Sunday, August 27, 2006

Diary

Blogging life is getting easier all the time, for not only does the ARCH Rights blog cover more or less everything that I would feel obliged to write about if I had the time and the general clarity of thought, but bf Georgia (no relation) has now also taken to blogging.

She accounts for some of what we got up to yesterday, and I would agree with her assessment of the goings on in the philosophy circle, though the problem that I took away with me was that of the common perception in the group of the free market being a coercive or perhaps simply an ethically or aesthetically unpleasant environment. Whilst this doesn't come as much of a surprise, I was slightly taken aback by the misunderstandings that underpinned or informed or even inflamed these opinions. For example, Ayn Rand's perception of humans as consumers who are responsible for the perpetuation of their own existence, having made a free decision that this is the way they want to go, was translated entirely pejoratively into "Ayn Rand thinks that humans should be allowed to be selfish". (The philosophy lecturer).

Ho hum. I think Georgia and I both left with the overall feeling that the general notion of personal liberty was well received but that the economic and political structures that would allow for such an existence were either not well received or perhaps not well understood.

Cheered up afterwards due to b-i-l (a free marketeer if ever there was one) listening attentively over supper as I got a sort of debriefing lecture on Milton Friedman out of my system. (Thanks, W!)

I then got an A minus on Big Brain Academy - the first one I have managed when fully sober. I think I can hear my liver offering up a thanksgiving prayer. Ds now concedes that I am better at it than him...but only for the moment. He is improving all the time and I will have to work to keep ahead.

12 comments:

Jax said...

I read philosophy at uni, your circle sounds interesting.

Carlotta said...

It's such fun. There were two lectures yesterday, one of which was superb as far as content was concerned, and one which was brilliant rhetorically, though highly dubious factually and ethically.

People travel from far and wide to get to it...from Oxford, London and Bath for example. It doesn't sound as if you have a spare mo, but come if you can!

David said...

>For example, Ayn Rand's perception of humans as consumers who are responsible for the perpetuation of their own existence, having made a free decision that this is the way they want to go, was translated entirely pejoratively into "Ayn Rand thinks that humans should be allowed to be selfish". (The philosophy lecturer).

To be fair, she did write a book called 'The Virtue Of Selfishness'. If I wrote a book called 'Why I Hate Darkies', I couldn't really expect to be defended from people interperating my position as racist.

Rand said that she was a novelist first and philosopher second. Having dragged myself (on recommendation) through the first fifty pages of Atlas Shrugged, I feel fully justified in ignoring her philosophy.

A quote from Hume always comes to mind when I come across Rand: "Reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them." Rand, and far too many others, still think that if they run their passions through the Reason Mill they'll end up with Truth.

If you like your novelist-philosophers, then John Fowles is a good bet.

Carlotta said...

Hi David,

"To be fair, she did write a book called 'The Virtue Of Selfishness'. If I wrote a book called 'Why I Hate Darkies', I couldn't really expect to be defended from people interperating my position as racist."

OK, I take your point that selfishness as a virtue could rightly and easily be ascribed to Rand's ideas (though I think it better that someone who is giving a lecture on the subject should manage this in such a way as to avoid making a travesty of this view). I also take the point that there is much in Rand to quibble with, but I don't think your analogy is exactly right in that it would seem that the intention of the racist book was to be racist, whereas the intention of Rand's ideas is to expose the virtue of ideas that are sometimes known as being selfish. (in other parlance, demonstrating integrity and being autonomous and responsible).

Anonymous said...

David, that book isn't just the title. The emphasis on the 'selfish' notion is just the attempt (as in Harry Browne's book on How to Find Freedom) to set the balance right with regard to the effect of other theories that attempt to ignore the self.

Not only did I find both her novels excellent reads (although not, perhaps, literary works in some respects - too wordy being one!), I also know of many who have been inspired by them and who use them to help them see outside the difficult circumstances in which they live.

For example, one chap met on the bus in an unsalubrious part of London claimed that the moment he finished the book, Atlas Shrugged, he started it again because it kept him going. He was on his 10th read.

I've read Fowles too, recently, the Magus, and found that whilst it was very intriguing, there was far too much mysticism - as if the world was ALL the unknown - Rand gone too far the other way perhaps! - I'd read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged in preference any day!

D

Anonymous said...

I thought it was dh who had the highest score! Am impressed at ds beating mum for so long!!

D

Carlotta said...

Ds caught up pdq. He is unbeaten (and I think unbeatable) on all the memory exercises, two of the compute and one of the analyse sections. It is quite depressing really

David said...

From what I've read of her - from slobbering sycophancy to bileful loathing - she is, um, quite a character. I'm a leaning-on-the-mantelpiece psychologist - I've yet to graduate to the armchair - but she seems yet another example of a warped personality somehow being mistaken for a sound philosophy. She probably had some salient points, but throw enough balls etc. And the cult! My, my.

One of many things on my mind recently has been the psychology/personality of philosophy; that cerain people will be drawn to certain philosophies (and, yes, certain people will be drawn to analysing this phenomenon). Most, if not all, philosophy I've read has been someone validating their opinions through reason - this is fair enough, but it should be recognised for what it is. I've yet to see someone start from scratch and build a philosophy, possibly surprising themselves with the conclusions. Guess I'll have to have a crack at it myself.

Far too many tangents want to crop up here.

I have a strange (well, not that strange) reaction to Rand and other Objectivists; I shudder. I couldn't figure why, until recently. The content can proclaim 'freedom' (what exactly 'freedom' is is yet another tangent) all it wants, but the tone smacks of fascism:

"If I know the true answer and you do not, and you disagree with me, it is because you are ignorant; if you knew the truth, you would necessarily believe what I believe; if you seek to disobey me, this can only be because you are wrong, because the truth has not been revealed to you as it has been to me."

- Isaiah Berlin, My intellectual Path.

I can't take her seriously as a novelist, either. I suppose it would help to be inclined to her way of thinking, but... Well, kudos for writing in English (ask me to write a lengthy novel espousing my philosophy in Russian, and I'd make my excuses and escape through the bathroom window) but no.

I can't begin to understand how anyone could read Atlas Shrugged ten times over. But that's people for you, and I doubt Mr Randian would have anything nice to say about my constant dipping into Notes From The Underground. Dostoyevsky - there's a fine Russian philosophical novelist for you.

Fowles - I haven't read The Magus yet. He tells a good story, and tells it well - often beautifully - which is what I like in a writer. Have you read The Collector? As to philosophy, I had in mind The Aristos - a fine little book.

Anonymous said...

Hi David,

I don't care about the Randian Cult, that's their problem, and I'm not going to let it put me off some thing for irrational reasons and stop me enjoying a good story!

Whilst you might enjoy an elbow on the mantelpiece, I'm more a lying on the sofa sort of philosopher; and, at a guess, I would suggest that some one who thinks that believing in freedom smacks of fascism, could be suffering from a little bit of jealousy....and entrapment...
(Joke! As I wouldn't presume to analyse anyone!)

But, I would agree that
" Most, if not all, philosophy I've read has been someone validating their opinions through reason - "

it is very tempting to only choose evidence that validates a thought, and it takes a great person to move beyond that. And, I do agree that there was an irritating lack of fallibilism in Rand's rhetoric; yet, as you point out there's loads of good stuff there too. I wouldn't want to throw the baby out with the bath water.

I enjoyed reading the Collector, and love Dostoevsky...am probably rather an unchoosy reader! Will have a look at Aristos at some point - if it's little that is, as was put off by The Magus.

D

David said...

I didn't say believing in freedom smacked of fascism. I said the tone of O/objectivists did - an almost violent arrogance, if you prefer - and supplied an illustrative Isaiah Berlin quote. If someone is demonstrably right, and I persist in being demonstrably wrong, then I am either wicked or in need of 'educating'.

Now, let me just rest my good elbow on the mantelpiece - I really must dust - and wonder what sort (edited by David's subconscious: my, he does go on a [edited by David's self-mocking faculty: careful - you'll wear me out])

I wouldn't (and didn't, tut tut) say 'loads of good stuff'. What there is that is worth noting was said with far greater wit and marginally better facial hair by Nietzsche. Baby with the bath water? Effluence with the sewage water, more like.

But someone who likes Dostoevsky can't be all bad. So you'll not go on my Enemies List yet.

Quite a famous review:

http://www.nationalreview.com/flashback/flashback200501050715.asp

The Aristos is fairly teeny, and written in a series of statements. Here's one:

The whole is not a pharaonic cosmos; a blind obsession with pyramids, assembling, slaves. Our pyramid has no apex. It is not a pyramid. We are not slaves who will never see the summit, because there is no summit. Life may be less imperfect in a hundred years' time than it is today. But it will be even less imperfect a hundred years after that. Perfectibility is meaningless because wherever we enter the infinite processus we can look forward with a kind of nostalgia for the future, and imagine a better age. It is also evil, because a terminus of perfection breeds a cancer of now. For perfectibilitarians, perfect ends tomorrow justify very imperfect means today.

We build towards nothing; we build.

Anonymous said...

Entertaining review, David. Rand certainly does lack a sense of humour.

But - details about style of materialist philosophy aside - she does strive to illustrate (if in a somewhat extreme way, with a rather black and white set of characters) the 'noble' desire amongst men of passion to pursue truth and quality... perhaps the fact that many of us want to aspire to this too is what gives her millions of readers.
(Not to forget that such machoism and heroism is rather erotic...and that's not so unimportant - in our short lives!)
D

David said...

"Rand certainly does lack a sense of humour."

Aye. And it's hard to be a good philosopher without one. Humour, used properly, is a joyful destruction of nonsense, of the absurd.

"the 'noble' desire amongst men of passion to pursue truth and quality" "

Raskolnikov being the (possibly not so much of a) flipside to that.

"perhaps the fact that many of us want to aspire to this too is what gives her millions of readers."

Well, an awful lot of reading is wish fulfilment. I suppose it depends on what wish is being fulfilled. Perhaps one day I'll read it properly (as I say, I made about fifty pages, then skipped and skimmed the rest) but I've far too many books to get through that I would actually enjoy reading first.

*Leans on mantelpiece*

"Not to forget that such machoism and heroism is rather erotic."

Really? Well, thank you for that insight. Now, what about your mother...

It's strident go-getter porn, then?