"That Belief Is Childish!"
Understanding A Popular and Meaningless Argument
There is much to unpack within this post, but I want to keep it brief by highlighting a frequent criticism I’m sure we are all used to.
The Unfortunate Arrogance When Criticizing Ayn Rand
Mr. Herring consistently refers to Ayn Rand’s philosophy as “childish.” Unfortunately, this is the crux of his argument, and he barely expands beyond this point.
This is disheartening because it’s easy to dismiss the critique. Rand grew up in Saint Petersburg, Russia, to a wealthy family. She was 12 when the October Revolution and the rule of the Bolsheviks under Vladimir Lenin destroyed her family's lives. The wealth her family had earned was seized, and they were left starving. The collectivists had ruined her life.
Ayn Rand suffered under too much government power. She is wary of people claiming you must serve as your brother’s keeper because such a philosophy led to millions dead in the 20th century alone. I don’t think pushing back against such a philosophy is “childish.” It’s prudent.
A Better Way To Criticize Individualism
A prudent critique would have acknowledged that power within institutions and families can be abused. However, the “extreme” is not the best antidote.
Things should be universalized. For example, hitting is wrong, so parents should not hit their children. This prevents inconsistency and abuse.
As I’ve written about constantly, I know individualism has shortcomings. Ayn Rand, despite how crucial she is to my growth, was wrong on many things: her critique of religion was too dismissive; she had private flaws that, when applied to society, led to further dysfunction and thus more government control; her pro-choice views contradict her insistence on the value of human life and the individual.
Unfortunately, Mr. Herring cannot deliver such nuance. He is disrespectful, and his arguments are shallow because of this.
For example, Mr. Herring says: “Rand depicted her thought not in philosophical treatises, but in novels. Responding to Rand with logical debate would elevate her ideas beyond their worth. Consider a true story instead.”
This is a childish comment, akin to a boy taking his ball and going home when he isn’t winning the game.
His entire post is a logical response to her views. But I expect such a comment from someone who dismisses other viewpoints as “childish.”
The Frailty Of The Individual
I’m highlighting this article to help individualists understand this common and tired insult.
Ayn Rand was not childish, and her philosophy less so. Name-calling is not an argument.
As I’ve said before, we must see the good faith actors from the bad; I’m confident I agree with Mr. Herring more than I disagree.
But his article is in bad faith and form. His better points, especially about the importance of community, are lost in his dismissive attitude toward a great philosopher.
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Become A Polymath
Despite my displeasure at Mr. Herring’s post, I read and recommend Public Discourse.
I find Public Discourse to be a good palette cleanser. I’ve never held that individualism is flawless. Public Discourse does offer meaningful critiques of individualism that deepen our appreciation for personal responsibility.
"Public Discourse" is an online publication of the Witherspoon Institute, established in 2008. It aims to enhance the public's understanding of the moral foundations of free societies.
The publication achieves this by making the scholarship of the Institute's fellows and affiliated scholars accessible to a broader audience.
“Public Discourse" offers thoughtful and philosophically rigorous commentary on significant contemporary issues, focusing on providing insights into the moral and ethical underpinnings of societal structures and practices
Become An Individual:
WHAT I’VE LEARNED FROM AYN RAND - In this post, I talk about Ayn Rand and what I’ve learned from her.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ THE ROMANTIC MANIFESTO - In this post, I discuss The Romantic Manifesto by Ayn Rand and why you should read it.
WHY INDIVIDUALISM IS ABSOLUTELY EVIL: THE 4 TYPES OF INDIVIDUALISM - In this post, I describe and define the various versions of individualism. They are all evil.
THE BEST LESSONS I LEARNED FROM THE FOUNTAINHEAD - In this post, I discuss The Fountainhead and the best lessons the book taught me.
WHAT I LEARNED FROM THE FOUNTAINHEAD - In this post, I want to talk about The Fountainhead, its effect on my life, and what it can teach individuals.
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