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Discussion of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

We choose one book per month to read and discuss philosophically as a group.

January 2019 Philosophy Book of the Month: The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World by David Eagleman and Anthony Brandt

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March 2019 Philosophy Book of the Month: Final Notice by Van Fleisher

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Discussion of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Post by Scott » November 8th, 2008, 5:50 pm

This is the thread to discuss the November book of the month, Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. This thread will contain spoilers, so don't read this thread until you have read the book.

Atlas Shrugged expresses many of the philosophical ideas of Ayn Rand, who I see as one of the most controversial philosophers. I find that a lot of people love Rand's philosophy and sometimes only Rand's philosophy. Still, many people involved in philosophy dismiss Rand's ideas.

I do think the arguments made in Atlas Shrugged are often relatively weak and more like preaching and unbacked asserting than well-developed philosophical arguments.

However, I think she does a good job of painting a picture of how putting the principles she supports in practice would work and how it will benefit humankind. Similarly, she paints a picture of what she dislikes about the principles she opposes and the way society is run.

Specifically, I think she does a great job at showing the way that political freedom leads to socioeconomic prosperity and the way that slavery and routine government bailouts can economically hurt almost everyone by undermining people's work ethic and by allowing corruption. By allowing corruption, I mean the people given major governmental power to supposedly help others and bailout people in need of welfare tend to actually use the power for self-serving purposes.

What do you think of Atlas Shrugged and the philosophical ideas in it?

Feel free to post any short excerpts or quotes from the book that you especially like. Also, please post any questions you have for the group about the book.

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Post by Martin Ekdahl » November 30th, 2008, 11:38 am

I found Atlas Shrugged intriguing and some times accurate. The philosophical idea of a self governing/policing Market nevertheless has proven itself useless when it is realized in the real world.

As a Swedish citizen I have followed the movement following Ron Paul with quite some interest. Ron Paul (who in many ways can be named a "Objectivist") has some support in the circles of (often younger) Swedish politicians that describe themselves as "Neo-liberals" or "libertarians". Especially before the last Swedish election 2006 the debate about this Randian movement was intense.

But since the financial crisis began the call for less State and more Business has found itself in an awkward position. Ayn Rand dreamed of a world (or more exactly USA) where the state acted like a night watch, checking that there is nothing wrong happening and that no "bad guys" threats the Nations population. All other parts of society (especially finance) should in her Utopia be governed and regulated by the Market itself. Alan Greenspan is (was?) a great supporter of Ayn Rand (for example he was a member of the Ayn Rand "Collective") and tried to materialize her vision as chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Today the "Market" leaders in the US and the rest of the world stands with their hats in their hands and hope for the the State to literally save them. This can be seen as nothing else than a major blow to Ayn Rands philosophy as it was expressed in Atlas Shrugged.

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Post by Gabe » December 28th, 2008, 3:36 am

I haven't read this in several years, but I remember agreeing with Rand on many ideas e.g. inherent value of a productive work ethic, capitalism yeilding the most good (quality of life, leisure time, etc.) for largest amount of people, and government aid's role in the breakdown of society.

I distinctly remember NOT agreeing with Rand in that she refused to conceed that by utilizing the economic system of capitalism, we are merely harnessing a prominent character flaw of mankind;greed,in order to produce a desireable effect for everyone. Of course, this sounds like Utilitarianism, which is fine as long as the author defines it as such and does not try to disguise flaws as virtues, as Rand does in Atlas Shrugged. I speculate that Rand may have tried to cover this fact in order to make her philosophy more appealing to the American masses of the time, which worked to her advantage. What red-blooded American doesn't want a pat on the back for being a capitalist? I guess Rand didn't want to follow with, "You're also a bunch of assholes, but luckily, it works out." because I certainly don't think that She was naive enough to believe that greed and ambition are synonymous and are actually virtuous qualities. I think it was a cop-out on Rand's part to support capitalism as if it were an infallible economic system in order to make the idea more marketable. In conclusion, I don't believe Rand had to compromise Her ethics in order to obtain the desired effect.

It was a fun read, though. I remember being motivated to self eduacate myself after reading it, ergo I'm better for it and I'd imagine that others would be as well.

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Post by kabloomyk » January 14th, 2009, 4:34 pm

I really liked a lot of the ideas Rand had in her book, but there were a few things that bothered me. Her book is an obvious refutation of socialism and the spread of communism which was occurring during that time period, which I think led to most of the missteps that she took. In a way it was brilliant that she was able to glorify the everyday man with a completely different value system (especially in the Soviet Union, where the ordinary working man was the ideal), but I think the book would have been more interesting if she had made someone like Francisco d'Anconia the savior of the world.

I'm sure my view on this is heavily influenced by the fact that I'm interpreting her book 50 years later, but it seems to me that if she really wanted to make a case for objectivism, she should have given us a hero that was a bit harder to accept. John Galt was a nobody and an underdog - who wouldn't root for him in his attempt to beat a bunch of overprivileged, underqualified whiners? Getting behind someone like Francisco d'Anconia would have been more difficult because of the opportunities he was afforded because of his birth - which is why I think he would have made a more interesting hero. If Rand really wants people to look at others based soley on their merits, it would have been intriguing to see if she could pull it off with someone we didn't want to like. Making d'Anconia her hero would also have addressed some of the flaws with objectivism: judging people solely on merits is fine, but what about the advantages of birth? Are those to be ignored? Making John Galt the savior of the world ignored that very issue by saying that birth has no bearing on what you can accomplish (when that often isn't the case). She side stepped the seeds of the "others" mentality and the reason they harbored such resentment towards the rich and powerful. In a way she did take down the rich and wealthy a peg or two by making d'Anconia subservient to Galt (not to mention having Galt steal away his girl), so isn't she feeding into some of the very tendencies she blasted in the rest of her book? Rand preaches mental elitism while simultaneously rejecting the very institutions designed to breed that kind of ability; if you claim to want only the best, it shouldn't be an issue if the person was born with a head start.

The other part I thought Rand kind of wimped out was in the application of her theory to love. It's all fine and good that Dagny chose John Galt over Howard Roark (though her treatment of Roark was more than slightly cold), but I felt Rand took the easy way out in the scene where Dagny tells Roark that there's someone else. Rand rants and raves about the evils of pity, but she blazed past an opportunity to show how that pity (naturally) originates. Roark's "no problem, if he's better, it's fine" reaction to Dagny breaking up with him was ridiculous - no matter how great a man he might be, if he just had his heart broken he was in pain and that is something Rand neglected to portray. I think she realized that if she did show the pain Roark was going through, her audience would feel a very natural emotion - pity - and suddenly the weak people in the rest of the book would make a bit more sense. I agree that “Evil is the man who uses another’s pity for him as a weapon”, but what about the man who doesn't abuse your pity, but still warrants it? Pity may not even be the right word - perhaps empathy or sympathy? In any case, Rand didn't show the cost of always going for the best at any price, which in this case was breaking a good man's heart - something that was portrayed as being too easy to do.

That being said, those are my only two complaints about the book - overall it was wonderfully refreshing to hear intelligence and talent glorified and valued over connections and incompetence, especially in the context of a lot of the rhetoric being tossed around in politics these days.

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Post by Objectivist » January 24th, 2009, 2:56 am

I thought the ideas in the book were spot on.

Scott, I'd love to hear what arguments of hers are relatively weak and more like preaching and unbacked asserting. What parts of her philosophic argument seemed to be lacking in your opinion?

Kabloomyk, choosing d'Anconia as the hero would (or should anyway) not have made the hero any more interesting. It would, however, have made it more confusing. The theme is that man's mind is his means of survival- not his inherited wealth. To dramatize this she selected a man who uses his mind and nothing else. Had she had chosen d'Anconia, don't you think that might give the reader a mixed message?

In regards to Dagny "breaking" (Reardon's) heart, that's kind of a long explanation. How familiar are you with Objectivism?

I'm really looking forward to hearing back from each of you!

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Post by Scott » January 25th, 2009, 7:06 pm

Objectivist wrote:Scott, I'd love to hear what arguments of hers are relatively weak and more like preaching and unbacked asserting. What parts of her philosophic argument seemed to be lacking in your opinion?
Namely, I do not remember finding much of a philosophical argument backing her claims that truth and knowledge is absolute, that it is immoral to violate someone's freedom, that a man's moral purpose is his own happiness and his productive achievement. She explained what those claims mean, but I do not remember her providing any philosophical argument that they are actually true.

In regards to her claims about morality, if anything, I would say she has merely expressed subjective opinions about human actions. She has explained what type of human actions and codes-of-conduct that she personally most admires and what ones she most dislikes.

If you know or can find her arguments supporting those claims, please quote them or paraphrase them for me.
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Post by Duncan » February 2nd, 2009, 1:47 pm

Great book....until John Galt's marathon, Castro-esque "rant." His rant was too long, too indecipherable (how will the common man understand much of it?) and -- at least from my perspective -- way too militantly atheistic. He appears to be saying that people who believe in God are stupid lemmings. Didn't like that. Plus, his adherence to this atheistic philosophy implies that just about everyone in the valley in Colorado shares his sneering, condescending view of God and believers: Dagny, Hank, Franscisco, Ken, Prof. Akston. Ayn Rand's contempt for religion just shines through in the final 200 pages.

I wonder if I told John Galt that I was a capitalistic Christian, if he would let me join his merry band----or would he just say: "Take a hike, God Boy!" And THIS guy is held up as the hero.....don't get it.

I DID enjoy the contempt placed upon socialism, however.

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Post by whitetrshsoldier » March 13th, 2009, 3:24 pm

I wonder if I told John Galt that I was a capitalistic Christian, if he would let me join his merry band----or would he just say: "Take a hike, God Boy!" And THIS guy is held up as the hero.....don't get it.
I would say no. I think they would attempt to discuss the matter with you, since their view on religion was that it was solely a control created to manipulate human emotions. But, as a good Christian, I think the same would be true in reciprocate; you would most likely make an attempt to influence them.

The main belief is that everything has to be analyzed using objective reasoning, and I think the prevalence of objectivists SHOULD acknowledge that healthy debate regarding any subject, including religion/morality/etc., is vital to maintaining freedom and liberty.

That being said, her views on morality and relationships were extremely warped. Not sure if you all knew this or if it really matters, but she did have an affair with a young man later in her life, with her husband's consent, who eventually cheated on her, which broke her heart. Maybe this was an expression of some insecurity she had with her own feelings?

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Post by whitetrshsoldier » March 13th, 2009, 3:44 pm

Oh, and just to state my position, I absolutely believe in her views on human nature, and its strengths - just not how she explicitly defines some of them.

Greed can cause a man to do bad things, BUT if the state had a hand in preventing/controling that greed, AND individuals were educated to understand that their greed should only guide them to accomplish things WITHOUT the deprivation of another man.

Where I disagree is when she discusses human emotions as if they didn't impact individuals. There is no doubt that there is an influence, and it's there for a very good reason. Emotions are a shortcut for expressing rational thoughts/concerns. Some feelings exceed their usefullness by overwhelming the individual's logical interpretation of their importance, and it is these feelings that we need to disregard.

HOWEVER, the vast majority of feelings, emotions, or instincts, are there for our evolutionary (or adaptive, if you don't like the term) advantage. They allow a vast majority of our minds to be freed up to worry about the INTERPRETATION of the environment, and not the extensive, unrelenting analysis of every situation.

Having said all that, you feel hurt when somebody rejects you because the natural human desire is to succeed and exceed in human relationships. The reason for this is so you can support and stregthen the viability of your life, and your future genetic offspring. So when somebody dismisses your value to your face, you are basically being told you're a failure, genetically, physically, emotionally, and socially.

This would not make anybody/thing feel good. Watch the behaviors of animals when they're rejected. They sulk in a corner away from the dominant male whenever they lose out in a battle. The only difference between us and animals, is that we can further interpret and decide how to act upon these feelings. From my understanding, Rand says we shouldn't acknowledge them or their potential value, but I would argue that we developed them for a reason, and that there is always SOME benefit to be found in every situation.

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Post by Nick_A » May 11th, 2009, 10:53 pm

We may well get proof That Ayn Rand is right in that govt. intervention will defeat its own purpose and lead to destruction.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123698976776126461.html
Is Rand Relevant?

By YARON BROOK

Ayn Rand died more than a quarter of a century ago, yet her name appears regularly in discussions of our current economic turmoil. Pundits including Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santelli urge listeners to read her books, and her magnum opus, "Atlas Shrugged," is selling at a faster rate today than at any time during its 51-year history.

There's a reason. In "Atlas," Rand tells the story of the U.S. economy crumbling under the weight of crushing government interventions and regulations. Meanwhile, blaming greed and the free market, Washington responds with more controls that only deepen the crisis. Sound familiar?

The novel's eerily prophetic nature is no coincidence. "If you understand the dominant philosophy of a society," Rand wrote elsewhere in "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal," "you can predict its course." Economic crises and runaway government power grabs don't just happen by themselves; they are the product of the philosophical ideas prevalent in a society -- particularly its dominant moral ideas.

Why do we accept the budget-busting costs of a welfare state? Because it implements the moral ideal of self-sacrifice to the needy. Why do so few protest the endless regulatory burdens placed on businessmen? Because businessmen are pursuing their self-interest, which we have been taught is dangerous and immoral. Why did the government go on a crusade to promote "affordable housing," which meant forcing banks to make loans to unqualified home buyers? Because we believe people need to be homeowners, whether or not they can afford to pay for houses.

The message is always the same: "Selfishness is evil; sacrifice for the needs of others is good." But Rand said this message is wrong -- selfishness, rather than being evil, is a virtue. By this she did not mean exploiting others à la Bernie Madoff. Selfishness -- that is, concern with one's genuine, long-range interest -- she wrote, required a man to think, to produce, and to prosper by trading with others voluntarily to mutual benefit.

Rand also noted that only an ethic of rational selfishness can justify the pursuit of profit that is the basis of capitalism -- and that so long as self-interest is tainted by moral suspicion, the profit motive will continue to take the rap for every imaginable (or imagined) social ill and economic disaster. Just look how our present crisis has been attributed to the free market instead of government intervention -- and how proposed solutions inevitably involve yet more government intervention to rein in the pursuit of self-interest.

Rand offered us a way out -- to fight for a morality of rational self-interest, and for capitalism, the system which is its expression. And that is the source of her relevance today.

Dr. Brook is president and executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute.
I believe Dr. Brook is right and it is just a matter of time before all this political correctnes results in the ruination of the United States as a free society.

Neither socialism or Rand's ideas can ever come into practice because of the nature of human being itself. Since we are as we are, neither socialism or capitalism will work. The reason is that we deny what can make it work. Rand can write about morality but we cannot live by it because of what we are. So the only real hope for a society to grow based upon the growth of individuality as opposed to state suppression must be based on what Simone Weil knew so well:
"Humanism was not wrong in thinking that truth, beauty, liberty, and equality are of infinite value, but in thinking that man can get them for himself without grace." Simone Weil
Man would like to be an egoist and cannot. This is the most striking characteristic of his wretchedness and the source of his greatness." Simone Weil....Gravity and Grace

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Post by Scott » May 12th, 2009, 12:30 am

What do you folks think about Rand's arguments for atheism in Atlas Shrugged?
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Post by Nick_A » May 12th, 2009, 6:58 pm

Scott wrote:What do you folks think about Rand's arguments for atheism in Atlas Shrugged?
This is one of those questions that can either be simple or can lead to serious debate.

As I understand it Ayn Rand asserted that there was no proof of God. Secondly she asserted that: "I had decided that the concept of God is degrading to men. Since they say that God is perfect, man can never be that perfect, then man is low and imperfect and there is something above him – which is wrong."

It seems for her that Man has the same potential as Nietzsche's Overman. But I find two problems here. First we are not the overman.
" Man is an exception, whatever else he is. If he is not the image of God, then he is a disease of the dust. If it is not true that a divine being fell, then we can only say that one of the animals went entirely off its head." Chesterton
If true, how does this animal that went off its head to the degree that war has become normal become the overman? Even if the possibility exists, just this freedom may allow for the recognition the presence of a higher intelligence that dwarfs him.

I believe that her atheism is the normal result of an ego that doesn't allow her humanity to experience its limitations. Under these circumstances atheism can be a normal reaction IMO.
Man would like to be an egoist and cannot. This is the most striking characteristic of his wretchedness and the source of his greatness." Simone Weil....Gravity and Grace

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Post by whitetrshsoldier » May 14th, 2009, 8:09 pm

Damnation is the start of your morality, destruction is its purpose, means and end. Your code begins by damning man as evil, then demands that he practice a good which it defines as impossible for him to practice. It demands, as his first proof of virtue, that he accept his own depravity without proof. It demands that he start, not with a standard of value, but with a standard of evil, which is himself, by means of which he is then to define the good: the good is that which he is not...

The name of this monstrous absurdity is Original Sin.

A sin without volition is a slap at morality and an insolent contradiction in terms: that which is outside the possibility of choice is outside the province of morality. If man is evil by birth, he has no will, no power to change it; if he has no will, he can be neither good nor evil; a robot is amoral. To hold, as man's sin, a fact not open to his choice is a mockery of morality. To hold man's nature as his sin is a mockery of nature. To punish him for a crime he committed before he was born is a mockery of justice. To hold him guilty in a matter where no innocence exists is a mockery of reason. To destroy morality, nature, justice and reason by means of a single concept is a feat of evil hardly to be matched. Yet that is the root of your code.

Do not hide behind the cowardly evasion that man is born with free will, but with a 'tendency' to evil. A free will saddled with a tendency is like a game with loaded dice. It forces man to struggle through the effort of playing, to bear responsibility and pay for the game, but the decision is weighted in favor of a tendency that he had no power to escape. If the tendency is of his choice, he cannot possess it at birth; if it is not of his choice, his will is not free.

What is the nature of the guilt that your teachers call his Original Sin? What are the evils man acquired when he fell from a state they consider perfection? Their myth declares that he ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge — he acquired a mind and became a rational being. It was the knowledge of good and evil — he became a mortal being. He was sentenced to earn his bread by his labor — he became a productive being. He was sentenced to experience desire — he acquired the capacity of sexual enjoyment. The evils for which they damn him are reason, morality, creativeness; joy — all the cardinal values of his existence. It is not his vices that their myth of man's fall is designed to explain and condemn, it is not his errors that they hold as his guilt, but the essence of his nature as man. Whatever he was — that robot in the Garden of Eden, who existed without mind, without values, without labor, without love — he was not man.

Man's fall, according to your teachers, was that he gained the virtues required to live. These virtues, by their standard, are his Sin. His evil, they charge, is that he's man. His guilt, they charge, is that he lives.

They call it a morality of mercy and a doctrine of love for man. No, they say, they do not preach that man is evil, the evil is only that alien object: his body. No, they say, they do not wish to kill him, they only wish to make him lose his body. They seek to help him, they say, against his pain — and they point at the torture rack to which they've tied him, the rack with two wheels that pull him in opposite directions, the rack of the doctrine that splits his soul and body.

They have cut man in two, setting one half against the other. They have taught him that his body and his consciousness are two enemies engaged in deadly conflict, two antagonists of opposite natures, contradictory claims, incompatible needs, that to benefit one is to injure the other, that his soul belongs to a supernatural realm, but his body is an evil prison holding it in bondage to this earth — and that the good is to defeat his body, to undermine it by years of patient struggle, digging his way to that gorgeous jail-break which leads into the freedom of the grave.

They have taught man that he is a hopeless misfit made of two elements, both symbols of death. A body without a soul is a corpse, a soul without a body is a ghost — yet such is their image of man's nature: the battleground of a struggle between a corpse and a ghost, a corpse endowed with some evil volition of its own and a ghost endowed with the knowledge that everything known to man is nonexistent, that only the unknowable exists...

What identity are they able to give to their superior realm? They keep telling you what it is not, but never tell you what it is. All their identifications consist of negating: God is that which no human mind can know, they say — and proceed to demand that you consider it knowledge — God is non-man, heaven is non-earth, soul is non-body...
I happen to appreciate and identify with her argument here: if not for athiesm, then at least against religion, or religiosity in general. Most major religions that I am familiar with demand the forfeit of your dignity (they call it humility) in return for your "salvation".

I think this self-deprecation only furthers a person's disrespect for themselves and the others around them.

Another point Rand makes relates to the "afterlife". She mentions that religion constantly reminds it's practitioners to disregard the value of this life, as it is nothing in comparison with what's to come. But how often will this realistically improve man's outlook on life, or the way he lives it? I know this is a cliche and dramatic example, but look at the jihad/suicide bomber. He is acting for the sake of his soul, in the name of his god, planning on reaching the afterlife.

I support her argument.
"I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings! I'm obviously just insecure with the ineptitudes of my logic and rational faculties. Forgive me - I'm a "lost soul", blinded by my "ignorant belief" that there's such a thing as reality and truth in the world"

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Post by Nick_A » May 16th, 2009, 12:20 am

whitetrshsoldier wrote:
Damnation is the start of your morality, destruction is its purpose, means and end. Your code begins by damning man as evil, then demands that he practice a good which it defines as impossible for him to practice. It demands, as his first proof of virtue, that he accept his own depravity without proof. It demands that he start, not with a standard of value, but with a standard of evil, which is himself, by means of which he is then to define the good: the good is that which he is not...

The name of this monstrous absurdity is Original Sin.

A sin without volition is a slap at morality and an insolent contradiction in terms: that which is outside the possibility of choice is outside the province of morality. If man is evil by birth, he has no will, no power to change it; if he has no will, he can be neither good nor evil; a robot is amoral. To hold, as man's sin, a fact not open to his choice is a mockery of morality. To hold man's nature as his sin is a mockery of nature. To punish him for a crime he committed before he was born is a mockery of justice. To hold him guilty in a matter where no innocence exists is a mockery of reason. To destroy morality, nature, justice and reason by means of a single concept is a feat of evil hardly to be matched. Yet that is the root of your code.

Do not hide behind the cowardly evasion that man is born with free will, but with a 'tendency' to evil. A free will saddled with a tendency is like a game with loaded dice. It forces man to struggle through the effort of playing, to bear responsibility and pay for the game, but the decision is weighted in favor of a tendency that he had no power to escape. If the tendency is of his choice, he cannot possess it at birth; if it is not of his choice, his will is not free.

What is the nature of the guilt that your teachers call his Original Sin? What are the evils man acquired when he fell from a state they consider perfection? Their myth declares that he ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge — he acquired a mind and became a rational being. It was the knowledge of good and evil — he became a mortal being. He was sentenced to earn his bread by his labor — he became a productive being. He was sentenced to experience desire — he acquired the capacity of sexual enjoyment. The evils for which they damn him are reason, morality, creativeness; joy — all the cardinal values of his existence. It is not his vices that their myth of man's fall is designed to explain and condemn, it is not his errors that they hold as his guilt, but the essence of his nature as man. Whatever he was — that robot in the Garden of Eden, who existed without mind, without values, without labor, without love — he was not man.

Man's fall, according to your teachers, was that he gained the virtues required to live. These virtues, by their standard, are his Sin. His evil, they charge, is that he's man. His guilt, they charge, is that he lives.

They call it a morality of mercy and a doctrine of love for man. No, they say, they do not preach that man is evil, the evil is only that alien object: his body. No, they say, they do not wish to kill him, they only wish to make him lose his body. They seek to help him, they say, against his pain — and they point at the torture rack to which they've tied him, the rack with two wheels that pull him in opposite directions, the rack of the doctrine that splits his soul and body.

They have cut man in two, setting one half against the other. They have taught him that his body and his consciousness are two enemies engaged in deadly conflict, two antagonists of opposite natures, contradictory claims, incompatible needs, that to benefit one is to injure the other, that his soul belongs to a supernatural realm, but his body is an evil prison holding it in bondage to this earth — and that the good is to defeat his body, to undermine it by years of patient struggle, digging his way to that gorgeous jail-break which leads into the freedom of the grave.

They have taught man that he is a hopeless misfit made of two elements, both symbols of death. A body without a soul is a corpse, a soul without a body is a ghost — yet such is their image of man's nature: the battleground of a struggle between a corpse and a ghost, a corpse endowed with some evil volition of its own and a ghost endowed with the knowledge that everything known to man is nonexistent, that only the unknowable exists...

What identity are they able to give to their superior realm? They keep telling you what it is not, but never tell you what it is. All their identifications consist of negating: God is that which no human mind can know, they say — and proceed to demand that you consider it knowledge — God is non-man, heaven is non-earth, soul is non-body...
I happen to appreciate and identify with her argument here: if not for athiesm, then at least against religion, or religiosity in general. Most major religions that I am familiar with demand the forfeit of your dignity (they call it humility) in return for your "salvation".

I think this self-deprecation only furthers a person's disrespect for themselves and the others around them.

Another point Rand makes relates to the "afterlife". She mentions that religion constantly reminds it's practitioners to disregard the value of this life, as it is nothing in comparison with what's to come. But how often will this realistically improve man's outlook on life, or the way he lives it? I know this is a cliche and dramatic example, but look at the jihad/suicide bomber. He is acting for the sake of his soul, in the name of his god, planning on reaching the afterlife.

I support her argument.
If this were Christianity it wouldn't have any appeal for me either. It sounds that she is striking out at some ideas associated with a form of Christendom or man made Christianity.

Where did this idea that Man is evil come from? How is the body evil?

All Christianity asserts is that we are the wretched man as described in Romans 7
14We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22For in my inner being I delight in God's law; 23but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
We are in conflict with ourselves. We are not evil but in relation to the aim of freedom from conditioning, this conditioning is evil. That is a big difference. If we were evil our situation would be hopeless but if conditioning has become a part of our being replacing conscious awareness and will there is nothing evil about it. We are a plurality with the chance of reconciling this plurality. It is unfortunate but certainly not evil.

If we are forfeiting our dignity, what are we really forfeiting if it is based on defense mechanisms that block conscious recognition of our nature and what can be done to heal it?

It is only because of respect for our psychological potential that makes the human condition bearable without having to lie to ourselves. Humility would be foolish if we could not be more than a continual state of inner hypocrisy. But humility is just the willingness to admit what we are to ourselves so as not to deny it and lose the chance at real conscious human potential.

I agree that people are taken advantage of through the secularization of the sacred and we can easily end up with people flying into buildings. But that is not the fault of the sacred but just human nature which seeks to devolve it for political advantage.

I see we can have some meaningful discussions.
Man would like to be an egoist and cannot. This is the most striking characteristic of his wretchedness and the source of his greatness." Simone Weil....Gravity and Grace

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whitetrshsoldier
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Post by whitetrshsoldier » May 16th, 2009, 3:56 am

Where did this idea that Man is evil come from? How is the body evil?
I promise that I'll post a more complete response later, Nick, but I'll have to keep this one short for now. The idea that Man is evil, from my knowledge, comes from Romans as well; just a few chapters before what you were quoting:
Romans 3:23 [(a), I believe]
For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God
This verse tells me that all men are evil because of the nature of original sin. Am I mistaken?
"I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings! I'm obviously just insecure with the ineptitudes of my logic and rational faculties. Forgive me - I'm a "lost soul", blinded by my "ignorant belief" that there's such a thing as reality and truth in the world"

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