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No, They Can’t!

March 23, 2010

Objectivism is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute…

A blog commenter named Ed B asked me to comment on the article of a blogger named Vladimir Shlapentokh. This blogger

"The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me."

"The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me."

wrote a critique of Ayn Rand’s philosophy and her contempt for “most economic institutions,” Immanuel Kant, and democracy. In his blog entitled Ayn Rand Today: The Enemy of Collectivism and Democracy, Vladimir Shlapentokh, wrote: “She totally ignores the importance of most economic institutions, such as the financial system and the stock market, even though without which the most simple market economy cannot function.”

At first glance, I thought Vladimir Shlapentokh truly understood the very reason (epistemological, metaphysical and ethical) why Ayn Rand utterly disliked collectivism and democracy.

Here is my comment on the blog article of Vladimir Shlapentokh:

It is wrong to assume that Ayn Rand totally ignored the importance of financial system and stock market. She was a fierce critic of statism and government controls and regulations. During her lifetime, she criticized government interventionist policies that were destroying the very foundation of the United States of America. As an advocate of honest money system, she exposed the immorality and evil of the Federal Reserve System that created and continues to create money out of nothing today. According to her, “those pieces of paper, which should have been gold, are a token of honor—your claim upon the energy of the men who produce” (better read the “money speech” of Francisco D’Anconia in Atlas Shrugged and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, particularly the article written by Alan Greenspan (Gold and Economic Freedom) who has now become the enemy of reason.)

The financial system and stock market must be governed by free market principles and not by political edicts and statist rules and regulations issued by government regulators. In a true capitalist society, government controls are no longer necessary because the market or system itself serves as the best form of control. History tells us that all economic crises were caused by government control and intervention into the economy. The government offered nothing but impediments.

Shlapentokh also stated the following: “The major tenet of her objectivism, which insists that it is necessary to separate facts from opinions, in addition to its direct correspondence to the formula of A = A or “objective reality,” is ludicrous in its primitivism as well her boorish critique of Kant, one of the greatest thinkers of mankind, who she deemed as “evil” as well as his philosophy.”

What is more ludicrous is when one resorts to context-dropping. I don’t see any sign of “primitivism” in the formula of “A is A” (Law of Identity) except the fact that most people refuse to understand its concept and meaning.

Ayn Rand considered Immanuel Kant her intellectual enemy. Kant, according to her, did not directly destroy reason; his works were designed to distort the concept of reason. The main tenet of the philosophy of Objectivism is “existence exist” and its metaphysics is “objective reality.” Kant’s philosophy is the total opposite of Objectivism. Kant divided man’s world into two: the phenomenal world, which is not reality, and the noumenal world, which is unknowable. Logic tells us that if the noumenal world is unknowable or cannot be perceived by man’s mind, how did Kant discover it? Did he discover it through the help of an unknowable mystical being?

With this I quote Ayn Rand:

“The “phenomenal” world, said Kant, is not real: reality, as perceived by man’s mind, is a distortion. The distorting mechanism is man’s conceptual faculty: man’s basic concepts (such as time, space, existence) are not derived from experience or reality, but come from an automatic system of filters in his consciousness (labeled “categories” and “forms of perception”) which impose their own design on his perception of the external world and make him incapable of perceiving it in any manner other than the one in which he does perceive it. This proves, said Kant, that man’s concepts are only a delusion, but a collective delusion, which no one has the power to escape. Thus reason and science are “limited,” said Kant; they are valid only so long as they deal with this world, with a permanent, pre-determined collective delusion (and thus the criterion of reason’s validity was switched from the objective to the collective), but they are impotent to deal with the fundamental, metaphysical issues of existence, which belong to the “noumenal” world. The “noumenal” world is unknowable; it is the world of “real” reality, “superior” truth and “things in themselves” or “things as they are”—which means: things as they are not perceived by man.”

The philosophy of Kant waged war on man’s mind and this is the reason why Ayn Rand called him his greatest intellectual enemy. As a philosopher, Ayn Rand understood the role of philosophy in destroying or improving man’s mind. Kant was indeed the “witch doctor” of the Middle Ages whose intention was to close the door of philosophy to reason. We have seen the influence of his philosophy today. His followers and the mini-Kantians of today are simply carrying on the destruction of man’s mind.

There is no doubt that Ayn Rand originated a seminal philosophy. Yes, she read the works of Nietzsche, but she considered him a mystic and an irrationalist because his “metaphysics consists of a somewhat “Byronic” and mystically “malevolent” universe; his epistemology subordinates reason to “will,” or feeling or instinct or blood or innate virtues of character. ”

Based on the axiom “a contradiction cannot exist,” a philosophy should not and ought not contain a package of contradictions. This is the reason why Ayn Rand devised a philosophical system- Objectivism, which “is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”

The fundamental law of logic, the law of Identity (A is A) is a rational man’s paramount consideration in the process of determining his interests. A rational man should know that the contradictory is the impossible, that a contradiction cannot be achieved in reality and that the attempt to achieve it can lead only to disaster and destruction. “Therefore, he does not permit himself to hold contradictory values, to pursue contradictory goals, or to imagine that the pursuit of a contradiction can ever be to his interest.”

Man, in order to survive, should not and cannot contradict reality. His ethics cannot contradict reason. For example, in order to live as a human being of self-esteem, he should not offer himself as a fodder for other people’s needs and wishes. He cannot hold altruism as his code of morality. Altruism holds that man is a sacrificial animal and that to be moral, he must put the interest of others above his own. Both his epistemology and ethics cannot contradict reality- and both should also not go against his politics. Ayn Rand’s politics is capitalism, a social system that upholds man’s individual rights.

Remember that Objectivism is all about man as a heroic being. Ayn Rand’s epistemology is reason, which she defined as the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses (here I can only suggest her book The Virtue of Selfishness, For the New Intellectual and Capitalism the Unknown Ideal).

Ayn Rand wrote: “Man’s mind is his basic means of survival—and of self-protection. Reason is the most selfish human faculty: it has to be used in and by a man’s own mind, and its product—truth—makes him inflexible, intransigent, impervious to the power of any pack or any ruler. Deprived of the ability to reason, man becomes a docile, pliant, impotent chunk of clay, to be shaped into any subhuman form and used for any purpose by anyone who wants to bother.”

Thus if man wants to survive, he must not go against reality and that his ethical system must be centered on his pursuit of happiness and self-interest. But this doesn’t mean that man can now violate the rights of others. It should be rational self-interest. It is not in man’s self-interest to cheat his neighbors. For example, a banker who cheats his depositors is not acting on his self-interest. In fact he is destroying his business and himself. An utter disregard of the rights of others is an act of self-destruction. The banker may cheat his depositors but he cannot cheat reality. He cannot go on cheating other people to enrich himself because sooner or later he would lose clients. A businessman who tries to corner the market and establish a monopoly cannot last long if he charged exorbitant prices. Other businessmen who would offer a lower price would give this monopolistic businessman a run for his money.

In politics, men cannot support a political system that is utterly against their rights, liberty and happiness. They cannot give their sanction to government programs intended to invade their individual rights. The worst scams offered to unthinking men in the past centuries were always tied to such social mantras as “common good”, “social justice,” “greater good,” “equality,” and “collective welfare.” Any man who’d like to survive in a society must be very interested in politics. A man of self-esteem cannot vote for his own immolation. A man who knows his purpose cannot give his sanction to a social/government program designed to ruin his life and future.

Meanwhile, Ayn Rand’s contempt for democracy simply reveals her profound understanding of how politics works. In the first place, she clearly understood the role of language and definition in man’s mind and in the process of concept-formation. According to her, concepts and language are primarily a tool of cognition—not of communication. She defined “definition” as “a statement that identifies the nature of the units subsumed under a concept.” The purpose of definition, specifically of correct definition, is not merely to state the meaning of words, but primarily to  “distinguish a concept from all other concepts and thus to keep its units differentiated from all other existents.”

Now going to your critique of Ayn Rand’s contempt for democracy as a political system, I suggest that you try to know the meaning and concept of democracy. In politics, democracy is intrinsically about unlimited majority rule. Democracy is not synonymous to Republicanism.

In her book ‘The Ayn Rand Letter’, she wrote: “Democratic” in its original meaning [refers to] unlimited majority rule . . . a social system in which one’s work, one’s property, one’s mind, and one’s life are at the mercy of any gang that may muster the vote of a majority at any moment for any purpose.”

This is the very reason why the Founding Fathers of America refused to adopt democracy as America’s political system. Federalist papers show that the great founders of the United States intended to adopt Republican system and not democracy.

Leonard Peikoff, Ayn Rand’s intellectual heir, expounded on Ms Rand’s contempt for democracy. He wrote:

“The American system is not a democracy. It is a constitutional republic. A democracy, if you attach meaning to terms, is a system of unlimited majority rule; the classic example is ancient Athens. And the symbol of it is the fate of Socrates, who was put to death legally, because the majority didn’t like what he was saying, although he had initiated no force and had violated no one’s rights.

“Democracy, in short, is a form of collectivism, which denies individual rights: the majority can do whatever it wants with no restrictions. In principle, the democratic government is all-powerful. Democracy is a totalitarian manifestation; it is not a form of freedom . . . .

“The American system is a constitutionally limited republic, restricted to the protection of individual rights. In such a system, majority rule is applicable only to lesser details, such as the selection of certain personnel. But the majority has no say over the basic principles governing the government. It has no power to ask for or gain the infringement of individual rights.”

Indeed, “the words “republican” and “democratic” are two distinct terms, bearing different meanings and denotations. Federalist papers show that the framers of the American Constitution refused to use the word democratic to describe the political system of the United States not merely because it is vague, but also because it was not their intention to establish a democratic state. According to James Madison, his idea of a republican state does not mean popular democracy in which power is left in the hands of the people. In a true republican state, political power is delegated through popular elections to elected officials, thereby providing a shielding barrier from reckless or injudicious mob governance.”

So far, I have not found a single honest critic who was able to expose “the mythology about the philosophy of Ayn Rand.” Like I stated in my blog entitled ‘Ayn Rand: The Greatest Philosopher On Earth,’ “I’ve encountered a lot of people who denounced Ayn Rand but never read any of her works. These neo-Ayn Rand critics simply echo the old canard manufactured by her dishonest fabulist and/or equivocators who were simply good at myth-making and unscrupulous propaganda campaign.  There are some who even claimed they clearly understood her philosophy, yet uttered nothing but downright lie and/or distortions of her works and ideas. Like I said to a blog critic of mine, “If there’s a philosopher of the past century who was a victim of grave injustice, ignorance, and leftist-conservative propaganda, it would be Ayn Rand.”

8 Comments leave one →
  1. March 23, 2010 3:38

    Vincent,
    An excellent rebuttal in all respects and all major points given attention .. perfect ! Are you going to leave this as a comment on Vladimir’s blog ? Would like to see his response to this comment from you.
    Ed

    • March 23, 2010 3:38

      Ed, thanks for your generous comment. I’d like to see his response but I have no plan to engage in a debate. I’m pretty sure he merely read the fiction books of Ayn Rand as most of her critics did. Ayn Rand was not merely a novelist; she was a philosopher. As a philosopher, she clearly understood the role of language, definition and words in man’s cognitive abilities and processes. This is the reason why I always believe Rand, in the near future, would revolutionize such various branches of science as Psychology, Linguistics, Paleontology, among others.

      • March 23, 2010 3:38

        You are certainly welcome to the comment ! I appreciate that you put Ayn Rand ‘out there’ for more people to see .. and hopefully understand.
        Ed

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