17 comments on “The Myths of Ayn Rand

  1. If your talking about the local greasy spoon, then maybe a misspelled item wouldn’t put someone off…it might even be expected. But, as ridiculous as it may seem to you, some people do expect a standard of excellence from their dining experience, and a misspelled item on the menu reveals a lack of attention to detail, which reflects on the management. Surely you have learned that when there are cracks on the surface of something, most often they are indicative of much deeper flaws.

    But your analogy doesn’t even apply. There was nothing misspelled, which would indicate mere carelessness, Phil actually used the wrong name. I simply doubt that Phil has read the work. I’m sure Phil has read parts of it, but not closely enough to give a fair analysis. You would trust a doctor who didn’t know the proper name of his instruments, assuming that he must know how they work, and so long as he does in his own mind, that’s all that matters?

    Since you’ve asked twice, I will comment on just one example of why I don’t think this is a good analysis. Phil asserts Rand’s ontology is completely wrong, but makes no demonstration of how that is so. Just asserting that her view is wrong because it rejects dialectical thinking establishes nothing, except if you already accept dialectical thinking as a component of ontology. If Rand is rejecting dialectical thinking, and Phil thinks that she is in error, then he should proceed to demonstrate how, in fact, “A” = “not A.” Another avenue would be to demonstrate why dialectical thinking is an essential component ontology and consequently, how Rand’s system is faulty for not including it. Otherwise you remain at the level of, “Your worldview is wrong because it is different from my worldview.”

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    • Chris,

      Actually Chris for a Marxist the surface tends to obscure, not highlight, flaws. Here is why, quoted from the above article, Phil says Rand’s system is faulty:

      “As befitting a cult guru, Ayn Rand topped off her system with a quack philosophy which she called ‘Objectivism. This says that a) ‘Existence exists’ b) People should be guided by reason and not religious faith (mysticism): reason is the method in which information from the senses is integrated and synthesised c) Reason determines that individualism, not altruism, shows the right way to live d) Each ‘man’ must determine their own ‘values’ on the basis of reason, but these values are contingent on time and circumstances, except that they must be conditioned by c).

      “The real problem which this system is the lack of any determination about what ‘values’ might be, except the dogma about individualism. Lacking any secure concepts about history or society, lacking any engagement with Freud which might have yielded up something about individual motivation, it really says ‘use your reason to determine your own best interests’.”

      This then leads, again quoting Phil above, to a worldview where “Individuals must be morally comfortable with unbridled self-interest, and use reason to think through the ways they can be most successful. This is deeply appealing because it links in with the great American myth – anyone can make it, on the basis of hard work, creativity, intelligence. It’s all up to you: individual and not collective solutions are the key.

      “All these systems fall on one central point. Stephen R. Covey says in his multi-million selling ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, “Highly effective people make their own world”. Covey is incapable of seeing that making our own world is just not available to the vast majority of the world’s population. How does a poor women in an Indian village make her own world? Or a peasant in a Mexican village? Or a Russian factory worker? The realities of class, of power and wealth – the deep structures of capitalism – prevent the vast majority of people exercising the kind of autonomy necessary to make real choices.”

      A promotion of the dialectic is not Phil’s main reason for writing this but in response to “existence exits” “philosophy” of Rand Phil says, again quoting above, that dialectical thinking “sees phenomena not as things in themselves, but in the process of their development and in the light of their interconnections with other phenomena. It is this dynamic view of phenomena which enables Marxists to understand that everything – including capitalism fortunately – has a beginning and an end.”

      As for A not being = to A might I suggest Trotsky’s The ABC of
      Materialist Dialectics
      on the matter.

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  2. The main protagonist in the Fountainhead is Howard Roark, not Frank Roark.

    You might try reading her books before criticizing them.

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      • Here’s the problem: the critique is based on Phil’s knowledge, as you have written. But Phil’s knowledge is erroneous in a very significant way. (Anyone who has read The Fountainhead is not going to forget the name of the protagonist) Therefore, am I not justified in thinking there are likely other major errors in Phil’s knowledge of Rand’s politics that has been used to construct the analysis? In other words, if Phil didn’t know the work well enough to know the name of the main character, why should I believe Phil’s knowledge of the politics/philosophy expounded in that story is going to be accurate? It puts the whole analysis in question.

        I’m not actually playing games here…I just think that if you’re going to really critique someone, you have to do the hard work of letting their true voice be heard, and for a critic to be negligent in that aspect undermines their credibility.

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    • How ridiculous. Would you not order from a restaurant if a menu item was misspelled? Did he mischaracterize the role of Howard Roark or the themes of the Foutainhead or did he just misplace the first name of a character? Did he mischaracterize Rand’s politics? If so how? Again, I ask what do you have to say about Phil’s analysis?

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  3. Want to read a satire of Ayn Rand? Try the title story in my book, THE PIANIST WHO LIKED AYN RAND (Amador Publishers, 1997). In preparation for that piece, I read all of awful Ayn’s oeuvre, raided it for quotes, and then proceeded to put them on the lips of my characters. It was my way of depicting the allure of Ayn for American youths. Try it! You might like it!

    Randians are a lot like Stalinists. They have this hard, unmoveable dogma. They celebrate steel mills just as Stalinists did. And their rejection of all values–including family– other than greed is the flipside of communism. Stalinists saw private property as the root of all evils, and attacked Social Democracy; Randians see government as the root of all evil, and attack Social Democracy. Her Russian roots go deep.

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  4. MM,

    Yep, from Arrested Development to Ayn Rand is a steep fall. I’d like my own Hollywood blacklist though a more thorough going weeding out may be in order. I’d start with Steven Spielberg and Andy Garcia then move on to celebrity baby collectors–how about just any star who has been to Africa to “see the poverty for themselves” and promote their charitable foundations. That should clear out a third of Hollywood.

    RR

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  5. Regarding the repugnancy of Rand’s books being made into Hollywood fims, apparently some of them went like hot cakes in Mussolini’s Italy and one of them even went on to become an anti-Soviet propaganda film for Il Duce’s movie industry during WWII.

    I would assume that the anti-Soviet “We the Living,” set in pre-Stalinist Soviet Russia, has got to be more more repugnant than “The Fountainhead.” At least in the latter, the Gary Cooper character’s “individualist” architecture resembles that of Russian constructivism while his opponents champion the kind of Greco-Roman structures favored by many of our least favorite tyrants.

    But I’ll have to admit one thing, Ayn look’s a hell of a lot hotter in that avant garde get-up (especially the hat) than Sarah Palin does, even in her “Miss Alaska” days. Too bad the picture was from a Congressional witch-hunting session back in the hey-day of McCarthyism that she participated in.

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  6. entdinglichung-

    Not being an expert on either I would say so. Perhaps the “thinking person’s” libertarianism? Those are awfully long books after all. While it might be possible to agree on occasion with a libertarian (a healthy distrust of governments is a good thing, IMHO) it is almost impossible to have a conversation with a Randist without it coming to blows. Eric, yeah all deals are sealed with a gun fight.

    RR

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  7. Yep, the only thing more repugnant than Ayn Rand are the followers of Ayn Rand. And the only thing more repugnant than her books are Hollywood movies of her books. Hollywood plus Ayn Rand? A loathsome combination. How I long for the dictatorship of the proletariat.

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  8. Years ago, I had a geology professor who was a disciple of Ayn Rand. I remember him urging the students in my class to get themselves into as much debt as possible. He seemed to think that if huge numbers of people defaulted on their loans, that would bring about the collapse of our “mixed” economy, and usher in a free market utopia.

    This was at a college where most of the students were working class or lower middle class. Over the years I’ve often wondered how many of these people’s lives were ruined because they followed this guy’s advice.

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  9. My principal made me read Atlas Shrugged during saturday detentions in the ninth grade, that experience is directly responsible for me being a communist today.

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  10. i had a run in with an Ayn Rand die hard last week. an almost 70 year old man who told me i have “no brains” and needed to read Atlas Shrugged. i told him that he and Rand scare the bejeesus outta me. sadly, people who have never even heard of Rand live this philosophy of self-interest and individualism – actually the very basis of dominant US culture in my opinion. the only thing that i can say about her though is that she is consistent. most right wing nut cases i am sure have to disavow the abortion piece and her views on mysticism. and, as Hearse notes, the very irony of her own little collective. it’s not that they don’t see their contradictions, it’s that their philosophy makes it impossible for them to see these contradictions. she is a despicable creature in my book.

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