Friday, August 18, 2006

Nietzsche for Girls?

I have never read Ayn Rand. Actually, I have barely heard of Ayn Rand. However, today, I had occasion to visit Gus Van Horn's Blog and read this post in which he summarizes Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism:

Objectivism says: live by reason, follow a rational code of morality,practice self-interest as a virtue, establish the principles of limited government to define the appropriate uses of retaliatory force. As its name implies, Ayn Rand's philosophy upholds an objective reality, objective cognition, objective values, and objective law.

Well, she does share Nietzsche's disdain of an altruistic moral code or, for that matter, any moral code at all. "A rational code of morality" is nonsense words strung together as much as "self-interest as a virtue" is. On the other hand, she insists on a neat and orderly world wherein what she perceives is real and what she does not perceive does not exist and reason prevails, and wants "a limited government" to protect her where her objectivity and reason fail to impose themselves on the chaos which exists in the real world. A very feminine bestial philosophy.

H/t Xrlq.

IT TURNS OUT that I was more familiar with Ayn Rand than I thought. I have seen the movie "Fountainhead" and remember been totally underwhelmed. Possibly Gary Cooper's worst movie. Unbelievable plot, pompous sermonizing and sophomoric ideas. If it was at all faithful to the book, I am glad I have never read the book.

GUS GIVES ME a moderate chiding. What can I say? How is "love your enemies" comparable with a "rational code of morality" which embraces "self-interest as a virtue"? Which would you say is actually a moral code and which is the sophomoric nattering of a spoiled princess who cares nothing about others but nonetheless wants daddy around to look after her?

A COMMENT I left at Gus Van Horn's earlier, explaining that I was a conservative and not a Libertarian as he labeled me and showing him that I knew enough about philosophy to make a credible argument about his "Nietzschette" never made it past moderation. What a gutless, dishonest blogger.

DIDN'T I SAY " ... for Girls? He allowed my subsequent comment complaining about his deletion of my first comment just so he could take a cheap shot.


Anonymous Psyberian said...

Yes, a perfunctory reading of Nietzsche will give the impression that he wasn’t moral at all. But if you dig deeper, and realize the zeitgeist he wrote in, he was primarily attacking Christianity’s morals of the day. What were the morals of the day for Christianity? Well, “turn the other cheek” along with “the meek shall inherit the Earth” were two similar themes.

But these days, you don’t hear many Christians chanting those mores. That’s the huge irony of Nietzsche these days – his railing against Christian morality back then is actually consistent with conservative ideology today. Christians hate him, but actually have his morality in key aspects (or lack of morality in that respect – however you want to look at it).

At the same time, there are areas of morality that he seemed to hold which I can’t defend. But the ethics he talked the most about was not really all that bad except when it is misunderstood. He had no patience to carefully craft his arguments to prevent misunderstandings – but that kept him from being methodical and boring too – as too many philosophers are. Take Kant, for example. Please.

Read “Beyond Good and Evil” instead. A few times.

Tue Aug 22, 09:43:00 PM  
Blogger nk said...

Thanks for visiting, Psyberian. I have read all of Walter Kaufmann's translations of Nietzsche but it was roughly 25 years ago. "Beyond Good and Evil" is his most impressive work. It left enough of an impression on me that I shy away from moralizers who label people "evil" too prolifically. My thinking, however, is more in tune with the Socratic dialogues which mesh very well with New Testament ideals. Dostoevski's "The Grand Inquisitor" also continues to impress me. I keep finding new layers of meaning in it. In my opinion it should be taught in every political science curriculum and every seminary.

Nice point about Kant. One thing Plato, Dostoevski and Nietzsche have in common is that they are readable. Lawrence Block, the mystery writer, joked that shoplifing Sartre's "Being and Nothingness" is its own punishment. Heh.

Wed Aug 23, 07:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Psyberian said...

Oh, I forgot to mention that in a lot of ways, N. is reacting to Hegel’s philosophy too. I tend to emphasize the Christianity influence on N. too much since it was so controversial.

Here’s the nickel version: Hegel believed that individuals did not really matter in the big picture and N. didn’t like that very much. A lot of what N. says (the Superman concept, for example) can be thought of as a way to argue with Hegel too. But I never studied Hegel in depth, so I can’t say too much more about that although it permeates his philosophy to the core.

I started reading Dostoevsky once in college and never finished it. I’m ashamed to say it was because I couldn’t keep up with which character was which – what with the odd names (to my Western mind) and all. I ought to try it again.

Wed Aug 23, 08:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Psyberian said...

By the way, what I was talking about above is that I never have read the whole book “The Brothers Karamazov.” But I have read some of its chapters and some of his other works.

Wed Aug 23, 08:17:00 PM  

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