Objectivists and War

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Dear Scott,

Thanks you
for your
recent article on LewRockwell.com
calling for Objectivists to
admit they were wrong and now should take a stand against the war
in Iraq.

I admire you
for what you are saying and trying to do, but I believe that your
effort is a futile one. For years, I believed that Objectivists
were part of a united front with classical liberals and others against
statism, which we needed to wage in order to build a movement for
liberty. I still believe in working with any and all people to combat
statism and collectivism, but I also now understand that Objectivism
is not just rooted in a fallacy, but that this fallacy repeatedly
leads Objectivists to embrace statism as well as a “group think”
conformity which in effect inhibits their ability to make sense
of reality.

In a nutshell,
the problem with Objectivism is that it borrows from the modernist
error of naturalism as a worldview. Rand was brought up in a world
in which naturalism was accepted without question in virtually all
intellectual circles. To her credit, she realized that this orthodoxy
also embraced collectivism, and from her own experience, she knew
that collectivist ideas were profoundly wrong and dangerous. As
a result, she accepted the naturalist view as being “scientific”
(i.e., “rational”), but tried to combine the doctrines of Nietzschean
egoism with classical natural rights for ethics, and Austrian economics
for catallactics. The problem is that natural rights and law and
“ethical egoism” do not mesh.

1. If ethics
is based on a subjective, utilitarian concept of self-interest,
then such “morality” produces a view that “the end justifies the
means," which of course is exactly what every Objectivist claims
is the reason for his/her support for the war in Iraq, the Cold
war, the use of nuclear weapons, etc., etc. Most recently, John
Hospers attacked our Senior Fellow Robert Higgs for opposing the
income tax during the “war on terror”!

2. But even
more important is the error of naturalism itself. Naturalism of
course is simply materialism which posits a physicalist calculus
for all events, including the human mind. Virtually all philosophical
naturalists believe that free will and reason are myths and consider
libertarianism to be “a total joke.” The problem here of course
is that for anyone to make an argument, including the theory of
naturalism itself is to assume that the world is not simply a materialist
one in which the bio-chemical processes in one’s brain determine
each an every thought and choice. If naturalism is true, no thought
can be independent and reason can have no meaning. Truth cannot
exist or have any meaning, because each and every thought “simply
is," with there being no objective standard to compare it to.

Of course,
there are naturalists (such as Objectivists) who will recognize
the objective reality of individual cognition, free choice, and
reason, for any other perspective is nonsensical. The problem though
is that such understanding cannot be rooted in a naturalist view.
You simply end up with an inherent contradiction.

To his credit,
Rothbard realized this problem early on and discovered that natural
rights and natural law were the only true bases for liberty. And
that such insights were developed by Thomas Aquinas and the Scholastics.
The Thomists refuted naturalism and developed most major aspects
of ethics and economics and the founder of the Austrian School was
an Aristotelian/Thomist, Carl Menger. Thomas Reid understood this
point in his critique of Hume’s ethical nihilism, and thinkers such
as Bastiat, Acton, Tocqueville, and others also understood this
key point.

In the modern
epoch, this insight was brilliantly addressed by C.S. Lewis, as
well as Jacques Maritain, Alvin Plantinga, William Lane Craig, William
Alston, and others. Here are a number of articles in this regard:

My point again
here is that Objectivism is a contrived attempt to square a circle.
This is why no real scholar takes it seriously. Virtually all naturalists
are collectivists (e.g., historically Hobbes, Hume, Marx, Freud,
Nietzsche; today, Patricia and Paul Churchland, Richard Dawkins,
Daniel Dennett, E.O. Wilson, etc.). It is a house of cards that
when threatened almost always defaults to statism. And if war is
the major engine of statism (as Robert Higgs and others have shown),
then Objectivists are one of the many, major enemies of liberty
for they will always embrace warfare statism (for their own “ethical
egoist” self-interest) regardless of anyone else’s rights one way
or the other.

A very important,
new book that traces the development of the ideas of liberty, reason,
and science is the following:

You state that
you have not found a better philosophical system. I suggest you
rediscover the actual system upon which the ideas of liberty sprang
in the first place — a system that remains un-refuted and immensely

Thanks again
for your piece.

Best regards,

28, 2006

J. Theroux [send him mail]
is founder and president of the Independent
in Oakland, California.

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