Tag Archives: Reason

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There are many things that could be said about this campaign season, and there are many competent people saying them. But there is one essential similarity between both “liberals” and “conservatives” this election which I think has gone unnoticed. It is this essential similarity which reveals the root of our current political plight––and therefore, the potential solution. That similarity is mindlessness.

Of course, the rabbid mindlessness of the left began to flaunt itself as early as last year in the contrived campus protests, the racist Black-Lives-Matter movement, and the emotion-ridden hysteria of trigger warnings, micro-aggressions, and safe spaces. Many heroic voices have actively fought against the emotional insanity of these “precious little snowflakes” (hat-tip to Ben Shapiro, Steven Crowder, and Milo Yinnaupolis). But while criticizing the irrational insanity of the left, which began at simmer stage decades ago, and has now boiled over into full-blown bat-sh*t crazy, we failed to see a similar phenomenon bubbling up in our own “camp”. There’s no denying it now, though. The pure emotionalism and irrationality of Trump supporters demonstrates that this mind-eating malaria which seems to be in the air isn’t exclusive to the left.

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Immovable Mover

Ayn Rand claims that the existence of God is incompatible with her philosophy and morality – but is it? What if atheism, rather than theism is entirely incompatible with her philosophy?

Rand’s atheism was primarily, a very understandable reaction to the anti-intellectual ‘theists’ in popular culture – Christians in particular. But modern Christianity, like modern Capitalism and modern Conservatism, is very heavily influenced by the defunct philosophical assumptions of Immanuel Kant and his successors – which is why modern Christianity can often be referred to appropriately as ‘Kantianity’. This Kantianized Christianity (which has dominated the cultural scene for centuries) is, indeed, characterized by the propagation of irrationality, mysticism, and altruism – as Rand rightly points out. However, just as Rand was able to distinguish true Capitalism from its Kantianized distortions, she would have found a similar phenomenon with Christianity, had she desired to aim her focus in that direction. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, she did not. No matter. I shall.

In addition to her highly commendable aversion to irrationality in modern Christianity, Rand’s main explicit reasons for rejecting theism had to do with some unfortunate misunderstandings about the claims of theism.  Rand thought that the super-naturalism of theism meant the existence of things beyond existence 1. She thought that the attributes of God were supposed to defy the laws of logic 2. She thought that God was merely a consciousness, conscious of nothing but its own consciousness 3. If theism actually demanded any of the above contradictions, she – and everyone else – would be absolutely right to reject it. The problem is: it doesn’t. No rational theist has ever taught or advocated the contradictions which Rand and her followers attribute to theism. They are all straw men.

But I’m not simply claiming that there is room for theism in Ayn Rand’s philosophy. I am arguing that Ayn Rand’s philosophy demands it. The ‘essence of Objectivism’, as Ayn Rand put it, is the supremacy of reason:

…and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows. This—the supremacy of reason—was, is and will be the primary concern of my work, and the essence of Objectivism.4

Very well. This means that, no matter what the jarring implications to preconceived notions may be, that which reason leads to must be earnestly embraced. Therefore, if reason demands (as I am about to argue) that God, in fact, exists, then no amount of inconvenient implications arising from this fact can negate its truthfulness or sufficiently excuse an atheist from taking it seriously. So, take a moment to forget about the emotional hang-ups and the difficult philosophical implications if its true, and just follow the simple reasoning presented below as objectively as you can.

The following is a very simple and concise demonstration of the rational necessity of theism, using basic facts and the simple laws of logic. It is my own re-statement of the ‘Prime Mover Argument’.

1)      Things can only act according to their natures. This is the law of causality.

2)      Regarding action, the nature of a thing is either purposeful or accidental – meaning that an action is either purposeful or un-purposeful, intentional or unintentional.  This is the law of the excluded middle applied to the nature of action.

3)      Accidental actions are necessarily the result of some sort of interaction – which means that every accidental action necessitates a prior action of some kind.

4)      There cannot be an infinite regress of accidental actions. An infinite regress of a series cannot exist because a series must have a beginning in order to exist.

5)      There must have been an action which triggered the beginning of accidental action (3 & 4), and this ‘trigger’ action could not, itself, have been accidental (3).

6)      If the beginning to accidental action could not have been accidental, then it must have been purposeful (2).

7)      A purposeful action is a volitional action and volition presupposes a mind and values.

8)      An actor with mind, values, and volition is a person.

9)      A personal actor began all accidental action in the universe.

That’s it. The extent to which it seems complex is merely the extent to which it needs to be worded in a specific way in order to avoid foolish misunderstandings and objections. The above could be summed up in the simple thought that “something with a sufficient nature to begin all of this must exist – and nothing but a personal, divine-like being, would be sufficient”.

I’ll admit that the above does not firmly establish that this personal actor is ‘divine’ or that it even still exists – let alone that it resembles historical conceptions of God. However, such can be easily concluded by a continuation of the simple reasoning process demonstrated above. In fact, given the proper philosophical tools, it is not difficult to see how this Mover is very similar, in character and motive, to the heroes of Ayn Rand’s writing. But, I’ll save that for future posts (and for my book!) haha.
For now it is sufficient to recognize that the classical argument for a ‘Prime Mover’ is fully and legitimately necessitated by anyone committed to reason. Those who genuinely desire to know the truth will eagerly pursue more detail about this Mover, and those who are simply playing intellectual games will employ every manner of evasion possible in order to dismiss the need to follow reason in this matter.

Which will you be?

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“The alleged short-cut to knowledge, which is faith, is only a short-circuit, destroying the mind.”

-Ayn Rand, FTNI 128

If you know anything about Ayn Rand’s philosophy, you know that she considers faith to be a despicable evil.

If you know anything about Christianity, you know that faith is considered essential to virtue.

What you most likely do not know is that those two “faiths” are not the same. The faith denounced by Ayn Rand is not the faith advocated by true Christianity. I say true Christianity as opposed to modern Christianity because modern Christians do indeed advocate the same faith which Ayn Rand denounces – to their own peril.

The faith which Ayn Rand denounced – and which modern Christians despicably advocate – is that which is described in the quote above: a faith used as a ‘short-cut’ or replacement for knowledge. She’s right: it is ‘only a short-circuit which destroys the mind’ – and everything else in Man’s life, along with it. Faith was never meant to serve as a ground or source for knowledge, and no argument can be given for such a use. Reason is that which brings knowledge. Faith, properly, is only ever to be a product of reason – never a replacement of it.

"Biblical" Faith

But, isn’t faith “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb11:1)? Yes. Now, stop treating the Bible like a fragmented grab-bag of bromides and apply your mind in order to discover what the author means. There are some very helpful examples of this faith given all throughout the rest of the chapter (and the climax of these examples is in the beginning of the following chapter – but we’ll talk about that in a minute).The two examples to focus on in order to shed more light on this issue are Abraham and Moses.

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac… for he reasoned that God is able to raise from the dead”.(v.17-18)

What was Abraham’s faith based in? It was based in his reason – particular his accurate reasoning that God is capable of raising Isaac from the dead.

“By faith Moses… considered the reproaches of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as though seeing Him who is unseen”.(v.24-27)

No, the author of Hebrews did not have a brain-lapse between “seeing” and “unseen”. He’s speaking of two different types of sight. The first is the “sight” of the mind – of reason, which rises above the concrete, which abstracts and sees the long-range, the big picture, the full context. The second “sight” is concrete perception. In other words, what the author here describes of Moses is that great attribute of Man which Ayn Rand so exults in: breaking free from the concrete-bound, from the range of the moment. This was what gave rise to the faith of Moses. He reasoned about God in such a way that he saw the reward of following God as more real and precious than the concrete, range of the moment treasures of Egypt. He reasoned about God in such a way that he saw Him who is unseen – meaning that he understood, with absolute clarity – as though seeing a concrete image – the massive weight of the glory of God in such a way that inspired him to do the ‘impossible’.

The Fruit of Reason

That is what faith is: the full weight of conviction in the soul, flowing from absolute certainty about the long-rage vision of one’s mind, and bursting forth in courageous and heroic action to obtain that which one sees and knows to be true. And while Ayn Rand did not have a word for this, she certainly wrote about it often. One of her most succinct expressions of this (and one of my absolute favorites) is that of Francisco D'Anconia just after his near-nervous breakdown under the tremendous weight of the choice set before him by his deepest values. This line comes just after he has finalized the decision in his own soul:

“He did not look like a man bearing torture now, but like a man who sees that which makes the torture worth bearing” p.112, Atlas Shrugged

Now, I cannot think of (let alone write of) that line without the following line from Hebrews 12 in mind:

“Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising its shame”(v.2)

Not tortured, but seeing that which makes torture worth bearing. Not the cross, but joy just on the other side. What certainty! This – this kind of faith – does not come from fleeting emotions. It comes from the most disciplined use of one’s mind in seeing and holding onto that which one knows to be true – in spite of the monumental torture one will have to endure to keep that hold. It comes from the most devout conviction that what is true – what is right – will triumphantly surpass all alternatives.

The Fight of Faith

That is real faith and that is its proper function. Not a substitute for reason, but a vibrant, strong, and desperately essential fruit of it. You want to be "faithful"? You want to be a man or woman of "faith"? Then, among the heroes of faith in Hebrews, pay close attention to the heroes of Ayn Rand who, by their God-given minds, rise far above the fray of the concrete bound in order to see, cherish, and act upon the full truth.

And now I leave you with one more example of such faith (including its momentary lapse) – for your instruction, your inspiration, your contemplation, and your emulation.

“And then, for one instant, I did what I had never done before, what most men wreck their lives on doing – I saw that moment out of context… I saw, as I stood in the rain in a crowd of vagrants, what my years would have brought me if that world had existed, and I felt a desperate longing – he was the image of everything I should have been… and he had everything that should have been mine… But it was only a moment. Then I saw the scene in full context again and in all of its actual meaning…” –John Galt, Atlas Shrugged p.878

FTNI: For the New Intellectual

Atlas Shrugged quotes from 50th Anniversary Edition

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The media is abuzz about a “schism” in the Republican Party, a “crisis of values” among Conservatives. But, the media – and unfortunately those responding to it – are all too superficial to see that this is more than a political schism; much more. The political aspect is just a faint echo – a tremor, which serves as a precursor to the massive coming earthquake. It is not a political crisis, but a philosophical one. It is not a crisis of conflicting opinions among groups. It is a crisis of conflicting worldviews within individuals. It is a crisis in the deepest part of one’s soul; a crisis of cognitive dissonance run rampant in the minds of men, a war between ideals – and the opposing ideals are not what the headlines would lead you to believe:

Take a Stand Against Rand” says Christian author, Marvin Olasky in World Magazine.

Ayn Rand or Jesus Christ? Conservatives can’t have it both ways” says Mike Lux of the Huffington Post.

You Can’t Reconcile Ayn Rand and Jesus” says CNN Contributor and Professor of Religion at Boston University, Stephan Plethero  in a USA Today Forum.

Christians Must Choose: Ayn Rand or Jesus” reads a headline for the American Values Network.

There is a choice to be made, but it isn’t between Jesus Christ and Ayn Rand. It’s between reason and irrationality; between reality and fantasy; between the objective and the subjective; between truth and fairytales. And it is a choice that primarily needs to be made by Christians.

The political and religious commentators above are quick to blindly pit Christianity against the philosophy of Ayn Rand and then proceed to wholly denounce one in favor of the other as if the two are some random opposing sports teams behind which the masses are to gather according their personal and subjective preferences. They drop, or entirely ignore, the context and the nature of what is being discussed. These are not sports teams – they are worldviews; ideas about reality. And the context is not a popularity contest – it is reality. We are in reality and we are speaking of different views of that reality. Any given aspect of a view of reality will either be accurate or not: true or false. And this, the accuracy of a worldview (or aspects of it) is what matters in the context of reality.

The question to be asked first is not: Are the worldviews of Christianity and Objectivism (Ayn Rand’s philosophy) compatible? Rather it is: What is true? Or, more specific to the context of this discussion: Is there any truth in Christianity or in Objectivism? And here is where the Christian must make the crucial choice mentioned above: will he be an advocate of reason, rationality, and objective truth by objectively assessing the truthfulness of his conceptions of Christianity (and willingly rejecting that which is found to be untrue), or will he be an advocate of irrationality, fantasy, and subjective fairytales by insisting that Christianity is true without any objective reason for believing so – that it’s true merely because he wants it to be.

This – devotion to truth, regardless of the implications – is the foundational and indispensible first step that any man who wishes to be worthy of the title of “Man” must take. Apart from this first step, every thought and crafty sentence, every argument and concept of “proof”, every illusion of truth in one’s head is just that: an illusion – a fleeting and floating cloud of subjective, emotionally charged nothingness. And, therefore, apart from this step, every critique of other worldviews and every bit of “intellectual” commentary is massively pointless and absurd – akin to a child babbling about his dreams to a board of directors in a business meeting. Such is the majority of content of the articles above.

However, once one has taken that first step and decided to live for and love the truth no matter where it may lead, then – and only then – is he fit (assuming he is armed with a proper epistemology) to evaluate the truthfulness, not only of various conceptions of Christianity, but of all ideas, period. Then, he is fit to discover all of the truth – no matter where it came from and no matter where it leads. Then, he will be capable of rising above the stupid and trite ‘sports game’ demonstrated in the above articles and throughout the media, in order to see what is and is not true in the philosophy of Ayn Rand, and to properly integrate it with all other truth which he has discovered, particularly truth about Christianity. Then, rather than emulate the intellectual cowardice of the Seminary professor who told  Dr. John Piper that “[Ayn Rand’s writing] is incredibly dangerous”, he will be able to emulate Paul’s description of an intellectual hero – a  ‘spiritual man who appraises all things’ (1 Cor 2:15) because he will have an objective standard against which to appraise all things. Then, he will be equipped to say with Paul “we destroy speculations and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ “(2 Cor. 10:5) because he will no longer be running from speculations and lofty opinions or retreating to his own personal fantasy-land which he calls “truth”.

This is what is desperately needed on the part of Christians today (and on the part of every man in general). This is not the only step which needs to be taken, but it is the first. This is what I have done, and am eager to continually do. And this first step – together with the path to which it leads – is why I can very comfortably and confidently say that I love Jesus Christ and I love Ayn Rand – and, I love myself. This is the foundational reason that, in spite of massively popular contrary opinions, I can very seriously – and with full conviction – call myself a Christian egoist.