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Socrates (470-399 B.C.) – a renowned Greek philosopher from Athens who taught Plato, and Plato taught Aristotle and Aristotle taught Alexander the Great. Socrates used a method of teaching by asking questions. The Greeks called this form “dialectic” – starting from a thesis or question, then discussing ideas and moving back and forth between points of view to determine how well ideas stand up to critical review with the ultimate principle of the dialogue being Veritas – Truth.

Characters

  • Socrates
  • Aristotle
  • Ayn Rand, 20th century Objectivism philosopher

The only philosophical debt I can acknowledge is to Aristotle.
~ Ayn Rand

{Setting: The Academy of Socrates}

Socrates: We are gathered here today at my Academy to discuss a very important question – Is Ayn Rand’s radical atheism a terminal defect of Objectivism philosophy? Rather than conducting this symposium myself I will call upon my student, Aristotle, the father of political conservatism, to make diligent inquiry into Rand’s ideas.

Aristotle: Ayn, what significant entry did you write in your journal at age 13?

Ayn Rand: I have made this declaration about my life, which I shall never change – “Today I decided to be an atheist.”

Aristotle: But how can a mere child make such an irrevocable declaration about one’s life?

Ayn Rand: “The concept of God is degrading to men” because the affirmation that “God is perfect” meant that “man can never be perfect.” The thought that “man is low” and imperfect and that there is something above him was simply “wrong.” Therefore, since there is “no proof of the existence of God, belief is rationally indefensible.”

Aristotle: Ayn, you discovered my writings on philosophy in 1918 after graduating from high school and your admittance to the University of Petrograd where you later made this sweeping declaration: “The only philosophical debt I can acknowledge is to Aristotle.” In your magnum opus, “Atlas Shrugged” (1957), you detailed the parameters of the philosophy you later created – Objectivism – that the proper moral purpose of one’s life is the pursuit of one’s own happiness or rational self-interest.

Ayn Rand: I tried to make radical individualism the foundation for capitalism.

Aristotle: Indeed, this brings us to the central premise of this dialogue: The four major problems of an Objectivism worldview, which may lead one to form sophistic conclusions:

1. Where rationality leads

In Atlas Shrugged, Galt Gulch’s Dagny Taggart [aka Ayn Rand] extols the wondrous machine motor designed by Galt: “She thought of this structure … replacing the power plants of the country”, of which Dr. Wicker commented:

These beautiful passages lead to one, very profound insight: the well-designed technological object is a demonstration of the existence of the spiritual power of the human mind over matter against those who like Marx would argue that our thoughts are entirely caused by material conditions.

Ayn, you zealously propagandized the cause of rational objectivity, yet your atheism ignores God. Without God our technological progress would not be possible if our minds were incapable of penetrating nature, if there were no order to nature, if there were not definable objective truth. “If you allow human technological wonders to be tangible proofs of the human mind as cause, then the things of nature should likewise demonstrate the existence of a mind that made them.”

2. Selfishness is not the cure for collectivism or moral relativism

Ayn, throughout your work you “present false dichotomies, either-or choices between two extremes: collectivism or individualism, either living entirely for the state or entirely for oneself, either complete self-sacrifice to the point of annihilation or complete selfishness to the point of narcissism.” You avoid Marx by accepting the radical individualism sown by Thomas Hobbes that comes to fulfillment in Nietzsche.
What about the importance of family in society? Ayn, doesn’t family mean anything to your philosophy?

Ayn Rand: Aristotle, the family isn’t a relevant part of Objectivism. I proved that by the abortion I got in the early 1930s, joining the abortion movement and refusing to have children with my husband. To me family restricts me from enjoying my life, my way!

Aristotle: But your Objectivism philosophy ignores my extensive writings about the family, which establish “the conservative affirmation of the primacy of local economic life against the interference of the state is rooted in the moral duty of families to provide for themselves, not in individual selfishness (which is a vice, not a virtue).”
Throughout my writings, including “Politics,” I avowed that the family is the fundamental economic entity as well as the disseminator of morality.
Ironically, Ayn, your obsession with narcissism and radical selfishness lived vicariously through your books perverted your reason, the very power that defined you and your Objectivism philosophy.

3. Objectivism becomes subjectivism; reason becomes Rand

Ayn, is it Reason that you celebrate or is it your reason that you have championed in the philosophy of Objectivism? … I have here a signed copy of “Atlas Shrugged” to your friend and leading woman disciple, Barbara Branden, the wife of your lover Nathaniel Branden, whom you named your institute of Objectivism after.
May I read the inscription? I believe your words reveal the essence of your soul.

Ayn Rand: {nervously} Yes.

Aristotle: To Barbara – For the sense of life which is mine and yours – for starting with the same values and accepting nothing less – to carry on my battle, my universe and all my values. ~ Ayn

Ayn, you claim Objectivism is a philosophy dedicated to Reason; if so then why did you steal another woman’s husband, justify it with your reason and humiliate her further in the book’s dedication? … Are these not the acts of an irrational mind?

Ayn Rand: Perhaps my Objectivism philosophy devolved into a cultlike movement as my star ascended. I become increasingly intolerant of any contrary views or intellectual challenges to Objectivism philosophy and excommunicated all heretics.

Aristotle: Indeed, let us move to the fourth and final critique of the Objectivism philosophy.

4. Philosophy of selfishness or personality disorder?

Ayn, when I analyze Objectivism and observe your life, which merely mirrors your writings, I have come to this evident conclusion: You are a narcissist. From your earliest work, “The Little Street” (1928), you extol as virtuous the main character’s vice: “He doesn’t understand, because thankfully he has no organ for understanding, the necessity, meaning or importance of other people.”

This radical selfishness is a leitmotiv throughout your entire body of work including your late writings like “The Virtue of Selfishness” (1964) – a paean to selfishness and narcissism.

{Turning to the Academy students}

Narcissists like Ayn Rand have no respect for the pain and problems they cause others.
Narcissists like Ayn Rand are motivated by delusions of grandiose self-importance and demand to be deified above all others.
Narcissists like Ayn Rand live in a dream world of exceptional success, power, beauty, genius or perfect love (“romantic realism”), which confuse and conflate fantasy and reality.

Ayn Rand: Aristotle, I must protest now that you are being too hard on me.

Socrates: And now we end where each of us must begin – with God. Ayn, is your summary rejection of God merely a projection of yourself as a narcissist? If so, what do we do with your “bible,” “Atlas Shrugged”? If your rejection of God was merely narcissistic rejection of a power greater than your limited intellectual capacity could understand or value, then, absent God, is it the conservatism of Aristotle, Adam Smith or Ronald Reagan that you truly celebrate, or is it self-deification and crass narcissism disguised in Objectivism rhetoric?

Ayn Rand: {profound silence}

Aristotle: As a conservative I accept the world as it is and distrust the politics of abstract reason, unlike the sophists, humanists and liberals whose empiricism views reason separate from experience.

Despite her exceeding love of my ideas, I answer “yes” to the question – Is Ayn Rand’s radical atheism a terminal defect of Objectivism philosophy? Conservatism and capitalism aside, the major tenet of Objectivism philosophy effectively is the worship of selfishness and narcissism, which is antithetical to real conservatism and capitalism, which are rooted in the Republic, the free market, morality, assiduousness, veritas, virtue and God.

* See Dr. Benjamin Wiker, “10 Books Every Conservative Must Read” (Regnery, 2010), pp. 299, 318-28.

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