Tuesday, May 04, 2021

New Book: "The Faux-Rationality of Ayn Rand"




I am pleased to announce the publication of my latest book, The Faux-Rationality of Ayn Rand, which is available at amazon.com in paperback (and hopefully soon in kindle). Whether this is the best critical book on Ayn Rand and her Objectivism philosophy on the market today I will leave to others to decide. But I'd like to think it's the most readable, succinct, and relevant piece of Randian criticism that we've seen to date. It covers the main points of Rand's Objectivist philosophy (i.e., her views on human nature, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and politics), showing, in lively, pointed language, what is wrong with her various contentions about these domains of experience. It is hardly an exhaustive critique of the Randian sophistry. It doesn't cover everything — only the most important stuff. More than anything else, I see this book as a one-stop shop for discovering what is fundamentally wrong with Rand's philosophy. 

The book is only about sixty-thousand words long and is based on posts published here at ARCHN. The fact is this blog is a bit of a mess. Although most of Rand's philosophy is critiqued in a reasonably systematic matter, it's challenging to read the posts on the blog in the order they were originally meant to be read. The format of the blog simply doesn't allow for that, nor is this something that's easily fixable. Another issue is that many of the posts I contributed to ARCHN were written very hastily and they were not always well proof-read. Much of the material could really use a serious and thorough re-write — but that would be an immense job, and given the slippage of interest in Rand's philosophy, I doubt it would be worth the trouble. So instead I have culled the best and most pertinent posts that I have written for the blog, cleaned them up, arranged them in as systematic a way as possible, and then published them via amazon.com. 

    

Sunday, March 07, 2021

Peikoff vs. ARI

Documents reveal that Leonard Peikoff, the founder of ARI and the heir to Ayn Rand's literary estate, gave $297 to Donald Trump's Make America Great Committee. The date on the document December 14, 2020, but it's likely the donation was given earlier (almost certainly before the election). Peikoff's generous donation allows us to get a better sense of how much influence he still exerts over ARI.

So how much influence does Peikoff still exert over ARI? Probably very little. Consider Yaron Brook's view of Objectivists who "apologize"  (i.e., support) Trump:

Those of you who are apologists for Donald Trump, please never use the word "Objectivist" to associate it [Objectivism] with yourself. Because you cannot be Objectivists, you are not Objectivists, if you apologize for this guy.

And you are not doing anybody a favor by selling-out, selling-out the fundamental ideas that we believe in. For the sake of what? Popularity, for the sake of defeating the left?

You are sell-outs, you are the fifth-column within Objectivism.

And:

But the Trumpists are a disaster. If they win, and they come to dominate all of the Republican Party and all of its candidates, this country is finished, this country is finished.

Given Brooks uncompromisingly extreme stance against Trump, what are we to make of Peikoff's $297 donation to the Trump campaign? Is Peikoff a "sell-out" and fifth-columnist within Objectivism? How are we ever going to square this particular circle?

Several years ago, when Peikoff was still doing a podcast, he came out in favor of closing the borders. Brooks quickly stepped in to put a stop to this. On Peikoff's next podcast, we hear Brooks explaining why closing the borders is a bad thing to do and Peikoff rather sheepishly admitted he had been led astray by conservative talk radio. 

Flash forward to the last year or so. Peikoff is now in permanent retirement. For health reasons, he can no longer make public appearances. What is he doing with his time? When he feels up to it, he's supposedly writing short stories. What does he do when he's not writing stories? Could he be listening to conservative talk radio? Peikoff has been a fan of Rush Limbaugh at least since the nineties. Is it possible that in his retirement Peikoff is listening more to conservative talk radio hosts (and not just Rush, who recently passed away) than he is to Yaron Brook and other ARI figures? Or has he simply become a fan of Trump on his own unbiased judgment, irrespective of influences? Whatever the case, his $297 donation to the Trump campaign strongly suggests that he does not agree with the folks who have taken over the institute he founded way back in the eighties. It also strongly suggests that Peikoff's influence over ARI has come to an end. I don't know whether Brooks knows (or if knows, whether he cares) that Peikoff has a soft spot for Trump. Whatever the case, it clearly doesn't matter. Peikoff is no longer relevant  in the world of Objectivism.  It's Yaron Brooks and his people who control the institute and who are the big players in that space. They decide what Ayn Rand would have thought if she were still alive.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Anne Heller, as long ago as 2009, published her biography of Ayn Rand. I have finally gotten around to reading it and will at some point make a post or two commenting upon it. In this post I want to turn to another issue --- namely, one of the two organizations tasked with the propagation of Rand's ideas, The Atlas Society. I had not realized the extent to which Heller had used TAS in research for her book. It is notorious that ARI refused Heller access to their archives until long after her book was finished. But it appears Heller didn't need ARI because she had TAS and David Kelley, who explained Rand's philosophy to Heller. It wouldn't be that much of an exaggeration to call Ayn Rand and the World She Made the official Rand biography of the Atlas Society --- although technically that's not true.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Molyneux and the Objectivist Tradition 6

UPB: Criterion for ethics. Universally preferable behavior, which is the core concept of Molyneux’s ethical speculations, is not an easy theory to wrap one's head around. It is not always clear what Molyneux means by it. Consider the ambiguity which clings to the terms of the following passage:

We all have preferences – from the merely personal (“I like ice cream”) to the socially preferable (“It is good to be on time”) to universal morality (“Thou shalt not murder”).

There is little point writing a book about personal preferences – and we can turn to Ann Landers for a discussion of socially preferable behaviour – here, then, we will focus on the possibility of Universally Preferable Behaviour. (50)

Note how Molyneux goes from “personal” preferences to “social” preferences to “universal morality.” Interpreted in one sense, Molyneux seems to be suggesting a relation between personal and social preferences on one side and “universal morality” (presumably Universally Preferable Behavior) on the other. But this transition is not well explained. It’s as if Molyneux wants us to think of universal morality as a preference, but not a preference in the same way as a sweet tooth for chocolate can be a preference. What precisely is the difference? How does one transition from “I prefer chocolate” to “thou shalt not murder”? How are those two statements both preferences?

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Molyneux and the Objectivist Tradition 5

UPB: The necessary premises of debating, pt. 2. Molyneux argues in his book Universally Preferable Behavior that denying his theory of morality is “innately self-contradictory,” because “saying that there is no such thing as universally preferable behavior is like shouting in someone’s ear that sound does not exist.” Is Molyneux right about this? Is UPB, which Molyneux identifies more broadly with “moral rules,” valid because it is self-contradictory to deny them? Let’s take a closer look at Molyneux’s arguments:  

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Molyneux and the Objectivist Tradition 4

UPB 4: The necessary premises of debating 1. Molyneux’s sophistry reaches its apex when he commences on the thankless task of “validating” his theory.

“Universally preferable behavior” must be a valid concept,” [insists Molyneux, because] “if I argue against the proposition that universally preferable behavior is valid, I have already shown my preference for truth over falsehood – as well as a preference for correcting those who speak falsely. Saying that there is no such thing as universally preferable behavior is like shouting in someone’s ear that sound does not exist – it is innately self-contradictory. In other words, if there is no such thing as universally preferable behavior, then one should oppose anyone who claims that there is such a thing as universally preferable behavior. However, if one “should” do something, then one has just created universally preferable behavior. Thus universally preferable behavior – or moral rules – must be valid. (35-36)

This is such a mass of confusion and unsubstantiated assertion that it will take a bit of effort to sort all out. I can identify at least three serious problems with Molyneux’s formulations:

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Molyneux and the Objectivist Tradition 3

UPB 3: Preferences and morality. In his book Universal Preferable Behavior, Molyneux begins his disquisition on ethics by comparing assertions about preferences with assertions about matters of fact. Statements of fact, notes Molyneux are “objective, testable—and binding,” whereas statements of preference are “not generally considering binding … in any way.” Preferences are mere statements “of personal fondness.” It is not incumbent upon anyone to share our preferences. (22)