As part of the project, as well as part of my duties as keeper of this blog, I’ve been going through and making some notes on comics and creators whose work I either know well enough to talk about confidently, or that I know well enough that I have a sense of where to start. As part of that one of the entries that was on my list was Alan Grant and his character Anarky. As the name might suggest, Anarky began life as an anarchist who was a foil for Batman. Unfortunately he didn’t really stay that way, and poor Anarky found himself a mouthpiece for “Neo-Tech,” which is a bastard child of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism.
I don’t know a single philosopher who consider Ayn Rand’s work to have been philosophy, or who considers Rand herself to have been a philosopher. This doesn’t mean there aren’t any, just that I don’t happen to know any. I’m perfectly content to keep it that way, because Ayn Rand was full of shit. Oh, she makes a few valid points along the way. There is in fact a world that is external to my mind. This point of view is called metaphysical realism, and off the top of my head I can’t think of a philosopher whose work I’m familiar with that doesn’t agree with it. This is even true of the brain in a vat/Matrix reality people, because even if we are living in some sort of incredibly complex simulation, that simulation still has rules that operate outside of my thoughts.
This does not mean, however, that things like values and knowledge originate outside the mind. This particular view is a transcendent view of values. If you’ll remember a few posts back, those are the kind of thing that Nietzsche spent a great deal of time critiquing as destructive. It’s also the easy way out. Claiming that there are knowledge and values which originate outside of us, regardless of if they come from some magical man in the sky, or are an inherent, objective part of reality, means that so long as we discover them we don’t have to ask ourselves the hard questions. Questions about how maybe things like knowledge and values are entirely conditional.
I could go on, but I won’t because I don’t want to lend secondhand legitimacy to shite by spending time doing an in-depth critique. Suffice to say that Rand cribbed from the work of actual philosophers, and made a mess of more than she didn’t.
What I’m actually interested in is why such a slipshod, second-rate thinker has managed to be so influential. Not only has she inspired people who whine that we should take Rand more seriously as a philosopher, but her work inspired at least three comic characters that I’m aware of; Anarky, The Question, and Mr. A. I asked a philosopher wiser than I about it, and she suggested it might be because Rand’s work is, by comparison to actual philosophy, accessible. I think this is a not unfair assessment, but I also think it is because, quite frankly, Rand is easy. She tells readers what they want to hear. Selfishness is okay. Capitalism is good. Of course both Rand and the Libertarians are wrong, because we see exactly where capitalism and self-interest have landed us lately… government bailouts and unethical practices are a far cry from a magical land of self-regulating corporations out to benefit everyone.
Personally I don’t have a problem with work being accessible. It’s what I’m trying to accomplish with this blog, after all. The easy, though… you’re not going to get that from me. Living philosophically is one of the most valuable things a person can do, but looking in the mirror of philosophy and being honest, critical and reflective… I’m not sure I can conceive of a more difficult task.