[ExI] Meta Rand was Attacking Rand

hkhenson hkhenson at rogers.com
Fri Jun 19 00:24:15 UTC 2009

At 09:20 PM 6/9/2009, Fred wrote:


>Objectivism is the term Rand used for her philosophy.  I am not an
>Objectivist but I know enough about it to know that it has its good
>points and its weaknesses.  People who really want to know more about it
>can find several books as well as online sources.  One big problem is
>people criticizing Objectivism without really studying it.

I remember meeting some objectivists a long time before I learned 
about evolutionary psychology.  One of the examples (which flows from 
the primacy of the individual) is that if ETs were to offer someone a 
choice between their dying and the rest of the human race, the only 
choice would be for the individual to live and the rest of the race to die.

That felt massively wrong to me (not that such a mind experiment was 
anything else) but at the time I could not define why.

Not to blame Rand for what this bunch believed of course.

>One of the difficulties that arises when people speak of Rand and her
>ideas is that Rand like many thinkers used some very specific meanings
>for certain terms.  In English many words have a variety of meanings and
>nuances; often the specific meaning can be determined by context.  If
>the meaning is not evident from the context then hopefully the author
>will specify the meaning.  Unfortunately while Rand did specify meanings
>there are those who want to discuss Rand without first checking her
>usage.  One term which causes some difficulty is "altruism"; when Rand
>was speaking against altruism she was speaking against the idea that
>concern for one's own desires and goals is evil.  There is much more to
>her ideas about altruism but hopefully this gives a flavor of her usage
>and I think one can see how her thought was probably influenced by her
>experiences in the USSR.  Rand was not saying that being helpful or
>having a sense of benevolence is necessarily wrong.  This is too complex
>subject adequately cover here.

It been discussed here under evolutionary 
psychology.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamilton%27s_rule#Hamilton.27s_rule

I suspect that if Rand had understood evolutionary psychology she 
would expressed her philosophy with respect to altruism differently.

But you can't blame Rand, most of these advances happened after she died.

snip (good stuff)

>During the last twenty years or so Atlas Shrugged has began to be
>translated into various languages so we will see if the work does well
>in non-English speaking countries.  Atlas Shrugged does have the
>difficulty of being written in the 1950s and focused on trains rather
>than airplanes.  So it has an "older" feel to it.

If it is out of copyright, someone *could* produce a modern version 
with a text editor.

>I hope these comments have been helpful.  Unfortunately these comments
>only touch the surface and are very incomplete but I hope they will be
>useful as a starting point.

There is a meta point I have considered for many years without coming 
close to resolving it.  What is it about Ayn Rand's writing that has 
such a powerful memetic hook on 13 year old boys?  (I think this is 
about the center of the distribution.)   To a lesser extent Heinlein 
had a similar effect, giving rise to the two main origins of people 
in the Libertarian party.

For Rand I think the vulnerable time is not very long.

Most of them get over the intense phase, but it may take more than a decade.


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