Thursday, December 30, 2010

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 Slate.com - 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?]

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