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Old 06-30-2009, 01:02 PM   #61
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She only has "popular" influence in the US (and to a lesser extent in the UK). I doubt anyone outside that sphere knows her....
Heh, and does anyone really care what happened "outside that sphere" for the latter part of the 20th century...?

But, seriously, what does your statement prove? By this measure, we should ignore Sartre, and definitely ignore Hannah Arendt.

Hell, by this measure, we should all study Dan Brown.

It is somewhat sad, that so many, both on the left and the right, do not see the value of knowing, and understanding, ideas they may disagree with. This goes both for Limbaugh-like talk shows, as well as for minor-league academia.
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Old 06-30-2009, 01:30 PM   #62
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I'm not sure anyone ever said much about ignoring her. Maybe they did... that certainly wasn't my point. (Though I think both Sartre and Arendt deserve time more, and have never seen but passing references to either in my academic career (and most of those I made!))

But studying an author also often means coming to terms with their ideas. And often that means understanding where the author is deficient. Sometimes there is still a lot to be gained either by a shift in the way we think about things (Freud, for instance) or, in Rand's case, by understanding the influence. That doesn't at all mean that their ideas are good, have moral or logical merit, or anything else. Popular sure as hell doesn't mean good.

That being said... there is also a limit to time and attention and some people deserve more time than others. I'm not going to waste my time reading Glenn Beck's new book, for instance, because there is nothing likely to be in the text worth my attention as he has made his career being a professional idiot. Likewise, I'd not read something by Olbermann because while I agree with many of his positions, I don't agree with that kind of punditry or ideological bias (and sometimes he's an idiot, too..)

Rand has to be dealt with like Freud (and often is in Academia). She's one of those "we should probably give this person a bit of time... not because her ideas are that good, but because they have had an effect and we should see those ideas, understand that effect, figure out what is wrong with them, and move on." We actually covered her in my department's capstone course this year. My professor in that class was actually a specialist in Nietzsche and Kierkegaard... I don't think many strong connections can be made from Nietzsche to Rand... but that's quite a bit more complicated than I care to get into here. They were working on different projects, really. I don't agree with Nietzsche on sooooo many things, but I do love his work.

Freud, of course, had a lot more to offer the world and still has more to offer the world than Rand.. but you have to parse through an awful lot of crazy to get there.

As to the "rational choice" part of the equation... yes, if that was actually involved it would be fine. The problem with Rand's philosophy is it is essentially not rational and mostly neither are her adherents all the while claiming they are. A is A and all that only works if you have a firm grasp of the situation, I've never been convinced that they do. The attitudes we see in her texts certainly do not demonstrate "reality" to me. They are as absurdly idealistic as any extreme position's writings generally are (i.e. communist texts, etc).

I think Emerson really nails the attitude we should have regarding such ideas: "nothing is good for the bee that is bad for the hive." But, also that just because something is good for the hive does not mean it is good for the individual. A healthy society has to live in tension between the world views of group vs. individual. Both have to be respected as much as possible, realizing that neither is anything without the other.

I'm a religious person so I'm okay with arguments that are not necessarily 'logical'(but that's an entirely different discussion, and not one I'll have here). But if you're going to scream 'logic' and 'reason' than you damn well better be that way or you're just another hypocrite.
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Old 06-30-2009, 01:44 PM   #63
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Question. Why is it wrong, (angry, upsetting, enraging, ect), for an individualist/ libertarian to write an extremist work, and be known for it, and not, say Karl Marx who wrote extremist tomes for collectivism? And why is it more evil for people to follow one extreme and not the other?

Back in the 1970's, I had more than one professor proudly boast to the class that he/she was Marxist. I never had one proudly claim they were a Randite or believed in limited government of any stripe. Nor were any PoliSci courses taught about the failings of over-centralised government, despite thousands of examples. You'd think that such things would be taught, but a truly balances look at the whole political spectrum was "too much" for advanced education...
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Old 06-30-2009, 01:57 PM   #64
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Heh, and does anyone really care what happened "outside that sphere" for the latter part of the 20th century...?

But, seriously, what does your statement prove? By this measure, we should ignore Sartre, and definitely ignore Hannah Arendt.

Hell, by this measure, we should all study Dan Brown.

It is somewhat sad, that so many, both on the left and the right, do not see the value of knowing, and understanding, ideas they may disagree with. This goes both for Limbaugh-like talk shows, as well as for minor-league academia.
I'm afraid you missed/misread my point. My point was (as Gideon also remarks after you) that Rand is academically irrelevant outside the USA, quite unlike Hannah Arendt (or to a different extent Sartre).

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Old 06-30-2009, 02:00 PM   #65
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Question. Why is it wrong, (angry, upsetting, enraging, ect), for an individualist/ libertarian to write an extremist work, and be known for it, and not, say Karl Marx who wrote extremist tomes for collectivism? And why is it more evil for people to follow one extreme and not the other?
Probably because Marx was proposing something that could be argued with, rather than railed against (because no argument can be made to "refute" Rand)
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Old 06-30-2009, 02:03 PM   #66
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Probably because Marx was proposing something that could be argued with, rather than railed against (because no argument can be made to "refute" Rand)

Perhaps, but the Randite body count, in the real world, is far less than Stalin, Pol Pot, and other assorted Marxists. That should count for something...
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Old 06-30-2009, 02:11 PM   #67
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Old 06-30-2009, 04:21 PM   #68
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Probably because Marx was proposing something that could be argued with, rather than railed against (because no argument can be made to "refute" Rand)
LOL. Arguing against Marx used to get you into a "re-education" camp, while railing against Rand got you tenure at a third-rate university.

But what do you mean, by insisting, that Rand is "irrelevant" outside of the US? It's like insisting that because Locke was "irrelevant" in Siberia, we can safely ignore his work.

Many intelligent, educated people outside of the US and the UK, have at least some idea of Rand (even if based on a bad French translation. Regardless of where one is on the political spectrum, dismissing her work as "irrelevant" is just silly.

As silly, as approaching her ideas with the preconceived notion to "figure out what is wrong with them, and move on."

But, what if, some young, open, inquisitive mind in the classroom, finds some appeal in these "atheist capitalism" ideas...?! Oh the horror..., the horror of it!
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Old 06-30-2009, 04:31 PM   #69
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LOL. Arguing against Marx used to get you into a "re-education" camp, while railing against Rand got you tenure at a third-rate university.

But what do you mean, by insisting, that Rand is "irrelevant" outside of the US? It's like insisting that because Locke was "irrelevant" in Siberia, we can safely ignore his work.

Many intelligent, educated people outside of the US and the UK, have at least some idea of Rand (even if based on a bad French translation. Regardless of where one is on the political spectrum, dismissing her work as "irrelevant" is just silly.

As silly, as approaching her ideas with the preconceived notion to "figure out what is wrong with them, and move on."

But, what if, some young, open, inquisitive mind in the classroom, finds some appeal in these "atheist capitalism" ideas...?! Oh the horror..., the horror of it!

I don't think anybody has actually said she 'shouldn't' be studied, or would stop anybody from doing so, but I do think a vast majority of us are arguing that her work has little weight to it, or interest beyond a specific clustering. The consensus on Rand seems to lean towards her being a low-rent philosopher with a rabid, if small and geographically consistent following. In most of Europe, and I would guess the East Coast of the US also, definitely in Canada, Ayn Rand and her works are deemed unimportant and irrelevant. She's not considered worthwhile in literature or philosophical circles. Her theories are weak sauce to most academics and her fiction is too dull for the vast majority of casual readers.
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Old 06-30-2009, 04:40 PM   #70
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There are plenty of good atheist, capitalistic, libertarian thinkers and philosophers. In fact, most philosophy departments I've been around have had a bit too many of them for my tastes. And there is nothing that precludes a libertarian philosophy from being relevant. My brother is one of the smartest fellows I know, and a good, compassionate person - and he's the president of the local libertarian club and an atheist (and a philosophy major). Rand is just a crap one. Her arguments are faulty and so are her premises. It's like Dawkins trying to advocate for atheism - his basic incompetence of the subject matter makes him irrelevant to any educated conversation of the subject matter. It's not because he is an atheist (plenty of those that can argue well) it's that he is simply either uninformed or willfully ignorant regarding the depths of his claims. So make no mistake - I'm not criticizing libertarianism in general - I'm criticizing Ayn Rand's version of it. I don't particularly agree with much libertarian economic thought (though I am a social libertarian myself) but I can respect much of it. As someone pointed out - you can't really argue with Rand because she isn't making arguments that are arguable, it's like arguing with a Southern Baptist (no offense to any present) you aren't going to get anywhere because the premises are not going to line up.

The thing is.. Marx is not just communism and it is certainly hasn't much to do with the crap that is called communism (Stalinism, Mao, Lenin, Pol Pot, etc). And often if you run across an academic Marxist (especially in the social sciences, literature, etc) you are talking about Marxist analysis - which can be rather politically and economically neutral but rather advocates an explanation of events and history that is economic and power oriented. So if we analyze religion or the industrial revolution, etc. we're going to be looking at the economic forces that are going on, and how these and other issues help keep the powerful powerful and the weak weak. Marx actually offers some enormously useful tools for analysis even if much of his other thought hasn't worked out very well (but not many people in that time's thought has stood the test of time well.)

There was a strange fascination with his economic/political thought for a long time by people that really should have known better. My guess this has a lot to do with the times when the mores of the intelligensia types were moving towards equal rights for women and minorities, social justice was becoming more important, there was a growing awareness of how our economic and political system was oppressive and was helping keeping the oppressed down and helping the white middle class male get further ahead on their backs. My guess (and I've not studied it in any depth) is that people were seeing communism (though rarely allying themselves with anything you'd see in the world as communism given how monstrous all that was) as something that would address these issues in a way that capitalism just seemed to perpetuate.

Marxism as anything but an analytic tool doesn't have much feet in the US anymore. Has a bit more in Europe. And as a whole, most schools pretty much let your thought go where you want it to - but you're expected to back it up. And with Rand - that is a very, very difficult thing. Hell.. my department really likes to have people that are outside the norm of our thought and kicks things up a bit. That is, as long as they can be rational and rigorous about it. We get plenty that talk a lot of crap (it is religious studies so... you can imagine what some of the things that happen are - both from religious and a-religious people) and you'll be respected just fine as long as you're playing by the academic rules (which means have a good reason for your opinion).

I don't think the academic world is the end all, be all of course... in fact, I think it is getting more and more irrelevant but it is still a great BS detector as a whole (though often fails in isolated incidences).
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Old 06-30-2009, 04:41 PM   #71
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I don't think anybody has actually said she 'shouldn't' be studied, or would stop anybody from doing so, but I do think a vast majority of us are arguing that her work has little weight to it, or interest beyond a specific clustering. The consensus on Rand seems to lean towards her being a low-rent philosopher with a rabid, if small and geographically consistent following. In most of Europe, and I would guess the East Coast of the US also, definitely in Canada, Ayn Rand and her works are deemed unimportant and irrelevant. She's not considered worthwhile in literature or philosophical circles. Her theories are weak sauce to most academics and her fiction is too dull for the vast majority of casual readers.
What he said. Nicely summed up.
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Old 06-30-2009, 05:26 PM   #72
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Arguing against Marx used to get you into a "re-education" camp, while railing against Rand got you tenure at a third-rate university.
Yes, And arguing "for" "Marx" (or really stalinism) used to get you in lots and lots of trouble before that. I'd rather be in a re-education camp than in McCarthy's prisons, thank you very much.

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But what do you mean, by insisting, that Rand is "irrelevant" outside of the US? It's like insisting that because Locke was "irrelevant" in Siberia, we can safely ignore his work.
What I mean is that we aren't forced to consider her "point of view" just because the parents of american teenagers complain when Rand isn't part of the curriculum.

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Many intelligent, educated people outside of the US and the UK, have at least some idea of Rand (even if based on a bad French translation. Regardless of where one is on the political spectrum, dismissing her work as "irrelevant" is just silly.
Sigh. The point of discussion is reasoned argument, not gut feeling and a bit of word painting. I'm not talking about, nor interested in, rhetoric, here.
The reason she is irrelevant is because she does nothing more than say "hey, but what about this?". Even if someone were to make it into a tenable position (Hayek, perhaps, or Leo Strauss, or someone else I can't think of), "we" still wouldn't be discussing Rand, we'd be discussing the merits of the theories of those others.
And theories stand and fall with the amount of ground they're able to coherently cover.

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As silly, as approaching her ideas with the preconceived notion to "figure out what is wrong with them, and move on."
Huh? What's this?

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But, what if, some young, open, inquisitive mind in the classroom, finds some appeal in these "atheist capitalism" ideas...?! Oh the horror..., the horror of it!
Please, spare me the false dichotomies between not being "young, open, [and] inquisitive" and not caring one fig about Rand's ideas.
For some reason you seem to be supposing I'm entirely unfamiliar with her work, or that I only read it in order to reinforce my beliefs that she's a kook. Why is that, exactly?
Try reading "the virtue of selfishness", and be astounded by the way she conflates "every position she disagrees with" with "altruism". Gee, no wonder it sounds so unappetizing, it's a straw man... Who would've expected it.

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Old 06-30-2009, 05:50 PM   #73
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... I'd rather be in a re-education camp than in McCarthy's prisons, thank you very much....
No offense, but this statement betrays utter ignorance of history.

And some of the rest of your statements betray simply ignorance ("... forced to consider her "point of view" just because the parents of american teenagers complain when Rand isn't part of the curriculum...??!!!")
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Old 06-30-2009, 05:51 PM   #74
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professor proudly boast to the class that he/she was Marxist. I never had one proudly claim they were a Randite or believed in limited government of any stripe. Nor were any PoliSci courses taught about the failings of over-centralised government, despite thousands of examples. You'd think that such things would be taught, but a truly balances look at the whole political spectrum was "too much" for advanced education...
How strange. In my philosophy department our main political philosophy course covered both Locke and Robert Nozick, (who both argued for a minimal state) as well as the other main political philosophies.
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Old 06-30-2009, 06:10 PM   #75
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... In my philosophy department our main political philosophy course covered both Locke and Robert Nozick, (who both argued for a minimal state) as well as the other main political philosophies.
And most decent schools do exactly this.

And this is exactly my point. Rand may not be the most original, the best, or even a likable author, but she has certainly been one of the most influential authors of the second half of he 20th century, and her influence is not confined only to the US or the UK.

But it seems, the best testament to her power is that she can still infuriate the true believers so thoroughly (Which Nozick never really did, not to that extent )

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