Sunday, April 20, 2008

"What turned you off of Objectivism?"

The title of this post came from a question asked on the "AynRandContraHumanNature" blog. I know there are basically two answers, one coming from the ex-Objectivist being asked and the other coming from his ex-friends whose personal individualities are still enmeshed in the movement and the aura of Ayn Rand's beliefs. Those who have left the movement will relate various reasons for the break. But those still in the movement think they know the real reason: there is some deep flaw in the ex-Objectivist's premises so profound that not even Objectivism can root it out.

What amazing mind-readers.

I know for me it started slowly, over time. The first awareness I have of breaking away (although I didn't see it coming at that time) occurred when curiosity drove me to find a wider historical context for Objectivism; but it didn't seem to fit in anywhere, it resisted labeling beyond itself. And so the system (such as it is) kind of just hung in mid-air attached to nothing, originating nowhere. This was intellectually dissatisfying, and so Objectivism slowly turned from the focus of my life to an anomaly to be studied from afar, like an insect.

The process was aided along by my eventual realization that Rand and Peikoff were light-years away from an understanding of Immanuel Kant, "the most evil man in mankind's history." Their critique of Critique is so deeply flawed that there is no hope for it. Even Kant's harshest critics do a better job of critiquing than both Rand and Peikoff combined, whose Kant sound-bites were carefully hand-selected and aimed at an audience of converts willing to swallow it all hook, line, and sinker; or simply to those who despise grandiloquent systems of thought anyway, having so recently had them rammed down their throats in college.

Ayn Rand, a philosopher who wrote and spoke about Reality and A is A, had little idea about reality around her. Her break with reality became more evident with the passage of time, culminating in Atlas Shrugged, a novel which is ingenius yet utterly ridiculous, sane in its utter insanity, and gigantic in inverse proportion to the philosophy it attempts to put forth. In this work Rand portrayed a world ripped out of the romantic 19th century and flung into the 20th, consisting of a combination of dazzling, newfangled technology bordering on and then acquiring the status of science fiction, and old-fashioned chutzpah in which politicians sound like 1920s gangsters and leaders of industry behave more like fantasy adventurers of yore. And although Rand admits that this is all dramatization designed to pique the interest of potential fans, and that she never expected anyone to actually recite the oath of egoism ("I swear, by my life and my love of it..."), one begins to wonder how much she really understood that to be the case. Because, in her later essays, characterizations of real people, politicians and such, sadly begin to resemble characterizations from one of her fantasy dramas.

Even more sad is the plight of those whose egos, once their own, are still caught up in the philosophy of a dead cult-leader, having sacrificed their minds and souls to a goddess who most likely did not originally intend to take on such status, but when she did, played it to the hilt and then some.

1 comment:

Neil Parille said...

I guess like many people it was when I realized that Rand's critique of other philosophers wasn't fair.