Litkicks Message Board Archive

Don't agree with critics / personal inadequacies

Posted to What Are You Reading?

I don't think it's a problem to be "depressed" in the face of "inability to depend on" oneself, if you use that reaction as the important information that it is. The first step in improvement is to realize that there's an area that needs adjustment. And to the extent that Rand's work directly bears on philosophy of psychology, the "projection of an ideal man" (as she put it) provides a template for said improvement. I don't say this out of familiarity with a bunch of other such templates - although I assume they're out there; I'm just pointing out that for improvement to happen, you need a standard of a better condition, so I can see nothing illegitimate about this proposed ideal of hers. To put it another way, if Rand (or another) tells me that having a better ideal would help me accomplish more (in my realization that I haven't accomplished a lot), it wouldn't be productive of me to shoot the messenger.

Also, Rand inevitably ruffles feathers in many ways; people need to get past these stylistic or philosophical clashes with her and dispassionately consider that which she brings to the table. Conservatives tried to derail Marxism for 100 years with personal slights against him, but that didn't slow down the acceptance of Marxism. Similarly, those who complain about Rand's personality don't shed light on any alleged problem with her proposals regarding how concepts are validated. And the supposed issue with a novelist writing philosophy? Sartre did okay with that approach...

Too radical? That describes everybody on this board. But to attempt to conclude on such a huge subject, the things about a thinker that it's hardest to dismiss would be the proposals of that thinker that are unprecedented. I can think of these points (off the top of my head) made by Rand that to my knowledge don't have precedent:

1. As opposed to an ethic of self-sacrifice (cutting one's own throat for others) or an ethic of domination (cutting others' throats for self as in Nietzsche [sp?]), she proposes to eliminate sacrifice from the ethical equation in favor of mutual exchange to mutual benefit.

2. Philosophy's "problem of universals" can (she submits) be answered by explaining concepts as being connected to perceptual reality via consideration of salient features of examples with the particulars (as in specific measurements) left out. The source of our ideas (here, concepts) is, according to -

Plato - up there
Aristotle - down here
Kant - (pointing to head) in here
Rand - out there (based on identifications "in here" according to a preKantian conception of reason she specifies as having been derivative of Aristotle).

This is an almost criminal chopdown of a very long discussion it's nessecary to have (I have to get to a meeting in 20 min.), but whaddaya want? Next, somebody'll bring up world hunger or the problem of evil... DOH!

(Epilog: this elaboration took us rather far afield of the novel in question, but that's where this person takes the reader. Like Sartre and some others, Rand is somewhat unsatisfied with the stating of a viewpoint in the form (to rip off the Monty Python version of Descartes) "Rule #1, Rule#2..."; qua novelist, the preferred approach here is to take competing perspectives, assign them to characters and quite literally have these personalities fight it out. It's here seen that the novel can help us apprehend the differences that competing ideas can make in the lives of individual human beings.)