Best-Of Advice

On ayn rand

HELP. I’m talking to an Ayn Rand bot. He’s an intelligent human being for the most part, just one of the many that have been sucked up into her selfish little vaccuum of self important motives. What is your opinion of Ayn Rand? What would you say to someone drinking her kool-aid? Much Appreciated.

I’ve said it before. I consider Rand and her philosophy to be the epistemological equivalent of methadone. A controlled dose of objectivism is a hell of a lot better than the dirty street junk most people shoot into their arms, but it’s still no way to live.

No doubt your friend is an intelligent person. Most people who bother to pick up a book these days are above average, and nobody goes hot tubbing with Ayn Rand without first peeling off their Sunday School clothes.

Still, she’s an easy trap. Her philosophy is very simple to grasp, and it’s incredibly satisfying to the ego. It’s candy being sold as health food, so naturally people gobble it up.

At its best, objectivism is a gateway philosophy. It’s epistemology with training wheels, the stuff teenagers read before moving on to the real thing.

At its worst, selfish assholes latch on to her value system of ethical egoism and rational self interest, and they get absolutely giddy with what they perceive to be her rejection of altruism. Their surface interpretation of her moral code gives them every excuse to be narcissistic pricks who pride themselves on taking without giving.

What they fundamentally misunderstand, and to an extent what Rand herself misunderstood, is that an ethical system based on living for the sake of one’s self as opposed to living for the sake of others is completely missing the point. There is no self. There is no other.

Obviously, if you start talking to a selfish asshole about egoless notions of one love or one universal consciousness, he’s just gonna shake his head and think you’re a new-age fruitcake. It’s a total fucking waste of time. After all, using mind-based arguments to try and rationally convince an ego that it doesn’t exist is impossible. This is why you’re gonna have trouble sobering up someone who’s been drinking kool-aid from the Fountainhead.

Still, the fundamental flaw in Rand’s thinking is that she was never able to separate ego from consciousness. She confused and combined those two inherently different philosophical constructs. I’ll spare you her metaphysical hoop-jumping, but her entire world view is based on the faulty ego-biased premise of our isolated individuality.

Sure, we’re each individuals. We’re born, we live, and we die as discrete units of self, but her philosophy places such primacy on egoism that the whole exercise becomes childish. She presents an “every man for himself” mentality, heroizes the individual, and then narratively extends the positive benefits of her philosophy to its illogical yet idealized conclusion.

I’ll happily concede that on a primal level, operating from a position of rational self-interest is perfectly acceptable. The law of the jungle never really ceases to apply, and there is no doubt a certain kind of virtue in selfishness, but none of it will get you higher than the first couple of rungs on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

They say man cannot live on bread alone. Well, man cannot find happiness, much less enlightenment, on rational self interest alone, regardless of how ethical. This isn’t about proving Rand wrong. It’s about showing your friend that objectivism is an incomplete philosophy.

Quite simply, there is more.


One thought on “On ayn rand

  1. Ralph Dratman says:

    That is the first objective reply to Objectivism that I have seen. It is quite convincing, especially the heavy blow you struck with Maslow’s needs.

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