New person with questions

She's picture
Submitted by She on Fri, 2005-12-02 22:10

Greetings I’m new here. But I have a bunch of questions. I have a post that I want to share that I made on another board. And I didn’t understand the response. After research online, I have much more understanding. But I am just astounded by some things.

Let me introduce myself beyond what is in the profile. I was first introduced to Atlas Shrugged in the early 80’s. It was validating in a big way. Much of what was there, I had already thought about on some level. So, I read the rest of her things...Most of them.

I gave books to people as gifts, and placed the books on "the desirable reading list for new acquaintances who were so inclined to read." The Objectivist Concepts were incorporated into my life smoothly and life proceeded as planned. I occasionally discussed the concepts with people who had read the books, but it was the structure of my life. The framework, or skeleton, that isn’t normally visible. I also read Joseph Campbell and many many other things.

But it's always been reason that sees me through. A friend once described me as a person who had no need to “belong.” A maverick. She said I was always doing my own thing and not group oriented. Didn’t need outside approval and didn’t much like the confines of herd thinking. That was right, so okay. But it explains also why I hadn't discovered the online world of Rand until now.

It was pleasant surprise to discover a world of Rand Fans who, I assumed, were like that. I had no idea people talked and met and did things around these books. DoH!

But Now...I hesitate to ask as I really don't want to offend, but does it appear to anyone else that there are some people who have turned Ayn into...uh...The Ultimate Extreme: She Who Must Be Obeyed...?

Is this my imagination? If not...

How? What? Why?

( categories: )

Glad you Are :)

VSD's picture

... all the appropriate comments and disclaimers aside (I tend to ramble) ...

I'm glad you are!

No further quailfier needed. This kind of posts were one of the reasons why I was delighted to discover Solo some time ago. Knowing there are others out there who like to know that there are other like-minded beings out there without the need to get personally / deeply / consistently / consensually / etc. involved. Just knowing you are ...

Some things I like about your posts (the 'Me-Too' would apply):

I   - It's about you and you only! even others are only a surrounding / reflection of you - which is why I'm called selfish - yeah right Smiling btw.: I'm on to egocentric by now ...

I do   - Reading Ayn Rand and thinking: I've already done that my whole life! most of her stuff I've read was the same realisation - felt like finding words for what I've lived all along - almost got to the point of: 'been there, done that' Eye

I am   - Bookworm and Loner! Check! another reason to just want to know you're out there - as a loner I'm not very good at this interaction thingy ... bookworm since I was a child and my mother got me my first library card (long story)

I can   - Selfsufficient! I'm never much impressed with things I cannot do myself - if I want sth, I do / get it myself - results are usually much better, too, which was the reason why I started going my own way in the first place

and I have, too (even if that's not part of the usual trilogy)   - Alternative Family! makes me appreciate my ability to do it myself - I don't think welfare would be a good 'alternative' for my 'alternative family' :]

After this short resurrection from the dead (hell I even had to re-register - congrats to Linz and his team - you made to 'the other side') I'll slip back to the occasional skimming of Solo for new entries about

Me Myself and I

PS: apologies and all that kind of stuff if this was not inteded the way I read it - to quote you again - it's how I read it Eye

Do your own thinking

Michael Stuart Kelly's picture


I stand by everything I said. Actually you should check out all Rand literature and organizations. Then go on to the other authors Rand sanctioned. Check out the Brandens' stuff too (both the stuff sanctioned by Rand and later - it's all wonderful).

Then use your own mind to judge.

That is the one precious thing you hold - your own independent mind. Frankly that is the one thing so many are afraid of.

I am sure that whatever conclusions you come to will be seriously thought out and sincere, so wonderful premises. (Don't let the bickering get you down either. That's just the way this little community of Objectivism is and has been since the beginning.)


Why Indeed

James S. Valliant's picture


As in most intellectual movements, there are those who treat Objectivism like a religion and Rand as their goddess.

But the criticism that Objectivism is a "cult" goes way back. In one sense, this attack was inevitable, for Objectivism addresses -- with remarkable power -- a subject that religion had held to be its monopoly for so long: ethics.

In another sense, that attack was the Big Lie. The fundamental ethical mandate of Objectivism is "think for yourself." Obviously, Howard Roark's virtue rests on the fact that he did not follow anyone.

Unfortunately, early admirers of Rand had a hard time grasping Objectivism. Nathaniel Branden himself, as Rand came to learn, was treating Objectivism like a religion, and was creating a religion around it. She showed him the door in 1968 for several reasons -- including this.

Leonard Peikoff, Rand's heir and the foremost expert on her thought, tried to rectify this problem in his lecture course, "Understanding Objectivism" (which I highly recommend).

Those influenced by Rand ARE, as you might expect, a highly diverse crowd, often wandering far from Rand's original ideas, and often before they had fully understood Rand. This can be interesting and even enlightening -- but it's not "Objectivism." Moreover, Rand's ideas have been repeatedly and grossly misrepresented in the media and by hostile intellectuals for many, many years, including with comparisons to Nazism. This context, in my view, compelled Rand to take steps to protect the integrity of her system of thought, and she sometimes had "breaks" with former associates.

But some folks take "breaks" very personally, and differences among Objectivist intellectuals unfortunately get cast in the terminology of "excommunications" and "purges."

Rand herself, as you may know, was a woman of certainty and moral rectitude, but also a fiery temper. She could be intimidating and even unfair in her righteous zeal. (I myself prefer this to the approach of most academics: relativism or uncertainty or over-qualifying their position into the ground. Some it seems, simply resented Rand's clarity.)

All of this has fed into the gross lie that Rand was an intellectual tyrant, and her defenders all thoughtless conformists. However, I don't know of a serious intellectual who admires and studies Rand who holds the view that Rand was flawless, or who agrees with everything she said.

There are, fortunately, a bunch of Rand fans like yourself. They enjoy new intellectual horizons and revel in a life of discovery and adventure. (That's why Rand appealed to them in the first place.) They know that Ayn Rand didn't have the last word to say even in philosophy, and that a future of wonder still awaits humanity -- but only with reason as our single source of truth, and only if we know that the pursuit of our own selfish happiness is the noblest, not basest of motives -- and only if we remain free from the coercion of political thugs.

All you really need is 2 legs to stand on

Ed's picture

I'm of the view that, if you acknowledge -- if you truly acknowledge -- the first 2 pillars of Objectivism (objective Metaphysics and Epistemology), then you are Objectivist. If these 2 things are fully acknowledged, then you will be lead in the correct direction regarding, say, ethics or politics. Now, you may be bouncing off the guardrails in your travels -- but you're headed the right way.

Objective Metaphysics and Epistemology can be imagined as 2 guardrails keeping folks on track. Someone once said that the mind's direction, was more important than it's speed of advance. I play around with alternative views a lot. I'm also confident that I won't be run off the O-road in doing so. Number 1, it's fun. Number 2, that's how growth happens. For another cute quip: Ships in harbor are safe, but that's not what ships are for.

[Considers himself ortho-Objectivist]


Casey's picture

Yes, Nancy, there really is no such thing as Objectivism. It's just a bunch of nerdy terminology bleated by a bunch of spoilsport nerds who can't seem to just "get along" with all the comfortably random folks who really know what Objectivism means: anything you want it to mean. These uptight, juvenile Randbots are NO FUN. They insist on certain meanings of certain terms (defining their terms -- the epitomy of tedium!. Objectivism can mean a kind of Christian approach to the world (see some of Michael Stuart Kelly's works if you don't believe me -- everything his brain imagines is, by definition, Objectivism), if we have a broad enough mind and don't bother with definitions much. Objectivism can break bread with radical Islam, too (just read some of Ed Hudgins' work, which is forever expanding the borders of Objectivism to include everything around it like an insatiable ameoba that rejects the notion of exclusion utterly). We could all get along better with everyone if we did this more often! But "getting along," sadly, isn't the goal of some who would turn Objectivism into a religion worshipping the perfection of Ayn Rand, who was, we must remember, terribly flawed and therefore obviously wrong in her insistence on any certain meaning for her philosophy. Those psychological flaws of Ayn Rand give us license to take the name of Objectivism and turn it into something individual and "human" and "real" to ourselves and to all of those around us simultaneously -- although, of course, we don't really have free will in this matter (just read Roger Bissell if you choose to discover this -- although you don't really have any choice in the matter. LOLOLOLOL!!) And, if you're into the X-Files and all those "In Search Of..." episodes Leonard Nimoy narrates, then you'll be happy to know that intellectual giant Nathaniel Branden himself opens the door for ESP and psi phenomena -- neato! That's really fun. Yes, have lots of good belly laughs while doing all of this, because Lord knows those Randbots have no sense of humor at all and never seem to be able to get a joke when they see one. When you read Rand and responded to what she was saying, naturally that means that you are attracted to the wide open "anything goes" implications of Objectivism, which makes you an open-minded person who refuses to judge others, lest they judge you a Randbot. So you will instantly appreciate the loosey-goosey, FUN approach of the individuals I've mentioned above, and particularly of TOC, David Kelley's organization which welcomes them all with open arms providing they are people who loathe Peikoff and believe that anyone who adopts the horrible side of Rand, her insane insistence on certain principles, etc., etc. are people who seek to set back the real mission of Objectivism -- which is to accept everything (to a certain DEGREE) instead of being so unsociable as to exclude certain viewpoints entirely.

Or, if you have detected the sarcasm here, you might check out Peikoff's lecture courses if you want to understand more about what Rand said. There are, as I said before, plenty of posers who seek to include any kooky theory that pops into their heads as Objectivism and trash Rand if she gets in their way. No one has ever more clearly and completely explained Objectivism than Leonard Peikoff, and it is a great pleasure to hear these courses and understand further Objectivism's relationship, positive and oppositional, to other philosophies. It is quite clear that in their mindless hatred of Peikoff and ARI, many at David Kelley's organization have avoided Peikoff's courses as obediently as a Christian would avoid investigating black magic. As a result, they are appallingly ignorant of Objectivism, so much so that it's been a real education in jaw-dropping ignorance to see the self-contradictory mush they trot out with the label "Objectivism."

Careful, though -- you wouldn't want to be called a Randbot, would you? Better stop listening to me if, like all true Objectivists (whatever that means for you, of course) you judge yourself based on what others think about you, whether they be Islamic terrorists, Christians or TOCers. You'll be considered NO FUN if you join that side, and won't be able to enjoy the warm, sticky embrace of all of those who call themselves Objectivists but loathe Ayn Rand.

(That was sarcasm again.)

Strange thing is, I don't call myself an Objectivist, and I understand and agree with far more of Objectivism than these others do. Go figure. On the other hand, I understand far more about Christianity than most Christians do, too, many of whom have never even read the New Testament. There's no necessity to explore the details of Objectivism as a philosophy if you already find agreement with its general principles. But there's no justification for calling everything in your mind "Objectivism" whether it is nor not because one is so cowed by the religious significance of the title that living without the title is unbearable to you. Ironically, that is the subliminal psychophancy folks like MSK, Bissel, Hudgins and Kelley practice. Take your pick.

New Person

John M Newnham's picture

Hi Nancy. Your post gave me a lot of food for thought. I am not much of a joiner. I find value in many places and have learned from many people. In the end, after the labelling, the joining, the arguing, the splitting from the herd, I realized that it is more the way I live my life, that defines me, and not what I call myself. Good post, and welcome.



Casey's picture

It's better than crucifixes.


Michael Stuart Kelly's picture

Hi Nancy,

You would not believe the lengths some people go to in Objectivism to prove boneheaded ideas. These are all adults, too.

The issues range from whether or not Ayn Rand was morally perfect (and nobody seems to be able to agree to any kind of definition of exactly what that is) to trying to prove that concepts like lying are actually sometimes initiation of force (or that invasion is not). They get quite upset when you mention that the emperor has no clothes on and the results of their behavior can be very baffling.

It takes all kinds to make the world go round - and that includes the Objectivist world. For some reason, common sense is not a value in most Objectivist circles.

You might get discouraged when you come across a true believer who will ask you, "How dare you call yourself an Objectivist when you are not familiar with the whole thing, or maybe even disagree with something?" Just ignore them. The philosophy is called Objectivism and those who practice it are Objectivists (like other schools of thought or organizations out in the real world). The problem is one of degree, not kind (i.e., how much of Objectivism you practice), and purists apparently wish to redefine the rules of language usage.

The best advice anyone could give to a newcomer to Objectivism is to use your own mind to judge everything. That means everything, including this site, the people on it, yourself, Objectivism itself, the world around you, Rand's personal life, me, everything.

I personally try to avoid Objectivist jargon and keep my language simple. This has been great for my thinking - especially keeping it independent, but it has caused a lot of conflicts with people who use the jargon a lot. (Obviously, I'll take the conflicts over mooing like a good member of the herd.)

Unfortunately, many of the adults you will come across in the Objectivist world will lead you to conclusions of Very Darkish Things about them or oodles of unseemly giggles (and don't forget the belly-laughs). But the good, intelligent, upstanding people you meet more than make up for them all.

I met my own Kitten among them and there has been no greater reward in my life than that.


She -- The Objectivist

Ed Hudgins's picture

She -- The Objectivist Center & Atlas Society was set up 15 years ago (then under the name of the Institute for Objectivist Studies) by David Kelley to, among other things, get away from the personality cult aspects of many Rand admirers and, especially, the manifestations of those aspects at the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI). David's book "Truth & Toleration," now out in a new addition under the title "The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand," deals seriously with just the issues you raise, of what, exactly is a philosophy and how one should live in accordance with its principles. Here's a link to the book from our store:

I paraphrase here a few highlights of David's criticisms of the ARI approach:

*Dr. Peikoff of ARI criticizes those with one foot in the Objectivist world and another in the conventional world. David says there's only one world and we should keep both feet firmly planted in it.

*Dr. P. speaks of those in Rand's orbit. David notes even in this language the idea of passive movement around a central power. (Since like you, I like Joseph Campbell, we appreciate the importance of imagery.)

*Dr. P. says new proposed ideas should be compared to Objectivism the way a lawyer might compare a proposed new law to the Constitution to determine if it's valid. David say we should compare it to reality. (Dr. P.s suggestion brings to mind the image of a religious leader comparing ideas to holy texts.)

Rand provides the framework but not every detail of the applications of the principles she discovered. As Rand correctly said, we ultimately must use the reason of our independent minds to discover the truth, not to simply rely on some authority.

We at the Objectivist Center and Atlas Society practice open inquiry in a atmosphere of tolerance rather than oxthodoxy under the treat of damnation and expulsion. We have sponsored hundreds of talks and publications on every aspect of Objectivism. I urge you to check out our website:
(A redesigned and easier-to-use version will be launched next week.)

As executive director of these organizations I'm committed to continuing these principles as is our founder David Kelley!

Durable, divisible, and rare.

milesian's picture

I have a couple of gold dollar signs! Charms, not brooches, they sit at my computer with other trinkets, talismans, and mementos.

"I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings."

Whew! Alrighty then!

She's picture

Thank you all very much for your replies. I feel better. I was beginning to think Very Darkish Things about my imagination... while being beset with a severe case of unseemly giggles.

I work with an Italian harpy...

stormyeyes's picture

...but I've never heard her use "stronzi" before. Mind providing a translation? Babelfish has proven useless.

Don't forget dollar-sign brooches.

stormyeyes's picture

Sure, some of the black-cape-and-cigarette brigade were a bit creepy, but at least Ayn Rand never served her guests poisoned Kool-Aid.

Black Capes and Cigarettes...Oh Yeah.

Teresa's picture

Some mimicked her preferences... Creepy!

Matthew, these people are

Ciro D Agostino's picture

Matthew, these people are called in Italian, stronzi!

Ayn Rand said it, I believe

Jody Gomez's picture

Ayn Rand said it, I believe it, that settles it! Eye

To She

Casey's picture

I look at Objectivism the same way that you do, and yet I have been accused of treating Rand like a "perfect" "goddess" simply for defending a book which challenges two books smearing her that were written by two people who exploited her (the Brandens). Others seem to feel that defending what her philosophy, Objectivism, is from what it is not is also a form of Rand worship. I don't see this as the case, either. Since I have no personal need to be called an Objectivist it never occurs to me that everything I think should be considered Objectivism. Some people are angry when their own theories and ideas are not considered Objectivism by others -- which I find to be more strangely sycophantic. Of course, there are some who are quite slavishly "Objectivist," as there are joiners and "followers" in any group of people, but the nature of Obectivism, which is obviously in conflict with such dogmatic groupism, helps to keep that universal phenomenon to a minimum.

No, it's not your imagination.

stormyeyes's picture

Unfortunately, there are people who think that the Word of Ayn is absolute, and that any deviation from the Gospel According to Rand is unforgivable heresy. Such people are usually called Randroids in informal company. Smiling

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.