Some while back, I stumbled across what has to be the most blatantly self-contradictory thing ever: an online article with the heading: “Non-judgement: a key to enlightened living.”
I’m assuming (from the (mis)use of the term “Enlightened”) that the writer is operating from the typical pseudo-“Eastern” paradigm common among “New Age” folks — a dumbed-down ripoff of Hinduism or Buddhism, most likely.
At any rate: the blatant self-contradiction is this: The mere existence of the article itself is predicated on “judgement” (IE: evaluation among alternatives). Specifically, it pivots on the (supposed) distinction between “Enlightened” and “un-enlightened” living — with the clear (although not explicitly stated) assumption that “Enlightened living” is the BETTER of the two alternatives.
ACTUAL “non-judgement” would consist of failing to differentiate between the two states (“Enlightened” vs. “Unenlightened”).
Time to dip into the “Ayn Rand Lexicon”, again: (She may have been a piss-poor novelist, and been too whim-ridden to actually write a single-volume synopsis of “her” philosophy, but….she DID have some damn good observations on occasion):
There is no escape from the fact that men have to make choices; so long as men have to make choices, there is no escape from moral values; so long as moral values are at stake, no moral neutrality is possible. To abstain from condemning a torturer, is to become an accessory to the torture and murder of his victims.
The moral principle to adopt in this issue, is: “Judge, and be prepared to be judged.”
The opposite of moral neutrality is not a blind, arbitrary, self-righteous condemnation of any idea, action or person that does not fit one’s mood, one’s memorized slogans or one’s snap judgment of the moment. Indiscriminate tolerance and indiscriminate condemnation are not two opposites: they are two variants of the same evasion. To declare that “everybody is white” or “everybody is black” or “everybody is neither white nor black, but gray,” is not a moral judgment, but an escape from the responsibility of moral judgment.
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.
Hint: The above (in part) is why I take special pleasure in shitting on Ayn Rand. I simply cannot wrap my mind around how someone with so much potential could be so damnably inept as to:
- Fail (on TWO separate occasions) to write a single-volume “introduction” to the philosophy she claimed to have originated. (Oddly enough, she already HAD the skeleton of such a presentation available: the GALT SPEECH. Why in hell she abandoned the project TWICE boggles the mind.
- Oh wait…that’s right: she was too busy being power-fucked by Nathaniel Branden/throwing a tantrum during their break-up/destroying NBI/failing to even self-publish a newsletter in a timely fashion.
So yeah, you’re DAMNED RIGHT I’m going to “judge” Ayn Rand — and I’m going to do so in the harshest, least “charitable” way possible.
She doesn’t get a free pass. She knew the consequences of trying to live by “whim” (IE: unanalyzed desire) — but she did it anyway. There is NO excuse for having thrown the tantrum that destroyed NBI.
There is NO excuse for having “excommunicated” the two people who were really responsible for whatever coherence and validity “Objectivism” ever had (the Brandens).
Above all: there is NO excuse for creating the notion of “legal and intellectual heir” — for the attempt to create an Objectivist Papacy.
Quite frankly, there was no excuse for her (deliberate) failure to consider that Frank O’Connor/Barbara Branden might be at least somewhat less than ecstatically happy about N.B. and Ayn Rand’s attempts to reenact the “Benevolent” rape scene from The Fountainhead on a weekly basis — while their respective spouses sat around in the other room, making awkward “small-talk”.
Am I saying that the Brandens’ respective “tell-all” books are completely Objective? I’m not sure that’s even possible under the circumstances: Barbara Branden was attempting to document the NBI days something like 20 years later. Same goes for N.B. — who, in addition, had a fair amount of “damage-control” at stake.
Having said that: I cannot personally hold The Brandens or Frank O’Connor to as stringent a standard as Rand. She positioned herself as the arch-apostle of “Rationality”, and the arch-opponent of “whim-worship”, and then proceeded to dive head-first into exactly the sort of self-inflicted stupidity against which she claimed to be fighting:
- Emotions are not “tools of cognition”: She may have WANTED to be power-fucked by Nathaniel Branden, but given the (inconvenient) fact that both of them were married, at the time — she should have realized that the “Affair” was likely to get really emotionally charged.
Frank O’Connor “coped” by means of getting blackout-drunk on a fairly regular basis. Barbara Branden ended up with what really sounds like some sort of chronic anxiety disorder (AND, admittedly, a “Mommie Dearest”-type “axe” to grind).
Which is NOT to say that N.B. wasn’t a stupid dickhead about the whole thing, as well:
He didn’t give a shit about Frank O’Connor/Barbara Branden, either.
Nor did he give a shit about Ayn Rand. (Hint: he was bored with fucking her. The “age difference” was an excuse. (Google “Granny porn” — you’ll see what I mean.)
At root, N.B. was a narcissistic shit-swine who got off on Rand’s weird “Hey! Y’know what would be hot? BDSM in a construction site!”. Don’t get me wrong, I totally get it: he was bored with Barbara, and “hot for teacher”.
The thing is: he should have had the common decency to be straight with all of the women, instead of all of the evasive bullshit.
Then again, the double-standard exhibited by Rand and N.B. explicitly “forbidding” their respective spouses from fucking other people also strikes me as — well, a double-standard.
I am NOT saying that the Rand/Branden sexcapades were necessarily and unavoidably problematic: in a situation where ALL OF THE PARTIES INVOLVED had previously agreed to “open” (IE: non-monogamous) marriage, then maybe things wouldn’t have gotten so weird.
However: the Rand/Branden thing had an extra layer of complexity: they were also co-running an organization ostensibly dedicated to promoting what they described as “a philosophy for living on Earth”.
How short-sighted/blinded by rage did Rand have to be, to systematically destroy NBI, and then LIE ABOUT HER REASONS FOR DOING SO, in that shitty “To whom it make concern” puff-piece?
Didn’t she figure that the Brandens’ would respond?
So: in one fell swoop, Rand managed to:
- Set the Objecttivist “Movement” back decades
- Give those opposed to the points espoused by Objectivism ‘proof’ that it “doesn’t work”. (“Hahahaha! See? Ayn Rand couldn’t even manage to be rational! Hahahahaha!”)
- Elevate Leonard Peikoff to a wholly-undeserved position of “authority”. (Hint: by his own admission, his best book — The Ominous Parallels — for which he had originally contracted with his publisher in 1968 — was finally published in 1982
That’s FOURTEEN YEARS late — on a book that (by my count) only contains around 315 pages of actual content (IE: not counting the Table of contents/index, copy’right’ crap, etc.)
Assuming that the book was “only” 12 years late, that totals out to approximately 26 pages per year.
Let’s be honest: that level of “productiveness” is insufficient to even make a dent in the broader sweep of cultural trends. Same with his “DIM Hypothesis”. Same goes for basically anything Peikoff has ever done.
Throw in the endless,, pointless “schisms” provoked (inevitably) by pseudo-intellectual Randroid shitstains “principled refusal” to “morally sanction” one another and…..well, you get the idea.
The ‘Objectivist movement” would be funny — if it wasn’t for the fact that every new shit-show they put on ends up giving even more ammunition to their own enemies.
Because quite frankly, Ayn Rand espoused some damned good ideas. I have serious doubts as to how many of them were genuinely “hers” (IE: by her own admission, she was operating from at least a quasi-Aristotelian framework, and arguing against (her understanding of) the Platonist/Kantian “lines” of philosophical thought.
At root, Objectivism is (merely) a modern form of “Neo-Aristotelianism”. As such, the most rational line of “outreach” would seem to be among other Aristotelian/Neo-Aristotelian variants.
Burgess Laughlin’s book The Aristotle Adventure appears to be at least a preliminary “stab” in that general direction.
Of course, the millisecond you acknowledge that Rand was merely a (particularly angry) midget standing on the shoulders of giants, you run the (very real) risk of simply “shrugging off” Rand entirely.
The fundamental question I’m asking is: Can”Objectivism” ever become more than mere ideological window-dressing for the “Ayn Rand cult”?
Quite frankly, that is up to each individual to judge form themselves. 🙂