Monday, April 14, 2008

A Recent Conversation

I had this conversation with a fellow actor the other day:

ACTOR: I tried out for this play by Ann Rand.

ME: Ayn.

ACTOR: Ayn. I forgot the title.

ME: Night of January 16th.

ACTOR: Yeah, that's it. I decided not to do it. It's got her philosophy in it.

ME: I know all about it. I'm an Objectivist. I subscribe to her philosophy.

ACTOR: Oh. (Pause.) Yeah, well, it seemed like kind of an old-fashioned play, so I decided not to do it.

I never thought there was much philosophy in the play myself, but it bothered this fellow -- until he learned he was talking to someone from whom he would get neither agreement nor sympathy. Then he switched his objection to the play being old-fashioned, which it is (and that's a good thing).

I think a great deal of the antipathy to Rand comes from people who lack the virtue of independence and go along with our cultural leaders because they don't have the spine to do otherwise. Once Objectivism begins to spread, I suspect there will come a moment when the "go along to get along" types become sympathetic as they see that others have paved the way and made it safe. It will be a watershed moment. Right now altruists on the left and right can still scare the weak into line with a sneer and a contemptuous laugh.


Anonymous said...

"Once Objectivism begins to spread, I suspect there will come a moment when the "go along to get along" types become sympathetic as they see that others have paved the way and made it safe.

And when that happens, my guess is we will very much wish that such people would go back to hating us.

Myrhaf said...

Probably! They won't matter much either way, except as an indicator of cultural progress.

EdMcGon said...

BTW Myrhaf, I'm still reading "Atlas Shrugged". It's long, but it's a good read. I'll do a review of it over on my blog after I'm done with it (Christmas maybe?).

Myrhaf said...

I look forward to reading your review.

cs said...

The ballast will come along.

There's another segment though: much more important. These are people with strong drive and passion for achievement, but who simply adopt the majority view in the realm of philosophy.

If the dominant philosophy changes, they will cater to it.

Bezzle said...

> "Once Objectivism begins to spread...."

You're kidding, right?

I mean really -- dreams that huge carry with them crushing despair once hope implodes at the altar of reality.


The percentage of the population willing to listen to reason is a very low number number which is only modestly budged by hideous calamities doing evolutionary carnage to the genome.

Anonymous said...

Once Objectivism begins to spread

You think it hasn't started yet?

Myrhaf said...

I think it has begun to spread. The philosophy is more known and talked about than it was when I first read Ayn Rand 30 years ago. I should rephrase that to read: Once Objectivism becomes more prominent...

Bezzle said...

It isn't more known and talked about than it was ten years ago.

It's hit its plateau.

"We'll never talk our way out of this." -- Billy Beck

Myrhaf said...

Mike18xx, the world has been changed by philosophy before and it can happen again. It's something that has happened in the past over the course of centuries. Modern communications might speed up the process -- we can hope -- but it's hard to judge the progress of philosophy by a 10-year span.

Bezzle said...

1. Myrhaf, do you think this country is remotely near where it was 230 years ago when Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" swept a nation which didn't have the distractions of television and the internet at its disposal, and wasn't five generations into welfare-socialism?

I've been watching Objectivism for thirty years, not ten. It's a superb philosophy that the overwhelming majority of people do not want because it won't put loot on the table; and they'll act like you have a screw loose when you can't understand that that's what they want. (I mean, weren't you listening when they said they wanted loot?)

2. Maintaining that philosophies change the world is like claiming hammers build roofs. And "change", in the context of political power or its negation, is a euphemism for waging war, not a mere hoping that Machiavellian prices will read one's writings and then change their wicked, wicked ways after the dormant rational-ethics light-bulb clicks on over their heads.

The alleged-by-some-to-exist "contest of ideas" does NOT exist, because ideas by themselves do not "contest" any more than hammers pound nails by themselves. -- What exists are innumerable thieves and thugs and parasites of ever stripe who by and large practice their predations from one end of their lives to the other without more than occasional bleats from their hosts. They've arranged to steal around the clock, while limiting sanctioned outrage to a short period of registered whining to take place on one day every fourth November.

-- All of the best-reasoned epistemology in the world put to print isn't going to "change" that. Mao and Muhammad understood this: swords and guns are what really change the world.

The trouble with contemporary Objectivists is their timidity. Despite being in possession of an ethical philosophy whose logical end impels action to wrest liberty from injustice, retreat into lethargy ("shrugging", or the withholding of one's productivity from a plundered, is, sadly, often merely an excuse for non-productivity to begin with) and pining for havens ("Galt's Gulches") is all they've managed.

It's largely Rand's fault, of course. Can you imagine "Common Sense" calling for shrugging? The Boston Tea Party and Stamp Tax riots, to say nothing of the American Revolution itself, might never have occurred.

Now imagine if the hero of "Atlas Shrugged" were Ragnar instead of Galt.

Anonymous said...


You are arguing for an Objectivist King or an Objectivist Alexander. It can't be done. Ideas when they are accepted by large enough populations move the world and yes that will ultimately involve guns. But the guns aren't the primary. The ideas are.

John Kim

Bezzle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bezzle said...

> You are arguing for an Objectivist King or an Objectivist Alexander.

No; I'm arguing for a Ragnar Danneskjold or Ethan Allen.

> Ideas when they are accepted by large enough populations move
> the world and yes that will ultimately involve guns.

It will necessarily involve them. Evil isn't talked out.

> But the guns aren't the primary. The ideas are.

The fallacy of that is the unspoken assumption that the ideas aren't already prevalent. Anyone who wants them can find them, and especially so when pretty much all that's been written is a few mouse-clicks away.

Thomas Rowland said...

The idea that Objectivism is no more talked about or supported than it was 30 years ago or that it has reached its plateau needs some evidence to back it up.

My own impression, which is only one piece of evidence, comes from recent viewing of CNBC. Granted, a target audience. Granted lots of negative as well as positive. But talk, nonetheless. Most importantly, it is Ayn Rand that has become associated with Laissez-faire and the value of capitalism and freedom.


EdMcGon said...

The bitter irony is that rational self-interest is the one thing standing in the way of the spread of Objectivism. As long as the status quo does not CLEARLY impede their lives, the average person will not consider Objectivism out of their own rational self-interest.

Of course, most people with half a brain could see that the growth of government is sucking the economic life out of our country, but most people aren't smart enough to see that. But their own rational self-interest, as limited as it is by their low intelligence, does dictate they maintain the status quo. Unfortunately, when they do decide change is needed, their low intelligence will direct their rational self-interest in the wrong direction (i.e. bigger government).

Anonymous said...

I'm inclined to partly agree with mike and with edmcgon, in that I don't think that the switchover will happen "cleanly". There is a lot of pain in our future in the best of likely scenarios -- and that there will be a lot of conflict around it. Don't think for a moment that Objectivists won't attract a lot of violent attention from Left and Right alike when we reach critical mass.

That being said, I disagree with Mike's characterization of ideas as inactive means to an end. That is not quite right.

Ideas are to free-will equipped beings what causality is for inanimate matter; they guide everyone's actions the way a road guides the course of an automobile. You can choose the road you travel, your speed of travel, and you can change roads at any time. But so long as you travel that road, it determines your ultimate destination regardless of where you may imagine you are going.

It is this notion of ideological causality which is Objectivism's big and yet not fully developed weapon; the idea that ideas move people and therefore societies in the manner I analogize above, is unknown anywhere else.

Among its biggest implications are: that there is a way to logically determine where a road leads, and therefore what the ultimate destination of every traveller on that road really is, regardless of their stated intentions -- and that if it is possible to determine an idea's logical end-of-road, those who hold that idea are responsible for doing so.

Crying "but I meant to go to New York!" even as the palm trees of L.A. become apparent, will not alter the fact that the road leads to Los Angeles, and that as the driver, you are responsible for arriving there.