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North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › Provocative Article by Robert Tracinski

Provocative Article by Robert Tracinski

Allen, TX
Post #: 94
Robert Trancinski has written a very interesting article about what role ideas, specifically philosophical ideas, play in shaping history.

Although I have not yet read the entire first part (of a six part series) I regard the article as provocative because he directly challenges "'standard Objectivist theory' on the role of ideas in history." (He explains, in the opening paragraphs, what he means by that phrase.) He adds, ". . . I should note that the primary goal of this article is not to critique the existing Objectivist interpretation of the role of philosophy in history, but rather to present my own views on the issue."

What Went Right?

[Edited for spelling.]
Plano, TX
Post #: 330
I like the point he makes about how too many times we throw out the good ideas of others just because they have bad ideas too.
I agree with what he wrote regarding "pajama epistemology". That makes sense, and I am not sure why it would be considered provocative.
A former member
Post #: 128
[Dan said]
Robert Trancinski has written a very interesting article about what role ideas, specifically philosophical ideas, play in shaping history.

I've read the first two installments of this series, and I have a lot of misgivings about it. I'll re-read it again more carefully before making a final assessment, but I don't know who Robert Trancinski is arguing against. No Objectivist philosopher (Ayn Rand, Dr. Leonard Peikoff, or Harry Binswanger) has ever advocated that scientific advancements are deduced from philosophic principles. That would be rationalism, and Objectivism rejects rationalism. The closest philosopher who advocated such a stance is Rene DesCarte, who advocated that the particulars of the world could be deduced from First Principles.

So, if someone is looking for how, say, Newton deduced his Laws of Motion from Enlightenment philosophies, you are not going to find it; because that is not what he did. He induced his principles from observation using the Enlightenment methodology of organizing facts in a logical manner and finding the integrating one in the many (the one principle that integrates the many observations).

Also, Trancinski seems to think that philosophy is dependent upon the special sciences, instead of the other way around (which is the Objectivist approach). Objectivism does not need physics, economics, evolution, or any other special science to confirm its principles. The principles of Objectivism (or any other rational philosophy) are induced by their creators from general observations that can be made by any rational man; and do not require any specialized knowledge. That is part of the reason that the sciences are dependent upon philosophy.

Philosophy integrates the observation of everything observed using a rational methodology into key principles; these key principles and methods can then be used to create the special sciences. Without those general observations integrated by a rational philosophy, the special scientist wannabe would have no place to start. For example, he wouldn't even know that he ought to start with observations of real facts; instead of going by intuition, thunder bolts from Zeus, the holy script, or what his bosses say to do.

So, my preliminary review is that Trancinski doesn't understand what the Objectivist philosophers are saying about the influence of philosophy on the history of the special sciences, including economics and applied politics.

I'll read the rest of the series, when he completes them, but I think that he is way off.


Philosophic essays based on the philosophy of Ayn Rand­

Applied Philosophy Online .com

Where Ideas Are Brought Down to Earth!


All rights reserved 2006 by Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.

Dallas, TX
Post #: 236
I have finals to get to this week so I really need to re-read the portions he has up, but from I gather from the first pass he has a disconnect somewhere between philosophy and science. Someone correct me if I'm wrong but it seems his basis of argument is that all these scientific breakthroughs are happening by people not of Objectivist persuasion, and using that to determonstrate that scientific progress is outside the bounds of philosophy in general. Even I know where the fallacy of that assumption lies.

- Travis
A former member
Post #: 129
I've re-read the two html series "What Went Right" By Robert Tracinski several times now, and I have the same misgivings about the article.

I'll grant him that he is right about one aspect of the thesis, that people don't necessarily have to have the entire philosophical premises be taught to them in order to be rational about their particular field of interest. But this still means that rationality -- i.e. logically going by the facts as a modus operandi -- is at least implicit, which means that The Enlightenment methodology is what is operating, even if only in a delimited way.

For example, a person might be rational about valuing persons such as Mozart, Newton, etc. and therefore not want to control population growth because anyone born might have those capabilities; and yet, at the same time, though in a different respect, not want total freedom for everyone not initiating force -- i.e. hold that talented people in the arts ought to be free for self-expression, but hold that business ought to be regulated. And this sort of contradiction would hold sway if one is not fully integrated to a rational philosophy.

And it is true that rationality, to the extent that it is used and presented, will be influential, if only in one field; the one that one is being rational about.

But, as Ayn Rand has pointed out, this is like pitting a pop-gun up against a nuclear arsenal, when one compares sporadic rationality to rationality across the board, which can only come about due to a philosophy.

So, sure, rationality ought to be championed, even if it is only presented in a delimited manner -- i.e. economics; but that delimited rationality cannot win out in the long run against rampant philosophic anti-reason. That is, sporadic economic rationality cannot win out in a philosophic "cold war" against Communism, not until after the idealism of Communism has collapsed. Because idealism will win out over mere practicality -- i.e. the die-hard Communist idealist will believe that people better than Mozart and Newton will arise under a Communist dictatorship -- better by their standards.

Sporadic rationality in a given field is like getting a used car fixed instead of developing a totally new personal transportation system that is available via philosophy. It will get the job done temporarily; but if one is getting the gasoline spiked with bad chemicals, the tires punctured, the battery stolen, etc. under a bad philosophic system, then one is not going to win in the long-run. Not until a better philosophy is understood and propagated by those rational people in their fields and elsewhere.

And it is rather a shame that people across the world are getting the difference between living in a (semi-)capitalism country versus living in the overly-regulated economy of, say India via induction -- i.e. perceiving the way Americans live versus their own lives; but all they are getting as to why there is this difference is on the economic level, rather than philosophic. The difference in the United States for the most part is that rationality is free to operate; whereas it is not in most of the world's countries.

In other words, people in the USA are free to be moral by their own self-chosen standards; which is a philosophic issue, not an economic issue.

Or as Ayn Rand put it, all of that tremendous wealth will not save you if there is going to be a philosophic collapse -- which religion will bring if not fought philosophically. If one accepts an irrational philosophy, then getting one's car fixed or getting a better car, will not be seen as being moral, and they will be permitted to pile up on the streets unfixed.

Philosophy is still fundamental, even though there are some rational people out there making headway sporadically in different fields, with good results.

Without the proper philosophic underpinning, it will all come crashing down.


Philosophic essays based on the philosophy of Ayn Rand­

Applied Philosophy Online .com

Where Ideas Are Brought Down to Earth!

All rights reserved 2006 by Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.

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