Tag Archives: philosophy

Gotta Love the Ayn Rand Crowd

lens1521675_resizejohngaltThe so-called “Objectivists” are easy to manipulate. All you need to do is post a story with the slightest dig at Ayn Rand, and they mobilize online, rewarding your rudeness with plenty of traffic and comments. Whenever one of my sites needs a little surge, I write about Ayn Rand (as I’m doing now). So, when I had the chance to cover a private equity fund named for Howard Roark for DailyFinance, I jumped at the opportunity.

It didn’t take long for me to pick up a few Ayn Rand-related followers on Twitter, and several comments materialized on the website almost immediately. Fun stuff.

Continue reading

It Took a While for Art to Matter to Me

nelson1It’s a bit embarrassing, looking back. I studied philosophy and history in school, read like an animal and wrote every chance I could. I was focused on thought and expression, but the role of art in all this never really occurred to me. My current interest in art grew out of a freelance assignment I had for a newsletter for financial advisors back in the summer of 2007. The article was short and dealt with investing in art. From there, I got my first art market story in Trader Monthly (RIP) – which was how I got into that magazine and which opened the door to my becoming a travel writer (I’ll get into that story some other time).

I now blog about art on Luxist more than cigars (with the latter being why Luxist hired me), and I’m really into it. I have an original hanging over my desk at day job and six paintings hanging in my apartment … with two more that I still need to pp on the walls. I was thinking about the extended version of how I got here, and my mind raced back to two college experiences. The first was more directly related to art, but the second was far more powerful (and I finally understand it).

Continue reading

Objectivists, listen up!

I told you I’d reply to your earlier comments, and finally, I can. My day gig and freelance work have finally slowed down a bit. Now, I can have some fun.

First, I’m not unsympathetic to Ayn Rand or her views. I’d love nothing more than a world in which merit matters and talent profits. I work my ass off every day, and it does bug me that I have to carry along those unwilling to do the same. But, let’s be realistic. This is a political issue, not a cohesive philosophical position.

To the commenter who suggested I review Ayn Rand’s epistemology, here’s some advice: (i) look up “espistemology;” based on your comment, you don’t know what it means; (ii) read Aristotle’s Metaphysics (Rand just ripped it off) and (3) try to figure out how Rand would address perception.

Pardon the digression, but it was necessary. Ayn Rand does not present a philosophical system. Instead, she offers sentiments– clearly based on her experiences in a communist country– to make the wealthy, intelligent and ambitious (as well as those who believe they are) feel superior. They may very well be, but Rand’s objective is to say to those who feel wronged by a society that takes, “It’s okay to be pissed; they don’t deserve it.” This statement is true, but, again, it is not a philosphical platform.

Rand does a great job of conveying her ethic, but here’s the problem: ethics, metaphysics and epistemology are interrelated. Take the philosophical discipline of ethics, which can be summarized with an answer to the question, “What is good/just?” It dosn’t take long to see the implications, particularly as “What is real?” (i.e. metaphysics) must be addressed if we are to determine what is good. If we can’t show how good exists, how can we define it? And, how do we know any of this? How can people know “good”? This is how epistemology comes into the picture. Rand addresses neither metaphysics nor epistemology satisfactorily. So, she is left with an ethical roof that has no house beneath it.

Also, Rand is a shitty novelist. It’s brutal, but true. Her characters are two-dimensional and do not deal with the complex moral issues that people face in the real world. She contrives situations through which it is easy to deliver her moral message. In Atlas Shrugged, We the Living, The Fountainhead and Anthem, there is no shortage of outrage, but a dearth of subtlety. Further, have you ever read an 60-page monologue/rant? It’s not terribly effective. Revealing her shortcomings as a novelist, the introduction of the “Who is John Galt?” catch-phrase is labored and never really gained credibility. John Travolta was more convincing with “up your nose with a rubber hose!”

Rand does fail to follow her own advice at times. She should “check her premises.” Rand has Ragnar Danneskjold say that he doesn’t interfere with the military, because they defend freedom. But, weren’t they defending the “looters”? Also, in a truly Rand-ian society, wouldn’t military protection be secured privately, as education (or any other public service) would be? Ayn, check your premises …

But, I keep reading this stuff. There are several reasons. First, part of her message does resonate with me; I admit it freely. Her two-dimensional characters are easy to follow because they have all the depth of an Evan Stone character in a softcore porn flick. Finally, there is an element of Rand’s storytelling that is like bad reality television. Remember Joe Millionaire? Yeah, I watched it.

What really bugs me about Objectivism, though, is Objectivists. The commenters on my blog appear to be completely incapable of original thinking. They parrot key lines from Rand’s novels, but they don’t explain why they believe it. Such people probably run around the streets of their suburbs asking people, “Who is John Galt?” I have never met an Objectivist who was more than an Ayn Rand parrot or a Howard Roark wannabe. So, I invite intelligent discussion on my blog. Those who foolishly repeat the words of their “prophet” will be mocked mercilessly and publicly.