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William O

Reason and Value by Roderick Long

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This is an essay by Roderick Long, a distinguished Aristotle scholar, that compares Rand with Hume, Plato, and Aristotle.




I have read the first four sections, and I thought the discussions of Hume and Plato were insightful. However, Long goes off the rails after that.


First of all, he advocates coherentism. Now, coherentism can be done well, i.e., in a relatively benign form like Brand Blanshard's coherentism, where the goal is to integrate our observations into an all encompassing coherent system based on necessary connections in reality. Long's coherentism is not like that. He thinks that we should start with literally whatever we currently believe and try to figure out what the world is like based on that.


He also doesn't really care about justifying his beliefs based on observation. For example, he notes that he doesn't know how to reduce his belief that the earth is round to observation, and uses that as evidence that we don't need to be able to reduce a belief to observation to be justified in believing it.


He attributes this whole epistemology to Aristotle, which I regard as a major error, and then accuses Rand of being a Platonist because she thinks that our beliefs are only justified when they are reduced to observation - because reducing your beliefs to observation and then seeing that they are true is exactly like performing a mystical dialectic process that ends in an insight into the Form of the Good.


So, I definitely recommend this essay for the summaries of Hume and Plato and the interesting relationships he draws between them, but be careful about what you take from the essay after that.

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