Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Ayn Rand on the anti-conceptual mentality

“As an example of the principle that the rational is the moral, observe that the anti-conceptual is the profoundly anti-moral. The basic commandment of [anti-conceptual] groups, which takes precedence over any other rules, is: loyalty to the group—not to ideas, but to people; not to the group's beliefs, which are minimal and chiefly ritualistic, but to the group's members and leaders. Whether a given member is right or wrong, the others must protect him from outsiders; whether he is innocent or guilty, the others must stand by him against outsiders; whether he is competent or not, the others must employ him or trade with him in preference to outsiders. Thus a physical qualification—the accident of birth in a given village or tribe—takes precedence over morality and justice. (But the physical is only the most frequently apparent and superficial qualification, since such groups reject the nonconforming children of their own members. The actual qualification is psycho-epistemological: men bound by the same concretes.)

“Primitive tribes are an obvious example of the anti-conceptual mentality—perhaps, with some justification: savages, like children, are on the preconceptual level of development. Their later counterparts, however, demonstrate that this mentality is not the product of ignorance (nor is it caused by lack of intelligence): it is self-made, i.e., self-arrested. It has resisted the rise of civilization and has manifested itself in countless forms throughout history. Its symptom is always an attempt to circumvent reality by substituting men for ideas, the man-made for the metaphysical, favors for rights, special pull for merit—i.e., an attempt to reduce man’s life to a small back-yard (or rat hole) exempt from the absolutism of reason. (The driving motive of these attempts is deeper than power-lust: the rulers of such groups seek protection from reality as anxiously as the followers.)” 

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