The internet can be amusing. Yet, some of our experiences on the internet can strike us as bizarre. A few days back, I happened to talk to a middle aged woman based in the US. I was in a playful mood. I asked her how “Randroidism” is going on. She suddenly lashed out saying that Objectivism is a complete philosophy and the term I used was derogatory. She suggested that I should soon get myself psychologically treated, proceeding to remove me from her list. I found her behavior immature for a woman of her age, and as I barely knew her, I laughed it off and soon forgot the whole incident.
I never understood people who hold personal grudges against ones who disagree. I have friends who disagree with me on issues in which I can turn really emotional, and I haven’t held this even slightly against them. I am certainly convinced that they are wrong, but I am better off debating a well read, intelligent socialist than an abysmally read libertarian. After all, what is the point in a debate if we agree on everything?
Anyone who has read the works of Ayn Rand, and has a casual acquaintance with real philosophy can’t fail to see that Objectivism is not a comprehensive philosophy. Most of Rand’s nonfiction works were collections of essays on a wide variety of topics from politics to culture, and not systematic treatises which presented a well integrated philosophy. Whatever merits Rand had as a philosopher (And she did have great merits), her philosophical works were quite amateurish on many levels. Her opinions are presented as if they are self evident absolutes. Deviation and open minded reasoning are considered the greatest transgression. The views of her opponents are often grossly misrepresented, and young readers are conned into believing that she turned the whole science of philosophy upside down.
Ayn Rand was not a scholar, and her understanding of philosophy and the history of philosophical thought is, to say the least, insufficient to constitute a whole, developed philosophy. Her followers have of course, heard of the well integrated nature of her philosophy and how each and every element of the philosophical system is related to the other. They might even have repeated it like blind parrots. However, repeating a lie many times doesn’t make it true.
Let us admit reality. Many of her followers are teenagers and young adults with virtually no understanding of philosophy-or anything else for that matter. Objectivism is the only world view they know. Properly evaluating a philosophy is a complex, arduous task which most of them are incapable of. It requires an open mind and the widest erudition, which one can acquire only through years of learning.
I think Objectivists should not forget these words of John Stuart Mill: “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that.” Perhaps, Objectivism is a fundamentally right school of thought vastly superior to others. Perhaps I am wrong. But, If Objectivism is the only world view they are aware of, how do they even know? It is, of course, true that Objectivism has an appearance of logical consistency and rationality. In fact, I find myself in complete agreement with many of the outlandish claims of Ayn Rand. I think that she can be strikingly rational and perceptive. However, in many important aspects, her rationality is more a matter of appearance than substance.
Yesterday, many of my Objectivist friends asked me what happened with this woman. I wondered how this got so public, as it was a matter of no consequence. I would have understood her anger if we had any personal relationship, which we most certainly didn’t have. I got to know that a young girl I once had lunch with in Bangalore has joined her campaign to malign me. We never had a personal fight. I remember her once linking to a book review of Anne C Heller’s biography of Rand. The reviewer had totally misrepresented Heller’s work, giving out the impression that Heller is a Rand baiter. This girl accepted the reviewer’s word blindly and hurled attacks at Heller’s erudition and intellectual competence without even reading the book. Heller’s biography was in fact an Objective work which displayed a great degree of competence.
I have seen similar behavior in almost all Objectivists. We all have long known that most Objectivists who demonize Kant, for instance, have never read him. Do they forget that Rand had a low opinion of Peter Keating who held opinions on books by reading reviews in the New York Banner? I once recommended Scott Ryan to this girl, and she refused to read, as Ryan disagreed with Rand. From my reading of Scott Ryan, I can say that he is a brilliant, brilliant critique of Rand who knows her philosophy in and out. Unlike most Objectivists, he has a deep knowledge of Rand’s works and philosophy in general. Objectivists are behaving like Jehovah’s witnesses by refusing to read even intelligent criticisms of her work. I wonder whether they have any genuine interest in her ideas. They most certainly have no real passion for philosophy.
She once announced that she has never found a single flaw in Rand’s philosophy and each every claim of hers, including the claim that a woman shouldn’t aspire to be the President could be proven. I was surprised as I couldn’t believe that anyone with normal intelligence can hold such a position. It is obvious that any thinker, irrespective of his competence, would have made tons of mistakes. It is human to err, and competent philosophers are no exception. Appalled by many retarded statements like “I will not talk to a person who is not a pure Objectivist”, I removed her from my list.
Last day, she warned everyone she knew on Facebook that I am a nut case, and that it is better not to deal with me. I am also eccentric to the point of insanity and insults Ayn Rand at every chance. I was again amused. How childish can they get? What is more? I work with a think tank-Liberty Institute- which gets tons of funding from the Ayn Rand Institute. They intend to inform Ayn Rand Institute about my transgressions.
Now, this is serious.
For the record, I left Liberty Institute months back. So, this is irrelevant to me. Liberty Institute had funding from Ayn Rand Institute, and the funding might as well have been huge (I have no hard knowledge). But, to the best of my knowledge, the funding stopped in 2009. I started working only at the end of 2009. It was known from the beginning that I had disagreements not just with Objectivism, but also with the ideas of limited Government and democracy. I left my job in March as I was asked to sign fake documents giving reasons which I found out to be wrong. I am in no way associated with them. I find it funny, but I want people who are taken in by this spread of misinformation to know that these miscreants know nothing whatsoever about me, and my experiences with the organization.