So does this mean that psychology determines history? No, not at all. The “psychological interpretation” of history, Peikoff insists, is a plausible but mistaken theory. What is wrong with it? Let us examine the reasons Peikoff gives for rejecting the psychological interpretation:
The first thing to ask is: what is the source of psychological factors? Where do they come from? What is their cause? … Let me give you the answer… All the psychological factors … reduce to one element, however complex the terminology. They reduce to emotions… And the source of emotions is: ideas…
This is the basic answer to the psychological interpretation of history. That theory comes down to the view that emotions are the key factor in history. But emotions on a scale that shapes a culture are a consequence of philosophy.
In other words, the Objectivist philosophy of history is the application of Rand’s theory of emotions to history. If Rand’s theory of emotions is wrong, then her theory of history must be wrong as well. So this leads to the obvious question: Is Rand’s theory of emotions right? Well, it just so happens that ARCHNBlog has already answered this question. That post concluded as follows:
[The Objectivist] view of emotions … has been refuted by research done in cognitive science, neuroscience, and evolutionary psychology. These sciences have discovered that animals (including human beings) have "primary emotions," which are "innate" and "preorganized" and which depend on limbic system circuitry in the brain. They have discovered that emotions are critical in thinking, so that the notion that "man can live exclusively by reason," when accompanied by the additional notion that "emotions are not tools of cognition," misrepresents what actually happens in cognition. Human beings are not blank slates. Their emotions are not programmed into their “subconscious” by their conscious minds. That view is no more credible than would be an astrological view of emotions. On naturalistic assumptions, emotions are and must be the product of evolution. They are tools of survival, forged in the evolutionary furnace.
And when I left a comment at amazon on your book talking about how much science you had backing you up, some responding by saying that you were just an anti-reason conservative and there was no science in Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature. He must not have read it very well.
I personally think you might want to do a post on Objectivism and History, where you talk exclusively about the Objectivist's odd obsession with Kant. Rand did seem rather obsessed with blaming him for everything bad today. That would definitively be entertaining to read. Just a suggestion.
Damien: "I left a comment at amazon on your book talking about how much science you had backing you up, some responding by saying that you were just an anti-reason conservative and there was no science."
Thanks for leaving the comment at amazon, Damien. The comments of the Rand apologists tell us more about typical Randians than they do about me or my book. Anything that goes against Rand is, ipso facto, "anti-reason." And any science that goes against Rand (and there is such science) is not really science. It's the same old story. Rand is always right despite what science says or what the evidence says. Rand is right because she follows "reason." Yet despite all the noise Objectivists make on behalf of this wonderful "reason," they still have never provided a detailed account of what it "reason" is, and how one is supposed to distinguish between conclusions based on "reason" and conclusions based on "anti-reason."
Re: your Amazon commenter, Michael Hardesty. He's actually quite a well-known troll, and has been banned on miscellaneous sites. He trolled here under a variety of sock-puppet guises before I busted him. The Randzapper profiles him here:
So don't worry too much about that guy...;-)
Thank you both.
Yet despite all the noise Objectivists make on behalf of this wonderful "reason," they still have never provided a detailed account of what it "reason" is, and how one is supposed to distinguish between conclusions based on "reason" and conclusions based on "anti-reason."
This is something I've grappled with greatly for the last year or so. I used to just stop thinking about it, but it got to a point where the issue was too big to ignore. It's not enough to say "I know a reason-based decision when I see one." There really should be some kind of criterion and I'm not sure that Rand actually provided one.
I eventually came to the conclusion that no one can provide that. All anyone can do is use educated guesses, trial and error to reach the outcome they want.
I think though that we can define reason in part by it being the opposite of what isn't reason. For example at some point it becomes utterly illogical (and therefor Irrational) to repeat the same action over an over again, getting the same result, but expecting a different result to occur instead. In fact, I think it was Albert Einstein who said "Insanity is to repeat the same thing over and over again and expect different results." I'm not sure, but I think that's an exact quote.
>There really should be some kind of criterion [for reason] and I'm not sure that Rand actually provided one.
Rand used the word "reason" in a variety of unclear ways. Generally it can be used to mean "logic", or simply an attempt at calm deliberation and avoiding overt emotion in decision-making. Logic is reasonably clear; the latter is always vague. If you want a definition to "rational", I prefer Popper, who described it as something like being open to the lessons of argument [logic] and experience. The opposite position, like Galileo's priest who refused to look through the telescope, is irrational.
Apparently there is some dispute as to whether anyone refused to look through Galileo's telescope--
Neil: "Apparently there is some dispute as to whether anyone refused to look through Galileo's telescope"
The whole Galileo fiasco has for a long time been misrepresented as a conflict between religion and science and modern empiricism and Aristoleanism. There are, of course, elements of these conflicts in the whole mess. But as usual, the intellectual disagreements were largely cover for what were really petty disagreements over personal issues. Galileo's arrogance pricked the tender but over-inflated egos of the haughty cardinals and other powerful churchmen. And often we find when we examine in more detail conflicts over ideas that the heart of the disputation is some powerful person trying to save face by humiliating a rival.
Yes, Arthur Koestler provides a fascinating retelling of the tale in "The Sleepwalkers" which shows how Galileo actually put the issue rather unfairly, and in a needlessly provocative way.
I think though we can define reason in part by it being the opposite of what isn't reason. - damien
Can you define then what isn't reason in part by it being the opposite of what is reason?
at some point
it becomes utterly illogical (and therefor irrational) to repeat the same action over an over again, getting the same result, but expecting a different result to occur instead. - damien
What is that "some point"?
and how would you know you reached that "some point"?
That's basically how I defined reason for a long time. Problem is, to call something the opposite of reasonable, we have to assume its opposite is reasonable. Since that's the very point we're unsure of, it just leads us around in circles. In the end we're no closer to knowing why something is or isn't reasonable than we were before.
(Don't worry, my head is spinning too!)
You have a point
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