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Aug. 22nd, 2007

I'm in an odd research-type place today so I'm skipping from subject to subject looking things up. Recently BioShock came out and it's set in an Objectivist Utopia that went wrong. When I was in high school I started reading Camus and sort of stumbled across Ayn Rand's essay "The Virtue of Selfishness" which was in a book called "The Voice of Reason: Essays in Objectivist Thought". Ayn Rand was never required reading for me, but I was interested in how very different her ideals seemed to be from mainstream society in a time period (that essay was published in 1964) when it was difficult for women in the world of academia to be heard at all - especially if they weren't towing the majority line.

So after looking into her more I realized she had a whole philosophy built around her ideals. The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged aren't just fiction. Sure, they're fiction, but they aren't JUST fiction. Just like "The Jungle" isn't JUST about the meat packing industry. And since Ayn was sort of a piss-poor writer to begin with her controversy has been the only thing that's kept her books alive or even known, really.

I find objectivism fascinating becuase it's trying so hard. I understand why Any Rand had such a cold (devoid of emotion, relying on reality and reason only) outlook on humanity and especially on anything resembling socialism. But everything I've read about it screams to me of someone trying to convince themselves. A fan of something trying to be that something. She's like the female Nietzshe who just didn't go quite as far. To me it all just comes across as someone with an axe to grind parlaying that into an entire mode of being. Her statement on Objectivism sort of says it all:

"My philosophy, in essence, 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."

It's also interesting to me that the Libertarians have apparently latched on to Objectivism as the basis of their political stance.

Reading up today on things I found this link to a libertarian page that discusses Ayn Rand's view of Art. (guess what! She thinks anything not based in objective reality can't be called art).

Another summation of Rand's philosophy:

My philosophy, Objectivism, holds that:

1. Reality exists as an objective absolute—facts are facts, independent of man's feelings, wishes, hopes or fears.

2. Reason (the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses) is man's only means of perceiving reality, his only source of knowledge, his only guide to action, and his basic means of survival.

3. Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.

4. The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. The government acts only as a policeman that protects man's rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders. In a system of full capitalism, there should be (but, historically, has not yet been) a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.

And even after all that, she still wants something to take the place of religion for her and she finds it in man built structures. From The Fountainhead:

"I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York's skyline, the sky over New York and the will of man made visible. What other religion do we need? I feel that if a war came to threaten this, I would throw myself into space, over the city, and protect these buildings with my body."

So objectivsm, this philosophy, simply takes the place of worshiping a god. Instead of worshiping a god/many gods you worship man. Instead of a sense of altruism, you believe that your own desires are paramount. Instead of exalting the natural (which Objectivists LOVE to point out is something that Hitler did), you exalt industry. It's pretty tit for tat, to be honest. It strikes me as just as strong, binding, and flawed belief system as any religion. Is that a human need? Do we need a belief system to adhere to? Even nihilism is a belief system in a way, it has "rules" and can be defined via behavior and actions.

I was reading up on Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, etc. But that's another post altogether. I can read up on Ayn Rand and Objectivism and just sit and think about it. I can't do that with the broad athiest movement. It pisses me off like reading the IMDB message boards pisses me off. And that's uhm... a lot.


Aug. 22nd, 2007 06:01 pm (UTC)
Is that a human need? Do we need a belief system to adhere to? Even nihilism is a belief system in a way, it has "rules" and can be defined via behavior and actions.

Maybe in part, and maybe it has more to do with a tendency to interpret our own world-views according to rules and categories. Just a quick thought on the subject; this damn job is making me work again now. But I would be interested in knowing why the atheist movement pisses you off...
Aug. 22nd, 2007 06:23 pm (UTC)
Because for every athiest I've encountered who honestly just believes in freedom of belief, freedom *from* religion and of it, and a strong separation of church and state (all of which is something I can totally get behind) I've met 5 who say/feel things like this:

"As much as I respect Carl Sagan, I must say... BULLSHIT! It's precisely this sort of attitude that has given those religious charlatans so much false credibility! We should call MORONS for what they are -- faith-intoxicated, turd-brained, head-up-their-ass FUCKING IDIOTS. Offensive? You bet your ass it is!"
(That was in response to Carl Sagan saying: "You can get into a habit of thought in which you enjoy making fun of all those other people who don't see things as clearly as you do. We have to guard carefully against it." in The Burden of Skepticism.)

My problem isn't with the ideals/thought process/etc. It's with all those bad apples who are personally offended by religion for any number of reasons and take the stance that they are, by default, morally and intellectually superior to those who disagree with them on the topic. It's unfortunately the by product of just about any belief/non-belief based movement that some of the people involved with be fanatical and embarrassing. But for all the supposed rationality involved with athiesm, it seems so very personal sometimes.

I guess I see the angry screaming athiests in exactly the same light I see the angry screaming bible thumpers. They're both fucking repugnant and irrational and come from a purely emotional, angry root that has absolutely nothing to do with the philosophy they're purportedly there to promote. That kind of hypocrisy drives me nuts. I *want* to like people who stand up and say what they want and how they feel, no matter what it is. But both sides make that pretty difficult to do.
Aug. 22nd, 2007 06:44 pm (UTC)
I admit, personally, to a fair amount of laughing-at-idiots. I divide this into two categories:

1. Laughing at beliefs which strike me as so far-fetched as to be funny. This is not a reasoned reaction, but a gut reaction. When I first learned that Mormons get their own planets after death, I laughed. When I learned any of a number of things about Scientologist beliefs, I laughed. I have also laughed at various old, discredited scientific theories. I kinda can't help it. In some cases I will proceed to think it about it further and maybe see ways in which it might make sense to a believer, but my initial reaction is to see the humor in its absurdity.

2. Laughing at certain believers, yes, but not for believing, but rather for trying to defend irrational beliefs with twisted logic. Yes, this mostly pertains to the Intelligent Design flap. I won't laugh at a person for believing that the Earth was created 6,000 years ago (even if I might laugh at the idea of the Earth being so young), but I will laugh openly if this person claims that the fossil record/geological evidence/etc. backs this up.

Either way, I do try not to laugh at people out of a sense of superiority. I might not always succeed. Obviously, I don't speak for anyone else here, regardless.

I think an angry, screaming atheist movement is fine, if only because we've never had one. For something to be accepted by The Culture takes some time, and often has to be crammed down The Culture's throat first. I don't agree with the extreme stances that Malcolm X or the Black Panthers took, for example, but I do think having had them in the public eye probably did our world some real good in the long term. It's good for people to have a chance to have what might be the same sort of reaction you're expressing: "Well, I couldn't possibly agree with that, but, now that I think more about the whole subject..."
Aug. 22nd, 2007 07:27 pm (UTC)
All of that is pretty damned reasonable. You obviously aren't one of the screaming athiests I'm talking about. And you're probably totally correct - we need screaming before we can have talking.

It isn't just "laughing" that's the problem. I'm talking about knee-jerk hatred, mockery, disdain, etc. It's something that Christianity has brought upon itself, to be fair, but it's still not the response I would expect a group of people championing the concepts of truth, science, and reason to take.

I've figured out that I'm really naive about things when I want to be. I think sometimes that I live in a bubble that's far too idealistic. So sometimes I feel like people, humans as a whole, are virulent and caustic and are doomed and deserve it. And just as often I don't understand where all the strife and bullshit comes from because I know that people are so capable of trust, empathy, and compromise. It frustrates me that reasonable responses and discourse only happens in a microscopic scale and that increasing the numbers always means diluting the understanding.

So basically - I keep waiting for the day when both sides stop listening to the extremist dick faces and understand that MOST people, believers and non, are somewhere in between and that no one *has* to be a hard line about this. There's no dogma to faith, period. And that day will never ever come because people are neither as vicious or as kind as they can seem.
Aug. 22nd, 2007 07:41 pm (UTC)
I think I'm with you here. More reasonable discussion, it always seems, could only do good. What better use this capability for language we either evolved or were imbued with or spontaneously generated somehow or whatever?


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