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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ayn Rand: some random thoughts on her philosophy




The Bachelor Philosopher
Series




Ayn Rand


Some random thoughts
on her philosophy
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by Carl Baydala

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Featuring:
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the Mike Wallace interview of 1959


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OR THE NEOCONS WOULD HAVE
LOVED HER
and
MAYBE THEY DID

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Philosopher

Ayn Rand

1905 - 1982

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Love as something earned,
laissez-faire economics,
atheism, and forget the altruism already
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Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to three videos which are freely available on the internet. They are interviews of the philosopher Ayn Rand. The interviews are conducted by Mike Wallace, Phil Donahue, and Tom Snyder. All three of them are entertaining and informative. I suspect that this continuity is based on the personality of the interviewee, namely Ayn Rand. If you watch all three of them you will immediately come to know Ayn Rand and what her philosophy is all about and you will also learn about the ' intellectual attractiveness ' of the woman. ( my phraseology )
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She has developed a philosophy which she terms ' Objectivism '. Essentially, it is a rational approach to understanding reality - objective reality. The mind is the organ that perceives for us and this is the basis of the philosophy. Through the use of our minds, and using rationalism and not mysticism, we can come to know the world around us, enabling us to develop a moral code with happiness as its base and objective. That is the philosophy in a nutshell. The only debt that she holds for the formation of her philosophy is to Aristotle she claims, and all the rest of it is of her making. ( See video number 3. ) . Ayn Rand holds some basic beliefs which I consider to be reasonable, as they are stated. She does not believe in God or mysticism; there is simply no evidence for the idea that God exists. And, she also thinks that man is basically a selfish creature who acts out of self interest. I cannot disagree with these beliefs and in fact I would applaud them. I have stated many times in my writings that man is selfish and that it is in his benefit to be that way. How are you going to survive if you do not take care of number one? It is simple logic and a very rational approach to life.
. Philosopher Rand has some other ideas, however, that I cannot totally agree with. She has some strong beliefs on the virtue of altruism, for example. Altruism, according to Rand is a bad thing because it is not natural and does not serve our interests. Why should we be constantly on guard and thinking of the needs of others? What do we gain from this kind of conduct and how does it benefit man to be constantly altruistic? She believes that practicing altruism leads to institutions in society which are harmful to it. Things like collectivism and welfare and the like do not benefit society, but rather, work against it.
. She is also a forceful advocate of individualism and thinks that dominant personalities pursuing things of self interest is the best kind of policy for a society. For it is the rugged individualist who builds factories and industries and provides jobs and wealth for all. And, she also thinks that government should be minimized or separated from the economic part of society. ( see video number 2 ) Ayn Rand believes in laissez-faire economics and in no controls or collectivism as provided by government. To use one her phrases, she thinks that government and economics should be separated, just as state and church are so organized. . You have to remember that Ayn Rand is being interviewed before the dawn of Ronald Reagan ( Mike Wallace interview ) and the flourishing of globalization and the corresponding Middle East wars, and even the Vietnam War itself. She is a fierce critic of president Jimmy Carter ( 1976 - 1980 ) ( later Donahue interview not shown here ) and she also takes time out to condemn the Arab states for daring to nationalize their oil. ( Donahue interview ) She thinks that the oil in the Middle East belongs to the U.S. since they provided the technology to extract it. She is also providing impetus for the dawning neocons and their zeal for global dominance. Is she a shill for the globalists? Who knows, but I think it is an honest question, especially after you watch all of her interviews. Just as philosopher Rand does not mince words or ideas nor do I. Consider, for example, that Allan Greenspan, the future chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank ( some say that he was a contributor to the financial crisis which appeared in 2007 because of his low and extended interest rate policies and lack of bank regulation ) is one of her adherents, and in fact, was associated with her. So, once again I dare ask: are we being set up - for war and capitalism gone wild in this period of the late fifties and beyond? Ayn Rand's philosophy is the basis for unbridled capitalism, unfettered and free as it were, and to pursue the things that capitalism does best, namely acquire wealth at the expense of all other things. Ayn Rand is in love with tall buildings and the capitalists who created them - she is not in love with presidents who would do well for all of the people all of the time or to try and distribute the wealth to the less fortunate. That very idea is an anathema to her. .
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..
Ayn Rand in
her younger days
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Now, I am interested in the philosophy of love and so is Ayn Rand. The issue of self-sacrifice is discussed by Ayn Rand and Mike Wallace in the following video. ( see three part video below ) Rand thinks that it is actually immoral for man to be completely self-sacrificing in relation to his fellow man. This is where Rand comes to life with her philosophy and I tend to agree with it. She says that the ' currency of love is virtue ', so this should form the basis of a loving relationship. No man is expected to marry a woman out of pity or some self-sacrificing objective.( altruism ) How would the woman feel if this was the case? Surely, there are reasons why people get married. Now, I personally would get married to a woman if I thought it was in my best interests to do so, and likewise with the woman. I do not think Rand would disagree with me. But, it is not strictly a business relationship either; a strict money or exchange of considerations, or a ' tallying up at the end of the day ' as Mike Wallace portrays it in this fascinating video. There has to be something mutual about love in my opinion and Rand is hinting that virtue should form part of the relationship, but not a self-sacrificing kind. " Love between two people should be earned " and it is the agreement on values ( type of virtue? ) that make a successful marriage, according to Rand. Her thoughts about love are found in video number 1. You might also be interested in a post of mine found here: Love is something that you earn....
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Here is the three part 1959 interview


with Mike Wallace.
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You can watch the Phil Donahue and Tom Snyder
videos here if you like:
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Related Links:
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Here is a sample of Ayn Rand's mind at work in a book.
The book is called " Anthem " and you can listen to this audio
file right here:

Anthem by Ayn Rand

Here is a recent video which highlights the connection between Allan Greenspan and Ayn Rand. Video added on February 20, 2010.
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2 comments:

Michael M said...

Carl,

You appear to disagree with Rand's views on altruism as a vice, while agreeing with her on the virtue of egoism. I think if you would more fully understand the principle involved, you might see that your position is self-contradictory.

The purpose of formulating an ethic is to have a code of values in the form of principles to guide your actions in the pursuit of surviving and thriving. It is not only necessary to evaluate options in respect to their potential to contribute to or detract from your life, it is also necessary that those evaluations be in a hierarchical order. It is the commitment to always opt for the higher value over the lower value that constitutes egoism. Altruism then is the ethic that demands one sacrifice the higher value and be satisfied with the lower value as a duty.

Therefore, many acts that appear to be sacrifices can be seen to actually be selfish acts when that principle is properly applied. Genuine altruism establishes an impossible standard by implicitly degrading the recipients of the sacrificed values. And degradation of both is the actual goal of altruism. It is the necessary prerequisite to justify the imposition of a tyranny. Read Rand's essay on the symbiosis between Attila and the Witch Doctor.

As an actual example of the superiority of egoism over altruism, I cite Sam Walton, who, when he died, was the richest man in America. WalMart and his selfish quest to be productive, did more to raise the standard of living of the nation's poorest than all of the War on Poverty and contributions of charitable institutions during his lifetime.

You have not given enough consideration to the fact that in a 100% laissez-faire society in which the government's sole task is to guarantee that force shall be banned from human interaction and all exchanges of value shall be voluntary that there would be no way for anyone to obtain wealth other than to satisfy the wants of others at a lower price than one's competitors.

Your view of a causal relationship between Rand's ideas and the positions of the neocons is also mistaken. The fact that a government would have a right to attack another country is not the same thing as advocacy to actually do it. Also, in a laissez-faire society, there can be no taxation, because it is inherently coercive. The systems by which government would be funded would be a powerful check on any trigger-happy administration — a check that currently does not exist.

In regard to the ownership of Middle Eastern oil, Rand was applying the principle that governs ownership. Namely, naturally existing objects may not be owned by anyone, because no one created them. One may only own the product of one's mind and body, i.e. the ideas and the improvements of nature that are the product of their application. That is the principle implicit in homesteading. One does not own the land. One owns the ideas and effort involved in improving the land and that are embodied in the land. Oil belongs to those who find and extract it, not those who happen to live above it and draw a line in the sand around it.

Carl Baydala said...

Mike,

I had to chop a lot of my response because of space considerations, just to let you know. The following is a highly edited version of my thoughts:

The American capitalist needs to become more class conscious and he needs to re-distribute his wealth more widely. If he does not, the masses will eventually do it for him, even if they appear not up to the task at this moment in time.

Egoism and altruism are different animals, but they are connected things none the less. Altruism is doing something for your fellow man with no benefit to yourself. The general picture of America today is that it appears totally non-altruistic. It is every man for himself and this shows up in the fact that the capitalists have grown stronger at the expense of the weaker classes.

The capitalist classes need to utilize their egos more and distribute the wealth - and that is for simple survival. So, there is nothing altruistic about wealth distribution, it is a completely self-serving exercise. But, it must be done if the nation is to survive. So, you may think that egoism and wealth distribution is a virtue, but it is nothing of the sort. It is a matter of pure self interest. And, the sooner the capitalist makes the appropriate adjustments the happier he and the rest of society will be.

PS. I cannot accept your comments concerning extra territoriality. No country will accept these kinds of notions. Expropriation is a tool and right of every sovereign nation. It is the same thing as the U.S. denying foreign investment in the first instance. It is a matter of survival and self interest.