Tag Archives | Rand

(You Know) Who Said This

I won’t say “guess the author” on this one, because the author is unmistakable, even if the content will be somewhat surprising to many:

I believe that my statement of man’s proper morality does not contradict any religious belief, if that belief includes faith in man’s free will. … Christianity was the first school of thought that proclaimed the supreme sacredness of the individual. The first duty of a Christian is the salvation of his own soul. This duty comes above any he may owe to his brothers. This is the basic statement of true individualism. The salvation of one’s own soul means the preservation of the integrity of one’s ego. The soul is the ego. Thus Christianity did preach egoism in my sense of the word, in a high, noble and spiritual sense. Christ did say that you must love your neighbor as yourself, but He never said that you must love your neighbor better than yourself – which is the monstrous doctrine of altruism and collectivism. Altruism – the demand of self-immolation for others—contradicts the basic premise of Christianity, the sacredness of one’s own soul. Altruism introduced a basic contradiction into Christian philosophy, which has never been resolved. The entire history of Christianity in Europe has been a continuous civil war, not merely in fact, but also in spirit. I believe that Christianity will not regain its power as a vital spiritual force until it has resolved this contradiction. And since it cannot reject the conception of the paramount sacredness of the individual soul – this conception holds the root, the meaning and the greatness of Christianity – it must reject the morality of altruism.


Molinari Review I.2: What Lies Within?

[cross-posted at C4SS, BHL, and POT]

The long-awaited second issue of the Molinari Review (the Molinari Institute’s interdisciplinary, open-access, libertarian academic journal) is here! Nearly twice the length of the first issue!

You can order a paper copy from Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Amazon UK, or, I believe, any of the other regional incarnations of Amazon.

(A Kindle copy should be available later this month. In the meantime, the previous issue is available as a free PDF download here.)

So what’s in the new issue? Here’s a rundown:

  • Anarchist communists reject not only the state but the market as well, arguing that private property and market exchange are as much a source of domination as the instrumentalities of the state. In “Supplying the Demand of Liberation: Markets as a Structural Check Against Domination,” philosopher Jason Lee Byas argues, to the contrary, that individualist anarchism, precisely because of its reliance on markets and the greater plasticity they offer, satisfies the anarchist commitment to non-domination more successfully than communism does. Byas highlights the potential dangers of anarchist communists’ proposed alternatives to markets, arguing that these dangers become even more serious when the dynamics of race, gender, sexuality, and other systems of privilege and oppression are factored in, while the market process can be shown to be a powerful engine for addressing such problems.
  • The economic regulations of the American Progressive Era have long been viewed – whether with approval or with disapproval, depending on the political perspective of the viewer – as a powerful blow against big business. In the 1960s, Gabriel Kolko and other New Left historians argued, to the contrary, that the corporate elite were the major beneficiaries of these regulations – a revisionist thesis soon enthusiastically embraced and promoted (much to the dismay of Kolko himself) by a number of free-market libertarian thinkers, including Murray Rothbard and Roy Childs. In recent years, however, Roger L. Bradley Jr. and Roger Donway have argued (see here and here) that Kolko’s account of the relationship between business and the state during the Gilded Age and its aftermath was flawed by a mistaken conceptual framework and a misleading use of evidence through selective quotation of his sources; for Bradley and Donway, what Kolko made to seem like corporate support for regulation was in most cases merely a matter of corporations adapting to regulation as a form of self-defense. In “The War on Kolko,” historian Joseph R. Stromberg defends Kolko against both the charge of misinterpreting the motives of corporate leaders and the charge of distorting the textual evidence, concluding that Kolko’s work remains “quite unscathed.”
  • Is there any connection between liberty in the political sense and liberty in the sense at issue in the free will debate? John Stuart Mill, in the first sentence of his treatise On Liberty, famously replied in the negative. But in “Libertarianism and Hard Determinism,” Thomas Lafayette Bateman III and Walter E. Block argue that if a human being were “no more than a moist robot, subject completely to nature’s laws,” then political institutions to protect such an entity’s freedom of choice would be pointless, abstract principles of rights would be meaningless, and seeking to control individual behaviour through totalitarian manipulation and the judicious application of stimuli would seem optimal. Hence political libertarianism and hard determinism are incompatible; a consistent adherent of the first must reject the second.*
  • For the past thirty years, philosophers Jan Narveson and James P. Sterba have been debating whether a commitment to liberty entails welfare rights or instead rules them out. For Narveson, those who acquire property by innocent means are entitled to it, and anyone who tries to take it from them without their consent is violating their liberty; whereas for Sterba, preventing the poor from making use of the excess property of the affluent is a violation of the liberty of the poor to access resources they need, which is a more important liberty than that of the affluent to maintain control of such resources. In “Liberty vs. Welfare Rights – Continued,” Narveson marshals the principles of Innocent Possession and Open-Ended Use to defend the right of the first user as more consonant with the requirements of peaceful and productive human cooperation than the right of the neediest user; in “A Response to Narveson: Why Liberty Leads to Welfare and Beyond,” Sterba argues that a more defensible formulation of the principles of Innocent Possession and Open-Ended Use instead favours the neediest user over the first user.
  • In our previous issue, Gus diZerega argued that contemporary libertarians misunderstand and misapply their own key concepts, leading them to embrace an atomistic vision of society, and to overvalue the market while undervaluing empathy and democracy. The present issue features an exchange among diZerega, Chris Matthew Sciabarra, and myself on these matters, with particular attention to the interpretation of Ayn Rand, in contributions titled (from Sciabarra) “Reply to Gus diZerega on His Essay, ‘Turning the Tables: The Pathologies and Unrealized Promise of Libertarianism’,” (from diZerega) “Response to Chris Matthew Sciabarra,” and (from me) “It Ain’t Necessarily So: A Response to Gus diZerega.”

Want to order a copy? See the ordering information above.

Want to contribute an article to an upcoming issue? Head to the journal’s webpage.

Want to support this project financially? Make a donation to the Molinari Institute General Fund.

* Incidentally, I welcome Walter Block’s conversion to thick libertarianism – and look forward to his explanation of why his position here doesn’t really count as thick-libertarian. 😛


Anarchy in Philadelphia

[cross-posted at C4SS, BHL, and POT]

The Molinari Society will be holding its mostly-annual Eastern Symposium in conjunction with the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association in Philadelphia, 8-11 January 2020. Here’s the schedule info:

Molinari Society symposium:
New Work in Libertarian and Anarchist Thought

G5E. Thursday, 9 January 2020, 9:00 a.m.-12:00 noon, Philadelphia 201 Hotel, 201 N. 17th St., Philadelphia PA 19103, room TBA.

chair:

Roderick T. Long (Auburn University)

presenters:

Zachary Woodman (Western Michigan University), “The Implications of Philosophical Anarchism for National Identity

Jason Lee Byas (University of Michigan), “What Is Violence?

William Nava (New York University), “The Causal Case Against Contributing to Public Goods

Roderick T. Long (Auburn University), “Ayn Rand’s ‘New’ (Posthumous) Critique of Anarchism: A Counter-Critique


Atlas Shruggoth

[cross-posted at POT]

[T]here were double meanings in
the
Necronomicon of the mad Arab
Abdul Alhazred which the initiated
might read as they chose ….

Sometimes two terms can be the same in reference but different in sense, like “the morning star” and “the evening star,” or “Mark Twain” and “Samuel Clemens,” or … “John Galt” and “Cthulhu.”

Yes, think about it. Galt and Cthulhu – or Galthulhu, if you will – are both hidden, mysterious figures who act in secret, biding their time until they can reclaim the world for themselves and their kind.

Galthulhu’s hiding place is described, in the Dark Gospel of Rand, as a “radiant island in the Western Ocean” that he discovered while “fighting the worst storm ever wreaked upon the world”:

He saw it in the depth, where it had sunk to escape the reach of men. He saw the towers of Atlantis shining on the bottom of the ocean. It was a sight of such kind that when one had seen it, one could no longer wish to look at the rest of the earth. John Galt sank his ship and went down with his entire crew.

But Galthulhu did not die, since, as per the Dark Gospel of Lovecraft –

That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die

– or, as the Dark Gospel of Rand reports the creature’s own words: “Of course I am all right, Professor. I had to be. A is A.” Instead, Galthulhu waits in expectant dormancy in its sunken city, as the Dark Gospel of Lovecraft explains:

In the elder time chosen men had talked with the entombed Old Ones in dreams, but then something had happened. The great stone city R’lyeh, with its monoliths and sepulchres, had sunk beneath the waves; and the deep waters, full of the one primal mystery through which not even thought can pass, had cut off the spectral intercourse. But memory never died, and high-priests said that the city would rise again when the stars were right. … Cthulhu still lives, too, I suppose, again in that chasm of stone which has shielded him since the sun was young. His accursed city is sunken once more, for the Vigilant sailed over the spot after the April storm; but his ministers on earth still bellow and prance and slay around idol-capped monoliths in lonely places.

And in what sort of buildings do Galthulhu and his acolytes live? According to Lovecraft, in “greenish stone blocks” with “crazily elusive angles of carven rock” whose geometry is “abnormal, non-Euclidean, and loathsomely redolent of spheres and dimensions apart from ours.”

Similarly, Galthulhu’s forerunner, according to Rand, designs buildings that “looked like a lot of boxes piled together without rhyme or reason,” such as “a rising mass of rock crystal” with a “severe, mathematical order holding together a free, fantastic growth; straight lines and clean angles, space slashed with a knife … an incredible variety of shapes,” like “a symphony played by an inexhaustible imagination, and one could still hear the laughter of the force that had been let loose on them, as if that force had run, unrestrained, challenging itself to be spent, but had never reached its end.”

And the preferred colour of Galthulhu’s structures? – “shining metal” with an “odd tinge” of “greenish-blue.”

As the hour of Galthulhu’s resurrection approaches, the creature’s ability to influence human thoughts returns, and the “monstrous menace” begins, in Lovecraft’s terms, “its siege of mankind’s soul,” by “sending out at last, after cycles incalculable, the thoughts that spread fear to the dreams of the sensitive and called imperiously to the faithful to come on a pilgrimage of liberation and restoration” – i.e., it begins, as Rand describes, “draining the brains of the world.”

“That cult would never die till the stars came right again,” Lovecraft explains, “and the secret priests would take great Cthulhu from His tomb to revive His subjects and resume His rule of earth.” What Lovecraft describes as future, Rand describes as past: “We are going back to the world,” she has Galthulhu say, as the creature “raised his hand and over the desolate earth he traced in space the sign of the dollar.”

In the meantime, the creature’s name has become part of a popular chant expressing the despair of the damned, whether as “Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn!” or as “Who is John Galt?”

What does Galthulhu offer to its followers? Freedom and egoistic indulgence, according to Rand:

Such was the service we had given you and were glad and willing to give. What did we ask in return? Nothing but freedom. …

It’s selfish, heartless, ruthless! It’s the most vicious speech ever made! It … it will make people demand to be happy!

Or in Lovecraft’s words:

The time would be easy to know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom. Meanwhile the cult, by appropriate rites, must keep alive the memory of those ancient ways and shadow forth the prophecy of their return.

And then there will be only the ocean and the sky and the figure of Howard Phillips Lovecraft.


SciFi SongFest, Songs 275-276

Two secret scientific experiments, one governmental and one private. The governmental one is reminiscent of Project X in Atlas Shrugged; the private one, of H. G. Wells’ “The Chronic Argonauts.”

275. Kate Bush, “Experiment IV” (1986):

(So what happened to Experiments I, II, and III? Or is it safest not to ask?)

276. Tom Waits, “What’s He Building In There?” (1999):


SciFi SongFest, Songs 265-266

In this extra-long two-parter, a spaceship travels through a black hole and meets the spirits of Apollo and Dionysus. (The fact that the song calls for a balance of the two spirits, rather than a subordination of the latter to the former, shows that even at this early date Neil Peart’s mind was not completely in captivity to Rand.)

The spaceship’s name, Rocinante, is derived from that of Don Quixote’s horse; both would later serve as inspiration for the name of the quixotic protagonists’ spaceship in The Expanse:

265. Rush, “Cygnus X-1, Book I: The Voyage” (1977):

266. Rush, “Cygnus X-1, Book II: Hemispheres” (1978):

Left and right hemispheres of the brain, get it?

Of course this doesn’t get either the mythology (Dionysus isn’t the god of love) or the neurophysiology quite right, but whatever.

Some online versions of “Hemispheres” have one audio track missing, but this one seems ok:

Hemispheres was one of the first rock albums I ever bought (because I’d heard it had something to do with Nietzsche and Ayn Rand). (The very first was Billy Joel’s Glass Houses.) (I’m not counting David Matthews’ Dune as a rock album.)


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