Thursday, 21 February 2008

New Rand reading

If you're a regular reader here at Not PC you can't fail to have noticed I have several heroes, one of whom is novelist philosopher Ayn Rand.

Now I'm aware that while many of you are sympathetic to Rand's ideas, you have some reservations.  I'm aware too that some of those reservations are based around things you've heard about Rand's personal life.  Radio host Leighton Smith, for example, has said a few times that he's attracted to her ideas, but he thinks she's "a bitch."

Nothing could be further from the truth, as two recent additions to the web should prove. 

The first recent addition demolishes the source of most of the gossip and innuendo about Rand that people take for the truth -- most of the dirt comes from two self-serving biographies from former associates of Rand who, as author James Valliant demonstrated in his timely tome 'The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics,' cheated her financially, professionally and systematically through nearly all the time they knew her. (You might be interested in my own review of his book.)  For those, who don't already have it, James has recently made available the key chapter from his book that closes the lid on any claims these erstwhile biographers have to either veracity or integrity:  Chapter Four: The Exploitation of Ayn Rand.  If you have any interest at all, it's must-reading to see the character of those who exploited her then, and continue to exploit her memory now.

frank_and_ayn And here's the other recent bonus, and far more attractive reading: Mary Ann and Charles Sures, who knew and worked closely with Rand and her husband for nearly three decades (that's Rand and husband Frank pictured right), have made their own book-length memoir of recollections of 'Facets of Ayn Rand' available on the net.  This is not just well worth reading, it's worth bookmarking and coming back to regularly.  Says Mary Ann of the memoirs:

    We want to preserve our recollec­tions of Ayn Rand and our evalua­tion of her. Few peo­ple knew her for as long as we did — I for twenty-eight years and Charles for almost twenty. She was an extraordinary thinker and person, and we knew her in both capacities. In the years to come, peo­ple will be ask­ing the same ques­tion they ask about her today: what was Ayn Rand like as a person, in her private life? We can answer that ques­tion...
    What we, and many, many others, owe to her is incalculable. But, in addi­tion to that, we have read things about her that give a distorted picture of what she was like. We want to correct the record.

Between them, I'd like to think these two recent additions will not just just correct the record, but help rehabilitate a reputation that never had any right to be tarnished by the smears and innuendo that still put some people off reading Rand further.

The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics
by James Valliant

Read more about this book...
Facets of Ayn Rand (Audiofy Digital Audiobook Chips)

Read more about this book...


  1. Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices, but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence.

    Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.

    It gives me great pleasure indeed to see the stubbornness of an incorrigible nonconformist warmly acclaimed.

    - Einstein

    Personally, I consider Ayn Rand to be one of or indeed the most beautiful woman ever to grace this planet.

  2. Reservations based upon her personal life?

    That may be so. Though I've thought it more likely her stance on topics like selfishness and altruism?

  3. You mean her considered and thoughtful positions on selfishness and altruism. (Isn't the internet wonderful!) :-)

    "The Objectivist ethics holds that human good does not require human sacrifices and cannot be achieved by the sacrifice of anyone to anyone. It holds that the rational interests of men do not clash—that there is no conflict of interests among men who do not desire the unearned, who do not make sacrifices nor accept them, who deal with one another as traders, giving value for value."

    Why should there be reservations?

  4. Indeed. But centuries of lauding sacrifice and all that goes with it, is one hell of a sacred cow, eh.

    The point being that, by comparison, I think it's easier for folk to overlook personal idiosyncrancies/foibles, etc as they see them.

    Just my opinion.


  5. Ah yes, good point. No one likes seeing their sacred cows slaughtered, do they.

  6. Men - and it is mainly men - obsess about her personal and sex life and don't take her ideas seriously because she was a woman.

    Typical misogynistic comment from Smith. Would he have worried about the personal life if she had been a man? Would he have said "Wow - what a bastard!" Or would he just have trumpeted about how much he liked his ideas?

    Don't all shout at once,now.

  7. LS actually said "'selfish' bitch". Thus, the comment was not sexist at all, but reflected the earlier point.

  8. LS actually said "'selfish' bitch". Thus, the comment was not sexist at all, but reflected the earlier point."

    Someone just needs to fill Leighton in on the context of rands "selfishness".Once people "get" what she really meant they seem to agree with her I've found...

  9. I've been reading this blog for years and never noticed Pete's admiration of Ayn Rand...

    Must have been subtle.

  10. So he called her a 'selfish bitch' not just a 'bitch'.

    That's alright then is it.

    Not in my book.

  11. "I've been reading this blog for years and never noticed Pete's admiration of Ayn Rand...

    Must have been subtle."

    Yes, I try not to throw it in readers' faces. :-)

  12. Well then, it seems it is time to elevate her to secular sainthood and set her works to numbered verses.

    Perhaps a shrine or two where devotees can make pilgrimage and receive intellectual healings?

    This could be the next big thing.


  13. George,

    Although you're being sarcastic, your point is that some devotees of Rand treat Objectivism like a religion. I would agree. But there are also Objectivists that don't. For example, Lindsay Perigo. And he has strongly criticized religiosity in Objectivists.

    What I want to know is whether you have anything more to offer? Do you think, for example, that this is something Rand herself encouraged in her writings? Or is it an unintended consequence of the philosophy? And, also, is it really the problem you make it out to be?

  14. You know, George, I feel genuinely sorry for people who have no heroes. What must life be like when all you can do is sneer?

    Brian, you probably intended your question for George, but I'd like to offer an answer to the main question.

    Yes, unfortunately there are plenty of devotees of Rand who treat Objectivism like a religion, for which I'd suggest three main reasons.

    I think like any 'new philosophy' -- and although it draws on ideas some 2400 years old, Objectivism is still relatively new -- Objectivism attracts 'searchers,' people who would be attracted to anything just because its new and it's 'fringe.' Since what attracts such people is not the philosophy but the fact that its fringe these people are not attractive advocates for a philosophy that is essentially "common sense on steroids."

    A further problem is that many adherents have adopted Objectivism after abandoning their earlier religion, but have yet to shake off the 'religiosity' with which they've learned previously to hold their ideas. They still value obedience over independent thought, and adherence to orthodoxy over thinking for themselves.

    Sad but true.

    What attracts such people, I suspect, is the certainty of Objectivism. But while the certainty of Objectivism is a secular certainty -- one that recognises the contextual nature of knowledge -- the former religionists too often fail to shake off their previous mode of 'synoptic certainty' given to them by their high priests, and have simply found new priests to issue encyclicals.

    Religion still has a lot to answer for, I'd suggest, even with many Objectivists.

  15. "That's alright then, is it."

    Said whom? Keep to the point.

    The point being that the individual comment wasn't sexist, being the conclusion to which you jumped.

    He doesn't like some of her ideas. That's his call. Nothing at all to do with her being female.

  16. Brian S, I admit to sarcasm. My intent was to point out an irony. I am not having a go at Ayn Rand- who may well have been calumnied by commentators for all I know.

    I point out the irony that PC creates when he takes the mickey out of people who seemingly cannot live without directions from a book, usually bible adherrants.

    PC, don't waste your sorrows on me, I have heroes. In fact I made a list of them some months back after reading one of your posts. It included sportsmen, soldiers, politicians, priests and poets, and dare I say it, a couple of socialists. I found the one thread that ran through them all was a selfless courage, an altruism that you appear to despise. Yet you display a certain altruism that runs counter to your rationalist beliefs. How many hours does this well written blog consume when you could be advancing your own self-interest at your architectural practice? If you wish Ayn Rand's works to be an axle around which your objectivist life revolves, that's your business. You're free, white, and twenty-one and nothing should stop you. Go for your life. As to your complaint that the fringe attractees to the philosophy are tainted by religion and can't think without the orthodoxy of a book, well good luck getting that weed from the rationalist hull. The communists had a similar problem.

    What is wrong with orthodoxy if is founded on a truth [to paraphrase von Mises]

    Personally if I am looking for common sense on steroids, I find it in the Book of Proverbs.

    And,--it has chapter and verse.


  17. George

    A problem of the communists is that blind adherance to the faith is a necessity for them. Their philosophic system does not work (not unless the objective is to impoverish, toture and kill people on a grand scale). The glaring problems and inconsistencies are visible for anyone who cares to look. Even Marx himself knew of some of them. He begged his followers to help him rationalise his way out of some the really serious problems his system suffered from. It turned out that the problems really were intractible; present due to its nature. Still, that never stopped Marx from promising a miracle numerous times. For instance, he promised to publish the miraculous solution to the socialist value calculation problem, but never was able to, as it could not be solved.

    Von Mises wrote "Socialist Economy" and deomonstrated that the socialist calculation of value problem could never be resolved in a socialist system, let alone a communist one. He also explained why this was so. He went further and demonstrated the impotence and necessary failure of central planned economies.

    In order to continue with a belief in ANY sort of socialism it is necessary for the adherant's blind faith to refuse to consider these problems (and others). That type of evasion is a common behaviour among socialists and is also frequenctly seen among religious adherants (of which socialism is but one sub-branch).

    You discuss that you find common sense on the book of proverbs. Not a religo are you? Not much sense in it.

    BTW I understand that PC values the philosophy of Objectivism and seeks to promote it. By operating this blog he furthers his own self interest, which is the promotion of Objectivism. He also promotes his business interests as well. Think about it before your next air-headed contribution...


  18. PC & LGM, I think that George is correct here. Both of you follow Rand, Mises, Pekof, Reisman philosophy like they're God. They can't be wrong, everyone else is wrong. You never question them, you simply just follow them like robots. It is synonymous with doing a Simon says kid's memory game. Simon says : touch your ears, Simon says : jump 3 times, Simon (Reisman) says : you must agree that environmentalists are nazis, blah, blah, blah,...

    Einstein was perhaps the greatest scientist of all time, some worship him, but also those Einstein worshipers realized that he was not God after all, because the man had made some great mistakes during his career as a theoretical physicist, eg - he denied the expansion of the universe, which he was wrong.

    Einstein says : the universe is static

    Hubble says : wrong, the universe is expanding

  19. LGM, thank you for your thoughtful reply.

    I have experience of waiting on architects for details while the high priced contractors shuffled their feet or departed the job to work on other contracts. There are only so many hours in a day. Having confidence that the professionals are focused is big in my book..

    The great thing about freedom is you get to choose the books that guide you. Whether you see no sense in anyone who is a religo is your judgement, but I will take the collective wisdom of the Jews over your snappy rejoinders any day.


  20. See how the Right turns on you homey?

    I think over the years you have courted them - especially with the S59 and Muslim thing - in hope of their improvement.

    Ain't gonna happen. They're a lost cause. Rand knew that, too :-)

  21. Phil

    I don't believe in gods and spirit-monster ghosts and suchlike. Hence I do not treat people as though they are such entities. That's for the likes of you to do.

    For example, you accept the notion of an expanding universe (and a big bang) uncritically. That's your faith on display right there.

    Lerner: The universe is not expanding. There was no big bang. Galactic structures are explained by Plama Cosmology- electromagnetic forces.

    Come back when you have something worth contributing. You are well out of your depth here.


  22. George

    You have made yourself look quite the fool (and a hypocrit as well).

    Previously you claimed that PC was wrong for writing a blog since it was not in his best interests (according to your superficial thinking). It's been brought to your attention that writing the blog "NotPC" is entirely within his interests. That's why he does it. So, rather than concede that you were wrong, you try to slime your way out of your error by altering direction.

    Wriggle, wriggle, wriggle. Now you're claiming that you've been made to wait by some (unknown, unidentified, likely imaginary) "unfocussed" architects. The implication is that PC (an architect) is one of the "unfocussed" and wrong for running a blog in the light of your claimed "experiences". He should be "focussing" his time on other matters (according to you). The reality of the situation is that you do not have sufficient experience or knowledge to say this. You've never worked with PC and so your statement is not relevant.

    Your argument demonstrates an error of collectivisation (if one architect is bad, then all are). You should be careful of such silliness. Avoid it. Deal with fundamentals and not the non-essential or superficial attributes.

    Now it is time to start applying your own standards to yourself. Shouldn't you be focussing your energies on your own betterment? It would be helpful for you if you actually learned and understood the philosophic system of ideas that PC employs. Then you could understand what it is that has been discussed on his blog and why it is important. Who knows, you may end up enjoying your newly earned knowledge! Time you invested in some backgroud reserch and reading.


  23. LGM : Lerner: The universe is not expanding. There was no big bang. Galactic structures are explained by Plama Cosmology- electromagnetic forces.

    Now, as with your usual dismissive attitude about global warming research by many scientists around the world which is based on theoretical Physics modeling, you're now wholeheartedly embracing a different but similar theoretical Physics modeling in a related domain, ie, Cosmology, after all they're all computer models.

    Don't you see that you're being hypocrite? Don't say anymore because it makes you look like an idiot.

    Your usual frothing as:

    The onus is on you (the one who is making the claim) to prove.

    Have you proven Lerner's theorem yourself or are you just relying on Learner's website as your proof?

    Now, go back to Rand and try come up with an answer or otherwise, just shut-up and ready to learn some lessons about how science work.

  24. LGM why don't you just say "PC has no need to justify his choices to anyone" instead of insulting all and sundry.

    Oh and Sus - I know you luv replying to me - Leighton Smith's opposition to Rand is predicated on her personal life - not her ideas. He thinks her ideas are fine. He has thought so for years.

    He wouldn't call her a bitch otherwise. But then he is a conservative with the serial numbers filed off, so what more can one

  25. Phil

    You really are obtuse.

    It was you who attempted to smear me (and others) with the religionist claim. I merely turned the focus back onto you and demonstrated it is your own blind faith that is unsupported. What I am showing you is that you lack the knowledge, evidence and ability to know whether Einstein and Lerner are correct or whether some other scientist is (Hubble, Pringle, Little, etc). In the absence of sufficient knowledge and ability to know the answer to this, you necessarily relied on dogma and your faith. Your post relied on blind faith in a dogma which you do not know the provenace or accuracy of. Further, you are completely unable to verify it. That's the point for you to get right there. game over!

    Put it this way. When it comes to science I am more sympathetic to the ideas of Einsten than some know nothing vermin such as yourself. You don't actually KNOW whether Einstein was right or not and you lack the intellectual honesty to say so. Simple enough point, even for you to understand (come on, you knew what I was getting at- admit it your ears are burning in shame and embarassement).

    BTW my position is that there is insufficent evidence available to know which view is correct. Perhaps Einstein was. Perhaps not. I don't know at this time. Neither does science. Your faith certainly does not give you the answer either.

    Here is another key point for you to understand. It is indeed he who claims the positive that must bear the burden of supplying proof. That means that it is up to those who claim there was a big bang and that the universe is expanding to prove that is indeed the case. Similarly it means those who claim that the activity of man is causing global warming, that it is necessarily a bad thing and that coercive collectivism is the necessary solution, must provide proof for their entire hierarchy of claims. That's how science works you fool! Don't you understand?

    You are out of your depth here. Perhaps you should learn to read first.


  26. lgm,
    you'd be more convincing if you played the ball not the man.
    a typical socialist tactic (as you would say).

    like any tightly wound ideology, irony is totally excluded, which make conversation dreadfully tedious!

    ...insult as you feel obliged...3, 2, 1...

  27. LGM : You are out of your depth here. Perhaps you should learn to read first.

    Who the hell are you? Are you an Einstein re-incarnation?

    You might examine all your frothing here at Not PC, because it is you who is out of your depth.

    In your world, nothing could be proved absolutely 100%, even Newton 3 laws of motions you would still demand to show proof?

    Big Bang's physical proof is out there which have been verified time & time again (by those who claims the positive), and you still demand a proof? Are you a dumb-ass whose comprehension of the external world is like a 5 year old?

    You might as well discard your computer or cell-phone since those gadgets had been designed using the Maxwell's laws of electromagnetism. Can someone demand the proof of Maxwell's laws?

    I advise that you should go back to kindergarten and re-start your education all over again.

  28. Greg B

    And what is it YOU are doing...?


  29. Greg

    BTW, the promotion of dishonesty should not be equated with irony. You should know better!



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