Daily(ish) Ayn Rand Quote
Posted by jemartynowski on March 30, 2009
The main characteristic of this mentality (anti-conceptual mentality) is a special kind of passivity: not passivity as such and not across-the-board, but passivity beyond a certain limit—i.e., passivity in regard to the process of conceptualization and, therefore, in regard to fundamental principles. It is a mentality which decided, at a certain point of development, that it knows enough and does not care to look further. What does it accept as “enough”? The immediately given, directly perceivable concretes of its background . . .
To grasp and deal with such concretes, a human being needs a certain degree of conceptual development, a process which the brain of an animal cannot perform. But after the initial feat of learning to speak, a child can counterfeit this process, by memorization and imitation. The anti-conceptual mentality stops on this level of development—on the first levels of abstractions, which identify perceptual material consisting predominantly of physical objects—and does not choose to take the next, crucial, fully volitional step: the higher levels of abstraction from abstractions, which cannot be learned by imitation. (See my book Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology.) . . .
The anti-conceptual mentality takes most things as irreducible primaries and regards them as “self-evident.” It treats concepts as if they were (memorized) percepts; it treats abstractions as if they were perceptual concretes. To such a mentality, everything is the given: the passage of time, the four seasons, the institution of marriage, the weather, the breeding of children, a flood, a fire, an earthquake, a revolution, a book are phenomena of the same order. The distinction between the metaphysical and the man-made is not merely unknown to this mentality, it is incommunicable.
-From Philosophy: Who Needs It? by Ayn Rand
OK, so this is more of an excerpt, but it’s very relevant to a drunk argument I had the other day. The person with whom I was loudly discussing economic systems has an attitude toward things that is most certainly there without his own thought process. His “puppet mentality” as I call it is better described by Ayn Rand’s anti-conceptual mentality description.
The topic of discussion was Wal Mart. When capitalism is brought up, its “evils” are always “proven” by the existence of Wal Mart. The terrible conditions of people working in some African country are proof that greed causes bad working conditions and these people are basically slaves. Well, alright, not slaves by force, but since they have no other options, they are basically forced into it. Hmm.
The question is then asked what is the alternative? If you win and Wal Mart and all other companies are disbanded, tell me what happens then. The answer you get? Angry yelling back at you and accusing you of being a “rapist” because you support evil corporations (I swear to God that happened).
Ayn Rand correctly asserts that if you make people think logically about non-concrete ideas that they were not previously conditioned with responses to, they have nothing. The answer to my question above is that these people starve and live a life many times worse. But, see to the anti-capitalist, this is no excuse. Wal Mart must stay there for this reason and offer people “better” conditions. Well, who decides this? Who is the dictator of how much each person should have? You? Does everyone need to have a house with a two car garage and at least two TVs?
There are no answers to these questions because they would all be wrong. Over the course of time, with a free market, capitalist society, things improve. They improve because greed would cause someone else to come in and offer something a little better and put Wal Mart out of business. Then, years later, perhaps, someone else will one-up that company. The cycle of growth will continue.
Now, there are most certainly issues here, such as the non-U.S. country not allowing competition, but then this is an anti-capitalist approach as well. If they were a free market society, that wouldn’t even be an issue. So, if anything, we should be pushing for more greed and capitalism in these third world countries. But the anti-conceptual mentality would argue against that.
That mentality tells you that since all we know over there is tyranny, only tyranny can be there. It tells you that we can just have a better tyrant who is compassionate and caring, even though that is contradictory. The anti-conceptualist mentality is all too common when arguing politics, because nobody is willing to dream of what could be. Hopefully we can push past that some day