Marketplace of Ideas

15 Aug

Or, The Post with All the Tags

We’ve been going back and forth about Ayn Rand for a very long time. And since there’s a certain stigma attached to her philosophy, we fully intended to keep our opinions on the subject off this blog.

But then Romney picked Ryan and shit got real.

What does Ayn Rand really represent? Polly knows! (Because <<gasp>> she actually read a few of her books.)

It’s long, we know. But since we agree to disagree, maybe it’s (finally) a fair account of all those things not dreamt of in Horatio’s philosophy?

Penny:  Ok, I kinda love that NY Times article. It pretty much sums up my every quibble with the American right: Government should butt out of business because we can take care of ourselves and are able to make decisions like Grown Ups, but it’s ok for government to say whether or not you can abort a baby, or who can marry or or or SOCIAL ISSUES.

Regardless of how you feel about any of it, objectively it can’t help but smell of hypocrisy somewhere.

Also, somewhere else, Ryan has awesome aides. That Aquinas flip-flop? Inspired.

Polly: Exactly. It’s so far off track. Ideologically, conservatives today make no sense. Small Government EXCEPT in your personal life.

 

A few minutes later…

Polly:  My gurl Ayn is so misunderstood.

Penny:  I still don’t agree with moral selfishness.

Polly:  Ok ok ok ok ok ok but…

Penny:  Idk that she’s misunderstood so much as selectively quoted?

Polly: Let me have a but here.

Penny: Oh, ok fine. There’s a HUGE BUTT there. And it is all yours. You may have it.

Polly:  Ok. BUTT:

Aside: Polly would, IRL, love a bigger butt.

When you read the Fountainhead, you come to realize that Rand’s interpretation of selfishness is not necessarily what we understand selfish to be.

It’s actually closely related to the Greek ideas of virtue and Eudaimonia. As rational animals (zoon noetikon), we have the ability to look closely at every situation and discern what would bring us closest to happiness or, more accurately, flourishing. Anyone who takes the time to make a decision and does something that actively harms others is misguided. When we look at what TRULY makes us better, we can only make virtuous decisions. Ayn Rand’s version of selfishness involves that step of discerning.

So, we’ll use Thebes as an example. Thebes’ decision to cheat on me could be considered selfish because he was getting validation from a sad girl who told him it was ok to get high and not study for that Lit exam. This isn’t selfish. It is short sighted. If Thebes were being selfish, he would have taken the time to understand that what he wants is to be smarter than everyone else and be recognized for it (these are Thebes’ Big Dreams). To achieve that, he’d have to focus on acing his exam. Side advantage: then he selfishly avoids the stress of confessing his philandering ways and repairing a broken relationship. The selfish decision involves gaining respect from professors and having a wonderfully fulfilling relationship with the most attractive girl ever. So the decision that is truly selfish is also virtuous.

Penny: BUTT granted. May I have a BUTT of my own?

Polly: [Insert inappropriate 50 Shades quote here]

Penny: Utopia doesn’t exist and people are stupid.

Polly: Yes, that is a big butt.

BIGGER BUT:

Can’t you apply that to just about every philosophy? No one hits the virtuous mean. No one always turns the other cheek. And few people are as devious as The Prince.

Penny:  HENCE why we need gov’t if we’re going to live in community with one another, and also why Ayn Rand is impracticable.

Polly:  Right. I’m not saying it’s a philosophy that works in practice. But if Rand’s ethical philosophy is criticized for its idealism… well, then we should throw out nearly all ethical philosophy. It’s like anything else. Elements can be practically applied. And other elements are impossible to achieve.

A philosopher king would BE AWESOME.

But we’ll never going to have one because Politics.

Communism makes sense, but greed is totally a thing.

Sure, the monarch is better than the state of nature, but that doesn’t mean people are happy.

Etc.

I’m just making the argument that Rand can’t be placed on a lower tier than every other person with Ideas. But it seems that so often she is.

People read the Communist Manifesto and said “OMZ WE SHOULD DO EXACTLY THAT” and then gulags happened. WHOOPS.

People read The Federalist Papers and said “OMZ THIS MAKES SO MUCH SENSE” and look where we are now. THEY DIDN’T WANT PARTIESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS, PENNY. THEY DIDN’T WANT THEM.

So people shouldn’t expect Atlas Shrugged to solve problems.

They should expect to find a lot of worthy Ideas, some of which can successfully be applied in society.

And that is my rant.

**Polly is accepting Guest Lecturer invitations**

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