Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Brin on Rand's Essentialism

"We do need a brief aside about Objectivism, which begins by proposing that reality exists independent of its perception. This contrasts refreshingly against the subjective-relativism offered by today's fashionable neo-leftist philosophers, who claim (in blithe and total ignorance of science) that "truth" can always be textually redefined by any observer - a truly pitiable, easily-disproved, and essentially impotent way of looking at the world.

So far, so good. Unfortunately, any fledgling alliance between Rand's doctrine and actual science breaks down soon after that. For she further holds that objective reality is readily accessible by solitary individuals using words and logic alone. This proposition - rejected by nearly all modern scientists - is essentially a restatement of the Platonic World-view, a fundamental axiom of which is that the universe is made up of ideal essences or "values" (the term Rand preferred) that can be discovered, dispassionately examined, and objectively analyzed by those few bold minds who are able to finally free themselves from the hoary assumptions of the past. Once freed, any truly rational individual must, by simply applying verbal reasoning, independently reach the same set of fundamental conclusions about life, justice, and the universe. (Naturally any mind that fails to do so must, by definition, not yet be free.)"

"The Art of Fiction, by Ayn Rand", a review by David Brin in his Through Stranger Eyes