Life on Mars

Arizona or Barsoom?I’m back from the Phoenix conference (schedule here) – my first ISIL event since the glorious 1997 Rome conference. It was a good conference, and I enjoyed the chance to catch up with old friends and meet new ones (as well as meeting folks in person that I’d previously known only online, whichever category that falls under). Plus I got to do my left-libertarian shtick.

Flying in, I caught a glimpse of a canal flowing through the reddish desert and was irresistibly reminded of my days on Mars. (Oh wait, I’m not supposed to talk about that ….)

Nathaniel BrandenThe keynote event of the conference was an award for Nathaniel Branden, coinciding with the long-awaited release of his original NBI lectures in print form. I’ll have more to say about Branden’s session in a future post, but for now I’ll just note that when I asked him about the claim in Jennifer Burns’ Rand bio that Leonard Peikoff was the originator of Rand’s thesis that Kant was the most evil force in history, Branden replied: “I don’t remember [when and how she formed that idea], but [Burns’ claim] sounds very implausible to me; Rand was a grand master at determining who were the good and evil people in history – she didn’t require any pipsqueak assistance.”

Sky Harbor AirportBeing in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area was a bit frustrating, since it’s one of my hometowns but the all-day schedule meant we never got out of the hotel to see anything. (I had to fly back before the Taliesin tour, since classes start this week.) Still, there weren’t any sessions I would want to have missed; and at least I could see Camelback and Papago from my hotel window. (We also had a good meal at the Golden Buddha – better Chinese food than one can find in Auburn, anyway.)

Incidentally, I think it’s cool and edgy for Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport to feature, as a decoration, a plane crashing into the terminal.

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32 Responses to Life on Mars

  1. Michael Wiebe January 12, 2010 at 10:48 pm #

    “Plus I got to do my left-libertarian shtick.”

    Any chance those lectures will be online?

    • Roderick January 13, 2010 at 8:48 pm #

      They were recorded, so they might be.

  2. Franklin Harris January 12, 2010 at 11:41 pm #

    “the claim in Jennifer Burns’ Rand bio that Leonard Peikoff was the originator of Rand’s thesis that Kant was the most evil force in history…”

    I read that somewhere else before Burns mentioned it, but I don’t recall where offhand. I believe the claim was something like Rand hadn’t actually read more than a page or two of Kant on her own, and everything she knew about Kant came from Peikoff and Barbara Branden.

  3. MBH January 13, 2010 at 1:35 am #

    If Kant is the most evil, then does that make Einstein the second most evil?

    • MBH January 13, 2010 at 1:48 am #

      David Bohm = No. 3 most evil. Or do all neo-Kantians tie for second?

      And wouldn’t that make contemporary mechanics evil? OH NO! That makes John Galt evil!

      Ms. Rand is going to split my head-in-two. OH NO! Like Kant!

      • MBH January 13, 2010 at 2:00 pm #

        (That was supposed to be funny. Sorry if that offends Randians. I’ve been there. I don’t mean to be condescending.)

        • Aster January 13, 2010 at 6:01 pm #

          A girlfriend and I had a running gag about this example of Rand’s priceless literary genius:

          The entire apparatus of Kant’s system, like a hippopotamus engaged in belly-dancing, goes through its gyrations while resting on a single point: that man’s knowledge is not valid because his consciousness possesses identity.

          I dare Leonard Peikoff to say the words “belly dancing hippopotamus” without smirking.

          (Which isn’t to say that Rand doesn’t have a valid point. Chris Sciabarra suggested that Hegel said the same thing.)

        • MBH January 13, 2010 at 8:25 pm #

          The system is like a hippo belly-dancing. Agreed.

          I would say: man’s knowledge is misleading because it signals identity — initially.

          So it can be corrected and re-integrated into a different kind of identity. Which is the point of Coevolution.

          Rand doesn’t call for the correction — to my mind. She acts like that process is solely “mystical” and disconnected from reality. But John Galt might remind her in her sleep that dual-processing is not evil but necessary to re-start the engine of the mind.

          A lot of suffering occurs in this world because (a) the mind rarely stops itself to check itself out (as Kant was suggesting it should), (b) because (a) has to be followed by a re-integration process but rarely is, and (c) because (b) is often ignored by the very same people who practice (a). I think Ayn Rand — in nearly everything that she wrote — was a tragic example of (c).

          As I recall she ends her Atlas with Dagny-sitting-by-John as he re-presents the new world with a dollar-sign. Needless to say: Dagny hasn’t had the necessary input in the re-building process — until now (thanks to analytic psychology and Jung’s work on the Anima — which integrates Aristotle’s work into therapy).

        • MBH January 13, 2010 at 8:30 pm #

          (And I wouldn’t know any of that were it not for my own therapist and Roderick and the heteronomous process in general).

          Sometimes I feel like I sound like Zarathustra’s Tarantula — or at least its web — so I’ll shut up now.

        • Roderick January 13, 2010 at 8:53 pm #

          like a hippopotamus engaged in belly-dancing, goes through its gyrations while resting on a single point

          I’ve always assumed that was a reference to the “Dance of the Hours” sequence in Fantasia:

  4. tjh January 13, 2010 at 4:39 am #

    Kant is evil if for no other reason than subjecting millions to his unreadable style.

    • MBH January 13, 2010 at 5:36 am #

      Right. Like your style is unreadable to someone who doesn’t speak American — the official Language of Freedom.

      • Aster January 13, 2010 at 8:06 am #

        MBH-

        Rand said she could read German but not speak it. Leonard Peikoff has spoken of Rand’s views on Kant in ways which clearly indicate they were hers first, if we may assume Peikoff’s honesty on the matter.

        If I recall, Walter Kaufmann considered Kant’s German to be extremely opague, but defensibly so, in that Kant was trying to describe extremely subtle and complex concepts with technical clarity. He thought the later German philosophers who followed Kant wrote in similarly nightmarish styles in senseless imitation, which sometimes obscured good ideas and often concealed terrible ones.

        I personally don’t share Rand’s utter dismissal of Kant, but I do agree that Kant was responsible for a very disturbing turn in Western philosophy, but at least partially due to genuine new exploration of a conscious being’s situation. I think Kant was right that experience is shaped by prior structures of consciousness, but according to a realist interpretation which allows us to retrace our steps and correct for the peculiarities of our modes of awareness, and therefore preserve Rand’s classical confidence in human reason. I don’t believe that any kind or moral law preexists us or is implicit in our consciousness and its exercise, tho’ I will admit that tearing this principle out of one’s system requires more than immoralism. I find Kant’s aesthetics eeirily fascinating but don’t truly understand them. I love What is Enlightenment? even tho’ I agree with Rand that Kant convinced us of things which may help us lose it.

        And do forgive me, but Kant’s such an insufferable goody-two-shoes-who-never-let-anyone-have-any-fun. You can’t make up heaven because “good” people just ought to be rewarded. So much of Kant is secularised Christianity, in some cases to the point of theological rationalisation. I don’t now how I could possible live with attention to Kant’s ethics; I generally find myself happy to the degree I completely don’t think about whether anything’s right in itself. I like heteronymy. A lot. And please, for God’s sake, kill yourself if you’re irretrievably suffering. No one can be as cruel as a moralist who believes in virtue as an end in itself.

        (I do greatly wish to get back to the earlier discussion when I’ve time. It’s wonerful to be able to discuss something like Kant again; it’s been years)

        • Roderick January 13, 2010 at 12:28 pm #

          Here’s my brief take on Kant.

          First, as regards his metaphysics and epistemology, I think there’s a good Kant and a bad Kant — corresponding roughly to Strawson’s distinction in Bounds of Sense between the “austere” and “transcendental” Kant (see Strawson’s summary here).

          The good Kant was campaigning quite sensibly against psychologism and (a certain kind of) empiricism, and his central thesis was that there are conceptual limits on what general view of the universe we can make sense of. Where he went wrong was in mistakenly treating those conceptual limits as emanating from the structure of the human mind. In short, in his quite proper attempt to escape from reflectionism he inadvertently slid into impositionism. (On impositionism, reflectionism, and the case against both, see my Mises/Wittgenstein article.) The impositionist Kant is the one that Rand quite rightly opposed; but I see Kant’s impositionism as a confused overlay, and underneath it is a valuable and much more Wittgensteinian project without the impositionist gloss.

          (I also think Kant’s division of the features of human experience into those that result from the content and these that result from the form was a mistake. But the Objectivists’ theory of “perceptual form” makes precisely the same mistake, so they’re in no position to criticize Kant on that point. They would say, of course, that their version of the view is different because they don’t take it to impugn the veridicality of perception. Well, neither did Kant.)

          Second, as regards Kant’s ethics: here too I think the problems arise from his mixing together something good with something bad. What’s good is his recognition that there are conceptual constraints on what kind of ethical system we can make sense of as well, and that not all of ethics can be held hostage to contingent and ephemeral facts about human moods and social institutions à la Hume and Hobbes; what’s also good is his emphasis on dignity and self-command and the sacred value of the individual (even if he did give all these a tiresome Puritan spin).

          His major mistake, I think, was that while he had a conceptually complex conception of morality, his conception of happiness and self-interest is woefully simplistic — essentially a bare hedonism. He seems never to have considered the possibility that there might also be conceptual constraints on what conception of self-interest we can make sense of. Obviously if you have a fancy conception of morality and a crude conception of self-interest, of course you’re going to have to disconnect the two. But that’s why I prefer the classical eudaimonists, who had fancy conceptions of both and thus were able to integrate the two.

          (Kant’s distinction between hypothetical and categorical imperatives also leaves no room for the eudaimonist conception of morality as neither an instrumental means to happiness p[hypothetical] nor a value unrelated to happiness [categorical] but rather as a constitutive part of happiness, related to it conceptually rather than causally.)

          Finally, while Kant’s political philosophy (as set out in the Doctrine of Right, for example) is of course too statist for me, it’s essentially a form of classical liberalism and not too bad.

          At any rate, as I see it most of Kant’s mistakes were inadvertent byproducts of failed attempts to develop his genuine insights, and not part of an Evil Plan to undermine the spirit of humanity.

        • MBH January 13, 2010 at 12:33 pm #

          Kant is wrong to think that heteronomy and autonomy are not part of a continuum. And then Hegel goes nuts with the dichotomy. Schopenhauer helps pull it back together. But you’re right that he — and many who follow that route — turn into total assholes. Wittgenstein is the most unfortunate example. But he recognized — at the end of his life — that humor was missing in all this. I think that can save philosophy. God knows I would have already taken your advice if it weren’t for humor.

          As to Rand: philosophy would be much less tangled had she just said, “Kant is incomprehensible.” But instead — and I can’t remember from where this comes — she dismisses his distinction between a priori and a posteriori reason; and she dismisses his distinction between synthetic and analytic perception. Doing so, she ignores the possibility that we can place them on a continuum in which they are different but derive from the same source.

        • Roderick January 13, 2010 at 12:39 pm #

          I like heteronymy

          I suspect you mean heteronomy; but given your use of multiple names you probably do like heteronymy too. 🙂

        • MBH January 13, 2010 at 12:41 pm #

          Roderick, I heart your thinking.

        • Aster January 13, 2010 at 6:34 pm #

          I suspect you mean heteronomy; but given your use of multiple names you probably do like heteronymy too.

          i) Mittens likes just about anything as long as it’s warm and soft and smells nice, especially if it dangles a string. String!

          ii) “Heteronomy Apparel” should be a brand for a line of pseudo-formal womens’ evening wear.

          God knows I would have already taken your advice if it weren’t for humor.

          I’m so sorry to hear you’ve suffered so much! (altho’ I sadly think that most of humanity is uselessly suffering, especially as human society pushes most to deny and then reverently celebrate their pain) I have been rationally suicidal, many years ago in an earlier life before I found my freedom. Breaking free of Objectivism’s suspicion of humour has not been the least pleasurable discovery while exploring spukfrei existence.

        • Aster January 14, 2010 at 6:21 am #

          MBH, Roderick-

          Far too many things to address (and read) here while my alarm is set for a disturbingly early hour in the morning tomorrow. I just wished to ask if this piece is the same as the Doctrine of Right.

          MBH, I can’t imagine why you would equate yourself with Nietzsche’s tarantulas. I’ve known far too many poisonously ressentful mediocrities in my life. You are most certainly not one of them. Your grasp of philosophic essentials is certainly greater than mine is now, enough to give me another reason to respect our hosting professor. You care about this stuff enough to encourage my recollection as to why I used to care so much about it. Thank you.

          I dearly hope that my arguments haven’t come across harshly; speaking one’s mind and challenging without disrespect is delicate, and I’ve becoming accustomed to using words as weapons to secure room to stand. This is certainly not their best use and it’s not what I most enjoy. I fear I’ve grown far to used too talking with an edge, as libertarian society has never proved a safe harbour for me.

          ~~~~~~

          Utterly random: I looked up tarantulas on wikipedia and discovered that spider sex is way kinky:

          As with other spiders, the terminal portion of the pedipalpi of males function as part of its reproductive system. Male spiders spin a silken platform (sperm web) on the ground onto which they release semen from glands in their opistoma. Then they insert their pedipalps into the semen, absorb the semen into the pedipalps, and later insert the pedipalps (one at a time) into the reproductive organ of the female, which is located in her abdomen. The terminal segments of the pedipalps of male tarantulas are moderately larger in circumference than those of a female tarantula. Male tarantulas have special spinnerets surrounding the genital opening. Silk for the sperm web of the tarantula is exuded from these special spinnerets.

          This could motivate me to study biology! It’s likely also enough to convince nearly half of Americans of the need to expel tarantulas from polite society. Just think what could be done with so many legs.

        • Roderick January 14, 2010 at 4:19 pm #

          if this piece is the same as the Doctrine of Right

          Yup, same thing.

        • Aster January 15, 2010 at 7:01 am #

          Roderick-

          Thank you! Started reading. And again, thank you for taking the time to have this conversation. The paradox of my life is that I have the liesure and independence to do something with my mind, but rarely the activation energy to study and create as I’d truly wish. Someone who I can really talk to about epistemology helps.

          Some comments interspersed:

          What’s good [in Kant’s ethics] is his recognition that there are conceptual constraints on what kind of ethical system we can make sense of as well, and that not all of ethics can be held hostage to contingent and ephemeral facts about human moods and social institutions à la Hume and Hobbes[.]

          I agree entirely on the second element. As to the first, doesn’t Kant’s categorical imperative assume a necessity for moral harmony? If we define ethics as a conceptual guide for the achievement of happiness, then it seems perfectly consistent to say that we need ethics to educate our awareness of what is materially and spiritually good for us, but that one’s person’s pursuit of an excellent life may sometimes or even routinely clash with the aspirations of others. Rand would not have said this- in fact, she oddly borrowed from Kant of all people to fill in the interpersonal gaps in her libertarian egoism. I deeply support universalism in the sense that I believe that conventional distinctions among individuals are flagrantly irrational and in the sense that the meaning of human flourishing is in essentials the same for all of us. But you can believe that and still see life as (a spiritually ambitious) Hobbesian war. I don’t precisely like that conclusion, but reality (evolutionary biology. The Naked Ape. evil book.) and experience has shown me that all to often one’s best flourishing simply cannot be brought into harmony with the flourishing of others. Climate change puts us all in this situation on a massive scale.

          Perhaps I have a fancy concept of self-interest and a crude concept of morality. But why would my life be better with a fancy concept of morality?

          I’ll grant that a more flexible version of a categorical imperative is true statement of what any intersubjectively harmonious ethics must include. And there are certainly inherent boundaries to possible ethics even within the context of an asocial egoism- rationality, authenticity, self-direction are implicit in the very act of considering the question of what one might do with one’s time in this world. But why do we need to act ‘ethically’ in the sense of interpersonal justice? We may do better when we have peaceful societies structured to reward pro-social behaviour, but that’s not what Kant or the average person is looking for in ‘ethics’. Reason tells me that there is no reason to be ‘ethical’ in the current understanding except within the context of the possibility of mutual relations. You can’t have a friendship without justice, kindness, or fairness. But you can be a genuine friend while looting others, are the world’s aristocracies have proved. Why not be evil like Vichy Fournier?

          If there’s a premise I’m missing, please share it. I find it emotionally difficult to jettison ‘ethics’ for any length of time, but I have come to the conclusion that I would be most happy if I simply executed my conscience and treated others justly only (still not a small ‘only’) to the degree that friendship, commerce, or mutual aid is possible. My mind can otherwise only see in morality an irrational complex of native emotion, social conditioning, and unexamined premises.

          I suspect that the issue never occurs to many people because they take for granted that society is on their side and that they share a common good with those around them. To me, social peace is a wonderful thing which may disappear tomorrow, in which my interests simply don’t line up with other humans. I observe that the same people around me who piously take their morality for granted often behave with routine unjustice to those who aren’t considered part of their social reference groups.

          what’s also good is his emphasis on dignity and self-command and the sacred value of the individual (even if he did give all these a tiresome Puritan spin).

          I love these values. They improve one’s life immensely. A society which respects and nurtures these values is immensely important to me for the sake of my own happiness and for the sake of other potentially interesting people with whom I can share every variation of friendship. I’ve also intensely aware of the fact that history selects for soul-killing collectivisms which reduce individuals into genetic and mimetic means. I fear that human individuality and selfhood may exist in sharp tension with the norms which preserve and sustain societies, and can only exist where society’s natural functioning is held back by a liberal hegemony. I see liberalism (and I suspect Rand might have agreed) as the defence of the philosopher (and the philosopher in each of us) from the collective people; a forcible rupture of organic social life. Biological and physical nature are utterly cruel; so is human biological and physical nature. The cosmos is so very cold without our energy to warm it. (stop at 5:27)

          Kant stands in for a long line of philosophers who look at all this turmoil and think it speaks something sublime to them. How? Everyone I’ve met who claims to have heard the Logos falls back in the end the argument from intimidation, to naming anyone who doesn’t see it immoral or unspiritual. Many are conscious or unconscious charlatans hiding themselves or their victims within wishfully edifying fantasies. ‘Tender-mindedness’ always seems to preface unworldly morality and useless stargazing. And living in an ethereal world isn’t harmless; the opportunity cost is living in a material one- in other words, everything we have.

        • Aster January 17, 2010 at 3:10 am #

          MBH-

          I’ve tried, and failed, to reply to you properly several times; I found myself extremely frustrated by a mental block whose source I am completely unable to determine. I strangely find it nearly impossible not to write unless I set my mind to write deliberately, at which point my mind crashes to a grinding halt.

          May I suggest that it may be easier for us to communicate in a more spontaneous medium? At I’ve previously mentioned, at least some of my difficulty is environmental, in the sense that I find it almost impossible to abandon a defensive stance within a libertarian society within which I just don’t feel safely at home.

          I’m aster_perelandra@hotmail.com , altho’ my preferred means of communication is Skype. (I love Skype. Skype, wikipedia, google, and youtube together have given us most of the dreams of the XVIII century philosophers, literally at the press of a button and in living colour. If there is any hope for our species, it lies in the still infinite possibilities of human technological imagination. Look at this! (link courtesy of Tennyson McCalla)

          No. Please keep on. It’s like a symphony.

          I also wished to belatedly acknowledge these wonderful words, which in no excess of truth constitute one of the most beautiful compliments I’ve received, and which I certainly don’t merit.

          Please do be careful, tho’, as it’s archetypically bad luck to exceptionally complement a girl self-centred enough to consider the serious end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it a convenient peg upon which to hang a lampshade. Beware, beware.

          You spoke of heteronomy and autonomy as a continuum. That was roughly Plato’s view, to be anachronistic. Or to use a rendition by a later Platonist whose tone is more to my personal whims’ liking: 😉

          O supreme generosity of God the Father, O highest and most marvelous felicity of man! To him it is granted to have whatever he chooses, to be whatever he wills. Beasts as soon as they are born (so says Lucilius) bring with them from their mother’s womb all they will ever possess. Spiritual beings, either from the beginning or soon thereafter, become what they are to be for ever and ever. On man when he came into life the Father conferred the seeds of all kinds and the germs of every way of life. Whatever seeds each man cultivates will grow to maturity and bear in him their own fruit. If they be vegetative, he will be like a plant. If sensitive, he will become brutish. If rational, he will grow into a heavenly being. If intellectual, he will be an angel and the son of God. And if, happy in the lot of no created thing, he withdraws into the center of his own unity, his spirit, made one with God, in the solitary darkness of God, who is set above all things, shall surpass them all.

          This is a beautiful ideal, and anything which could kick-start a Renaissance is hardly likely to be foreign to any (left-)Randian’s heart. But It’s not quite my approach, because Pico’s narrative is still dualistic: there is an ideal, superior to man, to which nature and humanity ought to aspire, if with gentle regard for nature and reason along the way. Man may be ultimately higher than angels for having the opportunity to become angelic, but his summum bonum is still beyond and better than this world. Mine isn’t, not because I don’t believe in real idealism and striving, but because I see idealism as ofthis world, and human action within the domain of ‘base matter’ no less a creative or demanding enterprise than astronomy or sculpture.

          Rand would have deeply agreed with feminist writers such as Starhawk and Riane Eisler who have argued that Descartes misfounded modernity upon a dualism (specifically, by infusing his rationalism with an Augustinian model of consciousness and an Ockhamite concept of the status of reason), and it is only in recent times that the West has learned to appreciate a more integrative approach. Pico’s and Plato’s approach only gives its blessing to a fallen nature as a means to something better.

          I feel something of patriarchy’s condescension in this, a recognition that the ‘lower’ should get some credit as a stepping stone to the ‘higher’. But that’s not true integration- nor equality nor reciprocity nor recognition of the other as an end in itself. And it’s very much a social matter, insofar as part of this unbalanced acceptance of the world has typically treated woman as a means to man, and likewise (as in Rand’s allusion to belly dancing) tended to push a denied aspects of humanity into a mythicised Orient somewhere across the Dardanelles.

          I want an ideal which synthesises the ideal and worldly together, with respect and attention to both, in variant proportion according to the nature and context of every particular human endeavour. Matter and spirit, desire and spirituality, self-interest and idealism, should not be placed in opposition nor in heirarchy. The result of such dichotomies can only be idealistic despair and material self-sacrifice.

          I do believe that Rand understated the difficulties of achieving this, as in various ways have any number of intellectuals with class privilege with a habit of demanding perfections impossible to the majority of humanity which is too busy surviving. One of my difficulties with libertarianism has long been its tendency to breezily pronounce the human condition as a paradise of perfect equilibria (=). It can go to ludicrous extremes: I’ve known Randians to condemn working people as immoral(!) because their work actually or allegedly doesn’t involve the full use of their faculties; I’ve also personally seen Randians treat aspiring artists and intellectuals with extreme cruelty under the assumption that non-commercially oriented cultural production must be inferior. It’s simply the old dualisms coming in through the back door, and it reflects Randian culture’s absurd sense of entitlement, and more deeply a fear of dealing with a messy an complicated world. Ideals which demand that we live for an ideal as an intrinsic purpose, rather than an explore our material and spiritual human purposes, always become as stonily inflexible as cathedrals, and like cathedrals usually serve very mundane purposes of social repression.

          I still admire Rand’s synthesist ideal, but I would like to see a more flexible, compassionate approach. I’m a “left-“Randian for a reason- partially it’s because I’ve seen and experienced sickening class injustice which Randians can only wave away- but in my case more deeply because I know very well that most of the things I care most about don’t register with mentalities specialised at winning the class game. I respect the more practical and productive virtues- especially the amazing, intense, pinball-wizard approach to life which one sees in the best entrepeneurs and IT professionals. But that’s just not my most comfortable emotional balance, nor is it for many lovely and talented people. Libertarians (where they haven’t sunk to the level of the paleolibertarian reactionaries) often sadly miss this.

          I’m a Romantic, and well aware (if Rand was not) that the thirst for an ideal unbound by contingency at the heart of Romanticism was inspired by Plato, Rousseau, Kant, and other writers whom Rand wouldn’t have touched without a ten-foot taser. I merely have to be wary of unalloyed romanticism. Several of the worst experiences of my life have been relationships with men whose lives embodied the following lines from Rand’s play Ideal:

          Kay Gonda: Do you hate people, Johnnie?
          Johnnie: No. I never notice them.
          Kay Gonda: What do you dream of?
          Johnnie: Nothing. Of what account are dreams?
          Kay Gonda: Of what account is life?
          Johnnie: None. But who made it so?
          Kay Gonda: Those who cannot dream.
          Johnnie: No. Those who can only dream.

          I spent my first year in Wellington with the social anarchist movement, and felt much the same thing: kind and passionate people motivated by all the right things, but unable to reach any successful praxis because of an institutionalised fear of engaging with the real world. Brilliant discussions. Wonderful atmosphere. But nothing works. Endless fights over dishes. And too much thankless work taken for granted done off-stage by women. I’m still a romantic, and far less of a Randian in practice than my mind tells me I ought to be, but I’ve learned from more than philosophy that one lives ideals in denial of the world at the cost of the world. Which is, after all, not too far from what the man said.

          I hope you’ll write to me, and would love to further speak with you. And now I have to go, because I’m terribly neglecting my practical affairs, and simply can’t afford to do so any longer.

          Oh, one more thing. More music. This is my favourite piece by Joan Baez, and perhaps of her decade.

          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
          (=) A theory which a much younger George Reisman actually opposed as a theory of ‘Platonic competition’.

    • Roderick January 13, 2010 at 11:08 pm #

      subjecting millions to his unreadable style

      Well, he never actually forced anyone to read his works.

      It’s true, though, that he kicked off a tradition of German philosophers each trying to write more obscurely than the last. Here are some choice passages from Fichte, Hegel, and Heidegger respectively:

      If the object has its ground solely in the I’s acting, and is completely determined through this acting alone, then if there is to be diversity among objects, this diversity can emerge solely through the I’s diverse ways of acting. Every object has become determiner for the I in just the manner that it is for the I, because the I acted determinately in just the manner that it acted; but that the I acted in such a manner was necessary, for just such an action belonged among the conditions of self-consciousness.

      From our point of view mind has for its presupposition Nature, of which it is the truth, and for that reason its absolute prius. In this its truth Nature is vanished, and mind has resulted as the ‘Idea’ entered on possession of itself. Here the subject and object of the Idea are one — either is the intelligent unity, the notion. This identity is absolute negativity — for whereas in Nature the intelligent unity has its objectivity perfect but externalized, this self-externalization has been nullified and the unity in that way been made one and the same with itself. Thus at the same time it is this identity only so far as it is a return out of nature.

      Substantiality is the ontological clue for determining which entity is to provide the answer to the question of the who. Dasein is tacitly conceived in advance as something present-at-hand. This meaning of Being is always implicated in any case where the Being of Dasein has been left indefinite. Yet presence-at-hand is the kind of Being which belongs to entities whose character is not that of Dasein. The assertion that it is I who in each case Dasein is, is ontically obvious; but this must not mislead us into supposing that the route for an ontological Interpretation of what is ‘given’ in this way has thus been unmistakably prescribed.

      • Neil January 14, 2010 at 3:16 am #

        There is still far too much structure in them.

      • Anon73 January 14, 2010 at 6:53 pm #

        Maybe the German language is “anti-mind”?

        • Neil January 15, 2010 at 10:06 pm #

          It takes a lot of work to be that vague. Yet they don’t hold a candle to Derrida.

          The hilarity I find it all of it is that at some point they can’t help but make sense.

        • Roderick January 15, 2010 at 10:50 pm #

          I find Levinas even worse than Derrida.

        • Neil January 16, 2010 at 4:33 pm #

          I wonder now if I should actually try to read him or just save myself some time by slamming my head against a brick wall.

  5. Mike January 13, 2010 at 7:14 pm #

    I can’t recall where I red it, but I read many, many years ago that Rand never actually read Kant. That what she knew of his philosophy came from Peikoff’s summary of it.

    That’s not quite the same as him coming up with the thesis that Kant was the most evil force in history. Has anyone asked Branden about that?

  6. Bob Kaercher January 14, 2010 at 12:47 pm #

    I seem to recall that in Sciabarra’s Rand book he quotes George Walsh (if I’m not mistaken–could have been someone else) hypothesizing that Rand’s interpretation of Kant could have been largely derived from a mistranslation from the original German…? Anyone else recall that?

  7. Natailya Petrova January 15, 2010 at 2:23 am #

    Bob,

    I do!

    : )

  8. Bob Kaercher January 15, 2010 at 11:36 am #

    Do you remember the particulars of that theory, Natailya? (I read a copy borrowed from a library and don’t have my own.)

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