Sunday, January 28, 2007

ARCHN Quote Of The Week 29/1/07

"...Objectivism is largely a rationalization of (Rand's) own preconceived, pet ideas. She nearly confesses as much in an interview with Alvin Toffler. In response to the question "Do you regard philosophy as the primary purpose of your writing?" Rand replied, "No. My primary purpose is the projection of an ideal man, of man 'as he might be and ought to be.' Philosophy is a necessary means to that end." To admit, as Rand does here, that one's philosophy is merely a means to some end other than discovering the truth is tantamount to admitting that one's philosophy consists merely of an attempt to rationalize one's own personal convictions."
- Greg Nyquist, ARCHN, p4

4 comments:

Mark said...

AR did not say that philosophy to her was merely a means to the projection of ideal men. She said that philosophy was a necessary element of achieving that primary goal of her writing.

(I note that not only is this crystal clear from the words quoted, you'd also have to ignore reams of AR's words elsewhere that spell out her view of the role of philosophy, not to mention her journals and other sources that show how she approached philosophical questions. Rationalism was not involved.)

Besides, philosophy is indeed a "means to some end other than discovering the truth." It is a means to the end of living.

Kelly said...

Mark, I think the point of the post was to show that Rand had already arrived at the "ends" prior to creating the philosophy. She knew what kind of man she wanted to portray from the beginning and the philosophy was built around that framework. The charge of rationalization is easier to entertain because she reached her conclusions about man and how man ought to live before she thought through the philosophy. That seems counter to objectivism.

Daniel Barnes said...

Mark:
>AR did not say that philosophy to her was merely a means to the projection of ideal men. She said that philosophy was a necessary element of achieving that primary goal of her writing.

Hi Mark

Here you appear to be simply restating Nyquist's point in slightly different language, so I'm not sure what your point is. You also agree with him on what Rand's primary goal was.

>AR's words elsewhere that spell out her view of the role of philosophy, not to mention her journals and other sources that show how she approached philosophical questions. Rationalism was not involved.

There is a commonplace distinction between:
1) What people say they do
2) What they actually do

Rand denigrated rationalism in principle, yes. But as Nyquist's book demonstrates with numerous of examples that contradict the various branches of her philosophy, in practice she was a highly rationalistic thinker with scant regard for empirical fact.

So in studying her work we find the following distinction:
1) What Rand says about the importance of studying the facts of reality
2) Rand's actual use of empirical facts in her writing - for example, in her epistemology.

There is a glaring gap between the two.

>Besides, philosophy is indeed a "means to some end other than discovering the truth." It is a means to the end of living.

Uh-huh. And you think that the former is not the basis of the latter?

gregnyquist said...

Mark: "AR's words elsewhere ... spell out her view of the role of philosophy ... and ... show how she approached philosophical questions. Rationalism was not involved."

Unfortunately, this is not true. The evidence of Rand's actual philosophizing strongly suggests that not only was AR rationalistic, she was also (which virtually amounts to the same thing) an egregious rationalizer. One constantly finds her making very controversial statements about human nature and human psychology, history and philosophy that are very controversial -- so controversial, that one would be hard pressed to find any specialist in any of the above mentioned fields who would agree with her -- and yet she never provides compelling evidence for these controversial statements. Where is her evidence for her views on emotion? Or her views on (or rather against) intuition? Or her insistence that human psychology is little more than a byproduct of a person's basic philosophical premises? In science and in rational scholarship, if you want to be taken seriously, you have to provide evidence for controversial views. If some scientist claims to have found serious flaws in Einstien's theory of relativity, no one's going to take him seriously unless he can back up his claims with scientific evidence. Likewise, any historian who claimed that Julius Caesar was not assissinated better have some very compelling documentary evidence to back up his claim if he wants to be taken for a responsible historian.

Now Rand was smart enough to have understood all this, yet she did not honor these basic principles of empirical responsibility, that are so important to scholarly and scientific enterprises. Why didn't she honor them? I have too high an estimate of Rand's intellect to believe she simply made a mistake: she was too smart for that. The only explanation I can come with is that she was rationalizing some pet theory of hers. And from a careful perusal of her writings, including her letters and journals, I strongly suspect that the primary culprit in Rand's case is her ideal man idolatry. It is a view of man that simply doesn't accord with reality; and when people hold beliefs that don't accord with reality, they nearly always rationalize those beliefs.