Friday, October 11, 2013

Ayn Rand & Epistemology 49

Conclusion. Many years ago someone handed me a copy of Rand's Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology and said, "This will help you think better." That sounded kind of intriguing, so I gave it a try. The experiment proved a failure. ITOE did not improve my thinking; nor have I run across any evidence that ITOE has improved anyone else's thinking. Leonard Peikoff, for example, probably knows ITOE better than any person living. Has it improved his thinking? This is a man who, in 2006, wrote:

Socialism–a fad of the last few centuries–has had its day; it has been almost universally rejected for decades. Leftists are no longer the passionate collectivists of the 30s, but usually avowed anti-ideologists, who bewail the futility of all systems. Religion, by contrast–the destroyer of man since time immemorial–is not fading; on the contrary, it is now the only philosophic movement rapidly and righteously rising to take over the government.

Six years later, Peikoff entirely changed his tune:

As I have explained in The DIM Hypothesis, Obama is in essence a destroyer for the sake of destruction, a nihilist, the first such to become President. The object to be destroyed is America....

Many evils are in store for us if Obama wins a second term, ranging from crippling taxation and Obamacare to the war on energy and the imminence of economic collapse....

I intend to vote for whatever Republicans in my district are running for the House and the Senate. Republican control of at least one of these bodies, however weakened they have become, is still some restraint on Obama if he wins.

How did the Democrats go so quickly from being "avowed anti-ideologists" to supporters of "a destroyer for the sake of destruction"? How have the Republicans been transformed from a "philosophic movement rapidly and righteously rising to take over the government" to the only force capable of exercising "some restraint" on Obama and the Left?

Obviously, Peikoff's grasp on politics is tenuous at best. He is attempting to apply the Objectivist "philosophy of history" (which happens to be his specialty) to contemporary politics. His familiarity with ITOE is not helping one bit; indeed, if it has any influence at all, it is surely a negative one. The Objectivist belief that "proper" concept formation leads to better cognition provides cover for Peikoff's rationalistic, empirically vacuous political speculations. (Peikoff's strange belief that, prior to Obama, Republicans were "helping to push the U.S. toward disaster, i.e., theocracy, not in 50 years, but, frighteningly, much sooner" demonstrates not only extremely poor judgment, but sheer ignorance of American social history. America was substantially more religious 50, 100, and 150 years ago than it is today. Although the predominantly religious character of much of American society would lead to Prohibition and the Mann Act, there never existed any serious threat of theocracy in America.)

If ITOE failed to improve Leanord Peikoff's thinking abilities, what are the chances that ITOE would help anyone else? None at all. Indeed, there is no evidence that familiarity with Objectivism improves cognitive functioning or makes people wiser or has any other salubrious effects on the intellect. What Objectivist, other than Rand, has ever done anything of any particular note in the world? What Objectivist has invented something important? Or made an important scientific breakthrough? Or written any work of philosophy or social thought that went beyond regurgitating Rand's ideas? If ITOE really constituted the breakthrough in human thought that it presumes to be, wouldn't we see practical fruits of this in the Objectivist community?

Like any complex skill, thinking is learned by doing. No one learns how to think from reading books on epistemology, because in order to understand that book, you would first have to be able to think. While an epistemological treatise might influence how well a person thinks, that influence would likely be very small. Most thinking, in any case, involves unconscious cogitations, that are unsupervised by the conscious mind. Reading books on epistemology is unlikely to affect how the cognitive unconscious works.

To the extent that ITOE has any influence on a person's actual thought, that influence is largely negative. To conclude this series on Rand's epistemological speculations, let us examine what sort of effects, both good or bad, might arise from perusing ITOE.

Good effects. Although ITOE, as a work of epistemology, is pretty much a disaster, there is one potential positive effect that could arise from it. I have in mind the high cognitive ideals which animates ITOE. Rand is clearly very passionately in favor of rationality, objectivity, and keeping our thoughts in touch with reality. In the practical sphere of life, and in the sciences, these are cognitive ideals worth striving for. Unfortunately, Rand has no clue how to attain such ideals.

Negative effects. There are four primary negative effects that could potentially arise from familiarity with ITOE: (1) disparagement of tacit knowledge; (2) encouragement of rationalism; (3) encouragement of quibbling over the meaning of words; (4) encouragement of semantic narcissism. Let's quickly examine each in turn.

(1) Rand's emphasis on "focus" and conscious intention, combined with her foundationalism, leads to what is, for all intents and purposes, a disparagement of tacit knowledge. Rand believed it was vitally important for people to justify their knowledge. She despised those who "just knew," but could not explain, verbally, why they knew. Everyone, she insisted, had to have a reason for knowing. Otherwise, their knowledge was "arbitrary," founded on little more than "whims" or "mysticism." While justifying knowledge may be a fine ideal to strive for, it's just not always possible. In at least some domains, it constitutes a false ideal of knowledge. Contrary to Rand's assertion, reason is not the only "valid" means of knowing. If it were, the human race would have disappeared long ago. Human beings are sometimes forced to make quick decisions in domains of experience that feature immense complexity and/or insufficient access to relevant knowledge. Conscious deliberate reasoning simply cannot work in those situations. It's too slow, too clumsy, too self-conscious. Intuition may not be 100% reliable; but when quick decisions are needed or great complexity must be confronted, a semi-reliable form of knowledge is better than no knowledge at all.

(2) As I explained in my previous post, Rand's conviction that vagueness in language is caused, not by overly abstract terms, but by improper concept formation and imprecise definitions, provides cover for rationalism. Objectivists like to base arguments on vague generalizations. ITOE assures them there is nothing wrong with this.

(3) Rand's conviction that the concept is the primary unit of knowledge and that definitions can be true or false leads to futile arguments about the meanings of words. Of course, if you are trying to argue for things that aren't true, nothing is better suited to the purpose than semantic quibbles. The inveterate rationalizer would rather argue over words than facts.

(4) The Objectivist doctrine of meaning, by which a concept means all the characteristics of the "units" (i.e., referents) it describes, leads to what I call semantic narcissism. Under this view, words have a meaning independent of what is intended by the person who makes use of them. This may be the most pernicious doctrine in Rand's epistemology; for it provides cover for one of Rand's very worst intellectual vices, namely, her tendency to import her own meanings into the words of authors and speakers she disagreed with. The point of listening to a speech or reading a book is to understand what the speaker or author is attempting to communicate. You don't attain this end by arbitrarily importing meanings into other people's discourse.

To sum up: Rand's epistemology, to the extent that is has any influence at all, has a predominantly negative one. Instead of encouraging greater self-criticism and providing effective strategies for battling the innate tendency toward rationalism and confirmation bias, it merely provides cover for Objectivism's intellectual vices.


Neil Parille said...

What Objectivist, other than Rand, has ever done anything of any particular note in the world? What Objectivist has invented something important? Or made an important scientific breakthrough? Or written any work of philosophy or social thought that went beyond regurgitating Rand's ideas? If ITOE really constituted the breakthrough in human thought that it presumes to be, wouldn't we see practical fruits of this in the Objectivist community?

Greg, I think this is a little harsh.

1. Nathaniel Branden. Some people at least consider him important.

2. Allan Gotthelf. A major scholar on Aristotle.

3. Allan Greenspan. Fed Chairman.

4. John Allison. Successful banker.

On the other hand, the movement has produced:

1. Founders College.

2. Atlas Shrugged flops.

3. The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics.

Jzero said...

Isn't Greenspan not actually a full-on Objectivist? And to whom, besides Objectivists, is Branden important?

I'd offer Steve Ditko, co-creator of Spider-Man up as an example. Some of his creations are notable in the pop culture arena, though he himself is unknown to many.

Similarly, Terry Goodkind seems to be a successful enough fantasy author, with a TV series made from his books, but I don't think his stuff ranks in popularity nearly as high as, say, Game of Thrones.

If you wanted to make a case for a notable impact of Rand and Objectivism, it'd be more effective to cite all the conservatives who hold Rand and Atlas Shrugged up as a huge influence - but of course, that's a lot different than being a product of the complete Objectivist philosophy, as those same conservatives are perfectly content to pick-and-choose which parts of Objectivism they adhere to and reject the rest.

Neil Parille said...

Jzero, I think you are probably right about Greenspan.

Some people call Branden "the father of the self esteem movement" so I think he has been influential. I wouldn't say he has started a Brandenian school like Freud or Jung.

While I think Greg is a little unfair, I think his most important point - that there are no notable examples of Objectivists applying O'ism to other fields - is correct. I don't know experts who consider Ominous Parallels, the DIM book or The Logical Leap important works in their field.

Gordon Burkowski said...

There are certain areas of study where an Objectivist approach to the subect would be pretty much inconceivable. What would an Objectivist anthropology even be like?

And in spite of Peikoff's Ominous Parallels nonsense, the same goes for history. If you faced a group of informed historians and tried to argue that the influence of Kant explained all the atrocities of the last 200 years, you'd be mauled far beyond the point of professional extinction.

Neil Parille said...

George Reisman is a well known economist who wrote a huge book, Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics. He combines Austrian and Classical approaches with a bit of Rand.

M. Northrop Beuchner wrote a book Objective Economics which is supposed to be an explicitly Objectivist approach to economics. I have it but haven't read it.

gregnyquist said...

Neil, you've missed the point because you've taken it out of context. The issue is not whether people influenced by Objectivism have a reputation, or whether people deeply immersed in Objectivism are smart and have done well, but whether the influence of ITOE has given these people special advantages which is displayed in conspicuous success. The most noteworthy people on your list are Alan Greenspan and Steve Ditko. Did Greenspan owe anything to his success to ITOE. Has he even read it? His work in short term forecasting that laid the foundation of his later success was done mostly before he became a Rand acolyte. In his autobigraphy, he says nothing about ITOE or the Objectivist epistemology's role in fashioning his cognitive abilities. Ditko (apparently) did most of his best work before contact with Objectivism; and it is often argued that his Objectivist-inspired work is a clear step backward, which indicates that Objectivism, far from making him better, probably made him worse (and it's not clear what influence ITOE, if any, exercised on him).

Would Nathaniel Branden claim that any of his accomplishments can be traced to ITOE or Rand's epistemological writings. In his essay on the "Benefits and Hazards" of Objectivism, Branden regards the benefits as being largely the inspiration message; he says noting about ITOE or any kind of great leap forward to cognitive functioning due to the Objectivist Epistemology.

That leaves Alan Gotthelf and John Allison. While these are intelligent, successful individuals, I wouldn't quite say they qualified as individuals of particular note. Outside of Objectivist and Libertarianism, hardly anyone knows who they are. Neither man is exactly a pathbreaker. When I wrote "done anything of any particular note" in the world, I was thinking of something more than having a nice academic career or being a successful banker or even being head of the CATO institute. Where's the Objectivist Steve Jobs? Or the Objectivist Stephen Hawking? Or the Objectivist Tim Berners-Lee?

I'm not saying this to disparage current Objectivists, but just to note that ITOE and the Objectivist epistemology have not thus far borne any particularly impressive practical fruits. If an Objectivist is intelligent, like Allan Gotthelf, he can have a decent academic career, just like anyone else of comparable intelligence. Mastery of ITOE won't make give him an impressive leg-up on anyone with comparable intellectual gifts. Like most intelligent academics with successful careers, Gotthelf will be entirely forgotten 50 years from now.

QuantumHaecceity said...

"What Objectivist, other than Rand, has ever done anything of any particular note in the world?"

Wow, Greggy continues to sink to new lows of vindictiveness, pettiness, and nasty hate.

Also, one of your sycophants Greggy, Neil Parille, forgot to mention Jimmy Wales. An Objectivist who is the founder of Wikipedia.

I cant believe one of the regular sycophants on here, rebuked ol Greggy for his (A)-hole behavior.

Greggy is getting so bad, even one of his sycophants had to take him to task a little bit for another one of his harsh and scornful attacks against Objectivism.

Usually the sychophants on here like Jzero and Gordon Burkowski, and of course Daniel Barnes, overlook Greg's hateful, vindictive schadenfreude towards Objectivism.

Greggy, a little word of advice. You need to do a better job of hiding your scorn and spiteful intent to tear down Objectivsm as if you're the spawn of some Theistic demon.

You're letting it slip too much lately. You usually do a pretty could job of faking like you're all impartial and unbiased about all this. LOL!

Neil Parille said...


I don't think there is much of a disagreement between me and Greg, just a difference in emphasis.

Jzero said...

I know you'll probably ignore this, but: Quantty, wouldn't you say it qualifies as "vindictiveness" and "nasty hate" to repeatedly come into these comments sections just to bad-mouth Nyquist? To use the diminutive "Greggy" for no apparent reason than to mock him?

If anyone here is guilty of just sheer antagonism, it's you. Even if we accept your idea that Nyquist argues his points out of spite, at least he HAS rational points to argue - all you offer is name-calling and scorn.

It's the pot calling the kettle black; you don't really have much of a standing on which to call someone out for being hateful when you demonstrate a far greater degree of hatefulness yourself.

Daniel Barnes said...

Greg has an important point - the only point, when it comes down to it.

It's worth reiterating: What, really, for all its talk of purpose and productivity, has Objectivism ever purposely produced?

It's been 50 years since Atlas Shrugged, and the Objectivist movement has produced literally nothing of note. No science, no art, no literature, no music, no economics, no philosophy. Objectivism hasn't even made any progress in epistemology, its supposed strong suit. Its one feeble tract, forty years late, The Logical Leap, was an intellectual embarrassment that added nothing to the world but another Objectivist schism.

What has Objectivism produced in that time? One 60s fad movement, long exploded. It's produced steady streams of Randroids. It's produced a never ending series of feuds and schisms. It's produced lots of internet forums and conferences, full of blab about how Objectivism will one day produce something. It's produced two, soon to be three movies, all so far resounding financial and artistic failures. It's produced two institutions, one of which is all but defunct and the other positively North Korean in its public persona.

Compare that to say, Karl Marx. Das Kapital was hardly a multi-million selling potboiler like Atlas; yet 50 years of the publication of the final volume, half the earth was - much for the worse - under its philosophical dominion.

And as the final humiliation, Objectivism's much vaunted New Intellectuals look, in reality, not like Howard Roark or John Galt but like Quantum Haecceitty - dimwitted trolls whose powers of reasoning are so weak they dare not put their own name alongside their arguments.

QuantumHaecceity said...

@Daniel Barnes

"Quantum Haecceitty - dimwitted trolls"

Thanks for the insult Daniel. I appreciate you giving more evidence of the royal (A)-hole you are. And speaking of dim-witted, spell my blog name correctly, boy.

I also appreciate the tremendous level of garbage your last post entailed as far as ignoring the Jimmy Wales example, and the nasty vindictiveness and spite it showed.

Confirms that any scorn you clowns get, you get it because that's what you gave. The "And as the final humiliation", was particularly remarkable in its malicious schadenfreude.

I also want to say I appreciate that you, Burkowski, Parille, and Jzero, are really loyal sychophants. Greggy should be really proud of his little cult of sycophants here.

Daniel reiterates and supports Greggy's spiteful crap like a good goose stepping sychophant. Parille's sycophancy extends to him trying to ameliorate his rebuking of Greggy's nastiness, so as to make sure it's known that he dare not disagree too much, if at all, with his hero. And anytime someone says something about Greggy that Jzero doesn't like, he jumps to his defense like a pitbull. LOL!

Reminds me of what some people say about Rand and her followers or fans. LOL!

As an added bonus to show how horrible you clowns are, while you're spewing all your childish stereotypes, it's quite embarrassing for you to come to know that I'M NOT AN OBJECTIVST! I never said I was. I only said I'm an expert on it.

You look quite stupid right about now Danny-boy.

Jzero said...

"Confirms that any scorn you clowns get, you get it because that's what you gave."

That is, of course, factually false. This is just your bald assertion which you will never back up. It's a rationalization to justify your own nasty behavior. Your excuse.

Prove it, in other words.

"ignoring the Jimmy Wales example"

Because A) you aren't really interested in discussion, so why bother? and B) at that time, it had been established that the point wasn't whether there were notable Objectivists, but whether Objectivism's supposed methods of thought forming and processing are what enabled the success of those people. Can you point to anything Jimmy Wales did and show how being an Objectivist made him any smarter or better than he would have been otherwise? Not really.

"I'M NOT AN OBJECTIVST! I never said I was. I only said I'm an expert on it."

If it walks like a duck... for "not being an Objectivist", you sure spend a lot of time defending it. Like you accused me, when there's a post that doesn't give a favorable impression of Objectivism, you "jump to its defense like a pitbull", salted with fake little "lol"s as if you actually laugh at anything. I guess this makes you a philosophy's sycophant instead of some person's sycophant.

So even if you aren't an actual Objectivist, what's the difference? What does it matter? You're still just another troll trying to put down any criticism with insults and empty air, just like so many actual Objectivists.

Tod said...

Here's a perfect example of Objectivist failure nobody mentioned: Eddie Lampert.

He made billions as a hedge fund manager, then took over Kmart and merged it with Sears. He now operates the company internally on an Ayn Rand inspired "free market" model. The decline gets worse every year.

I guess he made billions because he was so rational. Now he's losing billions. What's a more likely explanation of the decline -- that he suddenly lost his rationality in 2004 when all this started, or that his carefully reasoned plans have failed despite how logical they seemed?

Super-rationality is not a guarantee of success. It does not make supermen. It is effective in limited areas in life, but not everywhere and always. Objectivism and Objectivist culture would have you believe otherwise, so it's legitimate to ask where all the Objectivist supermen are.

More from Business Insider on Eddie Lampert:

Lampert runs Sears like a hedge fund portfolio, with dozens of autonomous businesses competing for his attention and money. An outspoken advocate of free-market economics and fan of the novelist Ayn Rand, he created the model because he expected the invisible hand of the market to drive better results. If the company’s leaders were told to act selfishly, he argued, they would run their divisions in a rational manner, boosting overall performance.

Instead, the divisions turned against each other—and Sears and Kmart, the overarching brands, suffered. Interviews with more than 40 former executives, many of whom sat at the highest levels of the company, paint a picture of a business that’s ravaged by infighting as its divisions battle over fewer resources. (Many declined to go on the record for a variety of reasons, including fear of angering Lampert.) Shaunak Dave, a former executive who left in 2012 and is now at sports marketing agency Revolution, says the model created a “warring tribes” culture. “If you were in a different business unit, we were in two competing companies,” he says. “Cooperation and collaboration aren’t there.”

Tod said...

If anyone is interested you can read more about how Lampert put Sears in a death spiral here:

Daniel Barnes said...

If only he'd read ITOE! His thinking would have been so much more effective!

Lloyd Flack said...

Lampert actually sounds more like a Rand influenced person than an objectivist. I don't think Rand was as obsessed with competition as Lampert. To her it was more an instrument for getting the best out of people.

She was scornful of status seeking. That is definitely what she scorned as living through others.

This is Lampert's caricature of libertarianis. Competition good! More competition better!

Anonymous said...

Jimmy Wales invented wikipedia.

Anonymous said...

Tod merely shows his own incompetence and bias.

Lampert is not even on the list. Try Mark Cuban or John Mackey for your smears.

gregnyquist said...

The most important people on this list have merely been influenced by Rand's political and moral views. For some of the people on the list, like Hunter Thompson, that influence runs very thin. Outside of those with strong ties to ARI or the Atlas Society, it's unlikely that any of them were strongly influenced by ITOE -- indeed, most of them probably never even read it.

The broader point is that people's thinking is rarely influenced, and never minutely directed, by epistemological speculations. ITOE may have provided a bit of cover for some of the bad habits of argumentation indulged by leading orthodox Objectivists like Peikoff and Harriman; but beyond that, the influence hardly goes. Most rank-and-file Objectivists either haven't read ITOE, or have never quite mastered it. It's a difficult book. It describes cognitive processes that hardly anyone actually experiences, which makes it difficult to identify with and evaluate.

Echo Chamber Escapee said...

@Anonymous: Jimmy Wales invented wikipedia.

True. But how did ITOE influence his creation? Does Wikipedia demonstrate any of the principles of "proper" concept formation as outlined by Rand? Where is the definition by essentials, the attempt to validate knowledge claims by reducing to reality (as opposed to citing the authority of others)? Where, in Wikipedia's "five pillars," is there anything that was original to Rand?

Tod said...

Lampert is known to hand out copies of Atlas Shrugged and he listed it as his favorite book on the company's failed social media site. It's fair to say he's influenced by Ayn Rand. If Wikipedia doesn't reflect that reality yet, that can easily be rectified.

If someone connected to or inspired by Rand is a failure, like Greenspan or Lampert, then the movement will claim several things. He never really understood Objectivism. He was never really an Objectivist in the first place. He was just a misguided libertarian. Et cetera.

According to ARIans, David Kelley is not an Objectivist for obvious reasons. You can live and breathe Ayn Rand but if you displease the orthodox crowd or make them look bad, you aren't an Objectivist and you aren't using Objectivist principles. How convenient. The philosophy is never wrong; if it causes havoc in your life, then you're the one who is mistaken. There's a famous cult that was started by another midcentury fiction writer that operates on the same principle.

Tod said...

ECE & Anonymous, I know a guy who is 30 years old and living in his parent's basement (literally). He thinks that reading the Logical Leap will increase the efficiency of his mind such that he'll finally be able to move upward in life.

One data point may not make a trend, but that little piece of anecdotal evidence (and lots more like it) is still a valid observation. I've seen Objectivism shut off a lot of creativity.

Neil Parille said...

Many years ago someone handed me a copy of Rand's Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology and said, "This will help you think better." That sounded kind of intriguing, so I gave it a try. The experiment proved a failure. ITOE did not improve my thinking; nor have I run across any evidence that ITOE has improved anyone else's thinking.

That's a good point. Does anyone think that what's prevent B students from becoming A students is that they haven't read ITOE or have a bad theory of concept formation?

Would the ARI waste money on a study to see what happens if average students are taught ITOE?

One of the problems, it seems to me, is that Objectivists are unwilling to accept the large genetic component to intelligence that modern psychology is now universally agreed on.

Rand said (if you can believe Mayhew) that you can raise your IQ from 100 to 130 (or something like that). That was wrong when Rand said it in the 70s, but there is no excuse for holding such a belief now.

Anonymous said...

what a naive view of IQ measurement.

Mark Plus said...

"What Objectivist, other than Rand, has ever done anything of any particular note in the world? What Objectivist has invented something important? Or made an important scientific breakthrough? Or written any work of philosophy or social thought that went beyond regurgitating Rand's ideas?"

Apparently you mean to ask why hasn't anyone derived some kind of cognitive advantage from studying Rand's philosophy that he or she wouldn't have had otherwise. The fact that this apparently hasn't happened raises awkward questions about Rand's contributions. Rand's followers don't stand on the shoulders of a giantess named Ayn Rand; instead they stand in the shadow of a woman of average height who may have seemed a bit brighter than average, but not a genius by any means.

In a way, Rand cultists engage in false advertising. I'd like to see a defensible "philosophy for living on earth," but Rand lacked the goods to deliver on that promise. And the absence of development in the intellectual revolution her followers claimed she started also raises questions about the Objectivist doctrine of progress in the competitive market. We tend to get better material products through competition, and certainly in consumer electronics; but no one has written an Atlas Shrugged 2.0 better than the original to illustrate Rand's doctrine of progress.

Neil Parille said...

ITOE didn't help Ayn Rand in the Branden affair fiasco.

Daniel Barnes said...

Precisely. The Official Objectivist Reality Detection System failed in the hands of its inventor and best operator; probably because the reality to be detected was somewhat more sophisticated than a table or a chair.

Which is why the cultists must build Branden/s up to a Kantian level of ultra-evil - because only the ultimate reality fakers could fool the ultimate reality detector.

This explains such otherwise inexplicable cultic items such as Valliant's "Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics".

Jim S said...

What a sad little blog this is. Full of hate and envy.

Anonymous said...

Full of hate and envy?
Perhaps you didn't see the praise and maybe some praise of great men like Pol Pot , Stalin, Mao

darren said...
"Around the Randroid Belt"
"A Dead Fish Rots from the Head Down: The End of Objectivist Epistemology"

seymourblogger said...

But if you read Rand's fiction you will learn to think differently and much clearer. I have paid no attention to her non-fiction since 1962. Darren Wrede has written a post on my blog with an interesting take on Objectivism as a footnote to the philosophy of John Galt. Much as Borges made up long involved footnotes in his fiction and of course David Foster Wallace in his Infinite Jest where he has 150 pages of footnotes.Rand was just there ahead of all of them because of Nietzsche who is just now taking his rightful place in philosophy, so you will hear much more of Rand from these people who won't miss connecting those dots. Don DeLillo connected them in his novel Cosmopolis. Ayn Rand is a living breathing presence in it that is thrilling.

seymourblogger said...

Without Nathaniel Branden's Objectivist Lectures I would never have been able to grasp Ayn Rand's thinking. What I was getting was Nietzsche through Rand without knowing it. That sense of idealization, of over-identifying with the best (Zizek's reading of Rand)drove me on to The Will to Know, the title of Foucault's first Lecture series at the College de France. (my mistake in another comment was titling it The Will To Power)Rand had that fantastic Will to Know and she got it from reading Nietzsche - not that it wasn't in her before that. Nietzsche did the same for Foucault. And Baudrillard. And Bataille. But without NBI I would never have begun and would have floundered never understanding what was really going on economically and politically.So I owe the Brandens big time as Barbara was the one who came to Philadelphia every Tuesday night for the 2 years I went there. The dogma does wire you up tight and constricts you.And not until I began reading post modern thinking did I get it.

Greenspan was a disciple of hers.She did not pay enough attention to Nietzsche here on what he said about disciples to her chagrin. Greenspan followed Rand who was following Nietzsche and ushered in the era of the end of capitalism. By this I mean its jump into the speculative realm of circulating currencies attached to nothing of value whatever. Rand never meant this. Capitalism for her had a product;it was in a relation with its product.Money was not separate from the product. And since Greenspan it now is. Money floats, attached to nothing but other money currencies. That is not capitalism as Rand conceived it.

seymourblogger said...

First, Greenspan was a success. He crashed the market, and he crashed it by following Rand who was following Nietzsche. To get rid of something take it to excess. This is where Zizek goes off as he says that Rand over-identified with capitalism, but Zizek knows nothing of the long Rand/Nietzsche affair as he was the only master she ever had and she fought against him with fervor. But Rand was an example of the "unknown known" as she didn't know that the consequence of freeing the market as Greenspan did, that capitalism would separate from product and circulate without a referent. This is why Greenspan even late in the game said he preferred a return to the gold standard.Without it money floats. But oh she is such a genius. All her words even tho the rhymes were edited out of Atlas (as Burns says but maybe Heller)her prose follows Nietzsche in its music.

seymourblogger said...

On the "affair with Branden" Rand destroyed him Nietzsche style. She imploded NBI. It cost her a fortune to do that in lost revenue and prestige. But she could not do other than her characters. I doubt that she wanted to and it was not in her self-interest to do it, but she did it. Greenspan should have become aware that the financial kings of Wall Street might also act against their self-interest and ruin their businesses if Rand had.He didn't get it.It was a magnificent act.