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Kant And The New Tactics To Destroy Objectivism
Rest in peace, dear Ayn, for Prof. Seddon has shown the way. Hallelujah, hallelujah and rejoice! As Michelle Fram-Cohen said: Who needs enemies with friends like these!
For some time now I have come to notice a new strategy to attack Objectivism. Whether the tactic used is a concerted effort or just developed automatically from one point to then spread out can’t be discerned at this time. I rather think it is one of those straws at which the defenders of collectivism grasp in their last effort to save an already and thoroughly lost war. While up to now they were able to just dismiss Objectivism as a “pop cult” they have now to count with its fast proliferation. An increasing amount of general commentators, critics and academics use the tactic of declaring that they agree with the basic tenets of Objectivism to then lash out against a particular detail of it and take this starting point to proceed massively – and uselessly, I must add – against the total structure.
Besides being on the wrong side and, thus, promoting the spread of evil in the world, they are intellectually immoral since they want to subversively introduce a philosophy of baseness into a philosophy that has specifically barred Kant and the likes of him from it. If they want to defend Kant they are free to do so, but by no means under the disguise of acting under the cover of Objectivism.
Some, like our above-mentioned good professor, hark on the imagined belief (or is it thought, I must beg your pardon) that Rand had little if any knowledge of philosophy in general and Kant in particular, while others claim that she wrote “too little” on a certain subject to allow it to be “really” taken as part of the whole structure. A few declare that they love the way she wrote but that she really lacked any mastership in writing and was, thus, not “really” able to give any sense to what she wrote. Then there are those who consider that she didn’t have any understanding of art and could, thus, not be considered seriously as a critic of “modern art.” I even have a book on my bookshelf written by a German economist (it’s in German, sorry) who openly (and amazingly) states that she delivered the most poetical and brilliant defense of Capitalism… though, of course, knowing nothing at all of economics (Paul C. Martin in his book “Der Kapitalismus: Ein System das funktioniert”). Martin makes a big blunder here. If Rand didn’t know anything about economics, how could she then connect her philosophy with Capitalism? But let’s proceed: Prof. Seddon is even ready to change a word written by Kant (“thought” instead of “faith”) to hammer Kant into his convenience. (Why, oh why, didn’t Kant himself adapt to Prof. Seddon’s requirements? After all, “Kritik der praktischen Vernunft” was published in 1788 and Kant lived for another 16 years to do so!)
As mentioned above, all this awakens in me both the sensation and the suspicion that Rand’s enemies have now reached the end of the line and are fighting with their backs against the wall to erase Objectivism from the face of the Earth. This tendency has reached such extremes that most encyclopedias, such as Billy’s “Encarta” don’t even mention her name and there is practically no book on the history of philosophy that would even dedicate one line to Objectivism, to say nothing of Rand herself, whose name isn’t even mentioned in most of them. Years ago I wrote on this subject to Prof. W. T. Jones, the author of “A History of Western Philosophy.” He answered that he didn’t include her in his books because she wasn’t “important,” and added that he would have preferred to include G. E. Moore in his treatise. In the latest issue of his work he did so and added Quine and Derrida who, at least to him, seem to be “important” thinkers.
Unfortunately, many of the above “defenders” of Rand’s “basic” ideas not only teach what she wrote to their students but also all that they consider to be her mistakes, with which they surely expect to produce devastating effects.
Can we understand such a way of behavior among academics? Yes, for it can be explained by the fact that after having prepared for years, decades even, to teach what they themselves have learned, we cannot expect them to change for an idea that totally upsets all they have learned. We must wait for the former generation to wither away. This reminds me of an anecdote told by Barbara Branden who had a professor once interested in talking with Ayn Rand. After a night-long conversation the professor told Mrs. Branden that he would disqualify her immediately if she was to mention just once more Rand’s name, for she had thoroughly destroyed everything he had up to then considered to be correct. Nobody likes to find himself in the irksome situation of having to tell his students that everything he taught up to then was wrong.
Still, and in spite of this rather human predicament, Objectivists can show only endurance but little if any understanding for such a position. Besides, dealing with a defendant of Kant produces the eerie feeling of talking, at best, with a human being (can it even be called so?) that considers that our senses distort the perception of everything. It is most trying - and usually to no effect –to communicate with whoever “thinks” so since he has rejected the faculty of reason. Kant stated himself that he had to reject reason to make room for religion. But by doing so he condemned his followers to also reject the main mean of communication available to man which is language, language being a tool of reason.
So, how can you reason with someone who, by defending Kant, has taken the position of being unavailable to it? As a matter of fact, how can such a being, which is only real in the noumenal world, be considered an actual person at all? It is basically impossible to ascertain how to communicate with it. Hence, this writing can only speak to those who reject Kant.
Since we are in the business of dealing with those who try to press Rand into Kant’s boots, let’s look at a few additional contradictions related to such perverted intentions:
1) Kant’s procedure to divide existence into two realms: the noumenal and the phenomenal, something he evidently took from Plato - whose pupil he really was - and several of his followers. Kant considered that the noumenal is the really real reality which, so he said, we cannot perceive since we have neither the appropriate senses nor the tools to do so, but of which we can think (so he said) as long as we don’t contradict ourselves. On a later paragraph I will easily show that there is neither a noumenal nor a phenomenal world but only one world which is real. For the time being, however, I will open up a whole series of considerations which Kant, very conveniently, didn’t contemplate.
Since Kant said that the noumenal world cannot be known, it is a mystery how he could even think of something unknowable! To think of something contains the essence of the something that can be known, for were it unknowable it could not even be thought as a thought in our brain. The term “unknowable” is an absolute, for it doesn’t even allow us to think of it as a blank, as we would then already be thinking of something: namely a nothingness and this would then already have a characteristic (a category in Kant’s contorted wording), that is the characteristic of not being known, of a () totally and absolutely unknown. (I left the brackets unfilled for I would have had to enter there words such as “thing, being," etc., but this would already imply something existing).
Parmenides said: “Thou canst not know nor utter what is not – that is impossible.” Kant pretended to understand his “noumena” but this is a sham, for to know something that is unknowable is, as shown, a contradiction in itself. To support such ridiculous beliefs both Plato and Kant had to destroy the validity of reason, precisely the faculty which Rand proved to be unassailable.
2) After this, Kant, like all other dualists, had, against his liking, to deal with “this” existing world. Just as every religion, he brought into his writings the “phenomenal” world, a “second” world which is not “the real thing” (not “Das Ding an sich”). While Plato spoke of images of the “real world” out there, Kant told us that what we see is, so to speak, seen in a haze, for our senses “process” (they distort) what they perceive before transferring it into our mind. In an ironic attitude we could say that if this is so, what Kant wrote can be handled similarly. It would be distorted. It would then not be worthy to be taken seriously. But Kant counted with our simplicity and expected us to take HIS words at face value.
If we take Kant’s notion seriously we must, however, add an additional consideration: there is a contradiction between perceiving what we understand to be truly perceiving and the distortion of what we take in. There is no in-between. We either perceive correctly or we do not, and this refers to all our senses. I have dealt with this in my writing “Ayn Rand, I and the Universe” from which I will now quote the following passage:
”Against Kant's preposterous declaration that we don't see because we see, we "see" precisely because we see. What do we mean by this? Sight is the capacity of our eyes to make a distinction among the different wavelengths. If all wavelengths were absorbed by the objects, everything would be black ,and we wouldn't be able to see anything. Equally, if all wavelengths were reflected by all objects, all would be white and we could not visually distinguish anything. We "see" precisely because our eyes can measure the difference between the absorbance and reflection of wavelengths. These signals are then transmitted to the brain which evaluates the data, mostly automatically but also very often after a process of thought to eliminate evident contradictions such as the "bending" of a stick in water. Sightless animals or blind human beings require other means to distinguish objects but these means, though helpful, cannot convey the full picture of reality.”
The capacities of our senses developed, thus, by evolution in accordance to what really exists.
3) Is there another contradiction between our “perceived world” (as Kant, Plato and their like would have it) and the unknown and impossible-to- be-known “really real world somewhere out there”? Yes. I took this up in my aforementioned writing and will now present the essence of what I said there in a nutshell (simultaneously showing that we are not allowed “to think anything we like as long as we don’t contradict ourselves,” as Kant would have liked it):
If Kant had defined “Universe” he would have been obliged to not err as he did. The term “Universe” means “ALL that exists.” Please read this carefully and remember it for what is to follow. The definition does NOT mean “Part of what exists” nor “More than what exists” (We will come to this last statement in a moment). It means exactly ALL THAT EXISTS. Wherever it is, however far away it may be, as long as we can perceive it with our senses or with existing or future instruments that allow us to sense it as physical matter and in its multitudinous characteristics and manifestations, it is part of all that exists. It is. So are we and all living matter, a particular way in which matter can manifest itself. If it doesn’t exist, if it isn’t, well, then it isn’t, it doesn’t exist, wring our hands or beg for its existence as long as we may. As Parmenides said: 1) What is, is; 2) . The blank just left behind could be filled with the sentence: “What is not, is not”, but I prefer to leave a blank space for this gives a deeper impression of what is meant.
Now you could say: “Ah, but beyond what exists there is something else.” Should you do so, you haven’t understood the definition of “Universe.” If it exists we have just made the mistake of not having extended the place to where it is sufficiently to encompass it. On the other hand, should nothing be found “beyond” all that exists we would not be allowed to speak of a “place” or a “space” there. It just wouldn’t be. We are not authorized to hold to our caprice. Not we, but Nature forbids it. Else, if it exists, it is part of ALL that exists.
This also puts an end to all religious beliefs, to all thoughts of the Universe “having been made.” Let’s stick for another while with Parmenides: All that exists (we can speak of Universe as a short-cut to what we say) cannot have been “created” for then it would have had to be created out of somewhere else, but this “somewhere else” is already part of “all that exists” or it does not exist (to speak of “creatio ex nihilo”, creation out of nothing, is a childish whim). Also and for the same reason, it cannot disappear into “somewhere else” or “nothingness.” Thus, we can reduce the whole into Rand’s axiom: Existence exists.
So, as you see (no distortion here, see?), the universe is all that exists and this doesn’t allow for “another world.”
But, someone might say, things come up, develop, decay and disappear. Truly so, but only WITHIN the universe (there is nowhere else to go). Things start from existing materials in accordance with the physical and chemical laws that are “part and portion” of all existing. Nothing comes from “outside” the universe. As from the foregoing we can already reject as science-fiction fantasies concepts such as “parallel universes” or “multiple universes.” Since “Universe” comprises all that exists we cannot speak of “this universe” or “that universe” as far too many scientific magazines do, but merely of “this part of the universe” or “that part of the universe”. In this case I personally prefer to speak of LAUs (Local Area of the Universe).
The foregoing, which could be extended into many other aspects (like: what is that that exists, a question which scientists are busy finding out to define but which even then does not allow us to resort to esoteric or other such abstruse beliefs), aspects I also take into consideration in my writing “Ayn Rand, I and the Universe.”
Now let’s go back to Kant. He did his best to prove reason useless and so destroy it. By doing this he built himself a job, i.e. an occupation that brought him the money he needed to live. Many others saw in this procedure the same advantages… besides providing a “halo” of a (non-existing) “deep knowledge.” Unfortunately for all defenders of Kant and the like, they have to use reason to phrase what they want to convey. This, of course, puts them into a most awkward situation which Rand analyzed with that precision and sharp vision that permeated the whole of her work and makes her ideas so totally splendid. She said with strict logic that those who reject reason as the only possible tool of knowledge can only do one thing: “Shut one’s mouth, expound no theories and die.” ( “Atlas Shrugged”). Of course, Objectivists have no such wishes for those who are wrong. Objectivism has a much better offer to make for those in error to save their situation. Rewording Ayn Rand in this sense: “We offer life, full life, as the reward of accepting the ideas of Objectivism.” Which is far more than millions of people received as a result of Kant’s evil ideas.
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