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Why Is Ayn Rand So Hated?

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The vitriol that I encounter bogels the mind. People who are otherwise pretty level headed will straight up say: "I hate Ayn Rand."

 

While I do not consider myself an Objectivist I am always happy to defend Ayn Rand against the most common objections. But rarely do I get a serious debate. The hatred of Rand seems almost visceral.

 

Why? What it is about Rand that so offends? What makes her taboo among intellectuals?

 

I'll offer what I suspect is a partial answer: There is a long tradition, tracing back at least to Plato, that practical concerns are vulgar and unworthy of serious thought and discussion. Rand stood that on its head validating the pragmatic concerns of ordinary life over the moral preening of those who claim a higher calling. Perhaps that is unforgivable.

 

What is your assessment? What explanations have you heard for hatred of Ayn Rand?

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The basic reason I've concluded as of late seems to stem from egalitarianism and plain old emotionalism.

 

I agree on egalitarianism, that is a strong current in modern culture. But emotionalism is usually rooted in something. People are certainly reacting emotionally to Rand but it's too consistent to be random. And I don't think everyone is so obsessed with egalitarianism though most intellectuals are.

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I haven't encountered that degree of animosity towards her.  What I have heard expressed most often by those who have read (or tried to read Atlas Shrugged) is that her philosophy is bleak.  Like you, I often will engage in discussing those aspects of her work that are being criticized in order to understand what is so offensive to them.  Here is some of what I've encountered:

 

1) Rejection of the idea that those in need are moochers/leaches/parasites.
2) Rejection of the apparent promotion of "Enron" types.
3) Rejection of an unnecessarily antagonistic view of religion and the values it promotes.

 

On the upside, those who get through Atlas Shrugged usually recognize and appreciate the warnings against the use of government to force people to participate in activities they don't agree with, and the overregulation of industries they depend on for work.

 

One interesting aspect to me is that those who really enjoy her work tend to be younger than those, like myself, who are older.  Obama's dismissive comment that Objectivism is for teens who are feeling misunderstood is typical of the kind of criticism I've encountered.

Edited by Devil's Advocate
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My family/friends who don't like Rand seem to think she is *against* emotions, not just very pro-reason.

 

Yes, the "Randroid" thing. I've encountered this in another form: people get very upset at my confidence in the truth of my own beliefs. This rubs against the prevailing realtivist view. So I'm not so much accused of being against emotions as seeming arrogant for not relying upon them.

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I haven't encountered that degree of animosity towards her.  What I have heard expressed most often by those who have read (or tried to read Atlas Shrugged) is that her philosophy is bleak.  Like you, I often will engage in discussing those aspects of her work that are being criticized in order to understand what is so offensive to them.  Here is some of what I've encountered:

 

1) Rejection of the idea that those in need are moochers/leaches/parasites.

2) Rejection of the apparent promotion of "Enron" types.

3) Rejection of an unnecessarily antagonistic view of religion and the values it promotes.

 

A good list.

 

On the upside, those who get through Atlas Shrugged usually recognize and appreciate the warnings against the use of government to force people to participate in activities they don't agree with, and the overregulation of industries they depend on for work.

One interesting aspect to me is that those who really enjoy her work tend to be younger than those, like myself, who are older.  Obama's dismissive comment that Objectivism is for teens who are feeling misunderstood is typical of the kind of criticism I've encountered.

 

It's hard for me to tell if this is a serious criticism or a thinly veiled putdown.

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One interesting aspect to me is that those who really enjoy her work tend to be younger than those, like myself, who are older.  Obama's dismissive comment that Objectivism is for teens who are feeling misunderstood is typical of the kind of criticism I've encountered.

 

In rebuttal of your Prez, those younger Objectivists are certainly going to find that it's when they're older that they need the philosophy most of all.

 

I agree also with Jaskn, that Objectivism is all that stands in opposition to egalitarianism, the explicit consequence of the altruism-collectivism of our times.

Who, after all, is "equal" to whom? By what standards, which qualities: wealth - character - effort? How is it -momentarily- achieved except by guilt and force? I can testify that as far as egalitarianism won't ultimately succeed, to merely attempt it brings everyone to the lowest level, in mutually common contempt and distrust.

 

Heh. Sorry.

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The vitriol that I encounter bogels the mind. People who are otherwise pretty level headed will straight up say: "I hate Ayn Rand."

 

While I do not consider myself an Objectivist I am always happy to defend Ayn Rand against the most common objections. But rarely do I get a serious debate. The hatred of Rand seems almost visceral.

 

Why? What it is about Rand that so offends? What makes her taboo among intellectuals?

 

I'll offer what I suspect is a partial answer: There is a long tradition, tracing back at least to Plato, that practical concerns are vulgar and unworthy of serious thought and discussion. Rand stood that on its head validating the pragmatic concerns of ordinary life over the moral preening of those who claim a higher calling. Perhaps that is unforgivable.

 

What is your assessment? What explanations have you heard for hatred of Ayn Rand?

She completely rejects the implicitly underlying accepted morality and proposes almost the opposite. That rustles feathers. She is also misrepresented in popular culture which is where most people are getting their information about her.

Edited by Peter Morris
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In rebuttal of your Prez, those younger Objectivists are certainly going to find that it's when they're older that they need the philosophy most of all.

 

I agree also with Jaskn, that Objectivism is all that stands in opposition to egalitarianism, the explicit consequence of the altruism-collectivism of our times.

Who, after all, is "equal" to whom? By what standards, which qualities: wealth - character - effort? How is it -momentarily- achieved except by guilt and force? I can testify that as far as egalitarianism won't ultimately succeed, to merely attempt it brings everyone to the lowest level, in mutually common contempt and distrust.

 

This is an interesting point. I do often argue agains egalitarianism and I'm sure you can imagine the squeling this induces.

 

But it is probably more accurate to say that Objectivism is the last remaining opposition to egalitarianism. If you go back in history you will find plenty of non-egalitarian worldviews including, most obiously, caste and class systems. In their view, Objectivists are just holdouts gainst modernity or, worse, counterrevolutionaries trying to turn back the clock.

 

Note also that eglitarianism is more general than collectivism though, in practice, it seeme the former always tends toward the later.

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She completely rejects the implicitly underlying accepted morality and proposes almost the opposite. That rustles feathers. She is also misrepresented in popular culture which is where most people are getting their information about her.

 

What is interesing about this is that she is equally hated by those who are otherwise at each others' throats. (I think the misrepresentation is, first, and effect and not an explanation. People misrepresent that which they hate. The hate comes first at least for the intellectuals who do the original study.)

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This is an interesting point. I do often argue agains egalitarianism and I'm sure you can imagine the squeling this induces.

 

But it is probably more accurate to say that Objectivism is the last remaining opposition to egalitarianism. If you go back in history you will find plenty of non-egalitarian worldviews including, most obiously, caste and class systems. In their view, Objectivists are just holdouts gainst modernity or, worse, counterrevolutionaries trying to turn back the clock.

 

Note also that eglitarianism is more general than collectivism though, in practice, it seeme the former always tends toward the later.

 

Alright, that's a good overview. You may admit though that the modern aspects we face of egalitarianism, are psychological, moral and political, unlike traditional "caste and class" in many ways. That used to be a collectivist elitism based on ethnicity and birth-status, now we are seeing the same poison, collectivism, being diagnosed to 'cure' elitism!

 

"Equality" is a subjectivist falsehood, I'd guess with its roots in religion and the Soul, carried over into secular humanism, I think.

An individual only has to stop and think of the 4+ billion adults in the world, each of whom can do a huge variety of things better than he, has more or less energy and creativity, or a better or worse character - etc, etc -- and all that, at varying periods in his and their lives. It can't compute or compare.

 

But sure, equality is an unquestionable 'article of faith' to whomever one debates with today. Opposing it like this will make one unpopular in many quarters- but you never know - will get some people reviewing their premises.

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Alright, that's a good overview. You may admit though that the modern aspects we face of egalitarianism, are psychological, moral and political, unlike traditional "caste and class" in many ways. That used to be a collectivist elitism based on ethnicity and birth-status, now we are seeing the same poison, collectivism, being diagnosed to 'cure' elitism!

 

"Equality" is a subjectivist falsehood, I'd guess with its roots in religion and the Soul, carried over into secular humanism, I think.

An individual only has to stop and think of the 4+ billion adults in the world, each of whom can do a huge variety of things better than he, has more or less energy and creativity, or a better or worse character - etc, etc -- and all that, at varying periods in his and their lives. It can't compute or compare.

 

But sure, equality is an unquestionable 'article of faith' to whomever one debates with today. Opposing it like this will make one unpopular in many quarters- but you never know - will get some people reviewing their premises.

 

All true, but I think the point is that egalitarians view egalitarian as the historical solution to class and caste (not to mention racism), and anything that threatens egalitarianism as the same as, or as bad as, those. For many income or asset inequality is as bad as a caste system, mobility notwithstanding.

 

Of course, they cannot defend egalitarianism objectively. Instead, they defend it tribally. If you are not an egalitarian you are an outsider, you are a danger to the tribe. You are a legitimate target of hate.

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You guys are lucky. You've actually met people who've heard enough about Ayn Rand to hold an opinion about her. On the only occasion I've ever met someone interested in reading Atlas Shrugged, I recommended he watch the Youtube video interview with Mike Wallace. He was shocked at her statement that "some people don't deserved to be loved." I don't know if he ever finished book. In his case, the objection to Objectivism was on the grounds that it was anti-theist. This particular young man was a self-identifying Christian, a reserve in the National Guard, and an aspiring parent with a Christian fiance`. Indeed, he seemed to be a man of his convictions, and I could understand why Objectivism was not his proverbial cup of tea, but again, I don't recall any expression of hatred toward Ayn Rand, only her statements.

I occasionally encounter very opinionated people expressing support for socialism and/or various forms of collectivism. Rather than invoke the name of an author of whom they've never heard, I offer a defense of individualism, capitalism, and any rational opposition to their egalitarian sympathies. Holding my ground on reason is the easy part. The hard part is knowing that some people reject reason. I believe this is the explanation as to why some people reject Ayn Rand.

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I recently gave a talk on the existence of God and nine distinct points of view that I, an atheist, have identified. At one point during the lecture I quoted Ayn Rand, saying, "An error made on your own is safer than ten truths accepted on faith, because the first leaves you the means to correct it, but the second destroys your capacity to distinguish truth from error" and also "The alleged short-cut to knowledge, which is faith, is only a short-circuit destroying the mind." One member of my audience was a philosophy professor who was also a Baptist minister. Another was a criminal justice professor who recently received his doctorate of divinity. The philosopher asked for the source of my quotes. When I told him that they were from Atlas Shrugged, there was an audible gasp from the audience and then the philosopher leaned toward the doctor of divinity and said with a loud sneer, "Ayn Rand". I thought it was interesting that my quotes were accepted uncritically until their source was discovered. The doctor of divinity told me that he accepts the existence of God as a fact needing no further justification. Ayn Rand's philosophy challenges cherished beliefs of some individuals for which they have no rational justification. Short-circuit, indeed.

 

My mother and father-in-law are not particularly religious but try to denigrate Ayn Rand in the eyes of my son, claiming that her ideas are old, passé, no one of any academic repute gives her any credence, she didn't live according to her own philosophy, she was a bad person, etc. Ayn Rand's philosophy contradicts their left-wing ideology of causeless values obtained mystically through an all-good government. Having both worked for government and receiving fat pensions, governmental virtue is beyond question in their minds. They too have a certain faith, not in God but in government, that is equally pernicious.

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I think Ayn Rand was a victim of her own genius when it came to introducing and conveying her ideas to the "normal" populace. She maybe didn't need some of the mental coaxing that most others need.

I love and appreciate her precise form of communicating. But most, it seems, need a lot of chocolate syrup mixed in there to even approach the medicine from 10 feet back.

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I think Ayn Rand was a victim of her own genius when it came to introducing and conveying her ideas to the "normal" populace. She maybe didn't need some of the mental coaxing that most others need.

I love and appreciate her precise form of communicating. But most, it seems, need a lot of chocolate syrup mixed in there to even approach the medicine from 10 feet back.

 

There is defintely something to this. Although I don't think it's the prevaling motivation for hatred, it certainly applies to professional philosophers and others who hold themselves up as gatekeepers of what is legitimate for the public to discuss and know.

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Imagine that someone showed you that what you think, why you think it, and what you have based your entire life/career/profession upon is actually complete insanity?

 

 

Rand's crucial discovery and public identification of this insanity is essentially why she is hated. 

 

To what extent the hatred emerges from a safe "I feel insulted but she is wrong" honest misapprehension of reality or from a "She seems rights... but I can't believe such a thing .. it would destroy me..." kind of conscious evasion and misdirection of anger, is something I cannot speculate upon, although I suspect both kinds of sources for the hatred exist.

 

 

Of course there may be those who are merely at stage 2 (Anger) of the grieving process, after all, a victim's loss of a once cherished now discovered to be false/fallacious universe given them by cultural/religious/philosophical fraudsters must still be very traumatic, even though the reward of a sane and moral life now becomes possible.

 

 

:)

 

Edit: Had to add the smile... but don't be misled, it's my serious smile.

Edited by StrictlyLogical
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In my experience, people hate Rand because they are too lazy to study her philosophy. For instance Atlas Shrugged is a large novel, parts of it are frankly hard work (Galt's speech, which if you have understood what comes before it, is repetitive and long winded). Most people who hate Rand couldn't read it so they turned to reviews instead.

From the reviews, they will quickly discover the following:

1. Intellectuals reject the philosophy because it is unsound

2. Objectivism is for dog-eat-dog

3. Worships big business

4. Worships money

5. Claims humans are rational when there is a body of proof that we rarely are, even when we think we are.

6. Is pro Israel, pro Imperialism, pro war

7. Rand was a hypocrit for receiving state healthcare

8. Rand hates poor people so hates the majority of human beings

9. Rand made poor decisions in her personal life so her judgment can't be trusted

10. In interviews she refused to address critics who posed questions in a manner Rand objected to, making her appear either evasive or overly sensitive to criticism

11. Rand was rude/harsh to people she met if they didn't accept her first answer to a question

12. Her characters were lacking in warmth or typical emotionality making them robotic

13. She's spawned a cult of religious followers.

14. She's pro unrestricted capitalism

15. She says all animals are stupid, only man can reason

16. She attacked the cause of environmentalism

17. Her views on small government scare dependents

18. She to an extent moved away from republicans, democrats and Christians. This puts her against 99.99999999% of Americans

19. She was against all forms of collectivism, putting her at odds with 99.99999999% of the rest of the world

20. She offended religious people by arguing they have psychological issues

21. She was a poor novelist

22. She was a poor philosopher

23. Her interest in skyscrapers is sexual

24. She admired a psychopath

The list goes on and on. People blindly accept these accusations. Or are scared by being confronted with a reality they never wanted to be shown.

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