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Friday, September 2, 2005 - 8:35pmSanction this postReply
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I can't imagine why ARI/TOC people don't want to talk about the book.



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Post 1

Friday, September 2, 2005 - 8:56pmSanction this postReply
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To the extent that I attempt to turn people on to Ayn Rand, I tend to try to avoid mentioning FTNI myself, though I'd guess my reasons are rather different from the ones that motivate ARI (whatever they may be). I think FTNI is absolutely the worst of Rand's books (though The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution certainly comes close). Her caricature of Kant's significance in the history of philosophy is absurd. Her summary of the history of Western civilization (basically half-understood, warmed over Burckhardt) is only slightly less absurd. To anyone who knows how astute Rand could be, how insightful and ingenious she could be, the title essay is an awful embarrassment.

The philosophical passages from her novels are excellent, of course -- the ones from Atlas Shrugged are brilliant -- but if I want to convince someone that Rand was not "just" a novelist but also a serious philosopher, I give that person "The Objectivist Ethics" or the first three chapters of The Romantic Manifesto or (if he or she is willing to read something a bit longer) Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology.

JR



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Post 2

Friday, September 2, 2005 - 10:42pmSanction this postReply
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I have a considerably different opinion of FTNI's title essay than does JR. While it is written more on the sweeping, impressionistic level, rather than in rigorous fashion, it does one very important thing. It presents the course of conflict in Western intellectual and social history as a manifestation of the mind-body dichotomy. I also think that the metaphors Rand uses to stand for the two poles of the dichotomy -- the Witch Doctor and Attila -- are brilliant. This is a visionary thesis of history, and I think it is a convincing one. Naturally, academic philosophers are going to turn up their noses at it. But so what? I think Rand hits the nail on the head in re the troubled history of Western Civilization.

Roger Bissell




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Post 3

Friday, September 2, 2005 - 11:42pmSanction this postReply
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To tell the truth, I like it too.

I will go beyond the Attila and the Witch Doctor images. I thoroughly agree with her conclusions that in a free reason-based capitalistic society, the Producer is the one who replaces the man who obtains values from others by force (Attila) and the Intellectual is the one who replaces the person who obtains values from others by mystical revelations (Witch Doctor).

Seeing history in that light aided me in reading about the history of mankind and different cultures over the years.

Michael




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Post 4

Saturday, September 3, 2005 - 4:44amSanction this postReply
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I concur with the assessments that Roger and Michael have posted.  In addition, the ARI lists the title essay of FTNI on its list of recommended readings at

http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=objectivism_sugread

so obviously they support its content.

(Edited by Luke Setzer on 9/03, 4:45am)




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Post 5

Saturday, September 3, 2005 - 1:50pmSanction this postReply
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Jeff,

As I recall, philosopher Bruce Goldberg attacked FTNI savagely in The New Individualist journal.

I agree that Rand's weakness was in the history of philosophy.  Some ARI types have tried to justify Rand's discussion of Kant and Hume by arguing that she held the standard view of them, but there is relatively little attempt by Rand to understand philosophers on their own term.




Post 6

Saturday, September 3, 2005 - 5:09pmSanction this postReply
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I love FTNI. It's my favorite of her non-fiction work. Her description of Attila was especially poignant for me because it perfectly described a co-worker of mine at the time, a truly horrible person whose hero was a mafia don. He would have been in the mafia himself if he wasn't such a wuss.

I can't imagine anyone from ARI or TOC distancing himself from FTNI. Can you elaborate, James?




Post 7

Saturday, September 3, 2005 - 7:19pmSanction this postReply
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I love that book.  Tends to be a good introduction to people who've never heard of Rand...(so good in fact I wound up loaning my copy to a co-worker who switched jobs shortly thereafter... and loosing touch)

The weird thing is that regardless of Kant's actual effect, the effect of the idea he represented to Rand is almost indisputable.

---Landon




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Post 8

Saturday, September 3, 2005 - 7:58pmSanction this postReply
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For someone wanting to get a taste of Ayn Rand, I would definitely recommend FTNI.  However, for people who read her major works over and over, it's mostly just Ayn Rand filling a book with fucking quotations of herself.  As is always the case with Ayn, the new material in the book is phenomenal no matter what length, but it 'ain't much'.



Post 9

Saturday, September 3, 2005 - 9:23pmSanction this postReply
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Agreed.

But it is kind of cool to have a handy reference of all the great speeches from the books in one place.  Especially when you need soemthing handy to just kind of keep you going on a  rough day.

That seems to happen more often than I want to admit.

---Landon




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Post 10

Sunday, September 4, 2005 - 12:57amSanction this postReply
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For the New Intellectual is a KASS masterpiece. It's a tour de force, a polemical call to arms that easily surpasses, say, The Communist Manifesto from one of the opposing camps. To hell with the carping nay-sayers who say she misinterpreted Kant! Everyone who interprets Kant says that about everyone else who interprets Kant! Given that he was so effing convoluted he deserves every misinterpretation that he gets. Point is: Did he teach a reality/perception dichotomy? Yes! Did he preach a duty/self-renunciation ethic? Yes! That makes him a witch-doctor, sight unseen.

Rand's Attila/Witch-Doctor/Producer distinction is right on the money. I would expect clever-dick smart-ass anarcho-Saddamites who specialise in snide one-liners to have a problem with something so fundamentally decent, but not TOC or ARI. TOC probably allow the nay-sayers to speak, as we do here, but I'm sure that doesn't mean they, any more than we, want to turn the other way when FTNI is mentioned.

Linz



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Post 11

Sunday, September 4, 2005 - 3:54pmSanction this postReply
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Rand's Attila/Witch-Doctor/Producer distinction is right on the money.
I agree.  I would highly recommend this book as an introduction to Objectivism if someone is interested in a shorter or non-fiction alternative to Atlas Shrugged.  Looking at things from the faith/force perspective does help one stay on the rational track. 

We do have to give Dr. Branden a bit of credit here too.

"I am indebted to Nathaniel Branden for many valuable observations on this subject,
and for his eloquent designation of the two archetypes, which I shall use hereafter:
Attila and the Witch Doctor." 

               -- Ayn Rand




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Post 12

Sunday, September 4, 2005 - 4:11pmSanction this postReply
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"I would expect clever-dick smart-ass anarcho-Saddamites who specialise in snide one-liners to have a problem with something so fundamentally decent. . . ."

And I would expect overgrown schoolyard bullies who have graduated to real-world warmongering and who specialize in intemperate diatribes to be severely challenged when it comes to comprehending intellectual history.

JR



Post 13

Monday, September 5, 2005 - 3:55pmSanction this postReply
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I think that a person's evaluation of FTNI is often a good way of telling whether they view philosophy as a religion or as an intellectual exercise.




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Post 14

Monday, September 5, 2005 - 7:33pmSanction this postReply
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If all philosophy is is "an intellectual execise," it might as well be a religion.

--Brant




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