Monday, November 29, 2010

Ayn Rand and Confucius

Ayn Rand's "pretensions of originality, her claim to stand within no pre-existing tradition whatsoever," were completely demolished by Justin Raimondo in his tome, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, and even went so far as to accuse her of plagiarism.

Compare her attitude to that of the most influential philosopher in all of human history, Confucius, who said, "I transmit but do not innovate; I am truthful in what I say and devoted to antiquity." Such an attitude was true of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, was it not, as the Greeks looked back to their Golden Age?

Even those seen as innovators of new doctrines in the past were wary of "pretensions of originality" and would never "claim to stand within no pre-existing tradition whatsoever." Jesus Christ did "not come to destroy, but to fulfill" and Muhammad was "the messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets." Even Karl Marx built on the thought of those ranging from Epicurus to Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

Ayn Rand seems to be a symptom of something new. Today, those with "pretensions of originality" who "claim to stand within no pre-existing tradition whatsoever" are all too common. This thought came to mind with some recent discussions, both real and virtual, that in turn reminded me of several more over the years, with interlocutors whose pedestrian and rather common modernist ideas they thought to be entirely original.

To these, arguing a position from within some tradition, be it Catholicism or Marxism, is seen as "not thinking for one's self" and there for not a valid form of argumentation. To these, phrases like "I think..." or "in my opinion..." carry more weight that referring to a great thinker of the past.

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Blogger Steve Hayes said...

One reason for my cynicism about American libertarianism is that so many of it's more vociferous exponents seem to be regurgitating the Thoughts of Chairperson Ayn. That said, however, I still like this quote from Stanislav Andreski's Social sceiences as sorcery:

"One of the manifestations (unimportant in itself but very revealing) of the timorous but disingenuous humility
characteristic of a burrowing apparatchik is the taboo on the word `I'. `One still shudders at the arrogance of the author in his repetitive use of the first singular concerning complex issues' - says a reviewer of one of my books, who for all I know may be the only creature in whom this obscene word can induce actual shudders, although by saying `one' instead of `I' he implies that most of his readers suffer from this allergy. I doubt whether the reviewer in question favours the majestic first plural normal among the older French writers, and still common among their successors, but which in England is reserved for the Queen. Presumably he prefers the anonymous
`it', and likes to see an expression like `I think that ...' replaced by `it is hypothesized ...', which, apart from
expurgating the dirty word `to think') ministers to the bureaucratic underling's predilection for submissive anonymity combined with oracular authority. I do not see why declaring that I - a mortal and fallible man but entitled to express his opinions - hold this or that view should be more arrogant than pretending to be the Voice of Science"(Andreski 1972:193).

1:02 PM  

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