Why it’s hard to talk to Randians—they regard non-Randians as non- or sub-human

Alan Roebuck writes:

While researching a potential comment on John Derbyshire, I came upon something interesting about Objectivists.

In observing that Derb notes certain facts about Islam but then pointedly refuses to investigate Islam any further than his exceedingly superficial data base (not to mention that he refuses to draw the obvious conclusion that he ought to endorse some form of Separationism), I recalled one of Ayn Rand’s essays, titled “The Missing Link.”

My memory of it was that Rand observed that many people refuse to go beyond a superficial level in thinking. They note certain obvious concretes but refuse to think abstractly about the concepts that the concretes instantiate. She then likened them to a “missing link” between human and subhuman. I was going to point out that Derb, and indeed most prominent Western thinkers, is like this when it comes to Islam: he notes the obvious, but refuses to think deeply about it.

But after a Google search, I discovered this, from blogger Michael Prescott, who describes himself as a former Objectivist: (This is a heavy abridgment of the post):

In an essay that originally appeared in The Ayn Rand Letter, Rand speculated that the so-called anticonceptual mentality might literally be the missing link in human evolution.

What is worrisome about this notion is that, if accepted, it would entitle Objectivists to classify anyone who is “anticonceptual” as nonhuman or subhuman. I happen to think that this was Rand’s actual opinion

Again, she did not state this view unambiguously, but I believe a close reading of her work will reveal it. Perhaps this explains why many Objectivists find it so easy to condemn their critics in language suggesting that they are not human (“insects, lice, animals, brutes, parasites,” etc.).

If this was indeed Rand’s view, then her biological argument for metaethics starts to make more sense. Rational man is literally a different species from irrational man, and therefore the requirements of his survival are qualitatively different from those of moochers, looters, second-handers, and other irrationalists.

But of course the downside of this view, besides the fact that it has no evident biological foundation, is that it divides the world into authentic human beings and counterfeit human beings, with the latter being disposable.

Perhaps Whittaker Chambers caught a whiff of this idea when he famously wrote that on nearly every page Atlas Shrugged he could hear a narrator intone, “To a gas chamber—go!” After all, are subhumans entitled to human rights? Maybe human rights are reserved only for those who are “truly” human …

LA replies;

Of course.

Whether or not Rand would say that irrational people are literally a different species, she certainly did deny that they were human in the sense of deserving respect. They are pure evil and deserve to be destroyed, or rather they deserve the destruction that they are bringing on themselves. This is why it’s impossible to have a conversation with almost any Randian (Roger Donway, a moderate and rational Randian who occasionally comments at VFR, is a notable exception.) The typical Randian doesn’t see you as a fellow human. He sees you as a James Taggart bug who is pure evil and must be crushed. I know this, because it happened with a Randian who was writing to me a few months ago. As the e-mail discussion progressed, it became evident that this fellow literally saw me as being the same as James Taggart, the main villain in Atlas Shrugged, and that he wanted to force me into a James Taggart moment when I became aware of my refusal to think, my attachment to irrationality, my attachment to non-existence, the nothingness and falseness of my existence, and then I would scream in horror and collapse into a post-human pile of flesh, as Taggart does at a climactic moment in the novel. The Randian correspondent wanted this to happen. The moment when I saw the truth about myself and screamed in horror and fell into the abyss of non-being was his object in writing to me. It is not pleasant to realize that you are the object of such complete hatred, of a wish for you to be destroyed.

But even stranger is the expectation of many Randians that I should want to have such an exchange with them. They write to me in the tone of accusing me of pure evil, and expect me to engage in a long discussion with them. In this regard, they are like the anti-Semites.

Alan Roebuck replies:

I had observed this attribute of the Objectivists, but had not known it originated in Objectivist Scripture. I had thought of it as a common, unconsciously-evolved tendency.

LA continues:

On another issue, there is a Randian named Doug Bandler who pointed out that my idea that Objectivism does not prevent a person from engaging in predatory behavior was incorrect. In fact, to make his point, he quotes Roger Donway, a moderate Randian who has occasionally commented at VFR, and who, at VFR, said that “Rand’s philosophy is not based on achieving one’s desires.” That is hedonism, which Rand distinguished from egoism, which is based on an objective determination of what will serve man’s life.

If Bandler is reading this, I acknowledge that there is more to the issue than I understood when I was writing about it or that I understand now, and that my statement was probably not correct and certainly would be in need of more refinement. But I don’t have time to get further into the issue at this point, though at some time I want to revisit it. I want to understand better the Objectivist explanation of morality.

- end of initial entry -

James P. writes:

“Whether or not Rand would say that irrational people are literally a different species, she certainly did deny that they were human in the sense of deserving respect. They are pure evil and deserve to be destroyed, or rather they deserve the destruction that they are bringing on themselves. This is why it’s impossible to have a conversation with almost any Randian … The typical Randian doesn’t see you as a fellow human. He sees you as a James Taggart bug who is pure evil and must be crushed.”

This is how liberals view Christians, conservatives, or anyone who disagrees with their dogma—as evil people (and not merely evil, but also stupid and corrupt) who deserve to be destroyed, and who deserve anything bad that happens to them.

LA writes:

One of the Randians whose hydrophobically intense e-mails regularly arrive in my Inbox, named Kevin, writes:

You have linked to one of a number of Rand-obsessed, Rand-hating internet bloggers. Another one you could have linked to is ContraAynRand. You yourself always say that it is not what you oppose that ultimately matters, but what you stand for. Isn’t this your ultimate criticism of Mark Steyn? Well the same things apply to these bloggers you have linked to. Rand’s philosophy is just that, a philosophic system. In order to properly critique it, it requires a person who is versed in philosophy and who has critical thinking skill. None of the bloggers you have linked to qualify. Michael Prescott demonstrated at least 5 logical errors in that little blurb you quoted. This is not an intellectually powerful man.

As for Mr. Roebuck using the term “Objectivist Scriptures”, this is obviously an attempt to paint Objectivism as a religion. But wouldn’t that require a definition of what religion is? Religion is SUPERNATURAL philosophy. Objectivism is purely naturalist and rejects every element of supernaturalism. Technically this is called philosophic rationalism or philosophic idealism or philosophic dualism. You are all three especially a dualist. Your entire views on sex and marriage are riddled through an through with philosophic dualism; ie the body is low or debased and the soul or spirit is high and godly. But even if Mr. Roebuck was right and Objectivism was just a religion like Christianity, how does that help you? What then: my religion is better than yours na na nana. By what standard would we compare religions? Reason? What would reason mean? Don’t you see that you have to use secular conceptions of reason if you are to measure your own supernaturalist creeds.

I could go on but I will end with this. I have read Doug Bandler’s criticism of you at SOLO Passion. I agree with him. If you notice in the link that you provided, he asks you a number of questions. You have never answered them. But go deeper Larry. If you were to accept Rand’s argument that there could be a naturalist standard of objective morality, what would become of your religion? You would have to scrap it or at the least radically rethink it. Are you seriously prepared to do that? I don’t see how? So, basically I think you should drop the pretense that you are going to intellectually wrestle with Ayn Rand’s philosophic system. Just continue posting what you do post with regards to her, that hers is an inhuman, anti-social, atomistic, destructive, liberal philosophy that would end Western Civilization. That’s what you believe and it has to be what you believe, forever.

Ayn Rand’s philosophy is your true enemy, not Liberalism. If Rand is right, Christianity and God are dead. Human civilization will thus proceed on a very different footing. This is what I think you fear.

Now you can say that I am demonizing you and attempting to “destroy” you, but seriously if that is the way you see this exchange, then perhaps you should take up another pursuit rather than internet political blogging as you do not have a thick enough skin for it.

I replied:

You see, you’re insane, and you don’t see that you’re insane. I just posted an entry in which I acknowledged that Bandler’s criticism of me was correct, and that I need to think more about the issue of morality according to Rand but that I need to understand the Randian position better before I reply. And you write to me this extremely aggressive and offensive note.

Go away and don’t come back. I talk with rational human beings. I don’t talk with mad dogs with their jaws locked on my ankle.

I might have added: I don’t talk with people who announce that it is their intention to destroy Christian civilization. I treat enemies as enemies, not as co-participants in a conversation.

Also, the reason I replied to Bandler’s online post was that it was written in a rational manner. He was pointing out where my statement about Randian morality was wrong, and I had to agree with him that I had not understood the Randian position.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 24, 2010 08:35 AM | Send

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