The increase of interest in Ayn Rand is great, but seeing the same old misconceptions is wearying. Two Reason videos features variants of the same error.
At an event attended by David Kelley two of the panelists called Rand a “hater.” It is true that Ayn Rand vehemently denounced those she opposed. The problem with this word is that it connotes irrationality and emotionalism. Racist idiots are haters. Ayn Rand herself was sensitive to this connotation, and somewhere — I forget where — she says she would use the word “loathe.”
The word “hater” is worse because it isn’t fundamental. Why did Ayn Rand loathe some people? Why was she so quick to denounce those she opposed? Because Ayn Rand was a valuer. In Ayn Rand there was no mind-body dichotomy. When someone said something that was not true, she made an immediate valuation that it was bad, and values are the cause of emotions. Strong values cause strong emotions.
The relationship of fact and value is one of the hardest aspects of Objectivism for people to understand. Traditionally, they think rational people are a little like Mr. Spock on “Star Trek” — emotionless. They are baffled that a philosopher of reason could be so emotionally passionate. They think Rand must be a hypocrite to let herself be emotional.
In another video Joshua Zader thinks Buddhism is the way to practice the ideas of Objectivism. His mistake is also on the nature of holding values. Buddhism, like epicurianism and stoicism, teaches that the way to happiness is through not valuing. Look at the Four Noble Truths:
- Life as we know it ultimately is or leads to suffering/uneasiness (dukkha) in one way or another.
- Suffering is caused by craving or attachments to worldly pleasures of all kinds. This is often expressed as a deluded clinging to a certain sense of existence, to selfhood, or to the things or phenomena that we consider the cause of happiness or unhappiness.
- Suffering ends when craving ends, when one is freed from desire. This is achieved by eliminating all delusion, thereby reaching a liberated state of Enlightenment (bodhi);
- Reaching this liberated state is achieved by following the path laid out by the Buddha.
Suffering ends when craving ends. In other words, to reach a “liberated state” one must stop valuing.
It gets worse. Buddhism preaches non-self. How
In the Nikayas, anatta is not meant as a metaphysical assertion, but as an approach for gaining release from suffering. In fact, the Buddha rejected both of the metaphysical assertions “I have a Self” and “I have no Self” as ontological views that bind one to suffering. By analyzing the constantly changing physical and mental constituents (skandhas) of a person or object, the practitioner comes to the conclusion that neither the respective parts nor the person as a whole comprise a Self.
Buddhism doesn’t just wipe out the self, it wipes out all of reality.
For Nāgārjuna, as for the Buddha in the early texts, it is not merely sentient beings that are empty of ātman; all phenomena (dharmas) are without any svabhāva, literally “own-nature” or “self-nature”, and thus without any underlying essence; they are empty of being independent…
Considering Ayn Rand’s commitment to reason and reality, her rational selfishness, and her passionate valuing, can you think of anyone less Buddhist?
UPDATE: Corrected the spelling of “loathe” and added “some” to that sentence to clarify that Ayn Rand did not loathe all people.