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The synthesis of theory and practice has been one of the most significant themes in the history of Russian thought. Nearly every great Russian writer embraced a critical praxis as the central, motivating task of philosophy. Theoretical contemplation was considered incomplete and one-dimensional; it required consummation in the quest for truth-justice (iskaniye pravdy). This cultural predisposition toward political criticism and action provided fertile ground for the implantation of Marx’s revolutionary doctrine, encapsulated in the credo: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it” ([1845] 1967, 401–2). Ayn Rand gave full expression to this radical impulse in Russian thought. She recognized that philosophical contemplation was insufficient. Her initial theoretical musings emerged as a response to the dualities she confronted in the Russia of her youth. Her positive formulations constituted a critical revolt against Russian religious mysticism and communist politics. Just as Marx’s dialectical method was “in its essence critical and revolutionary,”1 Rand’s dialectical sensibility led her toward a comparable, radical resolution. But Rand’s project was neither theocratic nor communist in its political implications; it was profoundly secular, humanistic, and libertarian. Like her dialectical forebears, Rand refused to disconnect any part from the totality that gave it meaning. Rand’s critical method recognized the fundamental relatedness of all social phenomena. She adamantly opposed reification in social inquiry. Where some attempted to universalize a ­ historically specific concrete, Rand saw “frozen abstractions.” Where relations of power 276 relations of power  277 others asserted certain premises as true and without need of proof, Rand saw “frozen absolutes” and “false axioms.” Where still others sought to­ combine two or more issues that needed to be analyzed and considered separately, Rand saw “package-dealing.” She rejected the modern tendency to “think in a square,” the contemporary disposition to accept a constricted, narrow definition of a social problem without understanding the principles underlying the issue, or the various links between issues.2 Everywhere Rand looked, she attempted to identify the principles that unite seemingly separate and fragmented spheres of human existence. She observed facts, identified the essential issues, integrated the data from diverse areas of inquiry , and articulated the basic principles at work.3 Her dialectical methods uncovered startling connections between economics, psychology, sex, art, politics, and ideology. In her political theory, Rand suggests that the initiation of force is a­ crucial component in the genesis of social dualism. Force creates a lethal contradiction between the mind and reality, thought and action. But in Rand’s view, just as freedom and reason presupposed each other, so too do force and faith. Faith (that is, irrationality, unreason) produces the same­ lethal contradiction between the mind and reality, thought and ­ action. Force and faith, like dictatorship and determinism, “are reciprocally reinforcing corollaries.” In Rand’s view, enslavement requires an attack on the validity of human volition. Those who see reason as impotent necessarily accept the rule of force in its stead.4 For Rand, while the initiation of force nullifies an individual’s cognitive capacity, human inefficacy is both the precondition and by-product of sustained coercive action. Though Rand recognizes the initiation of force as the only existential practice that can violate rights, she focuses just as much attention on the cognitive practices and conditions that subvert individual autonomy and predispose us to accept our own subjugation. Rand’s assault on contemporary statist relations of power focuses attention on these theoretical and existential components. Her social criticism follows in the footsteps of her formal philosophy by repudiating dualism in all of its cultural incarnations. Her analysis can be comprehended on three distinct levels. While it is possible to abstract and isolate these various aspects, it must be understood that they are interrelated constituents of a single totality. On Level 1, Rand examined relations of power between persons. She focused on the psycho-epistemological and ethical principles at work in­ exploitative interpersonal relations. The psycho-epistemic and normative aspects are two, coextensive vantage points on the same phenomenon. These aspects are so closely related that they constitute a double-edged 278 ayn rand sword. On this first level of analysis, Rand comprehended the significance of the master-slave duality and the “sanction of the victim.” Within this context , important constructs are integrated into the Objectivist corpus, including “pseudo-self-esteem,” “social metaphysics,” and “alienation.” On Level 2, Rand considered many of these distortions in social interaction as by-products and reflections of cultural practices...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780271061214
Related ISBN
9780271062273
MARC Record
OCLC
860712160
Pages
496
Launched on MUSE
2013-11-04
Language
English
Open Access
No
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