From the October 2008 issue of the libertarian Reason Magazine, Mike Flynn, Shikha Dalmia, and artist Terry Colon show what it takes to legally immigrate to America. Click on the image to see it full size.
From the October 2008 issue of the libertarian Reason Magazine, Mike Flynn, Shikha Dalmia, and artist Terry Colon show what it takes to legally immigrate to America. Click on the image to see it full size.
Ah, Thanksgiving. To most of us, the word conjures up images of turkey dinner, pumpkin pie and watching football with family and friends. It kicks off the holiday season and is the biggest shopping weekend of the year. We’re taught that Thanksgiving came about when pilgrims gave thanks to God for a bountiful harvest. We vaguely mumble thanks for the food on our table, the roof over our head and the loved ones around us. We casually think about how lucky we are and how much better our lives are than, say, those in Bangladesh. But surely there is something more to celebrate, something more sacred about this holiday.
What should we really be celebrating on Thanksgiving?
Ayn Rand described Thanksgiving as “a typically American holiday . . . its essential, secular meaning is a celebration of successful production. It is a producers’ holiday.
From Peter Schwartz at The Huffington Post:
Conservatives largely oppose right-to-suicide laws. Many criticized Brittany Maynard’s decision. A Vatican official, Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, called it “an absurdity,” declaring that suicide “is a bad thing because it is saying no to life and to everything it means with respect to our mission in the world and towards those around us.” The National Right to Life organization quotes a woman condemning physician-assisted suicide because “it does not strengthen the common good, but only alienates, separates and dismantles us as a people who truly care for one another.”
Here’s a radical thought for conservatives: Brittany Maynard has a right to life — to her life. And a right to one’s life requires, as an inseparable corollary, the right to terminate it. What else is a right to some action if not the freedom to choose whether or not to engage in it?
Read the whole thing here.
Once you watch the movie read her book: The Marva Collins Way.
This weekend, Eisner Award nominated cartoonist Bosch Fawstin joins The Flipside!! Don’t miss it! If you have not found where to watch in your local area, check the website. If it is not carried, be sure to contact your local station and ask them to carry The Flipside with Michael Loftus!
Also read his interview at Cap Mag: Art Against Jihad: An Interview with Bosch Fawstin Creator of The Infidel and Pigman!
Interview with James McConnell University of Michigan Department of Psychology (1961) — CSPAN2 – American Writers II
Self-sacrifice, Oriental mysticism, racial “truth,” the public good, doing one’s duty—these are among the seductive catchphrases that circulated in pre-Nazi Germany. In The Cause of Hitler’s Germany—previously published as part of his 1982 book The Ominous Parallels—Leonard Peikoff, Ayn Rand’s long-time associate, demonstrates how unreason and collectivism led the seemingly civilized German society to become a Nazi regime.
Preface by Debi Ghate and Richard E. Ralston
Introduction by John Allison
Part 1: Do Businessmen Really Need Philosophy?
“Why Businessmen Need Philosophy,” by Leonard Peikoff
“Philosophy: The Ultimate CEO,” by Harry Binswanger
“Wealth is the product of man’s capacity to think,” by Ayn Rand (from Atlas Shrugged)
“The Businessmen’s Crucial Role: Material Men of the Mind,” by Debi Ghate
“The Money-Making Personality,” by Ayn Rand
Part 2: Why is Business “Public Enemy #1″?
“America’s Persecuted Minority,” by Ayn Rand (From Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal)
“The Philosophical Origins of Antitrust,” by John Ridpath
“The Morality of Moneylending: A Short History,” by Yaron Brook
“Why Conservatives Can’t Stop the Growth of the State,” by Yaron Brook and Alex Epstein
“The Philosophy of Privation: Environmentalism Unveiled,” by Peter Schwartz (from Return of the Primitive)
“Energy Privation: The Environmentalist Campaign Against Energy,” by Keith Lockitch
Part 3: Doesn’t Business Require Compromise?
“The Anatomy of Compromise,” by Ayn Rand (From The Objectivist Newsletter)
“Why Should One Act on Principle?” by Leonard Peikoff
Part 4: A Defense for Businessmen
“Atlas Shrugged: America’s Second Declaration of Independence,” by Onkar Ghate
“An Answer for Businessmen,” by Ayn Rand
“The Dollar and The Gun,” by Harry Binswanger
“You’re guilty of a great sin, Mr. Rearden,” by Ayn Rand (from Atlas Shrugged)
“The Sanction of the Victims,” by Ayn Rand (from The Voice of Reason)
“I work for nothing but my own profit,” by Ayn Rand (from Atlas Shrugged)
Afterword: “Modern Management,” by Ayn Rand (from The Ayn Rand Column)
Order Why Businessmen Need Philosophy: The Capitalist’s Guide to the Ideas Behind Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged for under $3. We do not know how long this low price will last!
by James Valliant
Ayn Rand is hot right now. Sizzling hot. As government grows more intrusive, and our freedom shrinks, her novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, are selling at an unprecedented clip. Given today’s headlines, it is easy to see why.
Less easy to understand is the remarkable level of ignorance about Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism.
Can anyone doubt the truth of writer David Mamet’s recent comments about arguing politics? Defining what he meant by “Brain Dead Liberalism,” he suggested that unless you can state your opponent’s position with such accuracy that he or she would agree, “Yes, that’s what I think,” no meaningful debate is even possible. The left’s inability to meet this requirement, he explained to Andrew Napolitano on his show Freedom Watch, helped move him to the political right.
Yet, in the case of Ayn Rand, this is precisely what has been missing.
I am not referring to the ignorance of Al Lewis, author of “Call It Atlas Snubbed,” which appeared in The Wall Street Journal (Sunday edition, July 17, 2011). Despite Lewis’ claims, Atlas Shrugged does, and vividly, “imagine executives [who] loot[ed] their shareholders, cause an economic crisis and then beg for government help.” And, as those who have actually read the novel know, Rand did envision government “coming to the rescue” of failing businesses.
Nor do I mean Steve Mariotti, author of “Remembering Ayn Rand,” which ran at The Huffington Post (April 21, 2011), who recalled a seminude portrait (for which Rand never posed), the novelist blowing smoke in his face (long after she had quit) and (who could forget?) those “bright green eyes.”
No, I’m not talking about the typical hit piece on which some writers seem to cut their teeth – such sources are dismissed out of hand by most of Rand’s admirers. The sources I mean, whether from the right or the left, are among the most intelligent writers of our time.
On the left, for example, we have the spectacle of Christopher Hitchens, a brilliant writer and a keen observer whom I find infinitely more interesting than your average, one-trick pony libertarian. According to Hitchens, Rand’s thought is “easy” to refute, but, somehow, he cannot summon the capacity to identify her ideas at all, much less meet the Mamet standard. In a 2001 article (“The Obligatory Proto-Capitalist Worldview: Ayn Rand,” Business 2.0, August 2001), Hitchens selectively quoted from various people who claimed to admire Rand, at least at some point in their past. Isn’t that enough? Folks like businessman Larry Ellison, who decried Microsoft’s “monopoly”(!)
Hitchens writes of “the pitiless and materialistic philosophy” of Rand, and claims that she had “cold contempt for all ideas of charity and compassion.” Rand, who practiced various forms of charity herself, was also no materialist – in any sense of the term, whether ethical, psychological, economic or metaphysical.
Now, of course, one might believe that her ideas ultimately lead to or must reduce to some form of “materialism,” but this requires an argument. And one must at least account for Rand’s own argumentation against (and explicit rejection of) materialism – whatever sense of the term is meant.
On the right, we have Charles Murray. In a review of the two recent biographies of Rand (“Who is Ayn Rand? A review of Goddess of the Market Goddess of the Market, by Jennifer Burns and Ayn Rand and the World She Made, by Anne C. Heller,” Claremont Review of Books, Spring 2010), he boldly asserts that “everything in Objectivism is derivative of ideas that thinkers from John Locke to Adam Smith to Friedrich Nietzsche had expressed before.” Of Rand’s novels, he asserts, they “have only a loose relationship with Objectivism as a philosophy (which was formally developed only after the novels were written).” He continues:
“Are selfishness and greed cardinal virtues in Objectivism? Who cares? Does Objectivist aesthetics denigrate Bach and Mozart? Who cares? Objectivism has nothing to do with what mesmerizes people about The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged.”
This stuff takes irresponsible ignorance to dizzying new heights. If Murray hadn’t written anything else one would be forced to judge the man a shoddy sophomore scholar writing a semi-cribbed term paper.
Both of the biographers who Murray praises make so many basic mistakes about Objectivism that they cannot be listed easily. Neither author demonstrates an understanding of Rand’s thought adequate to receive a passing grade in a 101 course, much less meet the Mamet Test. And neither author has an intuitive feel for Rand’s art.
Both authors claim, for instance, that Rand’s fictional heroes possess “Aryan” features. Yes, Ayn Rand – that passionate enemy of totalitarianism in all of its forms who fled from European dictatorship – is smeared in this repulsive fashion by both writers. Rand, who published work as early as the 1930s that attacked racism explicitly, is so defamed. Never mind all of the counterexamples to their assertion, e.g., the dark haired Latin hero Francisco d’Anconia from Atlas Shrugged, or the orange haired Howard Roark from The Fountainhead. Never mind the explicit awareness of similar smears of Rand by Whittaker Chambers exhibited by these biographers. They permit themselves that degree of ugliness, and, to the shattering of Murray’s own credibility, he trusts both of these writers completely and implicitly. Having read the novels, of course, he should have known better. All three writers stand that far from any understanding of Rand’s basic thought and actual psychology.
Despite Murray’s claims, the novels explicate, dramatize and depict nearly every fundamental principle of Rand’s philosophy (with the exception of her theory of concepts developed in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology.)
Ever heard this one? “I love the novels of Ayn Rand. They said what I thought all of my life.” I must confess, I felt something similar after first reading the novels. To be sure, even then I recognized that many subtle implications of the story still escaped me. But nothing prepared me for the revolution I was to experience as I delved deeper into Rand’s thought. It seems that I had altogether missed ideas which, upon subsequent readings, were there, plain as day. In fact, Rand’s theory of emotions, her metaphysical axioms, her “metaethics” were all there. It just took the guidance of professional philosophers and multiple readings of her work to see it all.
Thus, to the serious student of Rand’s thought, Murray’s assertion about the relationship between Rand’s ideas and her fiction shows just how superficial his understanding of Objectivism remains, comparable to, say, that of the typical teenaged reader.
To some extent, this is Rand’s own fault. She made it look so easy. So skillfully does this sorceress of language demonstrate her case, its logical structure is often completely invisible to the casual reader. However, even as a student, I could detect a vast iceberg of implications beneath what I was able to pick up on my own. Later, after a course of study with some of Rand’s own students, what I had missed became obvious. It was right there in black and white – how could I have been so blind?
True, I have taken advantage of the growing secondary literature on the subject—but Murray could have, as well. His total ignorance of the work of Leonard Peikoff, Allan Gotthelf, Harry Binswanger, Andrew Bernstein and Tara Smith, just to name a sample, is inexcusable for someone who has taken to making such ludicrous assertions about Rand’s ideas.
Still worse, Murray thinks of Rand’s powerfully original thought as warmed over Locke and updated Nietzsche. Anyone familiar with those two thinkers will see an immediate tension. A Nietzschean, “beyond good and evil,” who advocates natural rights? Is that even possible? Well, only for a Nietzschean who rejects every aspect of his “perspectivist” epistemology and anti-principled “ethics,” and one who, unlike Nietzsche himself, actually has a political theory. John Locke was a Christian, hardly an egoist, and Rand rejected his epistemology completely. Even within liberal politics, Rand made vital corrections to the thinking of Locke, Thomas Jefferson, John Stuart Mill and Herbert Spencer. And all of this is what enabled her to soar to new heights of radicalism.
Rand’s dislike for certain composers of music may not be there, but this not a philosophical principle. Rand’s full blown case for egoism is there, along with a careful set of distinctions about what she means by “selfishness” that Murray, it seems, doesn’t think important enough to mention. Apparently, this concept of selfishness purpose and passion has nothing whatever to do with the characterizations of her fictional heroes, either. Yet, what actually “mesmerized” me about Rand’s novels can be summed up in a single word, “Objectivism.” Obviously, it is her ideas that power the effect of her literature on her millions of fans. Nothing else.
Objectivism is thus the key to understanding the popularity of Atlas Shrugged. That is what makes the soul of Dagny Taggart sexy – that’s what makes Francisco’s humor funny – and that’s what makes a mystery as to why a bum should have intelligent eyes so compelling. That is what makes her work no less than prophetic.
If Rand were not morally principled, she would have had no impact in politics whatever. (Rand’s approach to moral principles is ably explicated by the aforementioned Professor Tara Smith in her 2006 treatise Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics: the Virtuous Egoist [Cambridge University Press.]) If Rand had not been a fierce opponent of metaphysical dualism, to take another example, she could not have written a single page of Atlas Shrugged.
By the same token, if Rand’s ideas were not present in their most controversial form, Whittaker Chambers could not have attacked her magnum opus so mendaciously in his infamous 1957 review of Atlas Shrugged for the conservative National Review magazine, the father of Ayn Rand hit pieces.
No, someone does not need to agree with Objectivism in order to understand it. At least, in theory anyway. Yet, so far, the critics of Rand who have simply demonstrated an accurate understanding of her philosophy are practically non existent.
Both Murray and Hitchens are brilliant men, and despite all of their errors, they are among the best writers on their respective political sides. Yet, what these men just plain got wrong about Rand’s philosophy could fill a volume, well, the size of Atlas Shrugged. I respect both men enough to believe that they would ascribe to the “Mamet Test,” in some form. However, and as any Objectivist could tell them, they utterly fail to meet that test.
– James Stevens Valliant is a former deputy district attorney for San Diego County and the author of The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics. (Durban House, 2005)
By Leonard Peikoff
Originally published on October 2, 2001. All the more relevant today. — Editor
Fifty years of increasing American appeasement in the Mideast have led to fifty years of increasing contempt in the Muslim world for the U.S. The climax was September 11, 2001.
Fifty years ago, Truman and Eisenhower surrendered the West’s property rights in oil, although that oil rightfully belonged to those in the West whose science, technology, and capital made its discovery and use possible. The first country to nationalize Western oil, in 1951, was Iran. The rest, observing our frightened silence, hurried to grab their piece of the newly available loot.
The cause of the U.S. silence was not practical, but philosophical. The Mideast’s dictators were denouncing wealthy egotistical capitalism. They were crying that their poor needed our sacrifice; that oil, like all property, is owned collectively, by virtue of birth; and that they knew their viewpoint was true by means of otherworldly emotion. Our Presidents had no answer. Implicitly, they were ashamed of the Declaration of Independence. They did not dare to answer that Americans, properly, were motivated by the selfish desire to achieve personal happiness in a rich, secular, individualist society.
The Muslim countries embodied in an extreme form every idea–selfless duty, anti-materialism, faith or feeling above science, the supremacy of the group–which our universities, our churches, and our own political Establishment had long been upholding as virtue. When two groups, our leadership and theirs, accept the same basic ideas, the most consistent side wins.
After property came liberty. “The Muslim fundamentalist movement,” writes Yale historian Lamin Sanneh, “began in 1979 with the Iranian [theocratic] revolution . . .” (New York Times 9/23/01). During his first year as its leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, urging a Jihad against “the Great Satan,” kidnapped 52 U.S. diplomatic personnel and held them hostage; Carter’s reaction was fumbling paralysis. About a decade later, Iran topped this evil. Khomeini issued his infamous Fatwa aimed at censoring, even outside his borders, any ideas uncongenial to Muslim sensibility. This was the meaning of his threat to kill British author Rushdie and to destroy his American publisher; their crime was the exercise of their right to express an unpopular intellectual viewpoint. The Fatwa was Iran’s attempt, reaffirmed after Khomeini’s death, to stifle, anywhere in the world, the very process of thought. Bush Sr. looked the other way.
After liberty came American life itself. The first killers were the Palestinian hijackers of the late 1960s. But the killing spree which has now shattered our soaring landmarks, our daily routine, and our souls, began in earnest only after the license granted by Carter and Bush Sr.
Many nations work to fill our body bags. But Iran, according to a State Department report of 1999, is “the most active state sponsor of terrorism,” training and arming groups from all over the Mideast, including Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and Hezbollah. Nor is Iran’s government now “moderating.” Five months ago, the world’s leading terrorist groups resolved to unite in a holy war against the U.S., which they called “a second Israel”; their meeting was held in Teheran. (Fox News 9/16/01)
What has been the U.S. response to the above? In 1996, nineteen U.S. soldiers were killed in their barracks in Saudi Arabia. According to a front-page story in The New York Times (6/21/98): “Evidence suggesting that Iran sponsored the attack has further complicated the investigation, because the United States and Saudi Arabia have recently sought to improve relations with a new, relatively moderate Government in Teheran.” In other words, Clinton evaded Iran’s role because he wanted what he called “a genuine reconciliation.” In public, of course, he continued to vow that he would find and punish the guilty. This inaction of Clinton’s is comparable to his action after bin Laden’s attack on U.S. embassies in East Africa; his action was the gingerly bombing of two meaningless targets.
Conservatives are equally responsible for today’s crisis, as Reagan’s record attests. Reagan not only failed to retaliate after 241 U.S. marines in Lebanon were slaughtered; he did worse. Holding that Islamic guerrillas were our ideological allies because of their fight against the atheistic Soviets, he methodically poured money and expertise into Afghanistan. This put the U.S. wholesale into the business of creating terrorists. Most of them regarded fighting the Soviets as only the beginning; our turn soon came.
For over a decade, there was another guarantee of American impotence: the notion that a terrorist is alone responsible for his actions, and that each, therefore, must be tried as an individual before a court of law. This viewpoint, thankfully, is fading; most people now understand that terrorists exist only through the sanction and support of a government.
We need not prove the identity of any of these creatures, because terrorism is not an issue of personalities. It cannot be stopped by destroying bin Laden and the al-Qaeda army, or even by destroying the destroyers everywhere. If that is all we do, a new army of militants will soon rise up to replace the old one.
The behavior of such militants is that of the regimes which make them possible. Their atrocities are not crimes, but acts of war. The proper response, as the public now understands, is a war in self-defense. In the excellent words of Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense, we must “end states who sponsor terrorism.”
A proper war in self-defense is one fought without self-crippling restrictions placed on our commanders in the field. It must be fought with the most effective weapons we possess (a few weeks ago, Rumsfeld refused, correctly, to rule out nuclear weapons). And it must be fought in a manner that secures victory as quickly as possible and with the fewest U.S. casualties, regardless of the countless innocents caught in the line of fire. These innocents suffer and die because of the action of their own government in sponsoring the initiation of force against America. Their fate, therefore, is their government’s moral responsibility. There is no way for our bullets to be aimed only at evil men.
The public understandably demands retaliation against Afghanistan. But in the wider context Afghanistan is insignificant. It is too devastated even to breed many fanatics. Since it is no more these days than a place to hide, its elimination would do little to end terrorism.
Terrorism is a specific disease, which can be treated only by a specific antidote. The nature of the disease (though not of its antidote) has been suggested by Serge Schmemann (NYT 9/16/01). Our struggle now, he writes, is “not a struggle against a conventional guerrilla force, whose yearning for a national homeland or the satisfaction of some grievance could be satisfied or denied. The terrorists [on Tuesday] . . . issued no demands, no ultimatums. They did it solely out of grievance and hatred–hatred for the values cherished in the West as freedom, tolerance, prosperity, religious pluralism and universal suffrage, but abhorred by religious fundamentalists (and not only Muslim fundamentalists) as licentiousness, corruption, greed and apostasy.”
Every word of this is true. The obvious implication is that the struggle against terrorism is not a struggle over Palestine. It is a clash of cultures, and thus a struggle of ideas, which can be dealt with, ultimately, only by intellectual means. But this fact does not depreciate the crucial role of our armed forces. On the contrary, it increases their effectiveness, by pointing them to the right target.
Most of the Mideast is ruled by thugs who would be paralyzed by an American victory over any of their neighbors. Iran, by contrast, is the only major country there ruled by zealots dedicated not to material gain (such as more wealth or territory), but to the triumph by any means, however violent, of the Muslim fundamentalist movement they brought to life. That is why Iran manufactures the most terrorists.
If one were under a Nazi aerial bombardment, it would be senseless to restrict oneself to combatting Nazi satellites while ignoring Germany and the ideological plague it was working to spread. What Germany was to Nazism in the 1940s, Iran is to terrorism today. Whatever else it does, therefore, the U.S. can put an end to the Jihad-mongers only by taking out Iran.
Eliminating Iran’s terrorist sanctuaries and military capability is not enough. We must do the equivalent of de-Nazifying the country, by expelling every official and bringing down every branch of its government. This goal cannot be achieved painlessly, by weaponry alone. It requires invasion by ground troops, who will be at serious risk, and perhaps a period of occupation. But nothing less will “end the state” that most cries out to be ended.
The greatest obstacle to U.S. victory is not Iran and its allies, but our own intellectuals. Even now, they are advocating the same ideas that caused our historical paralysis. They are asking a reeling nation to show neighbor-love by shunning “vengeance.” The multiculturalists–rejecting the concept of objectivity–are urging us to “understand” the Arabs and avoid “racism” (i.e., any condemnation of any group’s culture). The friends of “peace” are reminding us, ever more loudly, to “remember Hiroshima” and beware the sin of pride.
These are the kinds of voices being heard in the universities, the churches, and the media as the country recovers from its first shock, and the professoriate et al. feel emboldened to resume business as usual. These voices are a siren song luring us to untroubled sleep while the fanatics proceed to gut America.
Tragically, Mr. Bush is attempting a compromise between the people’s demand for a decisive war and the intellectuals’ demand for appeasement.
It is likely that the Bush administration will soon launch an attack on bin Laden’s organization in Afghanistan and possibly even attack the Taliban. Despite this, however, every sign indicates that Mr. Bush will repeat the mistakes made by his father in Iraq. As of October 1, the Taliban leadership appears not to be a target. Even worse, the administration refuses to target Iran, or any of the other countries identified by the State Department as terrorist regimes. On the contrary, Powell is seeking to add to the current coalition these very states–which is the equivalent of going into partnership with the Soviet Union in order to fight Communism (under the pretext, say, of proving that we are not anti-Russian). By seeking such a coalition, our President is asserting that he needs the support of terrorist nations in order to fight them. He is stating publicly that the world’s only superpower does not have enough self-confidence or moral courage to act unilaterally in its own defense.
For some days now, Mr. Bush has been downplaying the role of our military, while praising the same policies (mainly negotiation and economic pressure) that have failed so spectacularly and for so long. Instead of attacking the roots of global terrorism, he seems to be settling for a “guerrilla war” against al-Qaeda, and a policy of unseating the Taliban passively, by aiding a motley coalition of native tribes. Our battle, he stresses, will be a “lengthy” one.
Mr. Bush’s compromise will leave the primary creators of terrorism whole–and unafraid. His approach might satisfy our short-term desire for retribution, but it will guarantee catastrophe in the long term.
As yet, however, no overall policy has been solidified; the administration still seems to be groping. And an angry public still expects our government not merely to hobble terrorism for a while, but to eradicate it. The only hope left is that Mr. Bush will listen to the public, not to the professors and their progeny.
When should we act, if not now? If our appeasement has led to an escalation of disasters in the past, can it do otherwise in the future? Do we wait until our enemies master nuclear, chemical, and biological warfare?
The survival of America is at stake. The risk of a U.S. overreaction, therefore, is negligible. The only risk is underreaction.
Mr. Bush must reverse course. He must send our missiles and troops, in force, where they belong. And he must justify this action by declaring with righteous conviction that we have discarded the clichés of our paper-tiger past and that the U.S. now places America first.
There is still time to demonstrate that we take the war against terrorism seriously–as a sacred obligation to our Founding Fathers, to every victim of the men who hate this country, and to ourselves. There is still time to make the world understand that we will take up arms, anywhere and on principle, to secure an American’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness on earth.
The choice today is mass death in the United States or mass death in the terrorist nations. Our Commander-In-Chief must decide whether it is his duty to save Americans or the governments who conspire to kill them.
Dr. Leonard Peikoff, a philosopher, is Ayn Rand’s legal and intellectual heir. He was a close associate of Ayn Rand for thirty years, and today is the preeminent spokesman for her philosophy of Objectivism. He is author of Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand and The Ominous Parallels: The End of Freedom in America. His most recent book, The DIM Hypothesis: Why the Lights of the West Are Going Out, (2012) develops an hypothesis explaining the major trends in philosophy, literature, physics, education and politics throughout Western history.
by Harry Binswanger
Walter Hudson, a columnist at PJ Media, has written a defense of Objectivism against the sad and lame “critique” offered by Bill Whittle and [Somebody] Klavan. I read the comments section, and no one seemed to get the point. So I posted this:
As a professional philosopher, an Objectivist, and an associate of Ayn Rand in her final years, I thank you, Mr. Hudson.
I think there’s something that nobody here is getting: It’s not that Ayn Rand had three or four ideas, and the question is whether or not a given person understands them correctly. Ayn Rand wrote extensively, systematically on hundreds of topics in philosophy, and many in related fields. She developed, over a period decades, a rich, deep, multi-tiered philosophical structure.
I taught “Introduction to Objectivism” in the 70s at The New School for Social Research, here in New York. It was a two-semester course. Later, I taught a graduate course on Objectivism for the Ayn Rand Institute (Yaron Brook was one of my students). It took me *three years* of classes, meeting 3 or 4 times a week, to cover it all.
So y’all have no idea. What can I say to concretize this? Well, first of all “concretize” is an important term in Objectivist–both in its theory of knowledge (epistemology) and its philosophy of art (esthetics). Let me take the latter.
In “The Psycho-Epistemology of Art,” she writes about how art achieves its impact:
“Out of the countless number of concretes-of single, disorganized and (seemingly) contradictory attributes, actions and entities–an artist isolates the things which he regards as metaphysically essential and integrates them into a single new concrete that represents an embodied abstraction.
“For instance, consider two statues of man: one as a Greek god, the other as a deformed Oriental monstrosity. Both are metaphysical estimates of man; both are projections of the artist’s view of man’s nature; both are concretized representations of the philosophy of their respective cultures.
“Art is a concretization of metaphysics. Art brings man’s concepts to the perceptual level of his consciousness and allows him to grasp them directly, as if they were percepts.
“This is the psycho-epistemological function of art and the reason of its importance in man’s life (and the crux of the Objectivist esthetics).”
Note that “psycho-epistemology” is her concept. It refers to the implicit, automatized epistemology by which a person operates. She defines it as:
“the study of man’s cognitive processes from the aspect of the interaction between the conscious mind and the automatic functions of the subconscious.”
Are you beginning to see who is Ayn Rand?
Now, let’s consider her foundation for an absolute, rational, secular system of morality. Mr. Hudson only hints at it this topic. It’s possible, even in a brief space to do considerably more than that.
Morality, she says, is a code of values–an integrated system of principles telling us how to guide our actions. But guide them toward what? What is the ultimate goal? Is there some *fact of reality* that makes it good to act one way rather than another. Why can’t we just dispense with moral guidance?
Her answer is that there is one fundamental, inescapable fact giving rise to the need for acting *correctly*: the fact of being alive. Life is not guaranteed; certain ways of acting sustain one’s life and others weaken or destroy it.
In fact, the whole realm of values, of good and evil, right and wrong, benefit and injury, need and frustration, rests on and requires that one is judging by reference to the needs of a living being. Absent life–such as on the moon–nothing has any value-significance. On the moon, there is change, but no bettering or worsening. Better and worse, good and evil, etc. is a relation to the life of the acting organism. *Life* is the standard of value.
“It is only the concept of ‘Life’ that makes the concept of ‘Value’ possible. It is only to a living entity that things can be good or evil.”
“The standard of *moral* value (value for a being with free-will choice) is Man’s Life qua man. Since reason is man’s fundamental means of survival, this means the standard is Man’s Life qua rational being.”
Now have you read that before? I don’t think so, and as a professor of philosophy who knows the history of philosophy, I think I’m qualified to give an informed opinion. But I’d be delighted to learn of anyone who anticipated her in this line of reasoning.
And if you want to see more about the richness and depth of Objectivism, I can recommend 3 books (only 2 are by me): Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, by Leonard Peikoff, How We Know: Epistemology on an Objectivist Foundation, by me, and The Ayn Rand Lexicon: Objectivism from A to Z, which I compiled from Ayn Rand’s writings. The last can be searched online at aynrandlexicon.org.
Oh, yeah, altruism vs. selflessness Klavan says? Well here is what Ayn Rand says she means by “altruism”:
“Altruism holds that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue, and value.”
– Dr. Binswanger, a longtime associate of Ayn Rand, is a professor of philosophy at the Objectivist Academic Center of the Ayn Rand Institute. Dr. Binswanger moderates Harry Binswanger’s List (HBL)–an email list for Objectivists for discussing philosophic and cultural issues.
To this day, Nazism remains vivid in the public mind as the greatest evil in human history, and continues to be the subject or background of countless novels, films, and non-fiction analyses. But the artists and scholars of 2014 still have no real explanation; they are no closer than they were in 1982 to identifying the fundamental roots of Nazism.
This book does.
The Cause of Hitler’s Germany is about two-thirds of The Ominous Parallels, a book published by Dr. Peikoff in 1982. In the The Ominous Parallels, Dr. Peikoff intended a warning: If Americans continue to accept and act on the same philosophic ideas that led to the Third Reich, then America will have to follow a parallel course and suffer the same result.
Unlike The Ominous Parallels, The Cause of Hitler’s Germany is offered not primarily as a warning but rather as an explanation.
The Cause of Hitler’s Germany focuses only on the Nazi aspects of The Ominous Parallels: on their intellectual origins in German philosophy, and then on their manifestations in Weimar culture and, as a result, in the world of Hitler.