Pulling this forward to amend it with this video, a clip from a Church of Splendor service imagining a Sunday brunch with Ayn Rand that she might not storm out of: Praising the empathy of her fiction while taking her to account for failing to have appropriate empathy for her followers.
This is more about Nine empathies, of course, a deep empathy for Rand herself and for her followers:
This is a short colloquy with a reader. I love these kinds of questions, and I would love to hear more of them.
> I read Man Alive a number of months ago, and I liked it. Particularly the simple strategy you give for living a better life by thinking of yourself as on a number line and always making your decisions toward the positive end of self-adoration.
It’s funny, but that’s been a huge win for me, too. I’ve stopped writing satire because of it, and I realized today that there is a style of joke that is as self-destructive as satire, so that goes, too.
> I also got a lot out of your 21 Convention speech, such that it has put you on a kind of pedestal in my head as somebody who is definitely a lot smarter than me, and so I should be careful not to sound too stupid. I’ll try.
My belief is that we are all essentially equal. A body-builder looks very strong, compared to me, until we compare the two of us to an elephant. If I did the hard work he does, we’d be even more alike. I look smart to you because I’ve spent my time on these issues, while you and other people were concentrating on other things. Specialization makes all of us smarter, and the only way I could actually flummox you is by concealing what I’ve learned. If I share what I know, not only can anyone else learn it, in due course I will be eclipsed entirely. I think that’s wonderful.
> I’m also a huge fan of Ayn Rand, and I owe more of who I am today to her writings than to anything else up to this point in my life (I’m 26).
Me, too. I read The Fountainhead when I was 19 and it changed my life. I was headed for a life like Gail Wynand’s, prosperous but miserable.
> Anyway, thank you for the work you’ve done and continue to do.
Tell it to the world!
> I have two questions. First, how is what you say different than Rand or Objectivists, except regarding limited government vs. anarchy?
My moral philosophy is very different from Rand’s, both in its origin and in its ends. Worrying about the ontology of the self, as discussed in Man Alive, put a lot of space between my egoism and hers. In her spirit, and in her fiction, I know she understood everything I’m talking about — as does anyone who can read Man Alive to the end. But in her philosophical defense of her egoism, she lost sight of the self, which is why she herself and everyone who is deeply versed in big-O Objectivism is so miserable. This is discussed without naming names in Chapter 6:
The second type of ethical creeds called egoism is actually other-centric. Whether the philosopher claims that his egoism permits him to dominate other people, or that his egoism forbids other people from dominating him, the focus of the doctrine is not the self at all – not the self as I describe it nor even the reflexive or utilitarian self – but is instead those other people.
> I’m intrigued by anarchy but I’m still in the Objectivist camp of extremely limited government because I haven’t read or seen much to dissuade me.
Here’s my way of thinking about this: If you and I lived in isolation, we would never have any need to fear each other. So if everyone is like us — not in detail, but simply in the avid pursuit of self-adoration — there is no need for a state. Other than evangelizing egoism, I have no immediate plans for political philosophy. By the time it matters, the issue will have taken care of itself, one mind at a time.
> What would you recommend I look at or read to learn more?
There’s this much on anarchism from me.
I don’t love most other anarchist stuff because everything I’m interested in starts with moral philosophy, where most anarchists try to paper over the idea of egoism — a de facto concession to Marxism, call it the Republican Fallacy.
I’m delighted to hear from you. I encourage you to talk about Man Alive with everyone you love. The ends for each person matter a lot less than the means, learning how to choose admirably at every inflection point. If you and everyone you prize most highly make a habit of that kind of thinking, everything will get better for each of you, and your relationships with each other will become steadily more perfect.
I would scoff at those kinds of promises from anyone else, but my own life is my own best proof that self-adoration really works.