Ayn Rand…

aynrand

Ayn Rand is the author of works of fiction like ‘Fountainhead’, ‘Atlas Shrugged’, ‘We the Living’ and so on.Her philosophy, Objectivism is as I recall about applying reason to every strand of your being.

Here are some key exerpts from her work:

‘My philosophy, in essence is the concept of man as a heroic being with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity and reason as his only absolute.’

‘My philosophy, Objectivism, holds that:

  1. Reality exists as an objective absolutefacts are facts, independent of man’s feelings, wishes, hopes or fears.
  2. Reason (the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses) is man’s only means of perceiving reality, his only source of knowledge, his only guide to action, and his basic means of survival.
  3. Manevery manis an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.
  4. The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. The government acts only as a policeman that protects man’s rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders. In a system of full capitalism, there should be (but, historically, has not yet been) a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.’

I read Ayn Rand a lot when I was about fifteen, and until I was around nineteen . Her dull gray universe held a lot of appeal, the idea of selfhood and seriousness that she endowed life with, her noble, morally just and upright characters left a lasting impression.

Ayn Rand’s individualism, in a culture where from the start you are asked to rake out your life from the remains of and for the interest of a collective is influential, to say the least.Her books have a huge readership in urban India.

I want to initiate a discussion her influence in the lives of people.

I hope that this post generates debate about her work.

If you have, in any way been touched by her philosophy, then do write to me at theunderscoredhood@gmail.com, or leave a comment here.

Image Source www.aynrand.org

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23 thoughts on “Ayn Rand…

  1. hi rahi…,

    was an arden fan of rand till i realised i was loveless and very selfish… i changed my outlook and accepted the fact that there are grey areas in life when reason fails… or rather does not exist. i can sit and reason out why my parents love me or why i feel good when it rains. yes you can apply the phylosophy to a certain exten especially to your work but in social contexts it fails, as far as i have experienced.

    i will get more rand fans to voice !!! 😉

    ta,

    Tenil

  2. and oh.. fact (or truth ) is not absolute…. read gandhi`s “my expeiments with truth” or prisig – “zen and the art of motorcycle maintaince” !!! the truth is relative… you will precive a certain fact as one thing while i may as another.

  3. Tenil seems to have the typical adolescent infatuation with Rand, which he outgrew–in my opinion, to his loss.

    I have studied Rand’s philosophy in an academic context. I must say that it is the most robust philosophy I have come across as yet. If you have any particular area or question you’d like to discuss, I’m open to it.

    P.S. When Tenil claims that truth is relative, it is an untenable position long forsaken by mainstream philosophers. Precisely for this reason, Tenil cannot deny his own existence, the truth of Tenil’s existence is not relative to him but objective to him, i.e., independent of his grasping of this truth. Other statements of fact can also be arrived at that demonstrate truth is not relative.
    Were truths relative, one would have to also consider if moral truths are relative. Then, assuming moral truths are relative, would it be morally permissible to rape an 8 year old girl if my moral truth says its okay?

  4. I read and enjoyed several of Ayn Rand’s novels and essays when I was a teenager and her work influenced my thinking, but she was known to be dogmatic toward her “inner circle”.

    “Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself”
    I agree with this as an ideal. Statement like: “He must exist for his own sake” is obviously false, wishful thinking. In the real world, some people use forse over others, and that has always been the case, tracing back to our ape-like ancesters and beyond.

    “The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force”

    Yes, as an ideal…”, but did she really think that? Why did Ayn Rand call libertarians Right-wing Hippies? Why did was she so angry when Murray Rothbard, her ex-lover, starting making money with his cassette tapes? She refused to give other people credit where credit is due.

    Laissez-faire capitalism has never existed in nature, so it is indeed “idealistic”.

    I remember that she at one time wrote an essay supporting the authoritarian Ronald Reagon. She seemed to practice a kind of pragmatism on the one hand, and preached something quite different.

      1. What I mean is, whether or not a government has adopted such a policy doesn’t preclude its people from conducting transactions in such a manner, or make it impossible to implement it.

  5. Gasp! You’re comment is truly SHOCKING to me! I have no clue where you got your information on Ayn Rand. Murray Rothbard was Rand’s ex-lover!?!?! Where the hell did that come from? Rand supported “authoritarian” (why?) Ronald Reagan?! When, where?!

    You’re statements are so outlandish–they are not even false, they are bizarre!

    Anyway.

    Man must either exist for his own sake or he exists for the sake of others. The former is self-interest, the latter is altruism. The former requires a code of morality to distinguish hedonistic self-interest from rational self-interest. The latter requires no such distinction because it is a moral code in and of itself.
    Force is the negation of rights. Where force exists, rights cannot. Man can live as free, voluntary, traders engaged in mutual and benevolent benefit without the need for physical force. Disagreements can be handled judiciously or through peaceful and rational means. Man is not condemned to be brutes of force nor is he a sacrificial animal who exists for the sake of others.

    Laissez-faire capitalism has never existed in nature because it is a man-made, HUMAN INVENTION. Inventions–by definition–do not exist in nature but are devised, theorized, created, or produced by someone. Capitalism is the only moral system that has not only proven to work at incredible benefit to society but is also the only system that fully leaves men free to earn (or not earn) their lives. It is the only system that respects man’s rights, his liberty and freedom to be rational or irrational, and is the only system that functions on voluntary involvement–not physical force.

    1. So why bring up whether anything exists in nature?… What exactly would we say exists in nature if we cannot say human ideas… besides trees or something. What sort of human interaction takes place in nature then? How is talking about nature useful? I’m not sure that it is what his point was, I think he was saying that we can’t observe Laissez-faire capitalism because no group operates in such a way, which I think is false.

  6. http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=faq_index
    Does Objectivism support Libertarianism?
    “For the record, I shall repeat what I have said many times before: I do not join or endorse any political group or movement. More specifically, I disapprove of, disagree with and have no connection with, the latest aberration of some conservatives, the so-called ‘hippies of the right,’ who attempt to snare the younger or more careless ones of my readers by claiming simultaneously to be followers of my philosophy and advocates of anarchism. Anyone offering such a combination confesses his inability to understand either. Anarchism is the most irrational, anti-intellectual notion ever spun by the concrete-bound, context-dropping, whim-worshiping fringe of the collectivist movement, where it properly belongs.”
    [Ayn Rand, “Brief Summary,” The Objectivist, September 1971]

    Nathaniel Branden
    The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism is a 1964 collection of essays and papers by Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden. Most of the essays originally appeared in The Objectivist Newsletter

    Ayn Rand did not want to give him credit (Branden )… later Branden created cassette tapes which Ayn Rand condemned (apparently she did not support free market when it comes to ex-lovers). I believe he mentions it in one of his books. I would have been about 13 or 14 at the time … I think. I appoligize for screwing up the names.

    With Reagon, I believe it must have been in The Objectivist Newsletter – my older brother used to give it to me to read and I remember it was before the “young man” was running for gov of California. It was not until years later that she condemned him and would not vote for him.

    Humans are a part of nature. So-called rights are oft sighted as being “natural rights” …inalienable rights (or unalienable rights) from which Lassez-faire is ultimately justified ( rights to life, liberty and property ). It is a myth, because the so called natural rights obviously are surrendered to authoritarians every day. Human inventions come from human beings. Philosophers can claim all they want that these cannot not be surrendered in the social contract, but obviously they can. You are right it is a human “invention”, but the invention never got off the blue print. It was never produced anywhere on the planet at any time.

    Some people like to pretend that humans are seperate from or “above” nature some how. Does not sound very objective or logical to me.

  7. Your quote from the 1971 “The Objectivist” contains the answer to your question “Why did Ayn Rand call libertarians Right-wing Hippies?” So, if you could get the answer in the quote, why did you ask the question in the first place?

    All of Branden’s ideas originated from Ayn Rand and was developed over lengthy discussions with her. Thus, it is slightly disingenuous to claim sole authorship without any credit. Nevertheless, I will not discuss the relationship of Branden and Rand–and his deceitful actions towards her (psychological as well as financial)–until you have read the book “The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics,” which give detailed, documented, and evidenced account of Branden’s deceit.

    Further, there is nothing contradictory about condemning material created by others while at the same time supporting free markets. I would like you to trace out your logical argument in explicit terms to me. Why do you make the sarcastic comment that Ayn Rand did not support free market when it came to ex-lovers? What is your logical reasoning? I fully condemn publishing and disseminating racial literature; yet I defend the right of the owners to produce such disgusting works. The free market will decide whether these works survive in the marketplace of ideas or not.

    Rights do not arise from nature but from the *relationship* of man and reality and from the identity of man. Thus, Objectivism rejects the “natural rights” theory as intrinsicsm, not objectively justifiable.

    Surrendering your rights does not invalidate the existence of rights. Here, too, I don’t understand your logical chain of reasoning. I notice a trend in your arguments of stringing logically unrelated propositions in a series of non sequitors. I can choose to give up my rights or some dictator can forcefully deny me my rights–but that still does not invalidate the metaphysical fact that rights are a necessary moral condition for human survival.

    Note, however, that Objectivism does not hold rights as existing in some metaphysical realm like a platonic form. Rights would not exist for a man living alone in a jungle–even though, he would still require a moral code in the jungle.

    Finally, who said (or pretended to say) that humans are separate from or “above” nature?? Again, this is revealing to me that your way of thinking is radically arbitrary and loosely meandering. It would be helpful to strictly follow the chain of thoughts with careful consideration to meaning of concepts you use.

  8. “I have no clue where you got your information on Ayn Rand”
    I gave you examples from whence they came, so I took the trouble to look them up for you and corrected my mistake, then you say “why bother?”

    The original answers came from poor memory in my head. The point about the Libertarians, was that they were purposing a political system that advocated privatizing everything i.e. laissez-faire capitalism, and she rejected it, but failed to come up with a *tangible* alternative. She seemed to be only interested in criticizing and idealizing, without ever offering anything truely tangible. If someone came up with any alternatives, she was (or seemed to many of us) as always being *negative* about it. She would never give any positive suggestions to any former members of her inner-circle. She came across as being positively hateful of any alternative suggestions. Very dogmatic! She rejected the very people that where closest to her.

    “Further, there is nothing contradictory about condemning material created by others while at the same time supporting free markets”
    Okay, except she did not give credit where credit is due. She acted emotionally and in an irrationally selfish way. Almost as if by “whim”.
    However, I concede your point.

    So let’s move on to the bits on rights.

    “Surrendering your rights does not invalidate the existence of rights. Here, too, I don’t understand your logical chain of reasoning.” Okay, let me supply the chain:

    The claim was made that these rights where inalienable rights. Rights that *cannot be surrendered*. Further the term “serrendered” implies a choise, which you seldom have in the real world. You can sit in a prison cell and scream “I have rights!” all you want, or you can “hold out” and fight back…be labeled a Terrorist (and, in the modern world, you must hide out somewhere to survive). If you are dead, most people would agree that any rights are of little value.

    “rights are a necessary moral condition for human survival.” I can provide for you over 6 billion living data points as evidense that this statement is false. Every human being alive to day is surviving, by definition, and they all exist under force-backed structures of a state. Libertarians tried to provide an answer to this, Ayn Rand apparently supported some sort of authoritarian state. It was weird, because “Atlas Shrugged” seemed to be very libertarian like to most of us who read it and enjoyed it. I guess most of us humans are too stupid to really be “humans” in her view. We are all just mindless brutes who cannot think for ourselves.

    “Objectivism rejects the “natural rights” theory as intrinsicsm”
    So there is no need to go on about this.

  9. Individualism is one value to be promoted in a modern society, but taken to the extreme, as by Ayn Rand, it is dangerous and self-destructive.

    As many corporate captains and businessmen espouse the teachings of Ayn Rand as a blueprint for how business ‘works’, they forget that business ultimately must serve human interests, and not vice versa. And they forget that all the accomplishments and investments of previous generations that made it possible to do business in the first place, for example, the establishement of a stable society, with law and order. In fact, some studies estimate that the wealthy may owe as much as 90% of their wealth to the common goods made available to them in society.

    Furthermore, Ayn does not appear to address the infallibility of the human psyche and human systems that do damage to the common good: greed, corruption, addiction, mental illness. How are these to be effectively constrained if individualism is the highest norm? This is setting up society for major disappointment by placing their faith in too few individuals.

    The USA is an example of a society where individualism has gone to the extreme, to such a degree that American society is not sustainable over the long term. However, there is a social component in American politics that can extert corrective influences, and regularly does in cycles, such that the American experience is one of constant change and perhaps improvement. But not cast in the mold of Ayn Rand, who in her personal life was apparently also a selfish and reckless individual.

  10. Dear Agent G,
    Thanks for that insightful comment!
    I’ve been trying to look, also at ideas of rationalism and individual liberty in the Indian Subcontinental context, with democracy as a central core of inquiry.The pursuit of reason fails to include within its gambit the accomplishments of faith and belief.
    But I think that from a faith perspective and from a critical thinking perspective, it is important to critique the philosophy of objectivism.
    I’m also keen on looking at frameworks of human rights such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as guiding principles for mounting this perspective.
    Thanks again, and keep visiting here! I would love to hear more from you on this.

  11. “The USA is an example of a society where individualism has gone to the extreme, to such a degree that American society is not sustainable over the long term.”

    I do not see the evidence for this. Like Western Europe, the United States has been steadily moving more and more toward collectivism and away from individualism. The perception by most people, including the attitudes of most Americans is that the United States is very individualistic, but the increases in the federal budget on social and corporate redistribution programs points in the opposite direction. Military increases is another anti-individual, pro-authoritarian entity that has been on the steady increase. Corporate “welfare” is all about the interest group, with special privileges – this is not individualism, at least not what Ayn Rand was talking and writing about – it is the very type of collectivism that she warned us about. The military another obvious example of collectivism at its worst.

  12. Previously I stated: “but she was known to be dogmatic toward her “inner circle”.”

    I was wrong about that. Looked into it more and came to find out that she loved getting into conversation with anyone (the same was true about Milton Freedman). I have heard how she would converse with anyone that sat next to her on an airplane, for example. She was very passionate about here beliefs and she had every right to defend them in her domain. She was not forcing anyone. It is analogous to a business. Every business has the right to run its business. If an employee is not doing a good job for the business they are fired or laid off. We do not consider the business to be “dogmatic” or a “cult”. Ayn Rand was in the philosophy and romantic novel writing business, she had every right. Business is business.

    I do not always agree with Ayn Rand, but I think I must have been in a fowl argumentative mood on the day that I posted the comment.

  13. This is all very interesting. Upgrade01a, you should read my next post, because I’ve tried to look at ‘substantive freedom’ and biopolitics in trying to speak of democracy as an ideal for government.This is trying to wind up the One State Solution Week, and think of directions to take people on.
    And I’m going to try and widen it up a lot more so that we look at more issues, such as women, faith,global peace and security…
    What implications this has for the realm of economics will take some time and pondering, and a lot of reading.I hope you join us there!

  14. Why not legalize freedom? Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Live by the golden rule. It took me 13.7 billion years to get here, there is but a short time to live my life as I choose, so why do people feel they have to threaten me at the point of a gun to do their bidding…In fact, most do this in a very cowardly way, they empower politicians to do their bidding for them. What we have now in my country (USA) is tyranny by the masses and the powerful. We need to return to a very limited government where people are free to choose their own path.

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