Sunday, March 22, 2009

Rand and her Movement Revisited

Several of my friends recently wrote about Ayn Rand's failings, along somewhat similar lines. This one, by jordan179, is open for public viewing. His thesis is that Rand didn't take account of human cognitive fallibility.

Of course, she would have replied that we were, in fact, fallible, that reason didn't operate automatically, and that one always had to guard against making mistakes.

Maybe she failed to keep this in mind sufficiently?

Jordan writes:
Thus we need a certain humility about our own conclusions, because we can make errors. This does not mean that we should turn to some anti-rational or mystical means of perceiving reality. It does mean that we should not assume that, just because we have induced or deduced something, it is automatically and certainly true
Rand wouldn't have cared for that word "humility", but the rest of it she would have agreed with.

I don't want to defend her every pronouncement, or her every denunciation, since I really don't agree with all that. The affair with Branden was a very messy business indeed, and I do think it's a case where passion clouded her vision. Of course, being lied to also clouded her vision.

She was irascible, and hard to get along with, and the social atmosphere of her movement was liberating in some ways, but oppressive in others.

The people drawn to Objectivism - not to the novels, not even to the essays, but to immersion in the philosophy - tend to certain personality types as well. In Meyers-Briggs terms, it's overrun with highly argumentative INTJs. 

(I'm more of an INFP, but I've overcompensated by reading logic texts and developing good work habits.)

She was complicated. People speak casually of how bitter she was in old age, but she simultaneously retained an ability to take child-like delight in things she enjoyed. People speak of how badly she treated her husband, and I suspect he was very hurt at times, but we don't really know too much about the core of that relationship - other people's marriages are typically mysterious to outsiders. People speak of how arrogant she became, but she was still capable of apologizing when she realized she had erred.

Her rightness and wrongness can certainly be debated,
but, like most people, she was complicated.

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