Betsy Speicher

Audio of Dr. John David Lewis’s talk “‘No Substitute for Victory"

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The Objective Standard - A Journal of Culture and Politics

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 3, 2007

The audio of Dr. John David Lewis’s talk “‘No Substitute for Victory’: The Defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism,” which was delivered at George Mason University on April 24, 2007, has been posted to the events page of The Objective Standard’s website. The audio is free and accessible to all.

Summary: In the wake of 9/11, and in the face of rising threats to their freedoms and rights, Americans are uncertain about what a proper foreign policy should be. The uncertainty arises from the philosophical influences of pragmatism and altruism, which have misguided Americans and their leaders for decades. Crippled by this uncertainty, America has failed to address the cause of the threats against her and, in so doing, has emboldened that cause.

This talk consults the historical precedent of American policy towards Shintoism in post-1945 Japan to show that a proper policy today would first identify Islamic Totalitarianism as the cause of the threat facing the West, and then direct American resources toward eliminating the political imposition of Islamic Law. If Americans want to end the threats against their lives and liberty, they must first identify the advocates of political Islam (those who seek to impose Islamic Law by force) as the true enemy, and then destroy that enemy—beginning with the Islamic State of Iran.

For more information on this talk, or to schedule an interview with Dr. Lewis, please contact Craig Biddle at cbiddle@theobjectivestandard.com or (804) 747-1776. To read the article on which the talk is based, click here.

### ### ###

Dr. Lewis is a visiting scholar at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center, Bowling Green State University, in Ohio. He holds a Ph.D. in classics from the University of Cambridge, has taught at the University of London, and is a fellow of the Anthem Foundation for Objectivist Scholarship. He has published in classical journals such as Polis, Dike and Bryn Mawr Classical Review, and has lectured on classics, military history, and contemporary political issues at numerous universities and for private groups. His research interests are in ancient Greek and Roman thought, military history, and their connections to the modern day. His books are Solon the Thinker: Political Thought in Archaic Athens (Duckworth, 2006) and Early Greek Lawgivers (Bristol Classical Press, August, 2007). His book in progress, Nothing Less than Victory: Military Offense and the Lessons of History from the Greco Persian Wars to WWII, is forthcoming from Princeton University Press. Dr. Lewis writes for Capitalism Magazine and The Objective Standard.

Copyright ©2007 by The Objective Standard. All rights reserved

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I didn't know that Ashland University was explicitly religious. On the "about" page of the website:

Ashland University is a mid-sized regional teaching university, historically related to the Brethren Church. Our mission is to serve the educational needs of all students -- undergraduate and graduate, traditional and non-traditional, full and part-time -- by providing educational programs of high quality in an environment that is both challenging and supportive.

These educational programs emphasize both the importance of the liberal arts and sciences and the need to provide initial and advanced preparation in selected professional areas -- including business, education, and theology -- which enables our students to lead meaningful and productive lives in the world community.

The educational and social environment is built upon a long-standing commitment to Judeo-Christian values and a tradition that stresses the importance of each individual. [...]

I greatly sympathise with Prof. Lewis and it goes without saying that I'm 100% behind his Objectivism, but one musn't overlook the fact that this is a private school that is explicitly related to religious doctrine. I think they have a right to fire a professor who is anti-religious. Of course, in the end, it's ultimately self-defeating, but that's the totally logical effect of an irrational cause.

I don't think that it makes sense for any Objectivist intellectual to do less than promote Objectivism, as explicitly as possible, or to work in an explicitly religious environment that's attracting especially religious/altruist minded students. The future will not be won with half-measures. ARI has had an impact precisely because it promotes Ayn Rand's ideas by name, with no holds barred, including the student essay contest known to thousands of high schools. Half-measures is the primary reason why I am not impressed with Founder's College - it was the perfect opportunity to explicitly hire Objectivist professors tasked with explicitly drawing up a rational, integrated curriculum. That is unfortunately a university that has yet to be created.

I hope and expect that Dr. Lewis can find a school that better appreciates his teaching and his Objectivism. In the long run, religious schools such as Ashland will either adapt to reason or go under, as they deserve.

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I greatly sympathise with Prof. Lewis and it goes without saying that I'm 100% behind his Objectivism, but one musn't overlook the fact that this is a private school that is explicitly related to religious doctrine. I think they have a right to fire a professor who is anti-religious.

They do have that right, but what is particularly hypocritical here is that Ashland gladly took Anthem Foundation money for Drs. Thompson and Lewis for the explicit purpose of furthering Objectivist scholarship and then kicked Dr. Lewis out for being an Objectivist.

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They do have that right, but what is particularly hypocritical here is that Ashland gladly took Anthem Foundation money for Drs. Thompson and Lewis for the explicit purpose of furthering Objectivist scholarship and then kicked Dr. Lewis out for being an Objectivist.

Incredible. Do you know if the Anthem Foundation has demanded their money back from the crooks?

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I greatly sympathise with Prof. Lewis and it goes without saying that I'm 100% behind his Objectivism, but one musn't overlook the fact that this is a private school that is explicitly related to religious doctrine. I think they have a right to fire a professor who is anti-religious.

In general, yes, but he hired a lawyer to contest their decision, which implies that he had a legal case against them. The article doesn't state what the legal argument was, but it seems that the criterion they used had not been indicated as a requirement for tenure. Ultiimately, as part of their screwy "agreement", they acknowledged that he had earned tenure.

Of course, in the end, it's ultimately self-defeating, but that's the totally logical effect of an irrational cause.

And he will be better off without the hostility from the administration. The problem is how to get to the "end", if we do at all.

I don't think that it makes sense for any Objectivist intellectual to do less than promote Objectivism, as explicitly as possible, or to work in an explicitly religious environment that's attracting especially religious/altruist minded students. The future will not be won with half-measures. ARI has had an impact precisely because it promotes Ayn Rand's ideas by name, with no holds barred, including the student essay contest known to thousands of high schools. Half-measures is the primary reason why I am not impressed with Founder's College - it was the perfect opportunity to explicitly hire Objectivist professors tasked with explicitly drawing up a rational, integrated curriculum. That is unfortunately a university that has yet to be created.

He apparently did nothing to hide his views, but there is a lot more to teach, and a lot worthy of teaching, besides Ayn Rand's ideas. That, too, is a vehicle for improvement and which only aids Ayn Rand's vision. Any professor is obligated to teach the subject matter he is supposed to, which he did, and not turn it into a propaganda medium for something else, which he properly did not. It seems that they went after him because he was too effective and therefore a danger to the spread of their religion. I'll bet there are a lot of other non-religious professors with tenure there, but who are tolerated because they have absorbed the cultural influences of religion, such as concessions to philosophical altruism and not taking principled reason based solely on facts too seriously.

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The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) just included this item in its FIRE Update email news:

ASHLAND UNIVERSITY: NO OBJECTIVISTS NEED APPLY

After denying tenure to a history professor because he engaged in Objectivist scholarship, Ohio’s Ashland University has struck a deal with John Lewis, granting him tenure but only if he resigns from the university. FIRE wrote to Ashland in March advocating for Lewis’ tenure bid, citing the fact that the university had accepted $100,000 from a private foundation to fund Lewis’ Objectivist research. FIRE also argued that Ashland was contractually obligated to uphold professors’ full academic freedom and free speech rights. Lewis will be on leave until May 2008, when he will resign from Ashland.

FIRE has been involved in the case and has provided details on its website.

It appears that John Lewis had a very strong case, but a disturbing factor is a provision in the Faculty Contract he had to sign:

The Faculty Member shall support the Mission Statement, including the commitment to Judeo-Christian values...
.

This appears to have been overridden by numerous other agreements regarding John Lewis's open academic work and which it clashes with, so there appears to have been an agreed understanding of how it was qualified, but still ... :)

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Here is what the President of Ashland wrote about the money they got from the Anthem Foundation:

Both pesonally and on behalf of Ashland Univeristy, I want to again express deep appreciation for your three-year gift commitment of $100,000 to establish a fellowship in the department of history and policitcal science at Ashland University. This is a significant commitment in support of Ashland University, its mission, and its students. [emphasis added]

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In the words of Christopher Hitchens in the excellent book I'm now reading (God Is Not Great), religion poisons everything. It's probable that the best venue for Objectivist professional intellectuals today is in secular private schools, not ones with a religious mission. I really can't see the rationale for ever having approached a religiously based school to support Objectivists, it makes absolutely no sense to me. It's like Jews going to a neo-Nazi school to ask for jobs. If the school has anyone with any sense to investigate what Objectivism is actually about, they'll understand that the spread of Objectivism will help to destroy faith, altruism, and religion generally.

Religion should not be feared, it should be aggressively attacked and eliminated at its intellectual roots, and I think that Objectivist intellectuals should say that more often. The commercial success of Hitchens' and Dawkins' books demonstrates that there are many people looking to understand and counter religion, but neither of them have the intellectual strength inherent in Objectivism.

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Religion should not be feared, it should be aggressively attacked and eliminated at its intellectual roots, and I think that Objectivist intellectuals should say that more often. The commercial success of Hitchens' and Dawkins' books demonstrates that there are many people looking to understand and counter religion, but neither of them have the intellectual strength inherent in Objectivism.

That's why I believe we Objectivists should not waste our efforts attacking religion. Writers like Hitchens and Dawkins are already doing that rather well. They are not, however, doing what ONLY Objectivists can do: presenting a positive case for a rational moral alternative to religion.

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What then is the solution? It is not atheism as such—and I say this even though as an Objectivist I am an atheist. "Atheism" is a negative; it means not believing in God—which leaves wide open what you do believe in. It is futile to crusade merely for a negative; the Communists, too, call themselves atheists. Nor is the answer "secular humanism," about which we often hear today. This term is used so loosely that it is practically contentless; it is compatible with a wide range of conflicting viewpoints, including, again, Communism. To combat the doctrines that are destroying our country, out-of-context terms and ideas such as these are useless. What we need is an integrated, consistent philosophy in every branch, and especially in the two most important ones: epistemology and ethics. We need a philosophy of reason and of rational self-interest, a philosophy that would once again release the power of man's mind and the energy inherent in his pursuit of happiness. Nothing less will save America or individual rights. -- Leonard Peikoff, Relgion vs. America, Ford Hall Forum, 1986

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I am an intransigent atheist, though not a militant one. This means that I am not fighting against religion—I am fighting for reason. When faith and reason clash, it is up to the religious people to decide how they choose to reconcile the conflict. As far as I am concerned, I have no terms of communication and no means to deal with people, except through reason. -- Ayn Rand, letter to Rep. Bruce Alger (TX), Feb. 4, 1963

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Erich, thank you for the quotes from Dr. Peikoff and Miss Rand. I never argue against religion as such. All that happens is what we are seeing right now: the knee-jerk response from religious people against the sneers from secularists and atheists (those two are now nearly always conflated). There is no philosophic argument being given on either side, but plenty of mud is being thrown, especially by the secularists and atheists. This causes people to paint all secularists and atheists with the same brush, which means that the mountain of false alternatives just grows. Besides, the relativist ethical wasteland of today's secularists and atheists is such that I can hardly blame religionists for battling against them as fiercely as possible.

And this is the last time I will type "secularists and atheists" so many times in one paragraph. Promise. :)

One ought never to merely rip up another person's foundation. It is proper only to provide them with a better alternative so that they can make the choice to do it themselves--as, in reality, only they can.

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Erich, thank you for the quotes from Dr. Peikoff and Miss Rand. I never argue against religion as such. All that happens is what we are seeing right now: the knee-jerk response from religious people against the sneers from secularists and atheists (those two are now nearly always conflated). There is no philosophic argument being given on either side, but plenty of mud is being thrown, especially by the secularists and atheists. This causes people to paint all secularists and atheists with the same brush, which means that the mountain of false alternatives just grows. Besides, the relativist ethical wasteland of today's secularists and atheists is such that I can hardly blame religionists for battling against them as fiercely as possible.

And this is the last time I will type "secularists and atheists" so many times in one paragraph. Promise. :)

One ought never to merely rip up another person's foundation. It is proper only to provide them with a better alternative so that they can make the choice to do it themselves--as, in reality, only they can.

That pertains to both method and goals. Even if someone is convinced to become an atheist that is not a positive position and it doesn't say anything about what he then stands for, which can be worse. It doesn't even imply that he is necessarily an advocate of reason (which many religionists can, in many realms, still be better at).

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Even if someone is convinced to become an atheist that is not a positive position and it doesn't say anything about what he then stands for, which can be worse. It doesn't even imply that he is necessarily an advocate of reason (which many religionists can, in many realms, still be better at).

That is a problem, which is why I'd like to see an anti-religion book written by somebody who can work in where each of religion's supposed answers have actual reality based answers (and why the rational answer leads to life, religion's to death.) Well, in a way that's Atlas Shrugged ...

The problem with Hitchens for example is that he has no explicitly defined decent philosophy to answer religion.

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It's probable that the best venue for Objectivist professional intellectuals today is in secular private schools, not ones with a religious mission. I really can't see the rationale for ever having approached a religiously based school to support Objectivists, it makes absolutely no sense to me. It's like Jews going to a neo-Nazi school to ask for jobs. If the school has anyone with any sense to investigate what Objectivism is actually about, they'll understand that the spread of Objectivism will help to destroy faith, altruism, and religion generally.

I can't imagine John Lewis signing on to a mission to promote religion. I think he must have found in the beginning that the school in practice was actually dominantly secular, emphasized non-PC courses for a good education, and that he expected them to mean what they said about academic freedom. They seemed to be quite sympathetic with what he was doing with the Anthem Foundation. Clearly, religious politics did him in in the end, but I would not conclude from that that current 'secular' schools are always the best approach. In general, they are loaded with all kinds of garbage of their own. Political and philosophical bias against faculty, and fights over tenure are as old as the hills. I think that the best approach is to look at each school on its own merits in terms of what the department, students and administration are like. It is still possible that an historically 'religious' school turns out to be better in its actual practice in terms of what it has in fact evolved into. (Harvard and other prominent universities today started out as training clergy!)

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I can't imagine John Lewis signing on to a mission to promote religion.

I must have been unclear in what I said - I surely did not mean to imply that Dr. Lewis would promote religion. I simply meant that the university itself is clearly religiously based and I consider that to be an important consideration for future Objectivist intellectual activism there.

Clearly, religious politics did him in in the end, but I would not conclude from that that current 'secular' schools are always the best approach. In general, they are loaded with all kinds of garbage of their own.

Well sure, the universities are loaded with multiculturalists and terrible ideas, but I suspect that it's easier for Objectivists to fill that vacuum than to actively fight against dedicated theists on their own turf and their own terms.

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I can't imagine John Lewis signing on to a mission to promote religion.

I must have been unclear in what I said - I surely did not mean to imply that Dr. Lewis would promote religion.

No, that was clear.

I simply meant that the university itself is clearly religiously based and I consider that to be an important consideration for future Objectivist intellectual activism there.

It sure is at that one, but at the time he went there I don't think it was clear that that was what he would be up against, for the reasons I gave.

Clearly, religious politics did him in in the end, but I would not conclude from that that current 'secular' schools are always the best approach. In general, they are loaded with all kinds of garbage of their own.

Well sure, the universities are loaded with multiculturalists and terrible ideas, but I suspect that it's easier for Objectivists to fill that vacuum than to actively fight against dedicated theists on their own turf and their own terms.

Not necessarily. It's not impossible, because people are doing it, but don't overlook how rabid the academic anti-capitalists can be, let alone anti-individualist of any kind. That has been a major problem in academia for half a century or more. Of course it is no better at an openly and stridently religious school (in fact hopleless), but that doesn't rule out the nominally religious schools that are more secular in practice -- and which John Lewis apparently once thought he had at Ashland before God stepped in :).

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