My Thoughts on Atlas Shrugged

Discussion in 'Books' started by Trefoil Knot, Oct 9, 2017.

  1. Trefoil Knot

    Trefoil Knot < x,y | x² = y³ >

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    TL;DR

    I'm going to talk about the book Atlas Shrugged and why it sucks at great length. This is gonna be long and autistic. Don't read if you don't care what a random faggot thinks. Kthxbye

    Introduction and Disclosure


    So I’m opening this can of worms. Atlas Shrugged is a polarizing book, but it’s not an even polarization by any means, with the lion’s share of people hating it. But like so many other things in this series of tubes, it has a rabid following of faggots that keeps it alive, a following which like so many others could be accused of autism and compared to cancer (whether this is fair or accurate or not doesn’t matter, the point is a few rabid people keep it relevant).

    I personally do fall into the “It’s bad” camp, however most of the objections I have seen to the book actually are off the mark as to why it’s a poor book. I do not wish to debate the political ideas per se, but rather discuss it as a book because that’s where I think Atlas Shrugged fundamentally fails. I will have to mention some of those ideas to make my point, but I will not argue pro or con here. Also I'll probably talk about the philosophy itself later, because it's part of the reason the book sucks.

    And for the record and disclosure purposes, I don’t want to go into all of my personal ideas and why I think what I do because then this will stop being about the book and more about me and it will just turn into a debate about politics which is not what I’m trying for here, but I do think it’s important to say that on paper, I sound like one of those autistic cancer faggots who should love Atlas Shrugged. It's fair to call me very libertarian in outlook. Again, not arguing pro or con here, just understand that's where my personal bias is and where I'm coming from when I criticize this book.

    Perhaps because I am an autistic cancer faggot is exactly why I have a problem with this book.

    To draw a parallel, I have seen over the years various homosexual, transgender and autistic people express a great deal of unhappiness that CWC, because of his internet notoriety, is something of an anti-mascot for these groups and they lament that their group is seen a certain way because people like him get all the attention and become the standard reference for many, who form their opinions thinking all “X” are like CWC or other internet lolcows.

    That’s kind of how I feel about Atlas Shrugged: it’s a bad but popular example of the ideologies it gets attached to (whether it actually represents those ideologies is something I could write a book on but it doesn’t matter here) and that’s frustrating.

    Despite all this, I do have some good things to say about the book I'll pepper in.

    This is a long book and I have a lot of things to say about it, so I'll try to add different parts in pieces so it's not so much.

    Point the First: Brevity, or, Write a Book Not a Manifesto

    Yes the book is too long. The edition I read was I think 888 pages or so, and really I felt like after I was done that it could have been 350 pages, possibly 300, and it would have been much better for it. This is hardly an original criticism, however I’m going to try to elaborate on it just a bit.

    The common criticism usually stops here, the book is just too damn long. The length and girth of the book however is in and of itself not really the problem. Other works are as long or longer and are considered great masterpieces, so what’s the real problem?

    The thing about a book, as Alan Moore has pointed out though I’m loosely paraphrasing here, is that it divorces notions of time and sequence from the length of its content. In other words, it can be read, reread, parts of it reread, you can skip back and re-read parts without having finished it completely, etc. This is important because this is the reason, imho, great works of literature are eventually recognized as such: subsequent re-readings reveal an artistry and coherence in the way the book is written, showing that the theme, the plot, and the characterization are a harmonious and cohesive whole.

    A truly well written book makes its points in the texture of the book, hiding the ideas of the story or the didactic rants of the author in symbolism, story, descriptions, and incidentals. The point of fiction is to tease out what should happen in a world where certain things are true (in this case, what would happen in a world with some minor science fiction elements where the most economically productive people all stopped working). I do think Atlas Shrugged has these elements, however the problem is when you have both the elements of a book and then triply redundant rants and 80 page long speeches by characters which are really just your political essays (which themselves repeat the same point twenty times), you just absolutely destroy all the art of the thing.

    Rosencratz and Guildenstern don’t make speeches and write newspaper columns about how the universe is indifferent to human suffering; the world around them makes that point in a deeper way than just saying it does. Even the wordy Dickens left it at “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery.” He made his point by letting the character’s in universe experiences convey the consequences of his mishandling of his personal finances; Dickens didn’t take the next 300 pages to insert a personal finance book and rant about how it's stupid to borrow money you cannot afford to repay.

    If you want to write a rant or an essay, write a rant or an essay. If you want to write fiction, write fiction. You shouldn’t prepare the former and present it as the latter. When your characters just rant all the time as your personal stand in mouthpieces, it just makes anything you want to say watered down, weak and too transparent for the reader to suspend disbelief.

    Rand does create a somewhat interesting science fiction world in the book. However all that work is wasted because between the story/world building parts are shoved in non-fiction elements trying to dupe the reader into thinking they’re germane parts of this world. These parts are the only reason the book is so long. Atlas Shrugged would be a much more memorable book if it just told its story and was short and pithy (and its core story really is short and pithy), leaving all the ideas the story is trying to convey as the unstated rules of this fictional universe, rather than stating these ideas explicitly to such excess. The length itself is not the issue so much as the length is the byproduct of bad writing.
     
  2. TheVoid

    TheVoid Well-Known Member

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    I've always chuckled at the part where the guy is cooking a burger using exceptional skill and simple ingredients, and it's the best thing that has ever been prepared and eaten by anyone. Apparently, this is meant to say that even the poorest person can succeed by following Ayn Rand's philosophy, were it not for the fact that she makes an extra point of saying that the reason why the burger is so amazing is because the person was just born incredible at everything, or just making burgers, I forget which.

    So, the point of the section is, if you work hard to perfect your craft it doesn't matter because some people are just born to be better at whatever it is you do, and you should just give up and let them be awesome. Also, people are always going to hate the awesome people, but it doesn't matter because the awesome people will just be awesome somewhere else if people don't appreciate them.

    It's like reading proto-fanfiction at times.
     
  3. One Too Many

    One Too Many Sexual Orientation: Heavy Metal

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    Two of my favorite quotes about the book are:
     
  4. Princess Celestia

    Princess Celestia Your local techni-color horse.

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    I agree with many of Rand's thoughts but Atlas shrugged literally turned me off of reading for like a year. I've always held that overtly political works suck because they just don't make compelling fiction. All but the most close minded and confirmation biased seekers like that kind of crap. Unless a political discourse enhances the narrative its better left out.
     
  5. TheVoid

    TheVoid Well-Known Member

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    College students on the bus like to talk about things they learn at university or interesting facts they found online at full volume right next to my seat. There was one guy who said that he read the whole book, even though he started hating it early on, so that he could say it sucked without people retorting with "But you didn't read the whole thing and therefore didn't understand how intelligent it is."

    In all honesty, the reason why I read Atlas Shrugged is because Bioshock mentioned it, and the game mentions Ayn Rand when it explains that Andrew Ryan built Rapture to create a society that followed Ayn Rand's philosophies. I've heard people say that Ayn Rand was full of shit because her ideas failed when they were implemented in Rapture, which isn't fair. I think that Rand is full of shit because she attempted to start a movement by taking another ideology, applying a metaphorical coat of paint, and writing a book that (let's be brutally honest) predated the worst aspects of fanfiction which heavily features Sue-like characters while acting as propaganda to make her beliefs appealing to (again, let's be honest) teenagers.
     
  6. Princess Celestia

    Princess Celestia Your local techni-color horse.

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    I'm pretty sure most people who have read it after 2007 did so because of Bioshock.
     
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  7. Erika

    Erika RL incel hunter

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    I really liked your review, it's like the first time someone covered the book, as a book. Everyone manages to sperg pro con on the meaning and skips things like, as you said, it's too long.

    Thanks, and you now hold a world award for being the least autistic review of this book.
     
  8. Fauna Fox

    Fauna Fox Obscure 90s nicktoon waifu again

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    The only review I saw of Atlas Shrugged before this one was South Park's
     
  9. Trefoil Knot

    Trefoil Knot < x,y | x² = y³ >

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    Continuing...

    Point the Second: Mary Sue Is a Bad Crutch

    There’s really only three characters in this book: the Mary Sues, the cardboard villains, and Eddie Willers.

    The thing is, that might be fine, if the first point was addressed of cutting the book down to its actual story elements. Mary Sues are okay sometimes and some Mary Sues are even beloved; it's all in the execution. We could forgive Mary Sues somewhat if the story were compacted. For example, I love The Twilight Zone, which often features flat, nondynamic characters, but that's okay because the story is over in a few minutes.

    But when you spend so much time with these characters over many hundreds of pages, the glaring flaw comes out that these aren’t really characters for the most part. Dagny, Henry, John and other less prominent characters from the “Galt’s Gulch” faction are all the same character: Mary Sue. The “Villains” suffer from a lack of nuance as well. They’re all just cardboard cutouts who only exist to oppose the Mary Sues; they're given no depth, nuance or reason, and none of them are sympathetic.

    That gets us to imho the best character in the book, Eddie Willers. Eddie Willers is not a great character, but he’s at least a character for the simple reason he has a morality and some goals, and he’s tragically human. Eddie is an honest hard working sincere guy who wants to provide a service to society by helping run the railroad, but he can't do it by himself and that makes him anxious and sad. I mean it's not much of a character, but it's a character, an actual legit character.

    Why is this important? Because by not having fully realized characters, it undermines the point of the book and what it could say.

    Look, Rand is clearly arguing that punishing people for creating large personal fortunes is socially perverse because it discourages people who are capable of such things from doing them and that harms society at large. Agree, disagree, doesn't matter, that's Rand's theme.

    The use of Mary Sues for the "Good" characters harms the point Rand is trying to make. A realistic human society composed of actual people and not pastiches of ideas would have some key people who will drive most of the wealth creation; however absolutely no one can run an entire railroad. There are no Dagny Taggarts. It doesn’t work like that. There are leaders and innovators yes, but not in the way the book argues.

    A famous essay has made the point that even something as simple as the production and selling of a simple wooden pencil in a modern economy is not entirely knowable by any single person. Economist Thomas Sowell has written in several of his books that most knowledge of how to make the economy function is not articulated (i.e. it’s all in people’s heads, habits, intuitions, experiences and skills including people who have very menial jobs). Everyone contributes some part often despite themselves. A company made solely of high performers can't perform (in other words, high performing people need others with different opportunity costs around them to create greater economic value than these parties could working separately).

    Even in my own experience, at one of my most menial jobs, I learned that something as simple as safely shrink wrapping a pallet for transport over the highway was not a skill an executive at the same company (a man with a six figure income) had, and without that capability that company couldn't function.

    Rand also ignores the phenomena of competition. No matter how strong you are in an industry, there is someone who is very talented who is gunning for what you have. They may not be as good, but really, can society tell the difference in many cases? When Bill Gates retired to be a philanthropist instead of a tech executive, did they shut down Microsoft? No, they installed the next best leader they had and kept going.

    The point being, losing someone with a great deal of knowledge will very adversely affect the economy, but it generally could not be a precipitous disaster as the book describes. Knowledge is not so concentrated, and while some people are uniquely talented, the idea the world would stop completely without them is comical.

    Now I think I understand the point Rand was trying to make was that if you get rid of Elon Musk or Steve Jobs, it's not that that their industries just vanish (since the next best person or company just fills in and life goes on), it's that we lose the very best possible outcome. I think she was trying to point out that by settling for the next best producer of wealth, you’re still settling and society is worse off. That does make sense, if you were to take away the 100 most innovative people in the US, yes we would suffer a great deal more than if you took away 100 people of mediocre skill.

    However that’s not the point the book actually makes because it relies on Mary Sues: the point the book makes is that you are evil and your entire life and prosperity are dependent upon a class of people superior to you in every way and you better not anger them or everything will go to hell instantly. Because everyone in this book besides Eddie Willers is either universally awesome or completely incompetent, the instant these people vanish society just falls apart instantly, and while I give her credit for her universe being that consistent, that consistency is only possible because the characters are so badly written. When the people in your world aren’t credible as characters, the consequences of their “going Galt” also aren’t credible and it undermines the whole story.

    I get that hyperbole can be effective, and if the book were meant to be hyperbole that would be okay, but hyperbole requires clever writing, and usually is best served in short, punchy doses. I don’t think having read the book however that Rand intended her characters to be parodies or exaggerations.

    It’s also a clumsy way to argue a point; if you want to make a political argument you have to be charitable and assume the best motivations on the part of your opponents and you have to assume their best argument and then attack their best case and show why they are still wrong. If you childishly reduce everyone you don't agree with to "parasites" or "Nazis" or whatever the word du jour is, you haven't really argued anything. "All the good people agree with me! All the bad people disagree!"

    A good book presents nuances and points out that even the antagonists have a reason for thinking and acting the way they do. Some people should actually read the book and identify with the "bad guys" more than the "good guys" if you've written the book well. And that's okay, it's sheer hubris to ever think everyone will agree with your personal beliefs, the point should be to get the idea out there. Rand of course was a noted egomaniac.

    What's more, there's no internal division within the protagonists: they all just stand around agreeing with each other, separated only by degrees of intelligence. Again, this is a very poor way to argue an ideal; good rhetoric will seek a 'proof by contradiction' argument, assuming the worst possible interpretation of the idea being advocated and then pointing out that the worst case scenario has good implications still. This goes back to one of the fundamental flaws of Objectivism in that it does not entertain the hypothetical, which is a necessary cognitive tool in any useful philosophy.

    One of the hardest things to grasp about human existence is we can all have the same evidence and experiences, yet all come to different conclusions while still acting in good faith. Rand is much like a SJW in her writing: everyone who disagrees is Hitler. In Rand's worldview, "Good" people can never ever disagree with one another, which doesn't make for very compelling characters.

    Again, this is why if you want to write a one sided political rant, write a political rant, and if you want to write fiction, write fiction. Rand's attempt to disguise a political treatise as fiction leads to this clumsy, uncreative and honestly childish characterization scheme which not only makes the book miserable to read, but it hurts the underlying point she's advocating.
     
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  10. QuiltGuilt

    QuiltGuilt My 2-cent_garbage.com

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    Concerning your first part, it sounds like Rand completely and utterly fails at "show, don't tell".
     
  11. Fauna Fox

    Fauna Fox Obscure 90s nicktoon waifu again

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    Didn't Atlas Shrugged spawned three really shitty movies, with Glenn Beck in an cameo role in one of them?
     
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  12. Trefoil Knot

    Trefoil Knot < x,y | x² = y³ >

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    Point the Third: The Unfortunate Implications which are Collectively, Eddie Willers

    You notice I keep going on about Eddie Willers in the last post? There’s a reason for that. Spoilers ahead.

    So Eddie is described as a loyal, hardworking man who is as moral as the main characters and who believes in all of the same things, but he just isn’t quite as smart or gifted. However the Galt’s Gulch gang seems to identify Eddie as one of their own because he has the same values and they recognize him being a good man isn’t dependent on his skills in business.

    At the end of the book, we see Eddie lamenting the terrible future he has inherited that he must suffer in because without Dagny and the others, his contributions to the world can’t be fully realized, and he’s not gifted enough to make the world work on his own.

    Hidden in here is actually a good message: whether you’re rich or not has nothing to do with whether you’re moral or not, and just because you’re not a genius doesn’t mean you lack value as a human being. Note this is also true economically, it's a concept called comparative advantage.

    However it’s all undermined by the fact all the “good” characters just leave Eddie out to dry. I mean they just totally ditch throw him to the wolves. Seriously, after Dagny admits that Eddie deserves to be rewarded for his efforts, they fuck him. Up the ass. With a baseball bat with 100 grit sandpaper glued to it rough side out and no lube.

    So the real lesson becomes “Placate the talented and wealthy, or they will fuck you” and/or “Good people ditch their friends who aren’t as talented or smart as they are despite the fact from a purely utilitarian perspective their lives are better with them in it”.

    I mean holy fuck, how many people in your life are you indifferent to, even hateful toward, that you put up with because they are the reason you get paid? Is the point of Objectivism that people who genuinely seek to provide economic value to others are good, or that only people who produce lots of economic value to others are good? If the latter, where does the "culling" stop? What magic statistical point makes you one of the "good" people according to Rand? Are the top 10% of economic producers "good"? The top 1%? The top 0.1%? Incidentally, this is why nearly all economists make the point that all moral values are non-economic, and how upstanding, moral, meritous, pious, etc. somebody is has no meaning economically.

    But back to the book, if the whole point of Galt’s Gulch is to take the genuinely productive people out of society and let the leeches die off on their own, why in the blue hell would you not take Eddie Willers? The "good" characters admit at several points Eddie is one of them spiritually, he's just not quite as talented. They obviously think he has something to contribute.

    This to me more than anything, more than the attempts to disguise nonfiction as fiction, more than the bad characters, undermines the whole point of the book. Why, I would ask Ayn Rand, should I, a finite human being who isn't perfect, subscribe to your ideas if doing so simply leaves me in the same boat as the bad guys of this world who actively oppose your ideas?

    I mean fuck, she's all about her Objectivist philosophy, and here she's telling us "Follow this philosophy and you still lose!"

    Did Rand assume every reader would also have her massive ego and self-insert themselves into one of the Mary Sue characters or something? That’s the best I can figure.

    But most of the people who have read the book that I have talked to seem to empathize the most with Eddie, and why? Because Eddie is actually credible as a human being. There's not a lot of dimension to his character, but we like Eddie. He's a well meaning guy who doesn't know what to do in this insane world, people can relate to that!

    The character in your book who the reader has the most empathy for gets fucked for following all of the Randian ideas presented in the book. What the hell kind of message is that?

    That to me is the strongest reason for saying this book sucks a fat hairy chode.

    One more and I think I'll be done, I don't want my comments to be as long as the book.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2017
  13. Princess Celestia

    Princess Celestia Your local techni-color horse.

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    Yah they were all super long too. It really goes to show how drawn out the book is.
     
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  14. Princess Celestia

    Princess Celestia Your local techni-color horse.

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    Sorry to both double post and necro but I remember that one of the reasons the Sears company fell was one of the CEOs was a big Ayan Rand nut and decided to take her philosophy to an extreme. And boy do I mean extreme. He allotted money for salaries (including store manger) based purely upon how well stores sold product. This essentially caused every Sears store to compete with each other, theoretically making them all stronger. In reality the Sears brand as a whole gained a reputation for shitty customer service because thy were all paranoid about differing business to any other branch of the company. I'm sure when the big super stores that took Sears place started opening unprofitable stores just to edge out competition the CEO would have have blown a gasket.
     
  15. Trefoil Knot

    Trefoil Knot < x,y | x² = y³ >

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    Bah... forgot to finish this up way back then in 2017. What can I say, I have to go be a normalfag sometimes.

    Right let's finish this up.

    The Good, or In Defense of this Shit

    There are some good things about the book. For one, it’s nice to see some of these ideas explored in fiction at all. For another, all the elements of an actual book are here they’re just… buried. It’s definitely memorable, it’s been years since I read the book but I still remember it pretty vividly. It does at least get some people to think about the ideas in the book as much as I think it hurts the conversation about those ideas, but it’s a double edged sword: on the one hand awareness is higher, on the other hand that awareness doesn’t come with any understanding.

    Much like Objectivist philosophy itself it just leaves me unsatisfied that it supports its own conclusions,and I perceive it as too tightly stuffed up its own rectum. Now you may disagree with me, but I do think the book has some valid points (which again I won’t go into because I don’t want to debate them I want to discuss the book as a book). However a few good points I personally agree with does not a good book make.

    And that’s the problem with Atlas Shrugged overall and why the discussions about it, pro or con, are often sophomoric; the political ideas in the book get confused for the book itself because the book just tries too damn hard and it falls flat in its delivery of those ideas. Just because some ideas from a book speak to you and your values doesn’t make that book good.

    When you actually start teasing it apart and putting it under scrutiny, this is just a poorly written book and agreeing with the author doesn’t change that. Similarly, I have noticed a lot of people call it a bad book because they disagree with the politics of it. Well, that doesn’t make it a bad book, what makes it bad is everything I’ve outlined above. I don't agree with George Orwell's personal beliefs but 1984 is still a good book. Atlas Shrugged... just fails as a book.

    If you're trying to introduce your ideas to people who might not agree with them initially in a work of fiction, you need to make the best fiction you can, and not the most explicit series of rants disguised as fiction.

    I do think, with a heavy handed editor, an abridged version of the book could be decent to very good but probably not a literary classic. It wouldn’t solve all the problems, but it would do a lot to help abate them if the message were short and punchy. However until it passes into the public domain I don’t think that could ever happen, and the people most interested in the book would see it as a kind of heresy.

    An Aside Having Nothing to do With the Book Itself: Objectivist Philosophy Sucks

    If you agree with some tenets of Objectivism, but disagree with others, do not call yourself an Objectivist; give proper authorship credit for the parts you agree with—and then indulge in any flights of fancy you wish, on your own. - Ayn Rand

    Okay, I cannot do justice to why Objectivism fails as a philosophy in anything short enough for an internet forum post, smarter people than I am have made many arguments that are better than anything I can articulate. But I will try to be very succinct. I will fail.

    That (in)famous quote right there at the top goes a long way to explaining what's wrong with it and why it seems to attract so many neckbearded fedora wearing atheists who live on Reddit. But let me back up a bit.

    A lot of people think Objectivism is just classical liberalism or libertarianism. As someone who is arguably both of those things, I admit some of the ideas all three ideologies express mesh well, but they are not the same thing. I'm a libertarian who is not an Objectivist, for example. Objectivism is a holistic system of thought that I don't subscribe to, not a certain set of political opinions which agree with my own sometimes.

    So if the problem with Objectivism isn't that it lends itself to certain political ideas, even if you personally dislike this ideas, what is the problem with it?

    To put it simply, Objectivism doesn't allow for nuance, you either believe all Objectivist ideas or you're not really an Objectivist, you're just someone whose opinions happen to coincide. I know that's a long way to go for a point, but it's important to understand this is why this philosophy is a non-starter.

    So what is Objectivism actually?

    Well a lot of people like to make the joke "A is A" and leave it at that, and while it's true Rand was pretty bad about using her massive ego as a substitute for having the heart of a teacher, it doesn't really help us understand what Objectivism is so I'll try to give the super short version.

    Objectivism starts with the belief that reality is specific and that it exists independent of human consciousness. So far so good for the most part, I do quibble with the idea a little bit but overall this I find to be solid enough. However that's also a pretty useless idea on its own; so what if this is true?

    We have to go deeper.

    Have to double post due to length. I told you I'd fail at brevity.
     
  16. Trefoil Knot

    Trefoil Knot < x,y | x² = y³ >

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    Objectivism starts to go off the rails with its epistemology (which is how we know what we know). Ayn Rand believed that individuals could understand reality through reason and logic (and only empirical reason and logic). That doesn't sound too crazy, but like a lot of things that sound good initially, it falls apart when you take it to its logical extension.

    Another important Objectivist idea is that contradictions should exist in one's thinking, and that if there is a contradiction in your thinking it means your premises are false. Again it sounds good, but it doesn't hold water.

    There's a lot more to it, but I don't want to try to teach Objectivism and its every aspect here and I think these ideas are enough to get the general sense here.

    Well that doesn't sound THAT retarded, what's wrong with it?

    Well, the first problem is probably best phrased as "empiricism alone cannot explain all truth".

    Objectivism assumes that individuals can understand reality through reason and logic (which are empirical) – There's a lot of ways to take this apart, but I'm going to just use one to show why there are problems with it.

    Consider the following:

    According to Rand's ideas, you know that 1+1 = 2, and you know that from repeated observations of reality. You combine one apple and one additional apple in a bowl, you have a bowl with two apples in it. You extend one finger and then another, two fingers. Etc. You know this because you have used empirical reason and logic.

    This sounds reasonable. However, to borrow an example from others (I think one of the links I used in a prior post uses this example) it goes off the rails quickly. Do you not also know that 70,238 +51,433 = 121,671?

    How do you know that? Did you observe that the combination of 70,238 discrete objects and 51,433 discrete objects yields 121,671 discrete objects repeatedly? For example did you combine them all in a very large bowl and then recount the results?

    Question, can you know, or not know, the results of any addition of two numbers without having to see those exact quantities combined as apples in a bowl multiple times? Or can you extrapolate truth from a principle without actual evidence to add any two numbers together and be sure of the answer, assuming you didn't commit an error?

    Also consider, what if all your evidence was false but you observed a true principal anyway. For example what if you were hallucinating the whole time when you were combining apples and fingers and observing that 1+1 = 2 and later, is was revealed that what you saw was a fevered dream, and the apples and fingers didn't even exist. I know that's silly but stay with me here (and yes this is the problem of the Cartesian demon you nerd).

    Would you not still know that 1+1 = 2? Isn't that piece of knowledge true, completely independent of your ability to observe it happen in objective reality?

    That's the problem with Objectivism. Many concepts in mathematics, science, logic and ethics are a priori knowledge. In other words, at least part of what you know comes from theoretical deduction rather than empirical observation. Your brain creates the construct of addition, and once it does, you can add any two numbers without the need for empirical evidence.

    Remember when I asked how you know 70,238 +51,433 = 121,671 despite never seeing 121,671 apples in a bowl together, or 121,671 fingers extended? You know that a priori. But if you extend Objectivism to its extreme and take its logical conclusion, you don't know that unless you've actually observed 70,238 +51,433 = 121,671empirically.

    Rand had this crazy idea that a priori knowledge and empiricism were at fundamental odds with one another, and liked to discount the empirical qualities of other philosophers who combined both kinds of knowledge completely. For example, Rationalists were a common target with Rand often saying they didn't make empirical arguments, despite the many Rationalist arguments which are empirical.

    I don't know why she had this bug up her Russian bunghole. Nothing she ever wrote ever adequately explained to me why a priori and empirical knowledge don't both co-exist, which is a concept most (good) philosophers don't seem to have a problem with.

    The second thing I want to bring up is a sole reliance on empiricism essentially guarantees Objectivism won't ever be able to answer certain questions. I would like to point out a little something we math nerds call Incompleteness and I'll steal verbiage from wikipedia here:

    "The first incompleteness theorem states that no consistent system of axioms whose theorems can be listed by an effective procedure (i.e., an algorithm) is capable of proving all truths about the arithmetic of the natural numbers. For any such formal system, there will always be statements about the natural numbers that are true, but that are unprovable within the system. The second incompleteness theorem, an extension of the first, shows that the system cannot demonstrate its own consistency."


    Let me try to parse that: A "complete" logical system could either prove or disprove any given statement. In other words, any proposal you submit to me, I can run it through my logical algorithm and say yes this is true or not it is false.

    However, this begs the question, what is the value of a system of logic that says a statement is both true and false simultaneously? Not very much right?

    In fact, such a system is worthless because it doesn't tell us anything at all. If a system is capable of resolving whether any given statement is true or false, it is said to be "consistent". And to her credit, Rand uses the word correctly here, as this is exactly what Rand prescribes, that we should be "consistent" always.

    Yet what Gödel proved is that no system which is consistent will ever be complete. In other words, to avoid the problem of having something be true and false at the same time, we have to have a system which can't prove or disprove absolutely all statements. There will be statements which are true which we can't prove one way or the other.

    So what's my point? Since we can't even have one system of arithmetic that can answer all mathematical questions, we will always have true statements which evade mathematical proof and therefore we will always have true statements which evade empirical proof.

    No system of thought based on empiricism (unless somehow it was independent of the natural numbers, how would you describe reality without them?) is ever going to resolve all questions. The empirically unanswerable is inevitable.

    However since Objectivism forbids all other approaches but empiricism, an Objectivist will never be able to resolve these questions by considering non empirical knowledge, such as an a priori argument. You cannot claim to be the one true philosophy that is the only valid source of knowledge because of a reliance on empiricism when there are questions the empirical approach cannot answer.

    Conclusion: Why Objectivism sucks and why it probably made her book suck

    And here at the end I will be very biased but honest: Rand was an egotistical cunt who had some cognitive gifts she greatly overestimated. Seriously her ego was massive. Her philosophy drips with an aura of "The One True Path" despite being the very thing Rand mocked, a subjective viewpoint. The very name "Objectivism" itself demonstrates that Rand believed she had a monopoly on truth.

    Some parts of what she said are valid, some arguments are good, but that quote I gave at the very beginning is why Objectivism has never really gotten a strong academic toehold: it is a package deal; Rand's arguments never consider a contradictory case could exist and what the implications to her arguments would be, which is what other philosophers dedicated most of their attention to, honestly. If she'd ever entertained the very possibility she could be wrong, Rand could have done a lot more and a lot better.

    Her philosophy, by excluding such arguments, creates the idea in people's heads that if they agree with Rand politically then they don't have to form good arguments or consider there may be other aspects they haven't considered. The purpose of a philosophy shouldn't be to buttress your existing ideas and keep the static, it should be to provide some way you can reason through those ideas, refine them, defend them, and understand them.

    And to be fair, Objectivism has grown beyond Rand. So I wouldn't say all Objectivists are wrong or stupid or anything like that, I am just saying that as Rand presented it, the philosophy is crap.

    This is how Rand could have so easily justify her book Atlas Shrugged being the way it was. If the world really is that black and white and Objectivism is the true arbitrator of what is and isn't knowledge, why bother forming a good argument? The arrogance is astonishing, but that's what happens when your self worth is invested in your ideas.

    Being emotionally invested in your ideas is the desire to be static in them, and to the neckbeard basement dwellers of the world, Objectivism will always hold a high appeal.
     
  17. TheVoid

    TheVoid Well-Known Member

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    In The God Delusion there are sections where Dawkins claims that atheism is the only correct belief, and because it is the only correct belief, every religion is incorrect. Therefore, it is the duty of the correct atheists to make sure that everyone else believes in the correct belief.

    What is it about intellectuals like Rand and Dawkins? They have such massive egos, write books talking about how great their philosophies are, and so many people feed their egos by supporting every theory.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2018
  18. QuiltGuilt

    QuiltGuilt My 2-cent_garbage.com

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    One of the issues I have with atheists is exactly this.
    Decrying religion's for being intolerant is fair and good but not by being intolerant yourself.
    Not all atheists, I guess...
     
  19. Luna

    Luna Well-Known Member

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    Honestly Rand was just a terrible writer in general, looking at her oeuvre really shows how much of a fluke "The Fountainhead" was. The majority of her books weren't really narratives telling a story, but more political and philosophical screeds only loosely framed as a story. That in and of itself isn't the worst part of it though: the biggest issue is that she's so bad at arguing for her philosophy. Several times her arguments boil down to "I am objectively right and that makes me more moral, and if you disagree with me you're a bad person", which is never a strong argument.

    Hands down the worst thing she wrote though was that one story where super-communists took over the world and banned the concept of individuality, the name escapes me though.
     
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  20. ToroidalBoat

    ToroidalBoat "Modernly Tech Savvy"

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    "There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year-old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs."

    – John Rogers