Once in a while I will mosey on over to Leonard Peikoff’s site to listen to some of his podcast answers to questions submitted to him. Leonard Peikoff, for those who haven’t encountered every nook and cranny of American thought, is Ayn Rand’s successor. Ayn Rand was the author of Atlas Shrugged and of a quasi-philosophy called Objectivism. Rand was basically a good political thinker with a gift for writing very crisply and clearly, but not really a full fledged philosopher. Her philosophy basically reads as if she read Aristotle and Aquinas – stripped Aquinas’ metaphysics of theology, redefined his own terminology to omit God, and injected the rest with a hot dose of selfishness and capitalistic rigor.
The trapping of the philosophy, the net that gets you, is the coherence of the philosophy within itself. It could serve as a model example of the coherence theory of truth along side Hegel’s. Once you start buying a few of its premises – you could be hooked. Especially if, like me, you’re that logical type person that appreciates a straight line (I now prefer scribbles, thank you). The bait to get you to the hook is her axiomatical structure.
People say that the young are susceptible to her philosophy because it is natural to be selfish, ambitious and immature when you are young. When you are young you want to hear that life is about you, you needn’t think about the needs of others, go out and get that prize that is waiting for you. Now it has, at least, the virtue of putting forth some upstanding virtues for this end: honesty, integrity, hard work, etc, etc.
But this is not, I think, what attracts long-timers. It is the axioms that get you. Once you buy into them you start buying everything else she pulls from them. A is A, who the hell could deny it? Existence exists. Only a philosopher would explicitly deny it! And it hits a young person, a young person is also usually one who hasn’t had 1) a lot of life experience (especially in our cushion-padded society) 2) any philosophic training whatsoever.
Wow, you say, who is this God-like intelligence? Because you don’t know that someone basically already said these very things 2500 years ago. And when you finally do read this gentleman, he’s confusing, hard to read, there’s no explosiveness, its reads as the driest thing you’ve come across since your grandma asked you pumice her shins when you were a lad. And he doesn’t arrive at the same ends as she did. So you think as she did, he, Aristotle, started something…. and then 25 centuries later – that’s how long it took for another philosophical genius of that proportion to come along – she not only finished what he started but corrected all his errors.
Yes, that is in the sales brochure – I kid you not. Humility is not a virtue in Objectivism but a sin, or, rather, a vice. Boastfulness is not an explicit virtue in Objectivism, but, come on, when you’re making claims that you are the heir (and the better) of Aristotle, how are you not boasting? Continue reading