George H. Smith

Reason, Superstition, and Enthusiasm

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Around a decade after writing his defense of the French Revolution, James Mackintosh, like many of his contemporaries, had a change of heart. This led the editor of a book by Mackintosh, who appended an account of his life, to speculate that Mackintosh had abandoned the principles expressed in the Vindiciae Gallicae from interested motives.

This charge incurred the wrath of the historian Thomas Babington Macaulay, whose depth of knowledge and superb polemical skills made him an adversary that you antagonized at your own peril. Macaulay responded with an article in the Edinburgh Review (July, 1835).

This excerpt explains the widespread disillusionment experienced by liberals after the French Revolution turned sour.

We have no difficulty in admitting that during the ten or twelve years which followed the appearance of the Vindicæ Gallicæ, the opinions of Sir James Mackintosh underwent some change. But did this change pass on him alone? Was it not common? Was it not almost universal? Was there one honest friend of liberty in Europe or in America whose ardour had not been damped, whose faith in the high destinies of mankind had not been shaken? Was there one observer to whom the French Revolution, or revolutions in general, appeared in exactly the same light on the day when the Bastile fell, and on the day when the Girondists were dragged to the scaffold, the day when the Directory shipped off their principal opponents for Guiana, or the day when the Legislative Body was driven from its hall at the point of the bayonet? We do not speak of light-minded and enthusiastic people, of wits like Sheridan, or poets like Alfieri; but of the most virtuous and intelligent practical statesmen, and of the deepest, the calmest, the most impartial political speculators of that time. What was the language and conduct of Lord Spencer, of Lord Fitzwilliam, or Mr. Grattan? What is the tone of M. Dumont’s Memoirs, written just at the close of the eighteenth century? What Tory could have spoken with greater disgust or contempt of the French Revolution and its authors? Nay, this writer, a republican, and the most upright and zealous of republicans, has gone so far as to say that Mr. Burke’s work on the Revolution had saved Europe. The name of M. Dumont naturally suggests that of Mr. Bentham. He, we presume, was not ratting for a place; and what language did he hold at that time? Look at his little treatise entitled Sophismes Anarchiques. In that treatise he says, that the atrocities of the Revolution were the natural consequences of the absurd principles on which it was commenced; that, while the chiefs of the constituent assembly gloried in the thought that they were pulling down aristocracy, they never saw that their doctrines tended to produce an evil a hundred times more formidable, anarchy; that the theory laid down in the Declaration of the Rights of Man had, in a great measure, produced the crimes of the Reign of Terror; that none but an eyewitness could imagine the horrors of a state of society in which comments on that Declaration were put forth by men with no food in their bellies, with rags on their backs and pikes in their hands. He praises the English Parliament for the dislike which it has always shown to abstract reasonings, and to the affirming of general principles. In M. Dumont’s preface to the Treatise on the Principles of Legislation, a preface written under the eye of Mr. Bentham, and published with his sanction, are the following still more remarkable expressions: “M. Bentham est bien loin d’attacher une preference exclusive a aucune forme de gouvernement. Il pense que la meilleure constitution pour un peuple est celle a laquelle il est accoutume . . . Le vice fondamental des theories sur les constitutions politiques, c’est de commencer par attaquer celles qui existent, et d’exciter tout au moins des inquietudes et des jalousies de pouvoir. Une telle disposition n’est point favorable au perfectionnement des lois. La seule epoque ou l’on puisse entreprendre avec succes des grandes reformes de legislation est celle ou les passions publiques sont calmes, et ou le gouvernement jouit de la stabilite la plus grande. L’objet de M. Bentham, en cherchant dans le vice des lois la cause de la plupart des maux, a ete constamment d’eloigner le plus grand de tous, le bouleversement de l’autorite, les revolutions de propriete et de pouvoir.”

To so conservative a frame of mind had the excesses of the French Revolution brought the most illustrious reformers of that time. And why is one person to be singled out from among millions, and arraigned before posterity as a traitor to his opinions only because events produced on him the effect which they produced on a whole generation? People who, like Mr. Brothers in the last generation, and Mr. Percival in this, have been favoured with revelations from heaven, may he quite independent of the vulgar sources of knowledge. But such poor creatures as Mackintosh, Dumont, and Bentham, had nothing but observation and reason to guide them; and they obeyed the guidance of observation and of reason. How is it in physics? A traveller falls in with a berry which he has never before seen. He tastes it, and finds it sweet and refreshing. He praises it, and resolves to introduce it into his own country. But in a few minutes he is taken violently sick; he is convulsed; he is at the point of death. He of course changes his opinion, denounces this delicious food a poison, blames his own folly in tasting it, and cautions his friends against it. After a long and. violent struggle he recovers, and finds himself much exhausted by his sufferings, but free from some chronic complaints which had been the torment of his life. He then changes his opinion again, and pronounces this fruit a very powerful remedy, which ought to be employed only in extreme cases and with great caution, but which ought not to be absolutely excluded from the Pharmacopœia. And would it not be the height of absurdity to call such a man fickle and inconsistent, because he had repeatedly altered his judgment? If he had not altered his judgment, would he have been a rational being? It was exactly the same with the French Revolution. That event was a new phænomenon in politics. Nothing that had gone before enabled any person to judge with certainty of the course which affairs might take. At first the effect was the reform of great abuses; and honest men rejoiced. Then came commotion, proscription, confiscation, bankruptcy, the assignats, the maximum, civil war, foreign war, revolutionary tribunals, guillotinades, noyades, fusillades. Yet a little while, and a military despotism rose out of the confusion, and menaced the independence of every state in Europe.

And yet again a little while, and the old dynasty returned, followed by a train of emigrants eager to restore the old abuses. We have now, we think, the whole before us. We should therefore be justly accused of levity or insincerity if our language concerning those events were constantly changing. It is our deliberate opinion that the French Revolution, in spite of all its crimes and follies, was a great blessing to mankind. But it was not only natural, but inevitable, that those who had only seen the first act should be ignorant of the catastrophe, and should be alternately elated and depressed as the plot went on disclosing itself to them. A man who had held exactly the same opinion about the Revolution in 1789, in 1794, in 1804, in 1814, and in 1834, would have been either a divinely inspired prophet, or an obstinate fool. Mackintosh was neither. He was simply a wise and good man; and the change which passed on his mind was a change which passed on the mind of almost every wise and good man in Europe. In fact, few of his contemporaries changed so little. The rare moderation and calmness of his temper preserved him alike from extravagant elation and from extravagant despondency. He was never a Jacobin. He was never an Anti-Jacobin. His mind oscillated undoubtedly, but the extreme points of the oscillation were not very remote. Herein he differed greatly from some persons of distinguished talents who entered into life at nearly the same time with him. Such persons we have seen rushing from one wild extreme to another, out-Paining Paine, out-Castlereaghing Castlereagh, Pantisocratists, Ultra-Tories, heretics, persecutors, breaking the old laws against sedition, calling for new and sharper laws against sedition, writing democratic dramas, writing Laureate odes panegyrising Marten, panegyrising Laud, consistent in nothing but an intolerance which in any person would be censurable, but which is altogether unpardonable in men who, by their own confession, have had such ample experience of their own fallibility. We readily concede to some of these persons the praise of eloquence and poetical invention; nor are we by any means disposed, even where they have been gainers by their conversion, to question their sincerity. It would be most uncandid to attribute to sordid motives actions which admit of a less discreditable explanation. We think that the conduct of these persons has been precisely what was to be expected from men who were gifted with strong imagination and quick sensibility, but who were neither accurate observers nor logical reasoners. It was natural that such men should see in the victory of the third estate of France the dawn of a new Saturnian age. It was natural that the rage of their disappointment should he proportioned to the extravagance of their hopes. Though the direction of their passions was altered, the violence of those passions was the same. The force of the rebound was proportioned to the force of the original impulse. The pendulum swung furiously to the left, because it had been drawn too far to the right.

We own that nothing gives us so high an idea of the judgment and temper of Sir James Mackintosh as the manner in which he shaped his course through those times. Exposed successively to two opposite infections, he took both in their very mildest form. The constitution of his mind was such that neither of the diseases which wrought such havoc all round him could in any serious degree, or for any great length of time, derange his intellectual health. He, like every honest and enlightened man in Europe, saw with delight the great awakening of the French nation. Yet he never, in the season of his warmest enthusiasm, proclaimed doctrines inconsistent with the safety of property and the just authority of governments. He, like almost every other honest and enlightened man, was discouraged and perplexed by the terrible events which followed. Yet he never in the most gloomy times abandoned the cause of peace, of liberty, and of toleration. In that great convulsion which overset almost every other understanding, he was indeed so much shaken that he leaned sometimes in one direction and sometimes in the other; but he never lost his balance. The opinions in which he at last reposed, and to which, in spite of strong temptations, he adhered with a firm, a disinterested, an ill-requited fidelity, were a just mean between those which be had defended with youthful ardour and with more than manly prowess against Mr. Burke, and those to which he had inclined during the darkest and saddest years in the history of modern Europe. We are much mistaken if this be the picture either of a weak or of a dishonest mind.

Ghs

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nor did Objectivism devour its young.

So I guess it was my imagination that people are ostracized for dissenting?

Shayne

But not by Objectivism.

--Brant

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Very good. Was suspicion of excessive "enthusiasms" one of Erasmus's major concerns?

I don't know enough about Erasmus to answer this question, but, as a rationalist Christian, he was certainly no fan of any belief system in which emotions supplanted the proper role of reason.

"Enthusiasm" in 18th century America was commonly associated with the remarkable religious revivals that began during the 1740s. This "First Great Awakening," which began in New England and quickly spread to the Middle and Southern colonies, involved various Protestant demoninations, including Congregationalists, Baptist Separatists, and Methodists. Open-air revivial meetings could last for days and attract thousands of people, including many who travelled 50 or even 100 miles to attend.

Fits of religious ecstasy, of the sort that we now associate with Pentecostalism, were common during these meetings. One observer recounted "multitudes, some roaring on the ground, some wringing their hands, some in extacies, some praying, some weeping; and others so outrageously cursing and swearing that it was thought they were really possessed of the devil." (Quoted in William Warren Sweet, The Story of Religion in America, Harper, 2nd ed., 1950, p. 151.)

Hume, in a passage to which Webster referred, argued that superstition (i.e,. Catholicism) generally supports despotism, whereas enthusiasm generally supports freedom. That this was true in some cases is corroborated by the historian William Sweet (ibid.) in this passage:

Unlike the Presbyterians in Virginia, the Baptists [in Virginia] were little inclined to conform to the letter of the law in securing licenses for their meeting-houses. They were also more open and extreme in their attacks upon the Established Church; and these facts, added to the fear aroused by that their rapid increase constituted a menace to society, brought down upon them bitter persecution. The years from 1768 to 1770 are known as the Period of the Great Persecution. Baptist ministers were arrested as disturbers of the peace, and more than thirty, to use the phrase of one of their numbers, "were honored with the dungeon."

As is usually the case, persecution, instead of retarding, served to promote their cause, and when it became generally known that the Baptists held as one of their principles the separation of church and state many leading men came to favor them. The patient manner in which they bore persecution gave them a reputation for piety and goodness and "every month," to quote their chief historian, "new places were found by the preachers whereon to plant the Redeemer's standard."

Ghs

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Historians have never been able to explain, at least to my satisfaction, why extreme religious revivals were experienced in different countries at nearly the same time during the Enlightenment. In addition to the Great Awakening in America, there were also the emergence of Wesleyans (i.e., Methodists) in England and Jansenists in France. (Jansenism, whose most famous proponent was Pascal, might be described as a type of Calvinist Catholicism.)

As Henry May put it in The Enlightenment in America, in a chapter titled "The Age of Reason and the Age of Enthusiasm":

Throughout the 1740's and into the 1750's, revival crackled, exploded, and burned out in one place after another throughout the colonies. Everywhere it aroused the opposition of the partisans of the of the Moderate Enlightenment. Though the war between reason and emotion has never really ended either in American religion or American culture, this particular battle had died down by about 1760....

To believers in progress, rationality, balance, order, and moderation, outbursts of religious enthusiasm were (and are) alarming, disgusting, and inexplicable. When the revivals began defenders of rationality feared a return of the dreamers and ranters of the seventeenth century. Contemporary critics could not understand why this outburst of religious enthusiasm took place in the middle of an enlightened age. (42)

May recounts various explanations offered by historians for these outbreaks of religious enthusiasm in America. A typical sociological explanation attributes them to widespread discontent by the less prosperous segments of American society, but this canard amounts to an explanation for all occasions and so "explains" almost nothing. According to another explanation, these revivals were part of a more general trend from neoclassicism to romanticism (the latter being associated during the Enlightenment primarily with Rousseau), but there are many problems with this approach as well.

Some of the best documented revival meetings occurred in Logan County (Kentucky) during the first years of 19th century. The famous Cane Ridge meeting, which extended over several days, attracted crowds of 10,000 people or more. Logan Country was also known as "Rogues' Harbor" because of its large number of criminal fugitives. By all accounts, Logan Country was a lawless and dangerous place until the revival meetings occurred. After that, many witnesses testified to a dramatic change for the better.

Observers reported that revival meetings typically resulted in people jerking, rolling, running, dancing, and even barking. The spasmodic jerking, which allegedly could not be stopped until the victim prayed, caught the attention of one male observer. I cannot help but detect a tinge of sexual excitement in his account: "The first jerk or so [by "young ladies"], you would see their fine bonnets, caps, and combs fly, and so sudden would be the jerking of the head that their long loose hair would crack almost as loud as a wagoner's whip."

Where else in colonial American could a man observe young, attractive, and respectable women engage in this kind of provocative behavior? Although this fellow claimed that such behavior "would often excite my risibilities," it seems to me that a different kind of excitement might have been generated as well. :rolleyes:

It also seems that these revival meetings might have functioned as modern therapy groups do now. The tremendous release of pent-up emotions and energy in a controlled environment probably made them very appealing during an era when emotional outbursts were frowned upon in respectable society.

Perhaps some OLers have other explanations, or at least partial explanations, for such revivals, especially during an age when reason was generally held in high esteem.

Ghs

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nor did Objectivism devour its young.

So I guess it was my imagination that people are ostracized for dissenting?

Shayne

But not by Objectivism.

--Brant

Objectivism is Rand. Rand is Objectivism. So yes, by Objectivism.

Shayne

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Perhaps some OLers have other explanations, or at least partial explanations, for such revivals, especially during an age when reason was generally held in high esteem.

Ghs

Maybe a different George would be of some help:

Shayne

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Perhaps some OLers have other explanations, or at least partial explanations, for such revivals, especially during an age when reason was generally held in high esteem.

Ghs

Maybe a different George would be of some help:

[video deleted]

Nope, Carlin is no help at all. For example, one of the revivalists was Jonathan Edwards, one of most brilliant minds in 18th century America. And no one in his right mind would dispute the genius of Pascal, the leading philosopher of Jansenism.

Moreover, then as now, some freethinkers were dumb as rocks. Supposed differences in intelligence explain nothing.

Ghs

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"...one of the revivalists was Jonathan Edwards, one of most brilliant minds in 18th century America. Moreover, then as now, some freethinkers were dumb as rocks. Supposed differences in intelligence explain nothing.

Ghs

George:

Phenomenal rhetorician. His sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, that he preached on July 8th 1741 in Connecticut was an exposition and insight into the Great Awakening. As we analyzed the sermon in grad school, it would send chills up my spine. I can imagine how it impacted his flock.

"There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God."

Most of the sermon's text consists of ten "considerations". They are as follows:

  1. God may cast wicked men into hell at any given moment.
  2. The Wicked deserve to be cast into hell. Divine justice does not prevent God from destroying the Wicked at any moment.
  3. The Wicked, at this moment, suffer under God's condemnation to Hell.
  4. The Wicked, on earth - at this very moment - suffer the torments of Hell. The Wicked must not think, simply because they are not physically in Hell, that God (in Whose hand the Wicked now reside) is not - at this very moment - as angry with them as He is with those miserable creatures He is now tormenting in hell, and who - at this very moment - do feel and bear the fierceness of His wrath.
  5. At any moment God shall permit him, Satan stands ready to fall upon the Wicked and seize them as his own.
  6. If it were not for God's restraints, there are, in the souls of wicked men, hellish principles reigning which, presently, would kindle and flame out into hellfire.
  7. Simply because there are not visible means of death before them, at any given moment, the Wicked should not, therefore, feel secure.
  8. Simply because it is natural to care for oneself or to think that others may care for them, men should not think themselves safe from God's wrath.
  9. All that wicked men may do to save themselves from Hell's pains shall afford them nothing if they continue to reject Christ.
  10. God has never promised to save us from Hell, except for those contained in Christ through the covenant of Grace.

"O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment. -- And consider here more particularly,
full text

Edited by Selene

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Well, my late extremely intelligent sister was permanently damaged psychologically as a baby because she was placed into isolation in a NYC hospital for several months because of an upper respiratory infection in the time before antibiotics. Her parents were kept away from her and in all that time she gained no weight. Went in normal and came out different and stayed different. She was never very rational and something of a mystic trying many different sects of Christianity and was married a Catholic. On one Sunday, I heard, she went to five different churches looking for--I really don't know what aside from a place to be, I suppose. But if you want a place to be and once you find it you will make yourself fit in even if it means outdoing everybody else and any rather small sect can go quite nutso in its own particular way that way.

--Brant

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nor did Objectivism devour its young.

So I guess it was my imagination that people are ostracized for dissenting?

Shayne

But not by Objectivism.

--Brant

Objectivism is Rand. Rand is Objectivism. So yes, by Objectivism.

Shayne

False premises. Now we have Rand as Moloch.

--Brant

too much unnecessary victimization in this world by the victims themselves

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"...one of the revivalists was Jonathan Edwards, one of most brilliant minds in 18th century America. Moreover, then as now, some freethinkers were dumb as rocks. Supposed differences in intelligence explain nothing.

Ghs

George:

Phenomenal rhetorician. His sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, that he preached on July 8th 1741 in Connecticut was an exposition and insight into the Great Awakening. As we analyzed the sermon in grad school, it would send chills up my spine. I can imagine how it impacted his flock.

"There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God."

Most of the sermon's text consists of ten "considerations". They are as follows:

  1. God may cast wicked men into hell at any given moment.
  2. The Wicked deserve to be cast into hell. Divine justice does not prevent God from destroying the Wicked at any moment.
  3. The Wicked, at this moment, suffer under God's condemnation to Hell.
  4. The Wicked, on earth - at this very moment - suffer the torments of Hell. The Wicked must not think, simply because they are not physically in Hell, that God (in Whose hand the Wicked now reside) is not - at this very moment - as angry with them as He is with those miserable creatures He is now tormenting in hell, and who - at this very moment - do feel and bear the fierceness of His wrath.
  5. At any moment God shall permit him, Satan stands ready to fall upon the Wicked and seize them as his own.
  6. If it were not for God's restraints, there are, in the souls of wicked men, hellish principles reigning which, presently, would kindle and flame out into hellfire.
  7. Simply because there are not visible means of death before them, at any given moment, the Wicked should not, therefore, feel secure.
  8. Simply because it is natural to care for oneself or to think that others may care for them, men should not think themselves safe from God's wrath.
  9. All that wicked men may do to save themselves from Hell's pains shall afford them nothing if they continue to reject Christ.
  10. God has never promised to save us from Hell, except for those contained in Christ through the covenant of Grace.

"O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment. -- And consider here more particularly,
full text

Although I disagree with "soft determinism," the defense of this position that Jonathan Edwards presents in his book Freedom of the Will is as good as any defense, early or late, that I have ever read. Of course, Edwards used his philosophical defense of determinism to butress his theological determinism.

Ghs

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False premises. Now we have Rand as Moloch.

Where have you been? Read Rand's remarks in TOF. She identifies Objectivism as her own mind.

Shayne

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Perhaps some OLers have other explanations, or at least partial explanations, for such revivals, especially during an age when reason was generally held in high esteem.

Ghs

Maybe a different George would be of some help:

[video deleted]

Nope, Carlin is no help at all. For example, one of the revivalists was Jonathan Edwards, one of most brilliant minds in 18th century America. And no one in his right mind would dispute the genius of Pascal, the leading philosopher of Jansenism.

Moreover, then as now, some freethinkers were dumb as rocks. Supposed differences in intelligence explain nothing.

Ghs

Compartmentalization may explain some of this. It's quite a burden to integrate all your knowledge, loves, hates, rationalities and irrationalities, but if you put them in different boxes it may be the easier way to go, contradictions and all. And there is always the go along to get along weaklings.

--Brant

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False premises. Now we have Rand as Moloch.

Where have you been? Read Rand's remarks in TOF. She identifies Objectivism as her own mind.

Shayne

Gee, she was right about everything then, and then what are you complaining about? People who agreed with her and slunk off?

--Brant

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Although I disagree with "soft determinism," the defense of this position that Jonathan Edwards presents in his book Freedom of the Will is as good as any defense, early or late, that I have ever read. Of course, Edwards used his philosophical defense of determinism to butress his theological determinism.

Ghs

George:

Soft determinism, meaning "compatabilism?" Similar to Augustine's concept that even though God knows what you are going to do, you still have free will to act?

Adam

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False premises. Now we have Rand as Moloch.

Where have you been? Read Rand's remarks in TOF. She identifies Objectivism as her own mind.

Shayne

Gee, she was right about everything then, and then what are you complaining about? People who agreed with her and slunk off?

--Brant

You're getting less and less coherent over time. Wishing that Objectivism is a philosophy of reason doesn't make it so Brant. It's a philosophy of Ayn Rand, nothing more, nothing less.

According to Rand's own words in TOF, Objectivism is Rand, Rand is Objectivism.

Shayne

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Although I disagree with "soft determinism," the defense of this position that Jonathan Edwards presents in his book Freedom of the Will is as good as any defense, early or late, that I have ever read. Of course, Edwards used his philosophical defense of determinism to butress his theological determinism.

Ghs

George:

Soft determinism, meaning "compatabilism?" Similar to Augustine's concept that even though God knows what you are going to do, you still have free will to act?

Adam

Yes, soft determinism of commonly regarded as a species of compatibilism. I prefer the label "psychological determinism." The adjective "soft" is used to distinguish this kind of determinism from "hard" materialistic determinism. The latter has never appealed to Christians, not even orthodox Calvinists, because it seems to limit the freedom even of God.

Ghs

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Quoting Rand:

... "Objectivism" is the name I have given to my philosophy -- therefore, anyone using that name for some [philosophy] of his own, without my knowledge or consent, is guilty of the fraudulent presumption of trying to put thoughts into my brain.

Again, Brant, Rand herself identified Objectivism as her own mind. By Rand's own definitions, you Brant are no Objectivist. Nor would she want you. You know that.

Using the term she coined to describe your own personal philosophy is actually a sign of respect, regardless of how many personal customizations you've made, but when that philosopher spits in your face for paying her such a great compliment, I think it is psychologically unhealthy to keep on using that term to describe your views. And on top of that, there's the fact that she'd be angry with you over trying to "put thoughts into her brain" anyway.

Shayne

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Speaking of dumb freethinkers....

Bill Maher really grates on my nerves. Around a year ago, I had an argument about his movie, "Religulous" (which I assume is a blend of "religion" and "ridiculous"), with some people at a meeting of the Bloomington/Normal Freethinkers. I tried to hold my tongue as a few members were praising Maher and his movie, since I feared that my participation would spark a political debate -- something I try to avoid during such meetings -- but I was finally asked if I had seen the movie and, if so, what I thought of it.

I said, yes, I had seen the movie once, and that was one time too many. I went on to explain that I regard Maher's approach to religion as simplistic to the point of childish, and that he is as much a simpleton in his own pet areas, such as global warming, corporations, and consumerism, as any Christian fanatic.

The modern freethought movement, unlike its 18th century counterpart, tends to be left-leaning in its political orientation, so I knew that my comments about Maher, who is regarded as akin to a demigod by many freethinkers today, would not be well-received. But I was saved by my reputation as the author of ATCAG, which has given me my own quasi-divine status in the same movement. In other words, though no one agreed with me about Maher, no one had the nerve to argue with me about Maher, either. :rolleyes:

Ghs

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Speaking of dumb freethinkers....

Bill Maher really grates on my nerves. Around a year ago, I had an argument about his movie, "Religulous" (which I assume is a blend of "religion" and "ridiculous"), with some people at a meeting of the Bloomington/Normal Freethinkers. I tried to hold my tongue as a few members were praising Maher and his movie, since I feared that my participation would spark a political debate -- something I try to avoid during such meetings -- but I was finally asked if I had seen the movie and, if so, what I thought of it.

I said, yes, I had seen the movie once, and that was one time too many. I went on to explain that I regard Maher's approach to religion as simplistic to the point of childish, and that he is as much a simpleton in his own pet areas, such as global warming, corporations, and consumerism, as any Christian fanatic.

The modern freethought movement, unlike its 18th century counterpart, tends to be left-leaning in its political orientation, so I knew that my comments about Maher, who is regarded as akin to a demigod by many freethinkers today, would not be well-received. But I was saved by my reputation as the author of ATCAG, which has given me my own quasi-divine status in the same movement. In other words, though no one agreed with me about Maher, no one had the nerve to argue with me about Maher, either. :rolleyes:

Ghs

George:

I have not seen the movie, not do I intend to see it. Maher has lost his intellectual edge, if he ever possessed one, over the last decade. He has become so co-opted by the marxist left as to be unwatchable.

Adam

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AR in TOF Feb. 1980

If you wonder why I am so particular about protecting the integrity of the term "Objectivism," my reason is that "Objectivism" is the name I have given to my philosophy - therefore, anyone using that name for some philosophical hodgepodge of his own, without my knowledge or consent, is guilty of fraudulent presumption of trying to put thoughts into my brain (or of trying to pass his thinking off as mine - an attempt which fails, for obvious reasons). I chose the name "Objectivism" at a time when my philosophy was beginning to be known and some people were starting to call themselves "Randists." I am much too conceited to allow such a use of my name. [italics AR]

Comment: There is a difference between Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand and Objectivism. If you are going to chose that name for your philosophy with these strictures you are actually creating a cult, not a philosophy, albeit a cult out of a philosophy. Regardless, once you are dead Objectivism simply belongs to the rational and true, a non-contradictory correlation between mind and facts. If she had chosen another name we could forget it if not her. This name is too much and has always been too much in the public domain. She claimed it for a time by dint of her brains and the power of her personality and radicalism and Atlas Shrugged. It's over. OPAR is buried with her in Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, NY. Leonard Peikoff has been waltzing a corpse pretending it's a Zombie. The Zombie doesn't work, either.

--Brant

Objectivist

Edited by Brant Gaede

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Speaking of dumb freethinkers....

Bill Maher really grates on my nerves. Around a year ago, I had an argument about his movie, "Religulous" (which I assume is a blend of "religion" and "ridiculous"), with some people at a meeting of the Bloomington/Normal Freethinkers. I tried to hold my tongue as a few members were praising Maher and his movie, since I feared that my participation would spark a political debate -- something I try to avoid during such meetings -- but I was finally asked if I had seen the movie and, if so, what I thought of it.

I said, yes, I had seen the movie once, and that was one time too many. I went on to explain that I regard Maher's approach to religion as simplistic to the point of childish, and that he is as much a simpleton in his own pet areas, such as global warming, corporations, and consumerism, as any Christian fanatic.

The modern freethought movement, unlike its 18th century counterpart, tends to be left-leaning in its political orientation, so I knew that my comments about Maher, who is regarded as akin to a demigod by many freethinkers today, would not be well-received. But I was saved by my reputation as the author of ATCAG, which has given me my own quasi-divine status in the same movement. In other words, though no one agreed with me about Maher, no one had the nerve to argue with me about Maher, either. :rolleyes:

Ghs

George:

I have not seen the movie, not do I intend to see it. Maher has lost his intellectual edge, if he ever possessed one, over the last decade. He has become so co-opted by the marxist left as to be unwatchable.

Adam

You didn't miss much. Basically, the movie consists of interviews with various religious figures, after which Maher tells us how stupid they all are to believe in "fairy tales." Real insightful stuff.

Ghs

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Again, Brant, Rand herself identified Objectivism as her own mind. By Rand's own definitions, you Brant are no Objectivist. Nor would she want you. You know that.

Shayne

Why would she want anybody who wasn't part of her cult? People of influence and power, like Greenspan and President Ford and businessmen who'd give her her due. In 1968-69 I got intimations Greenspan was a dud. In 1982 I was confirmed in this by his actions as head of the Social Security Commission in 1982. I travelled 2500 miles across the country in 1968 to study Objectivism at NBI. A few months later it blew up in my face. All part of my ongoing education on how to be an individualist. That took years. Today I wouldn't cross the street for that experience again. I'm a different person. It's not easy being an adult. It was harder becoming one. The real good thing about today is a young person can learn from what people like me once went through vicariously and avoid much of such a struggle for themselves. Unfortunately, many have groomed onto Leonard Peikoff with bad results. As a Randian, if Rand were a Randian, he's third or even fourth tier. The Brandens were second tier. It was not possible for anyone but Rand to be first, as she demonstrated conclusively with The Break of '68.

--Brant

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Far be it from me Brant to insist that you not indulge in the fantasy that the philosophy you adhere to is Ayn Rand's. I do find it curious why you're so insistent. Why does it matter if you should call yourself "Objectivist" or not?

Shayne

He's Objectivish, not Objectivist.

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Far be it from me Brant to insist that you not indulge in the fantasy that the philosophy you adhere to is Ayn Rand's. I do find it curious why you're so insistent. Why does it matter if you should call yourself "Objectivist" or not?

Shayne

He's Objectivish, not Objectivist.

I am am Objectivist. Objectivism has four basic principles and I agree with each. For me, all else is up in the air, not for she.

--Brant

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