Gee, Google’s n-gram database is interesting.
On a whim, I started watching the live stream of the Republican National Convention just moments ago. I was well rewarded:
“And we have the ingénue-ity [sic] to develop alternative sources of energy too.” — Condoleezza Rice.
John Dewey gets name-dropped in a wandering bit of “sustainability” pabulum. What if a bunch of kids learn to do some things by themselves, but never for themselves?
A few years ago, I was contemplating Endarkenment and what might be done about it when I experienced a little epiphany. I saw the root cause of the Endarkenment for the first time, and it was immediately obvious the general method by which it might be torn up and burned out. I thought, no one is going to believe this.
(For reasons I’m not going to go into here, I haven’t spent much time working on detailing or communicating my method for rekindling Enlightenment culture. So far, the most I’ve said (publicly, anyhow) was to suggest that the rekindling will begin with higher men withdrawing their sanction from the status quo.)
As I have thought about how to begin to communicate my method, I have found myself revisiting old questions: What is a philosopher? Why are there so few philosophers? Why are the kinds of ideas philosophers trade in so difficult to communicate?
This revisiting has been due to the nature of my rhetorical challenge: I want to communicate directly to other philosophers, but philosophers are not, I think, used to being addressed directly. Philosophers are not, I think, generally aware that they constitute a class.
“Evil People Have Plans!” – MoC #18 (by comedian Lee Camp)
There’s lots to quibble with in this video. Still, he’s right.
This is the tenth entry in my Antistatism Series.
Objectivism has nothing substantive to say about the private ownership of firearms, and nothing at all to say about the revolutionary and radical implications of the Second Amendment. Objectivists, in the aggregate, tend to follow Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff in thinking of the right to keep and bear arms as a peripheral issue in politics. After all, “A political battle is merely a skirmish fought with muskets; a philosophical battle is a nuclear war.” For Objectivists per se, there is no concern that Americans might ever need to shoot their way to a free country; they intend to think, write, and talk themselves into that state.
Since Objectivism itself has no substantive position on the right to keep and bear arms, Objectivists have assumed varying positions. Some are trenchant supporters of the Second Amendment; some are tepid supporters; some seem to want no truck with guns at all. If there is a consensus among Objectivists, it is this: Individuals have the right of personal self-defense, and a proper government must permit the personal ownership of small firearms at least for this reason, and probably for sport and target shooting as well. Notably, there is not a consensus amongst Objectivists against what is presently called “reasonable gun-control.”
Leonard Peikoff, for example, argues that the right to self-defense implies that citizens should be permitted to own only those firearms suited to the purpose of personal defense or other “domestic use[s],” and that the private ownership of fully automatic weapons, or other weapons that are demonstrably ill-suited to stopping a burglar or dropping a moose, should be outlawed. Given the radical meaning of the Second Amendment, that it exists to empower the people to forcibly check the expansion of government power, it is clear from his position here that Peikoff either misunderstands, rejects as outmoded, or rejects fundamentally the principles of the Second Amendment. (Lest it appear I might agree with Peikoff on this issue, let me pause to note that, while I have argued in this series that the Second Amendment is outmoded, I have not said what implications, if any, this has for contemporary gun-control debates.)
As I have already alluded, Objectivists have no interest in violent revolution, except to preempt one through intellectual and cultural revolution. As is plain from their reverence for the Declaration of Independence, Objectivists agree with the Founders on right of revolution (in theory). It should also be plain, from their treatment of gun rights, that they part ways with the Founders, radically, when the question arises of what the people should do when, in the the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another.
No. That is wrong. Objectivists do not part ways with the Founders when this question arises; they part ways with the Founders when it doesn’t arise.
A recent comment on “It’s Ours To Lose” has inspired me to write up a brief progress report on my Antistatism Series. I’ve been considering posting a progress report for … years … now, but I’ve had other things on my mind.
First, since this may not have been clear, the series is not complete. I estimate it is no more than half written, and probably less. Some long-planned, long-delayed posts include:
Second, the overarching thesis of the series is that the Objectivist politics is the best attempt at justifying the state ever put forth, but that it is still rationalistic, i.e., detached from reality, therefore there exists no justification for the state. Antistatism, or complete skepticism about the state as an institution, will be substantiated inductively by the end of the series. The planned structure of the argument is: define antistatism; show that politics must be justified inductively; contrast the Founders’ extensively inductive, clever, and subtle statecraft with the pie-in-the-sky, hand-wavy statecraft of Objectivism (and this is where I’ve left off); identify fatal lacunae in Objectivism’s extant and implied statecraft; universalize and essentialize these criticisms so that Objectivists are not tempted to filibuster with post-hoc revisionist interpretations of their own politics; account for how a philosophy as subtle and powerful as Objectivism made such profound errors when it reached politics; and, finally, review the argument and consider the implications for anarchism.
Third, readers should keep in mind that the series, like everything on this blog, is a “live rough draft.” I expect to revise extensively. Still, my live rough drafts are pretty damn good, I think, and definitely worth reading and considering carefully despite their inchoate state.
Many who have learned from Ayn Rand believe that Enlightenment civilization, the bequeathal of Aristotle, Newton, and Jefferson, declines precipitously toward a renaissance of the medieval, of the Paleolithic, or worse, with perhaps an interregnum of digital-age totalitarian fascism along the way. Picture a televangelist smiling beatifically. Then picture him in sanguine raiment and steel-toed boots, still smiling, stomping on humanity’s face, if not forever, for a very, very long time.
Against the Dying of the Light
Objectivism is a life-affirming philosophy. Its adherents tend to be optimists, or at least admire and strive toward a rational, justified optimism. In this context, an important Objectivist idea is the “impotence of evil.” Ayn Rand wrote that “The spread of evil is the symptom of a vacuum. Whenever evil wins, it is only by default …” (from “The Anatomy of Compromise,” in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, 149.)
This is a powerful idea, and Objectivists take it seriously. Despite their pessimism about the present course of Western (especially American) Civilization, they are hard at work trying to build up and apply the intellectual force necessary to make the right course correction. They believe they can win, and their notion of victory is expansive. It is nothing less than the total reformation of American culture.
Philosophy and History
Objectivists believe they can move the world because they have in hand a very long lever, and intend to capture a very solid point upon which to rest it. According to Objectivism, philosophy moves history, and Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism is much more comprehensive, consistent, and powerful than the mish-mash that informed the Framers of the Constitution. By capturing the commanding heights of the West’s ivory towers, Objectivists hope to educate a vanguard of teachers, writers, journalists, and public intellectuals of all kinds in Objectivist fundamentals. These opinion leaders will, in turn, drive the intellectually inert masses toward a second renaissance culture: a rebirth of reason.
Race for the Prize
The essential Objectivist view of their enterprise is that it is a race against time. Will they capture enough influence in academia, and parlay and extend that influence to political elites, or even a new Objectivistic “common sense” among the masses that upholds objective reality, reason, self-interest, and capitalism? As long as America is free from censorship, Objectivists believe they have more than a fighting chance. If current trends continue, however, Objectivist activism will eventually be criminalized. If that happens, the Objectivists’ plan will have failed.
The furor over McCaskey seems to have died down. I’m not sure what to make of it.
I agree with Trey Givens’s take on what the real questions are, or should be.
I would amend my previous comments anticipating “exculpatory” evidence: until the real questions are answered, all final judgments about this affair are military-grade bullshit. It’s not clear to me that Peikoff’s case has need of any “exculpatory” evidence. Fuck all is clear until the real questions are answered.
Careful readers may have noticed a certain degradation of my customarily elevated diction in this post. That’s because this whole thing has left me a bit disgusted. More than a bit, actually.
People have been talking about philosophy while acting like bitches. Philosophy is sacred. In its midst, no bitch-acting is allowed.