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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ayn Rand on Dogmatic Objectivists

Here's Ayn Rand giving some tongue-lashing to the dogmatic and cultish Objectivists:

“Philosophy cannot give you a set of dogmas to be applied automatically. Religion does that—and unsuccessfully. The dogmatic Objectivist desperately tries to reduce principles to concrete rules that can be applied automatically, like a ritual, so as to bypass the responsibility of thinking and moral analysis. These are “Objectivist” ritualists. They want Objectivism to give them what a religion promises, namely, ten or one hundred commandments, which they can apply without having to think or judge anything.”

“The purpose of philosophy is to guide a man in the course of his life. Unfortunately, many Objectivists have not fully accepted, concretized, and integrated this principle. For example, in the presence of a given event, work of art, person, etc., too many Objectivists ask themselves, “What do I have to feel?” Instead of, “What do I feel?” And if they need to judge a situation I have not discussed before, their approach is, “What should I think?” instead of, “What do I think?” This is the childhood remnant of anyone who to some extent was influenced either by the religion of the culture or, later in college, by Platonism. Both give the impression that the good, the important, the philosophical are like church on Sunday: you use them on special occasions, but they have nothing to do with your daily life. If any part of this attitude remains in you, it is important to eliminate it.”

“For example, someone submitted to The Objectivist a movie review that was chaos. I could not tell whether the author was reviewing a movie or preaching Objectivist morality. The two aspects were totally unintegrated. He would say something about the movie, and then start into a diatribe on the evil of presenting such people. (It was a gangster movie.) The diatribe was not integrated with what he was saying about the movie. The author thought that you could not review a movie of that sort without making it a platform for Objectivism. Of course, it was unconvincing in regard to the Objectivist slogans he used, and it was unconvincing as a review. He had two intentions: to say what he wanted about the movie, and to fulfill his “duty” to Objectivism. Well, that was the attitude at the height of the Middle Ages, when nothing was permitted except what led to the greater glory of the Church.”

“It is not the duty of an Objectivist writer to smuggle in something to the glory of Objectivism, along the lines of waving the flag or a cross. When you write an article in which you evaluate cultural phenomena rationally, you do more for Objectivism than you could in any other form—even if you never mention reason, man, his means of survival, or any other Objectivist bromides which ritualistic “Objectivists” too often use inappropriately.”

“If, for example, you are an advocate of individualism, and you suddenly observe that you write like a collectivist, that is all right. That has taught you something; you have material that you can correct. But to sit in fear, thinking: “I believe in Objectivism with all my soul, but what if the printed page shows me to be a monster?”—is to take a mystical approach, which indicates that you do not understand free will. There is nothing wrong in having “demons.” What is wrong is evading them and doing nothing about them.”

“Some people think that when they write, they must practice Objectivist “company manners.” Such a person guards his subconscious, because he worries that if he let himself go he might write improperly. Nothing could be better calculated to stop you from writing. In fact, the opposite premise is necessary. When you write, you must trust your subconscious, and more: you must allow your subconscious to be the sole authority in the universe. Otherwise you cannot write. This does not mean that man is only the subconscious and that the conscious mind does not count. It is the mind that uses the subconscious. But the subconscious is a programmed computer, and if it is programmed incorrectly, there is no way for you to write if you repress your machine.”

“In fact, if you have written some bad sentences, or expressed some wrong ideas, the conclusion should be not that your subconscious has demons, but you did not think though the subject carefully and that your subconscious is fallible. But you are there to correct the mistake. Again, there is nothing wrong in making mistakes. What is wrong is not correcting them.”

Friday, September 11, 2015

175 word sentence John Stuart Mill’s The Subjection of Women

John Stuart Mill has penned this 175 word sentence in the Chapter One of his The Subjection of Women:

"If the authority of men over women, when first established, had been the result of a conscientious comparison between different modes of constituting the government of society; if, after trying various other modes of social organisation — the government of women over men, equality between the two, and such mixed and divided modes of government as might be invented — it had been decided, on the testimony of experience, that the mode in which women are wholly under the rule of men, having no share at all in public concerns, and each in private being under the legal obligation of obedience to the man with whom she has associated her destiny, was the arrangement most conducive to the happiness and well-being of both; its general adoption might then be fairly thought to be some evidence that, at the time when it was adopted, it was the best: though even then the considerations which recommended it may, like so many other primeval social facts of the greatest importance, have subsequently, in the course of ages, ceased to exist.”

HT: Stephen Hicks 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

How to Judge a Political Candidate? by Ayn Rand

In view of the general confusion on this subject, it is advisable to remind prospective voters of a few basic considerations, as guidelines in deciding what one can properly expect of a political candidate, particularly of a presidential candidate.

One cannot expect, nor is it necessary, to agree with a candidate’s total philosophy — only with his political philosophy (and only in terms of essentials). It is not a Philosopher-King that we are electing, but an executive for a specific, delimited job. It is only political consistency that we can demand of him; if he advocates the right political principles for the wrong metaphysical reasons, the contradiction is his problem, not ours.

A contradiction of that kind, will, of course, hamper the effectiveness of his campaign, weaken his arguments and dilute his appeal — as any contradictions undercut any man’s efficacy. But we have to judge him as we judge any work, theory, or product of mixed premises: by his dominant trend.

A vote for any candidate does not constitute an endorsement of his entire position, not even of his entire political position, only of his basic political principles…

It is the basic — and, today, the only — issue by which a candidate must be judged: freedom vs. statism.

If a candidate evades, equivocates and hides his stand under a junk-heap of random concretes, we must add up those concretes and judge him accordingly. If his stand is mixed, we must evaluate it by asking: Will he protect freedom or destroy the last of it? Will he accelerate, delay, or stop the march towards statism?

Ayn Rand in The Objectivist Newsletter, March 1964