Tuesday, 22 October 2019

John Gray on Ayn Rand’s Cult

In his book Seven Types of Atheism, John Gray offers a devastating four page (Page 48 to 51) critique of Ayn Rand’s philosophical movement objectivism. He notes that objectivism is a farrago that Rand created by mixing her version of Nietzsche and American folk-mythology with her borrowings from Aristotle and John Locke. She tried to sell objectivism as an atheistic and individualistic philosophical system, but the school is organized like a cult—most objectivists worship Rand as their goddess. Here’s an excerpt (Pages 50 - 51):

"Rand’s cult aimed to govern every aspect of life. She was a dedicated smoker, and her followers were instructed that they had to smoke as well. Not only did Rand smoke, she used a cigarette-holder—so that when she addressed large audiences of the faithful, a thousand cigarette-holders would move in unison. It was not for nothing that the ultra-individualists who became Rand’s disciples were described within the movement as ‘the Collective’. The selection of marriage partners was also controlled. In her view of things, rational human beings should not associate with those that are irrational. There could be no worse example of this than two people joined together in marriage by mere emotion, so officers of the cult were empowered to pair Rand’s disciples only with others who also subscribed to the faith. The marriage ceremony included pledging devotion to Rand, then opening Atlas Shrugged at random to read aloud a passage from the sacred text.

"Rand pronounced on a wide range of issues, including what was the best kind of dance. Only one type of dancing was truly rational. Some – like the tango – were low-level, semi-instinctual physical performances lacking any intellectual content. Others – the foxtrot, possibly – she rejected as being too cerebral. What then was the only dance that, combining mind and body, could be approved as being truly rational? Tap-dancing. Fred Astaire may not have known it, but he embodied the opposing forces of reason and instinct in an ideal synthesis. Tap-dancing was the cultural form that Nietzsche had been searching for in his first important work, The Birth of Tragedy: a fusion of Dionysian vitality with Apollonian harmony.

"It might seem unlikely that a cult of this kind could exercise any public influence. But the maddest ideas are quite often the most influential, and Rand’s cod-philosophy has had a discernible impact on American politics."

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