Ayn Rand vs the Grinch
Can Rand's objectivism vanquish Dr. Seuss in her self-proclaimed war?
|Created: August 2021|
Ayn Rand's followers, calling themselves objectivists, have been trying to ban Dr. Seuss for 60 years now, as a display of their intention to reform the world for the better. The motive derives from Ayn Rand's ethics, which are based in her metaphysics. Most notably, perhaps, Randians hold that altruism leads to undesirable results due to a claimed deleterious effect on social Darwinism, hence, they believe movies like Jom Carrey's 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas,' based on Scrooge from "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, are particularly bad for children. Before getting to that, there's quite a bit more to say about Rand's ideology and its followers.
Rand's book 'Atlas Shrugged' is frequently given as reading in U.S. high schools, so she has garnered quite a following over the years (see this link on her business heir's site, Leonard Peikoff,aynrand.org, on his circulation of 5 million free copies of Atlas Shrugged to high schools as propaganda for her ideology). Many teenagers are ensnared by such an apparently sophisticated display of metaphysics that Peikoff shares, resulting in a naive and delusional admiration that persists from an early age, rarely countered by deeper education in the 'metaphysics' they learn from no one else. In the last years, Rand's popularity has also been bolstered by movies of her books appearing on Amazon Prime TV.
If one is to admire anything at all about Ayn Rand, it is how she twists 'the necessity of selfishness' into a far-right-wing political position with such obsessive compulsion, everyone from the purely greedy to the outright sociopathic can join together under the banner of her rather unique ideology, even while battling each other tooth and nail for supremacy. Her stance exists totally alone in an assault on the rest of human intellectualism, with no substitute, unless one believes Nazism is still meaningful in any way. Few have ever attained such exclusive dominance of a discipleship.
With the above in mind, at least an attempt at a complete analysis of Rand's metaphyscial position is certainly appropriate, as she claims to be an important epistemologist. However, philosophy professors just don't take her claim to authority seriously enough to consider it worth writing any analysis of her metaphysics. In fact, dozens of philosophy professors have agreed even me that Dr. Seuss by himself provides a completely deserved refutation of Rand's naive conception of existence. Even some people who had called themselves objectivists have admitted what I here describe has some serious truth to it after reading all this article. Most don't. Most just look far down enough to find something they don't agree with and insult me. But we can remain hopeful some objectivists might be interested to hear what someone says about the philosophers Rand despises who has actually read all their works.
Regardless the lack of respect Rand has earned (starting with her damning insults of Descartes, Hume, and Kant, and proceeding downwards from there), Rand has been taken seriously enough in the business world, or rather too seriously, resulting in calamitous collapses of business enterprises (see This is what happens when you take Ayn Rand Seriously from PBS). I would rather focus on objectivist attempts at censorship of Dr. Seuss, for more reasons beyond the objectivists' campaign against altruism alone.
Objectivism's Assault on Dr. Seuss
Most recently, Fox News and right-wing talkshows again launched an objectivist-driven attack on Dr. Seuss, just after the Jan 6 2021 assault on the Capitol building. The GOP probably had to descend that far down their litany of complaints to find something sufficiently distracting to make insurrection seem not like a crime. The objectivists won their assault, and Dr. Seuss' family dropped publishing his 'more offensive' books at their behest. Mostly the public has otherwise remained unaware that an amazingly large crowd of enthusiastic and fervent Rand supporters have been demanding Dr. Seuss should be completely banned as a 'dirty commie' for six decades.
Dr. Seuss' surviving family never really wanted to upset anyone, because the stories were meant to be loveable moral and metaphysical lessons for children--or at least, children capable of both empathetic and rational thought. But Rand declared the war, and the war continues, with less empathy than there should be on both sides.
The Purpose of Existence, & Cat in the Hat
Empathy hasn't transpired to be the strong point of those who end up gravitating to Rand. To start with a simple case, consider for example how Dr. Seuss' "Cat in the Hat" refuses to conform to conventional norms of behavior and just wants to have fun. The cat doesn't need to say why. The fact that the cat is enjoying himself is by itself a completely sufficient reason for his non-conformant behavior. Things go a little haywire for a while but the cat fixes it all, so it's ok. Children learn to see the world through the cat's eyes, increasing empathetic awareness, and learn that judgment of the behavior of others should not be based on personal preconceptions that could be wrong.
This is totally outside the scope of explanation possible to Randian ethics and metaphysics, yet totally reasonable as an ethical position. However, objectivists have long extended their objections over the Grinch's altruism to the cat in the hat. They state that his behavior is unproductive, undutiful to authority, and misleads children into believing play can be focused on other things besides learning how to obey authority and advance one's fiscal and social status. Objectivists want the story entirely replaced by ones idealizing their goals of ambition and personal success, such as winning a yoyo competition, or running a lemonade stand.
For this reason, 'Cat in the Hat' is high on the list of those seeking progressive bans of all Dr. Seuss works, to further their objectivist goal of censoring the child's mind. Younger folks won't know this started back in the 1950s, when deseated Truman fanatics sought to make the world safer for children by trying to ban 'subversive, anti-authoritarian propaganda' such as the fun-loving 'Cat in the Hat.' An objectivist in the 1960s, Mary Whitehouse, became famous in the UK for trying to ban 'Tom and Jerry' as too violent for children to see.
And finally, this year, after a failed assault on the capitol, the far right rang up a minor victory by getting some of Dr. Seuss condemned as 'racist.' One might justifiably think that objectivists have no reason for such actions, but it's very difficult to break into the children's book market, and it's become the most lucrative sector in the publishing arena since the Internet started. Under the edicts of Randian ethics, no rules exist to frown on such low-handed tactics. In fact, all actions that do not yield direct benefits to the individual are wrong, according to Randian ethics, because they contravene the increased power of those that deserve it. Hence, if there were not some personal benefit to those seeking to ban Dr. Seuss' books, it would actually be considered morally bad by objectivist standards, in entire apposition to conventional conceptions of 'neutral judgment by disinterested parties.'
Will to Power, & Green Eggs & Ham
Similarly, Dr. Seuss's whimsical 'green eggs and ham' is not only completely incomprehensible to Randians but actually offensive, no less, as a kind of rebellious subjectivity that assaults Rand's central metaphysical proposition...that 'axioms exist to destroy others.' When considering such existentialist frivolity as 'I am Sam...Sam I am...That Sam-!-Am! I do not like that Sam-!-am! Do you like green eggs and ham? I do not like green eggs and ham!" objectivists can only evaluate Sam's position in terms of its likely profitability, or lack thereof, in a capitalist market, and must remain totally unmindful of how Dr. Seuss is introducing young minds to the greatest existential quandary that most humans must face: angst—A state so tangential to notions of competitive utility it defies resolution by them.
Schopenhauer, in particular, would find that particularly wry, as Rand's ethics can do no better than usurping Schopenhauer's 'will to power' as the driving force of all creation by restating it on biological rather than phenomenological grounds, hence supposedly making it a superior statement to all others because it is 'more scientific,' and in the process removing the far grander scope of experiential inclusiveness in phenomenological categorization. At best, objectivists can pass over manifestations of experience outside their limited explicative powers in silence. At worst, they impose delusional reinterpretations that can border on the psychopathic.
I haven't met a Randian who's read Schopenhauer yet, and it's doubtful Rand knew she co-opted his thesis either, albeit via a far more simplistic justification. Thus all Randians I know, as well as Ayn Rand herself, appear to have no knowledge that Schopenhauer invented the concept because he despised Hegel's thought. But Schopenhauer didn't want to 'destroy' Hegel's thought. Schopenhauer professed himself he needed Hegel, because without Hegel, Schopenhauer had nothing to despise--a problem Nietzsche later 'solved,' per se, by despising everything except himself, setting the perfect stage both for Nazism and Rand's 'laissez-faire capitalism.'
Despite Rand actually discussing Nietzsche herself, I've found it necessary numerous times to explain Nietzsche's central proposition. Nietzsche holds that a small number of individuals are so completely superior to others that there are NO common and naive concepts, such as 'morality,' that should constrain their behavior in any way. For substantiation, Nietzsche calls on Plato's Republic, which states only 'thinkers' are qualified to rule by virtue of their own thought. Plato thus provides a 'hallowed authority' for Nietzsche's belief that he can do anything he wants (regardless of what Plato thought 'philosopher kings' should actually do). Nietzsche, therefore, claims supremacy as a self-proclaimed member of a 'master race' who have transcended the 'slave morality' of those Rand called 'Second Handers' in "The Fountainhead."
Neitzsche gave rise to the cult of the 'overman,' who is 'beyond good and evil' because those who are slaves to morality are so constrained in their actions that they never become fully conscious. Therefore, it was argued, those with slave mentality are inferior beings who deserve no more rights than animals, justifying authoritarian control without the strictures of inalienable rights. I'm obliged to point out Rand denies her view is Nietzschesquian, and states there should be universal rights, but she has no inductive or deductive process to define what rights should be, as explained in the metaphysics section below.
Self Liberation & the Grinch
Before moving on to Rand's metaphysics, I introduce to you a perfectly rational example of why objectivism is severely flawed: the career and life of Jim Carrey, who acted the Grinch in "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." The man started his career thinking only about how to make as much money as possible by being funny. And he succeeded, making more profit from his first five moviestar roles than any comedian had in their entire lives throughout history. This made him the objectivist's ideal hero in every way possible, and according to Rand's method of thought, Jim Carrey should have been the happiest man alive.
But by the Carrey filmed Dumb and Dumber,' Carrey had already ended up regretting that his earlier Randian obsession with profit had only served to imprison his later life in a limited slapstick stereotype which he had started to despise himself, and he was on heavy psychiatirc medication throughout the filming. His next film, 'the Truman Show,' was too close to the truth for him. He started to go completely insane. By the time he made 'Man on the Moon,' he was having violent emnotional outbursts at all and sundry, and he disappeared for days at a time without explanation.
The Grinch was the character he used as a bridge of self-liberation, which could restore some purpose to his life otherwise trapped in mere slapstick. Randians get so incredibly upset by the Grinch's happiness when the Grinch decides to agree with Scrooge! While Dickens' account of Scrooge probably appeals more to Randians, because the ghosts of Christmas provide ample reason to be kind-hearted, Carrey's film on forgiveness and celebrating the joy of giving doesn't even need the Dickensian Ghosts of Christmas. Joyful love is enough all by itself to convert the Grinch. What an amazing update to a centuries-old fable!
The Grinch's altruism was gleefully portrayed by the one man most likely to support Randian selfishness. Before filming the Grinch, Carrey decided to stop taking Prozac, as he thought a children's movie should not have actors on psychiatric drugs. There was concern his acting would suffer, but it transpired to be one of his most endearing movies ever. That rather puts a damper on objectivist's hopes to ban the movie. Jim Carrey is not likely to approve. And he is very rich.
Rand's Metaphysics: a Concocted "War of Axioms"
- “An axiom is a proposition that defeats its opponents
by the fact that they have to accept it
and use it in the process of any attempt to deny it.”
—Ayn Rand, "Atlas Shrugged."
Objectivists would not be happy if I did not address Rand's actual metaphysics. I've already introduced Schopenhauer and Nietzsche as the invisible bedrock for her 'axioms', which is what Rand calls her fundamental propositions to make them sound more authoritative. She certainly states them with self-pronounced authority. Sadly, there's no other ground for her choice. So I will quickly move straight past Rand's claim that 'axioms are propositions that defeat others,' which obviously is paradoxical because it can be used to defeat itself, and dive into the nitty gritty.
Rand's Metaphysical Stance: Naive Duality
Rand claims to 'conquer' all alternative explanations by asserting a primitive evolutionary 'necessity' for 'survival of the fittest' as the sole force driving all human existence. In the milieu Rand defines, axioms 'battle' with each other to obtain conceptual superiority like dinosaurs attacking each other; but because Rand has perceived the 'total truth,' she claims her definition of this 'war' (which she assumes must exist for reasons of biological necessity) always 'wins.' Rand is not always consistent with her own metaphysics, perhaps because she was too horrified herself by its logical conclusions, but here I address what she states the nature of reality is, rather than her fictional plots.
A gold star for imagination, Ayn Rand, but on philosophy, you're lucky not to be in detention. As I will clarify.
Rand's three primary axioms are simply stated as 'self-evident truth,' in much the same manner as Thomas Payne rejected Hume's distinction between the domains of mind and matter (seehttp://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/axioms.html). In Payne's view (now known as 'naive realism') reality is intuitively known from common sense, and no further thought is needed. In contrast with Payne, Rand does acknowledge Hume's mind/body distinction, at least enabling her thought to explain some basic problems with perception, such as optical illusions. However, despite Rand's frequent adulations of the faculty of reason, her own reasoning on the domain of mind doesn't elevate her metaphysical stance much above Payne's naive view of reality known only via intuitive common sense. Even so, as a dualist, one naturally looks to her opinions of Western Empricists concerned with that stance, starting with Descartes, Hume, and Kant. As will be shown, she doesn't actually even get that far in her claimed 'rational' approach.
Rand's Illogical Scorn of Descartes
As substantiation of that rather damning statement, one can't even get past Rand's first and primary axiom: the necessity of conscious existence. Rand thankfully agrees with the conclusion of Descartes' famous 'cogito ergo sum.' But Descartes instead of just asserting existence as a necessary truth, argued for his conclusion. [Descartes' cogito stated we might be deceived in many ways, leading to rational skepticism; but we cannot doubt that we are doubting. Descartes concludes, therefore, that the act of doubting is proof of our conscious existence.]
Descartes established the bedrock of certain knowledge for all Western empiricism. His procedure in making the argument, much longer than the abstract summary above, started by defining a new kind of 'rational skepticism' where one iteratively discards that which is not necessarily true, defining for the first time the foundational model of the scientific method as still in practice today. But Rand finds it necessary to mock him, which is totally illogical, as she claims her model of the 'war for survival' is scientific. Yet instead of building on Descartes' idea, she scorns him as a 'witchdoctor' (see this article in the Generalist for another philosopher's opinion of that remark). She instead asserts, in her rather typical style of self-glorification, a supposedly superior axiom: “A consciousness conscious of nothing but itself is a contradiction in terms.” That's presented as intuitively obvious, without any rationale for her perceived contradiction, and without any defense of the purely binary, Aristotelian split she claims must exist. Per Rand, the only definition of 'consciousness' can be 'something conscious of something or other things but itself,' in a circular argument similar to claiming the Bible is true because it says so.
Except for logical derivations from Darwinian competition, all Rand's other statements are presented as self-evidently true, in the same naive manner, despite Rand's frequent adulations of the faculty of reason. Plato would consider her a dimwit not even equal to Thrasymachus; he would dispatch her with arguments he knew fallacious himself just to get rid of her, and she would not even have any friends to further the debate on her behalf. And if one knows anything of Aristotelian ethics, one does not even want to imagine the disgust he would feel for objectivism, a reaction obviously shared by both Stoics and Epicureans.
Rand's Ethics & Sneering at Hume
Regarding ethics, Rand carefully avoids the historically contemptuous monicker of 'social Darwinism,' but the fact is, by basing all her ideas on 'survival of the richest,' in actuality, all of objectivism's ethics are Darwinian in basis.
To Rand, ethics are based on observations of what is. But then, while she agrees with Hume's mind/body distinction, she cannot pass the test of Hume's guillotine, now more commonly known as the is/ought problem. [Hume's guillotine states there is no way to define morality from phenomenological observation; or in Hume's own simpler words, there is no way to bridge the gap between that which 'is,' and that which 'ought to be,' without introducing unprovable moral criteria or a concept of intrinsic goodness.]
On Hume's guillotine, Rand wrote:
- "In answer to those philosophers who claim that no relation can be established between ultimate ends or values and the facts of reality, let me stress that the fact that living entities exist and function necessitates the existence of values and of an ultimate value which for any given living entity is its own life. Thus the validation of value judgments is to be achieved by reference to the facts of reality. The fact that a living entity is, determines what it ought to do. So much for Hume."
—Ayn Rand, "The Virtue of Selfishness"
Rather obviously, any observation of social Darwininism happening might be taken to prove it happens, but that certainly doesn't mean it ought to happen. And Rand's superficial statement on the necessary truth of her statements isn't even born by fact. Scientifically speaking, observations of social Darwinism only corroborate the theory, and don't necessarily prove it's the correct explanation for the observation in the first place. Rand's claim that her 'rational' observation that human rights 'just is' qualifies at most as a subjective hypothesis with limited application. One doesn't need to look very far to find equally valid observations that her observations 'just ain't' either. Yet for some reason, objectivists blithely ignore these profound problem with all of Rand's ethics.
Rand again introduces a self-evidently-true axiom, this time on the 'necessary existence of values,' without defining any rational method to define rules for the 'descriptive ethics' she desires to be self-evidently true. But having avoided social Darwinism, that's all she can do.
The Necessity of Selfishness, and Spite of Kant
Rand also has no justifiable grounds for defining any morality, because she condemns altruism as a wrongful deviation from Darwinian competition in a capitalist society. This may be her most fatal error, because she resorts to social Darwinism as a justification to reject altruism, without gaining its benefit as a rationale for descriptive ethics. Moreover, even Darwin himself advocated that altruism is a competitive advantage for a social species, and the idea has since reemerged in sociobiology (for example in Dawkins "The Selfish Gene,"") and has been reinforced by computer models of 'Hawk versus Doves' scenarios in game theory. So her rejection of altruism was not only contradictory to her prior thought, but also, actually wrong on the grounds she chose.
In order to reject altruism, Rand is also forced to deny the existence of intrinsic goodness, without which she further cannot define any 'normative ethics' (as to what one ought to do). Her position, summarized in theAyn Rand Lexicon, isn't helped by her spiteful attitude to Kant, whose ideas could best have helped her define intrinsic goodness (see this page on Philosophy Now for a highlight of her calling Kant "the most evil philosopher of all time."). Clearly she does not agree with Kant's concept of mathematical logic as 'a priori truth' [propositions that remain true independent of any observer]:
- "Logic rests on the axiom that existence exists."
—Ayn Rand, "Atlas Shrugged"
A metaphysicist may understandably find it disturbing that Kant presents a perfectly rational argument that mathematical logic could exist independent of consciousness, yet the most she has to say of Kant's argument is that he's the most evil philosopher of all time. Insults don't make his argument less valid. Others who object to Kantian reasoning for a priori truth at least have the decency to say what they think of the argument, rather than insult the man.
Among those who have not found Kant incomprehensible like Rand did are: Reinhold, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, Novalis, Coleridge, GK Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, Ronald Englefield, Schopenhauer, Jacobi, Hermann Cohen, Paul Natorp, Ernst Cassirer, Nicolai Hartmann, Clement Greenberg, Foucault, Hilbert, Frege, Russell, Strawson, Onora O'Neill, Quassim Cassam, Wilfrid Sellars, Christine Korsgaard, Jürgen Habermas, John Rawls, Jean-François Lyotard, Mou Zongsan, Max Weber, Jean Piaget, Carl Gustav Jung, Noam Chomsky, Stephen Palmquist, and Einstein. The existentialist Knut Hamsun made Kant a hero to his protagonist in his Nobel-prize-winning novel "Hunger." While some found issues with some of Kant's thought, including Einstein, they all explicitly stated he was a significant influence on their thought, and they in no way would consider him evil at all, let alone "the most evil person that ever lived" like Rand did.
It's only coincidental, after her rather hateful remarks of him, that her criticisms of Kant are not only wrong but actually flaws of her own position.
- " Kant originated the technique required to sell irrational notions to the men of a skeptical, cynical age who have formally rejected mysticism without grasping the rudiments of rationality. The technique is as follows: if you want to propagate an outrageously evil idea (based on traditionally accepted doctrines), your conclusion must be brazenly clear, but your proof unintelligible. Your proof must be so tangled a mess that it will paralyze a reader’s critical faculty—a mess of evasions, equivocations, obfuscations, circumlocutions, nonsequiturs, endless sentences leading nowhere, irrelevant side issues, clauses, sub-clauses and sub-sub-clauses, a meticulously lengthy proving of the obvious, and big chunks of the arbitrary thrown in as self-evident, erudite references to sciences, to pseudo-sciences, to the never-to-be-sciences, to the untraceable and the unprovable—all of it resting on a zero: the absence of definitions. I offer in evidence the Critique of Pure Reason."
—Ayn Rand, "Psychological Techniques"
The emotional problems are not surprising, because in reality, she can't accept the existence of intrinsic goodness, for the same reason she rejects altruism: there is no competitive advantage to being good for its own sake, according to her flawed interpretation of social Darwinism and sociobiology. In fact, Kant's deduction that the speculative reality of intrinsic goodness is by itself sufficient as a foundation for a categorical imperative could have been useful to Rand. Yet despite being a fiction writer, Rand displays no comprehension of the significance of speculative realities at all, instead ranting on how his thoughts were incomprehensible.
Then in a total flip face Rand upholds concepts such as 'duty:'
- " The meaning of the term “duty” is: the moral necessity to perform certain actions for no reason other than obedience to some higher authority, without regard to any personal goal, motive, desire or interest."
—Ayn Rand, "Psychological Techniques"
Rand's problem now is that she has denied the existence of intrinsic good, in her hateful slam of Kant. Hence, her statement of a 'moral' necessity can only be based on relative values that must be true. In absence of any other source of authority on that than the higher authorities define for themselves, her problem falls to that introduced by Plato's Republic: no one can define what philosopher kings should do except by appealing to some higher-order law of goodness. Thus in the absence of any other authority as to what 'goodness' is, Rand's demand for necessary obedience to authority can be no more than some religious edict.
Philosophically religious edicts don't pass Hume's guillotine, so they are really no more than religious edicts. In fact, her entire edifice is contrived on the assumption that capitalism infinitely increases well being by producing more wealth. Again, the desire for 'happiness' is stated as self-evidently 'good,' without defining what 'good' actually is. Her actual assumption is that wealth purchases more pleasure, and more pleasure is the absolute end goal of life, already illustrated as wrong for Jim Carrey, above.
The idea that a certain level of wealth is all that's necessary for humans to pursue a meaningful existence is ignored. To which, in Rand's case, one could add a necessity to ridicule the validity of every rational philosopher in history, by all appearance. If one is at all familiar with Aristotle's ethics, one does not wish even to imagine what Aristotle would have thought of her.
Qualitative Evaluation of Rand's Metaphysical Model
With her denial of almost every major thinker in her field while touting her own thought alone, it's perhaps not surprising that her simplistic approach is so full of inconsistency, albeit, she does provide a simple model. One cannot deny the appeal of simple scientific models, yet nonetheless, attempting to cram all ethics, politics, and metaphysics into a naive evolutionary explanation suffers from the same problems that the theory of evolution presents in the philosophy of science.
- First, there are the limits introduced by the pre-staged debate. Darwinian fanatics have so focused their arguments against teleology on theism alone, the debates on evolution have totally disregarded the potential multiplicities of purposes for existence beyond scientific measurement. For example, we can't know if animals have other motives when they choose mates, but many have noted the extraordinary beauty of nature. Hence it should be reasonable to speculate that animals acquired an appreciation of beauty at some point in the history of evolution, even if it can only be a hypothetical proposition. As so eminently detailed in Nagel's "What's it Like to Be a Bat?," we can never do better than surmise what animals actually 'think.' Certainly, many artists have appeared to place the beauty of their own creations above their well-being (perhaps most famously, Vincent Van Gogh). Yet even a tragic pursuit of beauty, as in Goethe's Faust, is only one of a plethora of reasons for existence that humanity has defined for itself, most of which offer no competitive advantage at all. Objectivism precludes such alternative teleological explanations, whether they be as pointless as the simple fun of Dr. Seuss, or as audacious as painting nudes on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. "God created Man, and all of him is beautiful," said Michelangelo, risking prison and torture, and even eternal damnation perhaps—For what? Had he painted more modestly, no one would lessen his praise.
- Second, there are the metaphysical limits imposed by such a constrained explanation. By declaring that all behavior is defined by 'survival of the fittest in a war of axioms,' one is forced to deny any other teleological explanations, and thus (per Kant's "Critique of Practical Reason") objectivists are forced to deny also the meaningfulness of concepts such as intrinsic goodness, morality, and normative ethics. Objectivism substitutes in its place a deontological model for descriptive ethics without room for any hypotheticals, including the unachievable ideals upon which Aristotle named capitalist democracy as the least-worst evil in the first place.
As Wittgenstein wisely observed, a metaphysics must either be reductionist yet logically coherent, or complete yet paradoxical. But Rand's proposal for a metaphysics is comprised of the worst of both types: it is grounded on the irresolvable paradox of its own axioms fighting for survival against themselves; and it is severely lacking in explanation of the totality of human experience.
Shrugging off "Atlas Shrugged"
In the rush to self-entitlement without consideration of greater needs that has gripped the USA since Roosevelt's 'New Deal,' an often neglected perspective on metaphysical and ethical positions is not only their value rationally, but also spiritually. Part of the reason the world now suffers from so many problems is the increase in the replacement of religion by 'science,' rather than acknowledgment that beliefs may extend to realms not touchable by rigorous physical testing. To almost all people nowadays, our planet is a little blob circling an insignificant star on the edge of one galaxy in a universe of almost infinite constellations. Yet in all human search so far, there is no evidence that any other place has a higher degree of molecular complexity than that found in life, from the simplest of organisms, to the most sophisticated creations of DNA. Thus one can choose to consider our home as geometrically insignificant, or one can choose to regard the Earth as the greatest degree of order and sophistication in all known reality.
We are free to regard ourselves as insignificant gnats vieing for supremacy, somewhere random on the periphery of an uncaring machine, of gigantic proportions, extending zillions of light years in all directions. That is the view Rand chose.
We are also free to regard our domains of matter and mind as the entropic center of an extraordinarily beautiful, if not miraculous, creation. The view we choose of humankind's position in the material universe shapes the qualities of our conclusions on the human condition.
Despite the clear pleasure of the second choice, most now belittle our place in any greater order than the physically verifiable. Chief among their ranks are objectivists, who see the purpose of continued existence as winning an ongoing war for existence, and nothing else.
To objectivists, Dr. Seuss is not only wrong. He is an enemy. So also are Plato, Aristotle, Stoics, Epicureans, Descartes, Hume, Payne, Kant, Wittgenstein, and all modern philosophers who accept a distinction between descriptive and normative methods, starting with Russell and Moore. For objectivists, allies are thin on the ground, in fact, nonexistent. In the war Rand has defined, even Schopenhauer and Nietzsche can be no more than biquivocally neutral parties, and Machiavelli no more than competition.
One would like to believe objectives are aware of their self-created isolation in the world, but from their preoccupation with an adversarial stance, Rand and her followers are unable even to perceive that their view of reality, as some purely mechanical production by a fight for survival by the fittest, is not only severely limited but based on circular arguments with numerous inconsistencies. As such objectivism is not a philosophy at all, but instead, a sad and rather pitiful mockery of a religion.
The Randians' absolutist need to remove human feelings from her 'objectivist' religion may stem from bad childhoods, which have made her supporters fearful of feeling empathy or compassion. Such fear has made right-wing capitalists actually threatened by concepts such as pre-adolescent individuation and value systems outside fiscal scales. As a result, they've created an unnecessary war with all such as the imaginative conceptions of Dr. Seuss.
Maybe this is a symptom of the post-truth era, where Randian 'dialog' on what reality SHOULD be (in their opinion) replaces that which actually IS, in all its sublime facets. It is easier to censor green eggs and ham than understand how such concepts exist and yield experiences in the imagination. It is easier to deny the validity of alternative perspectives than to understand them, when desiring that money be the fascistic control of all existence.
I don't expect these observations to 'convert' Randians to a more encompassing view. I've tried many times to argue for a less narrow-minded view on existence. But rationality cannot dissuade the religious profit zealots seeking shelter from the suffering their own views inflict on themselves by so criticizing others. It takes a major life-changing event, such as the death of a loved one, or bankruptcy, or losing a home, or infidelity of a spouse, to make such disciples of fiscal gain consider that there might really be something more to life than a bank account. When that happens, I hope Randians who read this little piece remember its words and find some more beauty in the bleak world they have created for themselves.
Meanwhile, those of us who've studied more of the history behind Rand's thought can only be sad how little her followers are even aware of the numerous fallacies in their own doctrine. It may not be surprising, considering how few attempts at complete criticisms are made of objectivism's metaphysics and ethics, despite their number. So objectivists are likely to be around for quite a while. Most of Rand's critics know less of philosophy than Donald Trump. So it is especially sad also that the world has reduced itself to such a low level of philosophical sophistication that objectivism can thrive at all.
We may find some consolation in the hope that 'How the Grinch stole Christmas' is likely to be recognized and celebrated long after Carrey's other works, in many more yuletides, with much more positive effect than Rand, and long after Rand's philosophy has shrugged itself off the planet, as more of the population find another truth for themselves: sufficient wealth for a pleasurable existence is enough, beyond which, the pursuit of profit transforms into a shackle on life, and is no longer a means to freedom, no matter how much power it endows. Randians may have won its battle with Dr. Seuss this decade, but in the long term, Rand's narrow-minded conceptions can only lose the war which its own supporters have declared on other explanations of the human condition, and what we should do about it.