A Journal for Western Man




Problems with Objectivists, Not Objectivism:

A Response to Orion Reasoner

Robert Davison

Issue LXIV- June 27, 2006



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A Rational Cosmology






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This is Robert Davison’s response to Orion Reasoner’s article, “When Vanity Devours Sanity: Why SOLO Shattered and the Character-Cannibalizing Culture of Objectivism,” published on TRA on May 22, 2006.

Mr. Reasoner: In the preceding months and years, the human social movement termed Objectivism has faithfully continued to savagely hack and slash at itself.

Mr. Davison: I was not aware that Objectivism was a human social movement. I believe it to be a philosophy. It is not possible for a philosophy to slash at itself; I think the author means that its adherents slash not at themselves, but at others.

Mr. Reasoner: Its members have continued their characteristically self-serving and narcissistic back-stabbing and devouring of each other, in the form of continual campaigns to undermine, libel, and slander each other publicly. This is not random; there is a reason for this... They have all eagerly participated in the savagery.

Mr. Davison: Perhaps.

Mr. Reasoner: …thinking themselves immune…

Mr. Davison: Perhaps.

Mr. Reasoner: …and, time and time again, have each been proven horribly wrong.

Mr. Davison: Proved by whom?

Mr. Reasoner: And, rest assured, those who have so enthusiastically and naively replaced them – and who smugly think themselves immune from this dynamic – will experience the same thing soon enough.

Mr. Davison: There are good days and bad days.  Do you feel bad when posters say good things about you? Probably not, so you are asking for always good, never bad.  A bit unrealistic, don't you think? It is true that sometimes bad things are said. I must be guilty of that, because no matter how I try to disengage from the relentlessly righteous poster, ("Shut up and leave me alone, please direct your sophistry elsewhere, or I have no further interest in this discussion",) the result is the same; feelings get hurt.

Mr. Reasoner:  Once again, this is not random. There is a reason for this... it is now fact and can only be stated as such, with no hesitation…

Mr. Davison: Still not sure what the ‘reason . . . now fact is’, but, I will continue reading.

Mr. Reasoner:  Anyone who has had, by now, any appreciable experience….

Mr. Davison: I am not sure my experience is appreciable…

Mr. Reasoner:  …with the actual culture of Objectivism…

Mr. Davison:
. . .or what the culture of Objectivism is. . .

Mr. Reasoner:  …and the still-lingering culture of SOLO…

Mr. Davison: … or the ‘culture of SOLO’…

Mr. Reasoner: … knows that it is possessed of a bedrock corruption and almost wholly to blame for its own downfalls, which have been countless since its inception ...

Mr. Davison: 
No, I think we can count them. Bedrock corruption? Yet unnamed in this rant. I am getting bored, but will wait for the punchline.

Mr. Reasoner:  Only the variably vain and dishonest…

Mr. Davison: 
Variably vain?

Mr. Reasoner:  … those who still ruthlessly and short-sightedly calculate that they might stand to gain something from continuing to religiously endorse it – will disagree with this statement …

Mr. Davison:  It appears that anyone disagreeing with this author’s assessment is condemned a priori.

Mr. Reasoner:  But why? Why is Objectivism this way? What causes it?

Mr. Davison:  Good, finally. So far you have been talking about Objectivists, not Objectivism.

Mr. Reasoner:  Good question. I’ll try to answer it.

Mr. Davison: The author says, proud of his question. I am wondering why he can only try to answer it. He seemed so sure.

Mr. Reasoner:  In the beginning, there was a socially-insulated and estranged human being named Alicia Rosenbaum.

Mr. Davison:  "Socially-insulated and estranged"? Where is it written?

Mr. Reasoner:  She was a highly logical and somewhat socially autistic female…

Mr. Davison:
Socially autistic? I wonder what that means.

Mr. Reasoner:  …who came to imagine that the limits of her personal biases and logical anticipations should be – and, in fact, were – the limits of the very world itself.

Mr. Davison: This is a reasonable description of any philosopher.

Mr. Reasoner:  In short, she was a living example of what the ancient Chinese guide The Art of War continually cautioned against: to avoid mistaking "the map" for "the terrain"… in other words, don’t assume that what you think the world should be, is what it really is.

Mr. Davison: This is an ominous sign, Ayn Rand in reverse. She said, if my rheumy old brain can remember it, that she wrote about man not as he is, but as he ought to be.

Mr. Reasoner:  From the beginning, Ayn Rand’s movement – which she chose to title "Objectivism"…

Mr. Davison: Actually it wasn’t from the beginning; the ‘title’ was chosen late in Rand’s career and after many suggestions and much thought.

Mr. Reasoner:  … was doomed by its own internal contradictions – and, in particular, one specific contradiction involving two independent mandates for living: egotism and objectivity.

Mr. Davison: Egoism, not egotism: a point Rand makes quite clearly.

Mr. Reasoner:  In plain English, the core contradiction that cripples Objectivism as a philosophy is that it "talks the talk of truth", but "walks the walk of egomania".

Mr. Davison: The English is plain enough, just unclear. It is not the philosophy that talks and walks; that is called personification. What talks and walks are Objectivists.

Mr. Reasoner:  (For those of you who have clear minds to think, egomania is a bad thing.)

Mr. Davison: Finally, he says something nice about Rand; she also thought egomania to be a bad thing.

Mr. Reasoner:  It’s legitimate self-pride that has turned cancerous, unjustly devouring all in its path to support its ravenous and imbalanced appetites. And it’s the actual reality of Objectivism, whether they like it or not.)

Mr. Davison: See, again this is grammatically incorrect; Objectivism …they. He means to say Objectivists ...they.

Mr. Reasoner:  The great mistake that Ayn Rand made was in ram-rodding through the idea that self-love and self-promotion could never conflict with the truth of reality. In essence, she issued the edict, "Promote yourself at all times, and it shall never violate reality or truth."

Mr. Davison: She said no such thing.

Mr. Reasoner:  Well… she was wrong about that. And this, her error, was never formally identified or detected and, as a result, her fallacy propagated itself into a schizophrenic and destructive self-conflicted social movement which has bored its way into the psyches of all too many insecure power-lusters seeking an easy and sure foot-hold on life and all its myriad challenges.

Mr. Davison: As the accusation is false, so is all of this and what follows.

Mr. Reasoner: ... I am officially now calling it "Rand’s Fallacy", as that phrase comes to stand for the specific contradiction between ego and truth – creates the problem: The instruction to "promote oneself and seek maximum personal glory" simply cannot happen in certain instances where the instruction to "heed reality and admit the truth" contradicts the first instruction. . . But Ayn Rand never resolved this dispute…

Mr. Davison: This no dispute here, no dichotomy in Objectivism between reality and self, but at last the author begins to talk about Objectivists – which I guess was his point all along. They can behave badly.

Mr. Reasoner: …and, as a result, two types of "Objectivists" have emerged: 1) those who implicitly interpret her mandate to mean that egocentrism must come first and that truth should come second, and 2) those who implicitly interpret that truth must come first and that egocentrism should come second.

Mr. Davison: I would have preferred the choice that truth should come first and that egocentrism must come not at all.

Mr. Reasoner: Quite understandably then, as a result, Objectivism produces two types of individuals: 1) psychopathically narcissistic egomaniacs who bend the truth shamelessly to enhance their illusion of personal excellence, and 2) embattled and smugly-ridiculed pariahs who compulsively strive to pursue the truth despite the social cost to their veneer of personal excellence. And yes, I am, of course the second type. I wear the scars – as does my good friend, Gennady Stolyarov, who also knows this feeling well. There will be, no doubt, countless cadre cannibals who, continually admiring their own reflections in their respective houses of mirrors, will make a fine public display of identifying and scoffing at this remark, but it remains the truth.

Mr. Davison: The poor pariahs—living saints, all of them. ;-) You’d have to include Rand in the pariah category; she was vilified, and her ideas were ridiculed most of her adult life. But her personal excellence was not a veneer. She was hewn of sterner stuff. Despite the ferocity of her critics and the sting of their vitriol, she chose not to whine, but continued fighting throughout her lifetime, bloody but unbowed.  You have a choice: go along to get along or wear your scars proudly.

Mr. Reasoner: This corrupting contradiction that Objectivism implants – vanity versus veracity – maintains itself within its indoctrinees quite lastingly.

Mr. Davison: There is no contradiction. The ‘indoctrinees’ imagine it.

Mr. Reasoner: Even those whose reputations have had a chunk ripped out by the character cannibals of SOLO – such as Reginald Firehammer, Cass, and Diana Hsieh – still can’t help but practice their own brand of narcissistic character cannibalism at their own websites. They reserve exclusive rights to issue certain statements of truth that they routinely censure and bar others from their websites for making. Yet this does not stop them from continuing to shout out "Injustice!" from the highest mountaintop, when it’s done to them.

Mr. Davison: Silly, isn’t it?

Mr. Reasoner: Hypocrisy, thy name is Objectivism (because it was programmed into the equation from the very start).

Mr. Davison: Still don’t agree with that premise. I’m not being stubborn; you have offered no proof.

Mr. Reasoner: All of this – narcissism and resentment – has been going on since and before the advent of Ayn Rand. The only difference is that Rand’s philosophy was supposed to end it, not make it stronger. But it has failed in that respect. Objectivism as a philosophy will continue to fail, until the day when someone decides whether its top priority is vanity or truth. If the decision is ever made to make the philosophy’s top priority the dedication to full truth – otherwise known as objectivity – then Objectivism can rightly be called Objectivism. Until that day, however, this philosophy in question can only be rightly called one thing, and that is Narcissism – an entirely different concept, to be sure.

Mr. Davison: It is undoubtedly true that Objectivism attracts narcissists, social Darwinists, and even sociopaths, but so does every other philosophy. You cannot blame the philosopher for the excesses of his adherents. I like your attack on those professing to be Objectivists, but decry your effort to make bad Objectivists victims of Rand’s philosophy. She didn’t create victims; she liberated them.

She tells us quite clearly:

"The policy of always pronouncing moral judgment does not mean that one must regard oneself as a missionary charged with the responsibility of 'saving everyone's soul'—nor that one must give unsolicited moral appraisals to all those one meets."
Feelings are not cognates, and should not be offered up as elements of an intellectual debate. 

We, all of us, are responsible for our own feelings. Being “dissed” may deserve a strong rebuke, but it should never engender rage. Hurt feelings come from wanting others, of whom we approve, to love us and to give us the attention we think we deserve. When it is not forthcoming, it may be undeserved. If that is not the case, then you have cast pearls before swine; and who can be angry at a pig qua pig? Those are the choices. As I said to the last person who complained at length because I was mean to him, "Most importantly, why should you care what I think?" Without a thought to the first possibility, he leapt to the second, "Yes, I should consider the source", totally missing the point. I didn’t bother to enlighten him.

Robert Davison’s theatrical career spans 40 years. In New York, he produced and directed for the Cricket, Gate, Nighthouse, 14th Street and 23rd Street theatres. He founded the Lodi Players in CA and has directed for scores of community and dinner theatres and for the professional repertory Green Mountain Guild in Vermont. He created facilities and produced music and theatre programs for embassy personnel and American civilians stationed world wide in both Asia and Europe and has performed as a guest artist in Germany. Other credits include Artistic Director for Shakespeare and Company in Florida and Director of Development for the Actor Theatre of Charlotte. Locally, he managed the Showboat Dinner Theatre and was founding partner of the Appalachian Repertory Theatre. His costume designs for NESC include Christmas Carol, and Picasso at the Lapin Angile. His New York credits are listed in Best Plays and Theatre World, and he is a member of Actor’s Equity and AFTRA. Mr. Davison  is a graduate of the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Ca. He is also a member of Rebirth of Reason.

This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA’s Statement of Policy.

Click here to return to TRA's Issue LXIV Index.

Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's novel, Eden against the Colossus, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's new comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, at http://www.geocities.com/rational_argumentator/rc.html.

Visit PanAsianBiz for interesting perspectives on international business and current events in Russia and Asia. Dr. Bill Belew's blog especially addresses Asian countries' contributions to the emerging global economy. Dr. Belew also writes a blog on business in China - ZhongHuaRising - business in Japan - RisingSunofNihon - and business education - TheBizofKnowledge.