Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ayn Rand & Human Nature 26

Human nature and politics. Rand's politics is not entirely free of the contagion of her view of man. Rand's so-called "philosophy of history" (i.e., her theory of historical change) acts as a transmission belt between her theory of human nature and her political philosophy.


(1) An individual's political philosophy depend on his ethics, which depends on his epistemology/metaphysics. If by ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics you mean explicit philosophy, this view is inapplicable to most people. Explicit philosophies tend to be mere rationalizations: self-conscious window dressing draped over the cognitive unconscious, which does most of the heavy cognitive lifting and does not think in terms of broad philosophical abstractions. Moreover, the genesis of explicit philosophies generally suggests that the causation tends to go in the other direction; that is to say, people tend to begin with a political philosophy, which they rationalize with various ethical rationalizations. Epistemology and metaphysics are usually ignored altogether; but when they are brought in at all, they are almost always brought in last. This is true even in Rand's case. Her early writings are dominated by politcal and ethical concerns; only later did she begin to dabble in metaphysics and epistemology

Now one way to skirt around these objections is to contend that individuals have "implicit" philosophies in which the political depends on the ethical, and the ethical on the epistemological, and so on. Everyone, Rand contended, has a philosophy; and if they don't have an explicit philosophy, they must have an implicit one.

The trouble here is that Rand's view of how implicit philosophies are developed and formed is heavily influenced by her false view of human mind. For Rand, an individual's implicit philosophy is formed by premises that have been integrated by the "conscious" mind:

Your subconscious is like a computer—more complex a computer than men can build—and its main function is the integration of your ideas. Who programs it? Your conscious mind. If you default, if you don’t reach any firm convictions, your subconscious is programmed by chance—and you deliver yourself into the power of ideas you do not know you have accepted. But one way or the other, your computer gives you print-outs, daily and hourly, in the form of emotions—which are lightning-like estimates of the things around you, calculated according to your values. If you programmed your computer by conscious thinking, you know the nature of your values and emotions. If you didn’t, you don’t....
The quality of a computer’s output is determined by the quality of its input. If your subconscious is programmed by chance, its output will have a corresponding character. You have probably heard the computer operators’ eloquent term “gigo”—which means: “Garbage in, garbage out.” The same formula applies to the relationship between a man’s thinking and his emotions.

As I have stated repeatedly, there is no evidence that the human mind works like this, and an enormous amount of evidence that it doesn't. Human behavior, whether political or otherwise, is not determined or strongly influenced by broad philosophical premises. Whether those premises are explicit or implicit is entirely irrelevant. Rand got this wrong in a very big way and it has enormous implications for her political philosophy. For Rand needs this doctrine to make her political philosophy realizable. In order for Objectivism to achieve its political ends, political philosophy must depend on ethics, which in turn must depend on metaphysics/epistemology; because if this is not so, then Objectivism becomes politically impotent.

Nathanial Branden once complained that Objectivism, like most ethical systems, lacks a "technology," a means by which Rand's values can be attained. Rand did, however, provide a technology for her politics: it is her theory of history. Unfortunately, this theory is wrong: it is based on a wildly inaccurate view of human nature. Human beings are not the playthings of philosophical premises. Rather, it's the other way around: philosophical premises are brought forward after the fact to serve as convenient excuses for decisions that are based on far more complex mental processes. Just as reason is not a source of motivation, so are philosophical premises insufficient to stir action. Human beings are motivated by desire, passion, sentiment, vested interest -- call it what you will; but they are not motivated or even influenced by such abstruse concerns the "hierarchy of knowledge" or "unit economy." Nor, as Rand seems to suggest, do such abstruse doctrines, which hardly anyone understands, have any influence on the actual political opinions people embrace. Try convincing anyone that the "hierarchy of knowledge" or "unit economy" logically leads to laissez-faire (i.e., that laissez-faire is logically entailed in those doctrines). Only an Objectivist would believe such a thing.

Real knowledge (as opposed to the artificial theories of pedantic theories such as promulgated in the Objectivist epistemology) is fundamentally practical and experiential: it's rooted in the sort of problem-solving forced upon us by the stresses of everyday life. Such knowledge always involves an important tacit, intuitive element. There is no evidence that exposure to the Objectivist epistemology causes people to think more accurately about reality. (If it were otherwise, how can we explain the Objectivist theories of human nature and history?) The human mind does not work that way. The cognitive unconscious plays a much larger role in thinking and decision-making than Rand could have ever imagined:

Recent cognitive science reveals a fascinating unconscious mind — a below-the-radar mind — that Freud never told us about. More than we realized a decade ago, thinking occurs not onstage but off-, out of sight. Studies of automatic processing, subliminal priming, implicit memory, heuristics, spontaneous trait inference, right-brain processing, instant emotions, nonverbal communication, and creativity unveil our intuitive capacities. Thinking, memory, and attitude all operate on two levels — conscious/deliberate and unconscious/automatic. “Dual processing,” today’s researchers call it. ...we know more than we know we know.

Since unconscious/automatic thinking processes play a large role in our conduct and our political beliefs, it is simply not true that our political and ethical notions depend entirely (or even mostly) on our epistemology and metaphysics. Our conscious philosophical ideas often have very little to do with the processing that goes on in the cognitive unconscious.

(2) The dominant philosophy of a given period determines its political conditions. Rand appears to have believed that each period of history has a dominant philosophy. Given the variety of philosophies that one finds in modern civilization, this is rather difficult to credit. But such were her views:

The power that determines the establishment, the changes, the evolution, and the destruction of social systems is philosophy. The role of chance, accident, or tradition, in this context, is the same as their role in the life of an individual: their power stands in inverse ratio to the power of a culture’s (or an individual’s) philosophical equipment, and grows as philosophy collapses. It is, therefore, by reference to philosophy that the character of a social system has to be defined and evaluated.

And:

Just as a man’s actions are preceded and determined by some form of idea in his mind, so a society’s existential conditions are preceded and determined by the ascendancy of a certain philosophy among those whose job is to deal with ideas. The events of any given period of history are the result of the thinking of the preceding period.

These views illustrate Rand's theory of history. They are based on the view that human behavior arises from the premises which human beings have absorbed into their subconscious minds. Rand assumes that there always exists an "ascendant" or dominant philosophy which determines what sort of premises most people imbibe.

This view is grossly implausible, not merely because there is no such thing as a single dominant philosophy, but more importantly, because political ideologies are not determined solely by thinking or premises. As social psychologist Jonathan Haidt explains,

People don't adopt their ideologies at random, or by soaking up whatever ideas are around them. People whose genes gave them brains that get a special pleasure from novelty, variety, and diversity, while simultaneously being less sensitive to signs of danger, are predisposed (but not predestined) to become liberals. They tend to develop certain "characteristic adaptions" and "life narratives" that make them resonate -- unconsciously and intuitively -- with the grand narratives told by political movements on the left (such as the liberal progress narrative). People whose genes give them brains with the opposite settings are predisposed, for the same reasons, to resonate with the grand narratives of the right....
 Once people join a political team, they get ensnared in its moral matrix. They see confirmation of their grand narrative everywhere [because of confirmation bias], and it's difficult -- perhaps impossible -- to convince them that they are wrong if you argue with them from outside their matrix. [The Righteous Mind, 316]

Since political ideologies are based partly on genetic predispositions which vary within the population (i.e., groups of people have different dispositions), political factions are a built-in feature of the human condition. Democratic societies will always divide into left-wing and right-wing factions; and amongst all this factionalism, Rand's laissez-faire can never emerge. Possibly, the reason why Rand insisted that a given age or period is determined by dominant philosophy (rather than by multiple philosophies) is that she understood the need for a broad consensus in order to establish laissez-faire. The two main political factions would have to believe in Rand's politics for it to become the law of the land. But if there is no dominant philosophy; if individuals are predisposed to varying types of political ideology; then the chances for laissez-faire are so close to zero that they might as well be zero. Rand's politics becomes utopian, not because it wouldn't "work" if it were tried (most politico-economic systems "work" after a fashion), but because it will never be tried.






58 comments:

Francois Tremblay said...

BTW, the link to your book doesn't work. I was gonna recommend it to someone.

gregnyquist said...

BTW, the link to your book doesn't work.

Don't know how that happened. Try the following:

http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000012757/Ayn-Rand-Contra-Human-Nature.aspx

Francois Tremblay said...

Thanks!

TruthMonger said...

Heavy stuff, hard to fully digest. But I seem to disagree to some extent with the author's thesis.

I feel that the root of all my politics, ethics, and perception of the world stems from my fundamental metaphysical belief that we are (literally, spiritually, fundamentally) all one- That the universe is essentially a single, giant life force and we are just like the cells in a common entity.

This belief was derived rationally, through years of contemplation seeking to discover a metaphysical model that makes sense. (After I independently discovered this epiphany, I later learned that it is the fundamental belief behind Buddhism.) This belief begets my Christ-like, unconditional compassion for all humans; which begets my ethics of "do no harm" and helping those in need; which begets my liberal politics. I am not liberal just because those around me are liberal; in fact, largely they are not.

Now, one could argue that my day-to-day life does not reflect the values I claim to hold. I don't volunteer to help the needy, I am sometimes rude or impatient with people. But THAT is where the unconscious influences come in. Moods, emotions, frustrations, all caused by chemicals in the brain and uncontrollable circumstances on earth. They shackle us and coerce us away from being our true selves. I would love to dedicate my life to others but unfortunately living in a capitalist society I am forced into a position of having to struggle for my own survival. A person's idealistic ethics become less of a factor when the person is struggling to survive. In this case we are forced into an animalistic existence where anything goes. After all, we must survive in order to do good, so the drive to survive can also be seen as motivated by my idealistic ethics.

reynoldsparadox said...

Excellent article, I will attempt to get hold of a copy of your book.

I would just add that it appears to me that Rand attempted to create a 'Grand Narrative' of history that was in a sense the polar opposite of that derived from Marx, Durkheim and Weber, without the analytical skills or erudition.

Within 10 years of the publication of Atlas Shrugged the whole idea of the grand narrative had been pretty much condemned to the recycling bin of History (forgive the pun) by the work of Michel Foucault and the other structuralists.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, you know nothing about Ayn Rand, Objectivism, human nature, psychology, philosophy or reality. You are an idiot posturing as an expert to attack those you can neither equal, nor grasp. I suggest you get into a different line of work rather than bloviating commentary -- may I suggest an application at a fast-food franchise?

Francois Tremblay said...

How about telling us who you are, anonymous coward?

Lloyd Flack said...

Assertions and abuse, these are arguments??

Anonymous said...

Q: What is the best way to anger an Objectivist?

A: Say something that makes sense in 20,000 words or less.

Daniel Barnes said...

Link fixed, apologies.

Anonymous Objectivists with no arguments are pretty much par for the course.

Anonymous said...

"You are an idiot posturing as an expert to attack those you can neither equal, nor grasp. I suggest you get into a different line of work rather than bloviating commentary -- may I suggest an application at a fast-food franchise?"

Anonymous ad hominem attacks are irrational.

Douchebag.

Anonymous said...

Re: anonymous objectivist and his/her juvenile attacks.

To think, these people want to rule the world!

- Steven Johnston
UK

Tod said...

This is great: "You are an idiot posturing as an expert to attack those you can neither equal, nor grasp."

An angry Objectivist's writing always reads like Galt's speech or one of Rand's shrill essays.

Speaking of which, http://commercialanalysis.wordpress.com/ is a hilarious blog where some guy over-analyses TV commercials. How could you not be entertained by a super rabid Objectivist writing long tirades about how trivial advertisements are leading us to faulty philosophical premises and gross immorality?

Anonymous said...

Commercial analysis -- really? An objectivist criticizing the most important medium of capitalism? Yikes.

- Chris

Anonymous said...

Commercial analysis -- really? An objectivist criticizing the most important medium of capitalism? Yikes.

- Chris

Anonymous said...

Commercial analysis -- really? An objectivist criticizing the most important medium of capitalism? Yikes.

- Chris

Anonymous said...

Sorry, my computer screwed. Sorry for triple posting.

- Chris

Francois Tremblay said...

Yea, I just went through a few pages of it, and I have to say, that blog is pretty amazing. I have never seen someone write so much to say so little.

I think he may be right on a couple of points, but in general, his criticism is the same old pompous assholery that Objectivists are known for.

Tod said...

That site is gold, Francois. Comedy gold!

The author writes about brief, humorous commercials as though the ridiculous people or situations in them are to be taken very, very seriously. He seems unable to grasp such concepts as hyperbole, absurdity, and laughter, probably because Ayn Rand never defined what it's okay to laugh at. (Oops! If only she had gotten around to writing "An Introduction to Objectivist Humor Theory"!)

The blogger writes: "The young have reached the spiritual low point where they believe that to tear down (or to at least help keep down) is the same as to create and uplift and enrich."

Of course, he goes on to spend page after page after excruciating page tearing down. No contradiction there. When an Objectivist criticizes and scolds and judges, the definition of those words changes to "uplift" and "enrich". But only for those who accept Objectivism, of course.

Francois Tremblay said...

Well, like any cult leader, Rand said that humor is degradation:

"Humor is the denial of metaphysical importance to that which you laugh at."

"humor is a destructive element—which is quite all right, but its value and its morality depend on what it is that you are laughing at. If what you are laughing at is the evil in the world (provided that you take it seriously, but occasionally you permit yourself to laugh at it), that’s fine. [To] laugh at that which is good, at heroes, at values, and above all at yourself [is] monstrous... The worst evil that you can do, psychologically, is to laugh at yourself. That means spitting in your own face."

CW said...

I looked through that site and couldn't find a single comment from anyone on any post I saw.

Possibly that's because the comments get screened (as I found when I left a comment there myself).

Or perhaps nobody else ever cared to comment, which in itself may say something.

Francois Tremblay said...

That's because it's one of those "blogs" that don't allow comments. (I put "blogs" in quotes because I don't see how it's a blog if you don't allow comments, but oh well)

Tod said...

I managed to get into a conversation with him. My first post said that he was over analyzing the commercials (an understatement if there ever was one) but was in no way insulting. His first response to me involved stern words and a threat to ban further comments from me! Wow, never saw that coming!

Francois said:
> Well, like any cult leader, Rand said that humor is degradation:

Is that common in cults? I didn't know. Can you expand on this? It's very interesting to me.

gregnyquist said...

Is that common in cults? I didn't know.

I'm not sure if the view that humor is degradation is common to all cults. What is common, however, is a suspicion and/or resentment of humor. Let's face it: people in cults tend to take themselves very seriously; nor are they all that adept at understanding how others see them; and so when cultists act foolishly (as they often do), they are incapable of understanding the laughter they provoke, which causes them to resent laughter.

Rand's dislike of many aspects of humor stems from a different cause: from her romanticism of the ideal man, coupled with her cluelessness about human nature. She couldn't understand that humor directed at oneself may be a way of reconciling oneself to one's limitations, which may be a very important first step toward worldly wisdom. She does not seem to have fully appreciated the dangers of human vanity and pretension. They were merely the consequence of bad premises. The "rational" man was free of them.

Francois Tremblay said...

I agree on Greg's analysis of Rand's attitude towards humor. But I think the problem cults see with humor is more profound. Humor can serve a role of veiled criticism, speaking truth to power, and cult leaders see this as a threat to their authority. Humor is contrary to gullible acceptance, so it is usually used as a tool to "joke and degrade" the opposition.

Rey said...

Humor can serve a role of veiled criticism, speaking truth to power, and cult leaders see this as a threat to their authority.

I think this is right on. I was (briefly) an educator at a Catholic school shortly after Ratzinger was elevated to pope. One day, a teacher was in the midst of a "kids these days!" rant over something stupidly trivial, and I jumped in with, "Next thing you know, they'll be joining the Hitler Youth!" Needle-screech, crickets, and later that afternoon, a summons to the principal.

Lloyd Flack said...

There is a trap with humour. If you ridicule an opponent and they turn out to be right then you have to eat extra-sized helpings of crow. This of course tempts people to not admit that they were wrong even when the evidence clearly shows that they were. It can also be used to sugar-coat nastiness.

Anonymous said...

One of my ex-girlfriends, who worshipped in Ayn Rand's cult of "Objectivism", had a peculiar sense of humor - she would, on occasion laugh at other peoples' misfortunes. She had similar reactions to characters in films who were subjected to violence or other fatal situations. To her, it was sometimes hilarious to see people suffer.

I later learned that my ex had Borderline Personality Disorder, a condition that in my opinion encouraged and contributed to the sympathetic view that she held of Ayn Rand.

She amplified her unhealthy philosophy into the physical world by getting a tattoo of an Ayn Rand quote etched into her torso. The process of receiving a tattoo involves pain, but the BPD disorder sometimes declares itself in self mutilation. Ayn Rand and Borderline Personality Disorder are certainly a terrible and dangerous mix.

Mark Plus said...

@Anonymous:

Don't women with BPD like cutting themselves? Dominique Francon gleefully slashed herself with broken glass after Howard Roark dynamited Cortlandt Towers.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Mark.

And when borderlines read that kind of stuff, the distorted perceptions of their own self-destructive behaviors are nurtured and reaffirmed.

Some borderlines will engage in self harm, others don't. Also, for reasons that are not exactly understood, it appears that certain borderlines will disengage from actual physical self harm as they grow older. Perhaps Ayn Rand's inclusion of fictional self harm in her writing was influenced by something we aren't completely aware of yet. I have my suspicions, let's say. And my tattooed ex girlfriend (who did, at least on one occasion to my knowledge engage in another classic self harm type of ritual) certainly found reaffirmation by reading Ayn Rand's books multiple times.

Anonymous said...

The kind of psychobabble ad hominem response always fails to make an argument.
Szasz has debunked all of psychiatry and psychology in 28 books.
He has very critical chapters on Rand and even more so on Branden in Faith In Freedom, see chapters 8 & 9.
He debunks Branden's concepts of volitional consciousness, social metaphysics and psycho-epistemology.
In reader comments on Amazon there was a length exchange between James Valliant and a woman, M. Hardesty.
I think she started out as an admirer of Rand and Valliant but became totally disillushioned after
repeatedly refuting Valliant's claim that Rand never changed her position on free will. She cites Rothbard orally and in print on this, ergo both for Hospers and orally only by Hessen contradicting
the idea that Rand always believed in free will.
What do you people know about this ?
Schoeck is cited in Raimondo's bio of Rothbard to the effect that thousands of writers had advocated
free will before Rand.
She advised Valliant to do his own research here.
Ms. Hardesty also brought up ARI tampering with Rand's archives, she cited a lengthy Campbell dissecting Mayhew on this.
If you can refer me to any relevant sources I'd be in your debt.
Thanks.
I enjoyed Valliant's job on the Brandens but he comes off as quite the pompous rear end in this exchange.

Anonymous said...

She continues to debunk Valliant on the Amazon review site of Thomas Szasz's Faith In Freedom and she plugs your site as an alternative source for critical views on Rand.
Valliant attacks ARI Watch and alleges many howlers there but fails to cite one specific. He totally ignores Rand's complete change of view on the free will issue and Walsh's essay on how she got views on it from Kant.
Valliant has the typical overarching moral fulminations sans specifics that are so typical of both Rand and her Cult.
As Ms. Hardesty notes debating Valliant is like having a dialogue with the deaf.
Anyway you might want to read the thread of what is now 32 comments.
I think it's about over as this woman is tiring of repeating herself and Valliant comes across an unmitigated ass.

Michael Prescott said...

M. Hardesty is Michael Hardesty, who used to comment on this site until he was banned. Among other things, he believes the Holocaust was a myth invented to justify the existence of the modern state of Israel. A debate between him and Valliant would be approximately as edifying as a scrap between two rabid raccoons.

Dragonfly said...

It's confusing, in de Amazon discussion "M. Hardesty" writes "By the way, I'm not a Mister", and "What I should have done is more carefully read the criticisms of it by Parille and the ARCHN folks (Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature)", and "I would advise readers, in the doubtful event that any are still following this tiresome, tedious, repetitive thread to check out the Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature site which has literally hundreds, if not thousands of pages, debunking every aspect of her work and cult. I don't like Objectivist Living but Neil Parille and others there are still debunking Valliant's PARC failed book."

Curiouser and curiouser...

Anonymous said...

Actually this is a different person.
I know her. Hardesty is a fairly common name as you will see if you google it and the Michael Hardesty, the revisionist, doesn't come up till after a hundred other Michael Hardestys and he has intelligent reasons for his distrust of the Shoah Business.
Actually he was never banned here as free speech prevails here.
He simply stopped posting here.
The debate between Ms. Hardesty and Valliant is very interesting
and worth reading. Valliant comes across as a pompous ass in his obdurate denial of Rand's change of position on free will in 1956.
Park your prejudices at the door and check it out.

gregnyquist said...

I suspect that Michael is right: M. Hardesty is Michael Hardasty, the notorious holocaust denier and anti-semite. In any case, the debate over whether Rand was a hard core determinist in her earlier years and whether Rothbard plagiarized from Rand strikes me as having zero significance.

The belief that Rand was a hard core determinism (attributed to Hospers) is based on a misunderstanding. Rand was both a hard core determinist and a believer in a very extreme and empirically dubious version of free will: she did not recognize a contradiction between these two positions. And Rothbard did in a sense "plagiarize" Rand's rather rationalistic defense of free will in his essay "The Mantle of Science"; however, in credit to Rothbard, his presentation of the argument is far more coherent and lucid than Peikoff's in OPAR.

Anonymous said...

You are flatly wrong. Ms. Hardesty's first name is not Michael.
You might learn to spell Michael Hardesty's name while you libel him in print.
As far as the revisionist MH goes he's not a notorious 'anti-Semite'
nor a 'denier.'
He's a revisionist who according to mutual friends has studied the issue since 1970 when he was introduced to it by Dr. Frank Mintz, a Jewish scholar at the University Of Maryland.
The fact that many people have been imprisoned for Shoah Business revisionism ought to tell you something as truth doesn't need prisons to enforce it.
An anti-Semite is one who hates Jews (or Arabs) qua Jews (or Arabs.)
Ergo for Blacks, Irish, Italians, etc.
If someone advocated a 'holocaust'for Jews that person would indeed be anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish.
There are very few such people.
Rothbard did not plagiarize Rand on free will and he has the references to prove it.
Check out Joseph Stromberg's rebuttal to Jim Peron at LRC.com on this matter.
The idea that a vast scholar like Rothbard would plagiarize a Barbara Branden is beyond absurd.
And by the way it was Nathaniel Branden, not Rand, who invented the silly idea of 'volitional consciousness.'
See Szasz's critique of it and social metaphysics and psycho-epistemology in Faith In Freedom,
chapters 8 & 9 are devoted to Rand & Branden. He also has critical chapters on Mises, Rothbard, etc.
It was NOT originally attributed to Hospers but to Rothbard, Hessen and Reisman who knew Rand years before Hospers met her in 1960.
Hospers reported what both Rand told him and what the above mentioned members of The Bastiat Circle told him.
I will agree that ultimately this is not a major issue but it has a lot more than zero significance as people like Valliant continue to rewrite Rand's real history.
Your second sentence in your second paragraph is interesting but confusing.
I still have yet to find a site, whether pro or anti-Rand which can discuss her views in a reasonable manner.
Either hyperbolic hate or insane love seems to be the rule.
Too bad.

Michael Prescott said...

I admit I didn't read much of the apparently endless exchange between Valliant and Hardesty, but these lines from Hardesty's very first comment led me to believe that he/she is Michael Hardesty:

"I have read Raimondo's antiwar.com website for 12 years and except for his belief in the 'holocaust' and HIV-AIDS, I have yet to see where he is factually challenged. Certainly not in his criticism of Israeli-centric US foreign policy or the errant 'terror war.'"

This is so similar to the stuff Michael Hardesty has posted on other sites that if he's not the writer, it must be his twin sister!

OTOH, the quotes cited by Dragonfly don't sound like Michael Hardesty at all. So maybe I'm wrong.

BTW, I'm pretty sure Hardesty *was* banned from ARCHN. The site adopted comment moderation for a while to intercept his posts, if I recall correctly.

Michael Prescott said...

Incidentally, if you look up M. Hardesty's Amazon profile, you'll find that he/she gave a one-star review to ARCHN (the book). So whatever he/she feels about this blog, Mr./Ms. Hardesty doesn't seem too enamored of Greg Nyquist's general thesis.

Anonymous said...

There are many critics of both Israel and the conventional holocaust-Shoah story starting with the use of the word itself which means a great conflagration, which is not how European Jews died, whatever the real number.
I had looked at your site in the past and I don't recall Michael Hardesty being banned but then I may be naively assuming an open debate policy here that doesn't exist.
I do know that he posted on many other sites including leftist ones and was never banned by any of them.
The censorship that I have experienced has come largely from rightist sites, both racial and objectivist.
I have no basis on which to comment on Mr. Hardesty's view of the Nyquist book because I haven't the book or his opinion of it.
If he did read the exchange between Valliant and Marcy Hardesty
(no relation) I would bet he's changed his views on Valliant.
Valliant comes off on Amazon like
a North Korean Randroid.
Never read his PARC book but I can see from his style why it flopped and why he's not writing anyplace else these day.
Okay, thanks for letting me have my say here.
If I see things here that are relevant to my study of objectivism
I will save them if that's ok with you folks.
I have simply been trying to call this Amazon exchange to the attention of everyone I know because Valliant seems to be typical of the ARI Randroid type which I remember all too well from NBI Cult days back in NYC.
Ok, back to your regularly scheduled programming.
Thanks again.
PS There's an interesting piece online by a financial writer claiming that Gary Weiss is a psychopath.
It has nothing to do with his Rand book.

Michael Prescott said...

"I have no basis on which to comment on Mr. Hardesty's view of the Nyquist book because I haven't [read] the book or his opinion of it."

My point was that M. Hardesty, the Amazon poster, gave the book a one-star review, which seems to contradict "her" seeming endorsement of the ARCHN site, as quoted by Dragonfly. I'm not sure how it's possible to hate the book and love the blog, since the blog is an extension of the book.

Anyway, I can't help but think that no matter how common the name Hardesty may be, there can't be that many M. Hardestys who are Holocaust "revisionists," AIDS skeptics, and passionate Murray Rothbard fans, who seem to have imbibed liberally from Lew Rockwell's site, and who like to opine online about Ayn Rand using rather heated language and indulging in frequent excoriations of Rand's anti-Arab prejudices. If there are indeed two such Hardestys, Michael and Marcy, I suggest they must have been separated at birth! (Or ... maybe they are husband and wife?)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your views but these are unrelated, different people.
Many Rothbardians are trying to separate the Randian baby, if there is one, from the Randian bathwater.
As Marcy noted it also involves separating from the Randian mountain of excrement when dealing with Randroid windbags like James Valliant.
Phew !
I have just one request here, could Greg Nyquist elaborate a bit on his fascinating claim that Rand was both a hardcore determinist and a strange advocate of free will ? He might the solution to the whole repetitive exchange in Amazon.
Even outside of Rand the whole issue is still very central to both philosophy and psychology.
Thank you.

Dragonfly said...

Rand sounds deterministic when she writes "All the countless forms, motions, combinations and dissolutions of elements within the universe—from a floating speck of dust to the formation of a galaxy to the emergence of life—are caused and determined by the identities of the elements involved." (Rand, The Metaphysical and the Man-Made)

But then Peikoff writes (when Rand is still alive and no doubt with her blessing) "Since things are what they are, since everything that exists possesses a specific identity, nothing in reality can occur causelessly or by chance", and "Volition is not an exception to the Law of Causality; it is a type of causation". (Peikoff, The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy)

It's amazing how people can be so stupid to think that they can get away with such a bad argument. Rand/Peikoff try to sweep the problem of "how is free will compatible with a deterministic universe?" under the rug by declaring that volition is "a type of causation". In other words, they just "solve" the problem by evading it completely.

It is in fact a typical mystical viewpoint: man is some unexplainable exception to the deterministic world that "somehow" ("How? Blankout" to use a favorite Rand phrase) generates causes that are themselves uncaused, in contradiction to Rand's statement above.

And such people are supposedly "brilliant" thinkers. Well...

Dragonfly said...

Hm, strange, my last reaction has suddenly disappeared without cause. Let my try again...

Rand sounds deterministic when she writes "All the countless forms, motions, combinations and dissolutions of elements within the universe—from a floating speck of dust to the formation of a galaxy to the emergence of life—are caused and determined by the identities of the elements involved." (Rand, The Metaphysical and the Man-Made)

But then Peikoff writes (when Rand is still alive and no doubt with her blessing) "Since things are what they are, since everything that exists possesses a specific identity, nothing in reality can occur causelessly or by chance", and "Volition is not an exception to the Law of Causality; it is a type of causation". (Peikoff, The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy)

It's amazing how people can be so stupid to think that they can get away with such a bad argument. Rand/Peikoff try to sweep the problem of "how is free will compatible with a deterministic universe?" under the rug by declaring that volition is "a type of causation". In other words, they just "solve" the problem by evading it completely.

It is in fact a typical mystical viewpoint: man is some unexplainable exception to the deterministic world that "somehow" ("How? Blankout" to use a favorite Rand phrase) generates causes that are themselves uncaused, in contradiction to Rand's statement above.

And such people are supposedly "brilliant" thinkers. Well...

gregnyquist said...

For an explanation of Rand's "hard core" determinism and how it co-exists with her belief in free will, see Franz Kiekeben's brief essay.

Dragonfly said...

"my" -> "me"

Dragonfly said...

Well damn, why are my reactions continually disappearing after a few seconds?!

Dragonfly said...

Another attempt...

Rand sounds deterministic when she writes "All the countless forms, motions, combinations and dissolutions of elements within the universe—from a floating speck of dust to the formation of a galaxy to the emergence of life—are caused and determined by the identities of the elements involved." (Rand, The Metaphysical and the Man-Made)

But then Peikoff writes (when Rand is still alive and no doubt with her blessing) "Since things are what they are, since everything that exists possesses a specific identity, nothing in reality can occur causelessly or by chance", and "Volition is not an exception to the Law of Causality; it is a type of causation". (Peikoff, The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy)

It's amazing how people can be so stupid to think that they can get away with such a bad argument. Rand/Peikoff try to sweep the problem of "how is free will compatible with a deterministic universe?" under the rug by declaring that volition is "a type of causation". In other words, they just "solve" the problem by evading it completely.

It is in fact a typical mystical viewpoint: man is some unexplainable exception to the deterministic world that "somehow" ("How? Blankout" to use a favorite Rand phrase) generates causes that are themselves uncaused, in contradiction to Rand's statement above.

And such people are supposedly "brilliant" thinkers. Well...

Dragonfly said...

And again it has disappeared... Arghhh!

Michael Prescott said...

Mystery solved, maybe. It turns out that in many posts, Michael Hardesty has identified a certain Marcy Fleming as his girlfriend. Examples here:

http://tinyurl.com/86dpnor

Some people have gone so far as to assert that Marcy is a made-up alias of Michael H. But given some differences in their writing styles, I think it's more likely that Marcy really was Michael's girlfriend, and that she has now become his wife. Hence she now bears his last name.

I don't know why I've spent any time on this, except that these little puzzles bug me. :-)

Anonymous said...

I posted this link to the United kingdon Objectivist association and got a weird reply.
The said that a similiar position could be found in a book written in 1933 by a socialist woman and ergo Rand's position must be the correct one.

Steven Johnston
-UK

Anonymous said...

I don't know why I've spent any time on this, except that these little puzzles bug me. :-)


It's all Kant's fault?

- Steven Johnston
UK

Anonymous said...

Thanks very much for Franz's essay which I sent to Marcy and she posted it on the Amazon exchange.
Marcy Fleming is indeed Michael Hardesty's longtime girlfriend.
They have not married yet but probably will in the future.
Marcy Hardesty was actually married to a Jack Hardesty and she kept his name after he died & she never remarried. Her original name was Malloy.
Oddly enough Mike Hardesty's Mom's maiden name is Malloy too but no relation there either.
Sorry for the confusion.
Thank all of you for your courtesy here in reading my posts and the good reference.
My best wishes.

Dragonfly said...

Another try...

Rand sounds deterministic when she writes "All the countless forms, motions, combinations and dissolutions of elements within the universe—from a floating speck of dust to the formation of a galaxy to the emergence of life—are caused and determined by the identities of the elements involved." (Rand, The Metaphysical and the Man-Made)

But then Peikoff writes (when Rand is still alive and no doubt with her blessing) "Since things are what they are, since everything that exists possesses a specific identity, nothing in reality can occur causelessly or by chance", and "Volition is not an exception to the Law of Causality; it is a type of causation". (Peikoff, The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy)

It's amazing how people can be so stupid to think that they can get away with such a bad argument. Rand/Peikoff try to sweep the problem of "how is free will compatible with a deterministic universe?" under the rug by declaring that volition is "a type of causation". In other words, they just "solve" the problem by evading it completely.

It is in fact a typical mystical viewpoint: man is some unexplainable exception to the deterministic world that "somehow" ("How? Blankout" to use a favorite Rand phrase) generates causes that are themselves uncaused, in contradiction to Rand's statement above.

And such people are supposedly "brilliant" thinkers. Well...

Echo Chamber Escapee said...

@Dragonfly: It is in fact a typical mystical viewpoint: man is some unexplainable exception to the deterministic world that "somehow" ("How? Blankout" to use a favorite Rand phrase) generates causes that are themselves uncaused, in contradiction to Rand's statement above.

It gets worse. Rand asserts that man has volition because it is in his nature to be non-deterministic. But try asking an Objectivist how they know it is not in the nature of, say, an electron to be non-deterministic (which they all insist is the case). You will probably get some rant about how man is non-deterministic because that is the nature of conceptual consciousness, and an electron isn't conscious or conceptual ... so there!

They call it brilliant thinking. The rest of us call it special pleading.

Daniel Barnes said...

Michael P, I think you were right first time. Anon is as certainly Michael Hardesty as certainly as "Marcy" doesn't exist. While Hardesty has always had many obsessions, his most distinctive one seems to be with the return key.

Always good to have the old serial fantasist back to kick around.

Anonymous said...

That will be news to Marcy Fleming and news to Marcy Hardesty.

Renee Katz said...

It's always funny to me how Rand critics talk about the depth and subtly of their favorite philosopher and give Objectivism the most literal and shallow interpretation they can possibly imagine...

For example, the 'cognitive unconscious' as you call it would be where most of the implicit philosophy of an individual would operate. And the Randian idea of an 'implicit philosophy' isn't always a coherent system or academic idea like Christianity or empiricism - especially to someone who is hostile to ideas - it could just be composed of slogans or sayings. Also it does not necessarily directly motivate or determine all of their behaviors or actions, but is rather a reference point for them (which they are unaware of).