In his recent New Criterion article “Ayn Rand: Engineer of Souls,”1 Anthony Daniels, better known by his pseudonym Theodore Dalrymple, attacks the well-known novelist/philosopher as being, among other things, prone to “crude” errors, a “rationalist who was not entirely rational,” “adept at self-deception,” “incapable of seeing the contradictions in her own work,” and “seriously deficient in sensibility and discrimination across a wide range of important human activities.” But Daniels’s portrayal of Rand and her ideas is a series of gross misrepresentations and smears.
For instance, Daniels writes of Rand’s “rejection of compassion” and claims that this rejection stems from her “insight that the allegedly compassionate sometimes use the existence of the weak and needy as a tool for their own social ascent and attainment of power.” This, says Daniels, “is an elementary error.”
From [this insight] it does not in the least follow that there are no people in need of assistance or that compassion for them is ipso facto bogus and a cover for the will to power. From the insight that government assistance to the unfortunate increases the number of the unfortunate, often imprisoning them in their misfortune, it does not follow in the least that it is right for human beings to be utterly callous and indifferent to the fate of the unfortunate.
Indeed, the fact that some use compassion as “a cover for the will to power” does not invalidate that emotion, any more than a bank robber wearing sneakers invalidates footwear. On what does Daniels base his claim that Rand held otherwise? He does not provide a quote or citation in support of his claim—because Rand never said or implied any such thing.
Nor did Rand reject compassion out of hand, as Daniels suggests. Rather, she clarified the circumstances under which compassion is appropriate.
I regard compassion as proper only toward those who are innocent victims, but not toward those who are morally guilty. If one feels compassion for the victims of a concentration camp, one cannot feel it for the torturers. If one does feel compassion for the torturers, it is an act of moral treason toward the victims.2
The assertion that Rand rejects compassion out of hand, that she calls for being “utterly callous and indifferent to the fate of the unfortunate,” is absurd. What Rand did reject was altruism—the morality of selflessness—and the nonjudgmental compassion that accompanies it. . . .
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Acknowledgments: I would like to thank Paul Marshall for his invaluable help with this article and Craig Biddle for his helpful comments.
1 Anthony Daniels, “Ayn Rand: Engineer of Souls,” The New Criterion, February 2010, accessed June 5, 2010, at https://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/Ayn-Rand--engineer-of-souls-4385.All of Anthony Daniels’s quotes are taken from this article unless otherwise specified. Daniels’s article is a messy cross between an original “critical account” of Rand and a review of Ann C. Heller’s biography Ayn Rand and the World She Made, although the latter function is barely served.
2 “Playboy’s Interview with Ayn Rand” (March 1964), pamphlet, p. 10.
3 Ayn Rand, “For the New Intellectual,” For the New Intellectual (New York: Signet, 1961), p. 45.
4 Ayn Rand, “The Ethics of Emergencies,” The Virtue of Selfishness (New York: Signet, 1964), p. 54.
5 Ayn Rand, “The Psychology of ‘Psychologizing,’” The Objectivist, March 1971, p. 5.
6 Daniels also accuses Rand of making “a crude intellectual error”—that of believing that infantile paralysis affects one’s intelligence. But Daniels cannot honestly suggest—even from his own misrepresentation of this passage—that Rand mistakenly believed this. Further, Daniels absurdly suggests that Rand was irrationally motivated to make this mistake (the mistake Daniels fabricated) by her “loathing for [the also paralyzed] Roosevelt.”
7 Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead (New York: Signet, 1963), p. 290.
8 Ayn Rand, “The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness (New York: Signet, 1964), pp. 16–18. See also Leonard Peikoff, Unity in Epistemology and Ethics, taped lecture (New Milford: Second Renaissance Books, 1997).
9 Ayn Rand, “What Is Capitalism?” Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (New York: Signet, 1967), pp. 24–25.
10 Ayn Rand, “The Roots of War,” Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, p. 38.
11 Theodore Dalrymple, In Praise of Prejudice: The Necessity of Preconceived Ideas (New York: Encounter Books, 2006), pp. 43, 117.
12 Dalrymple, Prejudice, pp. 117–18.
13 Theodore Dalrymple, “Do the Impossible: Know Thyself,” New English Review, March 2007, accessed June 5, 2010, at http://www.newenglishreview.org/custpage.cfm?frm=5863&sec_id=5863.
14 Theodore Dalrymple, “In Praise of Prejudice,” speaking to the fourth annual conference of the Property and Freedom Society at the Hotel Karia Princess in Bodrum, Turkey, recorded by Sean Gabb, May 2009, online video, Vimeo, accessed March 30, 2010, at http://vimeo.com/5071342.
15 Dalrymple, Prejudice, pp. 7, 75, 126.
16 Rand, “Objectivist Ethics,” Virtue, p. 38.
17 Rand, “Objectivist Ethics,” Virtue, p. 22.
18 Ayn Rand, “Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World,” Philosophy: Who Needs It (New York: Signet, 1984), p. 62.
19 Ayn Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (New York: Meridian, 1990), p. 48.
20 Theodore Dalrymple, “Nick Berg’s Executioners All Too Clearly Enjoyed Beheading Him,” Daily Telegraph, May 13, 2004, accessed June 5, 2010, at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/personal-view/3605948/Nick-Bergs-executioners-all-too-clearly-enjoyed-beheading-him.html.
21 Dalrymple, “Nick Berg’s Executioners.”
22 Theodore Dalrymple, “A Taste for Danger,” City Journal, Summer 1998, accessed June 5, 2010, at http://www.city-journal.org/html/8_3_a1.html.
23 Theodore Dalrymple, “How—and How Not—to Love Mankind,” City Journal, Summer 2001, accessed June 5, 2010, at http://www.city-journal.org/html/11_3_urbanities-how_and_how_no.html.
24 Ayn Rand, “This is John Galt Speaking,” For the New Intellectual, p. 120.
25 Rand, “Galt Speaking,” New Intellectual, pp. 178–79.
26 Rand, “Galt Speaking,” New Intellectual, p. 137.
27 Dalrymple, Prejudice, p. 53.
28 Dalrymple, Prejudice, p. 126.
29 Theodore Dalrymple, Our Culture, What’s Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2005), p. 222.
30 Dalrymple, “Nick Berg’s Executioners.”
31 Theodore Dalrymple, Not with a Bang But a Whimper (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2008), p. 84.
32 Dalrymple, Prejudice, p. 126.
33 Theodore Dalrymple, “Don’t Legalize Drugs,” City Journal, Spring 1997, accessed June 5, 2010, at http://www.city-journal.org/html/7_2_a1.html.
34 Rand, “Galt Speaking,” New Intellectual, p. 126.
35 Rand, “Galt Speaking,” New Intellectual, p. 128.
36 Rand, “What Is Capitalism?” Capitalism, p. 17.