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Peikoff For Kerry?

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Was that meant to be sarcastic?  That reviewer got  so many simple things WRONG that I seriously doubt she read the book (Gault and Dagney??).

Absolutely! I was being sarcastic. At the top of the article, she even said she'd recommended books she hadn't read, thus providing early insight into her soul. I'd say she's of the William Buckley school. These conservatives are not reliable "allies." They are the Trojan horse of the right.

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I bought a number of courses by Leonard Peikoff last week, and they arrived yesterday.

One of them is "Integration as the Essence of Personal Identity," which I started on last night.

I believe this is the "missing link" between most Objectivists' understanding of Objectivism and their grasp of his statement on the upcoming presidential election.

I would advise anyone who is trying to come to certainty on this topic to get a copy of this CD-set. It seems to be the bulk of the supporting argument for Dr. Peikoff's position that I've been searching for. I had known about the DIM Hypothesis but not enough about its particular application to history or to personality.

While I am not even near digesting the course, I have had no problems so far integrating its main points with my own observations of reality and of myself. The material on these CDs is extremely valuable and has provided the explanation for something that has been nagging me for a very long time. It just is the case that you can't lose with Objectivism. Peikoff may not be at Ayn Rand's level; but he is some kind of genius. The will is the intellect.

I just hope that, after he's gone, there are people who can continue to make these crucial philosophical connections into the unforeseeable future.

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You're both right.

The Old Right WERE mostly Bible-thumping, life-hating nuts but the New Right are mostly patriotic American individualists.  On the other hand, the Old Left were primarily sincere, learned, idealistic intellectuals, while the New Left are lazy, dishonest, cynical anti-intellectuals.

I have been an Objectivist activist for a very long time and have dozens of "converts" to my credit.  Forty years ago they were all former Leftists but nowadays they are mostly former Right-wing religionists.

As a general rule, this fits with my current experience. Most of the people who become my good friends or aquaintances are from the right side of the spectrum. I rarely if ever befriend anyone from the left. We share no common values, especially if they are college educated lefties (then they are so corrupted that the only emotion I feel toward them is disgust ). When I was in Law School, all the leftists hated capitalism, business, industry, self-defense, heterosexual behavior!!, and on and on. Trying to find movies you like in common or hobbies or art was almost impossible. Whereas with the non-fundamentalist Republicans, they were almost 'normal' by Objecivist standards. We shared sports, interest in the stock market, interest in America 'kicking ass' militarily, and interest in good looking women (for my male friends). All of these would have been anathema for a committed leftist.

Last note: I also found that educated leftist university and post graduate women were completely intollerable. They were so corrupted by feminism that their sexuality was basically filtered out of them. I once went out on a date with a very pretty leftist law student (as an experiment more than anything else) and it was actually a riot. I couldn't say anything that didn't offend her; anything pro business-was met with antipathy, professional sports were 'exploitative', OJ was innocent, Republicans were Nazis, even a compliment that I thought she had great legs was considered an insult.

Damn. I know Peikoff has said that the greater danger is from the right and I am sure he is right. But for my part, I would rather suffer Chinese water torture than be stranded on a desert island with a serious leftist. I can't stomach them.

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Remember that Objectivism demands that one always begin with reality.  The reality here is that you will never have any kind of instantaneous convertion of the people of this country, right or left, to Objectivism. 

From what I understand of scientific breakthroughs, they are never ackowledged by the generation that they are first presented to. For example, I remember reading that the man who discovered that sterilizing your hands before performing surgery would help stop the spread of disease was considered a quack. It was some 40-50 years before his discovery would become common practice. This seems to be the model for most, if not all scientific breakthroughs. How much more true will this be for philosophic breakthroughs? When Objectivism ascends to the dominant philosophy of the culture it wont be in one giant tidal wave of acceptance. It will come about after future generations of children grow up educated in and practice from their earlist days objectivism. This is a process that will take centuries (I can't imagine it occuring in only one century).

So I agree with Oddsalt's view about getting an individual (especially an adult) to accept as much as is possible without expectation of a total conversion which I imagine is extremely rare for anyone over 25, and probably impossible for anyone over 40.

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Damn. I know Peikoff has said that the greater danger is from the right and I am sure he is right. But for my part, I would rather suffer Chinese water torture than be stranded on a desert island with a serious leftist.

While I trust and respect quite a few people based on their track record, I am never sure anybody is right until I have personally verified their arguments, and the facts they are based on, first-hand. If they are wrong, I will discover why and if they are right, I will understand them and agree with them for the right reasons.

My motto is TRUST BUT VERIFY no matter who I trust -- any old Objectivist, my husband, Leonard Peikoff, or Ayn Rand herself.

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When Objectivism ascends to the dominant philosophy of the culture it wont be in one giant tidal wave of acceptance. It will come about after future generations of children grow up educated in and practice from their earliest days objectivism. This is a process that will take centuries (I can't imagine it occurring in only one century).

I can. Objectivism is already dominant as a philosophy, even if not as the philosophy of the culture yet. In fact, it is the ONLY active philosophy. Religion was always a placeholder for genuine philosophy and the Kantians have collapsed into utter mindlessness and abandoned philosophy completely. That leaves a huge opening for us and we're filling it just as fast as we can turn out Objectivist intellectuals.

As for spreading into the culture, Objectivism is making huge strides with the best of the young and the worst of young and old can't really do much to stop US. If a religionist tells me I'll go to Hell or a leftie threatens me with an environmental apocalypse, I smile and continue on my merry way.

So I agree with Oldsalt's view about getting an individual (especially an adult) to accept as much as is possible without expectation of a total conversion which I imagine is extremely rare for anyone over 25, and probably impossible for anyone over 40.

Any true idea accepted by anyone is a good thing. Even a grudging respect for our views expressed by someone who does not agree with them is a good thing. Little by little, that is how we will change the culture.

In a world where ideas are spread, not by hand-written manuscripts or even by the printing press, but at the speed of the Internet, it won't take a century.

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How does Peikoff's thesis in the Ominous Parallels fit with what he is saying today? To me his arguments are a significant departure from what he argued in the aformentioned book. To say that those without a clear ideology are not as much a threat as those who seemingly have one is dubious. In fact, Peikoff claimed that Nazi Germany was fiercely anti-ideological and look what happened.

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Janet,

I'd like to comment on something in the post you made Saturday (post #208)

"...Allowing Kerry and his bunch to further prove their degeneracy won't get the job [of preserving liberty] done..."

Yes!

I have yet to see an election where it was a good idea to vote for the worst of the two candidates. I never will.

Bad things happening on a bad politician's watch will not necessarily cause his bad ideas to be blamed for what happened. Ideological blame has to be identified by someone and articulated. Once articulated, people have to be philosophically open to listening to the answer. The only thing that determines what or who gets the blame for bad events (and good events) are the ideas of the dominant voices in the culture -- in the press and in academia.

This is why it has always been and always will be absurd to vote for the worst candidate for president or any other elected office.

One should always vote for the best.

One cannot triangulate with one's vote. One cannot double cross with one's vote. One cannot setup the next election with one's vote. One cannot impart a nuanced meaning with one's vote.

Voting is a blunt instrument: Yes. I approve. That's all it says, nothing else.

If you vote for men who want to raise taxes; if you vote for men who want to impose socialized medicine; if vote for men who want to make it impossible to produce electric power or build internal combustion engines -- don't be too surprised to find that you have to take three jobs to make enough money to pay the bills, that you can't get live-saving coronary bypass surgery in time, and that the engine of the world slows and comes to a stop.

And don't be surprised that while you ride all the way down into the hell you voted for that science, industry, individualism, greed, private property, the profit motive are blamed for every extra hour in the work week, every extra death on the hospital waiting list, every factory that is shutdown, and every city that goes dark.

I'm a little bit embarrassed to find myself arguing this obvious point.

We live in a representative government. The vote is no joke. It is the root authorization for every government action and every government action is the use of force. Your vote is the root of what determines what the parking fines will be and whether or not your nation will launch nuclear missiles. When you pull the trigger on November 2, don't shoot an innocent man.

In this year's elections the choice in America is as stark as it was for Spain. Vote for Anzar and you get a defense of Western Civilization (confused and watered-down as it is). Vote for Zapatero and you get self-doubt, withdrawal, and appeasement. The outcome will count either as a victory or a defeat for al Qaeda and the Islamists.

The political culture is currently mulling the details of John Kerry's important role 34 years ago in undermining America's national defense in a time of war. In the coming weeks, the political discussion will move forward down the chronology of Mr. Kerry's political career. We will all get a good look at the degree to which he has moderated the anti-American views of his youth. It won't be a particularly re-assuring sight.

Voting for altruist-collectivists to take over in Washington in the hopes that they will wreck the economy is self-destructive enough. We Americans do not need to 'experiment' with voting for a commander-in-chief who has doubts about whether America is worth defending; a man who believes that America's use of military force has generally been the _cause_ of the world's problems.

I can already tell you the outcome of that experiment. Military defeat at the hands of America's Islamist enemies will give more credence to those who doubt the value of our civilization. Every defeat will re-enforce the legions that oppose America's use of military force. Every defeat will be interpreted by those who hate our system as proof of its impotence. Every defeat will feed their belligerence.

How do I know? I am old enough to remember the aftermath of America's self-inflicted defeat -- bloody defeat -- in Vietnam.

Even if the experiment in voting for a war anti-hero 'works' and we get a better president in the following election, the United States may need a large conscript army to do the job in 2009 that could have been done with a small all-volunteer army in 2005.

For those of you who live or work in a skyscraper; those of you who live or work in New York City, I think you understand that this year's election is not merely one in a series of political contests for the long-term preservation of liberty. For you, a vote for John Kerry is suicidal.

-- Jack

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Bad things happening on a bad politician's watch will not necessarily cause his bad ideas to be blamed for what happened.  Ideological blame has to be identified by someone and articulated.  Once articulated, people have to be philosophically open to listening to the answer.  The only thing that determines what or who gets the blame for bad events (and good events) are the ideas of the dominant voices in the culture -- in the press and in academia.

These words should be placed in a frame and hung on the wall of every Objectivist voting in this year's election. The perfect example of what Jack identifies is Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was re-elected after his policies left the country in a worse state than when the depression began! In fact, had Roosevelt lived he would have gone on to a fourth term, with hardly a soul around who could articulate the evil nature of what Roosevelt advocated. A vote for Kerry is to resurrect the New Deal in 21st century garb, and the liberal mobs will continue cheering as the country sinks into a new depression. It's depressing to just think about Objectivists voting for Kerry! :angry:

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This is why it has always been and always will be absurd to vote for the worst candidate for president or any other elected office.

One should always vote for the best.

One cannot triangulate with one's vote.  One cannot double cross with one's vote.  One cannot setup the next election with one's vote.  One cannot impart a nuanced meaning with one's vote.

Voting is a blunt instrument: Yes.  I approve.  That's all it says, nothing else.

From reading this entire thread, I have come to agree with this. I think that the idea of 'tactical voting' has little merrit to it. Voting for a bad candidate today in hopes that a better one will be available four years from now seems like such a risk. It reminds me of when professional football coaches admonish their players to not underestimate the value of this weeks game even though it is against a weak oponent; 'don't look past this sunday's game to next sunday's opponent.' If you don't win this sunday, you will make next sunday that much more difficult.

Thanks to Jack Wakeland on an excellent post.

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...

For those of you who live or work in a skyscraper; those of you who live or work in New York City, I think you understand that this year's election is not merely one in a series of political contests for the long-term preservation of liberty.  For you, a vote for John Kerry is suicidal.

                            -- Jack

You have a plausible argument here. However, does it also work retroactively?

If you had voted for Governor Bush in 2000, and then you had worked -- and died -- in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, would not your November 2000 vote have been suicidal?

Whomever we Objectivist U. S. citizens vote for in November, we should never forget that President George W. Bush was in charge of protecting Americans from foreign attack. Three thousand people died for the failure of this compassionate-conservative, Christian-warlite president to do his job. His misdirected, tepid response since then has not made up for his earlier inaction.

I may vote for President Bush, but whether I do or not, I will always wonder:

When will he receive justice for his failure?

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Voting is a blunt instrument: Yes.  I approve.  That's all it says, nothing else.

Yes, voting is a blunt instrument, but the rest is not true. What my vote "says" is only this: "With my No. 2 pencil, I have marked the little oval next to the name of this candidate, and I thereby select him for this office."

In fact, the mail-in ballots here in Oregon, if I recall correctly, say: "Select one." They do not say, "Approve of one."

Any voter may select a candidate for any of a variety of reasons, ranging from outlandish to plausible-but-incorrect to objective. An objective selection can be made only in full context. That means that one's vote should be an action following from a tactical plan for one's immediate time and place, which in turn should follow from a general strategy, which in turn should be a plan derived from one's ideology, which in turn stands on a foundation of one's philosophy, particularly the branch Politics, the branch which describes the ideal government toward which the voter is aiming. That is how the widest abstractions, in philosophy, connect up to the most minute action, marking a single oval on a ballot.

Refusal to connect these steps up is an act of disintegration.

(See The Ayn Rand Lexicon, "Ideology," pp. 209-210, for suggestions of Ayn Rand's view of ideology as a part of the zooming-in process [my term] of applying philosophy to changing one's milieu.)

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You have a plausible argument here. However, does it also work retroactively?

If you had voted for Governor Bush in 2000, and then you had worked -- and died -- in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, would not your November 2000 vote have been suicidal?

Only if you drop the entire context and mistakenly assume that Bush's policies in office were responsible for 9/11. The point for today is to compare the actions taken by Bush in fighting our enemies against the reasonable expectation that Kerry will enable our enemies to a degree unprecented in American history.

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Refusal to connect these steps up is an act of disintegration.

With all due respect, Burgess, I do not get this. Why on Earth would you respond with this analysis to the post by Jack Wakeland? If anyone has integrated the concretes into a cohesive whole, based on relevant facts and the application of philosophical principles, with as far-reaching a perspective as the situation allows, it is Jack Wakeland. How much more integrated can a person's ideas get, granted the current political situation? Again, why on Earth lecture Jack on "disintegration?"

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If you had voted for Governor Bush in 2000, and then you had worked -- and died -- in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, would not your November 2000 vote have been suicidal?

Whomever we Objectivist U. S. citizens vote for in November, we should never forget that President George W. Bush was in charge of protecting Americans from foreign attack. Three thousand people died for the failure of this compassionate-conservative, Christian-warlite president to do his job.

NO!

Those attacks were planned -- and first attempted -- YEARS before Bush was ever in office on CLINTON's watch. Three thousand people died for the failure of this pragmatic liberal, hippie pacifist president to do his job

When will Clinton receive justice for his failure? He won't if a cynical, New Left, dishonest, opportunistic ultra-pacifist like Kerry is elected president.

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NO!

Those attacks were planned -- and first attempted -- YEARS before Bush was ever in office on CLINTON's watch.  Three thousand people died for the failure of this pragmatic liberal, hippie pacifist president to do his job

When will Clinton receive justice for his failure?  He won't if a cynical, New Left, dishonest, opportunistic ultra-pacifist like Kerry is elected president.

One question I had in regard to how Democrats vs. Republicans would take charge on this new war on terror. Terrorism was regarded as criminal activity up until September 11, 2001 even though al Qaeda declared war against the US in 1998. I understand the failures to protect and defend the US by the Clinton administration - but am not sure that Democrats and Republicans would differ in their view of how to deal with the current state of affairs in regard to this terrorist organization.

Perhaps some of my questions will be answered during the debates, but the commercials from both sides are turn-offs.

I am still trying to find out exactly why Leonard Peikoff views President Bush as more of a threat and need to research more about the changes in policy that have occurred in the last 4 years - further examine the Patriot Act, whether there has been absolute disregard for the Constitutional Rights and due process, am very uncomfortable with an amendment being added which states marriage is between a man and a woman only (not the place of gov't to enforce), some of the laws being passed to protect the rights of a fetus (I understand the compassion behind the law but am concerned about possible precedence) and so on.

Plus - who will have the best strategy to more energy/fuel independence?

It looks to me as though Mr. Laughlin is looking at whether there is any sort of consensus on the methodology of how most Objectivists will vote. It really helps to be able to read thoughts about these various issues by such respectable individuals. :angry:

(I tried to reply several times yesterday and am either having a problem with my own browser and/or I don't know how to use this type of format for online communication very well yet)

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I understand the failures to protect and defend the US by the Clinton administration - but am not sure that Democrats and Republicans would differ in their view of how to deal with the current state of affairs in regard to this terrorist organization.

Bush has fought wars against and deposed two governments that supported terrorism. Kerry thinks we were wrong to do it without the approval of the French, the Germans, and the UN.

I am still trying to find out exactly why Leonard Peikoff views President Bush as more of a threat
Listen to his 19-minute explanation at http://www.peikoff.com.

and need to research more about the changes in policy that have occurred in the last 4 years - further examine the Patriot Act,  whether there has been absolute disregard for the Constitutional Rights and due process

Do that. You will find that the reason why nobody has won any court cases challenging its constitutionality is that it doesn't violate any rights.

am very uncomfortable with an amendment being added which states marriage is between a man and a woman only (not the place of gov't to enforce),
That amendment doesn't have a prayer. Even Vice President Cheney is against it.

Plus - who will have the best strategy to more energy/fuel independence?

Bush wants to drill in ANWAR and Kerry doesn't.

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If you had voted for Governor Bush in 2000, and then you had worked -- and died -- in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, would not your November 2000 vote have been suicidal?

No, for three reasons:

1. As Betsy said, the attacks were planned while Clinton was in office. It was Clinton's weakening of the military and his wimpish, Monica-oriented foreign policy that emboldened the terrorists, and his failure to pursue Al-Qaeda that allowed them to pull off the attack.

2. In 2000, you didn't know Al-Qaeda was planning an attack on American soil, so the handling of terrorism was not one of the factors you considered when choosing whom to vote for. Today, we know that the Islamists are planning further attacks and Iran is very near to getting nukes.

3. Even if you had known about Al-Qaeda's plans in 2000, Bush would have been the better alternative. To vote for Clinton would have been suicidal.

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Listen to his 19-minute explanation at http://www.peikoff.com.

I listened to the 19 minute explanation several days ago and have given it consideration and apparently he views the Christian right as more of a threat than the Democrats.

I am researching more for myself. My point of view has been opposite for so long - to even consider voting for a Democrat is far reaching - but I do wonder about the issues being raised here - due process of individual rights, stem cel research, abortion rights, gay marriage, and so on. Here's what I am looking at - is a Christian political agenda more dangerous than the government worship from the left... and I need to go beyond the examples given on a 19 minute explanation.

In general I do not pay attention to the religious extremists. I have known such people who vote both Republican AND Democrat - especially here in FL. It's very different here than Colorado, so I have assumed that my location at the bottom of the bible belt has been the reason there are so many fundamentalists around me.

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Zeus:

HA!  See what I mean about trying to talk to some people about abstract philosophical ideas?  The author of this critique doesn't have a clue.  She had no idea what she was reading.  I suspect that the innocent honesty of her youth dissipated in the acid of religion a long time ago.  Note the difference between what she remembers from reading The Fountainhead when young, and her experience (as an obviously die-hard Christian) when reading Atlas as an adult.

oldsalt:

Sorry for such a late response. I did not realize the post was directed at me.

You're right. But surely you must realize that these types of people, among conservatives, are considered their best and brightest. A typical conservative holds Limbaugh in high esteem but reveres Buckley.

Please correct me if I'm wrong. Thanks.

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Elezabeth,

It's my view -- as an _amateur_ intellectual -- that determinism, not religion, is the more lethal idea in politics

The determinist premise is the bridge between 'scientific' metaphysical materialism and dictatorship. That's why one political revolution, in 1789, and another, in 1917, went straight to the terror and dictatorship.

Ever since my friend (will call him Mr. X for now) educated me on the central ideological victory of the 1980s (that the conservatives discredited the Left's idea that man's actions are determined -- values and motives and choices do not move him -- rather he is moved by outside material factors over which he has no control), I've been watching the role of determinism in political philosophy and in government policy.

Determinism is such a crude contradiction the only way to make it seem like it's true; the only way to make men's minds operate as if this were a deterministic is to use force.

The imposition of society-wide, government-implemented compulsion makes man -- in all his physical actions, interacting with other people and the world around him -- act as if he is a pupet, determined by outside forces.

To a determinist, it doesn't much matter what goes on exclusively inside the mind of the individual, so long as all physical aspects of his life are controlled. Only that which is physical is real.

To make determinism 'true,' one would have to re-write reality...and the number one thing that has to be written out of it is individual free will. If one is a determinist, one must immediately move to stamp out any signs of volition in the world. One must stamp out the individual in man.

Determinism is an ideological gun pointed at man's mind. In politics, liberty ends where determinism begins.

There are plenty of bad ideas in politics that can threaten liberty. But none is so broad, so comprehensive, so direct an attack on liberty as the premise of determinism.

No other idea -- not even fanatical Islam -- can kill so many men as quickly. Look at history. Who killed the most? The inquisition? The Crusades? Or the Communist International? ...Or the fascists who copied them?

-- Jack

P.S.

Based on my experience, I agree with his argument about the current state of America.

My experience, however, is not entirely representative -- as a boy I was raised in the very secular East side of Milwaukee, surrounded by Unitarians, free thinkers, civil rights activists, and (unfortunately) socialist peace-niks. As a man I have only lived only briefly in or near the Bible Belt. But, having lived in the southwest, the northeast, and many areas of the midwest -- big cities and small towns -- I have not seen a marked trend towards more religion.

The "Promise Keepers" came and went. Christian rock 'n roll is an attempt to inject religion into pop culture no different than its previous injection into country and western music. And "The Passion of Christ" will be viewed by a large number of Americans only one more time, when it comes out next month on DVD, and then it will be put away in the cabinet never to be seen again.

Here is a private note from my friend, Mr. X (who actually is an intellectual), on the role of religion in America. (I am not knowlegeable enough to answer anything more than the most general of questions on the role of religion, greatly attenuated as it was, in enlightenment thinking about liberty and individual rights. Perhaps there is someone else on this list who is.)

______________

...[T]he combination of religion and freedom was hardly unique to Reagan (or Dubya). It goes all the way back to the Declaration of Independence and beyond....this package deal is not something that the New Right invented thirty years ago. Indeed, America was founded on this package deal!

In the Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke mentioned in passing that he thought a secular, rational ethics could be developed, perhaps based on man's pain-pleasure mechanism. After the book's publication, his friend James Tyrrell asked him, "So, where's that rational system of ethics you promised us?" Locke kept putting him off. Eventually, this sore point contributed to the souring of their friendship. Locke gave up his hopes of developing a secular morality, writing that the Gospels and Cicero's De Officiis provided sufficient moral guidance for any man content to pursue his own happiness and not plumb the depths of metaphysics.

Different Enlightenment thinkers responded in different ways to his failure to separate morality and freedom from religion. His friend Tyrrell collaborated with a philosopher named Cumberland on a project to develop a natural law ethos based on deduction from presumably axiomatic statements about "the good." This approach was very popular with obscure English Deists, like Wollaston, but it never really took off.

Locke's French admirers--Helvetius, Diderot--ran with Locke's proposal of basing moral values on pain and pleasure. Their efforts led to d'Holbach's "System of Nature," which rejected God and anything "spiritual"--including free will. He gave the French Enlightenment an atheistic, scientific, and "rational" philosophy, including ethics--all based on a view of man as a rather chatty and self-important slab of meat, driven to and fro by the sensation of the moment.

The only successful alternative to the hedonism of French materialists was the intuitionism of British and American Christians. Locke's student, the third Earl of Shaftesbury, said that Locke's mistake was chucking the theory of innate ideas. He claimed that we have within us a "sensibility" to detect the true, the good, and the beautiful. Scottish philosophers seized on this idea and developed the theory of "the moral sense"--an innate, intuitive capacity to know good and evil.

This was the theory that Jefferson embraced explicitly, and it's what he had in mind when he accepted the description of natural rights as "self-evident" rather than "sacred and undeniable." His letters are laced with assumptions of the Scottish moral sense theorists. Of course, when Jefferson based natural rights theory on God, he had in mind the rational "God of Nature." The next generation had an equally benevolent but not half so rational God in mind.

After the Enlightenment collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions, America was transformed by the First Great Awakening. Nineteenth-century Americans combined evangelical Christianity with two legacies of the American Enlightenment: moral sense theory and natural rights theory. And that synthesis has dominated the American mind ever since. The notion that human beings have some innate capacity for good, endowed by their Creator, provided a basis for individual rights and representative government, rescuing the Crown Jewels of the Enlightenment.

Americans who might've seen a problem with this synthesis looked to Europe and saw that the only alternative was what the French Enlightenment had cooked up: there, "reason," science, and atheism had led to materialism, determinism, and socialist dictatorship, from the Jacobin Terror to the rise of revolutionary communism. The failures of Locke and the Enlightenment left us with the choice of religion combined with certainty, morality, freedom, dignity or secularism combined with skepticism, whim-worship, dictatorship, and man-as-meatism. We've been stuck with that dichotomy ever since.

[There is no]...rise of religiosity in America. ...[F]undamentalists will [not] take over America after another four years of Bush....Most Americans today say that they believe in God, and many go to church on Sunday. But very few actually try to live by the guidance of the Bible.

Most...hard-core evangelicals...have adopted a distinctively nineteenth-century American brand of Christianity, in which the Sermon on the Mount is fully compatible with making lots of money, having a fulfilling sex life, and bombing the hell out of Iraq. (You can thank Mayhew and the other Enlightenment theologians for that bundle of happy contradictions.)

The truth is that America is much less religious today--religious in the way people really think and live their lives--than it was in 1955 or 1906 or 1864 or 1776. Yes, the top five or six Founders were Deists, but the vast majority of people even at the height of the American Enlightenment were solid, Bible-believing Protestants (though many of them thought that their Bible faith was fully compatible with Mr. Locke and Mr. Newton).

Americans' inability to develop a rational basis for concepts, values, and rights compelled them to rely on religion. Their inability to make a rational argument for the American system is the essence of the American Tragedy. Jefferson tried to reconcile God with nature and the Sermon on the Mount with the pursuit of happiness. He failed as he had to fail, and as his hero Locke failed before him. So we left the realm of ideas to the Europeans and America's Europeanized intellectuals, and we've tried to keep the American way of life afloat on the basis of religion, tradition, common sense, etc.

Yes, it is tragic, and so much has been lost because we weren't strong enough--philosophically strong enough--to hold onto it. But to suggest that America is going to hell in a hand basket, that fundamentalists will take over and turn America into a second Iran, is preposterous. I mean, just forty years ago, it was illegal in most states to buy birth control. Even presumably pious Catholics in America use birth control these days. Yes, there are a lot of very bad trends in America, but the political takeover of theocrats is not even in the realm of possibility. We're talking science fiction now.

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I found one of these conservative comrades in reason while doing some research online.

Please feel free to take a look:

http://www.meridianmagazine.com/bestbooks/040430attract.html

That review could have been written by my father. He hasn't read Atlas Shrugged either (although he, too, tried to claim that he had at one point).

The second, rave review sounded, from the excerpts alone, like the worst book of all time. To hold that trash above Atlas Shrugged is just sick.

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