Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Ayn Rand: Too Stupid To Be A Philosopher

"It cannot be the case that the only universally valid norm refers solely to discourse. It is, after all, possible for someone to recognize truth-telling as a binding norm while otherwise being guided solely by 'enlightened egoism.' (This is, indeed, the way of life that was recommended by the influential if amateurish philosophizer - I cannot call her a philosopher - Ayn Rand.) But such a person can violate the spirit if not the letter of the principle of communicative action at every turn. After all, communicative action is contrasted with manipulation, and as such a person can manipulate people without violating the maxims of 'sincerity, truth-telling, and saying only what one believes to be rationally warranted.' Ayn Rand's capitalist heroes manipulated people all the time (even if she didn't consider it manipulation) via their control of capital, for example. Indeed, the person who says, 'do what I want or I'll shoot you,' need not be violating any maxim concerned solely with discourse. But it would be a mistake to use such examples as objections to Habermasian 'discourse ethics.'" -- Hilary Putnam, The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy (Harvard University Press, 2002)
See also Lars Syll and, for amusement, Will Wilkinson.


ivanfoofoo said...

Even though I got no sympathy for Mrs. Rand, Lars Syll really attacked a straw man. Many things he said are just false.

John Donohue said...

Correction in order to maintain coherence to the cited maxims of truth-telling etc.: Ayn Rand said "I won't do what you want but I won't let you shoot me."

Magpie said...

This is part of the legend of William Edward Hickman (the "young man" or "the suspect" mentioned in the paragraph below):

"At the rendezvous, Mr. Parker handed over the money to a young man who was waiting for him in a parked car. When Mr. Parker paid the ransom, he could see his daughter, Marion, sitting in the passenger seat next to the suspect. As soon as the money was exchanged, the suspect drove off with the victim still in the car. At the end of the street, Marion's corpse was dumped onto the pavement. She was dead. Her legs had been chopped off and her eyes had been wired open to appear as if she was still alive. Her internal organs had been cut out and pieces of her body were later found strewn all over the Los Angeles area." [*]

Rand was not ashamed of her admiration for Hickman, whom she mentioned with approval for his philosophical depth. Wilkinson admires Rand and follows her philosophy: why should he be ashamed of that?

[*] Most recommended:
"Romancing the Stone-Cold Killer: Ayn Rand and William Hickman", by Michael Prescott. http://michaelprescott.freeservers.com/romancing-the-stone-cold.html


Somehow, I don't think Marx would miss not counting Rand (and perhaps Wilkinson) among his fans.

I know I don't.

John Donohue said...

Ayn Rand despised the person and crime of Hickman. She had zero "admiration for Hickman." In notes in her sketch pad for writing, she pulled ONE TRAIT out of the profile of this person as an echo and meme of a character for whom she was constructing a story. She never published the story.

The trait Rand was abstracting? The intransigence and confident pride of a hero who does not let the hew and cry of the mob intimidate. If you actually understand Ayn Rand's history, you will recognize this trait in Howard Roark, a characcter in a novel she published 20 years later. The character of Roark, complete with indifference to those who would tear him apart, is and has been an inspiration for millions of young people -- and those who do not abandon their youthful vision.

Unlike the left who lionize killers, drug addicts, slackers and louts, Rand spent a lifetime upholding the highest of human aspiration and achievement.

Here is a deeper explanation:

HBinswanger said...

Hilary Putnam was my first philosophy professor (1962, MIT). I would say that he didn't do philosophy, he played intellectual games. (E.g., we discussed whether someone named Mr. Ill-Named would be ill-named.)

I went on to get a Ph.D. in philosophy (Columbia, 1973) and to teach off and on at universities (City University of New York/Hunter College, U. Texas/Austin). My lifetime in philosophy has only strengthened my admiration for Ayn Rand and my agreement with Objectivism.

The fact that Putnam snears at Objectivism as "philosophizing," only shows his contempt for applying philosophy to real life. Fits in with his "Mr. Ill-Named" approach to philosophy as puzzles. (And, yes, I know it's a version of Russell's set paradox--that doesn't make it better.)