Monday, July 24, 2017

Rand & Resignation to Individualism

One of the principle accusations made against Objectivism is that it is not a mode of existence accessible to Human beings as such, but rather merely a rationalization of sociopathology. As usual, Objectivism finds itself in the same company as its nominal nemesis, religion, which is nowadays attributed by pseudo-science to chemical imbalances in the brain. In both cases, the intention is clear as day: to shut down the intellectual debate by implying that the adversaries of contemporary democratic societies have no rational basis for their ideas, but rather are psychologically or chemically imbalanced.

This tactic, familiar to communist courts which from time to time issued orders for psychological and medical tests to be performed upon the accussed who exhibited a tendency to disagree with existing dogma, has a broader history in the annals of human tyranny and the sociology of sadism.

Its application against religious faith of one kind is as common as its application in service of religious faiths of other kinds. It is a subtle weapon insofar as religion is, by definition, a matter of revelation, unverifiable by rational means and thus very difficult to distinguish in its authentic forms from pathology. The scholastic notion of fides et ratio once considered sufficient grounding for making the distinction, has long ago been undermined in philosophy with the dawn of the crisis of reason itself.

Ayn Rand seems not to have noticed.

Reading the first three hundred pages of The Fountainhead again fairly recently, a new question has arisen in my mind; its genesis to be found somewhere in between Roark's almost instinctively happy nature, oblivious as it is to all the reasons why he might want to be miserable and Dominique's intense disgust with humanity and her desire for the acceleration of human misery as justly deserved:

To what extent can Objectivism be chosen in spite of the hardships of individualist idealism and to what extent is it the result of accident? By "accident" I mean only that the phenomenon of the intelligent, creative individual is a rare occurrence in nature and when it does occur, it seems to follow its path like a planet follows its trajectory - a force of nature rather than will. Or at least a will strengthened by its nature.

If this is the case, if (to use Aristotelian categories), some men are born natural slaves and others natural freemen, then although we might condemn this state of affairs as immoral and seek through mechanisms like universal education to remedy it, our efforts will be futile insofar as they will necessarily come full circle with each subsequent generation as this inequality of human types perpetuates into infinity.

This is not only a tragedy from the point of view of the many, who will never attain happiness in the highest sense, but likewise of the few - those who conceive fully the greatness of Man, his boundless potential, and likewise recognize that some cruel fate has doomed Man to mediocrity as the mean between the extremes of pride and its consequence: the fall.

Roark might not live for other people, but he does live for other things - namely the buildings which embody his highest ideals. Were people constructed in accordance with these ideals, Roark would potentially find himself in the utopia of Atlas Shrugged. It is a utopia because individualism of the Randian variety is exceedingly rare and always will be. Objectivism will never be a religion because unlike religion it has no popular component, it broaches no general teaching. It demands elevated minds and refuses to lower itself to the common man.

As such, the Objectivist is compelled to a life of resignation. This life is a full life because it pursues the individual ideal, but it is likewise a life wherein any sensitivity towards the tragic state of Humanity must be buried so that creative and productive work are not overwhelmed by melancholy. Roark really does not care about other people. He is free of that sensation which draws mankind towards a consideration of its self. It is enough that he finds one person to love and would have been enough had he remained throughout his whole life a lover of buildings.

This is Rand's Benedict Option. It is less an option and more a fate. In our present world, despite glimmers of hope here and there, it appears the only option that creative and happy men are left with. Rand's fate as an author in contradistinction to her political fate is testimony enough.

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