Sunday, August 02, 2009

You Can't Fake Reality

Jennifer Burns' forthcoming intellectual biography of Ayn Rand is called Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right.

Of particular note is that Prof. Burns was given full access to Rand's papers at the Ayn Rand Archives (which is associated with the Ayn Rand Institute). According to this review, the skepticism that many have had with respect to the accuracy of material put out by the ARI (see here and here) is fully justified. In fact, things may have been worse than suspected.

Under the influence of Rand’s heir, Leonard Peikoff, the archives were
off-limits to many scholars for years. Peikoff has a history of wanting to
protect Rand’s reputation, even if that means giving facts short-shift. That Burns had full access to Rand’s papers is a good sign for future Rand-related scholarship—though Burns does warn that scholars who were involved in “Objectivist controversies” may still find themselves barred from seeing the papers.

Because of her access, Burns was able to document the influence of Nietzsche on Rand. One of the great modern myths, regarding Rand, is that she emerged from Russia with a fully formed philosophical system, at least in all the essentials. Burns is able to document that Rand was in the process of forming her ideas over a period of decades. And while I found her discussion of Nietzsche’s influence on Rand fascinating, I thought she should have given equal emphasis to the whys and hows of Rand shifting away from Nietzsche.

* * *

One other area that I found of significant interest is Burns discussion of the various problems surrounding Rand documents made public by the
Ayn Rand Institute, Leonard Piekoff’s organization. There has been a great deal of controversy over indications that ARI doctored documents. Some of this doctoring was admitted by ARI, which asserted that they merely made clarifications consistent with what Rand had intended to say. Burns, who has seen the originals, says this is not the case.

She does say that the letters of Rand, that have been released, “have not been altered; they are merely incomplete.” But the same is not true for other works of Rand, including her Journals. Burns writes, “On nearly every page of the published journals an unacknowledged change has been made from Rand’s original writing. In the book’s foreword the editor, David Harriman, defends his practice of eliminating Rand’s words and inserting his own as necessary for greater clarity. In many case, however, his editing serves to significantly alter Rand’s meaning.” She says that sentences are “rewritten to sound stronger and more definite” and that the editing “obscures important shifts and changes in Rand’s thought.” She finds “more alarming” the case that “sentences and proper names present in Rand’s original …have vanished entirely, without any ellipses or brackets to indicate a change.”

The result of this unacknowledged editing is that “they add up to a different Rand. In her original notebooks she is more tentative, historically bounded, and contradictory. The edited diaries have transformed her private space, the hidden realm in which she did her thinking, reaching, and groping, replacing it with a slick manufactured world in which all of her ideas are definite, well formulated, and clear.” She concludes that Rand’s Journals, as released by ARI, “are thus best understood as an interpretation of Rand rather than her own writing. Scholars must use these materials with extreme caution.”

The bad news is that “similar problems plague Ayn Rand Answers (2005), The Art of Fiction (2000), The Art of Non-Fiction (2001), and Objectively Speaking (2009).” Burns says all these works were “derived from archival material but have been significantly rewritten.” Rand scholars have long suspected such manipulation of documents; Burns confirms it with evidence she herself saw.

Certainly an explantion for this is required. For a number of years we have been told that the Archives will be publishing a collection of oral history entitled 100 Voices. I would recommend that the ARI make the actual interviews available on the web and provide access to non-ARI scholars.


Frank Truth said...

ARI's history of intellectual fraud is unbroken. These malicious clowns and contemptible liars are simply too low for words. And these revelations in the upcoming book are only that which we currently know about!

It seems highly likely that much or most of the historical record of the greatest philosopher which ever lived has been altered or destroyed forever. ARIans are drop-dead ENEMIES of Ayn Rand and Objectivism!

Richard said...

The actions of ARI, in its calculated release of Rand's ideas, is a matter of focus. Given the seedy arguments of Objectivism's detractors, there is no room for releasing thought processes Rand doubted. Even her most brilliant conclusions are dismissed from ridiculous minutiae, whilst ignoring her most overwhelming demonstrations of Good. (That dishonesty is sickening, but it captures many.)

By comparison, one can focus on the fact that Frank Truth farts, instead of his true intellectual & material achievements How would Frank like to be recalled by his farts, rather than his better accomplishments?

Let us presume that Frank's YouTube posts were true and appropriate. Should -the-public focus on how he swears (F-words) at Sergey Brin and Larry Page of YouTube? Shouldn’t the World focus on Frank’s most rational arguments, and understand that his irate swearing is not fundamental to his character?

(Frank, fix up that webpage, and turn it into a brutally calm and rational presentation of fact!)

I only use Frank’s swearing, as an example of the mentality by which Rand is maligned. It disregards the good on which Frank wished to stand, by focusing on his bad farts. Worse, it seeks to rationalize Frank, ass ‘bad’, by disregarding both context and the conceptual hierarchy of his arguments exposing YouTube’s perfidy. That underlying motive is hardly appreciation of the Good for being good. Instead, the motive is to install Concrete Overshoes on a deliverer of the Good. That is, the motive is Hatred of the Good, for being Good.

Rand wrote on this exact mentality:
"Observe the nature of mankind’s earliest legends —such as the fall of Lucifer, “the light-bearer”, for the sin of defying authority; or the story of Prometheus, who taught men the practical arts of survival. Power-seekers have always known that if men are to be made submissive, the obstacle is not their feelings, their wishes or their “instincts,” but their minds; if men are to be ruled, then the enemy is reason.
" (see Prometheus).

The scholars at ARI recognize that even the most academic minds of today dwell upon minutiae, rather than essential principles. The academics are focusing on the trees without seeing the Forest. The academics (et al.) SEEK minutiae —however out of context and inapplicable— to dispute essential principles.

Such is the nature of the Anti-Conceptual mentality of modern academia (plus TOC & ARCHN). ARI is not anti-fact, ARI is opposed to Anti-Conceptuals. Therefore, they act accordingly.

Whilst some anti-conceptual minds are bound to 'pick-up' on the actions of ARI, better minds are able to see the forest for the trees. To which, of the two, would you rather appeal?

Saps who thoughtlessly buy into the superficial claims of creatures like Nyquist, Barnes, Kelley, or the Brandens seek self esteem through fault, rather than genius. Sorry, vandalism is no substitute for creation.

"Hatred of the Good for being good" is bigger than mere intellectual vandalism, it is the deliberate attempt to destroy the good, the creative and the genius, by any shallow means.

Ultimately it can never work. That vandal's sense of self esteem & success is false. It is only enabled by duping & capturing naive minds — such as those unfamiliar with car parts, or with Rand's ideas. Nyquist, Barnes & co-conspirators function by capturing small fry, whilst thinking they are the God's of fishing. Over the length of history, their arguments are but potato peels discarded by a gourmet chef.

Members of Objectiblog would do well to rethink Rand, and ask themselves why they spend time entertaining ideas that gleefully undercut the Reason of Rand! Petty killjoys will not bring down her genius.

Frank Truth said...

Hilarious, Richard! You don't mind if I call you Dick, do you? ;-)

Richard said...

I'd rather stick with "Richard", thanks.

Are you old enough to recall this:

"Dick Nixon before Nixon dicks you!"

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