Subject: Objectivism - The Philosophy of Ayn Rand Sun 01 Nov 2009, 3:04 pm
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Objectivism - The Philosophy of Ayn Rand
An Objectivist wrote: "Ayn Rand's book Atlas Shrugged is is what got me interested in philosophy in the first place. I've read a lot of different books on philosophy since then, but Ayn Rand's philosophy still makes more sense to me than any of the others (though I definitely don't agree with her on everything). For those who aren't familiar with Objectivism, or for those who think they are but aren't, here is the most concise overview she ever wrote:"
"At a sales conference at Random House, preceding the publication of Atlas Shrugged, one of the book salesmen asked me whether I could present the essence of my philosophy while standing on one foot. I did as follows:
If you want this translated into simple language, it would read: 1. “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed” or “Wishing won’t make it so.” 2. “You can’t eat your cake and have it, too.” 3. “Man is an end in himself.” 4. “Give me liberty or give me death.”
If you held these concepts with total consistency, as the base of your convictions, you would have a full philosophical system to guide the course of your life. But to hold them with total consistency—to understand, to define, to prove and to apply them—requires volumes of thought. Which is why philosophy cannot be discussed while standing on one foot—nor while standing on two feet on both sides of every fence. This last is the predominant philosophical position today, particularly in the field of politics.
My philosophy, Objectivism, holds that:
1. Reality exists as an objective absolute—facts 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. 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. 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."
Posts : 190 Join date : 2012-03-22
Subject: Re: Objectivism - The Philosophy of Ayn Rand Sun 15 Jul 2012, 8:23 pm
Gary Merrill's Criticism of ITOE2 http://www.oocities.com/athens/olympus/2178/merrill.html
Merrill's critique only concerns the style and manner of Rand's writing in ITOE.
For example, 'Rand mentions Kant repeatedly (he seems to be the guy she loves to hate), but there is absolutely nothing that is specific. She never quotes Kant directly, but when she apparently feels a need to justify her view of Kant she instead quotes from a book published in 1873 by Henry Mansel whom she describes as “a Kantian”. Again, I am not an expert on Kant, but who is this guy Mansel? I can find him mentioned in none of the histories of philosophy I have, and he is not mentioned in the fairly extensive bibliography on Kant in Lewis Beck’s 18th-Century Philosophy. So direct reference to Kant is replaced by reference to “a Kantian” (and a very obscure one at that). Why do this? Why not show how Kant himself held the position that is being attacked? There is no justification for this sort of thing. Again, poor scholarship. (I do not, by the way, believe that even the quote from Mansel supports Rand’s view of Kant. But I will not argue that point now.)'
I am at present reading the Mansel book quoted by Rand. If Mansel was a Kantian, he was only 2/3 Kantian at best. Did Rand know about neo-Kantianism? At least Mansel has the distinction of reading the Critique of Pure Reason, and in the original German. Rand had never distinguished herself in that way, either with the German original or any English translation.
Mansel trashed Kant's literary style. And yet, he excused it as a natural product of the German language which delights itself in never-ending sentences and multi-syllabic expressions. Mansel seemed to approve of the Aesthetic and Analytic sections of the Critique, but utterly opposed the Dialectic of Pure Reason. He held that this section had led to the numerous metaphysical errors that future German philosophers were guilty of.
Upon reading these key sections of Mansel's book, I can only conclude that Rand "borrowed" many of her future ideas from Henry Mansel's Letters, Lectures, and Reviews. http://objectivism-criticism.blogspot.com/
Fred Seddon and his Critique of Rand's Anti-Kantianism http://www.aynrandstudies.com/jars/archives/jars7-1/jars7_1fseddon.pdf.
In this article Objectivist scholar Fred Seddon wishes to deal with the Randian critique of Kant. In one section in particular he concerns himself with infamous "make room for faith" quote found in the Critique of Pure Reason at page Bxxx. This quote is by far most often quoted by Objectivists, Randroids, as well as their libertarian cousins and cousines. It must seem to them both glib and damning at the same time - it seems the normally obscure Kant had an off-moment of sparkling clarity to take advantage of.
It is also a great excuse for out-of-context quoting, followed by the usual building up from this one E-vil little seed (or grain of sand) to the entire Kant universe. This is characteristic of the Randian way of thinking, which is (to quote from a Barbara Branden post on another forum) her ability "to see the universe in a grain of sand."
That's a wonderful and envious ability. However, what happens when you have misidentified the grain of sand? Then the entire universe that results rests on a false premise. So in dealing with this Objectivist issue it is only necessary to deal with that grain. And that is what Fred Seddon has done, or tried to do.
And so in analyzing the Kant quote "I have found it necessary to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith," Seddon rightly follows the Aristotelian path of considering the context of the quote. And this he sets out to accomplish in dazzling detail. Seddon analyzes the phrases leading up to the quote, he analyzes various translations from the original German, he dissects key terms. He even delves into a little Kant theory which comes remarkably close to making the point that he should have set out to make in the beginning of this section. But he never quite gets around to making the key point that will dissolve the entire Randian critique in "the cheap acid of mere logical acumen."
And that point is this: Kant denied knowledge - of topics common to speculative metaphysics up until Kant's day. Those topics concerned the nature of God, of the simple soul, and other topics of "rational psychology" and theology.
Kant has limited reason's scope - but he has limited its scope to the material or empirical realm, while denying it access to the spiritual realm. In this, Kant has literally saved reason from itself, that is, from its inherent or innate tendency to "fly to the sun on wings of wax," that is, to attempt to comprehend the realm of spirit and always fail miserably.
And so it is as Kant wrote on the very next page of the Preface to the B edition, "It is therefore the first and most important task of philosophy to deprive metaphysics, once and for all, of its injurious influence, by attacking its errors at their very source."
But Kant also wants to make room for faith,
"...there is the inestimable benefit, that all objections to morality and religion will be for ever silenced, and this in Socratic fashion, namely, by the clearest proof of the ignorance of the objectors."
Thus in one stroke Kant has quelled both the dogmatists - the speculative metaphysicians of his era - and the empiricists who seek through the failures of the metaphysicians the destruction of morality and religion. In this, Kant has not destroyed reason, he has saved it from being torn apart in an endless quarrel between opponents who are both laying claim to "reason" while having no Critical ground to stand upon.
I'd like to go into detail as to how closely Seddon came in my estimation to creating a devastating critique.
I did enjoy this part of the Seddon article,
"God here serves for Kant the same function that the equator has for geography. The equator does not have objective reality, but it does have objective validity. That is, with its use as a regulative rather than constitutive concept, we are able to organize and integrate our knowledge of the earth. But we know that the equator is not a possible object of perception."
I myself couldn't think of a better way of putting the issue which is why I respect Seddon as a top-rate thinker.
However, in the same article he later claims that the Kant word "faith," originally "glauben," should best be translated "thought." Seddon writes:
“I have therefore found it necessary to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith.” Or “I have therefore found it necessary to deny knowledge in order to make room for thought.”
I think this is where Seddon missed his opportunity to give the Randian anti-Kant critique a really good spanking, so caught up as he was on translating and interpreting the fairly non-controversial word glauben.
But I cut him some slack, because Seddon does write,
"In order to save morality, Kant critiques pure reason but his conclusions cut both at the rationalist and the skeptic. Since we cannot know the thing in itself, neither the rationalist nor the skeptic can make positive, constitutive claims. The rationalist is denied knowledge of freedom, God and the immortality of the soul. But so is the skeptic denied knowledge that there is no freedom, no God, no soul. Both are denied knowledge of the thing in itself."
As I said in the beginning, that's close to being an appropriate counter-thesis to bring against the Randites. But it doesn't quite cut to the quick. If only he had said something like:
'Thus in one stroke Kant has quelled both the dogmatists - the speculative metaphysicians of his era - and the empiricists who seek through the failures of the metaphysicians the destruction of morality and religion. In this, Kant has not destroyed reason, he has saved it from being torn apart in an endless quarrel between opponents who are both laying claim to "reason" while having no Critical ground to stand upon.'
This conclusion brings to the fore some history the Randites would like to evade - the fact that there were two sides of a great debate ranging over the centuries in which both sides lay claim to a superior form of reasoning. And that the Enlightenment era debate did not primarily concern reason vs. faith, but two very different expressions of reason commonly known as "rationalism" and "empiricism." (Epistemologically speaking, they are "dogmatism" and "skepticism," respectively.) They do share this in common, however: they both lack a critique of pure reason.
Posts : 1360 Join date : 2009-10-20
Subject: Ayn Rand on Kantian Morality Sun 15 Jul 2012, 11:51 pm
Subject: Re: Objectivism - The Philosophy of Ayn Rand