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Heinlein vs Rand 
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Heinlein Nexus
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Post Heinlein vs Rand
Seconds away, round one.

In the blue corner, weighing in at 170 lbs of post-tuberculic brawny brilliance, Robert A. Heinlein, father of libertarianism, or Libertarianism, depending on where your shift key lies. In the red corner, weighing in at 150 lbs of post-suffrage literary logorrhoea, Ayn Rand, mother of objectivism - er, make that Objectivism.

I've heard many people assert that these two are lovers more than fighters. But recently I was rereading some quotes from Rand (http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Ayn_Rand) and she just doesn't seem cut from the same cloth. He's more of a salt-of-the-earth guy, she's more of a scorched-earth gal. They both believe in the essential glory of Man, but he's more into heroism while she's more into capitalism. Heinlein may not say much in favor of nature but he doesn't come out against it like Ms. Never-met-a-skyscraper-I-didn't-like. Their closest point of approach may be The Man Who Sold the Moon vs The Fountainhead, but still, Heinlein lauds the capitalist rather than licking his shoes like Rand.

Now consider Heinlein's tales of heroic sacrifice, a dirty word in the Rand lexicon. "I speak for him" has no translation in the Rand language. And the tale of the tramp who gives his life to save a woman he has never met ("This... is how a man lives!") is redolent with enough scent of altruism to asphyxiate an Objectivist. There are stars in his eyes, dollar signs in hers.

So are these two really kissing cousins? I seem to recall Heinlein was fairly silent when asked how much affinity he had for Rand. I don't know if she was ever asked about him. Does anyone think they're really philosophical twins?


Tue Jan 06, 2009 9:34 pm
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Post Re: Heinlein vs Rand
Peter Scott wrote:
Seconds away, round one.

In the blue corner, weighing in at 170 lbs of post-tuberculic brawny brilliance, Robert A. Heinlein, father of libertarianism, or Libertarianism, depending on where your shift key lies. In the red corner, weighing in at 150 lbs of post-suffrage literary logorrhoea, Ayn Rand, mother of objectivism - er, make that Objectivism.

I've heard many people assert that these two are lovers more than fighters. But recently I was rereading some quotes from Rand (http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Ayn_Rand) and she just doesn't seem cut from the same cloth. He's more of a salt-of-the-earth guy, she's more of a scorched-earth gal. They both believe in the essential glory of Man, but he's more into heroism while she's more into capitalism. Heinlein may not say much in favor of nature but he doesn't come out against it like Ms. Never-met-a-skyscraper-I-didn't-like. Their closest point of approach may be The Man Who Sold the Moon vs The Fountainhead, but still, Heinlein lauds the capitalist rather than licking his shoes like Rand.

Now consider Heinlein's tales of heroic sacrifice, a dirty word in the Rand lexicon. "I speak for him" has no translation in the Rand language. And the tale of the tramp who gives his life to save a woman he has never met ("This... is how a man lives!") is redolent with enough scent of altruism to asphyxiate an Objectivist. There are stars in his eyes, dollar signs in hers.

So are these two really kissing cousins? I seem to recall Heinlein was fairly silent when asked how much affinity he had for Rand. I don't know if she was ever asked about him. Does anyone think they're really philosophical twins?

There are people who think they are -- but that's always been puzzling to me. Apparently Heinein read Rand with approval, and Rand read Heinlein with approval; they never met, and they lived in universes on the same block, psychologically and philosophically, but not particularly close.

I think Heinlein's statement in the Schulman interview that he made Rand look like a bloody socialist is fundamentally correct. Although there was a whole lot of nuancing going on, fundamentally Heinlein falls into the anarchist individualist classification, with a lot of affiliations with Stirner, while Rand is a natural-law philosopher, much more philosophically akin to the French and English (i.e. Locke) tradition. So what Heinlein said of Rand in TMIAHM -- that Prof could "live with" a Randist -- is fair (i.e., a neighborly affinity rather than any actual identity of ideas).


Wed Jan 07, 2009 8:55 am
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Post Re: Heinlein vs Rand
You need to keep the tone and setting of the Schulman interview in mind - RAH was clearly aware of JNS's agenda and playing with him the whole time. Besides leading JNS around on a string and never answering some of the key questions, he says several very provocative things that could be read as to shock the interviewer as much as answer any given question. The "bloody socialist!" comment could be one such.

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Wed Jan 07, 2009 9:39 am
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Post Re: Heinlein vs Rand
Peter Scott wrote:
So are these two really kissing cousins? I seem to recall Heinlein was fairly silent when asked how much affinity he had for Rand. I don't know if she was ever asked about him. Does anyone think they're really philosophical twins?


Twins? Absolutely not! They're fundamentally different individuals with fundamentally different ideas about most things, but with a small area of common agreement. That small area, however, is in believing that each individual has the fundamental right to be and do what he wants without interference from others, as long as he also respects the rights of others in the same way. That particular point meant that neither of them felt a need to argue with the other one, or come into conflict.

I think that, outside of that basic agreement on the one critical issue, they were so different in how they thought and felt that they had very little to talk about. Rand was fundamentally self-centered in a way that left her solitary in the middle of a crowd, and fundamentally incapable of introspection. I always had the idea that she saw everything and everyone from her from the outside. It is interesting and IMHO telling that she chose "Objectivism" as the name for her philosophy. Heinlein clearly understood himself as part of a tribal species and gloried in that aspect of human nature, in himself and others, and from reading his work showed a great deal of capacity for introspection and learning from it. I don't think that the term "libertarian" was his invention, but it describes perfectly his fundamental orientation -- not as an outsider looking in, but as a free man who acted in accord with his own will and choices in whatever circumstances he found himself.

BTW, I don't know if you ever read Barbara Branden's biography of Rand, but I recommend it. Many of Rand's disciples don't like it, but it was the farthest thing from a hatchet job I've ever seen. Branden is an extraordinarily perceptive observer of the human beings in her life, probably as close to an ideal biographer for Rand as could be imagined.

Bill Patterson wrote:
There are people who think they are -- but that's always been puzzling to me. Apparently Heinein read Rand with approval, and Rand read Heinlein with approval; they never met, and they lived in universes on the same block, psychologically and philosophically, but not particularly close.

I think Heinlein's statement in the Schulman interview that he made Rand look like a bloody socialist is fundamentally correct. Although there was a whole lot of nuancing going on, fundamentally Heinlein falls into the anarchist individualist classification, with a lot of affiliations with Stirner, while Rand is a natural-law philosopher, much more philosophically akin to the French and English (i.e. Locke) tradition. So what Heinlein said of Rand in TMIAHM -- that Prof could "live with" a Randist -- is fair (i.e., a neighborly affinity rather than any actual identity of ideas).


ROFL! I never saw that particular observation by Heinlein, but I believe it's largely correct. Rand did not impose her ideas on others -- unless they were her disciples. Within the circle of people around her, she was given to making absolute pronouncements on all sorts of issues, including matters Heinlein and most people would consider simple matters of personal taste. Once she decided something was a moral issue (and she did so decide with many things), disagreement with her was considered proof of moral turpitude and (if a friend so disagreed) treason against Objectivism. :/ It was not one of her more positive traits.

For example, I can't imagine Rand treating Orson Scott Card as anything but a contemptible mystic who is fundamentally dishonest, simply because he is a devout and practicing Mormon. Card doesn't preach to people unless invited to do so, and I can't imagine he'd bring up the subject of their religious disagreements, but Rand would have for sure and wouldn't have been able to let it go. Heinlein, on the other hand, would have (and might have, for all I know) talked with Card about all sorts of things related to their books, science, space, or the world at large without bringing up Card's Mormonism or caring about it. If the subject came up, I'm sure they'd have both smiled, agreed that they disagreed on it, and then moved on.

I think you nailed it: Heinlein and Rand would get along in the sense of having no reasons to come into conflict and having the ability to work together on certain fundamental political issues, especially those involving individual rights and freedoms and limitations on government. Other than that, they didn't have much in common or much to discuss.

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Wed Jan 07, 2009 10:11 am
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Post Re: Heinlein vs Rand
Bill, nice to see you got the quote function working. ;)

Bill Patterson wrote:
I think Heinlein's statement in the Schulman interview that he made Rand look like a bloody socialist is fundamentally correct. Although there was a whole lot of nuancing going on, fundamentally Heinlein falls into the anarchist individualist classification, with a lot of affiliations with Stirner, while Rand is a natural-law philosopher, much more philosophically akin to the French and English (i.e. Locke) tradition. So what Heinlein said of Rand in TMIAHM -- that Prof could "live with" a Randist -- is fair (i.e., a neighborly affinity rather than any actual identity of ideas).

I find it hard to picture the axis on which the comparison you assert to be correct is based - I mean, any time the statement "X makes Y look like Z" is made, it implies a straight line connecting X, Y, and Z in order. So "Canada makes Minnesota look like Hawaii" is ordered along a temperature axis while "George W. Bush makes Homer Simpson look like William F. Buckley" is ordered by erudition. So what's the dimension of the axis of the comparison "Heinlein makes Rand look like a socialist"? If it's affection for government, I don't see Rand holding any brighter a candle than Heinlein - this is a woman whose solution to creeping Communism was to abolish the income tax.


Wed Jan 07, 2009 12:01 pm
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Post Re: Heinlein vs Rand
Peter Scott wrote:
Bill, nice to see you got the quote function working. ;) . . . .

I find it hard to picture the axis on which the comparison you assert to be correct is based - I mean, any time the statement "X makes Y look like Z" is made, it implies a straight line connecting X, Y, and Z in order. So "Canada makes Minnesota look like Hawaii" is ordered along a temperature axis while "George W. Bush makes Homer Simpson look like William F. Buckley" is ordered by erudition. So what's the dimension of the axis of the comparison "Heinlein makes Rand look like a socialist"? If it's affection for government, I don't see Rand holding any brighter a candle than Heinlein - this is a woman whose solution to creeping Communism was to abolish the income tax.

The quote function turned out to be a matter of the system not resetting itself once I had signed in. Now that I know what it is, I can fiddle with it until I make the quote option reappear.

The "axis" could be articulated as "degree of personal freedom the individual possesses." Both Rand and Heinlein are well "above" the totalitarian end or the metric and also well above the entire range of conventionally centrist views, since "moderates" tend to accept the legitimacy of force and slavery under some conditions -- the conditions varying reflecting the different modallities" -- but Rand views herself as subject to natural law, and Heinlein specifically does not. (that is, he acknowledges natural law's existence but whereas Rand claims to be ethically restrained by this feature or that, Heinlein says to the contrary "I'll do whatever it takes to be as free as it is possible for me to be," and includes specifically freedom from the adverse consequences of the opinions of Mrs. Grundy. For Heinlein it's a cost-benefit calculation. Therefore, on that personal freedom metric, Heinlein is as far "above" Rand as Rand is "above" a socialist. If you want to look at the philosophical principles that would give insight into what he might do under any given circumstances, you would get more bang out of the Stirnerites than out of the Lockeans.

That's how I would interpret it, anyway. And I don't think it was a statement, as Jim suggests, made principally to shock. I think it was a statement principally true, but framed to shock.


Wed Jan 07, 2009 12:18 pm
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Post Re: Heinlein vs Rand
Heinlein and Rand got along very well, ever since they went to school together. He was a big fan.

Of course she had even bigger fans. Which she often used in her act.

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Wed Jan 07, 2009 9:54 pm
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Post Re: Heinlein vs Rand
Well, of course she had big fans. They were there to cover her really big... say, was that L. Ron who just walked by?

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Wed Jan 07, 2009 10:21 pm
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Post Re: Heinlein vs Rand
3.1415926... >>! Beam Jockey's face. (And Jim's.)

You two are *baaaaaaddd* boys!

(Still laughing)

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Wed Jan 07, 2009 11:14 pm
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Post Re: Heinlein vs Rand
Whaaaat, you want some sheep jokes in here, too?

Ontopic inquiry: Has anyone ever spotted an authentic Objectivist who had left the ivied walls?


Thu Jan 08, 2009 8:58 am
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