Rand Rants Part 3: Ayn Rand Defines A Screwdriver




Ayn Rand

A Screwdriver


Me: Hey Ayn, what’s that?

Ayn: Zat is a screwdriver.

Me: Define a screwdriver.

Ayn: It eez a tool vich drives in and pulls out screws.

Me: Well, that describes what it does.  What is it?

Ayn: It eez a tool.

Me: Again, Ayn, ‘tool’ describes the object’s functionality.  What is it?

Ayn: It eez a piece of metal vith a rubber grip.

Me: Ah ah ah, Ayn.  ‘Grip’ also defines its functionality.  If objects exist independent of the subject, you should be able to define this object independent of its usage.

Ayn: Ok ok, it is a piece of metal surrounded by a piece of rubber.

Me: Okay, now define metal and rubber.

Ayn: Zey are substances vith certain properties, such as hard, soft, rigid, maleable, etc.

Me:  Now aren’t you again describing these substances in relation to a subject?

Ayn:  No, zey retain zese properties independent of consciousness.

Me:  But the terms hard and soft are only applicable to my interaction with the substances.  They have varying degrees of resistance to force, but hard and soft implies this degree in relation to a subject, doesn’t it?

Ayn:  Zen how shall I put it?  Zey are substances made up of a specific set of atoms vich gives zem specific properties.

Me:  So objectively, this screwdriver is merely a collection of atoms.

Ayn:  Yes.

Me:  Now is this definition of the object useful to me?

Ayn:  Yes, it allows you to know its true nature.

Me:  But if I’m trying to build a dresser from Ikea, which definition is more useful to me?

Ayn:  Vhat eez Ikea?

Me:  Nevermind.  If I’m trying to build something, is it more useful for me to know that the screwdriver is a collection of specific atoms, or that it drives in and pulls out screws?

Ayn:  Of course the latter is more useful to you, but the object still retains its true nature.

Me:  That’s true, but you claim that objective reality exists independently, and that consciousness and reason are the means by which we understand that reality.

Ayn: Yes.

Me:  But without a high-powered microscope, as well as mountains of other research, no amount of awareness and reason could lead me to the conclusion that this screwdriver is merely a collection of specific atoms.

Screwdriver:  Hey, do I get any say in this?

Ayn:  Shut up screwdriver.  Zis is all irrelevant.  You are a modern man vith knowledge zat all zings around you are made up of atoms.  And even if you veren’t, ze zeory of atomism was arrived at by philosophers using pure reason razer zan experiments and technology.

Me:  This is true, but until this theory was proven, there were conflicting schools of thought about it, and each was logically valid until one was proven right by experimentation.

Ayn: So?

Me:  So consciousness and reason are not our only means to understand reality.  They must be validated by experimentation.

Ayn:  Yes, and experimentation is a product of our reasoning.

Me:  But this means it takes a conscious observer interacting with objects to validate their properties, and hence, their existence.

Ayn: It does, but only to validate it to our consciousness.  The objects retain zese properties vhezer ve validate zem or not.

Me:  Subatomic particles don’t.  They behave differently when they are being observed.

Ayn:  Zis is a fringe field of very complicated science zat is not yet fully understood.

Me:  I agree, and I don’t think that this is indicative of the nature of all reality, yet you must admit that if objects retain their properties independent of consciousness, then these phenomena should not occur.

Ayn:  Ve are just beginning to understand ze nature of zese particles, and laymen’s speculation about zem is hardly progressive.

Me:  But Ayn, these particles are supposed to be the foundation of the objective reality that you claim exists, and if their properties are subject to consciousness, how can you say that all of reality is not?

Ayn:  Ze same vay I make all of my claims:  By simply asserting zat zey are true while providing no reason to believe zem and no argument to the opposing viewpoint.

Me:  That’s what I thought.  Alright, until we meet again, Auf Wiedersehen.

Ayn:  Zat is German, I am Russian.

Me:  Whatever.  Peace.

14 thoughts on “Rand Rants Part 3: Ayn Rand Defines A Screwdriver

    • Aw I’m flattered! I may or may not get to her politics as I can’t even get trough her epistemology without tearing my hair out.

      If the libertarians are the last remnant of the right, does that mean that soon it’ll be gone altogether?

      • As an outside observer looking in, i’d honestly say your Democrats are now further right than conservatives in any other advanced economy. The make the Australian Liberal Party (conservatives) look like Bernie Sanders.

      • “Seems to me the right has gone so far right that they’ve shifted the entire spectrum, so now the middle of the road has become the far left”

        Right. Left. They’re just different sides of the same coin. It’s what Freud called “the narcissism of minor difference.”


  1. Also, read Tolstoy’s Resurrection to disabuse yourself of liberalism. It shows most clearly the futility of the whole endeavor.

    I say this because the primary idea, the one that is most constant in liberal thought, is this idea that one must be entirely well-intentioned. One must give and have good sense and so forth. Of course, these are noble traits, but they are ultimately useless in transforming society. No matter how well-intentioned one is or how many bottles of hand sanitizer or condoms one hands out, those activities, while honorable, are not going to provide solutions to the problems liberals sympathize with. They are ultimately useless in halting the horrible acts themselves and they are incapable of transforming the nature of society away from a such-and-such horrible act. The futility of liberalism is one of the main reasons I am a Marxist.


    • Cheers yourself, and apologies for the late response, busy week!

      I don’t think that’s quite the core tenet of liberal thought, in fact I don’t think there is one. As you said, it’s a subliminal process of dividing every issue down the middle and picking a side. Unfortunately that’s the way the system is set up, but I think history (at least recent history) has proven it’s easier to achieve change by working with the system, not simply berating against it. It’s true we’ll never rid a power system of corruption, we can only hope to offset it, at least a little.

      Thanks for commenting!

      • No worries I am busy myself.

        Well, I refuse to accept “that’s the way the system is set up”. And that is precisely how the oligarchs want you to think. I am not suggesting a violent revolution. I am suggesting an interference with the system that forces the power elites to acknowledge our existence. A non-violent mass movement of strikes and protests. Global capitalism is the problem. As any Marxist worth his salt understands, the socio-economic process is the one that is most basic to human society and that other activities–religious, political, legal–are secondary and derivative.

        Capitalism cannot work and that was what Marx understood all to well. Because capitalism will always tend towards unrelegated and unfettered capitalism. And because ‘true’ capitalism, as they call it, has no self-imposed limits it commodifies everything–human beings become commodities; the natural world becomes a commodity. And, then, it exploits everything until destruction or collapse. The thing to understand is that when a small portion of people control all property or wealth they, then, set the terms of employment for everyone else. They determine the wages, benefits, etc. And the reason the oligarchs, in certain countries, are required to pay a certain amount or provide certain things is the result of socialistic ideas being seen as commonsensical by the citizenry. And the citizenry pushed against the system and forced the elites to respond to their demands.

        “but I think history (at least recent history) has proven it’s easier to achieve change by working with the system, not simply berating against it.”

        Well, as I said above, I don’t want to just point out the problems with the current system I want to create a socialist state or, at the very least, a state with socialistic tendencies.

        Also, in what way have liberals achieved change by working with the system? There may be one or two examples, but change usually comes about through radical movements that are challenging the system, not working with it.


      • I believe it was the democratic party that set in place the financial regulations which prevented economic collapse for over half a century until they were systematically repealed during the mid to late 90s. Not to mention Women’s Suffrage, the Civil Rights Movements, and the current efforts to re-regulate the financial system, all of which only achieved success by passing legislation through congress, which was the whole point of the non-violent mass movements of strikes and protests, which the system allows for (super run-on sentence).

        I think the oligarchs prefer you to think of the system as an all-powerful, unchangeable entity, because that view doesn’t allow for accountability, and ultimately leads to apathy or a view that activism is futile, which will further propagate them benefiting from the system. If we realize that ‘the system’ is simply a collection of people who are all accountable for their actions, we can better regulate the system to control and prevent corruption.

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