View Poll Results: What is your opinion on Ayn Rand
Favorable 6 14.29%
Unfavorable 28 66.67%
Mixed 6 14.29%
Undecided 2 4.76%
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Ayn Rand

by jduster
Tags: rand
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Bacanalia
#19
Mar8-12, 11:25 AM
P: 3
Quote Quote by jduster View Post
I am fully aware that there was a previous thread on Ayn Rand which was locked because the community digressed into a discussion about deregulation and drugs. I hope that we can stay on topic on this thread. There is a chance that a moderator will write a laconic post and then lock this thread, but if not, I hope we can all discuss this maturely.

Personally, I disagree with Rand.

I did read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged years ago and I used to have a favorable opinion of her, until I learned more about her.

She did not innovate much in philosophy. Most of what she wrote, she simply borrowed from other philosophers and repackaged those ideas. The idea of selfishness is not a new or groundbreaking one. Her novels, in my view, were not very well written. The humans in her book are stilted and don't act like actual human beings. She depicted a fantasy land where women are inferior and its virtuous for men to rape them.

Her philosophy of government is incoherent. She believed that the government should fund military, police, courts, and a few other vital functions, but she is against taxes altogether, so it would be impossible to pay for those things. She did suggest a voluntary lottery to fund the government, but what happens when that does not result in enough revenue.

She was dogmatic, intolerant, and bigoted. She was an extremist. Conservative activists claim that they admire Rand, though in Objectivism, there is no gray areas. You can't agree with some of her economic views and disagree with her on other matters. Either you agree with it all or you are a filthy bum.

If anyone thinks otherwise, I would be happy to discuss.
Ayn Rand’s characters are “stilted” because they are written as archetypes, not as real people. Take the Fountainhead, for example – Rand uses the technique I call “The Study of Opposites”. You have Howard Roark set opposite Ellsworth M. Toohey. Henry Cameron set opposite Guy Francon. Peter Keating opposite Gail Wynand. Dominique Francon set opposite Toohey’s neice Catherine. I always felt this was masterfully done, since everything in this universe is defined by its opposite, why not use this law to illustrate and punctuate the nature of her characters? I think most people misunderstand Rand’s work – they take it to literally. I always thought she made some very insightful points about society and some of its more blatant hypocrisies
mheslep
#20
Mar8-12, 01:06 PM
PF Gold
P: 3,098
Quote Quote by Bacanalia View Post
Ayn Rand’s characters are “stilted” because they are written as archetypes, not as real people. ...
Exactly, something that goes to the root of my problem with Rand. As much as she advocates action of the individual free from government oppression, she has those 2D cardboard cut out characters in her novels behave as if she's a puppet master. The 'bad' characters all she paints as deserving of utter destruction, including innocent bystanders. Ironically the practice gives mes a totalitarian smell.
Bacanalia
#21
Mar8-12, 05:07 PM
P: 3
Quote Quote by mheslep View Post
Exactly, something that goes to the root of my problem with Rand. As much as she advocates action of the individual free from government oppression, she has those 2D cardboard cut out characters in her novels behave as if she's a puppet master. The 'bad' characters all she paints as deserving of utter destruction, including innocent bystanders. Ironically the practice gives mes a totalitarian smell.
See, I don’t take it that way. I approach Rand’s work the same way I approach art – because I think that is what Rand was by temperament; an artist. If she could paint, I think she would have. She had a lot of anger in her, and she used her writing as a catharsis. I know what you mean when you say her characters are “2D”, but then again, so is a painter’s canvas. That does not change the fact that she was a genius at conveying her peculiar perspective with the written word. Even if you do not enjoy her style, there is no doubt she changed the way a lot of people think. Her work is powerful. If she was at times a bit over the top with her philosophy, I think it was only to try and get people to pay attention. The themes she addresses are important, and I think she changed the way a lot of people think about altruism. Some people perverted her views, I think. But then, that happens with almost all great thinkers. Look at Jesus – people have been perverting his teaching for thousands of years. (And I DO NOT wish to start a religious debate with that comment. I am just using Jesus as an example)
ParticleGrl
#22
Mar9-12, 12:14 AM
P: 685
Quote Quote by Bacanalia View Post
Ayn Rand’s characters are “stilted” because they are written as archetypes, not as real people.
Yes, so her stories are allegories more than anything. I've always found morality plays insufferable.

I always felt this was masterfully done, since everything in this universe is defined by its opposite, why not use this law to illustrate and punctuate the nature of her characters?
This is the sort of bad idea you get by taking Rand's philosophy too seriously. What is the opposite of phonon, or green? The world isn't black and white, most things are grey. Life isn't a morality play.
MarcoD
#23
Mar9-12, 02:22 AM
P: 98
Quote Quote by ParticleGrl View Post
This is the sort of bad idea you get by taking Rand's philosophy too seriously. What is the opposite of phonon, or green? The world isn't black and white, most things are grey. Life isn't a morality play.
If she pretends to be a philosopher then you should take it seriously, and she should be measured up against philosophical standards. And from that point of view, she just doesn't shine out too brightly. (Though not a lot of philosophers agree with each other, so it's questionable what to think of that.)

As for your second part. Are you a criminal? Personally, I find life is mostly about morality. (Not that I am a saint.)

(Ah well. Sorry, I just don't like shades-of-gray reasoning.)
Bacanalia
#24
Mar9-12, 07:25 AM
P: 3
Quote Quote by ParticleGrl View Post
Yes, so her stories are allegories more than anything. I've always found morality plays insufferable.



This is the sort of bad idea you get by taking Rand's philosophy too seriously. What is the opposite of phonon, or green? The world isn't black and white, most things are grey. Life isn't a morality play.
Hmm. The opposite of green. Well, the reason something appears green is because it absorbs all other colors EXCEPT green. So the opposite of green would be something that obsorbed green and nothing else, I suppose. What color would that be?
And the opposite of a phonon? Well, I suppose a relaxed state of quantum particles when they do NOT vibrate, would be the opposite of a phonon. This is fun. Give me another!
John Creighto
#25
Apr3-12, 05:47 PM
P: 813
There are a lot of reasons to attack, Ann Rand but I don’t really respect this because at least she had a philosophy. Much of the dialog we see today in the media is shallow and without substance. Much of the ideas forwarded by Rand are believed implicitly today and attacking her character as is so often done will not provide a convincing argument to people of why certain ideas forwarded by Rand are wrong.

Much of philosophy can be traced back a long way in history so any philosopher can be accused of stealing ideas from the past but at least Rand as other philosophers did/do took the time to learn the history well so she had something useful to say on it. To say philosophies must be accepted or rejected as a whole is a reductionist viewpoint which helps to trap people into a given set of dogmatic beliefs.

I have not read, “The Virtue of Selfishness” but I did start reading, “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal”. Her view point on economic history was certainly a drastically different narrative than the prevailing academic viewpoint of the time. So regardless of whether these ideas were borrowed or not they would certainly be revolutionary or revisionist (depending on your perspective) to the status quo.

From what I read, when people try to equate Rand’s viewpoint with ethical egoism I think in part they miss the point. Well, similar arguments may be made to support each philosophy I think Rand’s ethic is based in a large part in how the market provides a much more objective measure of what is good and bad in society than either some absolute moral axioms or perhaps worse some subjective set of morals formed on the whim of someone else’s vision.

We can all talk about the virtues of a greater good but unfortunately competing visions of this good has led to much human misery because the tool used to pursue this good is usually the forcefully imposition of one persons belief upon another. I know there is more to her philosophy then this. For instance I’ve heard she attacks such commonly held beliefs as the virtue of altruism. From what I heard this is because when one puts others before themselves it undervalues their own worth. And of course if we take the word selfish broadly (as some say she does) than in some sense even altruism could be selfish in that it fulfills a higher order need.

I think it is both important to value one’s self and the good of society as a whole. I disagree with a lot of what she has to say but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t ask good questions. Is she totally coherent, perhaps not but isn’t there a theory of math which says something like no system of axioms can be both perfectly complete and perfectly consistent.

I think people should read both Rand and Marx to get a sense of the span of ideas in political/economic thought. If people don’t like Rand then I suggest that they recommend someone they like better with a similar viewpoint.


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