The Night Watchman

A Small Beacon in the Night of Unreason
raised and maintained by Per-Olof Samuelsson

"Real Objectivism" Rears Its Ugly Head

Some people feel free to interpret Ayn Rand’s words in any manner they feel like, as long as it fits some preconceived idea. A blogger who calls himself Student of Objectivism recently wrote a blog post, from which I quote the following. He starts out with quoting me, quoting Miss Rand:

To judge means: to evaluate a given concrete by reference to an abstract principle or standard. It is not an easy task; it is not a task that can be performed automatically by one's feelings, "instincts" or hunches. It is a task that requires the most precise, the most exacting, the most ruthlessly objective and rational process of thought. It is fairly easy to grasp abstract moral principles; it can be very difficult to apply them to a given situation, particularly when it involves the moral character of another person. When one pronounces moral judgment, whether in praise or in blame, one must be prepared to answer "Why?" and to prove one's case – to oneself and to any rational inquirer. [From "How Does One Live a Rational Life in an Irrational Society?" in The Virtue of Selfishness.]

His answer:

AR was speaking about a different context, such as a classroom setting. For instance, a group of classmates could be talking about the war in Iraq. One or more of them could express bad viewpoints, and you could at minimum say "I disagree", and if one of them honestly wants to know why you disagree with their viewpoints, and if the person generally seems open to reason, you ought to answer that person's question.

May I point out the obvious here? There is no indication in Miss Rand’s essay that her point should only apply in such an absurdly narrow context.

It is bad enough to see how enemies of Ayn Rand and Objectivism sometimes twist her words around. But here we have an alleged student of Objectivism putting his own inane fantasies into her brain, claiming that this is how it should be read.

The context in which Miss Rand wrote those words is, in fact, extremely broad and is indicated by the very title of her essay: it concerns the question how one keeps one’s mind intact in a world such as the one we live in:

By pronouncing moral judgment, one protects the clarity of one’s own perception and the rationality of the course one chooses to pursue. [Ibid.]

Well, this obviously cannot apply to people who have no clarity of perception to protect, nor any rational course to pursue. But it does apply to the rest of us.

Miss Rand also has some words to say about the responsibility one assumes by pronouncing moral judgments:

But to pronounce moral judgment is an enormous responsibility. […] every rational person must maintain an equally strict and solemn integrity [as a judge] in the courtroom of his own mind, where the responsibility is more awesome than in a public tribunal, because he, the judge, is the only one to know when he has been impeached. [Ibid.]

Such solemnity is sorely missing among today’s alleged "real Objectivists".

The same person also wrote:

Samuelsson stated that according to Objectivism, Peikoff had a duty to explain his actions to any outsider who wanted to know.

If the man had learned how to read, he would have noticed that I did not use the term "duty". Duty is not the alternative to whim-worship or placing oneself outside moral judgment (that would be a Kantian view). It is true, however, that a man should try to live up to his own words, and the words of Leonard Peikoff are those (quoted from his old lecture series "Objectivism: The State of the Art"):

To be good is to be good all of the time; to be evil some of the time is to be evil.

Well, this is as much time and adrenalin as I will waste on this alleged student of Objectivism.

© 2007 Per-Olof Samuelsson
May be quoted freely as long as the URL to this web site is included. May not be quoted out of context.

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