Friday, March 18, 2011

When Geniuses Fuck Up

In rummaging around (in the spirit of perfective comprehensiveness) for anything Noam Chomsky said about Ayn Rand, the first and prominent result points to this. Chomsky said:
Rand in my view is one of the most evil figures of modern intellectual history.
As a person fanatically prone to differentiation and integration, my mind went quite quickly to this statement by Ayn Rand:
Kant is the most evil man in mankind’s history.
Both Chomsky and Rand fucked up here. The difference is that Chomsky is just way more clueless about Rand than Rand was about Kant. A further difference, one highlighting the intellectual corruption that pervades the American Left, is that Chomsky gets a free pass from them on fuck-ups like this, while Rand does not. (So much for any pretense by the American Left to an intellectual high-ground.)

To further stress the "integration" theme, can we also say that Kant fucked up with his inescapably radical subjectivism, his radical distinction between appearance and the mysterious thing-in-itself (most obviously blowing up in his face when positing on a compatibility between natural necessity and freedom of the will), and with his flimsy rejection of eudaemonism in ethics?

Rand, of course, provides for a corrective in this matters, by distinguishing errors of knowledge from breaches of morality. Applying that distinction, all three of these geniuses fucked up, but rightful ascriptions of evil to someone requires more evidence than of their having fucked up, or of their having faulty thinking processes (like those that the dualistic/non-integrative and therefore not-very-practically-useful Cartesian-Humean-Kantian - i.e., non-Aristotelian - model of thought encourages).

What is, after all, each thinker's context?

At the least, we can say that Chomsky, on some things, is a flat-out ignoramus who knows not of what he speaks. What remains open is whether Chomsky should easily have known better than to be ignorant of Rand's actual ideas (or of the other prominent libertarian intellectuals Chomsky bashes so boldly in that interview). Rand, for her own part, actually once gave positive mention of a review of Skinner by Chomsky, in "The Stimulus and the Response" (Philosophy: Who Needs It). She qualified her comments by noting that he was part of the New Left. A far cry from the idiocy Chomsky showed in return.

From the way he speaks and analyzes things, Chomsky is clearly brilliant and hits upon a great number of quality insights, but he can also be way in over his head on some matters of which speaks, and he doesn't seem to realize when he's way in over his head, which is an intellectual vice on his part. His antipathy to capitalism has really been insidious and costly to his credibility in matters of social science. And his powers of analysis definitely do not meet or exceed Ayn Rand's. Nor, in political economy, could they hope to match Mises's. That's why he's the Linguist, Mises the Economist, and Rand the Philosopher. But Rand did fuck up about Kant, who also fucked up, and his fuck-up was of greater philosophical significance and insidiousness. (For evidence, see the intellectual state of Europe today, base and ignoble sophists running too and fro, wallowing in a subjectivist paradigm. America's doing what America would do - slowly and surely integrating Aristotle and Aristotelianism, including Randism.) The only one here who hardly ever fucked up at all in his analyses, is Mises, a most perfective thinker. Just so we're clear on all that.

3 comments:

  1. From the way he speaks and analyzes things, Chomsky is clearly brilliant and hits upon a great number of quality insights

    Name one. In that article you linked to, he said nothing to indicate that he was brilliant. In fact, his power of political or philosophic analysis seems crippled.

    I also don't think there is any comparison between Rand calling Kant evil and Chomsky calling Rand evil. Rand had ground to stand on. Chomsky has none.

    Given the destruction that Kant's subjectivism has wrought, I don't see how anyone could fault Rand for making the judgment she made. Kant destroyed objectivity in cognitive realm. His disciples would take the next two centuries waging war against human reason (all the while claiming to be paragons of rationality). There is much blood on Kant's hands.

    But you constantly say that Rand was wrong to condemn Kant. Could you give an argument as to why? I have yet to see you do this.

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  2. Hmmm, I thought I had comments set to "moderated." Anyway, the short answer is that Kant was devastatingly mistaken, but that doesn't make him evil. If you have a clue about Kant - I don't suffer gladly foolishness in any guise - you know that he was approaching his subject matter in the highest spirit of intellectual curiosity given his situation and context of knowledge (which was the modern opposition between Humean empiricism and Leibnizian rationalism). To say that Kant has "blood on his hands," is just fucking stupid, and that's all there is to it. Saying it sounds just as clueless about Kant as the anti-Rand crowd does about Rand. If you want to talk "blood-on-hands," the better target would be Marx, who demonstrably evaded facts about the beneficial effects of capitalism. You might also want to explore the difference between mere ignorance and willful evil; there are a lots of evils that have been perpetrated throughout history, due to ignorance. Absent modern understanding of individual rights, for instance, all kinds of anti-rights crap happened out of ignorance of people's rights. Also, anyone with a clue about Chomsky knows how brilliant a mind he is. Just look up Rand's "The Stimulus and Response." I'd also recommend not engaging in unreasonable burden-assigning that illicitly privileges your preferred side. That's not philosophical, and a typical tactic of the anti-Rand side. At some point you've got to do some thinking yourself and discover the context for why someone would say Chomsky is brilliant. My time is valuable, so do you own studies of Kant, Chomsky, and others, and don't rely on ignorant misrepresentations, distortions, smears, etc.

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  3. You thought you had comments set to moderated? So you could screen comments you don't approve of no doubt. Sad to see you have a blog closed to opposing ideas.

    ". . .that's all there is to it". With a statemnet like that you just exposed yourself as close minded and negated your entire blog.

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