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Criticisms of Rand's Philosophy


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Initial post: Dec 5, 2012 7:28:24 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Sep 25, 2014 12:30:22 PM PDT]

Posted on Dec 5, 2012 10:03:30 AM PST
Rev. Otter says:
Rand who?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 5, 2012 10:09:13 AM PST
'probabilist says:
Rand McNally?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 5, 2012 10:15:42 AM PST
Joe W says:
Rand al'Thor?

Posted on Dec 5, 2012 10:32:14 AM PST
King's Kid says:
The Amazing Randy?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 5, 2012 10:48:15 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 5, 2012 10:50:15 AM PST
W.T. says:
Though I agree with Rand on many things, the major area that I find myself in disagreement with her is that she ties her atheism into one of her six tenets. "A=A" does not have to preclude the existence of a creator. Granted, a creator is not necessary for Objectivism to function philosophically, but neither is the existence of a creator in direct contradiction to it. As I see it, any of the other tenets of the philosophy can be taken and applied equally with or without atheism in the mix.

Also, Rand herself clearly struggled with how to deal with the religious. It's instructive to look at her revisions of "Atlas Shrugged", for example. She originally structured the novel with political "looters" and men of faith as equal villains throughout the book, but in later drafts, she excised much of the anti-religious content because even she thought she had gone too far (after deciding that, unlike political looters, the religious were actually well-meaning, but. in her eyes, misguided.) That's why at certain moments in the book, like Galt's famous speech at the end, there are references to the religious and to political looters in a parallel structure that reflects the original structure of the novel.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 5, 2012 10:53:22 AM PST
King's Kid says:
Lou Alcindor?

Posted on Dec 5, 2012 11:52:17 AM PST
John Donohue says:
Here is one bit of Randian philosophy as rendered by Wikipedia:

"Rand argued that the primary focus of man's free will is in the choice: 'to think or not to think'. "Thinking is not an automatic function. In any hour and issue of his life, man is free to think or to evade that effort. Thinking requires a state of full, focused awareness. The act of focusing one's consciousness is volitional. Man can focus his mind to a full, active, purposefully directed awareness of reality-or he can unfocus it and let himself drift in a semiconscious daze, merely reacting to any chance stimulus of the immediate moment, at the mercy of his undirected sensory-perceptual mechanism and of any random, associational connections it might happen to make."[43] According to Rand, therefore, possessing free will, human beings must choose their values: one does not automatically hold one's own life as his ultimate value.."

1) As it typical of a certain class of philosopher, Rand assumes that "free will" is a philosophical concept and that we human beings have a wide variety of choices unfettered by anything but our philosophical orientation.

In fact, "free will" is a poorly defined term but insofar as it is defined, it is not a matter of philosophy but of neuroscience. Numerous experiments show that our actual range of choices is severely limited by many facts of existence -- both cultural and biological; in fact, most people's choices are fairly predictable, as was Rand's choice to disbelieve that smoking causes cancer and her choice to live on government assistance when she came down with lung cancer.

Next, the idea that people choose their values is not supported by facts; non-psychopaths have built-in mechanisms for empathy and a tendency to cooperate with their communities (assuming non-psychopathy for Rand and her followers is somewhat risky though) and the rest of our values come from the communities that we live in. For example, Rand's great, free spirit could produce this quotation:
"the essence of femininity is hero worship - the desire to look up to man" and that "an ideal woman is a man-worshipper, and an ideal man is the highest symbol of mankind." In other words, Rand felt that it was part of human nature for a psychologically healthy woman to want to be ruled in sexual matters by a man worthy of ruling her.."

Rand is a case of arrested development -- her philosophy is that of a slightly precocious 16-year-old and has no bearing on real life.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 6, 2012 8:21:52 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Sep 25, 2014 12:30:22 PM PDT]

Posted on Dec 6, 2012 6:06:09 PM PST
'probabilist says:
...

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 6, 2012 9:01:33 PM PST
Re Donohue, 12-5 11:52 AM: Good post, except for the last paragraph. Ayn Rand [1] basically posited that no one has a legitimate enforceable claim on the assets of another. This has been criticized on the grounds that taxation is such a legitimate claim, for the benefit of the society in which we live. But a problem with this view is that it is too open-ended: to how much of one's assets is one ultimately entitled?

The major flaw in Rand's reasoning escaped me for many years, but I finally figured it out. It is that every logical conclusion about the real world requires that there be at least one premise about the nature of the real world, and Rand never states such a premise. However, her vision of dystopia has turned out to be quite prophetic.

1. I have given the full name here for the benefit of earlier posters who had not figured out whom we were talking about.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 6, 2012 9:13:22 PM PST
too long and dull

and atheist is not a good one

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 6, 2012 10:56:47 PM PST
'probabilist says:
'Ayn Rand blithely ignores the fact that homo sapiens evolved as a eusocial species. Whoever doesn't grasp that can say little that's meaningful about human nature.'

- D. Thomas,
on the thread titled "The moral decline of America"

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 6, 2012 10:58:22 PM PST
'probabilist says:
'I would be curious to have you reference an evolutionary biologist who embraces Ayn Rand. Let's recall that Ayn Rand knew nothing about any form of science, economics or history. I think this is the reason she is so popular with high school boys.'

- John Donohue,
on the thread titled "The moral decline of America"

Posted on Dec 6, 2012 11:00:09 PM PST
'probabilist says:
-------------------------------------------------
Altruism is a recurring theme in human society, as is selfishness. We're some of each. The ratio shifts from person to person and from situation to situation.

I'm reminded of the full-time mom who reads Ayn Rand and joins the Tea Party, never seeming to notice that both parenting and political participation are altruistic endeavors.
-------------------------------------------------

- D. Thomas,
on the thread titled "Prove the Existence of God(s)"

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 7, 2012 5:25:34 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 7, 2012 5:26:08 AM PST
W.T. says:
"I'm reminded of the full-time mom who reads Ayn Rand and joins the Tea Party, never seeming to notice that both parenting and political participation are altruistic endeavors."

Rand would say that if this hypothetical mom finds those things to be personally fulfilling, then that makes her's a selfish motivation. So at some point it all just becomes a way of viewing the exact same behavior from a different lens.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 7, 2012 5:52:27 AM PST
Ambulocetus says:
Reading Rand's essay "Objectivist Ethics," there are two things that make her work worthless:
1) she refuses to connect in any sustained way with anybody else from the philosophical tradition. For example, why should we prefer the fulfillment of our own desires to Stoic apatheia? Insofar as we don't SELECT our own needs and goals, why should these not count as "whim" in her system, the way they do for many Buddhist and Christian thinkers? What is her warrant for arguing that the most stable society will be the one made up of selfish individuals? She may well have a system that can sustain such jousts with previous thinkers--but we have no way to know without her doing the homework that is expected of ANY philosopher.

2) There is no way of accounting in her system for soldiers or first responders--unless we assume they just get some sort of a kick out of risking their lives for the rest of us.

Rand is frequently misrepresented by her critics. For example, she is NOT merely a hedonist. However, even without the misrepresentations, her philosophy is dreck.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 7, 2012 10:53:04 AM PST
John Donohue says:
Robert A. Saunders >> It is that every logical conclusion about the real world requires that there be at least one premise about the nature of the real world, and Rand never states such a premise.<<

I think you are right (tho I must confess that I have never been able to slog through an entire Rand tome) -- and if you are, Rand's philosophy is of a piece with Marx's. Both of them have implicit assumptions -- Marx's that human beings will work for the good of society, Rand's that society will be better if rich people act antisocially. But I don't think that they actually state those.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 7, 2012 11:33:34 AM PST
Stan Furman says:
<<Marx's that human beings will work for the good of society>>

It isn't his assumption, it is a prerequisite for his theory to work. He had no illusions about human nature :)

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 7, 2012 3:20:21 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Sep 25, 2014 12:30:43 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 7, 2012 3:21:51 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Sep 25, 2014 12:30:43 PM PDT]

Posted on Dec 7, 2012 3:29:25 PM PST
'probabilist says:
----------------------------------------------------
Here's Objectivism in nutshell:

Some lady's parents' possessions were confiscated by the Bolsheviks. Therefore government is evil.
----------------------------------------------------

- Ehkzu,
on the thread titled "What Mitt Romney actually believes."

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 8, 2012 12:51:08 PM PST
Harry Marks says:
Robert Saunders

" her vision of dystopia has turned out to be quite prophetic."

She had no concept of the sources of today's problems. Her vision of dystopia is entirely mistaken, assuming that the social democracy movement sweeping over Europe would be a source of lost freedom and frustration to human potential, when in fact it has proven to be the opposite. It was an entirely sensible extension of the benefits of industrialization to the common man, creating the conditions to sustain the growth of industrialization, to outpace command economies, and to raise social capacities along with industrial capacities. Henry Ford's $5 a day wage and Sloan's "productivity + 2%" at GM led a market extension along the same lines, but so did the GI Bill and the State University systems.

"no one has a legitimate enforceable claim on the assets of another. This has been criticized on the grounds that taxation is such a legitimate claim, for the benefit of the society in which we live."

Legitimacy is a matter of common understanding of, and common consent to, the institution. The only people who deny the legitimacy of government are quite happy to enjoy the benefits of it (like Ayn Rand accepting government assistance when she got lung cancer) pretending that an orderly and humane society is a given, with no government action necessary. These people are deeply confused.

" a problem with this view is that it is too open-ended: to how much of one's assets is one ultimately entitled?"

A process of taking from the young and able so that the person can be comfortable when old is not reasonably analyzed as "to what degree can one's assets be taken by the government?" A process of providing care when we are sick based on payments when we are well is likewise not reasonably analyzed as confiscation. This rhetoric is nothing more than an ideological cover for refusing to do one's fair share about taking responsibility for society's well being.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 8, 2012 1:32:19 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 8, 2012 2:25:18 PM PST
'probabilist quoting Ehkzu:
"Here's Objectivism in nutshell:

Some lady's parents' possessions were confiscated by the Bolsheviks. Therefore government is evil."
---------------------
This seems to be the defining event in Rand's life, but if my family's property was stolen by the state, I would probably try to come up with a philosophy that demonizes the action as well.

The only book by Rand that I've read is "Anthem", but I found her ideas hard to refute. Is our purpose in life to make choices as a free person, or is our life owned by the state? Defined in extremes like this, it obvious which is preferable. I watched the movie "Dr. Zhivago" recently, and while it was a bit slow-paced by modern standards, it showed a chilling view of the soviet revolution (though not fully fleshing out the previous social evils of serfdom). I recently read the Wikipedia article on Pol Pot -- and it seemed like he was a sociopath who actually believed he was creating a utopia -- when he was actually being an evil second only to Hitler in the last century. Do we owe our life to the state? Hell no!! The state is an extension of us -- or should be. The state should exist to allow common goals to be achieved.

Unfortunately for Rand, she didn't really get much farther than this truth, and Objectivism itself merely redefines every free choice as being a selfish act. Whatever the real neurological truth is, there is a clear difference in our own minds between selfish action which is win-lose, and ethical acts which are win-win. Even long-term self interest has no meaning without ethics and values. What is your "self-interest"? The answer defines who you are.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 8, 2012 2:54:03 PM PST
Harry Marks says:
Happy Skeptic -
"What is your "self-interest"? The answer defines who you are. "

As 'prob would say,
"Aye".
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Initial post:  Dec 5, 2012
Latest post:  Dec 8, 2013

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