions, but the Libertarians sure do.

Schools?
We advocate the complete separation of education and State. Government schools lead to the indoctrination of children and interfere with the free choice of individuals. Government ownership, operation, regulation, and subsidy of schools and colleges should be ended. We call for the repeal of the guarantees of tax-funded, government-provided education, which are found in most state constitutions.
source

Yup. No unions, no education unless you can afford it, and child labor.

Which brings me back to my point. We are looking at insanely short sighted self interest. We are looking at stupid self interest. Who gives a damn about next year, I want to eat more than anyone else, so I'll eat the seed corn!
posted by sotonohito at 6:01 AM on January 23, 2009


Soto: I'm not going to defend the big-L party (no more than I'd defend the namesake of the Res Publica) but, in theory, a sincere capitalist would simply treat a union as a corporation that sells skilled labor.
posted by kid ichorous at 6:23 AM on January 23, 2009


kid ichorous Well, yes. And in theory Communism will lead to a perfect world where everyone his happy. And "in theory" a brothel is a center for the academic study of human sexuality. And of those statements the one about the brothel is the most true.

The problem is that pure laissez faire capitalism is that it doesn't actually work in the real world any better than Communism does. Look at the brutal anti-union tactics of the robber barron age and you'll see what happens in real life when you set capitalists loose from government restrictions. No theorizing needed, we've seen what happens in the real world.

The "sincere capitalist" is every bit as much a fairy tale as Santa Claus. In the real world they turn away from capitalist theory when it'll profit them to do so.
posted by sotonohito at 6:38 AM on January 23, 2009


I agree, but laying aside this vast excluded middle between our government and no government, the question was one of ideals, and on that plane a free-market capitalist should not really be able to distinguish corporation from union. It's another matter to point out that, in practice, he's not very good at metaphysics and would much rather call in Pinkerton.
posted by kid ichorous at 7:23 AM on January 23, 2009


fleetmouse,
conomic and political policies are normative, not axiomatic

Mises and the Austrians and their internet fanboys would disagree. Oh I how I hate them...
posted by Sangermaine at 8:10 AM on January 23, 2009


American Psycho doesn't seem to have any point to most of the people I've talked to who rave about it beyond "the '80's were a selfish and indulgently cruel decade" - yes, it's kind of neat, the trick of boring and thus challenging the reader with treatises on the relative merits of Genesis and using that boredom as an emblem of the emptiness of the protagonist - and even that point isn't explored in a way that actually goes anywhere.

koeselitz, I think you're just taking this opportunity to diss Ellis, rather than really addressing his portrayal of rape. And that's cool. I'm not a huge fan of his, myself. I thought American Psycho was a fun book, and the most I get from most of his stuff is a revealing look at the vulgarly privileged. Honestly, I'm not going to defend his stuff. It doesn't matter that much to me. But, for the sake of clarity, I'll point out that there is a point to American Psycho outside of the whole "The 80s are selfish" nonsense. You ready for it? You'll laugh. I did. Here it is: It's existential. I'm not even joking. It's your typical "omg i'm so deep, i'm existential" type nonsense. It's a more shocking re-imagining of L'Etranger. There you go.

That said, I still don't see how he's glorifying rape. They're among the most disturbing portrayals of violence I've ever read. Usually, my tip-off that something isn't meant to be glorified is that it's repulsive. Even Bateman doesn't seem to be enjoying them. He pracitcally regards those scenes (and the rest of the scenes in the book, for that matter) from outside himself, passionlessly. When something is that disconnected and foul, I assume that's because it's supposed to be foul, not totally awesome. Maybe my reaction to those scenes in the book is peculiar to me, but that's my take on it. I don't think he was trying to point out how awesome rape was.

also, Rush sucks.
posted by shmegegge at 8:45 AM on January 23, 2009


schmegegge, first of all, I had the Rand experience sanctioned above by pnh - show me a fourteen year old girl who isn't "beaten down" in some way, I challenge you - and I haven't read her since. But I think it's compelling evidence in and of itself that all it took for me to know about her personality, life, and relative achievements to interpret the rape of Dominique as an allegorical exposure of someone stamped (by gender, and she is very much The Woman of the book) with vestigial disempowerment to the narcotic of pure empowered self-actualization and aggressive attainment of desire.

I think the literary math works out, and I hold my (and my teen girlfriends at the time's) natural, automatic acceptance of this reading as evidence of the coherence of her themes and the (forgive me) artfully, unspoken managed promblematics of "a rape."

I mean to suggest that there may be logics implicit to a smart, but beaten down fourteen year old girl's reading experience which are as valid as your own seemingly more critical and distanciated one, and take male-on-female rape as something of a different and, I must admit, more enormous psychic significance. You seem to be able to say "why rape?" when to me, it was "of course, rape." Rape is like, Rand's ideal action. It's a primal demonstration of the pleasure of power, and the many optional reactions to it are implicit in it. It's not, to me, a dark corner of consciousness, it's a major chord, often played in myth, literature, and socialization, and irreplaceable. Rape, to me, will never be off limits as a structure upon which rich conceptual tapestries can be quickly hung. I say this having really no way of totally imagining what it might be in the psyche of a man.

And American Psycho's rape and torture scenes are basically too long, to me, to be only grisly. They dally and make meat of the women, inch by inch. The book begins to read as a flaunting of power on the author's behalf, for the furtherance of narcissism, at an uncalculated cost to an unregarded reader. I got the point pages ago. I am sitting in my bed alone, in a dorm, puzzled and horrified. Of course, the reception is also a bother to me. I don't hold Ellis responsible for the book and movie's continual undiscriminated popularity, but as the glossy pop object of have-you-seen-it-oh-you-must it has become, the story loses a lot of its ironies.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:30 AM on January 23, 2009


I mean to suggest that there may be logics implicit to a smart, but beaten down fourteen year old girl's reading experience which are as valid as your own seemingly more critical and distanciated one

I'm interested in knowing what you believe my "more critical and distanciated" reading of the rape scene is. And bear in mind that I mentioned above that my whole point was that I didn't, and still do not, know how to read that scene.

You seem to be able to say "why rape?" when to me, it was "of course, rape."

Was that what I said? I can't find it anywhere. I think this may be the central point of confusion between us.

The book begins to read as a flaunting of power on the author's behalf,

did you mean "narrator" here, instead of "author?"
posted by shmegegge at 1:47 PM on January 23, 2009


I find it interesting to discuss the rape of Dominique as the "primal demonstration of the pleasure of power", especially in light of Rand's belief that "the essence of femininity is hero-worship—the desire to look up to man". You really don't need to look very far to see what Rand thinks of women, compared to men.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:49 PM on January 23, 2009


Marisa, Yeah, I don't for a minute think she could really conceive of anyone but herself as anything but instances of phenomena, but I don't think that makes her specifically anti-feminist, just narcissistic, perhaps misanthropic. So she thinks "women" are weak, well, as phenomena I can see where she came up with that. I'm not really interested in tearing her, more than any of her contemporary men, apart for their treatment of genders.

shmegegge, if you are weighing options of how to read that scene, you are using more critical distance than I did, as a 15 year old, when I consumed it, and synthesized what I took as a natural significance from it. Does that make anything clearer? I am just trying to express how the allegorical meaning of rape was not out of step with whatever precursory cultural or psychic significances of rape I brought to the book, and how that might have been largely in part to age, sex.

And no, I meant Bret Easton Ellis, who spent weeks perfecting pages about a rat eating its way out of a vagina for... what purpose again? Maybe it's just not to my taste. Okay, certainly it isn't.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:56 PM on January 23, 2009


I, too, did not find American Psycho enjoyable. During the time I was reading it, I spent my days walking around in a fog, feeling hollow inside. I'm not saying the book was without merit, but it did have a palpable, physical effect on me that I wouldn't like to experience again.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:37 PM on January 23, 2009


perhaps misanthropic

well, i'd say the infamous train tunnel scene in atlas shrugged is one of the more misanthropic things i've read ... speaking of which

Bret Easton Ellis, who spent weeks perfecting pages about a rat eating its way out of a vagina for... what purpose again?

well, back then, they couldn't have called it trolling ...
posted by pyramid termite at 6:50 PM on January 23, 2009


American Psycho doesn't seem to have any point to most of the people I've talked to who rave about it beyond "the '80's were a selfish and indulgently cruel decade"

I never read it, but I loved the movie. It's not about "the 80's", it's about consumer capitalism as a way of life, which the 80s certainly exemplified.
posted by mdn at 2:01 PM on January 28, 2009


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