Open thread: Ayn Rand

Since one of the ongoing comment threads has gotten into a discussion of Ayn Rand, since she was in the blogs a lot this week because of this Stephen Moore article for the WSJ, and since few if any intellectual figures have done as much to shape the secular right in modern America, let’s make her the topic of a (polite, civil) open thread.

Rand famously did not want opposition to organized religion to be regarded as one of the defining aspects of her thinking, not because she was the slightest bit apologetic about her stand, but simply because other battles interested her more. As one writer notes, she aimed her fire on numerous occasions at pronouncements of the Roman Catholic hierarchy and the Vatican, while saying little that was specific to Protestantism (or Eastern Orthodoxy, Judaism, Islam, etc.). At any rate, some resources on Rand’s views of religion and faith can be found here, here, here, and (video) here.

About Walter Olson

Fellow at a think tank in the Northeast specializing in law. Websites include Former columnist for Reason and Times Online (U.K.), contributor to National Review, etc.
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192 Responses to Open thread: Ayn Rand

  1. ◄Dave► says:

    She has stacked the deck ahead of time so that not only is the reader aware of her operative moral paradigm — i.e., that this is a pro-objectivist fable — but that every so-called moral dilemma you point to can and will be phrased in terms of objectivism and solved by the soothing application of this new moral paradigm over the old.

    I am enjoying this debate immensely; probably because I can see both sides of the question and am learning to appreciate Atlas Shrugged even more in the process.

    Grant, this particular comment (all of #117) was revealing. I think it is fair to point out that her target audience for the book was not English Lit or Philosophy professors; it was me… the common man. It would appear that you were deprived of the opportunity to read it as a novel without foreknowledge of its content and purpose. It would not surprise me to learn that it had been assigned reading by a professor with an obviously contrarian worldview. If so, I submit that had that professor held Jim’s deeper appreciation of her subtleties, you would have gotten more out of it.

    Indeed, without much editing, one could compile two perfectly plausible English Lit lectures from just Jim’s comments for one, and an aggregate of yours and Polichinello’s for the other. I submit that Jim’s students would read the book with more interest, and get a lot more out of doing so, whether or not they bought her philosophy in the process.

    I will freely admit that I was as morally conflicted as her characters at the time I first read it. My personal values did not comport with those of society at large; yet I was still entrapped by the guilt I was supposed to have for my selfish thoughts and deeds. I still considered myself obligated to a very dysfunctional family, and was still in an unhappy (thankfully childless) marriage. She simply never forgave me for hanging up the suit, tie, and briefcase that represented success in her worldview, to don Levis and go get sweaty and grimy every day as a contractor. That I was now an entrepreneur, my own boss, and making much more money didn’t mean a thing to her; but it sure did to me.

    It wouldn’t have occurred to me to go read some philosophy text books to find salvation for all of the moral dilemmas I was struggling with. I wasn’t a student, I was out in the real world dealing with real people. We don’t often visit libraries, we are the ones who buy pop self-help books. Atlas Shrugged was in the bibliography of one and readily available in a bookstore, so I bought a copy. For me, it was difficult to put down. I found the plot riveting, and not at all predictable.

    Perhaps I was just slow; but contrary to your assertion, I did assume John Galt was meant to be a villain at first. I shared many of the morality hang-ups of several of the characters, and learned how easy it was to rid myself of them by shedding the unwarranted guilt. I already shared their disdain for the leeches and whiners mired in their victimhood; but learned to speak out against their creed shamelessly.

    I did find the soliloquies tedious, and marveled at just how many different ways one could say the same thing repetitively; but if one thinks about it, rote is a useful tool for inculcating principles, so I suspect there was a method to her madness. It must have worked, because unlike so much other philosophy I have studied since, I have not forgotten hers.

    Art is in the eye of the beholder, and you are free to see what you see in hers; but if one construes her purpose for writing the book as exposing as many people as possible to her model of the world, to free them from the death grip of altruism and collectivism, it was a masterpiece of utility. To some of us engineering types, useful devices are our art.

    Then, to come full circle back to the WSJ article that started this discussion on the other thread, when read today with 52 years of Progressive dominated history in the rear-view mirror, she was remarkably prescient. Any fair analysis of her philosophy now, ought to be made with the benefit of that hindsight. ◄Dave►

  2. Grant Canyon says:

    No, the ~ situation ~ in ‘Atlas’ is not meant to be journalistic reality, but allegorical (Rand is not expecting an actual strike led by a Galt to happen to make her point), but the logical results are very much meant to be seen as real.

    An allegory is an extended metaphor. The opposite of “journalistic reality” is “fiction” not “allegory.” There is nothing metaphoric about her story, hence it is not allegory, by definition. It is fiction, for sure, but when she had businessmen go out “on strike,” she is not trying to make a point about workers in a fish factory or about students or about mobsters or about anything other than about businessmen.

    The businessmen in ‘Atlas,’ as I have said, are far less “stylized” than the agents of Big Brother in ‘1984.’

    Well, I, again, have no problem with characters being stylized, but they have to be true to the form chosen. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the agents are stylized, but they are more truthful and realistic in that telling than the Randian superheroes are in theirs, because, although stylized agents of a totalitarian government, they are drawn as being human.. Rand’s villains are empty shells for her to philosophically pummel, but they display none of the humanity that real people.

    In addition, while I must observe that the absence of a “platonic” version of something does not yet confine us to the realm of the “subjective,” your point in all this is still not clear.

    I was being facetious. My point is simply that one cannot “objectively” be a slut. It is a value judgment. As such, one can assume the value judgments that others make are valid and to extrapolate how one who had those values would react in a certain situation. That is all I did when I joked that some people thought she got around.

    But one thing you are just wrong about: Rearden’s own problem includes regarding sex as low or dirty and this is very much connected to an opinion that Dagny is “slutty” — and it is an issue addressed in the action and ideas in ‘Atlas.’ The two are inextricably linked.

    Not really. One can believe that sex is not low and dirty, but exalted and a gift from God, to be enjoyed in full sharing, joy and pleasure between spouses, and still think that Dagny is a slut because she wasn’t married to her paramours. There may be no way to reconcile the two if one adheres to the tenets of objectivism, but that is the Randian’s problem.

    The “evil” or otherwise of Rand’s characters is measured by their ~ actions ~ in light of Rand’s ethics, not their relative intellectual agreement with Rand’s whole philosophy. The principle virtues of Rand’s ethics are honesty, rationality, productiveness, independence, integrity, justice and pride. If you find this system of ~ moral evaluation ~ repugnant or artificial, then let’s spell out just what is meant.

    See, you’re approaching this as an exercise in the philosophy of the book. As I said, I’m not talking about the book’s value as philosophy, but the value as literature. She could have drawn a character who possessed all or most of these virtues but was still an antagonist. Or drawn a protagonist that lacked all or most of these virtues. Either she did not have the skill to do so or she chose not to do so. I have not read her other work, so I will not assume that she didn’t have the talent. And, in fact, I wouldn’t doubt that she did it on purpose, in order to draw a clear distinction between those who abided by her philosophy and those who did not. If she did this as a way of imparting the philosophy, then great, it works in a way. It just makes for lousy literature.

    I happen to be a former trial attorney,…

    If you argued before judges who were impressed by claims by defendants that they don’t recognize the Court’s authority over them, then I feel bad for the people of that jurisdiction. Usually it works about as good as it worked for ol’ Saddam. 🙂

    As I have indicated Rand’s eerie warning to America is, in a number of ways, far more relevant to America today, and in its concrete particulars, than Orwell’s work — evade them all you like.

    Well, that Orwell’s work lost its relevant in 1989 is not to his detriment. I read Stephen Moore’s piece and, frankly wasn’t very impressed. I found it more about loose analogy that was not very persuasive, in my opinion.

    Orwell, alas, was no Rand — and the reverse still hasn’t been shown, only emotionally asserted with unnecessary personal venom.

    Orwell, as a writer, is worth ten Rand’s, but that just subjective opinion. I’ve got nothing against her, personally, seeing as how she’d dead and all.

    That earlier question about the deeply held (and over-the-top) anger and hostility against admirers of Rand might be reiterated ’bout now, I think…

    Not sure what question you’re referring to, but I’ve got no anger or hostility against admirers of Rand, per se. I find the attitude that some of y’all put out, basically saying that if you don’t believe in objectivism to be moochers and leeches to be off-putting, but I’ve enjoyed chatting with you.

  3. Grant Canyon says:


    I read and appreciated your comments. When I first read it, it was on my own. I had known a bit about objectivism, but not much. So I was not influenced in any way by any professor or other outside influence. The conclusions I reached, I reached on my own.

    I’m happy that this philosophy was helpful to you. Not so much for me, but there you go. And most of my objections here were about literature and not philosophy, I appreciated the fact that you found them thought provoking.

  4. ◄Dave► says:

    @Grant Canyon

    Thanks, Grant; and thanks to all who have provided such a stimulating discussion. Once again, I marvel at the quality of the minds gathered here, appreciate our hosts for providing the venue, and applaud them for a superb job at keeping the squirrels at bay. It is an uncommon pleasure to be able to have an agreeable discussion with reasonable people, without anyone becoming too disagreeable. 🙂 ◄Dave►

  5. Michael Caution says:

    Following the thread thus far I thought I might suggest some good online source material related to the comments. These are links that can help explain the ideas behind the novel Atlas Shrugged. Of course they’re not exhaustive but they can say a lot more than a single discussion thread could. Keeping in mind that it’s always up to the individual to make the effort to understand all of it’s, shall we say, “complexities”.

    Link 1 Provides numerous articles on Atlas as well as literary commentary even a chapter-by-chapter analysis.
    Link 2 A more general approach but also info on Rand’s other novels.
    Link 3 Essay on Atlas’ impact on literary composition, the full article can be purchased individually as well.
    Link 4 Video lecture by Dr. Onkar Ghate on Ayn Rand’s Ideas: An Introduction
    Link 5 As an added bonus, the AR Multimedia Library, contains interviews, speeches, lectures by AR some dealing specifically with her aesthetic philosophy.

  6. Michael Caution says:

    I forgot to add two other events that are coming up for those in the areas:

    Event 1 March 4 A symposium offering contemporary perspectives on Rand’s magnum opus, both as philosophy and as literature. All sessions will include question periods, and an open reception with the speakers will be held immediately afterwards, Uni. of Texas Austin. Free open to the public.

    Event 2 The Philosophy Department at the University of Colorado at Boulder will be hosting a debate between Dr. Onkar Ghate and Dr. Michael Huemer on the Objectivist ethics on March 2nd from 7:30 to 9:00 pm, Free open to the public.

  7. John Donohue says:

    for those who still think the Stephen Moore WSJ piece speculating about the nightmare elements of collectivism coming true in fact with disturbing familiarity as fictionalized by Ayn Rand….
    in England they might be further along than us.
    remember the section of Atlas Shrugged when the government inserted a “cop” into the executive offices and board meetings of companies? Thought that was too far fetched? Well, here it comes.

  8. Benjamin says:

    There are two massive problems with Ayn Rand. First, her philosophy is ludicrous. She claims to believe only in what can be rationally observed and proven; yet she herself willingly consents to completely irrational ideas while refusing to admit as much. For instance, money is a fundamentally irrational phenomenon. Money has no intrinsic value, nor any objective existence; its a consensual illusion for the sake of an ordered society. In other words, its a leap of faith. This doesn’t even occur to Rand. Nothing is more ludicrous, for instance, than the fetishization of gold in Atlas Shrugged. Gold is a completely useless substance in and of itself, its only value is what is given to it by humans – on no rational basis at all – and then consented to by others. On this level, capitalism for Rand is clearly a religion: a delusion accepted for practical purposes, i.e. a noble lie.

    Second, Rand wanted to be a philosopher, for which she had no talent, rather than a satirist, which she was actually quite good at. The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged are at their best when they engage in dystopian satire of collectivism and statism. Some of it is savagely funny and brilliantly incisive. They’re at their worst, however, when they try to present a pathetically earnest account of Rand’s own philosophy. The most egregious example is obviously John Galt’s “voice of God” speech (I’ve actually read the whole thing) which not only makes no logical sense but is simply unreadable. Its a shame she quit fiction after Atlas Shrugged and dedicated herself to churning out Galtian declamations. She could have been the Swift of twentieth century.

  9. John Donohue says:


    I’ll only rip one thing out of that entire mess: If it is unreadable how did you read it?

    John Donohue
    Pasadena, CA

  10. ◄Dave► says:


    What twaddle. “Irrational” is not a synonym for “abstract.” “Money” is simply the abstract term we use for a useful medium of exchange among traders and temporary storage of disposable wealth. If I trade one of my excess perishable oranges to a neighbor for 20 steel nails, because I know another neighbor will gladly trade me one of his excess apples for fifteen nails next fall, the nails serve as “money” for all three of us.

    There is nothing irrational about us agreeing to this arrangement, and there is nothing phenomenal about the nails to a rational man who owns a hammer. They have intrinsic value as a building supply, even though we also choose to use them for money. The apple grower has the choice to use them as nails to hang up his winter shutters, or save them as money he can trade for something else he will need in the spring; an option he would not have had with rotting apples.

    Now, absent meddlesome neighbors trying to interfere in our mutually beneficial and unregulated commerce, there is nothing prohibiting me from agreeing to wait for payment from the first neighbor, if he agrees to pay me an extra nail or two in “interest” for the time he retains my “capital.” Conversely, I could offer to advance my “capital” to the apple grower, at a nail or two less than his asking price, for the promise of an apple when his crop comes in; a deal that he might jump at if he has an immediate need and is short of capital.

    Thus capitalism is born, is entirely rational, and all participants eagerly enter into the exchanges and contracts with open eyes. Nobody is harmed or cheated, because we each trade something we value less, for something we value more. I, as the much maligned “capitalist,” am the only one who takes risks (that I will get paid eventually for my “loans”); but I am paid for taking them. If the other neighbors keep their “hands off” and continue not to meddle in our private affairs, we can call it laissez faire capitalism.

    All manner of durable commodities have been used as money in human history, but silver and gold have been the favorites; because of their scarcity, and thus their high value for small, easily transportable, quantities. Contrary to your assertion, gold has intrinsic value, exists objectively, and is not illusory. I’ll not deny that some may have a fetish for gold; but that only enhances its intrinsic value, and insures that it will always be easy to trade a quantity of it for something one values more. This makes it an ideal commodity to use for money.

    Objectively, nothing has “value” other than that assigned to it by a human mind, whether rationally or not. To the trader, it matters not how a seller determined his asking price. The buyer only has to decide if he personally values the offering more than what he must give up in trade for it. If he does, both win in the deal; if not, no deal is made. Thus, there are no losers in pure free trade. The only way to lose in capitalism is to invest capital at risk, and no one is required to do so.

    There are rewards for risking capital; but rational actors choose for themselves whether the rewards outweigh the risks. There is simply nothing metaphysical or delusional about money or capitalism. It is pretty simple and really only common sense among producers and traders. It is an elegant system for reasonable men engaged in commerce. Those who oppose it are immediately suspect; for chances are that they wish to attain unearned produce, by enslaving the producers, one way or another, to provide them. ◄Dave►

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  12. Benjamin says:

    In fine Randian fasion, out of all that, you said only one thing of significance: “Objectively, nothing has ‘value’ other than that assigned to it by a human mind, whether rationally or not.” Thank you for agreeing with me. I thank you as well for admitting, albeit inadvertently, that “objectivity” in Objectivism is nothing more than an authoritarian subjectivism. In the final analysis, Rand’s entire philosophy boils down to simply asserting that her subjective point of view is superior to all others.

    And I use the word “unreadable” to mean that its badly written. Extremely badly written, actually. As in:

    2.not interesting to read; dull; tedious; an unreadable treatise.


  13. ◄Dave► says:

    @John Donohue #157

    If it is unreadable how did you read it?

    He probably just couldn’t grok it, John. One can lead another mind to to the brink, but one cannot make it think. I suspect he prefers to “feel” rather than to ponder. Blank out…

    Objectively: In the manner or state of an object; as, a determinate idea objectively in the mind. ( ◄Dave►

  14. Benjamin says:

    6. intent upon or dealing with things external to the mind rather than with thoughts or feelings, as a person or a book.
    7. being the object of perception or thought; belonging to the object of thought rather than to the thinking subject (opposed to subjective ).
    8. of or pertaining to something that can be known, or to something that is an object or a part of an object; existing independent of thought or an observer as part of reality.


    I assume you will blank this out as well.

  15. Polichinello says:

    Gold is a completely useless substance in and of itself, its only value is what is given to it by humans – on no rational basis at all – and then consented to by others.

    Actually, Gold is an awesome electrical conductor.

  16. Anonymous Coward says:

    148 posts later and I’m proven correct beyond a shadow of a doubt:
    “…[Objectivists are] even more tedious and dogmatic than Libertarians…” (see post #14).

  17. benjamin says:

    Which is no doubt why it was used as a medium of exchange for thousands of years before electricity was discovered and harnessed.

  18. ◄Dave► says:

    Objectively, nothing has “value” other than that assigned to it by a human mind, whether rationally or not.

    When I employed the adverb “objectively,” it was not my objective to make an objective evaluation of an objective lens, or any other objective material object that actually exists, much less refer to objectivism. When one looks at a proposition objectively, one does so impartially – without bias or emotion.

    Plainly, my plain intent, which would have been plain to any plain spoken man across the fruited plain, was to note how absurd it is to bother to state that gold’s “only value is given to it by humans.” ◄Dave►

  19. Polichinello says:

    Which is no doubt why it was used as a medium of exchange for thousands of years before electricity was discovered and harnessed.

    What? You don’t think the Aztecs, Harrapans and Malians were concerned with impedance?

    Such a Eurocentric viewpoint! Harumph! HARUMPH, I say!

  20. Don Kenner says:

    I’m always amazed when someone refers to Rand’s characters as “card board cut-outs” that express views “no one really has.” What planet do you live on? I see Rand’s villains every damn day. The world is infested with the James Taggarts and the Elsworth Tooheys. They’re in the media; in the halls of congress; in the board rooms; and in the universities. If they are card board then so are the parasitic, self-important, gastropods that run this world. Seriously, Jimmy Carter or that moonbat who runs the UN are like characters rejected by Ayn Rand because they were too predictably pestiferous.

    And Reardon’s family? If you haven’t met these people you need to get out more. “I tell you it’s not fair that some people get chances while others don’t!” That’s Father Fruit Loop, Sister Xanex, Congressman Moonbat, or any number of Liberal Arts Professors. The conversations that Reardon’s family has about life, luck, and opportunity are virtually identical to the nonsense I heard from people (college educated, all) about Barack Obama’s mandate to redistribute wealth.

    I wish to hell these people were figments of some novelists limited imagination.

  21. benjamin says:

    ◄Dave► :


    Objectively, nothing has “value” other than that assigned to it by a human mind, whether rationally or not.

    When I employed the adverb “objectively,” it was not my objective to make an objective evaluation of an objective lens, or any other objective material object that actually exists, much less refer to objectivism. When one looks at a proposition objectively, one does so impartially – without bias or emotion.
    Plainly, my plain intent, which would have been plain to any plain spoken man across the fruited plain, was to note how absurd it is to bother to state that gold’s “only value is given to it by humans.” ◄Dave►

    I think gobbledygook generally speaks for itself. I will note, however, that your quotation from yourself (again in fine Randian fashion) completely contradicts your final sentence.

  22. John Donohue says:

    So no one cares to write on the topic: Rand’s view of religion? Or respond to my challenge: “What makes those on the political Right cling to religion/God?”

    John Donohue
    Pasadena, CA

  23. John Donohue says:

    Dave, nice try at kicking the hounds in the teeth, but they are not capable of considering context and grasping that there is more than one conotation for English words. Or….they might be capable of it, but they play dumb about it when flatening a word makes them all giddy to think they have the fox up a tree.

    The rest of us non-hounds understood what you meant.

    John Donohue
    Pasadena, CA

  24. benjamin says:

    John Donohue :

    John Donohue

    Or….they might be capable of it, but they play dumb about it when flatening a word makes them all giddy to think they have the fox up a tree.

    Speaking of English words, that’s about as comprehensible as John Galt’s speech.

  25. Walter Olson says:

    Things are taking a personal tone here, so please, everyone, either stick to the substance or wait for some later thread in which to resume the quarrel.

  26. ◄Dave► says:

    “What makes those on the political Right cling to religion/God?”

    Thanks for the change of subject, John. I think it is more for acceptance in the folk community, and a rejection of what they regard as the rank immorality they see beyond it, than devout beliefs. Although godless for over forty years by then, prior to 9/11 I had always granted the religious folks respect for their institutions. I was so incensed by the motive for the carnage of that day, which I viewed as a ridiculous argument over whether the world’s favorite god wished to be worshiped on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, that I vowed to never again allow the devout to mistake me for one of them, by showing the slightest respect for any public displays of piety.

    This has led to some very interesting conversations, and sometimes spirited debates, with folks over the existence of their gods. I have been somewhat surprised at how easy it is to elicit their own doubts; but they regard their way of life under siege by secular society. I have identified folks who could be fairly labeled agnostics, who continue to participate in the religious activities of their community, even though if outed they would be regarded as hypocrites by their neighbors.

    From their perspective, they are not offended in the least by the pious, and think that religion performs a useful function in keeping society orderly. They are offended by the antics of the ACLU, which they regard as intent on eradicating their traditions and dragging the whole country into their amoral morass. Unfortunately perhaps, they see their choice as binary; and they will throw in with their neighbors rather than permit the decadence of the ghetto dwellers to invade their communities.

    When one fairly views it from their perspective, it is difficult to blame them for sending their children to Sunday school for “moral” indoctrination, in hopes of inoculating them from the influence of the Left; even though this just perpetuates the irrational fiction. ◄Dave►

  27. Kevembuangga says:

    Anonymous Coward

    148 posts later and I’m proven correct beyond a shadow of a doubt:
    “…[Objectivists are] even more tedious and dogmatic than Libertarians…” (see post #14).

    And 158 posts later objectivists are proven even more tedious and dogmatic than fundies :-), for the very same reason: trying to derive ethics or any other practical rules from metaphysics.
    It’s even more ridiculous to claim a name as “objectivism” for silly metaphysics (we’ve got the “real” reality, just like the wackos have the “true” God).

  28. The Kat says:

    @ Caledonian

    I’m confused…what about my approach, exactly, is an abomination? How is skepticism among the elite not a poison, and how does this equate to religious dogmatism? Would it bother you to know that I am a scientist by trade? Is it perhaps YOU who misunderstands the scientific process? Let me tell you this. Skepticism as I refer to it has no place in science, or there would be no point in doing it, as we can’t know anything at all. Scientific incredulity is important, but what it means, exactly, is not accepting or believing something without reason to do so, and setting your standards of evidence rather high. It’s great to get excited about a promising new hypothesis, but you don’t get TOO excited until you see what exactly it has to back it up. But that is not philosophical skepticism. If I were a skeptic in the philosophical sense, I would be a piss-poor and horribly ineffectual scientist. If that’s the case, why should anyone let me waste their time and money publishing studies and teaching their children someday?

    On a separate topic, I see that much of this thread has degenerated into the usual insults and accusations of dogmatism. I can’t say as I’m surprised. For this and other reasons I don’t actually consider myself properly Objectivist, if there is such a thing. My primary concern is not what Rand thought (though I obviously concord with her on the bulk of her work), but what I think and whether my thoughts agree with reality which is, perhaps like Rand herself, a harsh and unbending mistress. Is this really a bad thing? I don’t believe so.

    As for the Objectivists who are on this thread, I’m glad to see folks out in force, especially given an earlier commenter’s comment regarding the difficulty in organizing intelligent, independent people (herding cats, I believe he said). However, the point regarding being “Randian” rather than objective should be well-taken. It would be much better for all parties involved to use their own arguments and words as much as possible, even if you cannot argue as persuasively or eloquently as Rand did. It fosters independence in the speaker and it forces the listener to consider that perhaps holding intense and consistent convictions can be done without dogmatism.

  29. Caledonian says:

    “Would it bother you to know that I am a scientist by trade?”

    It bothers me that a mere technician can be both so insolent and so audacious as to claim that noble title without being rejected by our society.

  30. The Kat says:

    Did you miss the point in the discussion where it was explained that good philosophy must be arrived at inductively rather than deductively? Legitimate criticisms of Objectivism may exist, but that it is deductively derived from first principles with no bearing on reality is not one of them. It’s simply not how the philosophy works and shows a lack of understanding to explain it as such.

    Moreover, are you willing to defend the notion that “reality” is different for different people, and how do you account for the contradictions that result? I would argue instead that there is instead a reality that is neither mine nor yours but simply is, regardless of how any of us interpret or feel about it. The difference between this view and a similar account of God or religion is simply that reality carries the weight of all our perceptual evidence in its favor, whereas there is no such evidence for God, by definition.

  31. John Donohue says:

    Re: Dave’s post 173….

    Yes, I have a similar take. I have it boiled down to: “they won’t give up God because they think it means they’d give up Good.”

    I am not talking about the seriously “born again”, but more those who fairly easily expose quite thin ‘devout belief.’ I’d suggest this is a large number. The Evangelicals and others with a vested interest in the USA being ‘founded on Christian Principles’ insist 90% or more of the population believes in God. They will sometimes admit that number includes people who believe in a Higher Power if not a traditional religion. Actual counts of people attending service on Fri/Sat/Sunday, however, results in a window of 19 to 30 percent. So it’s that vast belt of the population between the fully atheist and the seriously devout. It is well over 1/2 of the USA population, I’d bet.

    I wonder if Objectivists realize that Ayn Rand understood these people. You notice Rand does not skewer them in Atlas Shrugged. Nor does she attempt anywhere to convince them to drop the unnecessary shreds of ‘token religiousness’. I think she realized that ‘there but for lack of another wellspring of The Good goes an atheist Objectivist.’ Rand’s books are and can be that wellspring and she knew it. The steady sales and continuous impact of Atlas Shrugged through the generations substantiate the listening for a secular wellspring of The Good.

    This half of the population IS the secular right. When 45-55% of the population votes for a Republican President, yes, the 30% born-again are usual in there, but the balance is the secular right, those who are of The Church of the Good. {Note: they would probably elect Rush Limbaugh as pope. Rush has said more than once how many times he thinks Rand got everything right, except she does not believe in God.}

    Anyway, that is my theory. I think it is more than half the population. Some of them vote Democratic. Huge numbers of them have read Atlas Shrugged. They are generous and benevolent and Love the Good, but they are NOT coercively altruistic; they are ‘good’ people with a work ethic, basic honesty, family committment and take care of their own responsibilites with a genuine support for others doing the same. They span all races, ages, gender and national-origin. They are marginally religious.

    In the interview Ayn Rand gave on the Phil Donohue show there is an interesting event. At one point Donohue (no relation, thank God) says to Rand: “God bless you” and then quickly tries to take it back out of a form of courtesy. Rand says (paraphrase) ‘Oh no, that’s okay, I understand what you mean and what everyone means when they say that.’

    John Donohue
    Pasadena, CA

  32. The Kat says:

    A “mere technician”? Wow. I’m disappointed by your insulting tone…why do you feel the need to take the discussion there? I was talking to you in good faith and now, unfortunately, I can’t. First of all, you’re incorrect. I’m not a technician and never have been, although there is nothing shameful in it. What makes a technician’s role in the scientific endeavor any less noble or essential than a scientist’s? If you have any technicians, I’d hate to suppose what they must think of YOU. So quit insulting competent people who do important work.

    I’m a PhD student on the academic career track, and my research is designed to be basic and theoretical. And I have no idea why I’m supposed to care what you or society thinks of me.

  33. John Donohue says:

    The Kat: excellent response to the typical false is/ought induction/deduction diversion. Likewise your jumping on the ‘skepticism’ gambit. Likewise your suggestion all Objectivists argue in their own voice, not strictly out of Rand’s mouth.

    A point about the skeptical thing….I usually refer to devotees as “radical skeptics.” I am not necessarily suggesting that you do so; your attack was strong. I am just warning about a tactic they use: When it is convenient for them, they construe “skepticism” to mean ‘we never take anything on faith, we always check it out, we are always open to doubt anything should we find evidence and the case is never closed because there could be more evidence.” In other words, a posture quite close to scientific posture. They know how to wear that connotation of “skepticism” with pride.

    However, they are ready at all times to turn on a dime and go to the mattresses when anyone exhibits too much certainty about knowledge. They don’t bother to attempt to refute the knowledge, they just attack the speaker’s certainty qua certainty. You get the dropping of context; they bludgeon their way right through context. You get the typical flinging of “dogma”. You get the name-calling.

    Naturally, Objectivism and/or Primacy of Existence drives them right up a wall. They immediately totalize the clam that everything that exists, exists, and has an identity to “Objectivists say they know what is true and false and reject anything outside that dogmatic belief.” I am sure you have experienced that a skeptic will go all the way down to the root, if challenged, and have no shame to say that they will doubt the existence of things that exist, if necessary. They are quick to go ballistic because a confident thinker firm in his own context, open to a rational challenge of evidence inside that context, blows the gasket of their own axiomatic belief, and that belief is toxic, fatal and self-devouring: “there are no absolutes.”

    So I am just saying I personally use the term “radical skeptic” in order to short circuit their ownership of normal healthy scientific openness and quickly get to their void core.

    John Donohue
    Pasadena, CA

  34. ◄Dave► says:

    @John Donohue

    It is well over 1/2 of the USA population, I’d bet.

    I would agree with you, and so do the statistics of this recent nationwide survey done by Christians themselves:

    Evidence of people’s willingness to part with church teaching was shown in other data from the survey regarding what people believe. Among individuals who describe themselves as Christian, for instance, close to half believe that Satan does not exist, one-third contend that Jesus sinned while He was on earth, two-fifths say they do not have a responsibility to share the Christian faith with others, and one-quarter dismiss the idea that the Bible is accurate in all of the principles it teaches.

    Some of the numbers are surprising and encouraging. I found their distinction between “born-again” and “evangelical” instructive as well. ◄Dave►

  35. Caledonian says:

    “there are no absolutes.”

    That’s an absolute statement. Self-contradiction.

  36. Kevembuangga says:

    Moreover, are you willing to defend the notion that “reality” is different for different people, and how do you account for the contradictions that result?

    No, there is only one reality, but everyone build a different model of it and there is even no guarantee that an “all encompassing” model could be built (it could be infinite, thus never reachable in its entirety).

    I would argue instead that there is instead a reality that is neither mine nor yours but simply is, regardless of how any of us interpret or feel about it.

    No argument here (see above).

    The difference between this view and a similar account of God or religion is simply that reality carries the weight of all our perceptual evidence in its favor, whereas there is no such evidence for God, by definition.

    No “perceptual evidence” ALONE will give you proof or support for any kind of ethics.
    In matter of ethics perceptual evidences have to be supplemented by preconceived, obscured “rules” which themselves aren’t coming from evidence but from emotional prejudices which MAY OR MAY NOT be shared by the adversarial party.
    If they are not, “ethical” statements are void.
    Basically, ethics is an IN-GROUP norm and all the fuss about ethics come from attempts to pretend it to be an absolute “for all mankind”.
    We are not there yet…

  37. John Donohue says:

    Caledonian :

    “there are no absolutes.”
    That’s an absolute statement. Self-contradiction.

    Yes of course, that is what I was intimating. Yet radical skeptics have this at the foundation of their world view; they are in constant self-contradiction. Objectivism is the opposite: it has reality as an absolute at the foundation.

    John Donohue
    Pasadena, CA

  38. John Donohue says:

    Kevembuangga, do you subsume Ayn Rand’s ethics under your statments in #183? If so, is that because you consider there can be no such thing as a non-theist ethics based on factual absolutes, or that you have not been introducted to her ethics, or because you have but think she is in error?

    John Donohue

  39. Caledonian says:

    “Objectivism is the opposite: it has reality as an absolute at the foundation.”

    Nonsense. Objectivism is a human philosophy, and has as its foundation the same thing as every other philosophy: the credulity of human beings.

    When you can demonstrate the validity of your methodology without assuming the validity of your methodology, then you may dismiss radical skepticism. And not until then.

  40. John Donohue says:

    I don’t have to demonstrate it. You just did it. You do it with every move you make.

    You’ve proven that you absolutely exist and it has nothing to do with credulity.

    Not to mention the obvious: if you are are a radical skeptic and claim there are no aboslutes, how did you absolutely determine that the only foundation of philosophy is the credulity of human beings?

    John Donohue
    Pasadena, CA

  41. Caledonian says:

    “if you are are a radical skeptic and claim there are no absolutes”

    You don’t catch on very quickly, John Donohue. Let me know when the other shoe falls.

  42. John Donohue says:

    that is incoherent. My #187 stands unanswered.

    John Donohue

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