Rebirth of Reason

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Saturday, November 2, 2013 - 1:34pmSanction this postReply
Another author here takes to task Robbins and his book Without a Prayer: Ayn Rand and the Close of Her System.

What totally baffles me about Calvinists and other Biblical literati is their concurrent affirmation and denial of the validity of the senses. For these types, the sensory evidence of the Bible's text is without error but nothing else can be certain. Huh?

The emperor wears no clothes.

(Edited by Luke Setzer on 11/03, 4:23am)

Post 1

Sunday, November 3, 2013 - 4:42amSanction this postReply
I had no idea who this Robbins person was, but my search engine found him.

John William Robbins

Dr. Robbins was a resident of Unicoi County, Tennessee. Born and reared in Pennsylvania, he received his A. B. from Grove City College (Pennsylvania) in 1969, cum laude, with Highest Honors in Political Science. He pursued graduate studies at The Johns Hopkins University (Maryland), earning his Masters in Political Theory (1970) at age 21, and his Doctorate in Philosophy and Political Theory (1973) at age 24.  

In 1973 Dr. Robbins became Legislative Assistant to a Member of Congress from Indiana, Earl Landgrebe, and subsequently worked, over the next 20 years, in several capacities for several public policy institutions: The Heritage Foundation (Economic Analyst), The Templeton Foundation (Consultant), Western Islands (Editor), Tax Reform Immediately (National Director), The Foundation for Economic Education (Editor of The Freeman), and The Institute for Policy Innovation (President). He served as Legislative Assistant (1976, 1979-1981) and Chief of Staff (1981-1985) to a Member of Congress from Texas, Dr. Ron Paul.   

In 1977 Dr. Robbins founded a Christian think tank, The Trinity Foundation, and under his direction The Foundation has published 75 books, 180 lectures, and 275 essays; hosted conferences and seminars in several states; and published a monthly newsletter for over 30 years.  

Is this the guy you mean? 

Post 2

Sunday, November 3, 2013 - 4:59amSanction this postReply
Yes, MEM, that is the man in question.

Post 3

Sunday, November 3, 2013 - 4:41pmSanction this postReply
Yes, Mike, that's the guy who I said actually sucks as a philosopher/thinker.

It's almost like he over-achieved and got all these medals and degrees and accomplishments -- to cover up the fact that he sucks as a philosopher/thinker. It just goes to show you that you do not necessarily have to know how to think straight in order to accomplish a lot of accolades in the world. The reason that this is so is because many people will accept a large measure of irrationality from their peers.


Post 4

Monday, November 4, 2013 - 3:44amSanction this postReply
Robbins wrote the book 40 years ago when he was just out of college. He probably gained some depth since then. Certainly he impressed Ron Paul and the Freeman, among others.

I do not see that he gained a bunch of accolades to cover up his inadequacies. He went to college after high school and continued through to a Ph.D.Many people did that, and still do. Their personal shortcomings whether or not attended by a lack of self-esteem are independent of that. Absent any reflective statements from him about his self-experience, and not actually knowing him personally, I do not see grounds for your claims. He may well as you say "suck as a philosopher" but that is your thesis, and so far you are only asserting the hypothesis.

I grant easily that anyone with a lifetime as a Christian and a conservative likely will not be in accord with the philosophy of Objectivism. Moreover, from his viewpoint Objectivism and Existentialism share a primacy of reason, just as from our point of view, Baptists and Sunnis share the same beliefs, though they could only disagree with that claim.

As a former Existentialist yourself, you know that the works entered the American culture after World War Two. When Robbins was writing in 1974 they were not the mainstream of American academic philosophy, if such a thing exists.

I am not motivated to read the book, so this engagement is short-lived, but his point about calling psychology psychology and philosophy philosophy is cogent. Psychology - like geophysics or genomics - is still new. The paradigms are being argued as they are not in other studies. However, philosophy is 2500 years old and still chewing the same cud.

Thomas Kuhn famously pointed out that in chemistry, no one is still pursuing phlogiston theory, but in philosophy we still have Aristotleans adding new works to their school of thought.

We have a thread here about "the end of Objectivism" which offers the same agenda: just call it philosophy. I doubt that it will attract much notice.

(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 11/04, 3:54am)

Post 5

Monday, November 4, 2013 - 8:16pmSanction this postReply
Well said, Mike. Gracious. I cannot argue with that. Perhaps the situation unintuitively requires more graciousness than I have heretofore exhibited. I will take just one more dig at the "critique" of Robbins (not at Robbins, himself), and then I will plan to let it go after that. Please understand that plans don't always work out, so I am not promising to let it go (to let his critique of Objectivism stand, without further debate/criticism). Here's the last dig:

page 10
In saying that "reason" is the proper means of settling disputes among men, and force is an improper means, Rand is equivocating on the meaning of the word "reason." Rand has defined "reason" as "the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses."(30) Now she is using "reason" in the sense of "conversation," "discussion" or "persuasion."(31) Her entire argument in "Faith and Force" and much of her argument in the initial essay in For The New Intellectual rests on this second meaning. Either reason is a faculty or it is discussion.


It would be no more unusual for a Catholic and a Protestant to resort to force than for a Randian and a Kantian, both championing the cause of, and both praying for the blessing of, Reason.
Firstly, you can -- without contradiction -- picture your very own reasoning as being an internal conversation, or as a persuasion-of-yourself. You can have some whacky idea, for example, and then reason yourself out of that idea. In a sense then, all reasoning (all employment of the faculty that identifies and integrates sensory material) is a process of persuasion. So, Robbins was guilty of setting up a false dichotomy here. Secondly, it would actually be less unusual for a Catholic and a Protestant to resort to force. See the histories of England and Ireland for details. It's almost like Robbins was attempting to pull a fast-one here, flip-flopping the expected (like Rand did with her title: The Virtue of Selfishness).

But there is a more salient point that is left "unexplicated": Leaving Kantians aside for the moment, Robbins is insinuating that Randians would resort to force as fast or as broadly in any given variety of situations as would Catholics and Protestants -- with a 'common' appeal to "Reason." Instead of analysis, I'll just first state a disagreement: The appeal to Reason is not something that is so 'common' (to the point of being identical) to these 3 groups of individuals.


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