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359 Some of you may know the story of the four travelers who on a moonless night chanced upon an elephant and came away separately convinced that it was very like a snake, a leaf, a wall, a rope. Not one could persuade any other to change his mind, for each had touched a different part. Not one could resolve their differences for none of them knew the entire elephant. The moral of the story is not the inevitability of subjectivism. Rather, it is a lesson in the fallacy of reification. Each traveler abstracted a part of the whole and reified that part into a separate entity, which was identified as the totality. Reification is possible because no one—and no human being—can achieve a synoptic vantage point on the whole. Our definition of what is­ essential depends on a specific context. I have approached Ayn Rand’s legacy in a self-consciously one-­ sided fashion, with an emphasis on its historical roots. I do not have the­ intellectual hubris to propose that my perspective is the only legitimate vantage point on Objectivism. But as scholarship on Rand’s thought­ progresses, different perspectives will necessarily bring into focus aspects formerly obscured from view. The importance of Objectivism then, in this context, does not lie merely in its repudiation of formal dualism or its insistence on the primacy of­ existence. Objectivism is a seamless conjunction of method and content— of a dialectical method and a realist-egoist-individualist-libertarian content. This synthesis is Rand’s most important contribution to twentieth-century radical social theory. The Randian project overturns traditional assumptions about the­ relationship between dialectical method and specific political content. In contemporary intellectual history, the dialectic has been identified almost exclusively with the Hegelian and Marxian traditions. In 1919, for instance, the philosopher and literary critic Georg Lukács actually declared that the dialectic is Marxism, and that even if research disproved each and every one of Marx’s individual theses, that would not detract from the veracity of his method. Just as Marx identified capitalism with dualism, Lukács identified Marxism with the dialectic. And as we have seen, liberal thinkers such as Karl Popper would agree. For Popper, what saves capitalism from ­ tyranny epilogue 360 ayn rand is its dependence on a “critical dualism” between facts and standards. Whereas Lukács sees the dialectic as the means by which theory becomes “a vehicle of revolution,”1 Popper sees it as the methodological moment of political totalitarianism. Based on this identification of Marxism with dialectics, it may seem odd to view Objectivism partially in terms of its dialectical sensibility. Either Lukács’s identification is incorrect, or Ayn Rand was a Marxist. The former is far more likely. Rand affirmed the dialectical connection between critique and revolution, but her revolutionary credo is thoroughly non-Marxist. Marx did not have a monopoly on the dialectic. Aspects of this approach have been employed by many diverse thinkers, including Aristotle, Hegel, Marx, Lossky, and as I have documented, Ayn Rand. Peikoff recognizes correctly that such a relational view is not distinctive to Objectivism, even though it is a hallmark of the philosophy.2 By articulating the methodological elements of Objectivism, I have­ discovered a host of provocative intellectual links that previously went­ unnoticed. We can now view Objectivism in historical terms—not only as an heir to Aristotelianism, as Rand would have had it, but as a by-product of her Russian past. Objectivism is as much defined by what Rand accepted from the Russian cultural milieu as by what she rejected. What Rand accepted was the dialectical revolt against formal dualism. This dialectical method was at the heart of the Russian tendency ­toward synthesis . Such a tendency was endemic to Russian culture; it was ­ expressed not only in the articulated statements of her teachers, but in the very intellectual air she breathed. What Rand rejected was the mystical and statist content of Russian philosophy and culture. On this basis, Rand built a philosophical edifice that was simultaneously integrated and secular, dialectical and capitalist. In Rand’s project, there is reciprocity in the interaction between content and method. Her method of processing the data of the world affected the content of her theories, while the content affected the further development of the method. In its critical, negative aspects, Rand’s Objectivism is a grand revolt against formal dualism in each of the major branches of philosophy and in each of the institutions...

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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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