Monday, November 29, 2004

Ayn Rand and Objectivism

"You have no choice about the necessity to integrate your observations, your experiences, your knowledge into abstract ideas, i.e., into principles. Your only choice is whether these principles are true or false, whether they represent your conscious, rational convictions - or a grab-bag of notions snatched at random, whose sources, validity, context and consequences you do not know, notions which, more often that not, you would drop like a hot potato if you knew. " -- Ayn Rand, "Philosophy: Who Needs It,"

I've been very interested in this subject fot the last couple months. I first picked up "Philosophy: Who Needs It" when, having gotten once again fed up with Television, I removed mine and turned back to the books. My brother had gotten me this book as a present maybe two years prior, and I had started to read it at that time, but I remember initially being turned off by her attitude. On a second read through, I instead found it stimulating, perhaps speaking more currently to my own attitudes. I was very excited to finally read something that I found stimulating at all. I read alot of literature and alot of it is heavy stuff, but very rare is it that a novel can actually make you feel as enthusiastic, and as moved to action. This is precisely the feeling I got when I subsequently read "Atlas Shrugged". I intend to purchase "The Fountainhead" today, and I have also read portions of "The Objectivist Epistemology" and "The Ayn Rand Lexicon".

"An individualist is a man who says: "I will not run anyone's life - nor let anyone run mine. I will not rule or be ruled. I will not be a master nor a
slave. I will not sacrifice myself to anyone - nor sacrifice anyone to myself."
-- Ayn Rand, "Textbook of Americanism"

Ayn's life and her legacy seem wrought with controversy, depending on where you get your information you can hear her praised to the highest of influentional forces, or criticized as a pseudo-philosophical, adultering zealot with a cult following. Many of the accounts contradict one another, and it's difficult to find (ironically) an objective documentary. Ayn's life is certainly interesting though and by reading the different accounts of it you can piece together a collage of what she might have been like. There are clearly two factions involved in the Objectivist movement. The Ayn Rand Institute which Leonard Peikoff heads and which is actually sanctioned by Ayn Rand, and The Objectivist Center which has taken ideas of Ayn Rand's and molded them to fit their own agenda. This is reportedly head by the controversial David Kelley and Nathaniel Branden. The two sides are absolutely not in agreement, to say the least. An interesting letter from a long time supporter of TOC seems to confirm my first impression of their side of the issue as sort of mealy mouthed. I can see how people would want, on first blush, to take a more "open-minded" approach as this is a very strict philosophy, and it is revolutionary, so it neccessarily goes in the face of many people's long held beliefs. However, that "open-minded" approach is precisely the type of lackadasical intellectual irresponsibility Ayn herself is staunchly against. I'm thinking of applying for the courses offered at ARI come Feb. I'm hoping they will admint me even without me being in college or holding a degree. In the mean time I will satisfy myself with self-study. There are plenty of books and tapes and essays available through the institue that really attending the online courses may not be neccessary, but I would still like to get their feedback.
"What objectivity and the study of philosophy requires is not an 'open mind,' but an active mind - a mind able and eagerly willing to examine ideas, but to examine them criticially. " -- Ayn Rand, "Philosophical Detection," Philosophy: Who Needs It"

Alot of Objectivist material is out there. The Intellectual Activist is an Objectivist publication, only I don't know how secure I feel actually saying that unless it has actually been approved by the Institute, but at any rate it is a "self-decribed" Objectivist publication. It looks as though Objectivism Online is more current then some of the other sites I've seen, and I'll have to look through it more but it appears to be a comprehensive resource of Objectivist material. They do have a disclaimer also about not being officially "Ayn-Rand Objectivists". I will find and link to much much more in the future I'm sure. This is not one subject I'm likely to drop anytime soon.
I'll leave you with a final thought for today:
"In Western Civilization, the period ruled by mysticism is known as the Dark
Ages and the Middle Ages. I will assume that you know the nature of that period
and the state of human existence in those ages. The Renaissance broke the rule
of the mystics. "Renaissance" means "rebirth." Few people today will care to
remind you that it was a rebirth of reason - of man's mind." -- Ayn Rand, "Faith and Force: the Destroyers of the Modern World," Philosophy: Who Needs It?"


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