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Monday, August 13, 2012

The Limits of Individualism 2

I spoke of Paul Ryan and his love of Ayn Rand's philosophy in the post linked above. Some people thought I was attacking Mr. Ryan personally.
Well, nothing could be further from the truth. I find no fault with Mr. Ryan personally. I may disagree with some ideas and politics, but he is, no doubt, a good man.

Mr. Ryan does not, however, understand this Randian philosophy he talks about. He has looked at Ayn Rand, and he has chosen one facet of her philosophy, and he has assumed that is all there is to it: he can take the wheat and leave the tares behind.

That's not the way it works.
First, if you wish to cherry-pick your philosophies, you will have a mish-mosh of unrelated notions. Now it is probably a fact that most politicians do indeed treat their philosophical ideas like cole slaw (excepting Mr. Jack Kemp, for one), but this is a dangerous procedure.
If any one or mixture of your mish-mosh of ideas comes together and forms a critical mass of mischief and evil for a mass of people who are uneducated and unthoughtful - not to mention the fact that they may well indeed have a nasty streak that has been looking for a Philosophy and an Art (as, for example, white supremacist rock provides the Art for various hate groups ) - the results will not be pretty.

Second, if you wish to embrace a philosophy in its entirety, you had better be clear on the implications of what you are doing. For example, back in 1949, you could not embrace, say, Marxism without also accepting Stalinism.

I get the sense Mr. Ryan's endorsement of Ayn Rand is a mistake of the first type: he has cherry-picked an idea associated with a celebrity name, and he has decided to run it up the flag pole.
We all do things like that.
There is a danger, however, that in the sleep of reason and relaxation of vigilance, the rest of the philosophy creeps in and infiltrates our minds.
Ayn Rand was the foremost spokesperson for an American form of a caricature of Nietzche's "Ubermensch" or "Superman". She presents the idea in its uniquely American way, differentiating it from the European form. The Randian Superman or Genius sets his own Rules.
Which is another way of saying that the Superman has no need of God and God's law.

If you insist, we shall have to try it out.

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