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Reason and Value: Aristotle versus Rand Paperback – October 1, 2000
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From the Author
Two of the central questions in philosophy are: What are the foundations of knowledge? and What is the nature of human well-being? Ayn Rand regarded herself as a follower of Aristotle. I argue, however, that in answering the above two questions she unfortunately deviated from Aristotle in ways that subverted her own philosophical intentions. In particular, I maintain that Rand's rejection of Aristotle's coherentist, testimony-based epistemology in favor of her own version of foundationalist empiricism both opens the door to a corrosive skepticism that she rightly wishes to avoid, and forces her into defending an instrumental survival-oriented conception of the relation of morality to self-interest, even though a constitutive, flourishing-oriented relation along Aristotelian lines would more closely match her basic ethical insights. Hence Rand's admirers may still have something to learn from Aristotle, their "teacher's first teacher." I invite readers to visit my website: geocities.com/BerserkRL Roderick T. Long
About the Author
Roderick T. Long is a professor of philosophy at Auburn University, as well as Editor of the Free Nation Foundation's journal Formulations. His principal research interests are moral psychology, Greek philosophy, and libertarian thought.
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In this relatively brief work Prof. Long discusses Rand's conception of reason and value and compares it to the views of other philosophers. He discovers Humean, Aristotelian, Platonic, Kantian and Hobbesian aspects to Rand's ethical thought. I found Prof. Long's discussion of the instrumentalist aspects of Rand's ethics quite interesting. Take the issue of dishonesty. Since Objectivists are opposed to "instrinsicism," they often discuss the virtue of honesty in terms of the consequences that flow from dishonest acts. Objectivists typically argue that a person who undertakes a sophisticated swindle has to engage in so many lies and deceptions that he is likely to get caught. Indeed his machinations are so in conflict with their likely result that it in fact amounts to an attempt to "fake reality." This reduces to don't lie because you'll get caught. However, as Prof. Long points out, the virtuous characters in Rand's novels don't act on such blatantly instrumentalist premises. Is John Galt honest because he fears the consequences of cheating? Is he really not bright enough to "pull it off"? In fact, implicit in the "faking reality" approach is a noninstrumentalist (and even vaguely Nietzschian) rationale. There is even a Kantian subtheme here, e.g., when Rand demands "consistency" in one's conduct toward others.
Prof. Long's essay is particularly broad and covers aspects of Rand's epistemology and even politics. There is a particularly interesting discussion of whether Rand is a foundationalist and, if so, what kind.
It's not often that you see a book that takes Rand's philosophy seriously enough to critique it respectfully. I recommend it highly.
Amazingly enough, the author easily commands an intellect far greater than those his book is about, combined! I sleep with this book at night...
if you know what I mean.