1049: "Bookshelf"

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Black Dynamite
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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby Black Dynamite » Mon Apr 30, 2012 6:27 am UTC

I like Ayn Rand, her books, and her philosophy. I don't adhere to objectivism but I think it has great value. I don't like how many of the people who take her philosophy seriously take it too seriously, and are assholes. I also don't like it when those who hate her assume all her fans are assholes. The conflict between the two extremes is annoying. Can't we all be moderate? :|
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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby keithl » Mon Apr 30, 2012 6:29 am UTC

The great thing about "Atlas Shrugged" is that it is so long. The people who read books looking for excuses to be assholes are delayed by days before inflicting themselves on the rest of us. Even better, many of the Randroids inspired by Atlas Shrugged inflict themselves on other Randroids, arguing minutia ( "John Galt wears a dress shirt!" "NO, you second-hander fool! A turtleneck sweater!") and boycotting each others' seminars, rather than bothering discordian anarchists like me.

If Timothy McVeigh had started reading Atlas Shrugged, he might still be reading (lips moving, no doubt) rather than bombing the OKC Murrah building. Instead, he must have read the shorter Fountainhead (where stuff actually happens, including a building bombing), and 19 children died.

Besides, Dagny Taggart is hotter than Dominique Francon.

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby lly » Mon Apr 30, 2012 6:31 am UTC

thelastholdout wrote:I don't get this whole attitude that one must be talented in a field in order to be able to criticize a work in that field.

Case in point: I'm a terrible singer, and I can't play worth a damn, but I know an awful band when I hear them. And I am entitled to rage at the injustice when an awful band is pushed as a good band.


One of the barriers people talk about in getting into many fields–such as music and writing–is that they recognize what is good or bad a long, long time before they themselves even rate as "bad" from the standpoint of creating content. So you can appreciate a well or a poorly played violin without being able to make the actual instrument sound like anything other than a tortured cat. This can actually be extremely discouraging to the beginner, because they hear such beautiful music and can tell that other music is bad (possibly without being able to say why, possibly being able to give some inclination, and possibly being able to say exactly why) and they can't even make their instrument reliably play what they think of as a comparatively simple melody.

The same is true with learning a language, it is true of cooking, and it is certainly true of writing. I can tell you a host of things that are wrong with Anne Bishop's Black Jewel's series or the Twilight series and give you a point-by-point breakdown. It doesn't mean that I could write a substantively better full length novel--let alone a trilogy--and then manage to get it published through a major publishing company. Even if I am an amateur writer myself, I may simply not be to that level yet, or I may be operating in a completely different modality or field (e.g., a short story or a nonfiction writer).

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby blowfishhootie » Mon Apr 30, 2012 6:33 am UTC

thelastholdout wrote:
lly wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:If you think Randall is doing a terrible job, make your own webcomic and do a better job.


If you think Twilight is terrible, why don't you become a published novelist and show how it should be done?


I don't get this whole attitude that one must be talented in a field in order to be able to criticize a work in that field.

Case in point: I'm a terrible singer, and I can't play worth a damn, but I know an awful band when I hear them. And I am entitled to rage at the injustice when an awful band is pushed as a good band.


Yes, that particular mindlessly stupid criticism ("like you could do better!") only holds if the person saying it ALSO thinks you have to be an expert in a field in order to offer praise. And that wouldn't make it any less shockingly stupid, but at least it would be consistent.

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby babble » Mon Apr 30, 2012 6:34 am UTC

CorruptUser wrote:If you think Randall is doing a terrible job, make your own webcomic and do a better job.


I think xkcd is not as good as it used to be, and I think that everyone who writes, however brilliant, benefits from using an editor. Absolutely everyone. I guess, yes, it is a failing on his part not to realise this, but I don't know why he won't - it could be for any number of reasons. So I'd hesitate to say that he is doing a terrible job as such.

And everyone who points out that you don't have to be an artist to be able to criticise art is absolutely correct. I have no opinion on 'Randall'. I don't know him. I don't feel entitled to talk about him in such intimate terms. As I was babbling on about on the other thread for Friday's comic, this persistent need to talk about 'Randall' is the biggest obstacle to communication on this forum. Criticism of the website's content isn't a personal attack on a friend of yours. If you wrote 'If you think xkcd is so terrible, make your own webcomic and do a better job', you'd still be fundamentally talking nonsense, but at least you'd be talking it in an appropriate way.

edit: also, my webcomic is awesomely good.
Last edited by babble on Mon Apr 30, 2012 6:35 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby BrianX » Mon Apr 30, 2012 6:35 am UTC

1) one-size-fits-all morality (or, in Rand's case, enforced amorality)
2) demonization of anyone who doesn't agree with her
3) a total lack of the kind of humility that allows someone to admit they're wrong

On that list of Ayn Rand's mortal sins, the third is by far the biggest, and by far the biggest problem with her followers, or any fundamentalist. (And yes, Objectivists are fundamentalists. It's a basic part of the belief system.) Rational inquiry demands a certain degree of humility, especially in the sciences, because there isn't a philosophical or political principle in the world that will change what happens if you disagree with reality, and that happening will usually be bad. Rand's concept of self-interest doesn't allow for that, because it encourages ignoring externalities and side effects.

Honestly, that's one thing that even strawman portrayals of Rand consistently get right, and you see it in what people who point to her influence believe. Look at global warming -- science is unequivocal that it exists and the current situation is a result of human activity. But too many people, following Rand and others, confuse philosophy with science and assume (via a rather predictable set of conspiracy theories and ad hockeries) that it simply can't be happening because something something something freedom, therefore scientists are lying. Rand's world is a toy world, like Edwin Abbot's Flatland or Second Life; there are vast swaths of reality that are simply missing from it, but Rand et al extrapolate from it to the real world because it happens to appeal to them better than a messy world where actions can have long-term and even no-win consequences. Look at Atlas Shrugged -- in the real world, John Galt would be a crackpot cult leader, Dagny Taggart would be a burned-out socialite, Hank Reardon would be getting sued out the ass for stealing patents from his engineers, Galt's Gulch would be Jonestown with toy trains, and most importantly, the "impoverished masses" wouldn't be begging for Galt's followers to come back; they'd be mostly annoyed with them, possibly trying to have them arrested, and generally picking up where the Galties left off.

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby TimXCampbell » Mon Apr 30, 2012 6:49 am UTC

As a young man I picked up a copy of Atlas Shrugged because I'd heard it was a famous book. Also, the title sounded awesome. I quite enjoyed it! At first.

It starts out with the tale of an intelligent, energetic young woman in the railway business. I found her quite interesting. In addition, I was intrigued by the book's references to a face without guilt or pain (or however that line went). I wanted to know more about that! Moreover, as a writer I was impressed by a literary device Rand used: assuming the existence of a popular but enigmatic meme — in this case, "Who is John Galt?"

Yes, it seemed like this was going to be a really good book.

As I read further, though, I realized that there were only two types of people in the book: those who "get it" and those who don't. The chosen few who get it are radiantly handsome people with wondrous powers to be successful and happy. The ones who don't get it are a waste of air.

I started noticing how often the good guys were extolled (by word or by demonstration) to remind the reader, again and again, just how awesomely awesome the good guys were. After the umpteenth repetition of this I exclaimed, "Okay, I get it! I get that I'm supposed to think that way!" Then I tossed the book into the trash.

—————

Some years later I read The Iron Dream, a science fiction book by Norman Spinrad. It cleverly used the alternative-universe premise that the book had actually been written by Adolph Hitler. And you know what? The Iron Dream reminded me of Atlas Shrugged. Author-Hitler's protagonists could "get it" and were, of course, awesomely awesome. Those who didn't "get it" (i.e. radiation-poisoned mutants and those who cared about such mutants) were a waste of air.

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby JimsMaher » Mon Apr 30, 2012 6:50 am UTC

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby The Mighty Thesaurus » Mon Apr 30, 2012 6:54 am UTC

thelastholdout wrote:I understand that this is a comic, but "you have terrible taste" seems to be unnecessarily harsh.

I say it's not harsh enough. We can be harsher!
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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby WolfieMario » Mon Apr 30, 2012 7:00 am UTC

SecondTalon wrote:
Djehutynakht wrote:I'm confused. In the last panel, is he putting it back and escaping the critical room, or is someone else on the other side locking him in the room in a BHG-esque attempt at getting rid of everyone who doesn't share his literary tastes?

This should be a fun bookstore. I wonder what happens if someone picks up Twilight...

Neither. The click is the bookshelf returning to it's original position. Our Hero hasn't moved, likely in stunned surprise/shock/WTF-ery.

I personally like the interpretation that the person in the last panel is the last person to have been trapped there :twisted:
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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby skine » Mon Apr 30, 2012 7:36 am UTC

Flynn777 wrote:
blowfishhootie wrote:
Flynn777 wrote:Randall, I defy you to name another philosopher that you agree with 90% of the time. If you reply "Aristotle" then you haven't read enough of his material.

"You have terrible taste" is a disappointingly lazy reply.


"Agreeing with 90 percent of every sentence" is not the same thing as "agreeing 90 percent of the time." More than 10 percent of Ayn Rand's message is summed up with "be a huge asshole to everyone."


It's not? Then what, pray tell, is it the same thing as? I suppose one could say that every sentence consisted of 9 variants of "2+2=4" and then concluded with "Jesus died for your sins." But, having bothered to read Atlas Shrugged, I can say with certainty that this is not the case.

Rand did a profoundly better job expressing her philosophy in fiction, where her characters aren't particularly assholes in any way that the average XKCD reader isn't totally condescending to everyone else in his or her life, than in her non-fiction, where she was attempting to rationalize the difference between her vision and her personal behavior.

Let's pretend I've said:

"Hitler is not one of the worst human beings ever."

You can agree with 90% of that sentence, and agree with me 0% of the time.

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby HugoSchmidt » Mon Apr 30, 2012 7:38 am UTC

"Agreeing with 90 percent of every sentence" is not the same thing as "agreeing 90 percent of the time." More than 10 percent of Ayn Rand's message is summed up with "be a huge asshole to everyone."


I would just love to know one thing: where, exactly, does she advocate this? Does anyone have have a quote on this subject?

Rand's concept of self-interest doesn't allow for that, because it encourages ignoring externalities and side effects.


Except that she devoted pages and pages of text to discussing precisely this kind of logical flaw. She even gave it a formal name: "context dropping".

One day, I may find someone, somewhere, who disagrees with what Ayn Rand says while accurately quoting what she says.

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby Quicksilver » Mon Apr 30, 2012 7:58 am UTC

"There is a level of cowardice lower than that of the conformist: the fashionable non-conformist." Sounds like an oxymoron to me. Or at least a redundant statement.

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby Murphy2112 » Mon Apr 30, 2012 8:05 am UTC

All I know about Ayn Rand is that her books inspired some pretty flippin' rad Rush songs, so she's at least got that going for her.

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby Iranon » Mon Apr 30, 2012 8:05 am UTC

Sloppy as a philosopher, heavy-handed and often tedious as a writer... probably not worth one's time until one has run out of Nietzsche. And at that point, you have bigger problems than Ayn Rand.

Also, if reading Rand is a sign of bad taste: how did the writer of the message acquire this knowledge without undercutting their authority as arbiter elegantiae?
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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby MockFerret » Mon Apr 30, 2012 8:11 am UTC

I always find this kind of debate about Rand kind of interesting, largely because precisely nobody outside of the USA gives a monkey's about her, and very few have even heard of her.

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby Exodies » Mon Apr 30, 2012 8:19 am UTC

Munroe & Romney
Randall & Rand

We have the beginings of a pattern
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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby StClair » Mon Apr 30, 2012 8:24 am UTC

The one thing about Rand that always (darkly) amuses me is the lengths to which she went to rationalize and excuse her drug addiction (to tobacco).

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby Trimix » Mon Apr 30, 2012 8:28 am UTC

Dude!

Ayn Rand rocks! Unless you are a communist. :shock:

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby BrianX » Mon Apr 30, 2012 8:29 am UTC

MockFerret wrote:I always find this kind of debate about Rand kind of interesting, largely because precisely nobody outside of the USA gives a monkey's about her, and very few have even heard of her.


I'd actually love to know what people outside the US think of Ayn Rand. I would imagine she comes off as quite strange and a little psycho to most people.

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby MockFerret » Mon Apr 30, 2012 8:35 am UTC

BrianX wrote:I'd actually love to know what people outside the US think of Ayn Rand. I would imagine she comes off as quite strange and a little psycho to most people.
I tried reading Atlas Shrugged, but didn't get very far. I'd say that if people over here have an opinion of her at all, it's as "That nutter the Americans use as an excuse to be shitty to each other."

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby thelastholdout » Mon Apr 30, 2012 8:37 am UTC

MockFerret wrote:
BrianX wrote:I'd actually love to know what people outside the US think of Ayn Rand. I would imagine she comes off as quite strange and a little psycho to most people.
I tried reading Atlas Shrugged, but didn't get very far. I'd say that if people over here have an opinion of her at all, it's as "That nutter the Americans use as an excuse to be shitty to each other."


Then people "over there" have little understanding of Rand. To be fair, though, many people here in the US don't have the foggiest notion either.

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby HugoSchmidt » Mon Apr 30, 2012 8:45 am UTC

I tried reading Atlas Shrugged, but didn't get very far. I'd say that if people over here have an opinion of her at all, it's as "That nutter the Americans use as an excuse to be shitty to each other."


Well, yes, I'm sure that that's the correct interpretation.

On the other hand, she's the person who opposed the Vietnam War without making excuses for the Vietcong and Khmer Rouge, had Henry Kissinger's number at a time when it would have made a difference, understood that America's foreign policy was both immoral and impractical when it was unfashionable to do so, attacked the grotesque indulgence of certain conservatives for racism long before that was fashionable...

..and so on.

But, hey. Keep telling yourself that mantra. You might even believe it.

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby blowfishhootie » Mon Apr 30, 2012 9:15 am UTC

If the philosophy outlined by Ayn Rand is so compelling, why are its proponents here asking for its critics to clarify their opinions?

Howard Roark would never ask someone why they didn't approve of something he thought. Definitely not a bunch of strangers commenting behind faceless aliases. That's what makes him a lunatic: A total inability to engage in casual conversation. Or, you know, any other activity that shows an ability to be a functioning member of society.

Anyway, to you people saying you agree with Rand: You being here, on this forum, participating in this discussion, trying to make people see things your way, is contrary to at least the Fountainhead. Can't say I've read anything more than that from her. Come to think of it, Rand writing the Fountainhead to convince people that they should be concerned only with themselves and their own interests is pretty blatantly contradictory itself.

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby Soultaker~ » Mon Apr 30, 2012 9:24 am UTC

BrianX wrote:I'd actually love to know what people outside the US think of Ayn Rand. I would imagine she comes off as quite strange and a little psycho to most people.

From a European that read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged: I found Rand's moral views thought-provoking, although I ultimately didn't agree with her political ideas (I lean to the political left). I didn't find Atlas Shrugged boring at all, and it kept me thinking long after I finished reading it.

Regardless of what you think about Atlas Shrugged, I think it's hard to deny that Randall's attitude in this comic is lazy and, frankly, anti-intellectual. I have more respect for people who try to broaden their horizons by reading about a variety of philosophical/political views, than for those who feel compelled to point out how terrible other people's interests are. Ironically, I think Randall is being quite an asshole here, and he can't pin that on Rand.

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby Yosarian2 » Mon Apr 30, 2012 9:30 am UTC

thelastholdout wrote:I understand that this is a comic, but "you have terrible taste" seems to be unnecessarily harsh.


Eh. Whatever your opinion of the book, I thought it was actually pretty funny that someone built an entire old-school mystery novel revolving-bookcase secret room that opens up only when you pull out the right book, and did all that JUST to tell people that they have terrible taste in books.

That might not be the only book on that shelf that does that, either. The same thing might happen if you try to read The Da Vinci Code, hehe.

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby TazTheTerrible » Mon Apr 30, 2012 9:30 am UTC

Am I the only one who thinks that the joke isn't "Rand is bad" but the play on the old secret passage trope and the idea that the bookstore owner would go to such lengths to give people their opinion on the book?

On the actual topic of Ayn Rand though: is there any good reason to actually read Atlas shrugged or any of her books? I mean, don't criticize uninformed, by all means. But I could safely say I disagreed with and had no further interest in reading the Bible without having to read the whole thing cover to cover. A few books sufficed. So assuming I disagree with the general philosophy of the primacy of self interest and total capitalism, which I do, is there anything in the book that could actually be an enjoyable read or an experience more enriching than other books I could be reading in the time?

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby musicgeek » Mon Apr 30, 2012 9:31 am UTC

I liked Atlas Shrugged... I thought it had some good points to make, and the fact that Rand managed to create protagonists out of characters who would most likely be cast as villains in other narratives was kind of a neat twist. Not so thrilled with elements of the writing style (the villains "shriek" an awful lot), really not thrilled with the idea that the objectivist philosophy leaves no room whatsoever for altruism (but that's OK, because apparently there are no special needs individuals in Rand's world, or if there are, they're certainly never addressed), and don't get me started on Rand's concepts of sexual interaction. Because of that last one, I still can't bring myself to like The Fountainhead.

The comic may not be Randall's best work, but I still chuckled and definitely identified with the mouseover text.

(I think that I was charitably predisposed toward Atlas Shrugged because I had previously read Rand's earlier work We the Living, which was the first time that I had seen a decent argument against the principles of Soviet communism. I usually was given the "communism is a noble ideal, but impractical in practice" argument, but in WTL Rand makes a pretty good case for communism suppressing progress by its very nature.)

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby nccn » Mon Apr 30, 2012 9:34 am UTC

One day, I may find someone, somewhere, who disagrees with what Ayn Rand says while accurately quoting what she says.


Her ideas don't really jive with history, or reality, or logic.

1) A Laissez-faire economy has never existed and will never exist, nor does any thinking person really believe that unrestrained trade would be the ideal method for human existence. I have yet to meet anyone who feels that organ donations should go to the highest bidder, that every drug should be legalized and uncontrolled, that Richard really owes his kingdom for a horse, and that murder for hire should be legal. Once you admit that the freedom to contract is not absolute your argument becomes a mere one of degree rather than kind.

2) The whole Sanction of the Victim thing is silly. There is an inherent conflict between these parasites being evil and your inability to control becoming one of them as well as your inability to control them. And you're always one car crash away from becoming one.

*I should engage in rational self-interest.
*Therefore, I should not allow parasites to live off of me.

*I should engage in rational self-interest.
*Accidents happen, and I may become one of the non-producers at any moment.
*Therefore, I should hedge my bets by creating a social safety net that mandates I be given a living wage should an accident happen.
*The only way this safety net can exist is if producers pay into it.
*Therefore, I should allow parasites to live off me.

*I should engage in rational self-interest.
*People with no money and little hope of getting money tend to commit crimes, even violent crimes.
*While a police force can protect me, they tend to be most effective only after-the-fact.
*A perhaps more effective method of curbing crime, and a better use of my money, is to simply pay poor people.
*Therefore, I should allow parasites to live off me.

*I should engage in rational self-interest.
*Capitalism is the best method for self-interest to find expression.
*Capitalism only functions when there is a small but substantial pool of unemployed to motivate the employed to work as hard as possible.
*The unemployed perform a function of the system I have chosen, and I must incentivize them to stay in the system though it currently doesn't work for them.
*Therefore, I should allow parasites to live off me.

Sounds pretty self-conflicting to me. Unless your argument is that when someone makes a rational choice to have the parasites live off of them, it's just an expression of their rational self-interest, in which case congrats, you already live in your utopia.

3) Answers tend to arise to problems that are presented. The form of the answer is largely irrelevant. This is why humanity existed for thousands of years, but multiple peoples all developed nuclear power within a few years despite a non-sharing of information. The steel would not remain unique all that long. John Galt has the same (and it's been said previously) cult-like belief that he's special that a lot of rich people seem to have. If they left, someone else would just move into their position and the world would keep turning, questions would still find answers and a formerly non-producer would simply produce. Society would not crumble without our titans of capitalism.

4) Just on a practical level, what happens when a country of Galt-ians gets attacked? Who goes off to fight? What do you do with the people who come back and aren't good for working anymore? While you're fighting, who makes the decision that one piece of land gets defended and not the other? Doesn't a common defense necessarily require the lifting of a rational self-interest? (I'd submit this is true for a lot of issues, but defense is just the easiest one)

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby Soultaker~ » Mon Apr 30, 2012 9:43 am UTC

TazTheTerrible wrote:On the actual topic of Ayn Rand though: is there any good reason to actually read Atlas shrugged or any of her books?

Obviously nobody can answer this for you. You'll just have to take a chance. Personally I thought it was interesting even though I didn't agree with Rand everywhere. And I'd say that even if the prose isn't the best, it's still much better written than the Bible.

I suggest you start by reading Anthem (freely available), which is pretty short, and then decide if you feel up to the task of reading 700 (for The Fountainhead) or 1,000 (for Atlas Shrugged) or so more pages with the same underpinning philosophy.

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby MockFerret » Mon Apr 30, 2012 9:49 am UTC

HugoSchmidt wrote:
I tried reading Atlas Shrugged, but didn't get very far. I'd say that if people over here have an opinion of her at all, it's as "That nutter the Americans use as an excuse to be shitty to each other."


Well, yes, I'm sure that that's the correct interpretation.

On the other hand, she's the person who opposed the Vietnam War without making excuses for the Vietcong and Khmer Rouge, had Henry Kissinger's number at a time when it would have made a difference, understood that America's foreign policy was both immoral and impractical when it was unfashionable to do so, attacked the grotesque indulgence of certain conservatives for racism long before that was fashionable...

..and so on.

But, hey. Keep telling yourself that mantra. You might even believe it.
I could, but then I could just rejoin my fellow countrymen and go back to not caring one way or the other.

I will note that the other thing I've noticed about Rand's followers is the way that, when faced with criticism, they get all passive-aggresively defensive about it.

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby drazen » Mon Apr 30, 2012 9:53 am UTC

*I should engage in rational self-interest.
*Accidents happen, and I may become one of the non-producers at any moment.
*Therefore, I should hedge my bets by saving for the future, or joining an independent organization that provides insurance/protection."

*I should engage in rational self-interest.
*People with no money and little hope of getting money tend to commit crimes, even violent crimes.
*While a police force can protect me, they tend to be most effective only after-the-fact.
*A perhaps more effective method of curbing crime, and a better use of my money, is to simply purchase a security system / buy a gun and shoot the criminals / learn self-defense / etc.."

(Seriously, you think because people commit crimes, we should capitulate to them and make concessions to them for free? Terrorists would love having people like you in charge.)

*I should engage in rational self-interest.
*Capitalism is the best method for self-interest to find expression.
*Capitalism only functions when there is a small but substantial pool of unemployed to provide mobility in the workforce, so that jobs can shift as needed"

(Admittedly, this isn't happening, but that is because we have a system that allows government regulation to be drawn up by corporations, which is NOT capitalism and is in fact EXACTLY what Ayn Rand was warning people about!)

There, fixed (some of) it for you. As for the rest, tl;dr.

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby ggh » Mon Apr 30, 2012 9:55 am UTC

I like Rand. I like xkcd.
For xkcd to brighten my day doesn't require Randall to mirror my opinions.
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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby Fex » Mon Apr 30, 2012 9:57 am UTC

There sure are a lot of people with terrible taste here.

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby TazTheTerrible » Mon Apr 30, 2012 10:06 am UTC

Soultaker~ wrote:
TazTheTerrible wrote:On the actual topic of Ayn Rand though: is there any good reason to actually read Atlas shrugged or any of her books?

Obviously nobody can answer this for you. You'll just have to take a chance. Personally I thought it was interesting even though I didn't agree with Rand everywhere. And I'd say that even if the prose isn't the best, it's still much better written than the Bible.

I suggest you start by reading Anthem (freely available), which is pretty short, and then decide if you feel up to the task of reading 700 (for The Fountainhead) or 1,000 (for Atlas Shrugged) or so more pages with the same underpinning philosophy.


Thank you ^-^

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby Zell » Mon Apr 30, 2012 10:15 am UTC

I can agree with the people who think this comic is sort of lazy, though to be charitable I think the humor is supposed to come from the fact that someone took the time and energy to set up that kind of mechanism to express their taste in literature.

Personally, I think this comic about Ayn Rand is better:
Spoiler:
Image

My gripes with Rand's philosophy have more to do with her sloppy epistemology than her ethics and politics. I like philosophies that are logical and self-consistent, no matter where they lead ethically. I think both Max Stirner and Peter Singer are more interesting and thought-provoking philosophers than Rand for that reason, but at the same time I don't understand the immense hate she evokes in some people.

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby The Mighty Thesaurus » Mon Apr 30, 2012 10:21 am UTC

Trimix wrote:Dude!

Ayn Rand rocks! Unless you are a communist. :shock:

Well, I am a communist, but I dislike her because she's a bad writer.
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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby TazTheTerrible » Mon Apr 30, 2012 10:27 am UTC

I am grateful for that link to Anthem and I can safely say three chapters was about the limit I was willing to torture myself with.

I'd be happy to discuss the actual objectivist philosophy with some proponents some time, but if this is what all her work is like, I can safely say her proze is not for me.

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby Steroid » Mon Apr 30, 2012 10:29 am UTC

nccn wrote:
One day, I may find someone, somewhere, who disagrees with what Ayn Rand says while accurately quoting what she says.


Her ideas don't really jive with history, or reality, or logic.

1) A Laissez-faire economy has never existed and will never exist, nor does any thinking person really believe that unrestrained trade would be the ideal method for human existence. I have yet to meet anyone who feels that organ donations should go to the highest bidder, that every drug should be legalized and uncontrolled, that Richard really owes his kingdom for a horse, and that murder for hire should be legal. Once you admit that the freedom to contract is not absolute your argument becomes a mere one of degree rather than kind.

Here's the first problem I have: that people dismiss Randites in particular and capitalist/libertarians in general as unthinking because we have a different value system. Unrestrained trade IS the basis for an ideal political-economic system, and I am not unthinking. But people have a problem with that because A) I'm actually looking for an ideal, where we can say, "OK, we don't have any more questions to answer in politics anymore," instead of admitting that the problem is unsolvable, and B) I don't think that "don't be an asshole" is a good rule, which leads me into:

2) If you go 90% of the way along with a logical argument, and then abandon it simply because the next step is to be an asshole to everyone, you're engaging in prejudice. I don't care if the argument's logical endgame is ". . . and therefore the Nazis were right and we should rebuild the camps." Either break the logic (which may include a value-based argument) or accept the conclusion. In Rand's case, she was less saying "Be an asshole to everyone," as she was fighting the idea of "Don't be an asshole to anyone." If no asshole tactics are allowed, then those who play on that sympathy will become the leeches and eat the healthy. If someone says, "Be nice to everyone," being an asshole to them may be the proper response. That said:

3) There are logical flaws in Rand's philosophy. Reality is not purely objective, nor is rationality the sole correct method of thinking. I think she's spot-on politically and economically, and if Atlas Shrugged has any value as a political novel, its repeatedly hammered premise of "Don't bite the mind that feeds you," is something that hasn't been learned by too many people, including just about everyone in power today. And while we're on the novel's value:

4) Literature is different things to different people. I think that it's about escapism. The advantage that Rand's works have, as well as Robert Heinlein's, and the Twilight series (though the last is less skillful), is that they say that being good, being the hero, will get you what you want. Some people want that. It's the same concept that made people watch professional wrestling. I'd rather watch Hulk Hogan fight some guy knowing the outcome will be positive than watch the Bears lose the Super Bowl.

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Re: 1049: "Bookshelf"

Postby peewee_RotA » Mon Apr 30, 2012 10:30 am UTC

jpk wrote:I had a hard time with Ayn Rand because I found myself enthusiastically agreeing with the first 90% of every sentence, but getting lost at "therefore, be a huge asshole to everyone.


And then he, at last, shrugged.
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