Friday, December 31, 2010

The Intellectuals Need Rand

Okay, so the mainstream discourse in this country is an anti-intellectual cesspool. That's the problem. There's really no question that's the problem. It will do no good to idly harp on that problem over and over. We need to diagnose the problem's causes, and then work to solve it. I think we have some good idea on the diagnostic level: a culture-wide denigration of reason down to the very roots. We need a revolution - an intellectual one - from the ground up. For this to happen, it is an absolute imperative for the nation's best and brightest minds to adopt reason wholesale - not superficially, not ostensibly, not at-the-political-economic-level, but all the fucking way. All the way to Aristotle and Rand. There's just no way around it. The absolutism of reality offers no alternatives.

If you look out at the world right now - on the grand scale, on the big picture - you get the acute sense that we're on a crash course with disaster if things don't change pretty damn fast. It's a train wreck in slow motion. The locomotive is doing its thing, charging right ahead with the brakes barely being applied, and we see down the track some faint signs of the object with which the train would collide. We can't be sure just what it is, but it looks like it's there, and we have only so much time.

The intellectual class in this country - and make no mistake about it, for all this country's poor intellectual reputation around the world right now, we have the world's leading intellectuals right here in this country, because America is the breeding ground of greatness and leadership - sees the vast chasm separating their average worldview from that of the country's mainstream. They just don't know what to do about it. Well, good news: help can be on the way, if they're willing to accept it. They're going to have to clean up their acts first.

The silver lining with pragmatists is their willingness to shift course when they are, near-panic-stricken, under the impression their current course just isn't working. They can't say they know their current course isn't working; that isn't the pragmatist psycho-epistemology. They can only say that they can attach a probability to things, and when they get the impression that things are past 50/50, they've got to consider alternative courses of action. Well, now's the time to consider it. If there's one thing the liberal intellectuals in this country can be credited for, it's a pragmatic - and I mean this in a good sense, i.e., the concern with practicality and, therefore, reasonable, real-world, empirical, scientific input for decision-making - sensibility at root. There's a reason Dr. Peikoff finds a closer ally among the "liberals" than among the intellectually-defunct and deranged "conservatives." The "conservative" intellectual movement in this country delivered us the Dingbat, a strident ignorance, and a demand for regression into pre-modernist unreason. Dingbat is the final cashing-in, the final proof of the full-on intellectual and cognitive failure of the American Right.

When Rand delivered a lecture in 1961, titled "The Intellectual Bankruptcy of Our Age," she was addressing it primarily to the "liberals" in her audience who care about reason more than the "conservatives" do. She was, however, also speaking at a time when Marxism and socialism were at a peak of intellectual and political influence around the world. You have to look back and realize the surreal nature of a lot of it; her lecture was one year before the Cuban Missile Crisis, and just a few years before America conscripted its young to go fight in what eventuated in a failed war. You had the President delivering an inaugural address asking Americans to accept a false dichotomy between receiving altruistic handouts or performing the altruistic handouts. You had the "liberals" clamoring for a "War on Poverty" just as capitalist economic growth was almost finishing the job for them.

(Poverty rates have since escalated, and the "liberals" are, inherently and fundamentally, at a loss to understand why. They turn to the economics community and get mixed answers at best from their vantage point. They just don't know. They've run out of answers.)

Rand's main goal was to try to get the "liberals" to recognize that their adherence to reason should lead them to reconsider the socialist-Marxist rewriting of capitalism's history. By then, however, the intellectual dominance of Marxism was too entrenched for that reconsideration to happen any time soon. The nature of intellectual entrenchment is, for the most part, a generational thing: many intellectuals have already formed a worldview by their 20s and it conditions and lenses their interpretation of everything. Practically speaking, the way around entrenchment is for the current generation to die off and be replaced.

Remember, however, the pragmatist silver lining: everything gets to be open to reconsideration. The pragmatic mindset is to eschew hard doctrines. Notice, further, that today's intellectual class is basically out of answers as to how to fix problems. They have no ideology to fall back on, like the Marxists did. They're adrift at sea without a rudder or compass. That's their cashing-in. They put their political eggs in the Obama basket and got just what they should have expected by placing their trust in politicians and government to fix problems. All they know is "at least he's not the Republicans," the Republicans being Bush, Cheney, and the Dingbat. That's what they get for thinking any significant fundamental change is going to originate at the political level.

They think - though they don't know - that the economic crisis we're going through is the result of too much "Republican," "right-wing" economic policy - knowing full well that politicians in Washington in recent memory have been from both parties, doing what politicians in an intellectually-bankrupt age could only be expected to do, and that is to sell influence to the highest bidder. So they can only guess that the current crisis has anything at all to do with smaller-government (much less "laissez faire" - are you fucking kidding me?) economic policies. They're awash in a sea of not knowing anything with any degree of certainty - certainly not in this day and age, when the economic data appear to point in all directions, some appearing to point in the pro-capitalist one, others appearing to point in the Euro-welfare-state one, a vanishingly small amount pointing toward the Marxist one. They don't have Marxism to point to like the intellectuals of the '30s did. They don't have any ideology at all that they find appealing. They only know - actually, here, they do know - that their opponents across the political aisle are intellectually defunct from beginning to end. They just haven't seriously considered any alternatives to get out of the cesspool they're sinking into.

If you look at today's political environment and asked to identify the two main alternatives, they are pragmatism on one side, and unreason on the other. A person of conviction, of reason, of love for America's founding ideals will say, "No, thanks."

These thoughts originated earlier today while thinking about the oncoming train wrecks we're told about all the time (assuming we're paying attention): man-made global warming, peak oil production, a general American decline. Now, if we were to take off any political or ideological hats, ignore any political agendas and motives on either "side" of the debate about man-made global warming, the first thing to notice is that very few of us are scientists who have studied the issue in depth. The notion that more than a few of us have any expertise on the issue is like the notion that more than a few people have any expertise in the philosophy of Ayn Rand. The notion is ludicrous. What we do have, however, is a large and growing body of evidence that (a) the global mean temperatures are rising at a fast rate in geological terms, and (b) human-made emissions play a causal (not merely "correlative") role in helping this process along.

Now, if you were to look at the mainstream, cesspool-style debate on the issue, you have pragmatic liberals on one side, and fucking knuckle-draggers on the other. In what has to be one of the most jaw-dropping acts of projection any of us may ever see, the right-wing in this country, on this issue, accuses the other side of being driven by a political agenda. Sure enough, there is a political agenda going on on both sides, but any reasonable and intelligent person can abstract from the political agendas to look at the plain scientific facts of the matter. Doing that requires a minimal ability to distinguish descriptive statements from prescriptive ones. The right-wing charges (fears - and the fears are to some extent justified - but the main driving element here is fear, not justification) that the "liberals" are using climate science data as a reason to tax and control the American people more. I don't side with the "liberals" on the prescription, but their prescription is not hard to understand given the ruling paradigmatic mindset that if there is a problem, then the solution is government controls, taxes, etc. (I think we do need to be concerned that if - more likely, when - the scientifically-modeled global warming predictions materialize, that the industrialized nations are potentially open to class-level legal action of some kind, when peoples of non-industrialized nations are displaced by rising coastal waters and other bad stuff.) The "liberals'" error here is relatively minor next to the strident, screaming anti-science and anti-reason of the opposition. The opposition won't even get on board with the descriptive element, even though it is informed by the best science. They won't do it on the issue of evolution, so why in the hell would they do it on this issue?

So I think we as Americans should be willing to prepare ourselves for the worse - more warming, and, simultaneously, a peak and drop in petroleum production - and arm ourselves accordingly. I don't mean, of course, arming ourselves with guns, to prepare ourselves for the supposed "resource wars" some people are predicting. I mean arming ourselves cognitively and intellectually. The only way to do this, is to adopt and integrate the Randian method. There just isn't any other way. Reality doesn't allow for another way.

What the liberal intellectuals need to do, to get people of reason on their side and push the screamingly irrational right-wing into the status of irrelevant minority, is to get over their silly little aversion to Ayn Rand, and adopt reason in all its primacy over the political. If, as I think is the case, they're pragmatic enough to acknowledge the failures and problems with Big Government - not the least of which is how Big Government runs contrary to America's founding ideals - and look for serious alternatives, they might find that they have a chief ally in reason with Ayn Rand, the dreaded egoist-capitalist. The socio-political problems the liberals fear (yes, they have their own version of fear) from adopting a Randian social ethic (a) are not real concerns once you actually understand what she's saying, (b) are secondary and subordinate to the issue of reason, and (c) a culture of reason would make the whole issue moot. A culture of reason has much better means at its disposal to solve any and all problems, be it poverty, or global warming, or energy production, or even obstinate right-wing ignorance. The genuinely intellectual and intelligent elements on the political right today - the "economically conservative and socially libertarian" - are already on board with the Randian program whether they even know it or not.

It's the pragmatic liberal intellectuals who now need to step up and do their part to build the cultural bridge that can unite us as Americans, as a people of reason (and, therefore, of individualism, freedom, and capitalism). If they would only put down their defenses for a bit and do some intellectually curious and responsible investigation (this means not chuckling and dismissing Rand when, oh, like when she says "A is A" - believe me, by now I know pretty much every trick in the book people have for dismissing this and that about Rand - hell, I was prone in my own ways to that same kind of problem back in my naive stages), they'd recognize in Rand their greatest and most potent ally.

Time may well be running out.

(They should just do it, anyway. Rand's eventual status as world-historic thinker is inevitable. Better sooner than later. And, the left is out of ideas, besides.)

Let's get it done! :-)

[ADDENDUM: I'm considering making this my "sign off" post before going into heavy-duty writing of the book's manuscript. I won't give a timetable on a finish, but it should be really soon now. Time is, after all, of the essence. ;-) ]

America and Europe

These are only very preliminary thoughts to an investigation on a very important and difficult subject: what factors determine the course of nations.

One thing the left-liberals in this country enjoy doing is pointing to the welfare states of Europe as a model for America to adopt. None of it should sit at all well with either advanced students of economics or of Objectivism. The advanced student of economics is apt to root out whether variants of the "broken-window fallacy" or being committed - i.e., what is seen, vs. what is not seen? What are any of the hidden costs the welfare-state advocates are leaving out of their equation? Are they biased as many people tend to be; that is, do they look at the positive side of something they have an automatized positive reaction to, while managing not to notice the negatives? Have they considered the full context?

Just what is the full context? If you're limited to the level of political economy, you're dealing within a narrow context in regard to causal factors. Take, for instance, a favorite icon of the left, Noam Chomsky. Chomsky, a linguist by profession, takes left-wing views on matter of political economy; his political ideal is something he calls "anarcho-syndicalism." If Chomsky is the genius many on the left claim he is, then we should hear a lot more from the left about the need to adopt an anarcho-syndicalist model rather than a welfare-state model. Why this schism between admiration for Chomsky's genius and the policies they support? Is it pragmatism? Why the pragmatism, if that's the case?

Besides, why do they go in for Chomsky's political-economic-level analysis of our popular culture? Manufacturing Consent is a left-wing bible, and in fact his analysis seems to provide a pretty comprehensive, over-arching explanation of how and why our national discourse is in the state that it's in right now. It would definitely (seem to) explain how and why a Dingbat has a prominent voice in our politics. Further, the popular culture, in the Chomsky-inspired analysis, is so infused through and through by the interests of a powerful moneyed elite that it overrides a lot of attempts at educating people about better ideas (e.g., the preferability of Euro-style welfare states). Americans these days are fat, dumb, apathetic, etc. - and the corporations only encourage all that more because of the profit involved and the interests of the moneyed elite that are served.

I don't know how exactly that's supposed to explain the popular appeal of, say, Creationism (as opposed to evolution) in the American landscape. Maybe the Chomsky-style explanation isn't meant to cover this, that, and everything - just a lot of things we see today. But then again, maybe the political-economic analysis can be refined or amended to account for that. It kinda gets squishy here.

How about the status of Ayn Rand in our mainstream culture? Here's where the analysis rather breaks down. The Chomsky-inspired analysis is that her ideas serve as useful fuel and rationalization for the moneyed elite's power-structure. Alan Greenspan, after all, was an inner-circle member and he helped to engineer the economic crisis which (supposedly) was a macrocosmic illustration of the moneyed elite's stranglehold on our political-economic system. That apparent explanation certainly looks convenient to a left-wing analysis, but the game here is one of guilt-by-association rather than one of understanding. Alan Greenspan is, after all, a pragmatist at root, which means his thought-processes and actions are not that of someone seriously well-versed in Rand's philosophy. So things start to really get squishy and squirmy here.

Just how does the left in the country see and grasp Rand? If they see and grasp things at the level of political economy, they're not going to have a firm grasp of anything there. They're just not. Further, the political-economic analysis of things in which a moneyed elite is manipulating and dumbing-down public opinion in order to best serve its interests, tends to be associated with thoughts that the American right suffers from intellectual inferiority. Again, they point to Europe as an example of greater enlightenment, because of their (apparent) advances over America in the areas the leftists and liberals find most important. (Didn't Rand say something about the realms "conservatives" and "liberals," respectively, find more important, and focus their policy concerns accordingly? I think it's in her essay, "Censorship: Local and Express." But only the Rand cultists could tell you about that essay.) But the fact of the matter is that Ayn Rand just doesn't fit into that picture of right-wing intellectual inferiority. In fact, it's really hard to pin down Ayn Rand as a right-wing figure at all. Not when she advocates the primacy of reason above all else.

Let's say that the average American is well-versed in Rand. Not just the novels and non-fiction writings, but the Peikoff stuff, too. (Rand explicitly said Peikoff was her best student, see. She explicitly said that his lecture courses are first-rate as presentations of her ideas.) The consequence is people who tend to think a lot more clearly, more efficiently, more well-integrated, etc. Assuming mind-body integration, this cognitive efficacy means lots of great existential results across all kinds of factors - economic, political, cultural, artistic, spiritual. So an America well-versed in Rand would be advanced beyond both present-day America and present-day Europe in a lot of ways. Psycho-epistemologically, they would be a lot healthier.

Just how does the average/mainstream European compare to the average/mainstream American, cognitively or psycho-epistemologically. Which of the two thought-processes are more logical and reality-oriented? Isn't that a more primary determinant of cultural, political, artistic and spiritual health? Moreover, does the standard left-liberal, or the standard Chomsky-style analysis broaden the investigation to this level of generality? If so, then do the nature of economic systems provide us with the level of generality, i.e., fundamentality that we need? I don't think Rand would have said that, given the primacy of ideas over economics. So how does America stack up to Europe in regard to average/mainstream cognition, and how does this factor into the left-liberal comparisons? Further, and very importantly, what fundamentally influences the course of a nation's average/mainstream cognitive or psycho-epistemological health?

I think that the left-liberals are onto one major facet of things, and that is the nature of cognitive processes dominant in various cultures. Is the dominant culture one that values reason over unreason? The American South gets flunking grades here, whereas the stridently irrationalist forms of religion are much less prominent in Europe now. That's one very significant difference right there. Predominant forms of religious belief here in the states poison scientific dialogue by poisoning cognitive processes - by reinforcing and rewarding cognitive failure.

Let's say that the nature of a culture or cultural mainstream is determined primarily and fundamentally by ideas. Now, look at the most dominant philosophical figures in the West - those whose ideas most influence those of the other philosophers, and down through the pyramidal structure of ideas, all the way down to the "man on the street." So we have Plato, Aristotle, and Kant, first and foremost. This threesome more than any others determines - as far as philosophy goes - the basic cultural structure of Western societies. Yeah, Europe has more extensive welfare states and less obvious dingbattery in their leading political figures. But aside from differences, the basic structure of both Europe and America is pretty similar. They both have welfare states, they both have (some meaningful semblance of) a rule of law, free elections, pretty advanced science disciplines, pretty good university systems, etc. You could say that Europe and America are more fundamentally similar to one another than to an Islamist theocracy.

But they're also different from one another in less basic terms. We mentioned only Plato, Arisotle, and Kant. What, then, about Jesus Christ? Was he a philosopher, or would he be considered some other kind of intellectual leader-figure? Perhaps Jesus - or the prevailing received idea of Jesus - is more aptly called a spiritual leader. And in the hierarchy of human life, where does the spirit rank? How does it rank in relation to the intellect? They're both fundamentally crucial aspects of a human being's soul. I haven't determined (yet) which is of more fundamental causal importance, but they're both really fundamental and interrelated. Now, take Plato, Aristotle, and Kant, and throw Jesus Christ into the mix, and what do you get?

Rand said that religion is a primitive form of philosophy - that it is a less-conceptually-refined, i.e., less-intellectually-advanced view about the nature of reality and humans' relation to it. So let's advance this thesis: Jesus Christ - more specifically, the role Jesus Christ plays in the lives of believers in Him - represents a primitivist influence on the West. People turn to Him to meet spiritual needs, at the expense of intellectual values. (The Thomist tradition is an uneasy hybrid. For all that intellectual rigor that goes into an ontological proof of God's existence, you'd think they'd get around to showing how the standard miracle-story of the Christ passes the philosophical sniff test. None of it holds up well under Kaufmann's withering examination, anyway.) So throw Jesus Christ into the mix in differing doses from one culture to the next, and cognitive health will vary accordingly. Now, with all their welfare states and whatnot, how are the Euros doing spiritually? (Oh. We're back at "Censorship: Local and Express" again.) Do we hear much of anything about that from the left-liberal Euro-peddlers? Just wondering. Because once religion is out, something has to fill the void. Anyway, I do hear that "happiness indices" rank average Euros higher than average Americans. So perhaps reason has ample spiritual value, after all.

Then again, maybe I haven't considered all the factors. One thing about those welfare states, by the way: homogenous and shrinking populations are probably easier to take care of via welfare states, than what's going on population-wise in the USA. I'm not clear on how that fits into the left-liberal Euro-pimping. After all, it's not apples and apples.

As I said, these are only very preliminary thoughts; this subject needs a lot more working-out....

Thursday, December 30, 2010


Dec. 27 review/commentary on Atlas ----> toilet

Pull handle.

See? Easy.


The New Rules, Cont'd

A number of people who have been introduced to the New Rules so far have - in what is now predictable and self-perpetuating fashion - engaged in an orgy of not getting it, of missing the point. Sigh. I already anticipated, going into it and posting it, what the point-missers would say about it. It's all too predictable what they would say about. It's not hard to think on the level that these epistemic savages think - either because it takes such little effort to think as they do, or it's just all too easy to figure out how the savages operate once widespread patterns of epistemic savagery are established. It's just not that hard at all to keep several steps ahead of mental savages. The only surprises they offer are from being even stupider on occasion than one is accustomed to them being.

Here's the essential fact of the matter: a shit-ton of popular-cultural commentary about Rand and Objectivism floating around in the cesspool we call the intellectual mainstream, is manifestly incompetent (manifest to those with a clue - need I even add this parenthetical?) and often downright vicious. There has to be some rational way to filter the healthy material from the cesspool-material. Epistemic sanity and justice demand it. The point - surely to be missed by the pathologically corrupted point-missers - is that there are ready-to-use devices to determine whether a criticism merits one's consideration. This relies on a basic principle of epistemic sanity applicable to anything, not just criticisms of Rand. On what basis should something be taken seriously, as signal rather than noise? To what should our limited cognitive resources be committed, amidst a sea of noise?

I can see the vicious circularity emerging here, and it quite easily explains the unending point-missing: To know how to apply standards of epistemic sanity, already presupposes a grasp of what the point-missers and the viciously incompetent critics never grasped in the first place. It is an apparent Catch-22 that requires oodles upon oodles of corrective action over time. The fact is that the intellectual mainstream of America today is such a standard-less cesspool that it actively resists instituting standards. Had the standards been instituted, Rand's status as a leading historical thinker would already have been established way back when. There's just simply no question about this point from the (lonely?) standpoint of those who get it ahead of most everyone else. The ideas are of such high and solidly reinforced merit, of such world-historic importance (as time can and will show), that one's attitude toward the filth-mongers can only rightly be the one I have expressed. The pathological point-missers and viciously incompetent critics will hurl accusations of elitism or cultism. And, in turn, they just have to be dismissed. That's just how it's gonna have to be for now. The only way out is time and education - no thanks to them.

The point of the Rules, for whoever is in a position to grasp it, is this: Either a commentary demonstrates having a basic clue, or it doesn't. If it doesn't, it doesn't meet minimal criteria of respectability. A commentary that suggests Rand's philosophy is a basis for narcissism, for instance, is pathologically clueless. It takes extremes of cognitive cluelessness or downright viciousness. The fact that it gets randomly hurled out there for consumption does not obligate Rand's admirers to respond to it, much less pay it any heed. Such commentaries provide only one more indicator, one more data point, of something that does of practical necessity require paying some heed: the cultural and intellectual cesspool that is the mainstream.

(Exhibit A: Dingbat. Exhibit B: The sheer amount of ignorance, point-missing, and downright viciousness regarding Ayn Rand's ideas. These major data points have a common denominator. One thing I haven't determined is whether the overall mainstream cognitive dysfunction is better or worse now than in Rand's heyday. For one thing, I don't see a clownish figure from Rand's time comparable to the Dingbat. I mean, the Dingbat really does seem to represent new lows for this country. Jefferson would have palm to face today. Also, the Comprachicos have had two more generations to inflict their damage. Looking back (as best as I can) to the '60s, there seemed at least a semblance of seriousness about ideas qua ideas in the mainstream. I don't even see that right now, it's just that fucking bad. I don't know how else to explain the Dingbat phenomenon, or the endless stream of incompetent filth hurled around about the past century's most important philosopher. The Distinguished Professor in his own twisted way might be onto something here: an apparent widening gap between academic-level discourse and that of the mainstream. You see it in the academic-level discourse going on about Rand right now, compared to the utter viciousness out there in the mainstream dialogue. Compare also the chasm - seemingly widening, no less - between evolution or climate science and what passes for dialogue on these subjects in the political discourse. I don't know how the scientists can keep their wits about them with such insanity swirling all around. Then there's Greenwald documenting other kinds of absolute insanity on a daily basis, and none of it registers with more than a few who actually care. It's just so jaw-droppingly bad what's going on all over the place, and only a few notice that it's just that bad. I almost feel at times like just giving up on it all and checking out in some fashion, it's so fucking rotten. There, I said it.)

To essentialize the point further: There are world-historic and world-saving ideas in play right now. Those ideas are too good to be dragged down into "discourse" that is, in fact, a cesspool. (The steady and increasing flow of academic books on Rand is incontrovertible proof of this point.) The point, then, is to rise above the cesspool. That means treating cesspool-caliber commentary for what it is - i.e., to flush it.

I'm made too fucking disgusted by its cognitive presence, otherwise.

[ADDENDUM: One form of point-missing about the Rules is that they amount to a desire to silence debate, or - get this - that they "imply" that people can't or aren't allowed to hold ideas about Objectivism unless they first demonstrate familiarity with OPAR. Only cognitive sloppiness leads to such interpretation of the Rules. A careful reading of the Rules tells us, rather, that people can (and do) say whatever the hell they want about Rand or Objectivism - but that the mere fact of their utterances doesn't thereby entitle the utterances to rational consideration. Just because some article on Rand/Objectivism shows up in The New Yorker or on - ostensibly reputable news and opinion outlets - doesn't mean it's entitled to rational consideration. If, say, the article so much as uses the term "narcissism" as applied to Rand/Objectivism, that's sound enough basis to dismiss it outright as intellectually fraudulent. The principle here isn't hard to figure out, if you've got a clue. By the way, to be consistent here, a number of Rand's criticisms of Kant can be tossed out on the same basis. Kant's ideas may well be fucked up, but "reality is unreal" is a silly attribution to him. But the portion of Rand's writings devoted to polemics were never the reason for her appeal or her importance in the first place. Should this point even require mention or explanation?]

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Rules for Rand Criticism

I have made the following integration: Approximately 99.9% of critical commentary out there on Ayn Rand can be summarily dismissed as lacking certain minimum qualifications. The chief minimum qualification I have in mind is a working familiarity with Leonard Peikoff's Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand.

That may not even be enough. I think the standards may have to be made more stringent than that, to ensure quality-control. As far as I'm concerned, a working familiarity with OPAR only gets you in the front door, onto the consideration list as it were. What would ensure quality control and prima facie status as someone with a clue is a familiarity with Peikoff's Understanding Objectivism course, and a familiarity with his advanced seminar course on OPAR would be a much-desired icing on the cake.

Short of that, it's pretty much a crap shoot whether you're getting commentary from someone with a clue. The minimum qualifications otherwise would make the number of qualified commentators verge on the vanishingly small. It would probably take, at minimum, some advanced training in philosophy, a solid background in Aristotelianism, and a keen awareness of Rand's place in the neo-Aristotelian tradition. Dougs Rasmussen and Den Uyl make the cut. That's about it. The number is frighteningly small in any event.

(I'll merely mention that the noteworthy academic commentary on Ayn Rand to date has been from those with a very favorable view of Rand overall. Pieces like Nozick's "On the Randian Argument" do not qualify as noteworthy even in this context; it's telling that the Dougs' response to that piece has never been answered, in over 30 years. There's a reason for that.)

One of Rand's associates interviewed for 100 Voices mentioned how Rand made her speeches in Atlas as lengthy as she did because she wanted to ensure that she would not be misunderstood, that she wanted to cover all the bases (in essentialized terms, of course). The interviewee goes on to mention how even that didn't help much - as evidenced by how intellectual thugs such as Whittaker "Gas" Chambers seemingly went out of their way to misunderstand it all, the fuckers. Clearly "familiarity" with the novels has guaranteed nothing by way of solid understanding in the popular culture. Too many goddamned hooligan thugs running around screwing up the discourse - and way too many without any philosophical sophistication whatsoever. Not to mention all the hooligan thugs that became cultist followers whom Rand wanted nothing to do with. (Not that you'd ever hear about her disdain for the cultists from the outsider thugs who call her a cult. Oh, in this context, Michael Shermer gets the boot unless or until he shapes up.)

It's also worth pointing out here that Understanding Objectivism served as a wake-up call to Objectivists who had been studying the printed works for years. There really was no substitute for years-on-end, first-hand interaction with Miss Rand. (I'll mention, as I have in the past, that John Hospers, a professionally-trained and widely-respected philosopher, was influenced tremendously by his own couple years of extensive interaction. You just never hear about that from the legions of neck-wringing-worthy thugs, now do you.) The Peikoff courses are the closest thing the general public has. When Peikoff introduced to Objectivist audiences the concept of rationalism and its insidiously destructive effects, it's like a veil had been lifted for many. (Hyper-rationalism is standard M.O. in academic philosophy, FWIW. There's a reason Rand found herself fundamentally at odds with the academy in her day. Perhaps it's getting better now with the modest influx of Aristotelian influence.) The concept of methodological integration is almost unknown outside of the circle of people familiar with these lectures. Not even "spiral progression of knowledge" appears in the Ayn Rand Lexicon, but it's partly definitive of a healthy, well-lubricated cognitive process.

To even so much as have a cognitively-clear, schmutz-free grasp of what Rand was ever getting at - and the clear thought is all hers, not her critics'; they only wish their cognitive processes were clear - requires a certain (re-)wiring of the mind/brain well removed from that of the mainstream "norm." (Did I also mention in a recent blog entry that Kubrick stood out far ahead of everyone else, and his cognitive processes were normal in the true sense of the term? The mainstream is a swamp.) The standard criticisms - you know how they go, they're so fucking cliche'd by now you can rattle 'em off like any old thug who doesn't engage in mental effort - have some kind of inbuilt misunderstanding-bias. None of that is surprising if the critics have been - unbeknownst to them - Comprachico-ized by the schools. That guarantees a lack of ability to handle serious ideas generally; the cognitive deficiency can only be multiplied when the ideas in question are Rand's. And no academic-level criticism is going to gain any headway without first making it past the quality-control committee at the Ayn Rand Society. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Distinguished Professor Leiter.

So, if you're one of those serious students of Objectivism who is sick and fucking tired of the same ol' same ol' about Rand wafting around in the culture, whenever you read some commentary or criticism that so much as suggests the critic doesn't know what he's talking about, just invoke the New Rules:

(1) Is the person familiar with OPAR? (This usually disqualifies the critic right off the bat.)
(2) Does the person demonstrate any philosophical sophistication otherwise? (Ditto.)
(3) Does the person demonstrate a seriousness about ideas, beyond snarky asides and punchy soundbites? (Ditto.)

That's gotta remove 99% of the stuff out there from serious consideration already. You may not even need to consider the contextually-optional Fourth Rule:

(4) Is the person familiar with Peikoff's major Objectivism courses? (This narrows the field way down.)

By the way, FYI: if you don't know what "contextually-optional" might refer to, you are disqualifed from serious consideration as Rand-critic. Ahhhh, ya see how easy it is to wipe away the otherwise aggravating mainstream and/or second-rate schmutz, once you've integrated and automatized the Rules? Go ahead, it's for your mental health - just wipe away "Gas" Chambers and Anne Hellish and the rest of their rationally-non-integratable ilk from your cognitive field of vision, like so much bug-splat from windshield, and pay them no further heed. It's very refreshing! :-)

(Follow-up here.)

[ADDENDUM: Or, as Peikoff in OPAR puts it, you treat the rationally-non-integratable like nothing has been said, or like the sounds of a parrot. Parrot goes "Randian ethics is narcissism!"; one is entitled to dismiss it out of hand, or label it as: Too Fucking Stupid to Take Seriously (TFSTTS). Strictly speaking, there is nothing of cognitive content there at all; pure noise with no referent. Likewise with such sound-emissions as "Capitalism leads to class stratification!" or "Reason rests on faith, too!" Thanks so very much for all that, Comprachicos.]

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I Like It!

From an otherwise so fucking amateurish! article on present-day (")libertarianism(") at the New Yorker website:

Let's make it happen! :-)

Cultural Wasteland/GOP Primaries Watch

12 months out from the GOP primary debates, the field is beginning to clear, leaving Romney and the Dingbat in a close "race," way out ahead of the others.

I believe the Dingbat will make a run for it, just to see how far she can get, to see just what she can get away with. That would be so like her. The primary debates will be a rehash of Dingbat-Biden '08, with canned talking points and a constant stream of winks at the camera. The average GOP primary voter will simply be mesmerized just like with the '08 debates. I don't think she or her base realizes - or cares - just how badly she'd be pulverized in a general election. For her, the spectacle will be enough. The Establishment may try to buy Romney the nomination and a semi-respectable showing for the party in Nov. '12, while the Tea Partiers and the Dingbat-faithful will mount a counter-insurgency. It's going to be a debacle however it plays out.

The Left, meanwhile, seems to be capable of offering little more than the same ol' seething resentment toward capitalists and capitalist institutions. At least the pragmatistic, empty-suit Obama can be applauded for abandoning them to stew in their resentment.

What a shitty election it's going to be....

[ADDENDUM: Dish under-bloggers have documented yet another Dingbat lie. This isn't just another of the many "odd lies" that can be thrown onto the pile of 50 or so and counting. This is just a flat-out lie. Further, the fact that she corrected "refudiate" with "refute" instead of "repudiate" is ample proof of her proud ignorance of the English language. Why no one else seems to have caught onto this point is way beyond me. Is the culture really that low?]

Yaron Brook vs. Peter Schwartz

I just fucking knew this chicken would come home to roost at some point.

Here we have Dr. Yaron Brook, President of the Ayn Rand Institute, giving a lecture at the Oxford Libertarian Society.

Here we have Peter Schwartz, some 20 years prior, chastising anyone who would give a lecture at any organization deemed to be "Libertarian."

It doesn't even matter what particular libertarian organization then-ARI speaker David Kelley spoke at; the very fact that he would speak to a "Libertarian" organization was enough to fall afoul of Schwartz's "sanction" policies. What qualified as a "Libertarian" organization by Peter Schwartz's criteria? Cutting through the bullshit, the simple answer is: Whatever the hell Peter Schwartz felt like labeling and condemning as "Libertarian." The very term "libertarian" itself is a no-no in Schwartz-land. It is evidenced simply by the way he would ever speak about anything having to do with that label. If you could ever sit through a reading of his signature piece, "Libertarianism: The Perversion of Liberty," (included in The Voice of Reason) you would find a mash-up of truly bad scholarship (some of which flies plainly in the face of the original meaning of things he quotes way out of context), weasel-wording, false integrations, hysterical hyperbole, and overall nonsense in place of substance. Never in his entire career of being the "Libertarianism" hatchet-man have I ever seen him offer anything remotely resembling clear-cut criteria for who merits his anti-"Libertarian" ire.

What amazes me is how he got away with this un-objective crap for so long. Many, many reasonable and intelligent people who left ARI and/or joined David Kelley in the early 1990s were flabbergasted that such anti-intellectual trash was being peddled in seriousness. Just what was the stick up this guy's (and many of his emulators') ass about the very mention of the word "libertarian"? (Schwartz always used "Libertarian" with a capital L. There's no clear or objective reasons that he would do so. I've always found him slimy for a number of reasons, and I'm guessing his reasons for doing so here are, likewise, slimy. The only effect - intended or not - is to confuse people and foment stupidity.) Yeah, we get the point about sanctioning evil, but what is this irrational hysteria posing as Objectivist thought?

It is also worth mentioning that since the time Schwartz was president of ARI, i.e., since Yaron Brook has taken over, the illogicality, the un-seriousness, the pointless sectarianism driving away good and reasonable people, has gone by the wayside in favor of actual quality and substance. Which particular libertarian organizations to speak to or work with has always been a matter of judgment and of context - things which the Schwartz approach shat all over. Schwartz is a fucking idiot and his signature piece will go down in infamy in the eyes of history. MARK MY WORDS.

(To be perfectly frank, the way Schwartz quotes and uses original sources screams of bad faith. The way he targets and selects material, most significantly from Murray Rothbard, rips it out of context, twists the meaning, applies non-sequiturs to the twisted out-of-context carefully-selected quotes . . . it just falls so far beyond the pale of intellectual responsibility that it discredits him on that basis alone. One thing it does do, is prey upon the most ridiculous misconceptions and ignorance about things people like Rothbard actually ever said. Another piece of anecdotal evidence: In Understanding Objectivism, Peikoff relates an incident in which an unnamed "libertarian" - Rothbard, it turns out - claimed the right to bash him over the head with a typewriter, as long as he, the basher, was the typewriter's rightful owner. He repeated this story on his radio show in the late '90s. This, of course, runs counter to everything Rothbard ever advocated. Now, I have ample reason to believe Peikoff's example rested upon an innocuous misunderstanding on his part. But for Schwartz to sit by and allow this stuff to be spread around in Objectivist circles for years . . . it's just too intellectually vicious to merit a benefit of the doubt, given his own knowledge of Rothbard's actual views.)

Now, the question is, how do the Schwartzophiles react to the news that the leading ARI spokesman today speaks in front of a group identifying itself by the dreaded L-word? If past experience with these assholes is any indication, the reaction will consist primarily of one thing: evasion. Fortunately, it looks like the worst of the Schwartzophiles have gone away as he has withered into relative obscurity since his loathsome signature-piece heyday.

Now, one might be inclined to ask, "How did such an idiot and second-rater manage to pull one over on so large a group of people otherwise committed - at least ostensibly - to reasonable and thoughtful discourse?" Does this really require a flight of imagination? We need only look at the case of Nathaniel Branden, who managed to pull off his shenanigans for years, and right to Ayn Rand's face, too. Throw in plenty of honest confusions on the issue from all corners, and throw in some groupthink dynamics - the record of behavior by many so-called Objectivists in this regard is far from enviable, and makes Miss Rand roll in her grave - and it's not hard to understand at all. The damage Branden did to the reputation of the Objectivist movement is untold; likewise with Schwartz's thoroughly stupid dumping-on anything he called "Libertarian."

By the way, it is most irrelevant here that Rand had little to nothing nice to say about the Libertarian Party or the political-types who eschew philosophy while adopting the "libertarian" label. A reasonable, commonsensical person can tell the difference between what she meant (she took the care to put the term in "scare quotes" so that we know she isn't identifying with a political label - not that the term cannot be reasonably and objectively applied in certain contexts) and the cognitive filth Schwartz was spewing. So if I so much as fucking hear about "Rand denouncing libertarians" or "libertarians this," and "libertarians that" with no clear cognitive context to it ever again, by god I just don't want to deal with it lest I scream. It's just too stupid to take seriously.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Yaron Brook for not going apeshit over a label. Have we finally moved past the screaming stupidity?

[Incidentally, I found this link to Brook's lecture after discovering a lecture by noted libertarian (oh dear) scholar Eric Mack. Unlike certain intellectual pipsqueaks who bash "L/libertarians" indiscriminately, his work is usually first-rate.]

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christopher Nolan's Filmography

I've seen many of director Christopher Nolan's films by now. Here are my thoughts on each of them:

Following (1998)

The craft is really superb and the thematic elements are intriguing, but on the whole it comes off as very gimmicky. In the end I felt kinda cheated.

Memento (2000)

The craft is really superb and the thematic elements are intriguing, but on the whole it comes off as very gimmicky. In the end I felt kinda cheated.

Insomnia (2002)

The craft is really superb and the thematic elements are intriguing, but on the whole it comes off as very gimmicky. In the end I felt kinda cheated.

Batman Begins (2005)

After feeling kinda cheated by previous Nolan efforts, I did not bother with this one. (What truly serious director does Batman, anyway?)

The Prestige (2006)

The craft is really superb and the thematic elements are intriguing, but on the whole it comes off as very gimmicky. In the end I felt kinda cheated.

The Dark Knight (2008)

Watched this one because of all the high ratings on the internet sites. The craft is really superb and the thematic elements are intriguing, but on the whole it comes off as very gimmicky. In the end I felt kinda cheated. (What truly serious director does Batman, anyway?)

Inception (2010)

Nolan's best effort yet, and while the craft is really superb and the thematic elements are certainly intriguing, on the whole it comes off as extremely, pointlessly gimmicky. In the end I felt kinda cheated.

Overall assessment:

M. Night Shyamalan with more elaborate gimmicks. Emperor Nolan isn't wearing any clothes, you philistines!

[ADDENDUM: At some future point, when I've developed the full philosophical skills for it, I might do a comparison of Nolan's filmmaking style with Kant's philosophical style: a shit-ton of brilliant and elaborate gimmicks masking a whole lotta nothin', stuff people fall for all too easily, few with the guts to call out the whole fucking farce for what it is. Aristotle:Kant::Kubrick:Nolan. The Batman stuff should have been an obvious giveaway. Just remember, 46% of the electorate voted to put an ignorant philistine within a heartbeat of the presidency. Palin:Jefferson::Shit:Shinola.]

[ADDENDUM #2: Limbo? Really? Shared dreamspace? Seriously? 10 years of script development and we get these dead-ends? I don't know what's more laughably arbitrary, that or experience being constructed by a priori categories. I really don't. Coincidentally, the subjective-construction-of-experience stuff took 10 years to develop, too. Hell, this may well be a prime exercise in Kantian filmmaking. *facepalm*]

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The "William Edward Hickman" Meme

An unbelievably dishonest anti-Rand meme making the rounds as of late has to do with her comments on William Edward Hickman in her early journals. The unscrupulousness of these smear-mongers knows no bounds. Simply too disgusting to dignify. What it does reveal is the soul and character of such individuals who spread these smear-memes with impunity, as well as the jaw-dropping cognitive-epistemological breakdown of those who buy into them. In absolute intellectual cesspools such as, this lunacy is treated as axiomatic gospel.

Those Zons of Beetches!

Marxism: 160 Years of Bad Faith

Since capitalism is the only moral and practical social system in modern times, the leading attacks on it have to involve massive discounting of reality in favor of pre-established ideology. The leading Marxists, in particular - the rank and file may be a different story; I'm talking about the foremost intellectual figures - are the most vile offenders in this regard.

The accounts of Marx the person and of his life (i.e., he was pretty nasty) serve as a fitting backdrop to what he accomplished intellectually: the biggest smear-job against capitalism ever perpetrated. It is hard to believe that his extensive study of the economic value-theories of his time - it's pretty much all he ever spent his time doing - didn't lead him to significant problems with the labor theory of value, but it's not like that stopped him or anything. His conclusions were set in place by the time of The Communist Manifesto (1848). (Volume 1 of Capital came out in 1867.) The rest reeks of bad faith, a rationalization for the predetermined conclusions.

That's the thing about Marxism in its various transmutations: it just all has an air of bad faith about it. The "exploitation doctrine" is the core of Marxian and neo-Marxian economics, and the neo-versions had exploitation pretty well in mind irrespective of the failure of the labor theory of value.

Marxism as a "respectable" ideology, as an era, came pretty much to a close with the death of G.A. Cohen in 2009. Marxism had basically run its course, and Cohen was the last major dinosaur of the failed ideology. And all the way up through Cohen (before his death, "the most prominent Marxist of our time"), there is still the whole aura of bad faith.

One article in particular by Cohen struck me as especially obscene: "Incentives, Equality, and Community" in a collection titled Equal Freedom (ed. Stephen Darwall, 1995). The collection, by the way, consists of contributions from a number of those within an elite clique of academics clustering around John Rawls over the past few decades. These same names keep showing up if you explore the literature: Rawls, Thomas Nagel, Ronald Dworkin, G.A. Cohen, Thomas Scanlon, Derek Parfit, Samuel Scheffler, Amartya Sen. Those are the "elites" in academia who've effectively decided for everyone what the most prestigious theories are in that arena. The manifestly vicious doctrine of egalitarianism plays a major role in their decades-long circle-jerk.

(I would just like to note here the chasm between the sense of life in Ayn Rand's essay "Apollo 11" and that of the cover of Nagel's Equality and Partiality. A commentary on Nagel's justificatory procedure will have to wait for some other time; best as I can make out, though, Nagel's notion of a "View from Nowhere" is very closely related to the moral structure of Rawls's "Original Position," and was almost surely deeply influenced by it. By the way, this stuff counts as "foundations" for Nagel, whereas Nozick's libertarian intuitions are "without foundations.")

Anyway, the gist of Cohen's "Incentives, Equality, and Community" is a response to standard incentive-arguments for tax cuts which run basically as follows: if taxes are cut for the wealthy, they will be inclined to work, save, and invest more. This might, in fact, be invoked on behalf of Rawls's (already-corrupt) Difference Principle; Cohen's argument is that even the Difference Principle doesn't go far enough to rectify capitalist injustice. In a characteristically Toohey-like ingenious twist, he turns the incentive argument in effect into an analogy to kidnappers holding your child for ransom. "If my taxes aren't cut, I'll withhold services" is translated by analogy into the kidnappers' demands: "If you don't give me money, I'll withhold your child from you."

(Actually, it's: "Children should be with their parents; if you don't pay the kidnapper, the child will not be with its parents; therefore, you should pay the kidnapper." The basic point is to make the argument for paying the kidnapper similar in structure to an argument for cutting taxes.)

This is the sort of grotesque rubbish that passes for "brilliant" and "academically respectable" argument. The only thing actually impressive about is the extent to which someone can be clever in such an evil cause. This wouldn't last for a single fucking second under the John Galt B.S. Test. Let's translate Cohen's strong-whiff-of-bad-faith argument into more naked terms: Galt's strikers are significantly and relevantly analogous, morally, to kidnappers.

(That article is merely a preview to the style and content of Cohen's full-book response to Nozickian arguments for capitalist property rights, Self-Ownership, Freedom, and Equality. Gee - another slimy book cover.)

And people seriously wonder where in the real world Rand found inspiration for her villains?

Barbara Branden, In a Nutshell

In the interview with Cynthia Peikoff for 100 Voices, there is a new twist on Barbara Branden's visit with Ayn Rand in 1981. From Ms. Branden's biography, the meeting was happy and benevolent. What Ms. Branden fails to mention is that shortly after their meeting - not during the meeting - she sent a letter to Rand informing her that she was going to write a biography on her, and asked if she could have Rand's support or input on it. The whole episode left Rand disgusted; the point of the meeting was to gain some kind of validation that Ms. Branden could then exploit for her book. Nice going, Babs.

It's also worth noting that Rand was most unimpressed with Ms. Branden after their visit; there just wasn't much there.

I would also like to bring up Ms. Branden's account of Rand's appearance on the Donahue show in 1979. Ms. Branden hones in on one unpleasant episode in the show (see here starting at 8:15), where a woman begins her question by insulting Rand. Rather than defend Rand, Ms. Branden characterizes the episode as Rand attacking this "young girl" even though Rand explained why she would not sanction such a form of disrespect. It's telling, psychologically, that Ms. Branden would identify more with the "young girl" here.

Apparently, Ms. Branden's fear-motivated behavior during her years with Rand - "walking on eggshells" and all that - was a problem on Rand's part - just as Rand's reaction of disgust to Ms. Branden's 1981 vulture-style behavior was Rand's problem, she would expect us to believe.

Nathan's behavior in regard to Rand - from the mid-'60s up to the present day - can be described as nothing short of monstrous. Ms. Branden, meanwhile, might best be characterized as flaky - morally, emotionally, intellectually, etc. Given the behavior of these two vultures, I don't know how they can be believed about anything in regard to Ayn Rand absent independent corroboration and context. Short of that, the thought of entertaining their tales and insinuations is disgusting. Some of us got burned with their first round of biographies and memoirs back in the '80s before the Estate got around to issuing its devastating response (see James Valliant's The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics); never again.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Zons of Beetches

From the 100 Voices interview with Eugene Winick (p. 320):

Do you remember [Rand] expressing her outage or joy about any legal doctrines or events that you explained to her?

I just remember that when there was something she was critical of she would have just about the same comment every time criticizing the parties who were involved. I can still hear her voice ringing in my ears, with her accent, saying "Those Zons of Beetches." She would hit the table with her hands. That's one of my strongest recollections of her, actually. "Those Zons of Beetches."

Thank you, Ayn Rand. :-)

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Thought on the Westboro Baptist Scum

(In light of the latest absolutely-despicable incident at Elizabeth Edwards's funeral.)

Come Fred Phelps's eventual demise, won't the explosion of retributory hate at his funeral be an awesome sight to behold? His group of scum are only a few people; imagine hundreds if not thousands showing up at his funeral to torment the scum-family, and perhaps millions all around the country speaking ill of the newly dead.

This would not be a case of two wrongs making a right; this would be poetic justice. Anger and indignation at their tactics doesn't begin to describe the non-violent retribution that can be visited upon them when their own time comes.

I guess those idiots never stopped to consider that.

(If there is a God, what might He think of a man who never exercised basic commonsensical respect for his fellow human beings? My sentiments are almost - almost - "Burn in Hell, Fred." But non-belief in a deity and the very same basic-respect principle don't allow for that. The rest of the country isn't likely to be that thoughtful about it, though - hence poetic justice in that regard. My sentiments are better stated as: "He'll have had it coming to him.")

New Book Edited by Gotthelf and Lennox

It has come to my attention that Metaethics, Egoism, and Virtue: Studies in Ayn Rand's Normative Theory, edited by quality Rand (and Aristotle) scholars Allen Gotthelf and James Lennox, is now out. One thing you can be sure of, with Gotthelf and Lennox as editors, is that the articles show a solid understanding of Rand's ideas, versus the usual go-out-their-way-to-misunderstand approach seen all over the place elsewhere. The blurb on the back cover from U. of Michigan's Peter Railton is a nice and unexpected touch.

The floodgates are opening . . .

Sunday, December 12, 2010


There's no surer sign of the breakdown of our educational establishment than the way a nominally-educated group of people on a social "news" site like operate. Here is the list of items on that site with "Ayn Rand" in the title.

There is a term that floats around from time to time in Objectivist circles to describe the gleefully cynical, anti-seriousness, anti-ideas, anti-values mentality these people take, especially when the subject of their "criticism" is Ayn Rand. It's like an instinctive hatred of the good for being the good, but some kind of variation on that theme. The term floating around from time to time is: Nihilism. Now, there's only one dictionary definition of that term that might describe this anti-intellectual attitude. Arguably an updating of the lexicon is in order. There is, however, an existing term, one that Ayn Rand used herself to describe these twerps: Hooliganism.

For Hooligan-in-Chief, I would nominate Comprachico Leiter. "Hooliganism" describes perfectly his anti-intellectual attitude when the discussion turns toward anything capitalism-like. The latest instance of his hooliganism - well, the most obvious recent instance of hooliganism - is in this blog entry, titled "Kentucky Embarrasses Itself," which consists of all of the following:

What a pathetic country this is.

Keep in mind that this claim is being made by a full professor of law and humanities at one of the nation's leading universities. This is not an isolated case among his blog entries. On numerous occasions he has spoken ill of this country and also of how "lost" and "hopeless" the situation is (as if there is no free will, or something - who the fuck knows).

One thing that is axiomatic to the intellectual hooligans is that capitalism is evil, and that America is a screwed-up country that needs to be more like the social democracies of Europe. What's more, they do not entertain a serious, informed discussion on the subject. The tactics - again, see the link to the reddit threads above - amount to ignorant sneers.

There is also one facet of reddit that contributes to a virtually-unchecked hooliganism: the "upvote/downvote" model. Countless times a substance-free one-liner races to the top, while an intelligent response is downvoted right to the bottom. The social-metaphysical cowardice this encourages is beyond fucked-up, and it has resulted over time in a "brain-drain" of sorts. I submit that it's a similar "brain-drain" phenomenon that explains the anti-capitalist, anti-Rand hooliganism in the humanities departments.

The ones with the best minds are the ones most amenable to Rand's ideas - but those folks are not in the humanities; they are out building businesses and paying taxes to support the Leiters. The incentive/reward functions are way different between these two avenues. In the humanities, technical and abstruse arguments with little discernible real-world import can garner big rewards. A Theory of Justice gets held up as a greater example of human achievement than the building of Microsoft. Rand referred to this crowd, too, as full of hooligans disguised as philosophy professors. (A much more undeservedly-polite expose of the intellectuals' anti-capitalist mentality is provided by Nozick. Leiter and his ilk are merely the most open, consistent and unapolegetic hooligans.)

Where, after all, do the reddit-style hooligans get their hooliganism from?

(The activist-equivalent of these hooligans can be found at anti-free-trade riots here in the States, or at anti-budget-tightening riots in France and England.)

The irony here is how these very same hooligans will decry the anti-intellectual nature of the religious right, as per Leiter's posting above. Leiter's hooliganism in this case consists in tarring all of America due to some idiots in Kentucky. (This by a guy who runs a leading philosophy blog, mind you.)

It is little wonder that the ordinary American feels caught between idiots and hooligans on all sides, be they fundie fucks in the south, or sneeringly elitist, anti-America, ivory tower fucks like Leiter pretending to educate our nation's youths.

(Lest any of you fucking hooligans accuse me of hooliganism for identifying you as fucking hooligans, please don't bother with your hooligan-like moral equivalence. You make me fucking sick.)


[ADDENDUM: After spending part of the last few days confronting a number of the nihilist-hooligans on reddit - an even worse intellectual shithole of a website than I had thought, I discovered - I think I can relate to the huge sense of discouragement and disappointment Rand experienced when the hooligans got a hold of Atlas in the most obscenely intellectually incompetent fashion - the most stubbornly, obstinately, awesomely-committed-to-misconception fashion. The little reddit hooligans running around aren't the same published hooligan-reviewers that so upset Rand, but the phenomenon in either case can be emotionally exhausting and draining to a pro-values, pro-reason, pro-capitalism advocate. I'm sure Rand was so disgusted with these . . . entities . . . that she would have wanted figuratively to wring their fucking necks. The stylistic issues in Atlas don't begin to compare to the gleeful-cognitive-failure issues in the hooligan-crowd. The proudly ignorant and irrational disrespect involved is so staggering that, just as a matter of mental health, one wants to sweep these fuckers out of a place of prominence in one's mind, and push forward like they're not even there. Indeed, that seems to be the hard-line attitude Rand (and Peikoff) took toward the myriad hooligan-critics in her life; I don't know how she'd have survived otherwise. For the moment, I have a sense of exhaustion - minor setback - but a valuable lesson learned: don't even bother with intellectual hooligans; they have nothing of value to offer. Fuck 'em!]

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Soundbites for the Day

In "The Age of Envy," Ayn Rand writes: "Racism is an evil and primitive form of collectivism." (The New Left, 2nd rev. ed., p. 167) Question: is there any form of collectivism that isn't evil or primitive?


The infallible sign that our public schools have failed: If the public schools did succeed in teaching students how to think, then why do we still have public schools?


America needs Ayn Rand - and the haters can just go fuck themselves.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Big Picture

I am approaching the point where my blog goes temporarily "silent" and I bang out the book for soon-as-possible publication. Much of the blogging has been for concretizing what's been developing in my mind over the past several months (ultimately, over my entire lifetime). The main, driving goal of all this is to get as strong a product as possible out there, in as short a time as possible. If ideas are the over-arching, driving force in human history - and they are - then getting Toward Utopia out there ASAP is an imperative.

I have a selfish/eudaemonic interest in seeing the culture and the world become healthy and functional, at or near the level of a Rand or a Kubrick himself. I have a benevolent, "unselfish," eudaemonic interest in people being happy and successful as a matter of course rather than as the exception. (There is also the economic benefit to everyone of everyone else being happy and successful - more inventions, better ideas, etc.) I would have said "as a matter of normal course," but the term "normal" doesn't mean statistical normalcy, in which half a populace still disbelieves in evolution and a full 80% at least is disgustingly ignorant of the big ideas. I mean normal as in proper functioning. A culture in which the mainstream "norm" is what we have now, is not a properly functioning culture.

Ayn Rand set out to remake the world in her own sense-of-life image. The time in which she did so was such a gutter-point in human history that it only amplifies her heroism. At the very moment she was singing the praises of the creative individual in The Fountainhead, millions of people were being shoved into ovens and gas chambers, as the ultimate culmination of the intellectuals' message: the denigration of the individual mind and spirit. This intellectual class still, to this day - if Comprachico Leiter is any indication - fills its subjects with anti-America, anti-individual, anti-capitalist, anti-clear-thought poison. The result is the low state of the culture and learning we see today. Where dingbats appear on presidential tickets. Where economic ignorance, protectionism, stagnationism and defeatism run opposite the reality of globalization, competition, and growth. Where "Ayn Rand" is a euphemism for anti-social greed and intellectual-outsider status.

My aim is to complete the work Rand started. Reading through her masterful "The Comprachicos" once again, one is struck by the profound sense of isolation from "the mainstream" Rand felt growing up. Her whole being screamed out against having to "adjust" to a dysfunctional society, which could only be a recipe for soul-killing cynicism. It certainly did not help in her case that her formative years included a staggeringly anti-man, anti-life Revolution in her home country. (The Bolshies still retained some level of respect for man; they didn't deliberately round up people by the millions and put them in gas chambers as a matter of goal and intention. They did that, in effect, on a smaller scale, against dissidents, but their aim was the "good of humanity" and the killing and imprisoning merely unpalatable means of doing so. The Nazis took the anti-man ethos fully and consistently: the aim was to kill the individual. Thanks a lot for endorsing that ethos, Heidegger.) I can say that anyone with their head screwed on straight today, looking out at the culture, has a profound sense of revulsion. Their whole sense-of-life screams out at the idiocy passing for respectability, for banality passing as attention-grabbing, for minutiae passing as profoundly interesting.

When Rand looked at the Left, she saw only hatred of achievement and success. (See "The Age of Envy.") It doesn't matter that some or many of those on the Left aren't even consciously aware of their hatred, of where their ideas lead. It doesn't matter that the Left "sees things" in different terms, under a different paradigm where it's the rich plutocratic oligarchy against the powerless working people who - get this - actually support the rich. The issue is deeper than that: what leads them to embrace that paradigm - all while ignoring, denouncing, denigrating and sneering at people like Ayn Rand and gleefully advertising their ignorance and anti-intellectualism in the process? That's where Rand cut to the fundamental: these folks have been conditioned from early on to resent all the values Rand fought for. Rand looked at the drugged-out hippie culture, for instance, with its axiomatic anti-capitalism and whim-worship, and could respond only with disgust and contempt.

(Contempt, I learned from Mary Ann Sures's reminiscences, was something Rand hated feeling - but is was the only appropriate response to an anti-values culture. The usual ignorant and hateful anti-Rand polemic is that she reveled in contempt at "the lower classes" or "the masses", as if the not-yet-redeemed Dominique (and not Roark) was Rand's own voice - all the while ignorant that the salvation of the masses would come from their liberation from those very same hateful polemicists - the so-called intellectuals. The thrust of Ayn Rand's writing was her hope for a world in which people didn't have to feel isolation from and contempt for the culture and the world in which they lived, ever again.)

In the hippies, Rand didn't even see hatred of the good; she saw, rather, nihilism - a departure from the whole process of celebrating the intellect or rational values. They might proclaim love for man but then turn around and declare that this means dropping out of capitalist society and living primitively, collectively. One could understand how, if the hippie generation looked to its intellectuals and educators for guidance and answers, they would find none, and give up. The real contempt Rand had here was for the intellectuals and educators who made the hippies, the nihilists and the haters possible.

I would like at this point to point out the default of the liberal intelligentsia in the realm of ideas. Hundreds of thousands of liberal educators, and millions upon millions of liberally-educated Democrats, pose as defenders of reason. Comparably speaking, this might well be true if the alternative is the "conservatives" and their religionism. But that is not the only alternative, of course - which begs the question: Why have all these millions of liberals failed to take the Randian alternative seriously? Since we are talking about a massive number of people, the reasons and explanations can vary widely, but what might some of them be? Here's one explanation: cowardice - cowardice as a product of a social-metaphysical fear of being marginalized by those whose minds they respect. They look at the intelligentsia - people who have studied ideas over a lifetime - and see that the intelligentsia must be right for ignoring Rand, whatever their own rational judgment might have told them. This cowardice, by the way, is a ruling feature of any politicized environment - as the academy surely is, not only in terms of inter-academy politics, but in terms of a general alignment with the political Left: in many instances (i.e., the public schools), academic sustenance depends on Democrat politicians being elected. And here we are back at the theme of "The Comprachicos" - the public schools' indoctrination of students along democratic-socialist lines.

In any case, whatever the reasons or causes in any given instance, the "intellectual class" in this country has failed in its responsibilities. Justice demands that we not reward and subsidize failure. We need an entire overhaul of our educational establishment. We need to undermine it as best we can, in every way we can, from the outside. We need to make it known just what happens when politicized, anti-individualist, anti-capitalist institutions take hold. The intellectual salvation the well-meaning liberals sought - a defense of reason all the way up to a solution to the problem of universals - was there in Rand the whole time, but politics got in the way. Well-meaning liberals who are not philosophers or particularly intellectual themselves might well not even know the issue; they figure that the professionals had it well in hand on who and what to study; they might not even know that the battle ultimately lies not in politics but in the realm of the mind.

The professional intellectuals, on the other hand, should know better. They devote their lives to study; they ostensibly devote their lives to intellectual curiosity. They claim to know how to separate the wheat from the chaff on any issue. (If that were true, they would know to separate the things in Rand's style they find objectionable and look at the substance. Rand's style is not a reason not to take her ideas seriously. [I would say just the opposite, by focusing on a fundamental of her style: her ability to condense vast bodies of observation, and to do so clearly. If the intellectuals don't like how she gores a sacred ox like Rawls, then they should be able easily to point out what the substantive problem is. Why should we take seriously a theory that subjects the activities of a Roark or a Galt to the evil Difference Principle? What the fuck is the attraction of a theory like that in the first place?!]) They claim to be open-minded. They claim this and that - and yet their not-getting-it problem with a thinker like Rand is pathological.

This is starting to run a bit long. Here's the gist: In today's culture, there is little more than the same ol' back-and-forth between two non-defined "sides" (Left and Right) over the most petty minutiae. The latest has to do with extending the Bush tax cuts for two years. In the long run, in the full scale, in the eye of history, this little squabble will mean next to nothing. It will be long forgotten so many years down the line. (Hell, in politics, little is remembered after a few months. Come '12, the Dems will forget or downplay Obama's sellout - "at least he's not the Republicans.") Of course it would be forgotten: people have only so much capacity in their minds to retain what is important. In the Big Picture, what is the most important thing - that which would transform the culture most fundamentally and long-term? It sure as shit isn't whether the Bush tax cuts are extended another two years. So what is it? It's a question too many folks would find too daunting to even ask, much less tackle. Many of them are so consumed by cynicism that they've given up asking. For some, even asking it never so much as occurred to them. (Thanks again, ya fucking Comprachicos.)

You have a big-picture-oriented right-wing that sees the course of America in fundamentally religious terms. They view the Founding through the lens of establishing a Christian Nation with belief in a Creator who endows us with our inalienable rights. They read into Jefferson this religious component while essentially evading everything else Jefferson said. This selective focus on religion is a compartmentalization - a phenomenon discussed by Rand and Peikoff as a form of disintegration. Jefferson is the most representative of the Founders and is the intellectual, spiritual, and sense-of-life father of what makes America great: reason. An otherwise big-picture-oriented right-wing that compartmentalizes and fails to grasp the basis of America's greatness, can't be the source of the right answers; being big-picture, the errors can only be that much more devastating if wrong. Methodologically this is corrupt and full of dangerously insidious evasions.

The Left, meanwhile, seems to offer little more intellectually than John Rawls's Theory of Justice - absent all deep structure in normative ethics, epistemology and metaphysics, of course. The Rawlsian Synthesis - a synthesis of good (liberty) and evil (socialism) - takes as axiomatic a publicized, politicized version of human existence in which political (read: government) processes are a routine part of life. The American sense of life rebels against that very notion: the people are fed up with politics and government. They cry out for a change they don't know how to get, or what such a change would look like, or how we would ever get there. The central players in politics - the politicians - are the exact antithesis of long-range thinking, of justice as a reward for virtue, of principles, of doing the right thing, of individualism, of the requirements of reason as a ruling guide in life. Now, given the long-run triumph of capitalism over socialism - we're still in the process of that triumph working itself out - the Left is now reduced to a blind, uncomprehending opposition to "the status quo," conceived as an oligarchic plutocracy the politicians - if only the right politicians can be elected - might protect the people from. Then they get disappointed when a politician's politician, Barack Obama, sells out on them in order to keep the gears of the System running as smoothly as possible. In short, the Left is helpless and their only known revolt is against a package deal of capitalism and plutocracy, or against right-wing idiocy, or both, or both wrapped in yet another package-deal.

It's clear that neither of these paradigmatic "sides" have the right values to offer long-run.

So, here's the question: Isn't it about time they - and everyone else caught in the middle of their mudslinging and cultural degeneracy in general - got with the program? Isn't it time they jumped on the team and came on in for the big win?

Yes, it is. But they need the right ideas for fuel. Toward Utopia will help provide that fuel. It will consolidate vast bodies of observations into accessible terms, and it will aim at anyone with a decent amount of intellectual curiosity. The title alone condenses and summarizes the whole shebang. There are things that will appeal immediately to the left, right and center; if there is anything that could be called an "Unstated American Consensus," Toward Utopia will finally state it, at last. (In the meantime, I recommend Rand's writings about America, especially "Don't Let it Go.")

After writing Atlas Shrugged, Rand wanted to write a nonfiction treatise on her philosophy, which she tentatively titled, Objectivism: A Philosophy for Living On Earth. The closest she got to writing such a treatise was her monograph, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. By the time her system became actualized as a full philosophy, it was left to Leonard Peikoff to present it in lecture form, in 1976. By that time, for various reasons, Rand just did not have the time to put it all in book form. Peikoff put it in book form in OPAR. (Everything came that much closer together with James Valliant's Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics; the amount of sense-of-life fuel provided by PARC's finally setting the record straight about Rand the person, is incalculable.) I see Toward Utopia merely as a natural implication of OPAR: if a society adopts the ideas therein, what else would we have? What else could we have?


Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Effects of Nathaniel Branden's Dishonesty

"Honesty is the best policy."

This is a bromide that Ayn Rand spent countless hours concretizing and explaining in person and in her works. For 18 years, Nathaniel Branden stood next to Rand and listened to all those explanations, knew first-hand how they were irrefutable, knew how they were universally applicable and concretizable, etc. - and he evaded it all.

Human beings have free will, and as such, the course of history is not determined ahead of time. Let's imagine, if we can, an alternate historical path in which Nathaniel Branden remained an integrated being of theory of practice, which meant being honest to Ayn Rand (and all the other people he manipulated in those years). There was one basic value Rand sought and asked for in people: honesty. They could be confused or wayward or have all kinds of errors, but if they made a good-faith, conscientious effort to work them through, then that's the best she could have asked of someone. ("In the name of the best within us...")

As Rand's journals during her falling-out period with Branden show, she held up her end of things most admirably. She showed the utmost benevolence and attempted to understand this man she thought and trusted to be an adherent of his own teachings. The idea that a man who preached so vociferously and convincingly about the need for mind-body integration would lie straight to her face - while using her in effect as a psychotherapist, no less - would have been too horrifying for her to contemplate in the absence of evidence pointing in that direction. That left her having to grope desperately for explanations for this man's disintegration. (This motherfucker - who used Rand as a psychotherapist - tells the rest of the world that she knew nothing of psychology. The contradiction is so glaring that it takes a kind of suggestible human being - in other words, sociopath Branden's prey - to buy into it. What a fraud of a human being he is.) Perhaps this was a flaw on Rand's part: she was too trusting of people, expecting out of the sheer goodwill she brought to life that they would live up to the moral standards she did. Well, she - and the world - got burned.

Had Branden done the right thing and been honest, the historical progression of things would have been different. As many all-too-painfully know, the 1968 break-up and closing of NBI fractured the movement and set back the advancement of Objectivism as a cultural force for decades. The momentum that was gathering up through 1968 was halted. One could envision an alternate history in which Rand and Branden remained associates, NBI stayed together, and by the early to mid 1970s, the so-called libertarian movement would be much more fortified. The personalities-aspect that throws so many people off even in the realm of ideas (call it social metaphysics, perhaps, or an effect of comprachico-ization) would not have gotten in the way of such an intellectual juggernaut. You'd have a different coalescing of intellectual forces than what we had; the philosophical community would have had to focus more and more attention on Rand's ideas and arguments; the combination of Rand, Branden, Peikoff, Binswanger, the Dougs, Mack, Norton, Hospers, Nozick, Rothbard, Nobel Laureates Friedman and Hayek and the younger Friedman and Roy Childs and George H. Smith and on and on -- it would simply have been too much for the pro-Rawls segment of the academy to handle.

So, as a result of Nathaniel Branden's massive dishonesty, the progress of the pro-capitalist cause was set back by decades. Decades of delayed human progress. Do you fucking realize how many lives this cost, or how many people remained impoverished as a result? Billions, potentially. If sheer numbers dead or impoverished as a result of someone's dishonesty were the measure of evil, Branden might well be the most evil man who ever lived.

(Kant? The issue there is screamingly rationalistic psycho-epistemology, an inheritance from his rationalist and empiricist predecessors, only amplified. The case for his being evil or dishonest is ill-supported. With Branden there is no shadow of a doubt.)

This is not to say that Branden has blood on his hands; the causation for which he is responsible is his moral betrayals and the breakup of the Objectivist movement. This is, however, to say that widespread death and destruction can come from the bad decisions of just one person when that person is in a position to drastically affect the course of history. A genius-level philosopher is in just such a position, and it was Branden's relationship with and proximity to a genius-level philosopher that makes his actions so historically significant.

Potentially billions of lives lost or impoverished, due to one man's dishonest behaviors.

Thanks a lot, Nathan.

A Treasure Trove of Rand-Related Media

Two pages of aural crack:

The Ayn Rand Media Library - Lectures and Interviews. I particularly enjoy Rand's method of answering questions in Q&As. "To start with, the package deal we are asked to accept here is the following: ..." - just one example of how she unrooted premises and assumptions contained in questions.

Video and Audio - All sorts of testimonials and analyses of Rand the person. A wonderful companion book is the newly-released 100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand. Combined with the Letters and the Journals and the rest, you end up (assuming you aren't irreparably cynical, nihilistic or comprachico-ized) with a hero-worshipping attitude toward this wonderful human being. You end up nearly incredulous at how the widespread smears and misrepresentations and not-getting-it had gone on for SO FUCKING LONG! WHAT ON EARTH IS WRONG WITH ALL THOSE PEOPLE????? (Thanks a lot, again, Nathan, you screamingly vicious monster.)

I have what you could call a "soft" deadline on my book, but this material is just too good to pass up and not spend the extra time on; it will have been worth it.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Methodological Issues in "Egoism and Rights"

On the subject of the relation between egoism and rights, the work of Eric Mack, Douglas Rasmusssen and Douglas Den Uyl stood out above the rest for pretty much three decades or so. The "Dougs" have spelled out the essence of the correct position in fullest detail, while Mack has offered valuable insights of his own in thinking about the issue, especially from a Randian angle, with his emphasis on the core moral notion that "man is an end in himself."

The basics of the difference between their two approaches is covered in an issue of Reason Papers. The gist is that Mack's approach is dualistic and Kant-inspired, which reflects his more hardcore-academic style, while theirs - following Aristotle and Rand - is integrative. Mack's work on this subject began with his own "Egoism and Rights" (1973, The Personalist) and culminating in a series of increasingly technical academic essays over the years; his most developed viewpoint is represented in "On the Fit Between Egoism and Rights" (1998, Reason Papers). The "Dougs" work culiminates in Liberty and Nature (1991) and Norms of Liberty (2006). Their characteristic style and content is represented well in the Reason Papers symposium in the first link above.

My own, article, "Egoism and Rights," (see link in "About Me" to your right) represents the "state of the art" on the subject in an academic format, stated in brief essentials. There are, also, some methodological concerns to address there.

Some relevant background: As I have had a fiercely independent sense of life from very early on, I have staunchly repudiated any forms of authoritarianism or other varieties of unreason, especially when associated in any way with Ayn Rand. I took Rand's central dictum, "Think for yourself," most seriously, and repudiated social metaphysics wherever I saw it. I saw an authoritarianism in the "ARI" brand of promoting Objectivism, which I saw at the time as being against careful, reasoned, dialogue-respecting activity. I took Rand's unscholarly polemics as representative of her overall style of doing philosophy. I was more ready to buy into the picture fostered by the apostates, the Brandens, and then David Kelley. The toxically effective smear-jobs perpetrated by the combination of the Branden accounts was effective at breeding a cynicism that nearly destroyed me (and, I'm sure, many others) in the end. The essential upshot: "If not even this woman lives up to her ideals, so much for ideals." Thanks a lot, Nathan.

Speaking of Nathan, he's a friend of Chris Matthew Sciabarra, editor of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, in which "Egoism and Rights" appeared in 2006. There were things I know now that I did not know at the time. Three significant things in particular: (1) James Valliant's The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics appeared in 2005, and it's like the veil had at last been lifted: You know what, Ayn Rand was pretty darn swell after all, and Nathan is an unspeakably unjust scumbag who single-handedly fueled a culture-wide ad hominem against Objectivism's founder. That man is persona non grata. (2) Evidence of lying and backstabbing behavior in 2006 by Chris Sciabarra against then-friends Diana Hsieh, Lindsay Perigo, and James Valliant, evidence that - to my knowledge - has gone unanswered and unrebutted to this day. (3) A falling-out, in 2006, between yours truly and JARS's associate editor, Robert Campbell, over a series of increasingly stupid things he was saying on public internet forums, debasing JARS's reputation in the process. (Last I checked a few months back, Campbell was spewing some nonsense about me "prostrating [my]self in front of Leonard Peikoff." This is what JARS has been reduced to. Purely coincidentally, the journal is now running well behind schedule.) All this was in addition to the fiasco over at the closely-aligned Objectivist Center (then re-named the Atlas Society), where TOC/TAS's director, David Kelley, a spineless pragmatist, took no stand on the Branden matter (Branden being a TOC/TAS speaker) in the wake of Valliant's book.

Anyway, before that, I was more friendly toward the JARS model, or what I thought it to be. It's respectful, responsible and scholarly dialogue, and as an added bonus, Rand and I win the argument! Also, the culture at ARI today is just different - it just has a different feel, sense-of-life even - than it was back in the days of Schwartz and his emulators. Less of an insular, sectarian, authoritarian and social-metaphysical vibe given off to the wary fiercely-independent type. (After all, these folks were quite terribly ignorant about Mack and the Dougs. I just fucking hate ignorance.)

Here's another piece of the puzzle: I'm one of the "fortunate" few to meet the following criteria: (1) Familiarity with academic-style philosophy; (2) Familiarity with Ayn Rand's ideas; (3) Familiarity with Leonard Peikoff's lecture courses; (4) Familiarity with Mack and the Dougs' work; (5) Background in economics; (6) Lots of intellectual curiosity. Combined, these put me in select company. A close match (to say the least) for all these criteria is Chris Sciabarra. The guy knows his stuff, whatever else you say about him - even if the stuff is presented in the terrible jargon and style of academia, which it is. Well, what finally got me interested in Peikoff's courses is their inclusion in the massive bibliography to Sciabarra's Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical (1995). From Peikoff, I was introduced to the history of philosophy - most wonderfully, to Aristotle - and then to the advanced courses in Objectivism. Those courses center around methodology.

Methodology was Sciabarra's central focus in writing Russian Radical; he thinks that Hegel and Marx have some useful insights on this subject. (For the kind of anti-dialoguing I instinctively rebelled against, there's John Ridpath's unfairly brutal "review" of the book in the ARI-aligned Intellectual Activist. If the only criterion were the presentation style, then he'd be spot-on. If it's that similarities to thinkers like Marx or Hegel are too preposterous to take seriously, then he needs an argument in the face of Sciabarra's evidence, and he never gives one. That's why I fucking hated the "accepted ARI style" of the time.) It's not surprising that any number of thinkers could all touch upon a similar point, when they've given such matters so much of their intellectual attention. Rand had a systematic approach to thinking, like Hegel did. There's something to be learned from that as we differentiate and integrate concretes like Rand, Aristotle, Plato, Hegel, Kant, Marx, etc. Ignoring the relevant similarities is a pro-ignorance strategy, and I just fucking hate ignorance.

Anyway, my intellectual curiosity led me to the Peikoff courses despite his Branden-and-Kelley-fostered image as an authoritarian cultist. The courses were, in time, a saving grace intellectually, on many levels. What the courses do show is that Rand's methodology is as sound as it needs to be, without ever having needed Hegel or Marx's dialectical methods to amplify or explain thing further. Anyone who knows Rand knows that she came up with a shit-ton of identifications independently of other thinkers; that's just how she rolled. What we don't get from Hegel or Marx is a path to a theory of induction. With Aristotle, of course, the similarities to Rand are much greater; the approach taken by the (neo-Aristotelian) Dougs is very close methodologically to Randian-Peikoffian integration. Plenty of other Rand scholars and Aristotle scholars have noted the deep similarities as well. In the Sciabarrian scheme, it only makes sense to mentally organize the concretes so that Aristotle has a lot higher "similarity-score" to Rand than do Hegel or Marx. Unfortunately, this is not an effect of the style and presentation of Russian Radical.

So, familiarity with the ideas of Mack, the Dougs, Rand, Peikoff and Sciabarra culminated in my article, "Egoism and Rights." This emerged from another, longer, unpublished piece trying to cover a lot more ground in limited space, the subject being ethics and how the concept of integration (e.g., theory-practice, fact-value, individual-social) applies there. Integration as a basic thematic and methodological concern made JARS a very friendly venue. Sciabarra's framing of the integration-theme was "a revolt against dualism." One result of a revolt against dualism is a revolt against Kant-emulating academic style, a product of rationalism, which is one fork of the rationalist-empiricist dichotomy that Peikoff spent most of Understanding Objectivism railing about. "Egoism and Rights" took one such example of academic dualism - in essence, "Rand is either a deontologist or consequentialist; She is an egoist; Egoism is consequentialist; Consequentialism is incompatible with rights; Therefore, egoism is incompatible with rights" - and subjected it to methodologically-informed refutation. Lost in that whole rationalistic deduction from a false alternative was Rand's actual views, which could be had by reading her own actual descriptions and depictions of egoistic behavior.

One methodological issue I want to mention here conerns what might have led me to state certain points the way I did. One thing that does not sit well with me now is how I talk about the rightful beneficiary of action being a derivative or less fundamental issue than the standard of value. The correct view would be to develop those points in unison - as Rand did. It would be correct to say that both the issue of the standard of value and the issue of the beneficiary are distinct conditions which both have to be met for judging a moral action or principle, but that neither condition precedes the other hierarchically. Perhaps a harmless-looking mistake to treat their relation as I did, but I'm a perfectionist, see, and harmless-looking little things can be insidious and damaging long-run. Much as I was on an "integration"-thematic kick at the time, it wasn't so well integrated with other, related methodological subjects - hierarchy, essentializing, reduction, context. Integration isn't done for its own sake, after all, but to aid in sound cognition and practical action.

Also, in the time since I wrote "Egoism and Rights," my concerns have shifted more toward the fundamental area Rand eventually shifted focus to - epistemology. The ethics stuff is a piece of cake by comparison at this point; of greater interest is how the ethics integrates with the whole hierarchical system of thought. (An epistemological-practical thematic unity I picked up on in the process: perfectionism.)

For its purpose, however, "Egoism and Rights" succeeds remarkably, through an essentializing, straightforward style (by academic-journal standards), considerable familiarity with Objectivist method, and a pretty much irrefutable take on Rand's "new concept of egoism." (This was well before I ever even noticed the extreme similarities between Rand's and Norton's eudaemonisms. Eudaemonism, of course, necessitates rights.) Even if it gets hierarchy wrong at a point, the important points still get out there.

More observations about "Egoism and Rights" as or when they occur...