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Ayn Rand Vs The ‘Lousy Bastard’ C.S. Lewis

Yesterday First Things featured quotes from Ayn Rand’s Marginalia: Her critical comments on the writings of over 20 authors, edited by Robert Mayhew.

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March 28, 2013 - 2:30 pm

Via First Things yesterday, an excerpt from C. S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man on left and Ayn Rand’s comments on right:

Visit First Things for more of Ayn Rand’s very colorful commentary on Lewis.

Click to submit book suggestions for the new daily feature at PJ Lifestyle. Currently Thursdays explore the work of Ayn Rand. Please send your favorite excerpts and quotes.

A book recommendation often with excerpt(s), usually attempting to fit the daily theme. Family and Relationships on Monday, Practical and Technology on Tuesday, Laughter on Wednesday, Culture on Thursday, Intellect on Friday, Health and Fitness on Saturday, and Religion and Ethics on Sunday. Image courtesy shutterstock / robert_s

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Ayn Rand is a now a worthy target precisely because her defense of liberty is so weak and shallow - and liberty needs a serious defender these days. Rand's logic is eerily similar to that of the young Karl Marx in his "Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844". To whit, both regard metaphysical questions as irrelevant, as man only exists insofar as he creates himself in nature. The difference between the two is that Marx regarded the end-product of this process as bringing about a thoroughly socialized man, in contrast to Rand's atomized narcissist.

The simple fact is that without a cosmology predicated on the divine, there is no truth, no beauty and no human rights. Those things are just artificial constructs created by strategically-shaved bonobos of no more validity than the contrary opinions of other bonobos. "Objectivism" is a purely Orwellian term, as it is entirely subjective in effect (except in its own mind). It is "objective" in precisely the same way that Marxism is "scientific".

C.S. Lewis had his faults, but he was an atheist who went on a long intellectual and personal journey (including the trenches of World War One) to re-discover faith. In Lewis' world, truth, beauty and human rights are immutable and eternal. He echoes some crazy old white dudes who once wrote:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"

In Rand's world, those old white guys were just a bunch of superstitious old fools. Good luck defending liberty given that premise.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
*sigh* Rand wasn't even in the same league as Lewis.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (33)
All Comments   (33)
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Forget about both Rand and Lewis for a moment. Robert Heinlein is the writer that's worth reading. Heinlein's novel stress competence, self-reliance, and pioneering and how these values relate to individual liberty. Needless to say, Lazarus Long's attitude towards organization religion is that of benign indifference, like any classical liberal.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Ayn Rand is a now a worthy target precisely because her defense of liberty is so weak and shallow - and liberty needs a serious defender these days. Rand's logic is eerily similar to that of the young Karl Marx in his "Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844". To whit, both regard metaphysical questions as irrelevant, as man only exists insofar as he creates himself in nature. The difference between the two is that Marx regarded the end-product of this process as bringing about a thoroughly socialized man, in contrast to Rand's atomized narcissist.

The simple fact is that without a cosmology predicated on the divine, there is no truth, no beauty and no human rights. Those things are just artificial constructs created by strategically-shaved bonobos of no more validity than the contrary opinions of other bonobos. "Objectivism" is a purely Orwellian term, as it is entirely subjective in effect (except in its own mind). It is "objective" in precisely the same way that Marxism is "scientific".

C.S. Lewis had his faults, but he was an atheist who went on a long intellectual and personal journey (including the trenches of World War One) to re-discover faith. In Lewis' world, truth, beauty and human rights are immutable and eternal. He echoes some crazy old white dudes who once wrote:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"

In Rand's world, those old white guys were just a bunch of superstitious old fools. Good luck defending liberty given that premise.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I disagree. The notion that liberty requires external justification implies a default condition of non-liberty. I see no reason to accept this.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Without external justification, liberty is but a transient fiction; made by men, and unmade by stronger men.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"External" to what?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Seriously? Then I'll find a a way to be the strongest man of alll.

Anyone who can give you freedom can take it away as well. You should think about that for a while.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Didn't you just make Funktacular's point?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Rand is an ideological "bridge" to many people who cannot be conservative, but have no love for big government, OR are finding out that big government is threatening their own pursuit of happiness. And some people here want to burn that bridge? Idiots.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Well... who started it? Anyhow, my experience with libertarians (and Randists probably qualify for that label) suggests that it's more embarrassing for them to be seen in the company of conservatives than vice versa.

Rand was a rampant atheist (yet somehow her sense of ethics was "objective" -- go figure). Most conservatives have religious beliefs. When they ever agree on anything, it is most likely accidental. Someone who invents arithmetic assuming the Identity Property (a = a) might occasionally agree with a conclusion arrived at by someone else whose math assumes otherwise (a <> a or a = a but only sometimes). But they won't have much of a language in common. Mostly, they'll look past each other and shake their heads.

Which is what I do with libertarians and Randists. As I'm sure they do with folks like me.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Hmmmm . . . . what's with all the attacks on Ayn Rand? There have been several here on PJM, with two up right now that I can see. Granted, Rand was a complex and problematic person, flawed, even. I don't like some of the tenets of her beliefs either. But, so what? Are we going 'small tent" here at PJM? Seriously, what the Hell is going on with PJM? Roger Simon was ousted (no one told me, I simply figured it out), the comments section has been dumbed-down and provided with a "censor" filter. Which faction of "the right" is circling its wagons here, and why? Or has PJM been taken over by something more sinister?

Am I being paranoid? Perhaps. Perhaps my suspicions and concerns are all nonsense, but convincing me will require that 1) stupid attacks on one or another of the recognized voices of liberty cease, and 2) that PJM become more open and inclusive again, and have a better comments mechanism than this stupid jalopie application you have now.

And if you think I'm being overly-suspicious, I will also add that I noticed on a number of PJM author sub-sites that their long lists of roll-call links to outside blogs and sources have disappeared -- a sure sign of paranoia and stupidity on PJM's part -- not mine.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
For a comprehensive economic philosophy, conservatives would be far better served by referencing Hayek over Rand. The Left wing would like nothing better than make her an issue, especially those seeking to split the social conservatives/evangelicals from the economic conservatives. That is a needless conflict.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Hayek?

"There is no reason why in a free society government should not assure to all, protection against severe deprivation in the form of an assured minimum income, or a floor below which nobody need descend. To enter into such an insurance against extreme misfortune may well be in the interest of all; or it may be felt to be a clear moral duty of all to assist, within the organised community, those who cannot help themselves."

Um, no thanks. Rand lacks his moral weaknesses.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yes, Hayek and Rothbard. Rothbard was as strong of defender of individual self-ownership as Rand, but without the cult-like atmospherics and fanaticism.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Nah. With Rothbard you get this:

" Applying our theory to parents and children, this means that a parent does not have the right to aggress against his children, but also that the parent should not have a legal obligation to feed, clothe, or educate his children, since such obligations would entail positive acts coerced upon the parent and depriving the parent of his rights."

Those hierarchy errors (in Rothbard's case, swapping property rights as fundamental to the right to life, instead of vice versa) are a *bear* when you don't check them.

No thanks. Ayn Rand's big deal is not her ethics or her defense of capitalism, but her *epistemology* which makes them possible, and bulletproof. It's that epistemology which scares both conservatives and the Left, as it leaves absolutely no room for the arbitrary, which they both require in order to fill the "plot holes" in their ideas.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Rand's most serious fault might well have been her disinclination to grapple seriously with ideas that were founded on another basis than hers. She read little. Though she often thought deeply, she was utterly glued to her premises. Thus, she was unaware that a powerful thread of individualist thought is grounded entirely in Aquinas's evolution of Aristotle, and that C.S. Lewis was a major expositor of that thread. Being unaware, and not seeing how it dovetailed with her own theses, she could not see that Lewis's stance was identical to hers about virtually everything.

This is what comes of self-worship. Say what you will about religion, at least it doesn't produce this particular sort of misstep.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Say what you want about Ayn Rand. At least she defined and defended individual self-ownership. So did Murray Rothbard. C.S. Lewis did no such thing.

The philosophical root of all tyranny is the notion that the individual does not own his or her own life, but exists to serve some external agency or purpose. By this measure, C.S. Lewis's thought is closer to that of Hitler or Stalin than Ayn Rand's.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
C.S. Lewis told us that self-ownership is a transcendental duty.

Compared to that, Ayn Rand was a scribbler advocating selfishness not individualism.

Mr. Tze, try again.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Self-ownership is an inherent property of sentience.

Your reference to transcendence suggests you are a transhumanist.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Just a sun-dog like yourself.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
*sigh* Rand wasn't even in the same league as Lewis.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Magic Johnson wasn't in the same league as you are, either. Good thing, too.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Ayn Rand performs a valuable function…for the Left Wing.

By talking up Ayn Rand, they can throw the entire Conservative side of an issue onto her and keep the name Friedrich Hayek away from the public and out of the news.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
""" By talking up Ayn Rand, they can throw the entire Conservative side of an issue onto her . . . """"

Really? We're so weak and inarticulate that we can't counter-act such moves by the Left? And, who are "we" anyway, Kemosabe?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"We're so weak and inarticulate that we can't counter-act such moves by the Left?"
ANSWER: Yes.

Also, I did not use the first person plural pronoun. You did.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Can we finally just admit that Ayn Rand sucks? She is the right's version of Karl Marx, insofar that she is mistaken for a deep thinker by young people in college. Then, as one grows in both experience and knowledge, one looks back on her works and realizes, "Wait a minute, that was a bunch of crap!" Her stereotypes are legion, and her writing style can be most charitably described as "tediously wooden".

Sorry, Ayn, but Billy Shakes had it right:

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

More, even, than the human ego.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
""""" Can we finally just admit that Ayn Rand sucks? """""

No, we can't. She's flawed, especially in her personal life, and her philosophy sometimes borders on the creepy, but we would be idiots to throw her away. What the Hell is it with this "ideological purity" crap? Just how shriveled and shrunken do you want the so-called "right" to be in an age of change? I notice the Tea Party in one state refused to join forces with some Randians because they were atheists. Stupid move if you truly love liberty. But maybe that's it: maybe many "conservatives" want to live in an even smaller bubble and suck their stupid thumbs.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The reality is, Rand's economic theories are worth looking at and studying. Her theories about human interaction? As dangerous as Marx or Hitler.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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