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New York Times article on Ayn Rand

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bnittoli
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I have commented on some of the other articles that have have sprouted surrounding her birthday on My Webpage. I will probably pull this one apart tomorrow. Any comments private or public regarding my content is appreciated. As I have previously stated many times, I am new to Objectivism and do not wish to misrepresent it. However, because it is a value to me, or even the value to me, I do not wish to let the nonsense go unanswered. Esp. since writing about it helps me to apply it and therefore to understand it more fully. I hope this isn't taken as an advertisement solely for my site. I really mean to just thank you for the tip on this article and open myself to constructive criticism from people who's values coincide with mine but who might be better integratged/more knowledgable on the subject.

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The only redeeming part of that article is the sketch of Frank Lloyd Wright's unbuilt design for Ayn Rand's home.  I had never seen that before  :ninja: .

Me, neither! I was never aware of any such connection between the two. (I've also gotta agree that that picture is the only redeeming part of the article.)

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This article is what I call "selectively well-researched". I mean, the author seems to know a lot about Ayn Rand, her novels, and her life - but he keeps deliberately ignorant of very well documented facts...

Like this quote:

Perhaps Rand really believed democracy was hopeless and wanted a government ruled by such men. Perhaps she never really cared about working any of this out. Or perhaps, in the end, she really didn't know what she wanted.

Perhaps? You couldn't ring the Ayn Rand Institute and ask for an overview of all that Ayn Rand wrote about democracy? She couldn't be more clear about her views, and the alternative she offered.

And, of course, the insinuation about her friends and collegues somehow being a cult, we couldn't pass that one out. Jerk.

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This is sort-of on topic. I have Ayn Rand on google news alert because of the number of articles that have been written in light of her birthday. I found this one:

http://www.canadianchristianity.com/cgi-bi...es/050202briefs

I found it rather odd that a Christian site would have an article about her (however brief) especially one that isn't a bashing. :huh:

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I finally got around to this article, and I was going to post a little about it on my blog. My main purpose being to clarify what a second hander is, since the author lumps them as "ordinary workers like most of us". I didn't have my Lexicon handy when I wrote this to see if she had definitions I could quote, but I'm going to post what I have written so far here, and maybe you all can tell me if I am wrong about something or need to change or clarify before I post it to the web:

In Edward Rothstein's article on Ayn Rand, he takes a kind of pragmatic and trajic view of both Romanticism and Ayn Rand. He seems to regard her with some degree of respect, although he doesn't seem to fully understand her concepts. These are not the trivial dreams of a "subtle philosopher". Perhaps when he read her (if in fact he did, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt here) there were not as many other resources for exploring her philosophy. While I'm no expert I have benefitted from her own explanations of her philosophy in works such as Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology , The Voice of Reason , and The Ayn Rand Lexicon , not to mention Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand , by Leonard Peikoff, which I plan to start tonight. So to me this author's statement:

"Did Rand really believe that the world should be run by such creators while second-handers (ordinary workers like most of us) humbly deferred? "

among others, makes me believe that his knowledge of her work is only a superficial "first blush" impression.

It is certainly not Rand's position that "ordinary workers like most of us" should be "humbly deferred". To my understanding, her work encourages everyone to take responsibility for themselves. Second-hander therefore refers to those who try to gain at the expense of everyone or anyone else. It is possible that most of Mr. Rothstein's audience are second-handers, but that is by their choice, and does not have anything to do with being an "ordinary worker".

Ayn Rand did support meritocracy, but she believed each individual man had the means to be his own personal best, and that is more important than your super hero status. Or more clearly, any man has the potential to be a hero, and his status as such depends on the amount of effort he exerts in pursuit of his highest values, which Ayn Rand said ought to be life-oriented, reality based, and reasonable. This gives each individual "ordinary worker" the ability to rise above the "ordinary" should he so choose.

She strips man of the limits of determinism and cultural handicap, and that I think is what upsets most people. They are so comfortable within their limits, that the thought of being expected to accomplish more makes them bitter and angry. But Ayn Rand doesn't propose to strip people of their right to be the lowest underachiever. Rather she defends the individual unilaterally, unless he attempts to harm someone else. However, she certainly does advocate not letting these underachievers be the ones to run everything. It is important to note though that second handers rely on others for things they are capable of getting on their own. That is not the same thing as your "ordinary worker".

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before I post it to the web:

Well, this forum is a part of the Web too! ;)

he takes a kind of pragmatic and trajic view
You mean tragic ?

"subtle philosopher"

I wouldn't be surprised if in Rothstein's circles, "good philosophy" = "subtle philosophy." If it isn't nuanced and sophisticated and what not, it cannot be correct...

Second-hander therefore refers to those who try to gain at the expense of everyone or anyone else.
Those with a Lexicon will correct me if necessary, but I think the term has a wider meaning: people who live through other people. So it includes not only people who try to gain from others, but also people who want to prevent others from gaining, even if they themselves lose by doing so. Or people who, like Toohey, make it their career to "collect souls."

She strips man of the limits of determinism and cultural handicap, and that I think is what upsets most people. They are so comfortable within their limits, that the thought of being expected to accomplish more makes them bitter and angry.

I like to think of it this way: Objectivism is like a mirror; when you look into it, it shows you exactly the way you are, without any polite bellifications. If you are fat, the mirror says "You are fat." If you have pimples, the mirror tells you "You have pimples." Objectivism tells you the truth about your ideas and actions; if you got something wrong, Objectivism says "You got that wrong." It is no wonder that welfare recipients, religionists, hedonists, protectionists, and evaders of all sorts hate the thought of having to look into this mirror!

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Well, this forum is a part of the Web too! ;)
Yes I know :P I should have said "to my blog"
You mean tragic ?
Yes, I caught that in my version on the blog but not on here in time :P
I wouldn't be surprised if in Rothstein's circles, "good philosophy" = "subtle philosophy." If it isn't nuanced and sophisticated and what not, it cannot be correct...
But that doesn't change the tone of what I'm saying does it? It still points it out right?
Those with a Lexicon will correct me if necessary, but I think the term has a wider meaning: people who live through other people. So it includes not only people who try to gain from others, but also people who want to prevent others from gaining, even if they themselves lose by doing so. Or people who, like Toohey, make it their career to "collect souls."
Yes, point taken, I changed it in my final article to read like that. Of course I say final carefully, I may edit it again, but it's on the blog now.
I like to think of it this way: Objectivism is like a mirror; when you look into it, it shows you exactly the way you are, without any polite bellifications. If you are fat, the mirror says "You are fat." If you have pimples, the mirror tells you "You have pimples." Objectivism tells you the truth about your ideas and actions; if you got something wrong, Objectivism says "You got that wrong." It is no wonder that welfare recipients, religionists, hedonists, protectionists, and evaders of all sorts hate the thought of having to look into this mirror!

Yes, the truth hurts. But it's a quick hurt, while evasion is slow torture.
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Here are a couple excerpts. i found them in lexicon, but copy/pasted from the O'st research CD-ROM

reprinted in the new intellectual, The Nature Of The Second-Hander, from a conversation between Roark and his friend Gail Wynand, in which Roark explains what he has discovered about the psychology of those whose basic motivation is the opposite of his own.

"Isn't that the root of every despicable action? Not selfishness, but precisely the absence of a self. Look at them. The man who cheats and lies, but preserves a respectable front. He knows himself to be dishonest, but others think he's honest and he derives his self-respect from that, second-hand. The man who takes credit for an achievement which is not his own. He knows himself to be mediocre, but he's great in the eyes of others. The frustrated wretch who professes love for the inferior and clings to those less endowed, in order to establish his own superiority by comparison .... they're second-handers ....

"They have no concern for facts, ideas, work. They're concerned only with people. They don't ask: 'Is this true? They ask: 'Is this what others think is true?' Not to judge, but to repeat. Not to do, but to give the impression of doing. Not creation, but show. Not ability, but friendship. Not merit, but pull. What would happen to the world without those who do, think, work, produce? Those are the egoists. You don't think through another's brain and you don't work through another's hands. When you suspend your faculty of independent judgment, you suspend consciousness. To stop consciousness is to stop life. Second-handers have no sense of reality. Their reality is not within them, but somewhere in that space which divides one human body from another. Not an entity, but a relation—anchored to nothing. That's the emptiness I couldn't understand in people. That's what stopped me whenever I faced a committee. Men without an ego. Opinion without a rational process. Motion without brakes or motor. Power without responsibility. The second-hander acts, but the source of his actions is scattered in every other living person. It's everywhere and nowhere and you can't reason with him. He's not open to reason. You can't speak to him—he can't hear. You're tried by an empty bench. A blind mass running amuck, to crush you without sense or purpose .... "

from VOS, argument from intimidation.

A social metaphysician is one who regards the consciousness of other men as superior to his own and to the facts of reality. It is to a social metaphysician that the moral appraisal of himself by others is a primary concern which supersedes truth, facts, reason, logic. The disapproval of others is so shatteringly terrifying to him that nothing can withstand its impact within his consciousness; thus he would deny the evidence of his own eyes and invalidate his own consciousness for the sake of any stray charlatan's moral sanction. It is only a social metaphysician who could conceive of such absurdity as hoping to win an intellectual argument by hinting: "But people won't like you!"

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Here are a couple excerpts.  i found them in lexicon, but copy/pasted from the O'st research CD-ROM

"Isn't that the root of every despicable action? Not selfishness, but precisely the absence of a self. Look at them. The man who cheats and lies, but preserves a respectable front. He knows himself to be dishonest, but others think he's honest and he derives his self-respect from that, second-hand. The man who takes credit for an achievement which is not his own. He knows himself to be mediocre, but he's great in the eyes of others. The frustrated wretch who professes love for the inferior and clings to those less endowed, in order to establish his own superiority by comparison .... they're second-handers ....

"They have no concern for facts, ideas, work. They're concerned only with people. They don't ask: 'Is this true? They ask: 'Is this what others think is true?' Not to judge, but to repeat. Not to do, but to give the impression of doing. Not creation, but show. Not ability, but friendship. Not merit, but pull. What would happen to the world without those who do, think, work, produce? Those are the egoists. You don't think through another's brain and you don't work through another's hands. [snip] Second-handers have no sense of reality. Their reality is not within them, but somewhere in that space which divides one human body from another. Not an entity, but a relation—anchored to nothing. That's the emptiness I couldn't understand in people. [snip]Men without an ego. Opinion without a rational process. Motion without brakes or motor. Power without responsibility. The second-hander acts, but the source of his actions is scattered in every other living person. It's everywhere and nowhere and you can't reason with him. He's not open to reason. You can't speak to him—he can't hear. You're tried by an empty bench. A blind mass running amuck, to crush you without sense or purpose .... "

Thanks!! I can use some of that definitely. ;) Thank you for finding it!

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I was particularly interested in this paragraph:

But her villains have the best names, the most memorable quirks, the whiniest or most insinuating voices. At times, Rand even grants them a bit of compassion. Toohey, the Mephistophelean architecture critic in "The Fountainhead," could be her finest creation. And when she argued against collectivism, her cynicism had some foundation in experience: she was born in czarist Russia in 1905, witnessed the revolutions of 1917 from her St. Petersburg apartment and managed to get to the United States in 1926. Her sharpest satire can be found in some of her caricatures of collectivity.

Now I could criticize this paragraph and its content for its rather weak focus on the issue of "fascinating villains." Instead, I note a parallel to what I recall reading in Rand's The Romantic Manifesto- that, in much of Romanticist literature, she found the villains fascinating, but the heroes were often wooden and one-dimensional.

Case in point is the brooding, obsessive villain Javert in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. Also, many of Dostoevsky's villains, from Raskolnikov to Stavrogin offer fascinations of their own and are vividly drawn characters.

Regarding Edward Rothstein's article, it appears to me that he didn't even browse through Rand's most important piece of nonfiction (my opinion), The Romantic Manifesto. Had he done so, as I did, he would have attained a profound understanding of Rand's thought process and philosophy in her literary art. As a result, he might have written something more profoundly insightful than the mediocre overview he tried to foist on the media.

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