Stephen Speicher

Rob Tracinski on "What Went Right?"

374 posts in this topic

Therefore, the invasion of an enslaved country is morally justified only when and if the conquerors establish a free social system, that is, a system based on the recognition of individual rights.

This seems to clearly say that we are morally justified in liberation as you described it, only if we help establish a rights-respecting government. Am I misunderstanding something?

Stephen,

My understanding of that quote has always been that the word "invasion" is used in the sense of "occupation" - a situation where the invading company holds de facto government power for a significant duration. This stems from the use of "conquerors" in the sentence, and from the fact that this interpretation integrates smoothly with Objectivism.

In my opinion, it says nothing about an attack where you go in, destroy the enemy (a non rights respecting government developing nukes, for instance) and get out. It means that if you invade and occupy, holding the right to use force, you cannot establish anything except a rights respecting system and claim to be moral.

The facts of reality bear this out. In post war West Germany and Japan an occupation established a rights respecting system, the results speak for themselves. Israel's occupation of palestine, on the other hand, did not succeed in establishing a rights respecting system.

The distinction, of course, is that in the case of Israel the enemy was not truly defeated. It is futile to attempt to impose civil order to a war zone.

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It has been unnecessary ever since Dr. Peikoff released the Induction lectures (or perhaps ever since the release of Understanding Objectivism, from what others tell me about it), all of which explicitly put Objectivism on an inductive footing.

I personally would not put Peikoff's induction lectures anywhere near the level of Understanding Objectivism. The latter is Objectivism, but not the former. And, Objectivism is already "on an inductive footing." Perhaps you mean the "Objectivist solution to the problem of induction," which words were removed from the course description.

A correction. The word "Objectivist" was properly removed from the course description ("the Objectivist solution to the problem of induction ...") by ARI quite a while ago, but, strangely, it still appears on Peikoff's own site for the course, as of right now:

These historic lectures present, for the first time, the Objectivist solution to the problem of induction ...

In my view, this is an improper representation.

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"The benefits we are seeing today are because of philosophical events that happened decades, if not hundreds of years ago." Galileo Blogs

When cause and effect are so widely separated in time, how do you show this? Your posts on this subject seem curiously lacking, as if you regard all this as self-evident.

"If implicit philosophy is improving, I would like to pin credit for that on Ayn Rand and Objectivism. After all, her ideas have been able to filter into society for at least the nearly 50 years since the publication of Atlas Shrugged."

I would too, but it could be difficult to prove, or even make a strong case for. Can you state your reasons, other than the fact that Atlas Shrugged was published 49 years ago? (Possibly an instance of post hoc.)

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Implicit philosophies are the result of philosophies made explicit in the past. Thus, it is still true that philosophy is the fundamental determinant of history.

I would like to bring up this quote again, and express my strong disagreement with it. This kind of an enormous claim must have some very profound and unshakeable support and grounding from history (i.e. inductive study of men and cultures), whereas I cannot find any support for it, from any part of history. If we may point to America, then the implicit philosophy running America today isn't really the same thing as the explicit philosophy that energized its intellectuals in 1776; in fact it is much closer to the implicit philosophy of the comon man in America around 1776, and that philosophy really wasn't the same thing as the explicit ideas of the intellectuals. The implicit philosophy has been that of the importance of hard work, the admiration for independence, the reverence for property, and it was given birth by the first hardy settlers of Virginia and Massachussetts, and transmitted through subsequent settlers ever since.

There are other counter-examples, but of course the most clear one is the ancient one: how did the Greeks build the first free societies 300-400 years before Aristotle was even born? How is that even possible under the theory that everything must be be first fomulated explicitly? Any serious reading of Classical history will leave the person in no doubt about the issue. The first free Greeks wrote first laws about inviolability of property, centuries before Aristotle and of course millenia before Locke. How is that possible? Puritans were utterly impacable about worship of one's property and respect for your neighbor's, before Locke published anything and before his ideas had become widespread anywhere.

I just find the view in the quote to be completely unsupported, and unsupportable.

In fact implicit philosophy is inductive, and explicit philosophy must be at least in part deductive, so even by the very nature of the concepts involved, implicit philosophy always goes first. While not replacing explicit identification, implicit philosophy is a tremendous force through history, and I think it is Tracinski's crucial achievement that he had identified and pointed it out so eloquently.

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In fact implicit philosophy is inductive, and explicit philosophy must be at least in part deductive, so even by the very nature of the concepts involved, implicit philosophy always goes first. While not replacing explicit identification, implicit philosophy is a tremendous force through history, and I think it is Tracinski's crucial achievement that he had identified and pointed it out so eloquently.

I agree with the above, but in some ways the explicit does precede the implicit. For example, the little chaps who listen to explicit ideas in the madrases, about the evils of the West. How many of them unthinkingly accept them? Later inductions are coloured by these implicitly held ideas. For example, a catastrophe is the result of Gods will. So I don't think one can say that the explicit philosophy never precedes the implicit, only that it doesn't have to in most cases.

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Some responses:

I clarified my statement on explicit versus implicit philosophy here:

As for philosophy being implicit, of course it often is. Individuals can apply rational methods without being aware that they are using reason. Without a doubt, it was through a trial and error process that fire was harnessed, and it was through a progressively more thoughtful process, that boats and spears and all of man’s early technology was invented.

As for an example of the role and importance of explicit philosophy, I said this:

However, with the explicit identification of reason, man was able to progress at a much faster rate. When it was understood that the sole guide to knowledge was the evidence of the senses, when it was understood that contradictions could not exist, when the rules of logic were discovered, progress could happen faster.

That is why the Industrial Revolution happened so quickly after the re-introduction of Greek thought in the Middle Ages. By explicitly adopting Aristotle, the authority of the Church was undercut, the role of faith was diminished, and science gained the chance to blossom. The explicit re-introduction of Greek philosophy made possible the scientific, industrial and political revolutions that we benefit from today.

In summary, both implicit and explicit philosophy matter, but it is the introduction of explicit philosophy that typically foments change on a widespread scale and fast timeline.

As for whether philosophy acts with a long time-lag, that point is illustrated by just two examples from the history of philosophy. For example, the introduction of the political philosophy of Locke preceded its adoption by America's Founding Fathers by nearly 100 years. Immanuel Kant wrote The Critique of Pure Reason in 1781, decades before his ideas impacted the world.

Intuitively, it makes sense that philosophy acts with a long time-lag. A new philosophical idea must be disseminated and understood by men, who then act on it. Only when a sufficiently large number acts on it does it begin to impact society. That takes time. In other words, it takes time for a philosophical idea to be transmitted through the culture.

Finally, I said the following in response to a statement made by Ed from OC regarding the spread of implicit philosophy:

If implicit philosophy is improving, I would like to pin credit for that on Ayn Rand and Objectivism. After all, her ideas have been able to filter into society for at least the nearly 50 years since the publication of Atlas Shrugged. I would also give credit to the capitalist economists who bolstered the argument for capitalism.

I am not saying that implicit philosophy *is* improving. I am saying that *if* it is, one should consider giving Ayn Rand some credit for it. I kindly suggest reading the post where that quote came from including some of the preceding discussion. Personally, I do not think implicit philosophy is improving. However, whether it is improving or not was not the focus of my discussion.

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The problem I have with the doom and gloom crowd is their lack of confidence in power of their own ideas.

I was looking through what appears to be a fascinating book I received from a friend for Christmas (I will put the book up for rating when I finish reading it), and in the prefacing pages I came across this interesting quote:

I have many times asked myself, not without wonder, the source of a certain error which, since it is committed by all the old without exception, can be believed to be proper and natural to man: namely, that they nearly all praise the past and blame the present, revile our actions and behaviour and everything which they themselves did not do when they were young, and affirm, too, that every good custom and way of life, every virtue and, in short, all things imaginable are always going from bad to worse.

These words were written almost five-hundred years ago (The Book of the Courtier, Baldesar Castiglione, 1528), and though I disagree that the error is proper or natural to man (in that there are exceptions -- you, Betsy, me and many others), I still find it remarkable that these words reach out across five centuries to demonstrate that the "doom and gloom crowd" is nothing new: somehow civilization has flourished, not because of, but in spite of them.

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Rob Tracinski has published Part IV of his above-named essay series. I received it on TIA Daily and do not know if it is yet available anywhere else.

My initial impression of it is, "Wow." It is quite an interesting synthesis of history and philosophy. I intend to re-read it several times before expressing my opinions on it. I highly recommend anyone who is interested in his provocative viewpoint to read it.

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Just got this email...

TIA Daily editor Robert Tracinski will be a guest this afternoon on Fox News Channel's "Your World with Neil Cavuto," between 4:00 and 5:00 pm Eastern time. He will talk about "going wide" against Iran and Syria. He is expected to be on at about 4:20, but the exact time is subject to change.

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Just got this email...

Thank you for the heads-up. I read his article on this subject yesterday. You can find it at RealClearPolitics.

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Rob Tracinski has published Part IV of his above-named essay series. I received it on TIA Daily and do not know if it is yet available anywhere else.

My initial impression of it is, "Wow." It is quite an interesting synthesis of history and philosophy. I intend to re-read it several times before expressing my opinions on it. I highly recommend anyone who is interested in his provocative viewpoint to read it.

Unless you are experiencing some unusual delay, I think perhaps you meant Part V. Parts 1-4 have been available for almost a month now. (Here: http://www.solopassion.com/node/1930, and here: http://www.intellectualactivist.com/php-bi...e.php?id=1095.)

Jeff

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This is profound stuff.

The latest, January 4th article, is Tracinski's most impressive article yet, and the list of integrations it makes is extremely accomplished, from the spiral interrelation between everyday life and philosophy, to a more accurate role for philosophy being a culmination, and ultimately to a better understanding of Objectivism's place in the scheme of things. The identification of the "metaphysics of normal life" as what guided Charlemagne and what guides many people today, is very startling in its simplicity, and importance. But most importantly, I commend Tracinski for his inductive tour through history, in search of an inductive role of history. I have often long pondered about Aristotle and Greek development previous to him, and it is high time for a major Objectivist intellectual to have grasped it and drawn profound conclusions from it.

An entire book, and an important one, could be written on the importance of implicit philosophy as displayed through history, and this series of articles is a great step towards that.

Oh, and I should add that if anyone needs a reason for study of Classical civilization, Tracinski's article amply provides one: the Classical civilization was profoundly stylized, in both the good and the bad, and many crucial issues that are today muddled or difficult to separate, appear crystal clear and undiluted in the ancients.

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I want to add a note to my earlier post.

Likewise, as another example, people could use deductive logic long before Aristotle. What he did was make explicit what before was implicit.

What's relevant as well is the distinction between induction and deduction. Before the high-level principles and abstractions can be applied, they must be created. Chronologically, the creation precedes the appliction.

To make higher-level abstractions, concepts, and principles, we first need the relevant concretes in front of us. These could be existents or they could be lower-level abstractions, concepts or principles; the key is that they are lower level. Chronologically, the lower level precedes the higher level in an inductive process.

Therefore it makes sense to expect to see, historically, instances of specialized cultural changes preceding the identification of such trends and their explicit philosophical explanation.

Is this true? What does history actually show? How does the historical development of philosophy integrate with the history of the western world (art, science, politics, etc.)?

I don't have the time to dig through historical examples right now, but I think the the correct answer is something like a cultural version of a spiral theory. The explicit philosophical ideas develop based on changes in the culture, while at the same time opening doors to new cultural developments. There is a feedback between philosophy and the broader culture.

So we can find examples of philosophy's role as both the generator of history and the recipient of cultural changes. Does this integrate with Ayn Rand's idea of philosophy as the motor of history? I believe so. Every field plays a role, but philosophy's is the largest and most fundamental.

(Why is it the most fundamental? Because of man's nature as a conceptual being, the most fundamental determinant of the course of history is the relationship between concepts and reality. We rely, at base, on implicit answers to the following questions, in every day: What is real? How do I know? What should I do? The metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical answers vary widely, but the need for them are inescapable.)

The key to keep in mind is that philosophy is not the sole contributor, and its connection to the broader culture is not a one-way street. Philosophy's role in history is mighty, but not all-powerful.

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The key to keep in mind is that philosophy is not the sole contributor, and its connection to the broader culture is not a one-way street. Philosophy's role in history is mighty, but not all-powerful.

Yes, I agree. The way I see it, is that the source that determines our behaviour, is reality. We can respond to it in concrete ways that are logical (or not), long before we have identified a formal conceptual structure for doing so. Thus, a logical philosophy like Objectivsm is an organization of thought, abstracted from induced logical (successful) relationships with reality.

While progress has been made by concrete instances of rationality in less than rational cultures, it will really take off with the guidance of an overreaching philosophy of reason.

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Rob Tracinski has now made Part 5 of his "What Went Right" series available here on his website. As has already been noted by other members, this is a very interesting and provocative installment of his essay, well worth reading. The concluding section, Part 6, is forthcoming.

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Rob Tracinski has now made Part 5 of his "What Went Right" series available here on his website. As has already been noted by other members, this is a very interesting and provocative installment of his essay, well worth reading. The concluding section, Part 6, is forthcoming.

What I admire about Rob Tracinski, is that he is an independent thinker, not afraid to explore new ideas. I feel more comfortable with his views, than some others that have made the rounds recently.

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What I admire about Rob Tracinski, is that he is an independent thinker, not afraid to explore new ideas. I feel more comfortable with his views, than some others that have made the rounds recently.

I agree with this. He is taking a lot of flak for it too--as opposed to reasoned agrument against his ideas.

His presentation is cogent and well argued--and persuasive.

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Rob Tracinski has now made Part 5 of his "What Went Right" series available here on his website. As has already been noted by other members, this is a very interesting and provocative installment of his essay, well worth reading. The concluding section, Part 6, is forthcoming.

I just read this for the first time. Thanks, Stephen, for posting the link. I get TIA Monthly, but not the Daily.

His point that Philosophy is properly engaged in induction, in integration of the factual concretes of experience into a wider abstraction that clarifies and explains those facts, is uncontrovertable. Even Rand's own development, in a sense "Ontogeny recapitulating Phylogeny," to use the phrase from Embryology, was "backward," from observations of Art & Literature to a concept of Man in Society and the proper nature of Government, to the necessary Morality, to the Nature of Man that makes that Morality necessary, to the underlying Epistemology & Metaphysics, the understanding of which is necessary to define that Morality. I think that is why Dr. Peikoff developed his Induction course after laying the philosophy out hierarchically in OPAR: OPAR is an analysis of Objectivism, with all precedents laid out prior to its antecedent, in exactly reverse order to how Rand came to understand and develop her philosophy for herself. I think she has said that somewhere (ITOE?). I'm sure you (Stephen) or Phil O could readily identify it. In fact, I think Dr. Peikoff mentioned that, as well.

But I think the interesting thing about Rob's piece is how uncontroversial it should be to an Objectivist. The problems in philosophical development have arisen from the attempts to do the opposite: To analyze reality based on predetermined principles, from the Sophists, Plato, even Aristotle (in his speculations on physiology, for example, not based on observation, but "reason"), Descartes, Hume (despite his protestations to have been completely empirical), to Kant, Hegel, and Marx.

I was going to say that it is the disease of the modern era, but it is as old as civilization that Man has sought to reduce life to formulae to make it easier to handle. It's the courageous individual that entertains a reasonable but unpopular hypothesis and investigates to determine if it is true, or if a cherished bromide might just be false. Rob is definitely a courageous individual and I respect his integrity.

...I still don't agree with his assessment of Lord of the Rings, or fantasy in general :-D, but I loved this integration on the relationship of history and philosophy.

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This is profound stuff.

The latest, January 4th article, is Tracinski's most impressive article yet, and the list of integrations it makes is extremely accomplished, from the spiral interrelation between everyday life and philosophy, to a more accurate role for philosophy being a culmination, and ultimately to a better understanding of Objectivism's place in the scheme of things. The identification of the "metaphysics of normal life" as what guided Charlemagne and what guides many people today, is very startling in its simplicity, and importance. But most importantly, I commend Tracinski for his inductive tour through history, in search of an inductive role of history. I have often long pondered about Aristotle and Greek development previous to him, and it is high time for a major Objectivist intellectual to have grasped it and drawn profound conclusions from it.

An entire book, and an important one, could be written on the importance of implicit philosophy as displayed through history, and this series of articles is a great step towards that.

Oh, and I should add that if anyone needs a reason for study of Classical civilization, Tracinski's article amply provides one: the Classical civilization was profoundly stylized, in both the good and the bad, and many crucial issues that are today muddled or difficult to separate, appear crystal clear and undiluted in the ancients.

I couldn't agree with you more. Having been away for several weeks, I just finished Tracinski's latest "chapter" in the What Went Right series and was quite astounded by the brilliance of it. As yet another poster commented . . . Wow!! While he may not be a classicist, Dr. Tracinski has a fine grasp of the developmental arc of Classical civilization. His observations and the integrations which flow from them are unique in my view.

When I first read Ayn Rand a mere five years ago, I viewed her as the philosopher of the 18th Century. Or, more precisely, the philosopher of the Industrial Revolution and the founding of the United States, events which either occurred or began to occur 150 years before Miss Rand's great works were written. Furthermore, I was as convinced then as I am today that nobody in the 18th Century could have formulated the integrations that Miss Rand did so thrillingly in the 20th. And yet, the achievements of that 150-year period are, or rather, should be indisputable.

It will be interesting to read the arguments and discussions this piece should generate within Objectivist circles. I view it as an almost singular achievement amongst today's Objectivist intellectuals: I certainly am unaware of anything comparable.

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Does anyone know anything about this?

Robert W. Tracinski is no longer associated with the Ayn Rand Institute--neither as a writer nor as a speaker.

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Does anyone know anything about this?

Robert W. Tracinski is no longer associated with the Ayn Rand Institute--neither as a writer nor as a speaker.

This was first mentioned on THE FORUM by Sophia in this post, and discussed in a number of following posts in that thread.

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From the thread Stephen pointed to:

In my opinion, Tracinski has publicly embraced a theory of history that rejects the importance of Objectivism and principled consistency in defining and defending the long term good . As such, it would be dishonest to claim that he continues to be a public advocate for Ayn Rand's philosophy.

I know this was not ARI's official position statement, but my reaction to that is: :)

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