Quora answer: What are the differences/similarities between Nietzsche’s philosophy and Ayn Rand’s?

Apr 08 2013


I won’t get into Ayn Rand bashing here, but her so called “philosophy” of self-centered egotism being actually good is just not anywhere near in the same class as the philosophy of Nietzsche. Rand is an ideologist reacting against the communists in Russia by taking an opposite extreme. She fills the lonely role as the only “philosopher” of Capitalism, because capitalism is seems indefensible to everyone else and because Capitalism survived the twentieth century as the dominant ideology, there is a continued appeal by conservatives to Rand for “philosophical” backing. However, in philosophy no one takes her the slightest bit seriously. Like Democracy, Capitalism is the best choice out of a lot of very bad choices for government and management of the economy. Democracy with all its flaws is vastly superior to Sovereignty, or Totalitarianism like Soviet Marxism, or any kind of Marxism for that matter, or Fascism. And similarly Capitalism is superior to both Communism, and Fascist alternatives to market governance. However, we have learned that the invisible hand of the market just does not exist and so there is no spooky or mystical reason that capitalism is better. Capitalism produces free space within which things can be developed by individuals without to down planning that always fails. Yet Capitalism without government constraints will just go off the deep end as we found out recently. The fact that Republicans do not recognize the need for regulation after the recent financial crisis merely shows us the degree to which they have sold their souls to the corporations. Rand was doing anything but celebrating Corporate man. If Ayn Rand saw how todays politicians were selling us down the river by taking away our rights she would have a conniption fit. She would not associate her ideas with the puppets of corporate America or their lackeys (lobbyists). But she would be with the 1% all the way, mostly made up of CEOs of corporations for whom she is trying to formulate an approach to life that would allow them to sleep at night, after they did want Romney did which was buy companies and put them out of business destroying jobs but making lots of money. The idea that selfishness is a virtue is almost a contradiction in terms.  It is the fragmentation of individualism taken to its logical extreme. It utterly forgets what has been learned in the last century by the real intellectuals which is that there is a baseline situation in which the individual aries out of a fusion with others, and radical self-centered individualism is a betrayal of that social origin of everyone, and thus has an internal contradiction of denying ones origins.

The best thoughts on this problem are those of Sarte in the Critique of Dialectical Reason which is his forgotten but really most important work, because he develops in there the idea of the fused group as the proto-society (commune) out of which the revolution arises. This is very much like what Canetti calls the Pack. It is like what Castoriadis calls Magma in the Imaginary Institution of Society. But of course the more basic ur-society is what Heidegger calls the Mitsein which is prior to the subject object distinction.

Turning something into its opposite, NewSpeak, such as Ayn Rand indulges in is historically alled sophistry and since Plato philosophers have avoided that label as much as possible. Marxist philosophers tend toward ideological political correctness, and to that extent they are not to be trusted. The words of the ideologically motivated and true believers of what ever sort only speak words of death.

And this is where we can draw the best comparison with Nietzsche. He was the first to ask the question of the Value of values. And what he came up with is that the ultimate value is always life. What supports life has value what leads to death has no value. And so Nietzsche was radically anti-ideological. But in parody he generates a lot of seemingly ideological sounding statements designed to shock. For him even truth serves life, and truth is really like a woman he says ironically, i.e. full of conniving. If lies support our life then we more readily believe lies than the truth, and so that is why we tend to fall into unthinking ideological ruts.

Why is Nietzsche a real philosopher, unlike others who merely pretend. It is because he like other philosophers have thought deeply about the human condition in our worldview and spoke out early rather than kept silence. He called the Western worldview nihilistic long before World War One broke out, not to speak of the curtain call of that war which was even worse which was World War Two.

Ideology is always full of easy answers and ultimately that dogma is going to result in someones death or degradation who does not fit in. Philosophers pride themselves as foregoing the easy answers for a deeper exploration that questions. The best of them that avoid sophistry which are few end up questioning their own positions admitting their deep and abiding ignorance as Socrates showed us as the way to knowledge for those who love knowledge more than they love themselves.

Philosophers start off admitting their ignorance and end up questioning above all their own positions. And Nietzsche is the best example of this because he took upon himself the Terror that the Europeans had rained upon the earth through colonialization. He admitted that he was one and the same with the blond beast. For him those like Ayn Rand are examples of the Last Man, those who are blinking and blinking, i.e. don’t understand either their world or themselves. The Uberman on the other hand was one who was a steward of the earth, and clings to it going lower than Man could ever reach in his pride.

A great novel of the uberman is the Game Players of Zanhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M._A._Foster 

We are still waiting for the Uberman. The Nazi and the GB Shaw version of the Superman was not it. Ayn Rand shows us a capitalist Superman.

The Uberman is the one who can affirm life without guilt, or shame, or the nightmares of reason. The Uberman is like Blake’s Albion.



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