Sunday, April 14, 2013

In The Ayn Rand Archives

In this essay in the Raritan Quarterly, Jennifer Burns discusses her experience with the Ayn Rand Archives in Irvine, California. 

I'm not sure why she considers me a leader of a "neo-Objectivist" movement.

I wish I could be as enthusiastic about the Archives as Burns is.  In Ayn Rand Nation, Iris Bell is quoted as saying that she and others who were interviewed by the Archives were angered when they saw the transcripts of their interviews in 2010's 100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand.

But when she saw an advanced copy of 100 Voices, she was annoyed to find that her interview had been just not abridged but expurgated.  "They had managed to find all these positive things I said," which had "nothing to do with the whole feel of the conversation I had with them."  Iris said she was in touch with a number of other people quoted in the book, and the same thing was done to them.

I review Gary Weiss's Ayn Rand Nation

In the most recent issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies I review Gary Weiss's Ayn Rand Nation.

New JARS - Issue 24, Final Pre-PSUP Issue!!!

It is one of the few books on Objectivism written by a non-Objectivist that you can learn a lot from.  I think, however, that he exaggerates the influence of Rand and Objectivism on contemporary American life and politics.

Ayn Rand Really, Really Hated C. S. Lewis - First Things Post

This brief post by Matthew Schmitz in First Things discusses Ayn Rand's comments  on C. S. Lewis's The Abolition of Man.

I highly recommend Michael Prescott's post The Importance of Being Earnest which is a detailed critique of Rand's comments.  Most importantly, he points out that Robert "Rewrite" Mayhew's editing is suspect.

The synopses of The Abolition of Man provided by Marginalia's editor Robert Mayhew are sometimes inaccurate. For example, with a few words in square brackets Mayhew summarizes part of Lewis's argument in a quoted passage: "[Those who reject tradition] are not men at all: they are artefacts." But Mayhew has conflated two different sentences, which have two different subjects. The actual passage reads: "It is not that they [i.e., the Conditioners] are bad men. They are not men at all. Stepping outside the Tao, they have stepped into the void. Nor are their subjects necessarily unhappy men. They are not men at all: they are artefacts." 

Thus, while "they are not men at all" does refer to the Conditioners (whom Mayhew somewhat inadequately labels "those who reject tradition"), the words "they are artefacts" refer to the Conditioners' helpless victims, who have been remade (via eugenics, prenatal conditioning, education and propaganda) into something no longer human.

Perhaps such inaccuracies are explained by a comment Mayhew makes in his introduction. A true acolyte, he unabashedly praises Rand, writing, "I do not recall a single case [in her marginalia] where what she said was unfair." It's good to know that when Rand railed against Lewis as a bastard, monster, scum, etc., she wasn't being unfair. Mayhew continues, "In fact, I was often filled with admiration for her patience, and for the strength of her stomach, in being able to go through some truly horrible book that she had decided was worth reading. (I, for one, could never have completed C.S. Lewis's The Abolition of Man.)"

I suppose if Mayhew wasn't actually able to read Lewis's book, he would have been hard-pressed to summarize it accurately.