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Is Ayn Rand's philosophy corrupted?

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Guest ZAC D.

Did Rand started out liking Nietzche? If so, Does her system still contain a lot of Nietzche although objectivist have denied it since the 1960's when they began publishing "philosophy"? Were there several other Marxist/Anarchist philosophers she borrowed freely from but never acknowledged?

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Rand is in the Aristotelian tradition, and acknowledged her debt to Aristotle and Aquinas. Another Aristotelian with similar views in the political room (though distinctly different) is Murray Rothbard. I don't know about Nietzche. Aquinas and Aristotle are the biggest influences on her, from what I can tell from her writings. What does it matter though? How would her being inspired by another philosopher, or adopting some of their ideas (in somewhat modified form) as her own, corrupt the philosophy? If it is internally consistent and refers to the real world (as opposed to being some rationalist circle-jerk, which it isn't), then the philosophy is true and not "corrupted" in any way.

With your quotes surrounding "philosophy" in your post, I surmise that you are not an Objectivist, or even remotely interested in Objectivism, as it is not philosophy, in your opinion. Might I ask why you're here?

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Guest ZAC D.

How can you not know about her Nietzcheian early years? You don't think taking from Marxists and Anarchist philosophers and incorporating their ideas into a new philosophy is a problem? What am I doing here? I'm asking questions about her philosophy because I haven't decided if I am going to be one or not yet.

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I'm asking questions about her philosophy because I haven't decided if I am going to be one or not yet.

What influenced Rand is really a separate issue from her philosophy. You can decide for yourself whether every single word she wrote is true, or not, by using your own judgement and investigating in anything you might not understand. You can do the same thing with any philosopher.
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How can you not know about her Nietzcheian early years? You don't think taking from Marxists and Anarchist philosophers and incorporating their ideas into a new philosophy is a problem?

Yes, Rand was influenced by Nietzsche in her earlier years. This is very obvious if one reads her journals, particularly the notes for her project "The Little Street". She acknowledges the influence - and it's limits - in the introduction to the 25th anniversary edition of "The Fountainhead". But you have to keep those limits in mind. Rand was attracted to Nietzsche in her youth because he was one of the very few seeming defenders of the individual she had found in the western intellectual tradition. But as she matured intellectually she found his philosophy fundamentally flawed and she rejected it. What she 'took' from Nietzsche was his poetic reverence for the potential of man. What she rejected were the mystical and irrationalist ideas on which he based that reverence. Rand found a better basis in Aristotle, and built on that.

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If two philosophers come to the same conclusions it says nothing about their methods. Ayn Rand advocated sticking to what you know about a non-contradictory reality and not getting bogged by the imaginations and demands of others (mysticism and altruism). If Rand, Obama, and Hitler all agree on a philosophic point it does not mean that the three people hold the same philosophical system. If you've read Atlas Shrugged and would like to study Objectivism further you should see Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, The Virtue of Selfishness, and Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (available at the library/bookstore).

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Who were the Marxists and Anarchist philosophers she was influenced by and incorporated their ideas into her new philosophy?

I am curious about this.. There are continuous mentions of Marxist and Anarchist influences. I was well aware of Nietzsche, Aristotle and Aquinas, as well as that she liked one or two of Dostoevsky's works (although I believe that was more for recreational amusement, she never suggested nor would it make any sense for her to have incorporated any of his philosophy, and she most certainly didn't from what I can tell). I am not sure who you are referring to, because her philosophy from beginning to end is quite against the notions supplanted by Marxists or Anarchists of any flavor.

Edited by CapitalistSwine
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How can you not know about her Nietzcheian early years?

That is a very poorly thought out question. Never assume that anyone has perfect knowledge.

You don't think taking from Marxists and Anarchist philosophers and incorporating their ideas into a new philosophy is a problem?

You are arguing that because something that is bad came up with something that is good, the good cannot actually be good. This is a fallacy.

One can reach the right conclusions using the wrong premises, which makes the argument flawed, and the conclusion certainly is invalid in that context - but that does not make the conclusion invalid universally.

Example: Christians concluded that the Golden Rule (to borrow a colloquialism) of "Treat others as you wish to be treated" was good because their God told them it was. We conclude the same thing because we evaluate ethics from a rational perspective, grounded in reality. Since there are no contradictions, The Golden Rule cannot be both right and wrong, thus we can only conclude that the Christians are right in their belief in the Golden Rule, but got there the wrong way.

Similarly, if Marxist and Anarchist philosophies have certain elements within them which are actually valid, it's the same thing - they got something right, the wrong way.

Slaves got the pyramids built. The pyramids are an awesome piece of work. They were still built the wrong way.

To apply the analogy to modern day - we often hear arguments that Government can do X better than the Free Market, and sadly we have some O'ists who argue that Gov't can do NOTHING as well as the Free Market. Neither is true - Gov't can do some things very very well. Take, for example, the national and state highway systems we have. Excellent roads, well built (generally) and well maintained. The Government does a GREAT job with roads. But they still shouldn't be doing them - because it's not moral for Government to do anything but protect individual liberties, and the way Government builds roads is via exploitation.

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http://archives.econ.utah.edu/archives/marxism/1999w35/msg00046.htm

Here's what I was refering to. It's a short read.

Noam Chomsky, as a young man, wrote an essay annihilating every semblance of a point in one of BF Skinner's books. Ayn Rand read that essay, and rightfully praised it. BF Skinner's behaviorist theories are anti-reason and monstrous.

But one essay, in the New York Review of Books, stood out from the rest: "After a collection of this kind, it is a relief to read.... The essay is neither apologetic nor sentimental. It is bright and forceful. It is a demolition job. What it demolishes is Mr. Skinner's scientific pretensions—and, to this extent, it is a defense of science..." (1972, 10:3-4).

The author of the essay was Noam Chomsky (1971), one of the architects of the Cognitive Revolution. Rand applauded Chomsky for taking Skinner's doctrine of operant behavior and reinforcement and turning it on Skinner's decision to write and publish his book. Chomsky concluded that Skinner's own theory could make no sense of Skinner's writing Beyond Freedom and Dignity, of anyone else's reading it, indeed of any attempt at persuasion whatsoever. What sort of "reinforcer" is reading Skinner's book? What sort of operant behavior does it increase or decrease the probability of? The behavior that led up to reading the book, no matter what that was? "The reviewer employs one of the best methods of dealing with a false theory: he takes it literally" (Rand 1972, 10:4).

Source: http://hubcap.clemson.edu/~campber/randcogrev.html

She did not endorse Chomsky's Marxist and Libertarian views in any way, at the time she wasn't even aware of them, she simply praised his attack on Skinner's nonsense. What's wrong with that?

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Who were the Marxists and Anarchist philosophers she was influenced by
Marx himself for example. He had a huge negative influence on her philosophy, serving as a reductio ad absurdum of Kat's framework.
and incorporated their ideas into her new philosophy?
None; rather, she incorporated the opposite of their ideas into her philosophy.
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Rand was attracted to Nietzsche in her youth because he was one of the very few seeming defenders of the individual she had found in the western intellectual tradition. But as she matured intellectually she found his philosophy fundamentally flawed and she rejected it. What she 'took' from Nietzsche was his poetic reverence for the potential of man.

I agree. I enjoy reading Nietzsche, his "poetic reverence" as you say, is precisely why. Its like hes grabbing you by the shoulders and shaking you saying "do you UNDERSTAND me?". His descriptions of his "superman" are great, its easy to see that Rand was inspired by this, although he held that the superman doesnt exist yet. Theres a passage in "Will to Power" (I think) that is eerily similar to a part of Rands essay "Mans Rights", Im at work, Ill look it up later if anyone is interested. As to the "corruption" issue, I agree with Greebos earlier post.

j..

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Slaves got the pyramids built. The pyramids are an awesome piece of work.

I hate to nitpick, and this is a bit off topic, but this is a bit inaccurate.

The picture of thousands of slaves building the pyramids is an incorrect one, at least based on what we know now:

http://harvardmagazine.com/2003/07/who-built-the-pyramids

However the rest of your argument is sound.

Zac D, you use the word "corrupted." How much Nietzche have you actually read to be able to say Nietzche is corrupt? Are you basing your question on the fact that others have read/written, or are you personally familiar with the writings of Nietzche.

I feel this is important and I am glad you brought it up. The first philosopher I read in great depth was Nietzsche, after I stumbled upon The Basic Writings of Nietzsche in the bookstore. He is very misunderstood by the vast majority of people. It also doesn't help that his Nazi approving sister (which he loathed just as much as Nazism) edited his unfinished work that he wrote before his destabilization and death, and then published it, "The Will to Power", to subtly support Nazism, and therefore largely cannot be considered cannon.

Edited by CapitalistSwine
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She did not endorse Chomsky's Marxist and Libertarian views in any way, at the time she wasn't even aware of them, she simply praised his attack on Skinner's nonsense. What's wrong with that?

Er, she actually was aware of Chomsky's political views. In the very same article you reference, Rand wrote: "There are many other notable passages in that review. But its author is Noam Chomsky who, philosophically, is a Cartesian linguist advocating a theory to the effect that man's mental processes are determined by innate ideas--and who, politically, belongs to the New Left."

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Marx himself for example. He had a huge negative influence on her philosophy, serving as a reductio ad absurdum of Kat's framework.

Why David, you wound me. I haven't even published yet! At least wait until I've got some articles out before we see what the reductio ad absurdum of my framework is!

Kat

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