virus: About Randians
Fri, 26 Mar 1999 18:46:19 EST

In a message dated 3/26/99 1:35:13 PM Central Standard Time, writes:

<< "Jake" wrote:

How very altruistic of you! >>

Nice joke. But I think that you have a misconception about me. I am not an "Objectivist" in the sense of Ayn Rand and whatnot.

In fact I haven't even read Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged. I have however read some of Nathaniel Branden's stuff (Currently reading the art of living consciously) and carried on at length with a number of the more Randian true believers, and read enough secondhand that I have a general sense of what most of it is probably about. On the whole, I am not in disagreement with their ideas. I find the philosophy a little shallow, but for as deep as it does go, I have no real problems with it. I think I have passed that step in my life, where I would have been more receptive to Objectivism, enough to have an "Objectivist" phase in my life.

My philosophical baptism was with Daniel Dennet (DDI), and then Pancritical Rationalism. The cooperative Randian Objectivists that I have spoken to have mostly forced me to be more articulate about my own position and philosophy in general. Nathaniel Branden has filled in some holes for me, but I already know where I cannot follow his philosophy. Fortunately he is more of a psychologist than a philosopher, and I think his psychological insights are valuable and as compatible with my philosophy as they are with his.

I know enough that while I would probably agree with most of Rand's political, economic, and ethical conclusions, her more fundamental philosophical thoughts are probably incompatible with my own (far too Cartesian, too shallow, and very little understanding of evolutionary process {Rand herself was "agnostic" about the evolutionary origins of humans - doesn't bode well for me taking her too seriously despite other agreements I might have with her}), and her lack of cultural, psychological, and scientific insight on the "nature of man" would probably prove intolerable to me. I am sure I would have loved her at a younger, more naive age. Indeed her appeal seems to be consistently with younger audiences.

Never the less, the things that I do like about what I have heard about Rand and Randians, is that they do not think that there is a fundamental incompatibility between emotion and reason - they are not Nihilistic in the least bit, philosophy really makes a difference to them in the way that they act, and they make a sincere stab at creating an ethical system. They also do not buy a lot of the cultural relativism that has gained so much currency lately.

And though I doubt that they have succeeded in creating as complete and as workable a system of philosophy as they would like to believe, I give them very high marks for setting such good goals and sincerely trying to achieve them. Too few people today, even few philosophers, even see the value in such things - and that to me is really the saddest comment on our culture - not that "family values" crap. Many allegedly serious thinkers today, seem to take more pleasure in tearing things up than building anything worthwhile themselves. Those that do seem interesting in putting new stuff out there, are far too tentative and gunshy - probably due to fear of all of the underfed pirranahs that lurk in the water.