♥ Ibrahim ♥ 's Reviews > For the New Intellectual: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand

For the New Intellectual by Ayn Rand
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Jun 30, 2008

did not like it
bookshelves: philosophy

That was the lousiest book I have ever read on philosophy and trying to educate a beginner, a new intellectual on philosophy. I would choose Durant instead or Sophie's World by Gaarder which is actually a work of art.
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message 1: by James (new)

James LOL I can't stand Rand myself. Good to know people are standing up against her nonsense.

♥ Ibrahim ♥ You are not alone in this James; there are many many people who just see her as a phase in their adolesence period and it phases out. I wish someobdy would tell me one thing constructive about her books! None! Zilch!

message 3: by James (last edited Jul 01, 2008 04:07AM) (new)

James I think what is interesting is the way her "philosophy" sounds actually normal in the beginning. I guess that would be the "adolescence period" of her essays. She stands up for "truth" and "morality," and she demands people take responsibility for their own actions. THEN she matures and shapes her idea of individualism and "selfishness" and she is gone off the deep end! lol

I thought it funny when you mentioned Bertrand Russell and enjoying him more. I too find his philosophy interesting, even though I don't agree with it (As I'm sure you don't either). I find his rationalist/logical approach to things far more objective than the objectivist Ayn Rand and far more enjoyable. We should start a Anti-Objectionist group lol.

message 4: by Skylar (new)

Skylar Burris I will be the lone dissenter here...

I have my problems with Ayn Rand, but as a libertarian I definitely get something out of her political philosophy. On a spirtual level, of course, I can't relate to her atheism and her belief that every Christian virture is a weakness (she too often mistakes, I think, the real Christian virtues for the malipulative, secular imitation of the virtues), but when you are a libertarian in a sea of socialists, as I have been, there is something very cathartic about reading Rand.

I have never had much interest in philosophy per say (though I am interested in theology), but I have always read Rand with a political, rather than a philosophical, eye, and I have actually enjoyed her anti-collectivist polemics.

The thing about Rand is that she has some big lies mixed in with her truths; I am reminded that even the devil can quote scripture.

I am glad I read her after I became a Christian, and not before, but I feel I can read her now and take away the truths and leave behind the dross. I can just enjoy reading her work, taking from it what I can and rolling my eyes at the rest.

I haven't read this title, but I very much enjoyed reading The Fountainhead, The Virtue of Selfishness, The Return of the Primitive, and the Voice of Reason. I believe she deserves her place as a "political thinker" if not perhaps as a philospher. So I'm the odd man out.

The problem is that she took capitalism, and individualism, both of which I agree with politically, and she applied it not to the political and economic realm, but to the philosophical realm and the realm of the heart, which can't be done without...well, killing the soul.

message 5: by ♥ Ibrahim ♥ (last edited Jul 02, 2008 11:24AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

♥ Ibrahim ♥ Skylar,

I was so happy to see your post. I was telling my wife the other day that you were able to convince me on the subject of whether religion can be private or not. Now about Ayn Rand, that woman is bizarre. Something about her makes me somehow convulse. It is not her atheism by any means for I have atheist writers that I personally enjoy. But that woman is almost the devil in human flesh. I never heard of anybody exalting selfishness, either individually or collectively. Skylar, we don't live for ourselves. A Jewish philosopher advocated that principle and actually to me he is more Christian than a Christian can ever be. He is Emmanuel Levinas. You like her views on the political level but still you find them pernicious on the personal level, if I read you correctly, in that you say "The problem is that she took capitalism, and individualism, both of which I agree with politically, and she applied it not to the political and economic realm, but to the philosophical realm and the realm of the heart, which can't be done without...well, killing the soul.".

What kills the soul of a person is bound to kill the soul of the community, Skylar. The community, no matter what its politics are, is you, I, and the other. We are the community in a collective sense while still retaining our individuality. If the heart of one individual is good, then the heart of the community is on its way to healing. She likes to clothe her writings in philosophy and frankly I don't get the impression that she even knows what philosophy is. If you want to read for a fine woman philosopher, read Simone Weil and see the difference. She is highly valued by atheists as well as believers like you and me. Look the titles of Weil and read a philosophy work devotionally on your knees! This is now a real philosopher and mathematician. But Rand, I don't think so.

message 6: by Skylar (last edited Jul 02, 2008 06:41PM) (new)

Skylar Burris Thanks for your response. I'm sure I won't ALWAYS be able to convince you of my opinions, but I will nevertheless enjoy the exchange and perhaps refine or alter my own opinions in the process. :)

So now, I will try to explain my disagreement better.

It is not true that everything that should be done on an individual level should also be done on a national level. Individuals have complete control over their own actions only; nations, however, have control over their citizens. What I choose to do costs only me, but what a nation chooses to do costs my neighbor. I should be selfless, but it is _I_ who should be selfless, rather than try to force my neighbor to be selfless on my behalf, which is what collectivism does.

Of course individuals should be selfless, as God wants us to be, but I believe it is generally counter-productive for the state to compel them to be (a.k.a. socialism). Free market capitalism, as an economic system, alleviates poverty and suffering far more effectively than socialism or communism, because it allows for greater economic mobility, greater production, greater innovation, and greater creation of wealth. I'm not a "pure" capitalist, but I am in favor of less socialism, because I find socialism usually damages the economy in the long-term, warps the logical motivations of individuals, and ultimately makes everyone worse off. In other words, what Rand calls "collectivism" doesn't actually accomplish the "selfless" ends it sets out to accomplish, whereas capitalism is more likely to accomplish such positive ends without even trying to accomplish them, as a mere byproduct.

I do not agree that capitalism will destroy the soul of the country. It is quite possible to believe in and participate in a capitalist system and to be privately generous; and, in fact, if you read "Who Really Cares?" you will see that those who support expansive social programs are, on average, actually LESS likely to give money privately to charity and to volunteer in service to others. This surprises many people, but to me it is obvious, because when we transfer our responsibilities to the government, we are less likely to perceive them as our individual responsibilities.

A government that does not compel its people to be selfless still leaves its people free to be selfless, but it also leaves them free to achieve greater prosperity, which makes greater generosity possible. _I_ should give to the poor, not ask the government to force my neighbor to give to the poor (or worse yet, force my neighbor to give to _me_).

The Bible says, without contradiction, "resist not evil"/"turn the other cheek" and "he [the state] beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." How can both be true? Because what is demanded of the _individual_ does NOT always apply to the _state_. When the state tries to do what it is the duty only of the individual to do, great harm can ensue.

Collectivism really only works in a small religious community that shares common values, and it doesn't even often work there. Even if people _should_ be selfless, the reality is that they often aren't, and so a system that rewards effort with profit will prove more successful than a system that punishes effort with confiscation. It was not Capt. John Smith who was first forced by the reality of a fallen world to say, "He who does not work shall not eat." It was Paul the Apostle.

message 7: by ♥ Ibrahim ♥ (last edited Jul 05, 2008 12:03PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

♥ Ibrahim ♥ Sorry for my delay. I enjoyed your reply above and can see that you are an authentic "American" haha. You defend capitalism and see the many good merits it has to offer. Partly I agree. But I also have heard about the evil side of Capitalism and feel that there is some injustice going on, when the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Look at the wealth and opulence in America and see some places in the world that don't even have corn to make bread. A big part of me defends communism and believe in it and practices it. Resources have to be distributed and if the wealthy won't give to the poor, may be force is needed to implement socialism. I have heard things here and there by Naom Chomsky on capitalism and its evils and I tend to like him a lot. I don't have the right arguments to provide in responding to you, but still I look around me and I see the poor and how they are getting poorer and nobody is doing anything in such a world that is praising the self and glorifying individualism, etc. As an Easterner, I believe in community and I also believe that the world has become a "small village" and it is about time we related to our fellow-human brother or sister on that basis. Money is a tool, nothing but a tool, and that is why Christ our Lord called it "mammon of unrighteousness" and that means it should be used and exploited in whatever way to provide for the poor. The poor are my biggest concern, and they are Christ's too. I don't care if you believe in collectivism or capitalism but if we as humans are locked up on ourselves and not sharing the resources, we have failed to realize the meaning of our existence.

message 8: by Skylar (new)

Skylar Burris Thank you again for your comments. Well, we will simply have to differ on politics and economics, even if we sometimes agree on theology.

To me, at the heart of communism and some forms of socialism lies the vice of covetousness: my neighbour MUST not ever be _too much_ better off than me. To me this is covetousness, this desire to reduce the wealth of the rich REGARDLESS of whether or not doing so ACTUALLY HELPS THE POOR.

If communism ACTUALLY helped the poor, if it ACTUALLY resulted in greater prosperity for the majority of people, I would favor it. But it does not. Communism narrows the gap between rich and poor only by making the middle classes poorer, not by making the poorer classes richer.

"Look at the wealth and opulence in America and see some places in the world that don't even have corn to make bread." Exactly my point. Our poor are wealthy compared to the poor and even middle class in many countries, because those countries have economic systems and political systems that greatly discourage the creation of wealth, discourage innovation, and impede the free exchange of commodities.

Too many people suffer from the illusion that wealth is a fixed pie, and that if I have a bigger piece, you must therefore have a smaller piece. But that is not how economies operate. The economy is NOT a fixed pie. If I have more, you do not have less _simply because_ I have more. Wealth is created. When you create wealth in capitalist societies, you bake more pies. Bill Gates isn't taking money FROM me, he's INCREASING the overall prosperity of the nation I live in.

Capitalism acknoweldges that we live in a fallen world and that people's productivity will be affected by economic incentives; communism does not, and so it fails.

When 90% of America's poor own colored televisions, and 90% of some other nation's poor have not even corn to eat…can't you see how economic freedom eases suffering? When you see per capita income relative to the index of economic freedom, don't you see how economic freedom eases suffering? Isn't it better to have a color television than to have no bread to eat? Wouldn't you rather other countries be opulent like America, than us be more like them? Well, you don't help the poor in some other country by destroying here the economic freedom that made us rich to begin with; no, bring that freedom to those countries instead, because if you give them money without freedom, you spit in an ocean that will soon swallow the drop.

I think it is erroneous to suggest that "no one is doing anything" about the poor in a nation that gives billions in foreign aid through the government and far, far more through private charities, that has numerous foundations for helping the poor. But the fact of the matter is, you don't solve the problem of poverty by throwing money at the poor, because, as P.J. O'Rourke famously quipped, "Poverty is not caused by lack of money." Poverty is caused by oppressive governments, by bad economic systems, by bad theology, and by unwise lifestyles. It cannot be solved SIMPLY by taking money from A and giving money to B, and that's why in all this time poverty has never been alleviated for more than a moment by doing that. The prosperous nations on earth have one thing in common: greater economic freedom relative to the rest of the world.

If all you mean to say is, "Americans, as individuals, should choose to give more to charities that help the poor throughout the world," I agree, but when the _government_ punishes productivity and innovation and creativity and rewards indolence, poverty is increased rather than decreased.

Okay, this probably isn't the place for a debate on the merits of capitalism and communism, but in my view, it is wrong of Christians to assume that communism or socialism are inherently more "Christian" systems than capitalism. Feel free to come back one more time, but, after that point, I will opt out of prolonging the debate because I see I have gotten us very much off topic.

♥ Ibrahim ♥ Thank you for responding. I am very familiar with your way of reasoning in defence of capitalism. I hang out with Conservative Christians and so I am so familiar with the way of thinking. All of us have our backgrounds to keep in mind and what we aspire for in relation to the present and tomorrow. I will not religiously manipulate you and say that one system is more Christian than another. I have no need for using the "whip" of religion. But it is all a matter of personal preference. What is Christian is something that you alone can find in your own heart, not in what I say. Lord bless you.


message 10: by Skylar (last edited Jul 06, 2008 04:10AM) (new)

Skylar Burris Thanks, Ibrahim for the conversation. God bless.

I want to add only that this is absolutely not an opinon I have arrived at by reading Ayn Rand, but by studying the economics of public choice (I have a B.A. in economics), reading many books, and considering the economic fates of nations. I am a libertarian more than a conservative. I find very often that the liberal upbraids the conservative for wanting to "legislate morality," and then herself turns around and attempts to use the force of the state to compel the virtue of charity. Well, virtue cannot be compelled; once it is compelled rather than freely chosen, it ceases to be a virtue.

Take care.

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