Saturday, January 09, 2010

What Objectivists Believe

Over at Amazon in comments on Jennifer Burns' bio we find this useful summation of how realistically Objectivists view Rand's achievements:

"[Ayn Rand was] A woman who was able to define new paradigms in metaphysics (the man-made vs. the metaphysical, the ontological status of the laws of logic, the derivation of causality from the law of identity), in epistemology (measurement omission as the connection between similarity in objects perceived and concepts formed from them, perception as being "the given" in a form, the identification of the "fundamental" and the "essential", the way in which definitions can be true or false, the complete undermining of the stultifying idea of the analytic-sythetic dichotomy. the inclusion of value concepts in the demonstration of measurement-omission, the standard of objectivity), in ethical theory (the meta-ethical connection between life and value that once-and-for-all answers the question what end-in-itself is served by values, the difference between standard and purpose, the fact that all elements of value theory apply to the individual living being, the refutation of deontological value theory and hedonism [two forms of subjectivism], the development from this of peaceful principles of social relations, the development from this of a value-grounded view of individual rights), in political philosophy (the grounding of freedom as a basic human need, the foundation of Capitalism on value theory, the delineation of the role of government, the rejection of forcible taxation and a moral method for financing government, racism as a particular kind of evil, the identification of self-interest as applying to the foreign policy of the government of a free society), in esthetics (the definition of sense of life, its relation to art and philosophy and psychology, the criteria for exemplars of the different branches of art, the definition of art itself)...all flow from a mind that was so original, one can honestly say she looked at reality first-hand and asked what was there...and clearly understood the methods and arguments and conclusions of all other Western philosophies, so as to not repeat their mistaken by-paths. Rand was not a second-hander, seeking a way to fit into niches of difference so that her philosophy would be unique among the others. That is a task that is utterly impossible, if one starts that way. She started by looking fresh and new, with a well-developed rationality, at reality itself, so that hers accurately describes what really is."

The writer apparently holds a Masters of Philosophy. A later commenter sees this somewhat otherwise:

"...your interminable encomium to her philosophical breakthroughs resembles the tall tales attributed to a mythological hero or saint, rather than a description of any bona fide towering intellect (Goethe, Newton, Darwin, Einstein)The main difference between saying that Paul Bunyan's giant axe carved the Grand Canyon, and saying that Ayn Rand invented a revolutionary epistemology, or bridged the "is-ought gap", or successfully grounded capitalism in ethics, is that at least the Grand Canyon is really there."


Anonymous said...

The writer has a masters in philosophy?

The ARI handing them out now? Or was it from one of those on-line Universities where the only question is, do you have $10 000 in exchange for a degree?

Steven Johnston

J. Goard said...

Wow, you just made my day. I don't check out this blog all that often, and was just about to leave the office for Friday night when it popped into my head.

I'm the responder quoted in the post, who dared to pit my lowly philosophy B.A. against his Mastery. (I'm currently a grad student in linguistics.)

I think it's worth noting that his "interminable encomium" was prompted by my accusation that Rand didn't bother to read stuff before forming strong opinions of it. So it's primarily an argument that she clearly had no need to.

Daniel Barnes said...

Hi J Goad,

Like you I find this sort of thing quite incredible - how someone with a masters in Philosophy could believe such tall tales. Clearly to be an Objectivist you have to believe at least six impossible things before breakfast...;-)

Daniel Barnes said...

I should add that the bizarre comments about Rand's mystical ability to "look" at things, and somehow see "reality" in truly objectively in a way that other mere mortals can't, is an Objecti-meme I've come across before. Rand's ability to "look" at things seems to be offered as a substitute for argument.

J. Goard said...

Yes, several critics have pointed to the distinction between Objectivism's exoteric and esoteric views, the latter including the idea that a truly objective person can know extremely complex facts upon brief consideration. David Ramsay Steele's "Alice in Wonderland" review is especially good, IMHO.