North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics

The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics

A former member
Post #: 14
http://rous.redbarn.o...­

I'm posting this link to see what people think of what Branden calls the "Hazards" of Rand's philosophy. If you want, just read that section.

I'm also to curious to see what you all think of Branden's comments vis-a-vis the book "The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics" by James Valliant.
A former member
Post #: 1
Chad, I am not as well read as you, so I would like to hear your ideas on this paper. I am also more of a math and science kind of gal, not an author.

I think that the hazards that Branden warns of (reason/reasonability, encouraging repression, encouraging moralizing, conflating sacrafice and benevolence, overemphasizing the role of philosophical premises, and encouraging dogmatism) are marginally valid.

I think that a rational person is able of avoiding these problems alltogether. Perhaps people that are less solid in thier individuality would struggle with these.

Reason/reasonability: point taken, don't confuse the two...

encouraging repression: I think that Rand didn't totally disgard emotions, she just doesn't believe in action on irrational emotions

encouraging moralizing: I haven't read the essays on esthetics, but it is certain that with people the idea of what is good will varry. Who would accept an ultimatum that says you have to be perfet all of the time? Although I base my own happiness and self-esteem on living a moral life, I in no way begrudge myself for not being perfet. I think that a person that worries about not being like a fictional idealized character is being irrational.

Conflating sacrafice and benevolence: I think this is a valid point and one that should be discussed. I am sure some objectivists have questioned being benevolent because of Rand's views. I think the most important point here is to distinguish benevolence and pitty. I have recently exchanged some of my belongings for someone's time and effort. Honestly, he got the better end of the deal, but he retained his self respect, earned his payment, and I got some much needed help. My sister had suggested that I "give" my belongings to him because he needed them.... I would have never given them.

overemphasizing the role of philosophical premises: It is certain that not everyone is given the same lot in life. For the maojrity of people I would say that the way they follow thier philosophical premises is a good mesure of who they are. What ever your premises are, if you follow, don't follow, or contradit them it says a lot about your person. There are additional facets to a person, but who knows?, perhaps whether you squeeze the toothpaste from the bottom or the middle stems from a philosophical premis. Perhaps these people who married eachother and were unhappy needed to discuss more than thier objectivist philosophies...

encouraging dogmatism: Rand believed completely in her philosophy. That is why we are here. Had she said 'maybe' or 'I think' her message wouldn't have been the same. She didn't think, she knew. I do believe that she had the right to be wrong because she was a human being. I am not sure if I accept 100% of her philosophy because I am not well read enough to say. I am working on that.
Sherry
SherryTX
Plano, TX
Post #: 295
Send an Email You are unable to greet this member


overemphasizing the role of philosophical premises: It is certain that not everyone is given the same lot in life. For the majority of people I would say that the way they follow their philosophical premises is a good measure of who they are. What ever your premises are, if you follow, don't follow, or contradict them it says a lot about your person. There are additional facets to a person, but who knows?, perhaps whether you squeeze the toothpaste from the bottom or the middle stems from a philosophical premise. Perhaps these people who married each other and were unhappy needed to discuss more than their Objectivist philosophies...

encouraging dogmatism: Rand believed completely in her philosophy. That is why we are here. Had she said 'maybe' or 'I think' her message wouldn't have been the same. She didn't think, she knew. I do believe that she had the right to be wrong because she was a human being. I am not sure if I accept 100% of her philosophy because I am not well read enough to say. I am working on that.


My husband and I have had "philosophically" conversations for years about why I always squeeze the middle of the toothpaste tube. It's a volitional thing, no doubt, heheh.

I think that sometimes people jump to accept Objectivism before the have taken the time to really study it carefully and understand it. I agree you cannot accept or reject anything until you get a good understanding of it. I still consider myself a student of Objectivism because of this, (or Objectivist In Training biggrin) because I don't feel I have had all my questions answered yet. What I have understood of the philosophy, I do agree with.

So, I say kudos to anyone that approaches a philosophy with an an open mind, but not an empty mind. The problem I see is when you have people just jump on the Objectivist bandwagon, without understanding enough of it. Those people then either think they "outgrow" , and give up on it without understanding it, OR, even worse, they call themselves Objectivist and spout forth things that not compatible with the philosophy. And those are the ones that I think give the philosophy a bad name. They are the ones that give the impression to some that their is a dogma. Which there isn't, since (what I have learned so far) the principles that Rand puts forth in the philosophy are reasonable and valid.

Well, that is my ramblings on the subject.
It was nice to meet you at the last get together Dana! I enjoyed our conversation.
A former member
Post #: 26
I haven't read all of Nathaniel Brandon, but a recurring theme in what I have read about his and his patients efforts to live up to Rand's standards is that they're trying to live up to Rand's standards... and not they're own. Isn't living up to your own standards a core idea in objectivism? Imagine going around telling people that they need to get set in their heads what they want to do with themselves and having them turn around and ask you what they should be doing with themselves. Huh, maybe that's why she was so pissed off all the time... and here I thought it was because of a childhood in Russia.
A former member
Post #: 22
Dana,

The best I can do to explain my position on Branden or on his essay, without going into a very complicated and lengthy dismissal of almost all his claims, is to say: he is an expert at rationalization. That's why I referenced Valliant's book. It proves this point with facts about and statements from Branden. I intend to write a detailed refutation of the arguments Nathaniel Branden, Barbara Branden, and David Kelley make against Rand; for now, I'm going to point out a few essential points Branden makes, all from the portion of his essay titled "Encouraging Repression."

"Nathaniel Branden of 1960 could quote lots of passages to dispute at least some of the points I am making here [about Rand's novels encouraging repression]. He did, too. That doesn't change the fact that if you really study what the story is saying, if you pay attention to what the actions of the characters are saying, and if you pay attention to the characterizations, you will find abundant evidence to support my observation that the work encourages emotional repression and self-disowning. "

I have paid attention to the evidence, and Rand's intentions, and I have never felt compelled to lie to myself or repress what I feel; if anything, Atlas Shrugged helped me see the importance of understanding ALL emotions. For example: when a rational man sees a character of such integrity as Rearden struggling with contradictory judgments and emotions, the message intended is abundantly clear to him: never neglect to understand all your ideas, values, and judgments to their core; never accept any contradictions. This is explicitly presented (for instance, by Francisco) as Hank's problem.

Unfortunately this blatant expression of the need for introspection wouldn't be enough for Branden. According to him, my use of evidence is just a rationalization. He dismisses any argument against his point by saying: when I was rationalizing my self-doubt in 1960, I could prove that what I'm saying now is wrong, so don't rationalize and repress like I did and agree with me! It is a labyrinthal argument from intimidation.

Branden later presents this argument with more detail about how a person learns to repress from Rand's books:
"Howard Roark gives no indication of being bothered by any of [his "alienation" from the outside world]. He is serenely happy within himself. For average teenagers, this condition is agony. They read The Fountainhead and see this condition, not as a problem to be solved, but as a condition they must learn to be happy about -- as Roark is."

Roark is alienated because he is good. This is obvious. But why do these teenagers feel alienated? Why are they in agony? Is it because they are ridiculed for their virtues, or is it because they have no virtues? The message for these young people to learn from Roark is: find your own way, with your own mind, and you can be a happy person. If they ignore the nature of Howard Roark's character, and think they can automatically be free of earned guilt, is it any wonder that they think repression is good? More importantly, is this a "hazard" of Rand's philosophy, or of the primacy of consciousness?

Rand is not responsible for how anxiety-stricken, guilt-ridden teens misinterpret her novels. The main mistake here is looking at Rand's novels as guide-books, which they are not. If a young man is confused and lost, Roark is not the answer to his problems--reality is. There is a reason Branden ignores all these principles involved in Rand's philosophy and her novels, and I think this expresses that reason:

"This [Roark's serenity in the face of "alienation"] is an example of how The Fountainhead could be at once a source of great inspiration and a source of great guilt, for all those who do not know how to reach Roark's state."

This statement--along with the entire essay--demonstrates that Branden never knew how to reach Roark's state and, instead of getting there on his own, he faked it. When a man accepts the ideas of another as the given, he won't be able to live up to those ideas. Consequently, guilt is the only possibility for him--until he finds his own way. If Branden truly understood this, he wouldn't endeavor to blame Rand for his own shortcomings.
A former member
Post #: 24
This is a short review of "The Passion of Ayn Rand." I think it is interesting that this writer from the New York Times communicates his ideas of Ayn Rand in the same way as Nathaniel and Barbara Branden, with veiled insults. This is the kind of thing the Brandens were intending to accomplish.

http://query.nytimes....­


Edit:
This is also an interesting pair of essays by the dynamic duo:
http://www.barbarabra...­
A former member
Post #: 105
[Chad Merritt said]
The main mistake here is looking at Rand's novels as guide-books, which they are not. If a young man is confused and lost, Roark is not the answer to his problems--reality is.
<snip>
When a man accepts the ideas of another as the given, he won't be able to live up to those ideas. Consequently, guilt is the only possibility for him--until he finds his own way.

Actually, Miss Rand's novels are guide books, and are designed to be such by the author, as she relates in her Introduction to The Fountainhead and in her book The Romantic Manifesto.

The purpose of art is to concretize an abstraction, to make an idea held in one's mind real on the perceptual level so that one can grasp it more easily. Howard Roark is not just an example of how one ought to live one's life, it is a guide as to how to make decisions so as to preserve one's virtue, especially independence and integrity.

You might be confusing the difference between a guide book and a how to book. The Fountainhead is a guide book, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology is a how to book. One shows you how to live your life, the other one gives you the specific process of how to do it.

In other words, a lot of explicit thinking went into the writing of The Fountainhead and Howard Roark shows you the results of thinking that way, of what kind of man you will be if you are rational. The specific process of that thinking is what epistemology is all about.

So, Howard Roark is the type of man you can become, if you learn how to think and how to be consistent with reality and the factual nature of man -- i.e. if you decide to think for yourself and make Objectivism an integral part of your life, if you make Objectivism your own philosophy, then you, too, can become as self-confident as Howard Roark.

And those who denounce The Fountainhead know implicitly that they have not done this, which is why they feel guilt instead of excitement upon reading about a man like Howard Roark.


$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$­$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Philosophic essays based on the philosophy of Ayn Rand

www.appliedphilosophyonline.com­

Applied Philosophy Online .com

Where Ideas Are Brought Down to Earth!

tmiovas@appliedphilosophyonline.com
­


All rights reserved 2006 by Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.
A former member
Post #: 25
Being aided by a concretization is much different than thinking "The Fountainhead" will teach you how to be like Howard Roark. The more a man is like Howard Roark, the more he will get out of "The Fountainhead."

I think at one point (in her introduction) Rand calls The Fountainhead a "guidepost." This doesn't mean she intended primarily for her novels to be didactic or educational (guide-books). This means she views them as a light at the end of a very dark tunnel--for men who need it.

Primarily, however, Rand has a much different intention than a "guide-book" or a "how-to-book"; she intended to write a novel. A novel's primarily purpose is bringing values to the perceptual level. This has no effect or purpose for a reader who has no (or few, or poorly thought out) abstract ideas derived from reality. When a man who is lost in evasion (or just ignorance) approaches Roark, he might enjoy the character or hate him; the worst thing for this man to do [edit: in this situation] is approach Roark as a guide for how to live his life.

My main point in my statement you quoted was that fictional characters are no substitute for reality, or for self-determined, self-centric principles. Branden, as I tried to indicate, is a good example of why I made the statement: "If a young man is confused and lost, Roark is not the answer to his problems--reality is."
A former member
Post #: 2
The author of the New York Times column is actually a sociologist who is a professor at many universities.

I don't think he even bothered to veil his insults.

He never explains in what way Rand is like Smith or Nietzsche, but it is the title of his column. Capitalism and atheism do not encompass the entirety of Rand's philosophy nor the entireties of Smith and Nietzsche's philosophies. Berger uses these references to dramatize aspects of Rands philosophy, but does not support his label because it is incorrect. He also mentions libertarianism several times, but never mentions that Rand strongly disapproved of libertarianism.

Berger himself advocates subjective reality (a reality changed by your personal experiences), i.e. we don't all have the same reality. Perhaps this is why his column is peppered with shots to Rand personally as well as her philosophy, or perhaps it has something to do with the plug to buy Ms. Branden's book at the top of the column.
Powered by mvnForum

Suggested Annual Donation

$10.00 (after 6 event visits)

This covers: Supporting operating expenses and advertising for new members!

Payment is accepted using:

  • PayPal
  • Cash or check - “Please give any cash or check to any Organizer at an event. We also accept BitCoin: 14sioRkdEBcvvQavE4zbDbSwbsvscPAvF9 Thanks!

Your organizer will refund you if:

  • Each event may have a specific refund policy based on the nature of the event. General donations are not refundable. We may rely on any payment, so if you have any questions please ask an Organizer BEFORE making a payment!

People in this
Meetup are also in:

Log in

Not registered with us yet?

Sign up

Meetup members, Log in

By clicking "Sign up" or "Sign up using Facebook", you confirm that you accept our Terms of Service & Privacy Policy