Tag Archives: objectivism

Ayn Rand’s Objectivism lampooned in a one act play

“Mozart Was a Red” is, to my knowledge, Murray N. Rothbard’s one and only play. It is a form unusual for him, but one well suited to its subject: the cult that grew up around the novelist Ayn Rand and flourished in the 60s and early 70s. For the principal figures of Rand’s short-lived “Objectivist” movement were indeed like characters out of some theatrical farce.

The transcript is here.


Movie Review: Atlas Shrugged Part 1

Even if you dislike Ayn Rand’s moral philosophy of objectivism, and her subsequent exaltation of free market capitalism, you should appreciate this movie.

Atlas Shrugged is about everything that Hollywood is currently against and as a result needed to be privately funded for $10 million. A fraction of the cost of what most A-list actors charge.

There were some minor alterations to Ayn Rand’s massive 1000+ page tome. The time-frame has been set in the not-too-distant future, 2016, and current events and trends were used to set the stage for the dystopian future. But while the overall story may have been given a contemporary polish, much of the core storyline has remained in tact. As someone who hasn’t read the book yet, the first installment of three managed to accomplish the director’s goal of enticing newcomers to pickup the book and read it.

Those who don’t ascribe to objectivism (or its close cousin, utilitarianism) will be put off by the mechanistic view of man portrayed in the movie. This is shown most explicitly in the first of two sex scenes in the movie.

This, in turn, means that bleeding heart liberals, who Rand explicitly loathed, will find the content of Atlas Shrugged to be particularly unpalatable.

Overall, however, I highly recommend this movie because it does do a good job of portraying both objectivism as well as free market capitalism.

The trailer:

One of my favorite scenes:

John Stossel on Hollywood’s opposition to the movie:

On the Set of Atlas Shrugged: 53 Years in the Making

Blaise Pascal on universals and particulars

From Pensées 40:

If we wished to prove the examples which we take to prove other things, we should have to take those other things to be examples; for, as we always believe the difficulty is in what we wish to prove, we find the examples clearer and a help to demonstration.
Thus, when we wish to demonstrate a general theorem, we must give the rule as applied to a particular case; but if we wish to demonstrate a particular case, we must begin with the general rule. For we always find the thing obscure which we wish to prove and that clear which we use for the proof; for, when a thing is put forward to be proved, we first fill ourselves with the imagination that it is, therefore, obscure and, on the contrary, that what is to prove it is clear, and so we understand it easily.
Obscurity is the inherent problem with systems of thought that begin with man (particulars) and not with God (universal). That is why materialism, ethical objectivism, and moral relativism all end up in an incoherent mess when followed to their conclusion.

Man is made for community

Ayn Rand is famous for arguing for a political stance wherein men were seen as sovereign beings. While this view has merits, one of its pitfalls comes when discussing man’s relationship to other men. It seems that any appeal to community is lampooned by her and her followers as “collectivist”. Rand centered her philosophy in the rationality of the mind. However, I believe that it is precisely the mind where we find the strongest reason we have to believe that man is made for community.

When I pressed one of Rand’s followers what reason we have for believing the mind to be an accurate source of true beliefs, I was told:

The reason I trust my mind is due to a long road of trail and error. Started as a baby with simple concept formation.

The process of trial and error is only valid once you have information and a mechanism for evaluating truth from falsehoods. Babies rely on external agents to provide them with information AND the ability to sort out truths from falsehoods.

For example, I jokingly told my kids that landsharks would get them if they didn’t stay in bed a while back. My daughter firmly denied their existence based on prior argumentation of there being no such thing as monsters. My son, however, has been convinced they exist. Both of them have also subsequently been exposed to “evidence” for landsharks in the form of a shark ride at a local park and a youtube clip from SNL (its pretty funny too). Now, how are they supposed to find out, without me or some other external agent telling them, that landsharks are, in fact, not real?

I would agree that a man’s mind is essential to his survival. But the mind alone does not produce information. Like logic, all the mind can do is process what is already in it.

If you maintain that the mind is merely a physical chunk of meat I would wager that your burden of explaining how true beliefs are formed even more difficult since, under such a view, the mind would merely be a slave to the stimuli in the environment around it. This would also further call into question the mind’s design (or lack thereof) of producing true beliefs for it’s owner.

In opposition to this, I would maintain that true beliefs require the intervention of intelligent agents external to ourselves. This condition indicates that man is not complete in and of himself but rather is dependent on others, on the community.

No man is complete in himself, and children are a prime example of this fact.