But in this post I wanted to comment on one of the articles linked to in the last post. This is the article by Sean Haylock entitled "Contra Rand." What struck me in Haylock's piece is that he comes perilously close to ceding the mantle of "rationalism" and "reason" to Rand. At one point he writes:
Rothbard’s overview of the Randian’s narrow and unfeelingly solemn approach to all of life’s pleasures, and of the link between this attitude and Rand’s rabid breed of totalizing rationalism, is worth quoting at length. [italics added]
Of course, we all know how the typical Objectivist would respond to this. He would charge Haylock of trying to replace reason with faith. While that isn't quite what Haylock is up to (he's actually trying to argue that reason alone is not enough), he is leaving himself open to just that sort of objection. Nor is there any reason he should do so. For when we compare Haylock's Catholicism with Rand's, we're not comparing a philosophy based on faith with one based on "reason," as Objectivist apologists would contend; on the contrary, we're simply comparing two different varieties of faith (which may be supplemented, here or there, by "reason"). Objectivism, despite is secular basis, is no less a faith than Catholicism. And as faiths go, it's not even clear it's the better one.
Consider a passage, quoted by Haylock, from Rand's journals:
And neither can one live for the happiness of others—because that involves one’s own suffering as an essential, since one’s happiness is not automatic, but has to be achieved by one’s own effort...
Let's ignore the moralistic assertions and concentrate on the one unequivocal assertion of fact. Rand claims that "one's happiness is not automatic, but has to be acheived by one's own effort." How does Rand know this to be true? Where is her evidence? Wouldn't it would be safe to assume that if Rand's philosophy of Objectivism really were based on "reason," that such assertions of fact would be supported with compelling evidence? But in this case as in countless others, we get no supporting evidence, only bald assertion. Indeed, Rand is so careless, she is so empirically irresponsible, that it is hard not to suspect her "reason" of being a fraud. Many of the core premises of Objectivism are expressions, not of reason or science or empirical wisdom, but of Rand's faith. If you read Rand's journals, she is constantly making controversial assertions about matters of fact and treating them as if they were patently obvious. That's how she normally thought, and that's how she constructed her philosophy.
If you want to challenge Objectivism, the first thing you have to do is deny Rand's claim to "reason" and reality. She has no right to any such claim. She is often every bit as guilty of wishful thinking as those she routinely condemns. Just examine the statements she makes about human nature, about man being a self-created soul, or about emotions being based on one's philosophical premises! Or her claim to have bridged the gap between is and ought! Or her entire theory of history! These are all assumed to be true on the basis of little, if any, evidence, with very little in the way of argument as well. Rand preaches "reason" and reality; but she rarely practices what she preaches.