Sunday, December 21, 2008

Resonant thoughts

From a roundup on video gaming and its artistic sensibilities - something that I did not expect: allusions to libertarianism - a borderline fundamentalist philosophy whose focus is so targeted on the individual that it seems to be slowly destroying our society (IMHO)... from here.
One of the hottest philosophical topics on the internet is Ayn Rand. Her ‘objectivist’ philosophy, positivistic and materialistic and focused on the need to get society out of the way of the genius so that he can get on with his geniusness, is popular with a broad spectrum of alienated semi-young men tapping away at computer screens and dreaming of world domination. Complicating the picture is the fact that she was also the main intellectual influence on her close friend and protégé Alan Greenspan, author of the recent monetary boom we were all enjoying so much until it destroyed the world economy. The only thing which isn’t ridiculous about Rand and her ‘objectivism’ is the number of people who take her seriously. It would be a good time for someone to publish a work of fiction or make a movie going into Rand’s ideas and duffing them up a bit – for instance, imagining what it would look like if a society with no laws were turned over to the free will of self-denominated geniuses.

1 comment:

Roderick Fitts said...


I've been studying Objectivism for about two years now, and I'm a student at the Objectivist Academic Center, this being my second year.

I've never heard of John Lanchester until reading your post, but I'm certain that he has a seriously mistaken impression of what Objectivism is. He claims that Objectivism is:

(1) Materialist and positivist. While Objectivism rejects religion and the Idealist theory that everything is (or ultimately is) spiritual, it also rejects the Materialist claim that everything is made of matter (or ultimately physical in some sense). Essentially, consciousness (the "spirit") observably has different characteristics from the material objects we interact with daily, and so the materialists have no basis for speculating that everything essentially is matter. For a fuller explanation of the rejection, see Leonard Peikoff, "Objectivism: the Philosophy of Ayn Rand," pp. 33-35.

Objectivism also doesn't support positivism; in fact, Ayn Rand is quite critical of logical positivism (a form of positivism) in several of her works, particularly "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology." Specifically, unlike positivism, Objectivism upholds the view that Metaphysics is not an arbitrary field, that introspection is a valid means of gaining knowledge about oneself (and inferring similar facts about others), and that not all knowledge must result from a scientific method (some knowledge, for instance, is self-evident).

Also, his claim about "geniuses," implicitly referencing the novel "Atlas Shrugged," is nothing like the plot or theme of the novel. One of the main points of the novel was to alert the (fictional) world at large of which mistaken ideas were causing all the destruction that people were living through and dying from, and to explain what ideas could save them.

As far as Greenspan: Yes, he was once a student of Ayn Rand's, but he abandoned Objectivism long ago, partly because of errors in the philosophy he saw (see his "Age of Turbulence") and partly because of his growing advocacy of compromise, no matter what value was at stake. Despite Greenspan blaming the current financial and housing problems on businessmen such as bankers, the problem is really government influence in the economy, more broadly termed the current "mixed economy." For evidence of this, ironically, see Greenspan's "Gold and Economic Freedom."

Again, I don't think Lanchester is accurately representing Objectivism in his post, so I would advise checking your sources of information.

Thanks for reading.