On Writing Softly

 Posted by on 10 March 2006 at 2:53 pm  Uncategorized
Mar 102006

The tone of any piece of writing ought to suit its content, medium, and audience. While Ayn Rand often wrote her philosophic essays as a bold challenge to her readers, such is not always necessary. For example, Craig Biddle’s Loving Life was written in a delightfully friendly, gentle, and patient style. That’s perfectly appropriate for a book introducing Ayn Rand’s ethics, particularly for people seeking some alternative to the standard choice between religious ethics and subjectivist ethics.

Whatever the style of writing, the proper principles must be clearly upheld in writing, not weakened, compromised, concealed, or betrayed. That’s the fundamental problem with so much of Ed Hudgins’ writing for The So-Called Objectivist Center, as seen all-too-clearly in his “Goodwill to Men” op-ed. Contrary to the claims of its hell-or-high-water defenders, TOC does not cleverly package Objectivist ideas to render them more comprehensible and palatable to the American public. Rather, it mangles and disguises them, in the vain hope that readers will say “Hey, I believe that too!”

So when I read the following passage from Nathaniel Branden’s article “Social Metaphysical Fear”, from the July 1964 issue of The Objectivist Newsletter, the appeasement practiced by TOC writers immediately came to mind:

Consider the case of a scientist who despises the obscurantist jargon that is rampant in his profession, and the ‘postulates’ underlying that jargon, who is rationally convinced that the theory of many of his most highly regarded colleagues are wrong. But he twists his brain to adopt that jargon in his own writings, dilutes his criticisms in every possible way, and strives to smuggle his own ideas into the minds of his readers in such a manner that no one will notice the extent of his departure from established belief.

He does not tell himself that he is afraid of being ridiculed as an ‘outsider,’ or that he abjectly hungers for the esteem of men he regards as pretentious incompetants. Instead, he tells himself that he is ‘playing it smart,’ that when he becomes famous he will be the term-setter, and that the ‘practical’ way to become famous, to become a successful innovator, is to make himself indistinguishable from everyone else.

Exactly! The whole point of philosophic writing for a general audience, particularly op-eds, is to change minds. Yet that is precisely the goal that TOC has abdicated in favor of a second-handed desire for acceptance. Pathetically, they’re not even competent enough to achieve that goal.

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