Gold and Philosophy

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Courtesy of David van der Linden @ New Austrian.org:

A recent article one came across presented an interesting analogy. It was stated that “unconscious thought is like fluid gold, streaming down the side of a mountain towards a deep chasm”[1]. Placing moulds along the mountain saves the gold from flowing into the chasm, just as increasing one’s vocabulary allows one to capture thought and express ideas. The conclusion of the analogist was that the study of philosophy is of value, since one learns to explicate unconscious thoughts, just as capturing gold on the side of the mountain allows one to capture value.

The analogy as it stands is of limited use. Rather than to view gold merely as an object of value, one might learn more by heeding the unparalleled marketability of coined gold. To state that simply capturing gold is a useful endeavour seems to be an objectification. Gold is not valuable in and of itself, rather it is valued by individuals. Capturing gold in moulds does not directly imply one is capturing value, unless one first assumes gold is a valuable substance in and of itself. The minting of gold into coin on the other hand, is useful since one increases the marketability of the substance. To return to the analogy, one can say that broadening one’s vocabulary -the goal of which is to be able to explicate thought- may increase the marketability (or exchangeability) of one’s ideas. Thoughts and ideas are not valuable of themselves, yet it is useful to increase the exchangeability of the same so as to be able to debate, discuss and develop them. Continue reading

The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand: A Personal Statement

Courtesy of Nathaniel Branden @ Redbarn:

Abstract: For eighteen years I was a close associate of novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand whose books, notably The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, inspired a philosophical movement known as objectivism. This philosophy places its central emphasis on reason, individualism, enlightened self-interest, political freedom — and a heroic vision of life’s possibilities. Following an explosive parting of the ways with Ayn Rand in 1968, I have been asked many times about the nature of our differences. This article is my first public answer to that question. Although agreeing with many of the values of the objectivist philosophy and vision, I discuss the consequences of the absence of an adequate psychology to support this intellectual structure — focusing in particular on the destructive moralism of Rand and many of her followers, a moralism that subtly encourages repression, self-alienation, and guilt. I offer an explanation of the immense appeal of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, particularly to the young, and suggest some cautionary observations concerning its adaptation to one’s own life.

Background

I was fourteen years old when I read Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead for the first time. It was the most thrilling and emotionally powerful reading experience of my life. The only rival to that event might be the experience, some years later, of reading Atlas Shrugged in manuscript.

I wrote Miss Rand a letter in 1949 when I was studying psychology at UCLA and she was living in San Fernando Valley and was writing Atlas Shrugged The purpose of my letter was to ask her a number of philosophical questions suggested to me by The Fountainhead and by her earlier novel, We The Living. The letter intrigued her; I was invited to her home for a personal meeting in March, 1950, a month before I turned twenty.

By that time anyone could read any sentence in The Fountainhead and I could recite the essence of the sentence immediately preceding as well as the sentence immediately following. I had absorbed that book more completely than anything else in my life. Continue reading