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Objectivism's Theory of History

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I want to discuss Objectivism's theory of history, without jumping the gun and asking whether it is right or wrong. Specifically, I don't want to discuss the recent Tracinski articles -- not in this thread. My question is simply this: what is Objectivism's theory of history?

Firstly, I'd like to start by asking: what are the top few Objectivist references that address the topic? For instance, Leonard Peikoff's "Ominous Parallels" would be one. What are the others?

Secondly, I'd like to ask: what is Objectivism's theory of History? This would include questions like:

  • What do the references say about history, in summary?
  • What does Objectivism say about the relationship of Philosophy and History? Sometimes, Objectivism's theory of History is summarized as saying something roughly along the lines of: Philosophy drives History. Is this what it says? And, if so, what exactly does that mean?
  • What facts of reality support the theory? (I don't want to discuss if the theory is right or wrong, but it would still help to understand what facts of reality the theory is trying to summarize)
  • What does it not say?
  • Does Objectivism actually have a full and comprehensive theory of history? or does it address some parts of a complete theory of history?

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Here is a brief summary of what I understand to be Objectivism's theory of history.

While historical events often have multiple causes, some minor, some major, some dependent on others, when we ask "What causes history?" we are asking about fundamental causes. In the first quote below, Dr. Peikoff gives an example of his 8th grade teacher's non-integrative method of trying to explain history:

What factors, the teacher was asking, move history and explain men's past actions? Here are the answers he listed on the board: competition among classes for land, money, power, or trade routes; disasters and catastrophes (such as wars and plagues); the personality of leaders; innovations, technology, new discoveries (potatoes and coffee were included here); and developments in the rest of the world, which interacts with a given region. At this point, time ran out. But think of what else could qualify as causes in this kind of approach. What about an era's press or media of communication? Is that a factor in history? What about people's psychology, including their sexual proclivities? What about their art or their geography? What about the weather?
In contrast, to the extent that Objectivism has a philosophy of history, it says that the ultimate and most fundamental cause of history is Philosophy. "Ominous Parallels" is the most in-depth Objectivist presentation of this idea. Ayn Rand introduced the book as follows:
Dr. Peikoff ... identifies the cause of Nazism... He demonstrates that there is a science which has been all but obliterated in the modern world. "Yet this science determines the destiny of nations and the course of history .... "he writes. "It is the science which had to be destroyed, if the catastrophes of our time were to become possible. The science is philosophy."

Other than Ominous Parallels, here are some other references to Objectivism's theory of history. First, a paragraph where Rand mentions, somewhat in passing, that "philosophical ideas, particularly moral philosophy, determine the course of history":

The fact that philosophical ideas, particularly moral philosophy, determine the course of history; the fact that altruism is an evil doctrine aimed at and achieving nothing but destruction; the fact that altruism is the major cause of the disintegration of the modern world; and the fact that altruism is incompatible with capitalism—all these are broad, abstract principles, which many people find it difficult fully to grasp and to concretize in terms of current events.

To those who seek specific examples, I recommend a modest, unpretentious—and truly hair-raising—book: Poverty Is Where the Money Is by Shirley Scheibla.

In another essay, Rand says that a philosophy of reason caused certain historical periods that saw great progress:

Only three brief periods of history were culturally dominated by a philosophy of reason: ancient Greece, the Renaissance, the nineteenth century. These three periods were the source of mankind's greatest progress in all fields of intellectual achievement—and the eras of greatest political freedom. The rest of human history was dominated by mysticism of one kind or another; that is, by the belief that man's mind is impotent, that reason is futile or evil or both, and that man must be guided by some irrational "instinct" or feeling or intuition or revelation, by some form of blind, unreasoning faith. All the centuries dominated by mysticism were the eras of political tyranny and slavery, of rule by brute force—from the primitive barbarism of the jungle—to the pharaohs of Egypt—to the emperors of Rome—to the feudalism of the Dark and Middle Ages—to the absolute monarchies of Europe—to the modern dictatorships of Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, and all their lesser carbon copies.

In unpublished note, reproduced in "Journals", she traces cultural values back to philosophers.

When men attempt to evade the responsibility of thinking, they become the victims of an enormous self-made hoax, each man believing that his neighbor knows that the ideas they share are true, even if he himself does not know it, and the neighbor believing that his neighbor knows it, even if he doesn't, and so forth. Where, then, do these ideas come from? Who sets the terms and the direction of a culture? The answer is: any man who cares to.

For good or evil, whether such a man is a profound thinker or an ambitious demagogue, an idealistic hero or a corrupt, man-hating destroyer—those who choose to deal with ideas determine the course of human history. Those who formulate men's thinking determine their fate. The makers of trends, the creators of cultures, the actual leaders of mankind are the philosophers.

Does it follow that Objectivism says that all of history can be traced back to a single basic philosophical idea? After all, there is a hierarchy within Philosophy itself. So, if the predominant philosophers of the time are attacking the idea that existence exists, can we predict that civilization is doomed? After all, that is the fundamental idea in philosophy, and philosophy is fundamental to the rest. At the same time, we know that people compartmentalize; for instance, many accept God in some sense and yet many of them compartmentalize and carry on normal lives. In other words, what if everyone were to actually accept that existence does not exist, and if everyone were to actually act accordingly (it's pretty bizarre trying to imagine it -- but let's assume some bizarre "nothing is constant, nothing is predictable, action is futile" mindset? If that were to happen, civilization would surely collapse.

However, that is not what Objectivism is saying. As far back as the UO lectures, Dr. Peikoff referred to this as a rationalist way to think about it. [standard caveat that this is my interpretation and all errors are mine.]He described a false line of reasoning and the problem with it thus:

... philosophic ideas come from metaphysics and epistemology... and they come, ultimately from certain axioms, or perversions of them... so, was only one idea central in all history, and that is the law of identity if a major philosopher attacks the law of identity, all the rest will follow in terms of cultural trends, political trends, economic trends, etc. Now, that is a monist rationalist approach and it is obvious that no one error, however disastrous will explain everything else. It's a ludicrous construct. That's what I would call "Objectivist Monism".

Finally, there is a question of inevitability. Does the dominance of any particular philosophy imply that one is headed toward a particular inevitable history, or can philosophy change enough so that the otherwise likely history does not come to pass? Dr. Peikoff addresses a similar topic in his UO lectures, when he speaks of the idea that "controls breed controls". This is the idea that when the government creates a regulation it causes some type of problem, and the government then introduces another regulation. So, for instance, the government may start with some control on labor, and then add a control on businessmen, and so on.

We’ve got lots of controls; so they are going to breed more controls. The end has to be dictatorship. If you say to such a person: “how would you explain the American revolution, for instance?” ... lot of controls, and that bred a revolution! So, you can say: controls bred freedom.
Dr. Peikoff identifies the problem as being one where a person takes "controls breed controls" as an axiom, rather than a derivative (i.e. something derived within a context and that only applies in that context). He notes that controls will breed controls...
...assuming that nobody tells them there’s an alternative philosophy, as, for example, was said during the American revolution.

Saying that philosophy is the prime mover of history, is a variant of another argument that Objectivism makes: that ideas have power and that, in particular, people use Philosophy either implicitly or explicitly across the whole range of their actions. Objectivism holds that it is the nature of man that he survives by the use of reason. Practice is guided by ideas, and philosophical ideas are the broadest ideas. It is my understanding that Objectivism's theory of history is the same type of induction, at a much broader scale.

The above is my summary of the Objectivist theory of History. My main question, for starters, is not whether this theory is strong or weak. First, I'd like comments on whether I am representing it correctly.

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Hello,

This is an interesting topic, and you have done some very good preliminary research. Thanks and kudos.

"[W]hat are the top few Objectivist references that address the topic?"

One significant reference that you didn't mention is Peikoff's History of Philosophy lectures (assuming you consider these representative of the Objectivist view). Peikoff often refers to the effects of philosophy on history in these lectures. Most of his more substantive comments on the subject are found in the question periods. It's a very popular question-type in the lectures. Things like: "What influence did the fall of Rome have on philosophy?" or "What influence did philosophy have on the fall of Rome?" or "Why was Aristotle not more influential in the Ancient world?" or any number of other similar questions. In the question period following lecture 9 (on Descartes), Peikoff discusses at length the effect of philosophy on scientists throughout history. It's definitely a goldmine of information about issues related to the philosophy of history.

Another important, relevant principle of Rand's is her idea that, when opponents embrace similar ideals, the more consistent one prevails. I've found this general principle to be very revealing when applied to political movements, for instance. I'm sure it would not be hard to find references on this principle, I just don't have them at the tip of my brain at the moment.

"Does Objectivism actually have a full and comprehensive theory of history?"

I would say "No." To my knowledge Rand never wrote about it at length, and Peikoff didn't start writing about it at length until after Rand's death. The fact that a knowledgeable Objectivist like you would even ask the question suggests that the theory has not yet been laid out. You would likely know of it, even if you hadn't studied it. I think Rand (and others) have offered pieces of a theory that will require further integration. But that's what's so fun about philosophy: trailblazing!

"I'd like comments on whether I am representing [the Objectivst theory of history] correctly."

I think you did a fine job outlining the general theory. The pieces that we have are very broad; more inductions need to be made. So, this question of yours becomes very important: "What facts of reality support the theory?"

Your questions are a very good start. Maybe you could try emailing them to Dr. Lewis and/or other educated Objectivist historians and see if they could offer more input?

--Dan Edge

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Thanks for the comments.

I actually had the quote about the more consistent person winning, etc. I think it was from an essay on compromise. When I was reading though my draft, however, I thought it was a related, but not direct, point. That's why I excluded it.

I haven't heard Peikoff's "History of Philosophy" lectures. Thanks for that ref. Someone else pointed out that Rands essay describing the history of "Attilas" and "Witch Doctors", from the main essay of "For the New Intellectual" is also a relevant reference.

Another possible reference is "Philosophy: Who Needs It". Understanding how philosophy plays a role in the life of an individual is seems to be one step toward understanding how it plays a role among a group of people.

Another related topic is the "power of ideas" in various fields. For instance, how did some false idea about (say) medicine affect the practice of medicine, how did some true idea affect its course, and what was the process by which people realized the false idea was false?

That seems to scope the subject out. Now, all we have to do is fill in the details ;)

Edited by softwareNerd

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That seems to scope the subject out. Now, all we have to do is fill in the details ;)

Yeah, no problem. Just give us till the end of the weekend, and we'll have this all figured out! The devil's always in the details.

--Dan Edge

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I want to discuss Objectivism's theory of history, without jumping the gun and asking whether it is right or wrong. Specifically, I don't want to discuss the recent Tracinski articles -- not in this thread. My question is simply this: what is Objectivism's theory of history?

Firstly, I'd like to start by asking: what are the top few Objectivist references that address the topic? For instance, Leonard Peikoff's "Ominous Parallels" would be one. What are the others?

Secondly, I'd like to ask: what is Objectivism's theory of History? This would include questions like:

  • What do the references say about history, in summary?
  • What does Objectivism say about the relationship of Philosophy and History? Sometimes, Objectivism's theory of History is summarized as saying something roughly along the lines of: Philosophy drives History. Is this what it says? And, if so, what exactly does that mean?
  • What facts of reality support the theory? (I don't want to discuss if the theory is right or wrong, but it would still help to understand what facts of reality the theory is trying to summarize)
  • What does it not say?
  • Does Objectivism actually have a full and comprehensive theory of history? or does it address some parts of a complete theory of history?

Queries: How do you define -history-? Do you define it to be states of the world prior to some selected time? Or do you define it as a selection of facts that occurred at some previous times along with an interpretation of their importance and how they brought about the current state of the world? Do you include in history hypotheses about -why- people did what that did at some time past? Or do you regard history as just a recounting of prior facts and events? Do you regard archeology as a kind of history? Is a -definition- of history a -theory- of history?

Bob Kolker

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Off the top of my head, I'd say that history is a recounting of the past, but not a simple listing of past events; rather, it is an integration of them, understanding why they happened the way they did. The "why" is an integral part of "what happened". Besides, without the "why" history would be pretty useless.

Archeology.. yes, I'd definitely put it within History, in the same way as I'd put surveying and other such activities under "Geography", or "conducting experiments" under (say) "Chemistry".

By a "theory of history", I mean the broader abstractions that are made from the separate cases of "whys".

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Off the top of my head, I'd say that history is a recounting of the past, but not a simple listing of past events; rather, it is an integration of them, understanding why they happened the way they did. The "why" is an integral part of "what happened". Besides, without the "why" history would be pretty useless.

I agree. Historians not only supply the dots (from primary and secondary sources) but they also -connect- the dots. One could say that historians attempt to make some kind of sense from past events.

Bob Kolker

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Off the top of my head, I'd say that history is a recounting of the past, but not a simple listing of past events; rather, it is an integration of them, understanding why they happened the way they did. The "why" is an integral part of "what happened". Besides, without the "why" history would be pretty useless.

I've thought about this for a while, and my rough and ready suggestion is: History is the rational reconstruction of (chains of) past events. Basically, we have evidence of various sorts of what people thought and did (past events, where event is narrower than occurrence; I mean roughly considered actions; the distinction is from R.G. Collingwood's The Art of History) that the historian fits into an interpretive chronological order (reconstruction) using what knowledge we've attained of regularities in human behavior and the world people lived in at the time (hence rational). Any historian has to deal with the fundamental fact that people have free will at the very least in the sense of being able to choose freely among possible means to attain whatever ends they have (and the variability of ends and the knowledge they might have had of the means open to them is another wrinkle); the inference from actions in a given situation to motivation is what makes history an essentially interpretive field--though of course not all interpretations are equal and they can improve over time. And it is this central fact of free will that means history is not strictly speaking a science (in the sense that it doesn't itself strive for universally true statements about human nature), though good history often requires scientific knowledge (not to mention philosophical knowledge as well).

Archeology.. yes, I'd definitely put it within History, in the same way as I'd put surveying and other such activities under "Geography", or "conducting experiments" under (say) "Chemistry".

I don't consider archeology to be history proper; rather, it's a historical science. That is, roughly speaking, experimental sciences aim to go from the particular to the general through the testing of hypotheses about particular events; historical sciences use general knowledge (in the form of universal statements) to reconstruct what happened in the past (particular statements). Much of geology is a historical science, in this view, as is cosmology and a good deal of evolutionary biology. Historical linguistics is another. I consider them historical sciences rather than history because their primary focus is to use universal scientific statements to order past occurrences and do not have to deal with the interpretation of human events that free will entails. (Though you do get some of that latter in archeology; when it's questions of purely material culture, there is such a limited set of means and ends that it's barely a branch of history, but when you try to reconstruct something of the more social aspects of a culture fom its material remains then it's closer to history, though closer still to anthropology.)

By a "theory of history", I mean the broader abstractions that are made from the separate cases of "whys".

It's usually called philosophy of history, or perhaps history of philosophy in the narrow sense (in the broad sense you have the bloviated, bloated maunderings of Hegel, Toynbee & Co. that do strive for a theory of everything human; most historians don't like those). I think philosophy of historical methodology is a more exact term, but not very pretty.

Edited by Adrian Hester

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Thanks Adrian, I like your way of viewing it as "layers" of endeavor. A lower layer of historical sciences, providing the data to the higher layer of history. Viewed this way, history is the integrative portion that weaves together the findings of historical sciences and the knowledge of human behavior into a full fabric.

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Thanks Adrian, I like your way of viewing it as "layers" of endeavor. A lower layer of historical sciences, providing the data to the higher layer of history. Viewed this way, history is the integrative portion that weaves together the findings of historical sciences and the knowledge of human behavior into a full fabric.

Though I'd make it a bit more complex to capture more of what historians actually do, in that there are different varieties of history, and what I've taken as the model here is, properly speaking, narrative history. There's also social history, economic history, military history, and intellectual history and its branches: history of philosophy, of science and technology, of art, and so on. (Political and diplomatic history are two specialized branches that are almost exclusively narrative, and intellectual history is also largely narrative--it's not narrative to the extent it focuses on the ideas in common currency at a time.) You might call these, oh, arts of social interpretation. These are distinct from social sciences like economics and sociology/anthropology in that while the latter do deal with areas of life in which people exercise conscious thought, there are still broad generalizations one can draw for various societies and eras--thus, economics deals with scarcity and value, and sociology and anthropology deal with customary acts and suchlike in various kinds of societies. (The usual dividing line is that sociology treats of industrialized societies, anthropology with non-industrial ones, or else highly literate and largely illiterate ones.) [*] On the other hand, economic history deals with the nuts and bolts of the economy in a given society in a given period, for example, and social history with its social relations and customs. The purpose of such fields is essentially to offer the best generalizations about how most people acted in a given society and period so as to allow one to understand why people might ordinarily act in one way in various circumstances, especially if it's peculiar to that time and place; its value mentally for general history is to show in stronger relief the special features of the less common actions important people took. If everyone is expected to follow a particular time-hallowed judicial process, for example, making its details clear and explaining its consequences is essential to understanding judicial change in that period.

There's a complex interplay between these sciences and their corresponding arts of social interpretation, and between the latter and general history (that is, the body of what the "generalized we" know and think about the past), of the usual sort of spiral growth in knowledge in which generalizations from the sciences are tested against the historical record and in turn broaden historians' interpretations of the past. This, incidentally, is why many historians are distrustful of grand theories of human history and nature that certain philosopher types are fond of erecting; such grand theories have to be made concrete for time and place to be testable, and frequently adding in the details shows so many basic human factors or pertinent historical facts to have been ignored that the generalizations are worthless. (Toynbee's a perfect example of this.) As a result historians tend to be highly empiricist to the extent of distrusting all but the most limited generalizations. This is not so good for contributing to the social sciences, but at least it makes them pretty rigorous judges of what social scientists do say (except for the ones who in turn go hog-wild for some grand explanatory schema like Freudianism or Marxism).

And I should add that narrative history is not just the summation of what all the important figures of the past did; it's not a collective biography, however selectively distilled, since its purpose is a selected exposition of the events of the past to the degree of detail necessary for a given person's understanding (whether of the present or of human behavior in general). The most important parts of a person's life for biography (which is devoted to getting some grasp on the lives and psychologies of important figures), however earth-shattering he may have been, are usually utterly unimportant for understanding his day and age, which instead depends on understanding his interaction (usually as a fully-formed adult, not someone learning and receiving influences and so on, all important in biography) with other important people, his effect on his day and age, and the interplay of action, consequences (intended and unintended both), and responses. This is the task of history, not of the social sciences, and it explains how history interacts with them.

It's also useful for understanding the Objectivist approach to history to think about the relation between intellectual history and general history. As I mentioned above, much intellectual history is necessarily narrative since the development of ideas is a peculiarly individual, particular process for which it's quite hard to see even how one might generalize usefully about it. (You can spin hegelian tales about it, but that's just woolly-headedness and hot air.) But which aspects of intellectual history are not narrative of this sort? The spread of ideas, their interactions (a tricky metaphor), and their influences on the temper of their time; in some societies, also the influence these ideas had on science, technology, and economy. The Objectivist view of history emphasizes the role the most basic ideas (philosophy) play in human action, and thus in human history.

[*] An interesting light on this comes from considering the case of Margaret Mead in Samoa. Usually Objectivists know only of Derek Freeman's first book about her, which called Coming of Age in Samoa entirely into question and implied she simply lied, but his later book The Fateful Hoaxing of Margaret Mead makes it much more likely she fell for a crude hoax or practical joke common in Samoan society, partly because she was very pressed for time, but to a great extent (not nearly enough emphasized by Freeman, in fact) because she fully bought into an anthropological approach common in American anthropology of the time, that of "culture areas." Regions with many different societies but similar environments and basic ways of life were claimed to have striking basic similarities in all institutions. Pacific societies with free love of the sort Mead described for Samoa were attested already; she and her advisor Boas appar simply to have assumed such would also be true of Samoa. However, Samoa was a highly stratified society with a warrior aristocracy, well-developed lineage systems, and a concomitant expectation of female virginity before marriage so's to keep lineages pure. This makes perfect sense to us now because it's the sort of thing you'd expect from human societies of that kind (warrior aristocracies with strong lineages)--and there you have the sort of generalization common in anthropology. However, it goes against the idea of culture areas, and in Mead's time (and especially among American anthropologists) that was a basic tenet of anthropology, so her results were greeted uncritically--almost criminally so.

Edited by Adrian Hester

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I am very surprised to hear that there is an Objectivist theory of history. Why is there a need for a "theory of history" in the first place?
What do you mean by a theory of history? Leaving aside the terminology, what activitites described in the above posts do you find surprising or unnecessary?

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I am very surprised to hear that there is an Objectivist theory of history. Why is there a need for a "theory of history" in the first place?

hmm. I see this as analogous to asking why there is a need for a theory of gravity or of a theory of relativity or of thermodynamics. One needs thoeries to describe the cause and effect of things so that events are not seeminglyl "random" occurences.

Do you think that history is not ammenable to theorizing?

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Do you think that history is not ammenable to theorizing?
Well, if you are a materialist-determinist, like Marxoids are, it may be. However, I had thought that Ayn Rand thought that history is caused only by ideas, i.e., philosophy determines history. In such a case, I really do not understand why one needs to "theorize" about it.

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Well, if you are a materialist-determinist, like Marxoids are, it may be. However, I had thought that Ayn Rand thought that history is caused only by ideas, i.e., philosophy determines history. In such a case, I really do not understand why one needs to "theorize" about it.
It seems to me very unlikely that Rand would think that history is only caused by ideas. Natural events influence man's actions precisely because relying only on ideas is a very unrealistic (reality-denying) way to live life. Even if you modify your statement to "history is caused only by ideas, being acted on in a certain fashion, and interating with reality, to produce a series of events", you would still need a more specific theory. The ideas of one man won't make a bit of difference, except in certain kinds of societies and given certain facts. So what facts of society would be relevant to determining whether a man's ideas do or do not influence subsequent events? It isn't sufficient to simply say "ideas determine history".

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It seems to me very unlikely that Rand would think that history is only caused by ideas. Natural events influence man's actions precisely because relying only on ideas is a very unrealistic (reality-denying) way to live life. Even if you modify your statement to "history is caused only by ideas, being acted on in a certain fashion, and interating with reality, to produce a series of events", you would still need a more specific theory. The ideas of one man won't make a bit of difference, except in certain kinds of societies and given certain facts. So what facts of society would be relevant to determining whether a man's ideas do or do not influence subsequent events? It isn't sufficient to simply say "ideas determine history".
I still do not see why one needs to explain natural events by other theories than the scientific factors that caused them (I am guessing you mean natural disasters, evolution and the like). Your last question would probably lead to asking what was the degree of political freedom in those societies. I'm still not convinced why anyone needs history to fit certain pet theories like the Marxoids insist on.

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I'm still not convinced why anyone needs history to fit certain pet theories like the Marxoids insist on.
It isn't about "pet theories", it is about truth; it's about seeking knowledge. Are you, perhaps, using the term "theory" to mean something other than is implied in this topic? For instance, do you see "theory" as ia step that comes before observation, rather than something that organizes and sumamrizes observations?

In your earlier post you say that a theory would only make sense if one is a materialist-determinist. You do not explain why this is so? For instance, one can have theories in psychology, while grounding them on the fact that man has volition. The same with history.

Even the idea that ideas are a primary driving force of history, is a theory of history.

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I still do not see why one needs to explain natural events by other theories than the scientific factors that caused them
I don't either. But if you want to understand history, you have to understand how philosophy interacts with reality. For example: certain historical facts in the US are explained by the interaction between political philosophy and the fact of weather known as Hurricane Katrina. A theory of history that only considers ideas would be a failure, because it is the interaction between ideas and fact that gives rise to an event.

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Well, if you are a materialist-determinist, like Marxoids are, it may be. However, I had thought that Ayn Rand thought that history is caused only by ideas, i.e., philosophy determines history. In such a case, I really do not understand why one needs to "theorize" about it.

Well, you've rather succintly articulated the Objectivist theory of history, so is this what you're saying we don't need? Are you saying that this idea is proven and integrated and obvious, or are you saying that we don't need any other ideas about history?

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In your earlier post you say that a theory would only make sense if one is a materialist-determinist. You do not explain why this is so? For instance, one can have theories in psychology, while grounding them on the fact that man has volition. The same with history.
The problem I see with any "theory of history" is that the materialist-determinists do have a theory of history and they expect the rest of human history to continue in the same path. My question is: how can you assume that future human beings will act according to your "theory", since you do not have any empirical evidence (unless you are into astrology) for future events. Any theory of history should ideally consist purely of facts. The telling and study of facts amounts to "history" itself, not a "theory of history".

Well, you've rather succintly articulated the Objectivist theory of history, so is this what you're saying we don't need? Are you saying that this idea is proven and integrated and obvious, or are you saying that we don't need any other ideas about history?
No, I am saying that this is how Ayn Rand suggested suggested events in the lives of human beings come about. This is an observed fact. Frankly, I don't see how or why anyone should further expand on this fact and come up with a theory that may very well be proven wrong in a few years time. Let me remind you that we are dealing not with chemicals or atoms, but the way people may think and act in a hundred years time. I hope you got my difficulty.

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No, I am saying that this is how Ayn Rand suggested suggested events in the lives of human beings come about. This is an observed fact. Frankly, I don't see how or why anyone should further expand on this fact and come up with a theory that may very well be proven wrong in a few years time.

It is observable fact that (as you put it) "history is caused only by ideas, i.e., philosophy determines history"? Gravity is a much more observable fact and it still has a description, a theory, associated with it. To say gravity is an observable fact doesn't in anyway help us predict ways to use it, because that alone does not describe or characterize the nature of gravity.

To say that it is a complex relationship and first attempts at a theory would be crude is one thing, but to imply that we shouldn't have a theory because it might be partially wrong is silly. A bit like sticking one's head in the sand.

I don't "get" your difficulty at all.

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The problem with a theory of history based on a philosophy (in this case objectivism but you could also include marxism in this category) is that the principles upon which such a theory is based is so vague and abstract it is pretty much worthless in explaining concrete events in history.

For instance in a separate thread some objectivists claim that slavery was the prime cause of the American civil war, all other issues are merely subsidary to it. But this doesn't answer the question of why Lincoln fought a war to hold onto the South and free the slaves when an equally valid option was simply to let the slave states leave and use that oportunity to repeal the fugitive slave act to encourage all the slaves in the south to escape to the north to freedom and bring an end to the institution that way.

History is caused by human actions and human behaviour is not simply the product of philosophical ideas. Philosophers explanations of the causes of historical events are just speculations with no basis in fact. Only a historian trained in the profession who has immersed himself in the facts can draw a reliable conclusion in the very complex nature of human events.

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History is caused by human actions and human behaviour is not simply the product of philosophical ideas. Philosophers explanations of the causes of historical events are just speculations with no basis in fact. Only a historian trained in the profession who has immersed himself in the facts can draw a reliable conclusion in the very complex nature of human events.
Actually, all human action is the result of some sort of held philosophy, even if the individual has never explicitly thought his philosophic positions through. It is an observable fact common to all men that the ideas he holds will guide all of his actions.

You would have to take each philosopher separately to judge whether his explanation of history is grounded in fact or grounded in speculation. It is erroneous to assume that all "philosophers" are simply speculators of history, because then they wouldn't be philosophers at all. Philosophy is grounded in observing men in action throughout history, and then drawing conclusions and forming principles.

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I disagree human nature is atleast partly innate. We all possess certain desires and predispositions which exist prior to any ideas we choose to accept. These are the key motivating factors governing human affairs, to argue otherwise is to suggest that a newborn baby which has had no opportunity to absorb any ideas is born with no desires and consequently no emotions. I challenge you to go to a delivery ward and prove me wrong.

I also add the further point that the objectivist claim that human behaviour is purely the product of ideas is merely an assertion without any evidence to back up its claims. My claim that human nature is at least partly innate is something that is backed up by the revelant scientists of human behaviour who's scholarship has been rigorously scrutinised in peer review journals.

Philosopher's are neccessarily speculators of history because they are not engaged in the real practice of history but rather trying to support their own ideological system. Marxism and Objectivist schools of history are a case in point, at root is their belief (and I claim a utopian one) that man is essentially good but has been corrupted by external influences, for how else could one explain the horrific events which have occurred with alarming regularity throughout human history. For the marxists it is the prevailing social and economic conditions, for obectivisits it is simply the result of accepting wrong ideas.

If you want a theory of history you ask a historian not an objectivist, similarily if you want a theory of celestial bodies you ask Galileo and not the catholic church. There are several books written by historians on the theory of history I suggest anyone interested should consult them.

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