Monday, June 26, 2006

Martin Luther

Objectivists and others often criticize Martin Luther for his attacks on reason. (There is a quote from Luther heading Douglas Rasmussen's articles in the lastest issue of JARS.) Luther is known, for example, for referring to "that whore reason." One thing to consider about Luther is that he had a peasant's sense of humor and exaggeration, which explains some of his outrageous statements.

Some of Luther's diatribes at reason were directed at what he felt was an over-confident Scholastic belief in reason. This is discussed in R.C. Sproul's book Classical Apologetics.

Here is an article that discusses Luther's view of science.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Ayn Rand and Judaism

Don't know what to make of this critique.

Are Supporters of the ARI Open Minded?

Supporters of the Ayn Rand Institute ("ARIans") often claim that allegations of closed-mindedness are inaccurate. Here are the reasons that are given --

1. ARIans associate with the Ayn Rand Society.

2. ARIans publish in Reason Papers, which is broadly libertarian.

3. ARIans have publicly debated socialists and communists.

4. Peikoff criticized Gotthelf's book On Ayn Rand.

Some comments:

1. ARIans are correct about the ARS. I should note that this seems to be the only exception to the unwritten rule about associating with non-ARI Objectivists and people influenced by Rand.

2. True, although other than Tara Smith I'm not sure which ARIan has contributed to Reason Papers.

3. True, but that isn't the point.

4. True, but I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean. Has anyone said that Peikoff approves of everything that an ARIan has written?

Why Is Ayn Rand Ignored By Professional Philosophers?

Here is a discussion of this question by professional philosophers Edward Feser and William Vallicella. It looks like the link to the article by Keith Burgess-Jackson that started the debate is dead.

I would add another reason -- professionals dislike nonspecialists, particularly those of the "interdisciplinary" type. In this respect Rand reminds me of her fellow Russian Jew Immanuel Velikovsky. Velikovsky was a psychiatrist who had the audacity to write about mythology, ancient history, astronomy and other stuff.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Objectivism and Libertarianism

Official Objectivists often claim they aren't libertarians. The idea seems to be that libertarianism claims that one can have any (or no) foundation for a theory of rights. As someone said, this is like arguing that Objectivists aren't atheists because atheists disagree on the basis of their atheism.

Consider also the types of people who call themselves "individualists":

1. Objectivists

2. John Dewey (pragmatist and socialist)

3. Milton Friedman (positivist and free market advocate)

4. Ludwig von Mises (utilitarian and laissez-faire advocate)

5. Murray Rothbard (Aristotelian and anarcho-capitalist)

A fairly diverse lot, both in terms of ethical commitments and politics.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Ayn Rand, the Renaissance and the Enlightenment

Rand had a very negative view of the history of philosophy. She did praise the Renaissance, but other than making a few general claims about it, never discussed any Renaissance thinkers in detail (or even at all from what I can tell).

Starting with Leonard Peikoff, Objectivists have argued that the Enlightenment was actually the West's rebirth of reason. Some even argue that it was "essentially Aristotelian." If you consult The Ayn Rand Lexicon, all of the entries for "Enlightenment" are from Peikoff's Ominous Parallels.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Ayn Rand and Richard Weaver

In the course of a review of Scott Ryan's book on Rand, Greg Nyquist makes an interesting suggestion that Rand's view of "the problems of universals" may have originated with Richard Weaver. I quote in part:

Rand's decision to regard the problem of universals as central to philosophy and Western Civilizations remains, even at this late date, twenty years after her death, a bit of mystery. Given that she had no clear understanding of its historical background, it is odd that she should have considered it the main source of modernity's problems. Where did she ever come up with such a notion?
My guess is that she got it, second or third hand, from Richard Weaver, the great conservative philosopher and literary critic. In 1948, Weaver published what is still probably the most important contribution to conservative philosophy in America, a slender volume entitled Ideas Have Consequences. In the book, Weaver argues that the "dissolution of the West" is the consequence of "the fateful doctrine of nominalism." "Like MacBeth, Western man made an evil decision, which has become the efficient and final cause of other evil decisions," wrote Weaver. "It occurred in the late fourteenth century, and what the witches said to the protagonist of this drama was that man could realize himself more fully if he would only abandon his belief in the existence of transcendentals. The powers of darkness were working subtly, as always, and they couched this proposition in the seemingly innocent form of an attack upon universals. The defeat of logical realism in the great medieval debate was the crucial event in the history of Western culture; from this flowed those acts which issue now in modern decadence." [2-3]
Weaver regarded William of Occam as the prime culprit in the nefarious attack on universals. "It was William of Occam who propounded the fateful doctrine of nominalism, which denies that universals have a real existence. . . . The practical result of nominalist philosophy is to banish the reality which is perceived by the intellect and to posit as reality that which is perceived by the senses. With this change in the affirmation of what is real, the whole orientation of culture takes a turn, and we are on the road to modern empiricism." [3]
In the late forties and early fifties, Rand still traveled in conservative circles. She probably heard about Weaver's book from her conservative acquaintances; and although she would have violently disagreed with Weaver's platonist interpretation of the issue, the suggestion that the crisis of the West stemmed from the old scholastic controversy between those who regarded universals as "real" and those who did not appears to have borne fruit in Rand's own philosophy.