Monthly Archives: February 2007

The End of Philosophy and its Renaissance, Part II

The dominant public attitude toward Philosophy has steadily shifted from interest, to dis-illusion, to confusion, to dis-interest, to ridicule throughout the 20th century. The culmulating influence of post-modernism was in full display in the late 1960s, as the culture disintegrated into the arbitrary, violent, and irrational desparate search for meaning among the adolescents and young adults. As this generation has aged, most of these individuals have been forced by Reality to accept the fact that production is necessary for survival. Some still give lip-service (and votes) to supporting their earlier beliefs, but they cannot be dominant forces in any society without acting on undeclared rational principles. Most have adopted a position of cynical disbelief toward the philosophical foundations of the actions of their youth – these sentiments are apparent when they refer to philosophy as irrelevant, Utopian, or impractical.

It is in this collapse of belief that an opportunity exists for the growth of attitudes more amenable to the Objectivist philosophy. It may well be too late for the 60/70s generation to reject their latent philosophical beliefs; however, in their children – only now reaching maturity – this cynicism toward post-modern philosophy can be fertile ground in which a rational philosophy may be successfully introduced and cultivated.

I do not claim that there is dominant percentage of young adults who are eagerly awaiting the inception of Objectivist principles into their lives. The dominance of the collectivist/altruist philosophy in public education has successfully damaged the majority of these minds against being able to identify the contradictions in their lives. What I am hopeful for is a small percentage of this generation remaining interested in ideas, struggling to resolve the contradictions between what they must do to live, and what they have been taught to believe. I am of the opinion that it is only these individuals who will affect the future of the culture, and that many of them are ready to hear the Objectivist message.

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The End of Philosophy, and its Renaissance

The slow destruction of philosophy, starting with the rejection of the mind’s ability to perceive Reality, as enunciated byKant (based in turn on a history of ideas starting with Plato), and accelerating gradually through the progressive dominance of Rationalism and Empiricism in the 18th and 19th centuries, reached its logical conclusion in the Existentialism and Nominalism of the 20th century. Beyond these final declarations of the accumulated developments of those opposed to accepting the ability of Man to reason about the world surrounding him, thereby denying the very faculty in use in these declarations, Philosophy collapsed into random incoherent musings about disconnected observations. The very promise of Philosophy – to gain an integrated, systematic, knowledge of the nature and structure of the Universe, and Man’s relationship to it – was fervently abandoned as not only impossible, but foolish for intellectuals to pursue. Philosophy, in the form of Plato and his stream of decendants, has ended as a source of new ideas.

In modern society, intellectuals may still purport a belief in the Plato/Kant/Sartre tradition. However, in the widespread opinion of the common man, philosophy (when named as such) is at most a “pleasant diversion” – a book read on vacation, a momentary component of a political discussion, a debate over the existence of God – and at worst, an opportunity for humor, the subject of ridicule, or even a closed door to discussion marked with the label “taboo”. A very common rule in modern social ettiquete is never to discuss religion or politics – there is a very good reason for this: we no longer know how to have such a discussion divorced from emotion and arbitrary assertion.

And yet, Man cannot function without a Philosophy. Every individual acts according to a system of belief which consists of his understanding of the world. No individual can live long if his system of belief honestly accepts the irrational, the arbitrary, or a rejection of his mind’s ability to comprehend Reality. In the absence of a functioning or rational school of thought, each individual must rely instead upon an undeclared, self-discovered, “natural” philosophy – his common sense.

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