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Archive | Academia

On The Nozickian Non-Argument: Gossip on Quora Based on Robert Nozick’s Failure To Grasp Ayn Rand’s Ideas

Forbes quotes a Ph.,d. candidate writing for Quora. Aside from the author using words like “nuanced” and “remarkably sensitive” — something which the author’s post is neither — the post is of little value as it simply sets up a second handed, straw man  attack of Ayn Rand’s ideas. As a purportedly professional academic, the author examines criticisms of Ayn Rand’s thought, without seeking to examine the actual material for Ayn Rand’s thought itself! In other words the author is dealing in academic gossip.

What is of value are some of the responses, most notably by philosopher Dr. Harry Binswanger of HBL, which we present here:

After a lifetime of teaching Rand’s philosophy inside and outside the universities, I can say (and prove) that she wins the debate with Nozick.

Nozick’s criticisms of her proof of life as the standard of value reflect a total misreading of what she says. (I spoke to Nozick about this many years ago, and sent him a 6 page single-spaced letter on the subject. He said he hoped to read it eventually, but had too big a pile on his desk to get to it “soon.” I guess he never did get to it.)

Here’s the error in Nozick and this site’s post: Rand’s argument is NOT that you have to be alive in order to act. Everyone knows that trivial point. Her argument is that life–and only life–is what brings the phenomenon of values into existence.

Apart from the alternative of staying alive or going out of existence, there are only facts, not values, not good and evil, not helpful or harmful. A living organism’s need to act in order to survive is gives rise to the whole phenomenon of “good for” and “bad for,” “beneficial” and “harmful,” “valuable,” and “disvaluable” etc.

In Atlas Shrugged (no less) she states “It is only the concept of ‘Life’ that makes the concept of ‘Value’ possible.” To support this, she gives in The Virtue of Selfishness the killer example of an immortal, indestructible robot which is impervious to all affects of its actions. Such a robot could move and “act” but could have no goals or values. Nothing could be good for it or bad for it. Facing no alternative in its own condition, it could have no “stake” in the outcome of its actions. This illustrates how “value” depends upon the agent facing an alternative in its condition–the fundamental such alternative being its continued existence as an acting agent (life) or ceasing to exist as such (death).

Nozick further misunderstands her proof’s methodology. The key steps of it are not deductive but inductive. In fact, the Objectivist epistemology holds that all new knowledge is inductive–deduction is essentially for the application of existing knowledge to new concretes. That view in itself is a radical departure from the (ironically) Platonic “methodology” of contemporary philosophers, who are mostly Empiricist in regard to the content of their ideas.

Rand’s thought is much more profound than that of her critics, who are playing games around the periphery without even grasping the fundamentals.

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Video: Dr. John David Lewis on His Book Nothing Less Than Victory

Dr. John David Lewis talks about his book Nothing Less Than Victory.

Dr. Lewis is a visiting associate professor in the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Program at Duke University. He holds a PhD in classics from the University of Cambridge, has taught at the University of London. He has been a senior research scholar in history and classics at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center, Bowling Green State University, and a fellow of the Foundation for Objectivist Scholarship. He has published in journals such as Journal of Business Ethics, Social Philosophy and Policy, 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), Early Greek Lawgivers (Bristol Classical Press, August, 2007), and Nothing Less than Victory: Decisive Wars and the Lessons of History (Princeton, 2010). His website is www.JohnDavidLewis.com.

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The Philosophy of the New Left

Writes C. Bradley Thompson: “In 1958 Mike Wallace interviewed the Marxist social theorist, Erich Fromm (author of “The Sane Society”). If you want to understand the philosophy behind the New Left and the world in which we live today, I recommend that you watch it. [...] Watching the Fromm interview helps us to understand why the Dustin Hoffman film, The Graduate, was such a hit in 1967. The culture had been prepared by Fromm, Marcuse, et. al. The famous line uttered by Mr. McGuire to Benjamin is straight out of Fromm: ‘I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. . . Are you listening? . . . Plastics.’ “

Watch the Erich Fromm Interview

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EVENT: Ideas Matter: Ayn Rand’s Message to Today’s World — A Live Lecture Broadcast to Universities Across the Country

From The Undercurrent:

AYN RAND’S MESSAGE TO TODAY’S WORLD
A LIVE LECTURE BROADCAST TO UNIVERSITIES ACROSS THE COUNTRY
THURSDAY, MAR 31 – 6:00 PM PACIFIC, 9:00 PM EASTERN

Today’s young people face an uncertain world. Unemployment among recent college graduates is at a record high, the United States is still bogged down in two foreign wars, and the wobbling American economy is in danger of deteriorating further once the Baby Boomers retire.

Voters choose between Democrats in one landslide election and Republicans in another, expressing their discontent with each party, and seemingly, their own uncertainty about how America should move forward. Many people wonder: where are we headed? Will America continue to be the land of opportunity, or are our best days behind us?

Dr. Yaron Brook, President of the Ayn Rand Institute, will argue that the answer to that question depends on what ideas young people accept and fight for. Join Dr. Brook as he goes beyond the headlines, examining the basic ideas that have shaped today’s events. And learn why the solution to today’s problems lies in rethinking not just our political system, but in abandoning the worship of selflessness.

To watch visit the website at: ideas.theundercurrent.info

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