Betsy Speicher

Conservatives and Liberals on Ayn Rand

95 posts in this topic

I know some people will respond to this that are better equipped than I, but I still have to make a comment:

Victor Davis Hanson's knowledge of philosophy has absolutely nothing to do with this.

A mechanic knows virtually next to nothing about the laws of nature when compared to a physicists: yet when your car breaks down, who do you take it to to be fixed?

Leonard Peikoff may be an expert at abstract philosophy, but Victor Davis Hanson is an expert at History, and because of that I'll take his judgments on the course of events of humanity any day of the week over Peikoff. The abstract insights afforded to Peikoff by philosophy by no means actually replace or supersede the thousands of hours spent studying history by Victor Davis Hanson when it comes to judging the future course of human events.

By your standard than historians like George Bancroft, Henry Adams, and Alfred Thayer Mahan need to be considered. They come from the same grain of cloth as Victor Davis Hanson who happens to be a neoconservative and a registered Democrat.

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Christ, my highschool Physics teacher would lecture us some days on how the earth is 5000 years old! (as one of many examples). [...] If I don't see it even there, where the heck is it ?

Err ... you don't have a problem with a physics teacher lecturing on the age of the earth being 5000 years old? :lol:

I think he used that teacher as an example of the kind of bad intellectual influence of religion that can routinely be found there, not an endorsement of creationism. He is pointing out that his environment is a true example of the kind of conservatives that are so reviled, and that even with all that, he still doesn't see evidence of people there promoting theocracy (the "it" in "where the heck is it?"), and that he finds the general personal attitude and sense of life there much more individualistic, reality oriented and pro-American than modern progressive liberals. He isn't arguing that they are intellectual saviors on the verge of reforming the universities or that religious faith if followed consistently would not be destructive.

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You have to look at reality, and do so with a conceptual mind. Good philosophy is what tells you you have to look at reality. I'm not following your point here. Last I looked Bush is in the White House. Bush is a promoter of faith.

Is that true? Is Bush a promoter or is he a believer who doesn't talk about his faith unless asked?

Of course there are promoters of various faiths. Ann Coulter is a promoter of Christianity, Hilary Clinton is a promoter of socialism, and Al Gore is a promoter of environmentalism (America's leading faith).

The left is nihilistic and bankrupt. These are facts of reality.

Are they? Nihilism is a philosophy -- a very destructive philosophy -- that threatenes everything an Objectivist values. It is far from bankrupt because it still dominates our universities and now the U.S. Congress.

It's rationalistic to ignore the facts, which means the full picture.

I agree.

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The abstract insights afforded to Peikoff by philosophy by no means actually replace or supersede the thousands of hours spent studying history by Victor Davis Hanson when it comes to judging the future course of human events.

Maybe that's why Ayn Rand majored in history instead of philosophy.

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I think he used that teacher as an example of the kind of bad intellectual influence of religion that can routinely be found there, not an endorsement of creationism. He is pointing out that his environment is a true example of the kind of conservatives that are so reviled, and that even with all that, he still doesn't see evidence of people there promoting theocracy (the "it" in "where the heck is it?"), and that he finds the general personal attitude and sense of life there much more individualistic, reality oriented and pro-American than modern progressive liberals.

I know that's what he's trying to say (though I appreciate your coherent elaboration), but my point was different than political. Epistemology precedes politics, and the damage done to the minds of children being taught by science [sic] teachers following the Bible is non-trivial - but so pervasive that it's taken for granted. Are those kids going to be capable of challenging Al Gore on his "scientific method"? I don't think so. Are they capable of defending rights rationally against the systematic assaults of socialists/environmentalists? Yeah, right. I differ from some in thinking that the "average religious American" is the biggest threat to America; I simply consider them to be utterly impotent against the biggest threats (environmentalism and Islam.) If this wonderful "God-fearing" part of America is such an antidote to the nihilism of the Left, I just want to know why the country is actually so screwed up.

This AR quote is what I'm talking about, personally (from For the New Intellectual). The part in bold is what I see some posters here (not ewv) defending:

One of America's tragic errors is that too many of her best minds believe—as they did in the past—that the solution is to turn anti-intellectual and rely on some cracker-barrel sort of folksy wisdom. The exact opposite is true. What we need most urgently is to recognize the enormous power and the crucial importance of the intellectual professions. A culture cannot exist without a constant stream of ideas and the alert, independent minds who originate them; it cannot exist without a philosophy of life, without those who formulate it and express it. A country without intellectuals is like a body without a head. And that is precisely the position of America today. Our present state of cultural disintegration is not maintained and prolonged by intellectuals as such, but by the fact that we haven't any.

And as an FYI, I am hardly lacking in personal empirical experience in living in a religious culture.

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You have to look at reality, and do so with a conceptual mind. Good philosophy is what tells you you have to look at reality. I'm not following your point here. Last I looked Bush is in the White House. Bush is a promoter of faith.

Is that true? Is Bush a promoter or is he a believer who doesn't talk about his faith unless asked?

I consider him a strong promoter. His faith based initiatives are proof positive of this. He also acts on his faith based ideas implicitly. For instance, one of the reasons he appeases muslims is because he believes religion is sacred.

Of course there are promoters of various faiths. Ann Coulter is a promoter of Christianity, Hilary Clinton is a promoter of socialism, and Al Gore is a promoter of environmentalism (America's leading faith).
The left is nihilistic and bankrupt. These are facts of reality.

Are they? Nihilism is a philosophy -- a very destructive philosophy -- that threatenes everything an Objectivist values. It is far from bankrupt because it still dominates our universities and now the U.S. Congress.

Postmodernism is nihilistic, because its primary thrust is the destruction of the West and of man. This would include environmentalism. I do believe the left today is largely nihilistic because of their promotion of postmodernism, and because of the fact that they try to destroy their opponents without regard for the truth. Examples of this are Rush Limbaugh, Clarence Thomas, The Duke University Lacrosse team, Michael Medved, etc.

This philosophy is particularly bad in universities.

As to it being bankrupt, I consider it bankrupt, because they wouldn't stand a chance in the light of day. They have to be sneaky and deceptive to get by. They won’t argue openly, unless they are among their own kind or have the power to shut their opponents up (pcism).

It's rationalistic to ignore the facts, which means the full picture.

I agree.

Right. :lol: That’s why I like to make sure I take them into full account.

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...and Al Gore is a promoter of environmentalism (America's leading faith).
While I am certainly far from one to downplay the threat of viros, I think this overstates the position of this philosophy in America (as well as the methodology used to accept whatever of its premises are accepted by individuals).

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Epistemology precedes politics, and the damage done to the minds of children being taught by science [sic] teachers following the Bible is non-trivial - but so pervasive that it's taken for granted. Are those kids going to be capable of challenging Al Gore on his "scientific method"? I don't think so.

I do think so. While bad teachers can affect their students they cannot prevent them from thinking.

As evidence, everyone reading this should ask himself how much effect all the awful, irrational teachers he had in the course of his "education" have had on his current ideas. Not much, is it? Perhaps, that was because, somewhere along the way, you read Ayn Rand.

The moral of the story is that a little rational philosophy goes a long, long way.

The moral of the moral is contribute to ARI's Books for Teachers program. :lol:

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And with all that I still do not see any goodness coming from the Christian religion or any religion for that matter. If Christians do anything good, it is not because of their religion, it is in spite of it, which is what I have been stating this whole time. And fundamentally, I do not see either the Conservatives nor the Liberals being a long-term ally with Objectivist considering their metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and politics are totally different.

Well hold on a second, are we talking about Christians, or Christianity? There is a world of difference. I haven't argued for Christianity doing good things, only Christians.

Also, I don't speak for Christians as being a long term ally for Objectivism, or other Objectivists. I just cite them as being an ally to me. (I? I never learned grammar)

I think that the avergae American Christian is, for the most part, a value oriented person that is striving to be moral. But, when they do achieve something good I think it is in spite of their Christian beliefs and not because of those beliefs. In other words a Christian can be good when he leaves his Christianity behind.

I could be wrong, but would it not be more correct to state that Christinaity is no ally of Objectivism, but I do have allies that are Christians.

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The moral of the moral is contribute to ARI's Books for Teachers program. :lol:

I agree, because it takes enlightened individuals to gain and then maintain freedom.

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Is Bush a promoter [of faith] or is he a believer who doesn't talk about his faith unless asked?

I consider him a strong promoter. His faith based initiatives are proof positive of this.

Observe that his "initiatives" involved the privatization of government-run charities rather than promotion of religion. Observe that he proposed very few programs and, when they met with opposition, withdrew them. That is hardly a crusade for religion.

He also acts on his faith based ideas implicitly.

So does every religious person including all past Presidents. If you look at Bush's speeches and public statements, however, you will see fewer mentions of God than in Washington's, Lincoln's, FDR's, or Kennedy's.

For instance, one of the reasons he appeases muslims is because he believes religion is sacred.

Neither you nor I can read Bush's mind but, based on what I have seen, I think his appeasement comes from moral uncertainty and accepting premises from multiculturalism.

Postmodernism is nihilistic, because its primary thrust is the destruction of the West and of man. This would include environmentalism. I do believe the left today is largely nihilistic because of their promotion of postmodernism, and because of the fact that they try to destroy their opponents without regard for the truth. Examples of this are Rush Limbaugh, Clarence Thomas, The Duke University Lacrosse team, Michael Medved, etc.

I don't know about the lacrosse team, but every other target of the nihilists you mention are outspoken, on the Right, and religious. Does anyone think the right strategy is to condemn and try to destroy Limbaugh, Thomas, and Medved and support the Leftist nihilists?

As to [the Leftists] being bankrupt, I consider it bankrupt, because they wouldn't stand a chance in the light of day. They have to be sneaky and deceptive to get by. They won’t argue openly, unless they are among their own kind or have the power to shut their opponents up (pcism).

That is why I warned against voting for the Democrats last year. They may be morally bankrupt, but they are not impotent. They are in power and they want to use that power to silence opposing ideas: Rush, Thomas, Medved, and us.

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...and Al Gore is a promoter of environmentalism (America's leading faith).
While I am certainly far from one to downplay the threat of viros, I think this overstates the position of this philosophy in America (as well as the methodology used to accept whatever of its premises are accepted by individuals).

Faith is the acceptance of an idea without evidence or with evidence to the contrary. Isn't that the way Americans have accepted environmentalism? The more honest people have accepted environmentalism because they trust its advocates, but that mistaken trust is an act of faith, too.

Observe how environmentalism is accepted by almost everyone: by most religious people and most atheists, most Republicans and most Democrats. That's why I call environmentalism America's leading faith.

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...and Al Gore is a promoter of environmentalism (America's leading faith).
While I am certainly far from one to downplay the threat of viros, I think this overstates the position of this philosophy in America (as well as the methodology used to accept whatever of its premises are accepted by individuals).
Faith is the acceptance of an idea without evidence or with evidence to the contrary. Isn't that the way Americans have accepted environmentalism?
I would say no. In general, with regard to things like recycling and other staples of environmentalism (which is what is actually "accepted by almost everyone") these ideas are accepted on the basis of evidence. Of course, whether the evidence actually supports their conclusions is another story. But the point is that the majority of people I run across appeal to reason when presenting their premises. They are not acting on faith.
Observe how environmentalism is accepted by almost everyone...
I agree that many people accept a variety of different premises which have been promoted by environmentalism. But that is not at all the same as saying they accept environmentalism itself - any more than saying the acceptance by many of some premises of Objectivism means they accept Objectivism itself.

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I do think so. While bad teachers can affect their students they cannot prevent them from thinking.

As evidence, everyone reading this should ask himself how much effect all the awful, irrational teachers he had in the course of his "education" have had on his current ideas. Not much, is it? Perhaps, that was because, somewhere along the way, you read Ayn Rand.

The moral of the story is that a little rational philosophy goes a long, long way.

The moral of the moral is contribute to ARI's Books for Teachers program. :lol:

Well, I consider ARI's work to be pivotal in turning around the culture. I suspect that future historians will have something to say about the magnitude of that importance.

I am optimistic *to the extent* that their work results in actual penetration of the ideas in the culture. But to the extent that it does not, there are very few positive factors going for the culture, and the typical educational environment, and the culture generally, is a complete mess. The antidote is coming but there's a lot of poison swirling around too. There's a great potential in sight but that potential is not yet an actuality, and environmentalism would not be the kind of threat that it is, without millions of brainwashed kids around the world.

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I am optimistic *to the extent* that their work results in actual penetration of the ideas in the culture. But to the extent that it does not, there are very few positive factors going for the culture, and the typical educational environment, and the culture generally, is a complete mess. The antidote is coming but there's a lot of poison swirling around too. There's a great potential in sight but that potential is not yet an actuality, and environmentalism would not be the kind of threat that it is, without millions of brainwashed kids around the world.

I understand the tendency to look at the mess around us and feel pessimistic. But it has always been thus, to the great suffering of people everywhere. But this is what makes Ayn Rand so important. The reactions to the 50th anniversary of the publishing of Atlas has been instructive. Without exception, the criticism has been by those who are obviously uninformed or by the vicious. In both cases, I've read replies that called the authors on their ignorance and viciousness, most of which have been articulate and right in their defense of Miss Rand, the book, and Objectivism. Many of them said they didn't agree fully, but the things they chose to agree with are important, and a beginning.

Consider that people are talking about this book 50 years after it was published! And consider that the ideas have only been out there for 50 years, with the more technical works and applications out there for less time. And it isn't just the intellectuals, but Joe Schmo on the street, which is stunning when you think of the normal course of ideas. Remember, too, that the spread of her ideas isn't confined to America, or even the English speaking world!

When I get discouraged, I remind myself of the entire context, all of man's history, within which we are operating. That perspective gives me an appreciation for how far her ideas have come. There is ARI, and their school. There is Lisa Van Damm's academy, and the very important work she has done in theories of education. There is the brand new Founder's College. These entities, Founders excepted only because it is new, are graduating students. There are Objectivist professors teaching in major universities. Frankly, Phil, I would never have thought that such accomplishments would have been possible so soon after Objectivism was introduced to the world.

I see these things and my pessimism vanishes. I don't expect Galt's Gulch in my lifetime. But I am confident that reason will prevail. Impatience aside, I know I can't ask for more from my fellow human beings, not and claim that I understand and respect the requirements of the reasoning mind.

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When I get discouraged, I remind myself of the entire context, all of man's history, within which we are operating. That perspective gives me an appreciation for how far her ideas have come. [...] I see these things and my pessimism vanishes. I don't expect Galt's Gulch in my lifetime. But I am confident that reason will prevail. Impatience aside, I know I can't ask for more from my fellow human beings, not and claim that I understand and respect the requirements of the reasoning mind.

I appreciate what you're saying, Janet. I try to remain optimistic about the future, and actually I am probably more optimistic now than at any time in recent memory. My fear is that civilization will not hang around long enough for the good to permanently win. The 20th century shows too clearly that terrible things can happen, more terrible than any in all preceding human history, and I'm not convinced that humanity has learned much from it - and "those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it." A repeat with 21st century technology is not nice to contemplate. Given the impotent response of the U.S. government to 9/11, my best hope to that threat is that nobody smart enough to do extreme damage will go to work for the fanatics who are way too stupid and irrational to create much trouble by themselves.

There's an interesting aspect to a largely Objectivist society that I haven't seen discussed very much, but I think it's very important and especially optimism-producing: should such a society come into being, it's logical that it would be self-sustaining essentially eternally. Without fundamental irrationalities to tear down the culture, enough self-aware/philosophically aware people would not let things go to hell - they couldn't, there would be too many knowing too much to permit that to happen. This is in distinct contrast to literally every other culture in history, including America's. I am doing what I can to try to ensure it will happen, and also to live long enough to see the results.

I will admit that I get angry when I see those who should know better, advocate as an ideal, less than what would be required for the best society; and I also *do* expect more from other people - after all, those of us who did not grow up with Objectivists for parents realized the importance of the ideas, so what's everybody else's excuse? - but that won't change human nature - which is why I maintain that the real hope lies in the young (the young of today and of future generations) who still retain independence and haven't had their minds wiped out yet, who are living in a time when the right ideas are now available, and the technology exists to spread them at lightspeed.

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The moral of the moral is contribute to ARI's Books for Teachers program. :lol:

I am proud to say that I just sponsored my home town of Lincoln, Nebraska. ;)

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The moral of the moral is contribute to ARI's Books for Teachers program. :lol:

I am proud to say that I just sponsored my home town of Lincoln, Nebraska. ;)

Congratulations, Matt.

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The moral of the moral is contribute to ARI's Books for Teachers program. :lol:

I am proud to say that I just sponsored my home town of Lincoln, Nebraska. ;)

Awesome, Matt. Nice work!

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