Wednesday, May 26, 2021
Many of Rand's critics object to Rand's philosophy because it does not agree with their own. Ideologues want everyone to accept their particular ideology. Hence their disparagement of rival ideologies. Rand herself was an ideologue of this description. She wanted people to agree with her. Those who didn't share her views she regarded as either mistaken (i.e., "errors of judgment") or evil. The problem with tackling rival points of view in this manner is that it is not altogether honest. This ideologue doesn't seek truth or insight, but merely uniformity of belief: he wants everyone to think like himself. Such critics, when confronted with the question Why shouldn’t I be an Objectivist? can only answer: because I want you to adopt my views instead. And so a progressive would say Objectivism is wrong because it doesn't agree with the progressive ideology; a conservative would say Objectivism is wrong because it doesn't agree with conservative ideology; a religious fundamentalist would say Objectivism is wrong because it doesn't agree with religious fundamentalism; and so and so forth. This works in other direction as well --- that is to say, Objectivists have exactly the same view of progressives, conservatives, religious fundamentalists, etc. All these belief systems are declared wrong because they don’t agree with Objectivism --- or at least that's what it comes to in the end.
Thursday, May 20, 2021
Yaron Brook is still seeking conversations with intellectual figures who can draw a larger audience than he can muster on his own. He managed to pull of one of his more successful efforts along these lines on a podcast hosted by Lex Fridman, where Brook engaged in a hour and a half conversation with self-proclaimed anarchist and twitter troll extraordinaire Michael Malice. The YouTube video of the resulting conversation has been seen by over 250,000 persons, and the accompanying podcast has probably been listened to by many more:
Since not everyone will be up to watching all four and a half hours of this video, I will provide a general overview. Malice, as can be expected, intersperses more serious comments with bouts of humor and other jests. As a big Rand fan, he more often than not sides with Brook, even at times pushing Brook aside and giving the appropriate Randian response to one of Fridman's inquiries. He shows himself to be very much the Ayn Rand nerd, sharing obscure trivia and stories about Rand and generally taking a very laudatory view of the author of Atlas Shrugged. Only on a handful of occasions did Malice take a more oppositional stance, as, for example, when he jumped on Brook for believing that words have "real meanings" (which of course they don't). And of course once the discussion took on the issue of anarchism, then the sparks began to fly. For some, this will be the high point of the discussion. At last some conflict! But I have always found debates over non-mainstream political ideals to be somewhat besides the point. It's sort of like two people arguing over the best way to cook and serve and dodo bird. Undoubtedly culinary enthusiasts might find something of interest in such verbal tussles, but the fact that no such dish will ever be cooked and served renders all such speculations about the best way to prepare it rather otiose. We shall never see either the minarchism endorsed by Brook or the anarchism endorsed b Malice implemented on a significant scale anywhere in the world. Why then should we bother our heads over which of these two systems is "better"?
More significant is what this conversation represents — what it indicates about the future of Objectivism. Regardless of what anyone might think of Brook, no matter what criticisms one might throw in his direction (whether for his lack of philosophical expertise in Objectivism, his rather hawkish — in the worst sense of the word — foreign policy, his TDS, and his curious mania for open borders and "free trade") nonetheless it must be admitted that under his leadership orthodox Objectivism has become less narrow and parochial, especially when it comes to its interaction with the outside world. For years, orthodox Objectivism regarded libertarians and anarchists as "worse than communists" (Peikoff's words). Thirty years ago, David Kelley was given his walking papers for a talk he gave at a Laissez-Faire Books supper club (a talk in which he argued that liberty required an Objectivist foundation). The fact that the old guard (i.e., the first generation of post-Rand objectivists) has mostly either retired or passed from the scene has softened many of the old hatreds (particularly for the Brandens) that throttled ARI in its first few decades. Some of credit for this evolution must be given to Brook, who has actively sought to have conversations with all kinds of people, not just Malice.
Tuesday, May 04, 2021
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.