Atlas Shrugged: Miscasting Call

Atlas Shrugged: Part 1, The Movie

The question of why Atlas bombed at the box office is really two questions. One is why it didn’t get more attention from the conservatives who’d seem to be its natural audience; the other is why it didn’t attract more interest from moviegoers in general. Let’s start with the first question.

The problem I see is that Rand set potential filmmakers an impossible task: her heroes and villains have to be distinguishable at a glance. The protagonists have jutting chins and sharp, virtuous cheekbones; the bad guys have gangly, floppy limbs and jowls of evil. In the scene at Hank’s party, she went so far as to say that a Randian hero stands out from a crowd of moochers like the Ascent of Man striding from primordial ooze. No real-human-being casting could depict this accurately, but it seems like the filmmakers didn’t even try, which is sure to weaken the film in the eyes of the faithful.

First of all, there’s Ellis Wyatt. We see him on TV in one of the first scenes of the movie, and then again when he comes to bluster and bully Dagny about the Rio Norte Line. This is how the movie depicts him:

This is just wrong, clearly. This Ellis Wyatt is a rotund man with a big belly, and as we all know, the circle is the most socialist of shapes. Didn’t the screenwriters consult the book? Randian heroes aren’t supposed to be short and stout. Ellis Wyatt is supposed to be rangy, grizzled, dangerous-looking; I always pictured him as Sam Elliott or John Hurt. But no matter who plays him, at the very least he should have a Yosemite Sam mustache.

Then there’s the Taggart siblings, Dagny and James:

With Dagny, at least the filmmakers were thinking along the right lines. But I’m not convinced Taylor Schilling has the gravitas to pull it off. Dagny is supposed to be the Iron Lady, radiating inhuman sternness and competence, but Schilling plays her, basically, as a generic MBA-from-Wharton blonde executive. Those slightly pursed lips are the closest thing to stone-cold determination she ever projects.

Granted, this may be a defect of the writing, not of the actor. It’s probably impossible for a human being to portray Dagny, or any Randian protagonist, the way they’re meant to come off. Even a libertarian critic noted this, saying that Dagny “seemed too much like a normal human being for a Randian romantic heroine”. In the world of Atlas, being a normal human being isn’t a compliment.

Meanwhile, they made the opposite error with James Taggart. Jim is supposed to be a fleshy, sweaty man who erupts into a shrill panic whenever anything doesn’t go his way, trying to evade the realization that his world is imploding around him. Instead, the film casts him as mildly sleazy and shallow at best, like a slacker frat boy who inherited his dad’s business and is in over his head. Rather than gloating, cowardly evil, his most serious reaction to any setback is a slack-jawed “Dude, not cool!” expression.


Dude! You were totally supposed to bring the keg for the rager at Sig Ep tonight!

Not all the casting is terrible. Grant Bowler, who plays Hank Rearden, pulls off the empty-Armani-suit look about as well as could be expected (although I always pictured Alec Baldwin as Hank), while Michael Lerner does a decent generically evil bureaucrat with Rearden’s turncoat lobbyist Wesley Mouch. There’s also a minor part by Armin Shimerman, best known for his role as Quark the Ferengi from Star Trek – a deceitful, amoral schemer motivated only by profit, or in other words, a perfect Randian hero.


They also treat women as property, which Ayn Rand wouldn’t have been OK with. Probably.

Last but not least, there’s Dagny’s loyal right-hand man Eddie Willers. This casting, at least, shouldn’t be difficult to fill. Since Eddie is an ordinary schmoe, not a Nietzschean superman like the main characters, he should be much easier to get right. And then the filmmakers had to go and do this:

Yes, they made Eddie black. This may have been well-intentioned, possibly an attempt to add some diversity to the monochrome cast of the book; but instead, the filmmakers managed to conjure up an even worse cliche. Then again, it may not have been entirely a coincidence. Can it really be an accident that the only major sympathetic character whose race they’d dare to change is also the only one who suffers a tragic fate in the end?

Other posts in this series:

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Adam Acuo

    I’ve been following your well intentioned missives on Rand’s work, and while you usually bring a smile to my face in your stereotypical bashing of Atlas Shrugged (it’s an excellent guide for highlighting the misconceptions of the left and the generally ignorant and I forward students to your site as a result), there’s one thing that we can agree on and that is this horrible movie adaptation of the book. Yes, it was miscast, but it was also shoddily done, horribly directed and badly acted. It didn’t succeed because it was a bad movie. Whatever your thoughts on Rand’s underlying philosophy, the book was largely written in the 1940′s and early 1950′s and Rand’s inspiration was the same dime store heroic serialization novels that later inspired George Lucas to create Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars. Rand did not create her heroes to be realistic, she created them to be Indiana Jones! In fact if you use Raiders as an example of what she was looking to create, you can see how the casting of that movie (or Star Wars for that matter) reflects the character models in Atlas Shrugged. It’s quite a stretch for anti-capitalists to identify with business people that are portrayed as Indiana Jones or Princess Leia, and of course that was exactly Rand’s point. The fact that you are investing your time and energy on this highlights her accomplishment.

  • BenjCano

    Yay! We’ve got a Randian back. Hoozah!

  • BenjCano

    But, to make a serious point, just because a movie is “shoddily done, horribly directed, and badly acted” is no indicator of its success or failure at the box office. I refer you to Exhibits A, B, and C; the Star Wars prequels, which made umpteen bajillion dollars despite being objectively horrible movies. They attained financial success on nostalgia appeal alone, and Adam’s question is why didn’t Atlas Shrugged similarly light a fire under the conservative and libertarian audiences and make booku buck.

    In my opinion, audiences are willing to forgive a lot of flaws in a film if it can either provide ball-numbing or a good story. I made a comment last week, when Adam discussed the trailer, that it was mind-numbingly boring watching these scenes that are supposed to represent intense conflict revolve around metal and taxes and trains. There was a fire in the beginning of the trailer, and I think maybe an explosion and that’s good, those demonstrate that whoever made the trailer is at least aware of how to attract an audience’s interest. But it can’t do anything more than tease, because Atlas Shrugged is just so fucking boring.

    So Atlas Shrugged can’t depend on its action to attract audiences. It has to be a love story to capitalism. That premise isn’t necessarily a doomed one. There have been very engaging and successful films built on that premise: Other People’s Money, and Wall Street come immediately to mind. But those movies had good stories; I particularly remember Dany Devito’s speech in Other People’s Money giving me great insight into his character as he made out a logical case explaining the grim necessity of his corporate raiding tactics, and how ultimately it was the only real way to save some semblance of the manufacturing industry, which had not adapted to the changing times.

    What bit of character insight can Atlas Shrugged offer us that can compare with moments like that? It can’t.

  • Sven2547

    your stereotypical bashing of Atlas Shrugged (it’s an excellent guide for highlighting the misconceptions of the left and the generally ignorant and I forward students to your site as a result)

    ‘You are full of ignorant misconceptions but I will not bother to explain what those misconceptions are’

    The fact that you are investing your time and energy on this highlights her accomplishment.

    Rand’s “accomplishment” is that this book has a fanbase, not that it has any intellectual merit.

  • Elizabeth

    HOLD UP.

    Dagny = Leia
    James = Luke
    Hank = Han

    Sweet Oracle of Delphi! I think he’s on to something!

  • eyelessgame

    Wait. Ellis Wyatt is one of Rand’s Good Guys? I did not get that from the trailer at *all*. I did think, in seeing Dagny and Hank, “well, casting was going for ‘angular’, and succeeded”.

  • Space Blizzard

    While reading your posts I always picture Dagny looking like Tilda Swinton for some reason, even though that’s not really how she’s described.

  • http://www.calgarysecularchurch.org/ Korey Peters

    Well, it started at BlackDudeDiesFirst, and then off to HideYourGays and half an hour later, I’m back. Adam, I’ve warned you before about linking to TV Tropes! :)

  • GCT

    Yes, the fact that Rand has a fan base and has somehow convinced many people that her horrible ideas are actually good ideas could be considered an accomplishment. I don’t think it’s one that anyone should be proud of, however.

  • Nathaniel

    The “Gor” novels have a still active fanbase too. I doubt you would conclude that means it has merit.

  • http://flickr.com/photos/sedary_raymaker/ Naked Bunny with a Whip

    anti-capitalists

    No “stereotypical bashing” here, nope.

    The fact that you are investing your time and energy on this highlights her accomplishment.

    Yeah, Rand’s a regular Stephenie Meyer.

  • ahermit

    “Rand’s “accomplishment” is that this book has a fanbase…”

    Kind of like “Plan 9 From Outer Space” that way…

  • BenjCano

    The fact that you are investing your time and energy on this highlights her accomplishment.

    You know, there is a theory in literary analysis that a horrible work is as valuable to the act of criticism than a mediocre or unremarkable one. A book as horrible as Atlas shrugged is valuable as a tool for sharpening the tools of analysis. As an exercise for organizing his thoughts, explaining his philosophy, and becoming a better critic of literature, Adam is going through Atlas Shrugged in an exhaustive way. He can do that without praising Ayn Rand for her accomplishment.

    And in the end, you can STILL point to it and say, “You want to be a good author. DON’T DO THAT!”

  • X. Randroid

    “Yes, they made Eddie black.”

    And the first thing that came to my mind when I heard this (back when the movie was in production) was not Black Dude Dies First. What I thought of was this snippet of dialog, from the opening chapter:

    Jim: “It’s touching — your devotion to Taggart Transcontinental. If you don’t look out, you’ll turn into one of those real feudal serfs.”

    Eddie: “That’s what I am, Jim.”

    And when I finally made myself watch the movie, I couldn’t help noticing that the “real feudal serf” was the only African-American in the movie … unless you count the waitress in the diner and maybe a few nameless extras. I can’t help thinking there was at least some subconscious bias at work. They could reimagine Eddie as a black man but not, say, Ellis Wyatt. (I mean, would a lean and angular African-American actor look any less like anyone’s mental image of Wyatt than the guy they hired?)

  • X. Randroid

    P.S. Just to clarify, the dialog I quoted is not in the movie.

  • X. Randroid

    Yes, let’s hope Mr. Acuo will deign to enlighten us as to what our “misconceptions” are.

  • Azkyroth

    …which probably has about a 75% overlap with the Rand fanbase, come to think of it. >.>

  • unbound55

    …your stereotypical bashing…

    and

    …it’s an excellent guide for highlighting the misconceptions of the left and the generally ignorant…”

    Not sure that opening with hypocrisy is a good start if you want to be taken seriously…

  • Donalbain

    So nice to see a Randian back. But yes, you are correct her characters are not realistic, but then neither is her world building, so what exactly are we supposed to learn from it?

  • Wilson Whiting

    I’ve been following your interesting series on Rand, and you accurately depict many of her flaws, but I think that you misinterpret or overlook some of her writing’s virtues. After having read her books, I think that I like Ayn Rand more than I dislike her.

    First of all, you often paint Ayn as a modern 1%er, when what surprised me while reading Atlas Shrugged was her constant condemnations of ‘Washington Businessmen,’ whom she denounced as more looters, cheaters, and collectivists, and not true creators or innovators to be extolled.

    Second, while everyone commonly uses ‘Altruism’ as a synonym for generosity,
    that was not Ayn Rand’s definition of the term or the idea she primarily
    attacked. I am thinking of the scene in WW2 movie ‘The Big Red One’ where
    Lee Marvin calls on his squad by number: 1,2,3,4,5…, and each time a young
    man leaps up, drags a Bangalore a few feet up a beach, then is cut down by
    gunfire. It is the insanity of another person spending or expending your life even with your consent. It can lead to shooting fellow soldiers for cowardice,
    suicide bombers, and Mother Theresa telling people in pain that “jesus is
    kissing them” while withholding pain medication.

    Of course anyone who has read Rand can point out her flaws: thinking that she
    is so smart that she doesn’t need an editor (it is no coincidence that
    Fountainhead is 3X shorter than Atlas Shrugged and far better), and how the
    entire point of the scientist’s storyline was voided when the USSR launched
    Sputnik slightly later in 1957.

    Then there is the entire tone and style of the book.

    “Nobody who says ‘I told you so’ has ever been, or will ever be, a hero.”
    -Ursula K. LeGuin, essay ‘From Elfland to Poughkeepsie’

  • Chaos Engineer

    It’s quite a stretch for anti-capitalists to identify with business
    people that are portrayed as Indiana Jones or Princess Leia, and of
    course that was exactly Rand’s point.

    OK. The appeal of Indiana Jones and Princess Leia is that they’re heroic individuals fighting against a corrupt ruling class. (The Nazis and the Galactic Empire, respectively.) It’s easy to move this kind of story to a business setting, with an independent businessman fighting against a large exploitative conglomerate. There are lots of movies like this; for various reasons they tend to be romantic comedies instead of action pictures. My favorite is The Hudsucker Proxy.

    “Atlas Shrugged” turns this upside down: The heroes of the book are the ruling elites, and the villians are the rebel upstarts who want to overthrow them. The rulers could easily crush the rebellion by out-bribing or out-PRing them, but then the book would be about 10 pages long. Instead they deliberately sabotage the economy, at great human cost, just so they can say, “See, your rebellion made things worse! That proves we deserved to be in charge.”

    So the objection to “Atlas Shrugged” isn’t that it’s got pulp fantasy heroes. It’s that the book was written to convince the James Taggarts of the world that they’re really John Galt.

  • Jeff

    Maybe we’re not supposed to learn anything? It’s a common theme among Ms. Rand’s fans that Atlas Shrugged isn’t intended to be the Handbook for Objectivism that we lefties make it out to be. Maybe it’s just a really long novel about trains.

  • J-D

    I tug my forelock with humble gratitude at Your Excellency’s magnanimity in condescending to even the merest shadow of interaction with us barely human plebeians.

  • J-D

    Those heroic creative innovators who build whole industries not only without assistance from the government but in defiance of it, because they would never deign to suckle at anybody’s teat? They don’t exist. There is no John Galt. As somebody else pointed out in another comment, the point of _Atlas Shrugged_ is to assist James Taggarts to _believe_ they are John Galts. There’s no truth in it.

  • Charles Dabove Gutierrez

    I have to disagree on your choice for Wyatt. Since he’s describe as young, I pictured him as more of a Matthew McConaughey or Barry Pepper type.

    As for the guy playing Rearden, I thought he was spot on, up until the point where he opened his mouth, at which point it became impossible to buy him as a captain of industry. I wonder if they ever considered making him a mute.

  • Charles Dabove Gutierrez

    I’d argue Rand definitely has some strengths as a fiction writer, just not enough to make her didactic fiction any good. On the other hand, I have sincerely recommended “We the Living” to people. (Though even that one has its flaws.)

    As to your second point, well, that’s a fairly typical defense of Rand. I always find it troubling that Rand argues for a philosophy based on a misuse or redefinition of language. At best, she’s just trolling. At worst, she’s disguising weak arguments by cloaking them in slippery language.

  • A Real Libertarian

    Now imagine in fifty years time Twihards are like Objectivists are now.

  • A Real Libertarian

    I like Eddie.

    The expression he’s giving in the picture is the perfect combination of “Yes folks, that actually happened” and “Remember, no matter how much your life sucks, at least you aren’t a character in an Ayn Rand novel.”

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    I think it’s intended to be inspirational and occasionally instructive. Even unrealistic worlds can teach lessons about the real world. However, many of the lessons Ayn Rand intends to convey are either very poorly conveyed or outright dangerous.

  • Donalbain

    Realistic people in unrealistic worlds can be instructive. Unrealistic people in realistic worlds can be instructive. But Ayn does the double and puts unrealistic people in an unrealistic world.

  • Nathaniel

    They should have done that with all the characters, forcing them to act out all their dialogue with miming and hand puppets. It surely would have been an unforgettable hit.

  • Wilson Whiting

    I loved the scene in We the Living where the wounded Red and White soldiers help each other out of the battlefield, unaware whose side was victorious and each promising the other leniency if their side prevailed.

    And almost nothing else from that book.

    There are loads of people who do not know the actual definitions of words and incorrect definitions that have fallen into common usage.
    If you are an atheist, then how many times have you heard that atheism is ‘denial/ hatred of god’ rather than ‘absence of belief in god’? I think that she had a clearly defined idea that she opposed and accurately communicated this to (at least) me, but my estimation could be wrong on either/ both counts, of course.

  • arensb

    Look, if you need to have it spelled out for you, you’re never going to get it. Look it up, sheeple! [sneer]

  • X. Randroid

    According to no less an authority than Rand herself, what we are supposed to learn is “the role of the mind in man’s life.” Specifically, if you commit yourself to the proper use of your mind (“reason”), you will eventually come to recognize that a specific moral code (“egoism”) is essential to human survival (or at least to “proper” human survival) and that this moral code requires a political system based on the recognition and protection of individual rights (“capitalism”). If you deviate even a little from reason, egoism, and/or capitalism, you are anti-life, whether you know it or not.

    Can we learn this from unrealistic characters in an unrealistic world … well, that’s a different question.

  • Azkyroth

    My experience with this kind of claim from Rand’s fans is that, as with the “biblical literalists,” they are committed to her being basically correct, so when she asserts something that conflicts with their factual knowledge or conscience, they need to “reinterpret” it to be acceptable while still kinda sounding like the original.

  • Azkyroth

    ….maybe the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement is on to something.

  • Azkyroth

    …and the worst part is, I have no idea if you’re kidding.

  • A Real Libertarian

    That’s why I’m a devout acolyte of the Cult of Kefka.

    Pamphlet?
    http://finalfantasy.wikia.com/wiki/Kefka

  • arensb

    Oh, I thought the “[sneer]” was the “winking smiley or other blatant display of humor” necessary to get around Poe’s Law. I guess they don’t make winking displays of humor as blatant as they used to. Or at least I don’t. But you know, times are tough all around. So I propose that we introduce a new Fairness in Humor Act, which says that you have to laugh at everyone’s jokes, even the ones that aren’t funny, to give everyone a chance. It’s what Wesley Mouch would want, I’m sure.

  • http://flickr.com/photos/sedary_raymaker/ Naked Bunny with a Whip

    Oh, that’ll seem great until the richest, most hilarious comedians begin burning down their TV studios and disappearing to Leno’s Gulch.

  • A Real Libertarian

    There are non-liberal comedians?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    Yeah, there’s a whole raft of unfortunate implications in this casting choice. In addition to being the only main character who dies, they also made the black guy the only main character who’s in a subordinate role and proud of it.

    If Eddie had been depicted as a competent and intelligent character in his own right, that would have helped, but instead, his only role in this movie is to provide exposition to Dagny on cue. (Which is the topic of my next post!)

    EDIT: Also relevant.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    Yep! Wyatt is one of the good guys. You can tell because he resorts to threats and indiscriminate violence to achieve his goals, as opposed to Rand’s villains, whose evil plan is to pass laws through democratic consent.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    That’s plausible. After all, there are lots of authors who write 33,000-word philosophical monologues for their main characters to deliver without meaning anything by it.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    I make no apologies.

  • arensb

    To quote Deep Thought from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, when the philosophers threatened to go on strike: “Whom will that inconvenience?”

  • St. Gore

    COGTFO = Cats or GTFO

    I’ll cite that for you :D

    http://instagram-ps.5thvillage.com/cogtfo/

  • John

    Only half an hour? Consider yourself lucky.

  • uykhvasdrvtjyku

    I am thinking of the scene in WW2 movie ‘The Big Red One’ where Lee Marvin calls on his squad by number: 1,2,3,4,5…, and each time a young man leaps up, drags a Bangalore a few feet up a beach, then is cut down by gunfire. It is the insanity of another person spending or expending your life even with your consent.

    I’m reminded of a passage from Anthony Beevor’s Stalingrad, wherein someone was asking some Hiwis, that is, Soviet soldiers who had defected to the Germans and were wearing German uniforms, whether they would really be willing to shoot their own countrymen.

    “What choice do we have?” was their response. If they wouldn’t fight their fellow Russians, the Germans would shoot them. And if they went back to the Red Army, the NVKD would shoot them for being traitors.

    Who ever said the universe doesn’t grant you infinite choice?

  • Wilson Whiting

    So do you think that ‘the insanity of another person spending or expending your life even with your consent’ and the illustrations I used to flesh it out represent Ayn Rand’s concept that she called Altruism accurately?

    There are plenty of teenage punk atheists who are all ‘f* god’ and LGBT activists who are dancing on the grave of Westboro baptist Fred Phelps, but jerks on a side does not in itself make a side wrong.

  • Wilson Whiting

    I know, it is hard to believe that a few short decades ago, America had conscription and soldiers could be shot dead for desertion and cowardice in the face of the enemy.
    People like Ayn Rand and “writer of Nitzschean Supermen” Robert Heinlein helped fight against these ideas.

  • Wilson Whiting

    No argument about her Nietzschean Supermen, but I think that she believed they were real.

  • http://flickr.com/photos/sedary_raymaker/ Naked Bunny with a Whip

    Well, there are conservative comedians, and there are conservatives who are sometimes funny, but I don’t see much overlap between the two groups.

  • Nathaniel

    Ayn Rand didn’t give a shit about such people, and I find it risible that you think otherwise.

  • eyelessgame

    I think the reason for calling her a 1%er is that she believes that anyone who is not successful is a looter, moocher, etc – that the book, to most of us at least, drips with contempt for most of humanity. It’s the elitism, not the identification with everyone who’s currently rich today – not that it extolls hard work (which is a fine thing to extoll) but that it believes that hard work inevitably leads to success, and that therefore anyone who is not successful is neither hard-working nor, ultimately, deserving to live.

    Ultimately, though, if the book were just a book, and if its screeds were not treated as holy writ by so many influential people, sure, it has its virtues. I can roll my eyebrows at a Pournelle or Heinlein character going off on a rant, I can dislike the social setting or assumptions of one of their novels, and still find it a good potboiler or to have interesting ideas here and there. But when this book is literally made required reading for new hires, by people responsible for the direction of our society and economy, and the social and economic ideas in the book are *so bad* when applied to reality – that’s where the antipathy comes from.

    In the small as well as the large. I’ve seen people ruined by this book; when they read it at the wrong time, it’s as if they join a cult, and want nothing to do with anyone who has not been given the same Kool-Aid. They come away with a worldview that is at odds with reality, but which – like the worldview of cultists – is impervious to demonstration or reason, because it gives all-purpose excuses for things not appearing to be the way that they are told they are. They are given excuses not to care, not to attempt to engage with others. It becomes the epitome, ultimately, of Keynes’ warning – conservatism as a constant search for a moral justification for selfishness (which, for these readers, doesn’t in the real world translate to being aware of your own needs; it translates into being *uncaring* of the needs of others.)

    Others are ably objecting to your comments on words and their meanings, so I’ll leave that alone.

  • eyelessgame

    It’s what they say, but not what they do – at least some of them. For those for whom it’s just a book, sure.

    The problem with Twilight isn’t that it’s’ a bad-but-popular book. Lots of people read it, enjoy it, and then put it down and get on with their lives. The problem with Twilight is that it so many impressionable teen girls read it and come away thinking that stalking and emotional abuse are romantic.

    And when, in the real world, you have Rand Paul and Paul Ryan and Alan Greenspan – and thousands of other people – doing with this book what those fourteen-year-old girls have done with Twilight, then there’s a problem. And it affects the real world in real ways, in the insanity of trying to arrange the real-world economy like the fantasies built by this author who really didn’t understand economics, banking, markets, market externalities, sociology, culture, or – ultimately – people, then this deconstruction both of the book and the movement it inspires becomes important.

  • Wilson Whiting

    She ideologically opposed the concept of conscription, this is a fact.

  • Nathaniel

    She was ideologically opposed to government assistance too. Never stopped her from cashing her social security check.

  • uykhvasdrvtjyku

    The influence that Rand had in ending conscription would take a microscope to see. The people most responsible were those hippies marching in the streets that Rand despised so much.

  • Pattrsn

    Your defence of Rand seems to hinge on her not knowing what altruism is.

  • Pattrsn

    Rand did not create her heroes to be realistic, she created them to be Indiana Jones!

    I see, the book wasn’t meant to reflect reality at all. That explains everything.

  • A Real Libertarian

    When I say “comedian” I mean someone other people laugh with, not laugh at.

  • A Real Libertarian

    Wrong website.

  • Wilson Whiting

    Accurate, but changing subject. Also, I didn’t try to quantify her (or Heinlein’s) influence in actually ending conscription, merely that they were publicly ideologically opposed.

  • Nathaniel

    His defense rests on Rand being too infamously dishonest to actually attack what 99.9999% of people mean when they say the word “altruistic.”

  • Azkyroth

    That’s the PROBLEM.

    (Well, one of many.)

  • eyelessgame

    I will give you that, absolutely. Libertarians are the very definition of stopped clocks – in places where personal liberties really are being unacceptably infringed by government – far fewer places, in this country, than they imagine they are – then libertarians are exactly correct in their criticisms. Ron Paul occasionally takes a correct position that few others take, and he – like his intellectual forebears – should be credited for that position.

    But like trains running on time, the identification of a single virtue does not excuse the evilness of their position in other contexts.

  • http://limpingtowardsgrace.com/ James Jarvis

    The only way that you could ever have a film where the heroes looked like Ayn Rand’s hero is to make it an animated and highly stylized cartoon. The heroes would be drawn with sharp lines and angles and the villains would all look like the Pillsbury dough-boy and twirl their waxed mustaches.

  • J-D

    It’s not at all hard to believe, given that under US military law desertion in time of war and cowardice in the face of the enemy are _still_ punishable by death.

    I still have trouble seeing the connection between those laws and any concept of altruism.

  • Wilson Whiting

    Executed after a ‘Paths of Glory’ type show-trial?
    Impromptu execution by fellow squadmates?

    This site has interesting information related to this sub-topic.
    http://lachlan.bluehaze.com.au/desertion_executions.html

    Ayn Rand would say that Conscription is coercive altruism, altruistic behavior forced upon an unwilling person by a society.

  • Wilson Whiting

    If nearly everyone uses an inaccurate definition and thinks that Altruism and generosity are identical, why is using an accurate definition a fault of Rand’s?

  • Wilson Whiting

    I keep responding to Nathaniel and Patrrsn by copy and pasting the dictionary definitions of altruism and generosity, but this site keeps mysteriously deleting my replies. The two concepts are not identical.

  • Jeremy Shaffer

    Your mileage may vary on this but Dennis Miller is a comedian and a conservative. However, his ability to be intentionally funny comes to a screeching halt at the point he starts to inject his conservative beliefs into his comedy.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    Have some patience, friend. I was traveling most of today and wasn’t able to clear out the moderation queue until just now. Leaving multiple versions of the same comment doesn’t help.

  • Azkyroth

    Depends. Do you consider “disasters” to be necessarily caused by evil stars?

  • Wilson Whiting

    ???

  • Wilson Whiting

    Sorry, I thought some program was auto-deleting me for copy-and-pasting or something.

  • St. Gore
  • St. Gore

    Ted Nugent is pretty comedian-like these days, wouldn’t you say?

  • unbound55

    There were a lot that fought against the idea of conscription. Just because she was but one drop in that sea doesn’t make her particularly special.

    What halted the draft was the use of cameras on the field and the middle class kids being cut down. Now we use the financial draft (i.e. pay the poor to die). I would think Ayn Rand would fully approve of how the draft works now…

  • J-D

    We already have satisfactory language to use for situations where people are unfairly compelled to do something for somebody else’s benefit. In general it’s called ‘exploitation’; there are also more specific terms for particular forms of exploitation, like ‘slavery’ and ‘blackmail’.

    I don’t see that being unfairly compelled to do something for somebody else’s benefit and freely choosing to do something for somebody else’s benefit have so much in common that we need to lump them both together within the definition of one term.

  • J-D

    If nearly everybody uses a word in a particular way then _by definition_ the way they use it is an accurate definition of the word.

  • J-D

    Azkyroth is referring to the etymology of ‘disaster’ to make the point that etymology is not identity.

  • Benn

    The odd thing is, I think Miller was funnier when he wasn’t conservative. My understanding is Dennis went conservative just after 9/11.

  • uykhvasdrvtjyku

    I don’t get why you keep going on about this. Of course Rand was opposed to conscription, as she was opposed to anyone being required to help their fellow man in any way at all, or even in the existence of cultural mores by which one was expected to do so without coercion. This does not make her some heroic freedom fighter. It makes her an asshole.

    And given her extremism, it’s unclear how a society is supposed to defend itself against an existential threat at all. Most sane people would agree that if your choice is between conscription and extermination (e.g., what Russians faced with the invading Nazis), then conscription is clearly the lesser evil. But in Rand’s philosophy, even volunteering would be out of the question, unless for some reason the pay was really good.

  • Wilson Whiting

    Dictionary says- Altruism-
    1. the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others (opposed to egoism ).
    2. Animal Behavior . behavior by an animal that may be to its disadvantage but that benefits others of its kind, as a warning cry that reveals the location of the caller to a predator.

    Generosity-
    1. readiness or liberality in giving.
    2. freedom from meanness or smallness of mind or character.

    Ayn Rand is using the correct definition. That altruism is identical to generosity is the popular misconception of the definition.

    Is atheism defined by popularity as ‘denial/ hatred of god’ rather than the true definition of ‘absence of belief in god’?

  • Wilson Whiting

    -I have no idea why this comment showed up here, I commented on JD and uykhvasdrvtjyku’s replies. This chat program is super buggy, I think.-

    Ayn Rand would probably say that altruism only differs from exploitation in that instead of overtly coerced, the self-sacrificial behavior is somewhat more subtly manipulated, but it is still exploitative.

    I’m ‘going on about it’ because I see others responding based on what I think are misconceptions or mistranslations of what particular point I am actually defending, I am not defending Rand against charges of hypocrisy, for example.

  • Hawker40

    “Look at what you made me do!” is a poor excuse for terrorism.

  • Hawker40

    Even unrealistic people in unrealistic worlds can be instructive, as any visit to the children’s section of a bookstore can show.
    Not claiming that Ayn Rand is instructive, or at least not with a message suitable for children. Or civilized adults.

  • Jeremy Shaffer

    I think your understanding is correct. He can still be funny now so long as he’s not trying to make a political point with his humor, which is kinda rare now.

  • Science Avenger

    “There are non-liberal comedians?”

    One of the great unexamined (from the conservative POV) traits of our society. Why aren’t conservatives funny? Why does every one of their SNL ripoffs bomb? Why is there no conservative yin to Colbert’s yang?

  • Science Avenger

    What you snark is actually what Rand meant seriously. Ragnar Danneskjold says as much later in the book, that he uses force honestly whereas the AS villains do not.

  • A Real Libertarian
  • TBP100

    I’ve wondered about this. The most common answer I get, and which I tend to agree with, when I ask the question is that conservatives generally punch down, and that includes conservative comedians. Most people don’t find attacking the already unfortunate, downtrodden, poor, etc. to be very funny.

  • Benn

    Seems to me the biggest problem with non-liberal comedians is their humor tends to be aimed strictly at liberals. It’s all about mocking liberals and progressive ideas/causes. Liberals like John Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher will often mock liberals. Maybe not as often as they do conservatives, but they’re more likely to than Rush Limbaugh is likely to take a shot at Mitt Romney or Ronnie Reagan or one of the Bushes.

  • TBP100

    Yep, he was one of those people completely freaked out by 9/11, who did basically a political 180 (“I used to be a liberal, but since 9/11 I’m outraged about Chappaquiddick”). I think he was very funny on SNL and I still like some of his “rants,” but he’s rarely funny now and I don’t think it’s just because I don’t agree with his politics.

  • J-D

    If it is in fact true that nearly everybody uses the word ‘atheism’ to mean ‘hatred of god’ (I don’t think it is), then lexicographers (the people who write dictionaries) should and _will_ record that fact of usage. Where do you think lexicographers get definitions from? They are collators but not legislators. Modern dictionaries now record recent usage. Their contents differ from the contents of dictionaries a hundred or two hundred years old to record the fact that the way people use words has changed. A definition in a new dictionary isn’t incorrect just because it’s different from a definition one hundred or two hundred years old. That second definition of altruism you quote form your dictionary, the one about ‘animal behaviour’, wouldn’t have been in a dictionary a hundred years ago, not because lexicographers had determined it to be ‘incorrect’ but because people didn’t in fact use the word that way then. When people did start using the word that way, dictionaries correctly started recording that fact.

    As it happens, however, if we do accept the particular dictionary definition you have quoted, then, by that standard, the positions you have been attributing to Ayn Rand are incorrect. Coerced behaviour does not fall within the scope of that definition. Ayn Rand may have thought, or you may think, that the difference between acting out of concern for the welfare of others and acting under compulsion can be disregarded, but your dictionary definition does not support that position. Ayn Rand may have thought, or you may think, that the difference between soldiers being driven by threats to risk their lives and soldiers choosing to risk their lives for the sake of others can be disregarded, but your dictionary definition does not support that position. Under your dictionary definition, ‘coerced altruism’ is a contradiction in terms, impossible _by definition_.

  • Wilson Whiting

    I got these definitions from Dictionary.com, so these are evidently the modern definitions of the words. Slang dictionaries can change with the times all they want. Or are you saying that if I convinced a sizable fraction of english speakers that ‘left’ also meant ‘right’ and another definition of ‘right’ was ‘left’ that we could change the english language in this way?

    Altruistic attitudes can come about through manipulation, and societies can coercively enforce altruistic behavior, for example conscription, or parents spanking a child for behaving selfishly and demanding that they share toys, for example.

    How is it impossible for any principle to be enforced through coercion other than coercion’s opposite, liberty? A great many humans are hypocrites, so they can at least claim to be coercively enforcing the principle of liberty.

  • Science Avenger

    I think there is a lot of merit to that. The bulk of the subjects of media humor are conservatives. Conservatives interpret this fact as evidence that the comedians targeted conservatives per se, which I think is off-base. The comedians target idiocy, and conservatives happen to qualify more often. Nonetheless, the conservative reaction is targeted, and targeted humor comes off as stiff, forced, and unfunny.

    I also think it has to do with creative, out-of-the-box thinking in general, which just doesn’t seem part of the conservative mindset by definition. The tried-and-true doesn’t break new ground, and makes lousy art.

    But no conservative will ever go there. They simply take it as a fact of the universe that liberals dominate Hollywood and the media (as well as nearly every profession that involves data about the world), and attribute it to a vast conspiracy.

  • J-D

    I am hoping communication will be improved if I restrict myself to just one point at a time.

    Conscription does not fall within the scope of the definition of altruism which you quoted from Dictionary.com

  • Benn

    The only people who find Conservative comedians funny are their fellow conservative. But that’s almost natural, since it’s a matter of preaching to the choir or, as Bill Maher has put it, being Inside the Bubble. There is also, it seems to me, an angry, smug condescension in conservative humor. Liberal humor seems more amused. I will say both styles can be outraged. But Liberals lack the condescension that Conservative humor has.

    Of course, it should be noted that Conservative do tend to have a defensiveness to them. They do feel they are being persecuted. This may be come, in part, from the religious side of conservatism, since Xtianity does have the martyrdom built into it.

  • Wilson Whiting

    Any principle (including altruism) can be enforced through coercion, with the possible exception of coercion’s opposite, Liberty. If you disbelieve this, why?

  • J-D

    i’m talking about conscription because it’s an example that you brought up. Your latest response says nothing about conscription. I am happy to discuss other points (later) if that’s what you want to do, but not as a way of evading this one. I insist on my point that conscription does not fall within the definition of altruism that you quoted from Dictionary.com. Do you dispute this point or concede it?

  • Wilson Whiting

    Altruistic behavior, I am arguing, can be coercively enforced by a society, one possible manifestation is the policy of conscription. It is a perfectly valid illustration of possible consequences from socially enforced altruism.

    Of course the definition of conscription isn’t within the definition of a different word’s dictionary entry. The concept (conscription, generosity, self-sacrifice, charity, etc.) can still be similar to or predicated upon another concept (like altruism).

    Ayn Rand opposed the notion that Altruism’s sole consequences were positives, such as generosity and charity, that evils like conscription (demanding someone risk their life for another’s benefit) also result from socially enforced altruism.

  • Doomedd

    I would add that liberals
    are more likely to recognize their flaws. That allows a richer and
    thought provoking humor. Conservative just get defensive and comfort
    themselves.

  • Doomedd

    Disclaimer, I am not a
    native English speaker.

    A serious problem I encounter with randians is their heavy usage of
    ill defined Term of art. That seem to be the problem here. You use
    the “randian” definition of altruism. Based on previous posts, it
    seem to include: non selfish act, cohesion (Victim and aggressor) and
    fraud (Victim and aggressor). BTW, you need to give us an accurate
    definition, that not our job to figure it out (not that we have much
    choice).

    Another issue is
    equivocation. Randians mix
    thier jargon and regular words. You seem to do it. Since you use a
    custum definition of
    altruism, you don’t actually argue against
    altruism. You fight a strawman. Honestly, your argument fell a little
    like “ The (scientific) theory of evolution is just a (common)
    theory”, it doesn’t make sense. Please,
    argue against altruism or against bizarro-altruism but not both at
    the same time, they aren’t the same.

  • Wilson Whiting

    I use the dictionary definition of altruism, I am pretty sure that Rand did as well.

    By bizarro altruism, do you mean the popular misconception that Altruism is synonymous with generosity, and the commonplace opinion that nothing bad can come from altruistic motives, that good intentions cannot lead to a bad end?

    You equivocate me with a ‘Randian’. In my opening post I proclaimed that I “like Rand more than I dislike her” and, while pointing out some of her overlooked merits, pointed out several huge flaws in her writing style and ideology.

  • Wilson Whiting

    In the 1950′s it was commonly believed that the Soviets had only gotten Nuclear weapons by spying and stealing from the US, and Rand goes further in Atlas Shrugged, published in 1957, implying across the scientist’s sub-plot that collectivism cannot create anything new, it can only steal and subvert the scientific fruits of innovative individual’s minds.

    And then later in 1957 the Soviets launched Sputnik, they were the first ones into space.

  • J-D

    I pointed out that you were evading my point, and you have responded only by further evading it.

    A horse falls within the scope of the dictionary definition of ‘quadruped’. The Sultanate of Brunei falls within the scope of the dictionary definition of ‘monarchy’. Conscription does _not_ fall within the dictionary definition of ‘altruism’.

    If I do something that benefits you, is that an example of ‘altruism’? If I do it out of selfless motives, yes. If I do it because somebody has a gun to my head, no.

    You won’t admit it and you won’t deny it. You just squirm.

  • J-D

    ‘Devotion to the welfare of others’ can of course _not_ be coerced. Even if I can coerce your acts, I cannot coerce your devotion. Even if I can coerce you to help others, I cannot coerce you to stop feeling selfish.

  • Wilson Whiting

    Devotion-
    1. profound dedication; consecration.
    2. earnest attachment to a cause, person, etc.
    3. an assignment or appropriation to any purpose, cause, etc.: the devotion of one’s wealth and time to scientific advancement.
    4. Often, devotions. Ecclesiastical . religious observance or worship; a form of prayer or worship for special use.

    Dedication can be coerced. Attachment to a cause can originate in manipulation. Assignment and appropriation can be coerced. Religious devotions can be mandated. Devotion can be coerced.

    Of course a person can be devoted to something without emotional desire for it. Switching from an external viewpoint to an internal one doesn’t save your argument. You can be hemmed into a situation requiring altruistic behavior and commit (or don’t) an altruistic act without desiring that situation to have come about.

    “is that… ‘altruism’? If I do it out of selfless motives, yes. If I do it because somebody has a gun to my head, no.” – J-D
    So, the penalty for desertion could be death, so every soldier, conscript or not had threats and force, also the benefits of pay and promise of personal honor keeping them in line. You therefore must believe that there was not one altruistic soldier in all of WW2.

    Are we done quibbling over definitions yet? Or will we wait for dictionary makers to come out with new editions that meet your approval?

  • J-D

    Dedication cannot be coerced. _Earnest_ attachment cannot be coerced. Manipulation is not synonymous with coercion.

    It’s a bit of cheek to complain about quibbling over definitions when you’re the one who started it.

    I do not know to what extent soldiers in the Second World War were motivated by altruism. My guess would be that some soldiers volunteered from altruistic motives, but I have no way to substantiate this. You refer to belief that there was not one altruistic soldier as if it’s the conclusion of a _reductio ad absurdum_, something that could not possibly be true: I don’t see what would make you so sure of that.

  • Wilson Whiting

    So, if a soldier attacks an enemy position and in so doing, saves his squad while dying, is that altruism? I would say yes, even if it was preceded by his squadleader ordering him to attack that position or be executed.
    You evidently feel differently, you disagree that the external circumstances bear any relation to the internal motivations. I think that you are wrong about that.

  • J-D

    I do think there is a relationship between external circumstances and internal motivations. If you don’t understand that I haven’t explained myself clearly enough. There is a relationship, for example, between the external circumstance of being threatened and the internal motivation of fear. If somebody acts out of a fear which has been produced by a threat, that’s not altruism.

  • Wilson Whiting

    If someone donates money to a charity, would you say that it cannot be altruism if those people were pressuring for donations?

    Everyone more or less subtly or intentionally influences everyone else’s motivations and decisions all the time. Are you arguing that it is only altruism if the decision is made in spite of others influence and never if it is in line with another’s influence?

    Is it malign influence only which disqualifies Altruism, and if so, why? And what if the threat were subtle or unintentional? What basis do you use to quantify fear and threat as a disqualifier? In the soldier example, there was threat coming from two directions. Why does one override altruism and not the other for you?

    Don’t forget that I am arguing for the dictionary definition, and you are arguing for your own personal definition, which includes additional qualifications not found in the actual definition. Or prove me wrong by finding a dictionary that agrees with your personal definition.

  • Wilson Whiting

    If a parent uses scolding, spanking, and other heavy-handed means intending to inculcate altruism in their child, is it by your definition impossible for that child to behave altruistically because they have been coerced into maintaining a standard of behavior?

  • J-D

    Part of what distinguishes altruistic behaviour from its opposite is motivation. What any person (child or not) does to avoid the threat of punishment (including scolding or spanking) is not altruism.

    It would be an over-generalisation to stretch that point to the extent of saying that any person who has ever been affected by punishment can never afterwards behave altruistically–that would be silly.

  • Wilson Whiting

    Yes. It is an extremely silly qualification that I doubted you could actually hold. So here you are agreeing that a person can be trained in altruism and altruistic behavior through coercive methods.

    How much time must lapse before your personal altruism disqualifications expire? If a parent scolds their child for behaving selfishly and admonishes them to sacrifice what they want for the sake of others, then how immediately would your private definition let you describe their changed behavior to be altruism? As soon as the immediate threat coming from a non-malign influence is removed?

  • J-D

    Coercion influence people’s behaviour, but not all influence is coercion.

  • J-D

    Coercion influences people’s behaviour, but not all influence is coercion.

  • Wilson Whiting

    And coercion, as I’ve shown, can be used as one possible method to inculcate altruism and maintain an altruistic standard of behavior.

    The only other point that I think we disagreed on was whether altruism must inherently be uncoerced. I have checked a few dictionaries, but find no mention of this caveat.

    “Ethical theory that regards the good of others as the end of moral action; by extension, the disposition to take the good of others as an end in itself.”

  • J-D

    If you want to show that it’s possible for something to be correctly described both as ‘altruistic behaviour’ and as ‘coerced behaviour’, you need to consider not only the meaning of ‘altruistic’ but also the meaning of ‘coerced’. They don’t look compatible to me.

    Analogy: if you look up ‘red’ in a dictionary, it won’t say ‘not green’, and if you look up ‘green’ in a dictionary, it won’t say ‘not red’, but if you understand both words then you’ll understand that it’s not possible for the same thing to be correctly described both as red paint and as green paint.

  • Wilson Whiting

    If “uncoerced” or “free-willed” or “disregarding external influences” or “solely internally motivated” or “un-encouraged, unpunished” are indeed intrinsic properties of altruism, then there are any number of ways in addition to these listed implying this, but dictionary after dictionary fails to correspond to your definition.

    Coercion- using force to receive compliance. Modified to altruism, the coercion attempts to compel an act that is to the benefit of others besides the actor. Seems entirely compatible to me, obviously I do not find it desirable that this is the case.

  • J-D

    ‘Altruism’ is not synonymous with ‘action that is to the benefit of others besides the actor’.

  • Wilson Whiting

    World English Dictionary- Altruism
    2. the philosophical doctrine that right action is that which produces the greatest benefit to others.

    You are right, it is not a synonym, it is a definition of Altruism.

  • J-D

    ‘The philosophical doctrine that right action is that which produces the greatest benefit to others’ is not the same thing as ‘action that is to the benefit of others besides the actor’.

  • Wilson Whiting

    (World weary sigh) They are worded slightly differently. Philosophical doctrine is at the front of one, providing a wider possible context for the action. How does that render the definition invalid? It doesn’t, I think you no longer have semblances of valid arguments.

  • J-D

    (Many many heavy sighs, even world wearier than yours) Meaning depends on context. Deleting part of the context alters the meaning.

  • Wilson Whiting

    In this case, it alters the meaning extremely slightly, and not over the line to support your argument, which you are still unable to back up with anything other than your lonely opinion. You have no valid arguments evidently.

    Your personal definition of Altruism is ideal-altruism, and so you reject all other definitions and viewpoints, like dictionary-altruism, behaviorist-altruism, less-than-ideal-altruism, real-world-altruism.

    Bees instinctually sting threats, and their barbed stinger rips out their own guts. Defending their hives is suicidal. This behavior is instinctual, not free willed, not freely chosen. Whether you like it or not, this is Altruistic behavior, this exactly falls under the dictionary definition of Altruism.

    Altruism 2. Animal Behavior. behavior by an animal that may be to its disadvantage but that benefits others of its kind, as a warning cry that reveals the location of the caller to a predator.

    You are wrong.

  • J-D

    The bee behaviour you describe falls within _one_ of _two_ dictionary definitions of ‘altruism’. If you don’t understand why there are two different definitions of ‘altruism’ next to each other in the dictionary, I don’t think it’s within my ability to explain it to you.

    Edited to add:
    On reflection, though, it occurs to me that the bee behaviour you describe is not coerced, and therefore still does not qualify as an example of behaviour that is both altruistic and coerced.

  • Guest

    — I — know that.
    — YOU — have been saying this whole time that only ONE definition of Altruism is correct, the one that includes ‘free-willed’ as an intrinsic property. You still can’t back this assertion with anything other than your opinion.

    You are the one being obliviously inconsistent, not I.

    Look, actually look at my last post. Second paragraph. I accuse you of rejecting all the actual definitions, plural, and other conceptions of altruism in favor of your personal conception.

    Are you finished feebly and inaccurately nitpicking, do you actually have a reasoned argument in favor of your viewpoint?

  • Wilson Whiting

    - I – know that there are multiple definitions of Altruism, and why this is. Look no further than my last post, second paragraph.
    -You – are the one who has argued this whole time that there is only ONE correct definition of altruism, and that ‘uncoerced, free willed, freely chosen’ are inherent qualities, though you have yet to find any dictionary that implies and supports your personal conception. Until you are able to do so, I will afford it no deference.

    You are the one being obliviously inconsistent, and apparently not I.

    I already disproved ‘coercion incompatible with altruism’ with the parent scolding child example, and instead of challenging that example, you veered off down an irrelevant tangent.

    With the soldier example, I showed that Altruism can be coerced, you replied with a dubious assertion, I challenged your disqualification and asked for further explanation, which you ignored.

    Altruistic instinct disproves that altruism must be defined as a principle, a state of mind, a decision, something not imposed from without. There goes another section of the core of your argument.

  • J-D

    I have not argued that there is only one correct definition of ‘altruism’.

    A parent scolding a child is _neither_ altruistic behaviour _nor_ coerced behaviour.

    A soldier is not a piece of behaviour of any kind.

    You have not disproved any sections of the core of my argument, since you clearly don’t understand what my argument is.

  • Verbose Stoic

    Okay, so let me try to clear some things up here.

    First, going to the dictionary definition of altruism to figure out Rand probably isn’t going to work, because she’s far more likely to use the philosophical one, and the debates around that spawned by Hobbes. Since her view is similar to that of Hobbes, she’s going to argue that an altruistic action is one that is done for the interest of others, not oneself. Now, this has some shades of meaning, as you can argue about whether it is the motivation that matters — the intentionalist stance — or whether it is the outcome that matters — the consequentialist stance — and so argue over whether an action that you take meaning to benefit yourself that ends up benefiting others is altruistic or not. Rand seems to be in the intentionalist camp, at least insofar as she seems to not care whether the actions of a person BENEFIT others or not as long as they benefit the person making the decision, and that those decisions might even benefit other more is not an issue for her. And our common understanding of altruism seems to be intentionalist as well, as we seem to think that a person who intends to hurt people and benefit themselves who ends up helping them and hurting themselves is not an altruistic person in any way for doing so — at best, they were “tricked” into being altruistic. See any cartoon where the heroes trick the villain into saving them.

    Given, then, that altruism for Rand and us seems to rely heavily on what we believe will happen, we can ask if one can be coerced into acting altruistically. In one sense, you can’t under the intentionalist view because all coercion ends up as an appeal in some way to your own benefit, either through threat or through promise, and that point your intentions are selfish, not altruistic. But in another sense you can, and you can in the sense that Rand really worried about: you can be trained/conditioned to see acting to the benefit of others and yourself as being your duty or “good”, and that you must act according to the “good” without appealing to it benefiting you to do that. So, the parent who scolds the child into acting against their own interests isn’t coercing them into altruism if that is done in a way that threatens more scolding if they don’t, but is if they do it under a notion of “right and wrong” and a conditioned response to “Do what’s right”.

    Rand is clear that she is mostly using the words the same way everyone else is in the introduction to “The Virtue of Selfishness”, but that her main objection is that altruism is classified as the moral good and selfishness the moral evil. That’s the sort of coercion that she’d definitely oppose.

    (BTW, if you want to take the consequentialist approach to altruism, note that it definitely allows for coerced altruism, as per the “tricked” example I gave above. For the consequentialist approach, the villain acted altruistically, but was tricked into doing so. For the intentionalist, they didn’t act altruistically at all, but were tricked into helping instead of hurting.)

  • J-D

    Going right back to the beginning of this exchange, I find these words: ‘while everyone commonly uses ‘Altruism’ as a synonym for generosity, that was not Ayn Rand’s definition of the term or the idea she primarily attacked.’

    So that raises in my mind this question: how do we know what Ayn Rand’s definition of ‘altruism’ was?

  • Wilson Whiting

    1. I will then edit to say that you have argued that there is one correct Conception, and that this conception of yours intrinsically contains ‘free-willed, uncoerced, freely chosen.’

    2. Parent scolding child example from earlier demonstrated that Altruism can be inculcated and maintained through coercion. If you dispute this, maybe try saying why.

    3. I said soldier example. I did not say in my earlier example or anywhere else that a soldier is a behavior. Learn to read. I strongly suspect by this point that you are a fool.

    4. What is the core of your argument, then, and why have you kept it hidden all this time while arguing irrelevant tangential points?

    If you see that someone does not understand what you mean, then try explaining yourself better or from a different angle or add an illustrative example or do something to bridge the gap in communication.

  • Wilson Whiting

    Perhaps I should have said conception, and she explains her conception in detail in the books.

    That Altruism is synonymous with generosity is a misconception about the definition and meaning of altruism that seems to be commonly held. Whenever Ayn Rand attacks Altruism, many will straw-man her position as attacking Generosity, which is what I was pointing out.

  • Wilson Whiting

    Thank you very much for your insightful contribution, I really appreciated it. I think I was confused at one or more points about whether I was arguing from the direction of intentionalism or consequentialism.

  • Verbose Stoic

    This is pretty much the reason why, when recently browsing in a bookstore, I picked up some of her philosophical essays. In the introduction to the book “The Virtue of Selfishness”:

    “… the exact meaning and dictionary definition of selfishness is: concern with one’s own interests.

    The ethics of altruism has created the image of the brute, as its answer, in order to make men accept two inhuman tenets: (a) that any concern with one’s own interests is evil, regardless of what those interests might be, and (b) that the brute’s activities are in fact to one’s own interest …”

    Thus, her attack is two-pronged: 1) Everyone should be concerned with their own self-interest, which the moral position of altruism as she describes it denies and 2) the brute’s activities aren’t actually in the self-interest of people.

  • J-D

    I do not know whether there is anybody who argues that it is wrong to be concerned with one’s own interests, but if Ayn Rand is arguing that such a position is wrong, then to that extent I agree with her.

    I do not know whether there is anybody who argues that one should be concerned only with the interests of others, but if Ayn Rand is arguing that such a position is wrong, then to that extent I agree with her.

    I do not know whether Ayn Rand argues that it is wrong to be concerned with the interests of others, but if she does then to that extent I disagree with her.

    I do not know whether Ayn Rand argues that one should be concerned only with one’s own interests, but if she does then to that extent I disagree with her.

    I do not know whether there is anybody who argues that only actions that benefit others more than oneself are justified, but if Ayn Rand is arguing that such a position is wrong, then to that extent I agree with her.

    I do not know whether Ayn Rand argues that only actions that benefit oneself more than others are justified, but if she does then to that extent I disagree with her.

  • J-D

    I have nor argued that there is one correct Conception.

    Sometimes it is in the process of argument that I clarify for myself what the key points at issue are.

    I do not think I am a fool, but I suppose that’s what fools generally think so it doesn’t demonstrate anything. If I am a fool, then what do you suggest we do about that? What about if you are the fool? What would you suggest we do about that?

    If you see that I do not understand what you mean, why don’t you try explaining yourself better?

  • J-D

    I have not been saying this whole time that only one definition of altruism is correct. I know you have been accusing me of things, but it is not the case that all your accusations are automatically correct.

  • Wilson Whiting

    1. Of course you have, you’ve been arguing this all along. According to you it isn’t altruism unless it is free-willed, uncoerced, freely chosen.

    2. Non-sequitur observation, if you dispute my example, say why.

    3. Learn to read. Just like I told you last time which you ignored, ironically.

    4. Yes, it must be my fault that you can’t put forth an argument of your own or respond to my questions with anything other than diversionary measures.

    My argument: altruism can be coerced, it can be inculcated as an attitude or principle by coercion, maintained by social coercive enforcement, and, at least from a consequentialist pov, altruistic behavior can be directly ordered and coerced. From an intentionalist pov, another person attempting to directly coerce your action doesn’t override your free will and prevent your action from being altruistic, but that standard of altruistic behavior can still be maintained through social coercive enforcement.

  • J-D

    Consider the following hypothetical argument.

    Premise: The phenomenon that Ayn Rand means by ‘altruism’ is not the same thing as generosity.
    Conclusion: Therefore, the phenomenon that Ayn Rand means by ‘altruism’ is a bad thing.

    Obviously the argument is incomplete. It would be possible to fill it in as follows.

    Premise 1: Any phenomenon that is not the same thing as generosity is a bad thing.
    Premise 2: The phenomenon that Ayn Rand means by ‘altruism’ is not the same thing as generosity.
    Conclusion: Therefore, the phenomenon that Ayn Rand means by ‘altruism’ is a bad thing.

    But there’s no reason to accept Premise 1.

    If what Ayn Rand means by ‘altruism’ is not the same thing as generosity, then anybody who supposed that altruism is synonymous with generosity would be hindered from understanding Ayn Rand’s attack on altrusim. However, clearing away that misunderstanding by itself is not enough to explain the basis for Ayn Rand’s attack on altruism.

  • Wilson Whiting

    You are right. Those conclusions do not follow from those premises. No where do I argue that they do.

    Anyone who doesn’t read her arguments won’t understand them, but they are not terribly difficult arguments to understand.

    The problem I pointed out was Rand critics ‘straw-manning’ her, understanding her arguments but deliberately twisting her arguments in order to seemingly refute them, which seems far more common then honestly argued rebuttals of her philosophy.

  • J-D

    I do not know whether there is anybody who argues that it is wrong to be concerned with one’s own interests, but if Ayn Rand is arguing that such a position is wrong, then to that extent I agree with her.

    I do not know whether there is anybody who argues that one should be concerned only with the interests of others, but if Ayn Rand is arguing that such a position is wrong, then to that extent I agree with her.

    I do not know whether Ayn Rand argues that it is wrong to be concerned with the interests of others, but if she does then to that extent I disagree with her.

    I do not know whether Ayn Rand argues that one should be concerned only with one’s own interests, but if she does then to that extent I disagree with her.

    I do not know whether there is anybody who argues that only actions that benefit others more than oneself are justified, but if Ayn Rand is arguing that such a position is wrong, then to that extent I agree with her.

    I do not know whether Ayn Rand argues that only actions that benefit oneself more than others are justified, but if she does then to that extent I disagree with her.

  • J-D

    If it is true that Ayn Rand has been misrepresented, as you allege, that has no effect one way or the other on the merits (if any) of her substantive case. Being misrepresented does not make somebody more likely to be correct, and this is true regardless of whether the misrepresentation is deliberate (as you allege) or the product of genuine misunderstanding. If you think that an argument for the faults of Ayn Rand’s opponents is a point in favour of her case, you are mistaken.

  • Wilson Whiting

    I would be mistaken, if I thought or had argued that opponents flaws justify one’s own.

    I think that anyone who misrepresents in order to argue for their side does so out of fear of the persuasiveness or attractiveness of their opponent’s argument. This is not by itself proof that either side is right, but it is worthwhile to pay more attention to find out the real reasons for yourself.

  • J-D

    I have not yet seen you produce the evidence that would justify a conclusion that Ayn Rand’s arguments have been misrepresented. In order to do that, you would first have to state what (you consider) Ayn Rand’s arguments are, and if you did that you could go on to make your own case in support of them without digressing into a discussion of how other people have (allegedly) misrepresented her.

    If you want to tell me that seeing Ayn Rand misrepresented led you to investigate her work further and that on reading her work deeply you found her arguments persuasive, then from my position that constitutes biographical information about you but has no direct evidentiary value in a discussion of the merits of Ayn Rand’s opinions.

  • Wilson Whiting

    Then you’ve forgotten my initial post, where I accuse the writer of this very enjoyable series of occasionally painting Ayn Rand as a modern 1%er capitalist and bring up as my counter that in atlas shrugged she constantly railed against ‘Washington businessmen,’ capitalists who use legislation to tip the playing field in their favor, as bad guys right alongside the collectivists.

  • Iphegenia

    Adam doesn’t portray Rand as a 1%er, but he does claim that the 1%ers see themselves as being like the heroes of Rand’s work – even when they’re acting like Boyle or Jim Taggart.

  • J-D

    Accusation is not evidence, and railing is not an argument.

  • Wilson Whiting

    JD, sorry, but I don’t feel like re-reading Atlas Shrugged and writing down all the page #s scornfully mentioning ‘Washington Businessmen’ and re-re-reading through this series critique and calculating the quantity of 1% comparisons versus ‘Washington Businessmen’ mentions for you. That would take days. Have you read Atlas Shrugged completely, or at least part 1?

    Iphegenia, I also find it ironic that lots of modern 1%er capitalists who think of themselves as disciples of Rand, like Paul Ryan for instance, would be in for a rude shock if she ever were to return from the dead. Similarly, if the christian second coming were ever going to actually happen, jesus would probably grab a whip and drive a lot of christians out of their megachurches.

  • J-D

    I don’t feel like reading _Atlas Shrugged_ either. If you are prepared to state Rand’s argument (as you understand it) in your own words, I am prepared to discuss it without having it documented with page citations. But if you’re not prepared to state it, I don’t see what there is to discuss.

  • Wilson Whiting

    I said re-reading. Way to pay attention. Had you been paying attention, you would notice that I already put forth my argument, and if you now say you accept it as valid without needing page citations and evidence, then what is there to argue?

    You complained that I didn’t have evidence, next post you said you didn’t need evidence. I pay attention to your arguments, please do me the same courtesy. For heaven’s sake, at least pay attention to your own argument’s consistency.

    If you haven’t ever read her book, then how do you know what it is you trying to refute? I had heard people badmouthing Rand long before I ever read her books, and out of curiosity I read her books and formed my own opinion.

    My opinion of her virtues and flaws does not align with what I was told beforehand or completely align with what I’m seeing on this site. That is why I’m arguing, but if you’ve never read her, then why argue against something which you have no direct experience? Why not get direct experience before arguing?

    If I want to debate theists, I don’t just context-less-ly quote the malign parts of the bible at them that someone else picked out for me. I read the entire thing, find out what is appealing to them, so that I can understand their point of view in order to better refute it.

    I would give them an honest shot at convincing me that they were right before arguing that they are wrong.

  • J-D

    I didn’t say that I accept your argument as valid. I said that if you are prepared to state Rand’s argument (as you understand it), then I am prepared to discuss it. Being prepared to discuss it is not the same thing as accepting it as valid. If you are not prepared to state the argument, then I don’t see what we have to discuss. I am not interested in discussing your complaints about me, well-founded or otherwise.

  • Wilson Whiting

    Re-stating my argument for you, again, for the third time now since you didn’t pay attention the previous two times.

    I accuse the writer of this very enjoyable series of occasionally painting Ayn Rand as a modern 1%er capitalist and bring up as my counter (argument)
    that in atlas shrugged she constantly railed against ‘Washington businessmen,’ capitalists who use legislation to tip the playing field in their favor, as bad guys right alongside the collectivists. (Sorry I didn’t explicitly say argument in my previous post, because without the explicit label you were unable to recognize it as such.)

    You said “Accusation is not evidence, and railing is not an argument.” Then you said “I am prepared to discuss it without having it documented with page citations” so now you don’t need evidence to accept my claims about what I read in her book as valid. Also, you are unable to distinguish the difference between ‘I argue that Rand rails’ and ‘I rail instead of argue.’

    If you believe me when I report to you that her book and ideology are opposed to ‘Washington businessmen’ and this makes her philosophy incompatible with modern 1%er capitalists, and If you’ve read this series and noticed places where Adam attacks Rand’s effects upon 1%ers without pointing out that she would also be opposed to them, then you’ll agree with me.

    If you don’t believe my reporting on her book and won’t read it for yourself, if you haven’t noticed places where Adam compares modern 1%ers to Ayn Rand and paints inaccurate associations and won’t fully read this series critique to verify or disprove this claim, then whether you agree or disagree does not matter, because you have chosen to stay ignorant of the topic under discussion.

    If you haven’t read Rand’s books and haven’t read this series critique in its entirety, then how can you claim to be prepared to discuss them?

    Also, whenever I prepare a new post, I (time permitting) re-read the last few posts in the thread and any previous posts that I think may bear on the current state of the discussion. I really like text-chat-debating because it allows me to do this. I feel like this allows me to avoid errors, avoid forgetting details, get a clearer picture of my opponent’s views, and keep track of the overall shape of the argument. I, reading your replies, do not think that you do this. You might really want to start.

  • J-D

    I am still not interested in discussing your complaints about me, and I am also not interested in discussing your complaints about Adam Lee. I thought ‘what Ayn Rand has to say about altruism’ was a topic up for discussion, but if you have nothing to say about that then I have nothing to say about it either.

  • Wilson Whiting

    The complaints are about your ability to competently debate, which I increasingly doubt as I hear more from you.

    The topic we were in the midst of discussing was, check preceding posts and confirm for yourself, misrepresentation of Ayn Rand. If you now want to switch topics all of a sudden (i.e. my repeatedly stating my argument has gotten in the way of your demanding I state my argument), Ayn Rand would basically say that generosity should only ever emanate from a rational act of uncoerced, uninfluenced will, which does not coincide with the concept and practice of altruism, but seems kind of close to your personal idealized conception of altruism.

    I know that this is a Heinlein quote, but it seems to better represent and summarize Rand’s opinion of “selfish generosity” than she does. “Beware of altruism. It is based on self deception, the root of all evil. If tempted by something that feels ‘altruistic,’ examine your motives and root out that self deception. Then, if you still want to do it, wallow in it!”

    If you are curious about Ayn Rand’s opinion, put in the effort and read her book. You don’t need to rely on my or anyone else’s secondhand reports, if you have enough interest to ignorantly debate regarding her for weeks, then just pick up the book. Fountainhead and Anthem are way better and shorter than Atlas Shrugged.

  • J-D

    Do you agree with the proposition that generosity should only ever emanate from a rational act of uncoerced, uninfluenced will?

  • Wilson Whiting

    Why do you want to change the topic from Ayn Rand misrepresentations/ Ayn Rand’s Altruism to my opinion? I thought you said that you were prepared to discuss them.

    I think that generosity should come from genuine desire, charity should be intelligently implemented (don’t give a fish, teach to fish), the ‘shape’ of generosity is altered by the situation and relationships, so generosity within friendship differs from charity generosity.

  • J-D

    I said that I was prepared to discuss what, as you understand it, Ayn Rand has to say about altruism. According to you, what Ayn Rand has to say is that generosity should only ever emanate from a rational act of uncoerced, uninfluenced will. If that is the proposition under discussion, it seems natural to me to ask whether you agree with it. Is there some reason why you are reluctant to commit yourself on that point? If you do agree with it, it seems reasonable to expect that you should be able to explain why you agree with it. Asking you to explain your reasons for a view you hold seems to me a less roundabout and circumlocutory approach than asking you to explain (what you understand to be) Ayn Rand’s reason for the view that (according to you) she held.

  • Wilson Whiting

    My personal opinion of generosity, which I briefly explained for you, is not the same as Ayn Rand’s, and whether I agree with her or not does not seem to affect my ability to relay her opinion in an unbiased manner. Not that you would be able to tell, having never directly read her.

    I explained only briefly because it would involve a number of situational and personal examples, which would have nothing to do with Ayn Rand, the overall topic of discussion.

  • J-D

    If it was Ayn Rand’s position that generosity should only ever emanate from a rational act of uncoerced, uninfluenced will, and if it is also the case that you do not find her arguments in favour of that position convincing, then I presume that you wouldn’t expect anybody else to find them convincing either. However, if you’d care to explain what her arguments in favour of that position were, regardless of whether you find them convincing, please do go ahead.

  • Wilson Whiting

    Read her book yourself if you want specific quotes of arguments beyond the gist I provided to you. Ayn Rand is worth reading, as you will actually be able to discuss her, and there is much to discuss whether or not you agree with her.

    Read the book yourself.

  • Wilson Whiting

    Actually yes, he totally does, I know that this is after the fact, but here he is particularly explicit in portraying Ayn as a supporter of 1%er-ism.

    I think that few, if any, CEOs and 1%ers today would escape Rand’s condemnation as “Washington Businessmen.” Her portrayals may be unrealistic, but she idealizes inventors and innovators ahead of profiteers.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/2014/04/new-on-alternet-lessons-from-atlas-shrugged/

    http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/top-10-lessons-strange-mirror-universe-ayn-rands-atlas-shrugged?paging=off

  • J-D

    I have read substantial portions of Ayn Rand’s work. On the basis of my own experience, I found her work to be not worth reading. I am not going to change that judgement solely on the basis of your bare assertion that her work is worth reading. If you found arguments in her work that you did consider to be worth reading, it is your choice whether you want to outline what those arguments were.

  • Wilson Whiting

    Yeah, Adam here is reading the book across months and writing dozens of blog entries about it because Ayn Rand’s book and philosophy are total wastes of time and there is no interesting debate fodder that can be gleaned from them, and all of us on these message boards? We are all of us moths, flying around, then into, any dim candle we happen across. (sarcasm.)

    Are you talking about reading excerpts of Atlas Shrugged posted on this blog? You haven’t actually picked up the book and read it unfiltered through someone else’s point of view, have you?

    I’ve stated my case well enough that anyone who has read the book (or even half of part one) can join me in an informed discussion. Continually asking me to state and re-state and further expand and pull citations for my arguments is pointless if you won’t read the book for yourself, because I am not going to do that for you.

    If you are interested enough to (ignorantly) attempt to discuss Ayn Rand for over a month, you can certainly read the book yourself.

  • J-D

    When I said that I have read substantial portions of Ayn Rand’s work, I meant that I have read substantial portions of Ayn Rand’s work. If you prefer to think I was lying, that’s your choice.

    I can only guess that Adam thinks it’s worth reading _Atlas Shrugged_ in order to inform a series of blog posts analysing its faults. If he thinks the book, or Ayn Rand’s work in general, worth reading on its own account, I can only say that I disagree. If I wanted to write a series of blog posts explaining what’s wrong with _Atlas Shrugged_, or with Ayn Rand, then in those circumstances I’d do the background reading, but those are not my circumstances. What I’m doing here is discussing Adam’s blog posts, and other people’s comments on them, and for that purpose reading those posts and those comments, which I am doing, is sufficient background reading.

    In the course of this discussion you have referred to the position that ‘generosity should only ever emanate from a rational act of uncoerced, uninfluenced will’ and you have stated that it is Ayn Rand’s position but not yours. I don’t know whether it’s Ayn Rand’s position and I’m not particularly interested in knowing, either, but I am interested in discussing arguments for that position, whether they are Ayn Rand’s or not. If you (or anybody else) wants to produce arguments for that position, whether those arguments were originally devised by Ayn Rand, by yourself, or by anybody else, then I am interested in discussing them. I have read your earlier comments and in none of them have I seen stated (either as your own or as Ayn Rand’s) an argument in favour of the position that ‘generosity should only ever emanate from a rational act of uncoerced, uninfluenced will’. If you don’t want to state any now, that’s your choice. If you refuse to enter into discussion with anybody who hasn’t passed your entrance exam in ‘Introduction to the Works of Ayn Rand’, that’s your choice too, but it’s not going to stop me from posting comments to this blog: that’s Adam’s choice (and then mine), not yours.

  • Wilson Whiting

    ‘Substantial portion’ tells me nothing, it is an entirely subjective measure. You also don’t specify which of her books you have read a ‘substantial portion’ of. I have read atlas shrugged, fountainhead, anthem, and we the living in their entirety.

    Since you said earlier that you did not want to read her book and failed to correct me like ten times in a row when I accused you of having never read her books, I was under the impression that you had not read her books.

    I doubt that you have read what I would consider a ‘substantial portion’ of her. If you actually had read what I would consider ‘a substantial portion’ of Ayn Rand (at least half of Part 1 of atlas), then you would know her opinion already. She does not hide away her opinions or conceal them behind arcane metaphor. Firsthand understanding is more valuable than secondhand reports.

    “I said that I was prepared to discuss what, as you understand it, Ayn Rand has to say about altruism.”
    “I don’t know whether it’s Ayn Rand’s position and I’m not particularly interested in knowing, either, but I am interested in discussing arguments for that position, whether they are Ayn Rand’s or not.”

    You continually shift your focus when you debate. Is what we are discussing Ayn Rand’s opinions and philosophy, or not? If so, read her for yourself, and then we can discuss her properly. If not, then stop constantly changing topics.

  • J-D

    I do not have a photographic recall of the portion of Ayn Rand’s writings that I read, so I can’t tell you what was included (and what wasn’t). As I wrote before: if you refuse to enter into discussion with anybody who hasn’t passed your entrance exam in ‘Introduction to the Works of Ayn Rand’, that’s your choice, but it’s not going to stop me from posting comments to this blog: that’s Adam’s choice (and then mine), not yours.

    If there is a good argument in favour of the position that ‘generosity should only ever emanate from a rational act of uncoerced, uninfluenced will’, I am still interested in seeing it, but of course this in no way imposes any sort of obligation on you. YDWYDWP.

  • Donalbain

    Or are you saying that if I convinced a sizable fraction of english speakers that ‘left’ also meant ‘right’ and another definition of ‘right’ was ‘left’ that we could change the english language in this way?

    Imagine if a word changed its meaning to become the exact opposite of what it meant in the past. That would be awful!

  • Wilson Whiting

    Nowhere have I asked you to stop posting, I’ve asked you to read Ayn Rand and THEN discuss her, don’t argue out of ignorance.

    You claim to have read a “substantial portion” but refused twice now to specify what books or how much of those books you read. Why would you be sensitive to reveal this information?

    If you had read at least half of part 1 of Atlas, then you would probably have been able to recall her many condemnations of washington businessmen when we were on that topic earlier, but you were unable to.

  • J-D

    I’m not sensitive about revealing information; I don’t remember it. I just told you that I don’t have a photographic recall. Did I look at book X or only at book Y and book Z? I don’t remember. Did I read a quarter, a half, three quarters? I don’t remember. Did I read the particular chapter where blah-blah-blah? I don’t remember.

    I’m not going to go back and reread (or read for the first time, as the case may be) particular sections of text just so I can meet your conditions to qualify for a discussion with you. If you won’t discuss with me otherwise, then you won’t, that’s all. I don’t see your stance on this as some kind of moral failing, and I don’t see mine as one, either.

  • Wilson Whiting

    Ayn Rand seems to be a very polarizing author, with most people loving or hating her. If you read her in years past and she made so little impression on you that you evidently remember next to nothing from them and cannot even remember which of her books you picked up, then why do you care enough to try to discuss her now?

  • J-D

    Why do you care why I care?

  • Wilson Whiting

    To me, you do not seem to care. If you really do not care about the topic, then are you just arguing to argue?

  • J-D

    Are _you_ just arguing to argue?

  • Wilson Whiting

    I have actually read Ayn Rand and I actually remember what I read of Ayn Rand and I have an opinion on what I read and that differs from what other people who have read Ayn Rand think and I think that the reason for the differences is neglected information that I remember but they may have forgotten or not perceived as important and I am arguing my position to exchange ideas via informed debate on a topic that interests me,
    whereas,
    since you evidently remember nothing from Ayn Rand and may as well have never read her and refuse to go read her but still claim to want to debate her but constantly change the topic off of her opinion and philosophy since you won’t remedy your ignorance, I have concluded that you are arguing just to argue.

    (Hint- in order to turn an accusation around on someone, they need to be guilty and you innocent of the accusation.)

  • J-D

    You say that your conclusion that I am arguing just to argue is based partly on my claiming that I want to debate Ayn Rand.

    But I have never claimed that I want to debate Ayn Rand.

    Also, why do you describe ‘arguing just to argue’ as something that one person might be ‘guilty’ of and another ‘innocent’? Do you think there’s something wrong with arguing just to argue?

    As for the general proposition that people sometimes misunderstand Ayn Rand and/or misremember what she wrote, I am confident of the truth of that on general principles (being misunderstood and being remembered incorrectly are part of the common lot of all writers) and would have conceded it at any time.

  • Wilson Whiting

    If you do not want to discuss Ayn Rand, then why didn’t you speak up any of the dozen times that I stated that that was the topic I was discussing or pointed out that you had strayed from that topic that I thought we were discussing?

    “I thought ‘what Ayn Rand has to say about altruism’ was a topic up for discussion” “I said that I was prepared to discuss what, as you understand it, Ayn Rand has to say about altruism.” Quotes are of you. You pay no attention to what you have said.

    Since you do not desire to discuss Ayn Rand, and that is all that I am here to discuss (as I’ve repeatedly made clear) and since you won’t read her and develop an opinion about her writings and you plainly do not have anything to contribute to a discussion concerning her at least until you have read her, then our discussion is closed, as far as I am concerned.

  • J-D

    It is possible to discuss a statement, conclusion, analysis, assertion, or argument that derives from the writings of a particular individual without having personally read the writings of that individual.

    But not with you, evidently.

  • Wilson Whiting

    (psst- that is called uninformed discussion.)

    “…without having personally read the writings of that individual.” Wait, were you lying when you said that you had read “substantial portions” of her book but then couldn’t even name which book that was? Shocker.

    “But I have never claimed that I want to debate Ayn Rand.” Were you lying when you said this? You actually do want to debate concerning Ayn Rand? If so, I’ll just repeat readher readher readher like a broken record until you stop being lazy and read her.

  • J-D

    No, I wasn’t lying when I wrote that I have read substantial portions of Ayn Rand’s writings, and nor was I lying when I wrote that I have never claimed that I want to debate Ayn Rand.

  • WillBell

    I’m imagining anime Atlas Shrugged now… thank you.


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