|This is my first post on the site, so let me introduce myself first.|
I came to Ayn Rand about a year ago and changed my world-view a lot since. As I'm German, I haven't had much contact to Objectivists and never met any in person.
Although I share most of Rand's premises and conclusions, I disagree in some points. I'm still in the process of researching, but it seems to me that there is a tradition of vicious resentment of any disagreement with Rand among people who take on the label of Objectivism for themselves.
That's the primary reason why I still shy away from doing that myself - but no other.
The basic question is: Is Objectivism defined as "what Rand said" or is it "whatever pure reason is"?
As one example, the most important point regarding to help the "rebirth of reason", I challenge the premise that philosophical change is the only key to defeat evil at large.
Rand held that human actions are guided by philosophy and that all evil can only be remedied by action on the philosophical level. That is the source of her rejection of libertarians and her unwillingness to ally with them. It is also at the heart of her damnation of pragmatism.
This is plausible: If philosophy is the basis, politics being on a higher level, and philosophy is corrupted, people arguing for political action without the philosophical (moral) basis are of no help. If they even promote wrong philosophy in the course of defending capitalism, then they're even part of the problem.
I argue that this assumption (that, in the sense of cause-and-effect, philosophy is always the cause) is flawed.
In order to proof this, I point out two historical facts that took place after Rand's death (so obviously she had no chance to take them into account):
First, Communism has obviously been defeated without the underlying philosophical premises having being challenged in any way or form. That means, the most immediate danger of a world falling back into another Dark Ages has collapsed for some other reason.
Second, in Germany there is a political trend called "neoliberalism" which is in some way libertarian/conservative. The former leftist zeitgeist is challenged on the grounds of "personal responsibility" (among others). This is not intellectually grounded in liberty rights. It is a shift that could be summarised as "get a job and leave me alone", said by the tax payer. In a way, it resembles the spirit of the Tea Party, but without any Tea Party.
I'm fairly certain that little low-level philosophical change has been preceding those events. In both cases, only the highest-level premises change: In the case of Communism, people saw the rich West and concluded that their leaders were liars. That's not a low-level change of premises. Yet it was enough to bring down the Iron Curtain.
In the case of contemporary Germany, many different individualist forces are at work eroding many mystical premises (although religious influences also have a limited comeback). The most central point is that many people observe that leftist attitudes are generally held by people living on welfare or those otherwise dependent on the state. This observation is made by countless individuals independently. There is little preceding philosophical change that they had to make in advance. (To be fair, there is a philosopher called Sloterdijk who did have quite an impact in that direction, but he certainly doesn't account for all of the change as his influence is limited to certain milieus.)
In Germany, Ayn Rand is almost entirely unknown (as google trends shows). Minarchism/Libertarianism is also deemed to be an anachronistic idea by virtually everyone. In fact, the vast majority hasn't even heard of such things, let alone Objectivism. Yet, the support for freedom has grown immensely, even though not on a conceptual level and thus the word "freedom" isn't actually used. Still, when today a public figure is behaving arrogantly, more and more people take an "it's his show, mind your own business"-attitude towards the anti-hero-whining of the left.
That means: Individuals can correct flaws on a higher level without correcting or even detecting underlying errors in their conceptual knowledge. The philosophy gets changed by individuals who face concrete problems in their life, and thus only on the highest possible level. The wrong premises preceding them are left unchallenged.
On the scale of society, it means the zeitgeist is fixed from top to bottom.
The situations in which people are likely to change those high-level convictions is when they are forced to take personal responsibility. Which means: Capitalism is likely to be itself medicine.
Under than insight, it's wrong not to ally with anyone promoting capitalism (presuming the alliance is helpful in that cause), because even if the ally promotes the wrong premises, more economic freedom is likely to strengthen the right ideas.
I still maintain that having a flawless hierarchy of knowledge is the only way of certainty and to be recommended to any thinking individual, but for the vast majority of people, who don't have such a complete hierarchy (do I? have often thought so and have been mistaken), pragmatism usually saves the day. This is because the underlying philosophy is usually evil: most deviations from what follows from it is likely to be better.
In many cases, pragmatism (ie abandoning assumptions previously held as absolutes without challenging their base), is a force of good.
I argue that by researching the cause-and-effect relationships of ideas and human action in more detail, one can arrive at insights that can help bringing about a rebirth of reason much more quickly.
For example, what different flavors of mysticism are there and how to they influence each other (historical and contemporary)? How are ideas promoted? What influence does language have, ie do people actually understand each other?
I want to give some unorthodox (and so far unsupported) claims to arouse curiosity: I believe Germany to be a fertile ground for Objectivism, if marketed correctly - much more fertile than the US. I suspect China to be fertile, too, but not Japan. As for a strategy of change, I suspect it's wise to focus on specific groups (such as certain milieus in Germany) who are more likely to accept those new ideas, and to present them in a different form than Rand did. A plan shouldn't just be random activism, but based on an understanding of the mechanisms of global society. I strongly suspect that there is a way to bring about the "rebirth of reason" within a decade, once one has understood the clockwork.
I'd like to hear from people who do think that Rand was correct on most issues, but are still really open-minded and don't take offence at criticism. I'm always open for criticism myself, I just don't like general statements like "you don't understand Objectivism, go home" after little to no effort of understanding where the other party is coming from.
PS: Sorry, this got more lengthy than I intended; should this have been an article?