Eugene Ionesco Is Not Ayn Rand

 Posted by on 8 November 2005 at 12:30 pm  Uncategorized
Nov 082005
 

Jared Seehafer (president of the Boulder Objectivist Club) e-mailed me today about the following quote. He heard it attributed to Eugene Ionesco, although it bears a striking resemblance to Ayn Rand.

You are a human being, and as such you have a philosophical view of existence–whether you realize it or not. About this you have no choice. But there is a choice to be made about your philosophy, and it can be put in these terms: is your philosophy based on conscious, thoughtful, and well informed reflection? Is it sensitive to, but not chained by, the need for logical consistency? Or have you let your subconscious amass an ugly pile of unexamined prejudices, unjustified intolerances, hidden fears, doubts, and implicit contradictions, thrown together by chance but integrated by your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single, solid weight, like a ball and chain in the place where your mind’s wings should have grown?

It is not the answer that enlightens us, but the question.

That should sound somewhat familiar, since it’s a serious bastardization of a few sentences from Ayn Rand’s seminal essay “Philosophy: Who Needs It.” (Of course, Ayn Rand would certainly never ask whether your philosophy is “sensitive to, but not chained by, the need for logical consistency”! And sheesh, what the heck kind of nonsense do people mean when they trot out tired old cliches like “It is not the answer that enlightens us, but the question”?!?) Here’s what Ayn Rand actually wrote:

As a human being, you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation–or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears, thrown together by chance, but integrated by your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single, solid weight: self-doubt, like a ball and chain in the place where your mind’s wings should have grown.

In Googling, I found the same version that Jared encountered (e.g. here and here). All seem to trace back to Nick Alchin’s book Theory of Knowledge. I sent Mr. Alchin a polite e-mail (cc’ing the publisher) about the error in both quote and attribution.

Nick Alchin wrote me back immediately saying:

Thank you for this. Several others have also noticed the error – for which I have no excuse! I disposed of my notes for the book several years ago, so I don’t know exactly where the error came from. Almost certainly me!

The second edition of the books is out in Jan and it has been corrected there.

Ah, good man!

   
Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha