Is the free world beginning a Second Renaissance?


Recommended Posts

I am optimistic about the day, after the day, after the day, after tomorrow. The free world’s economies are doing well and not surprisingly, the countries with *glitches* accompanied by more controls are not doing as well as they could under a more laisse-faire system. We *humans* want to be free.

Technology is progressing at a fast pace, linking people together with electronic devices. A huge network of people are exchanging hourly information.  This freely exchanged information flows from child to child, teen to teen, adult to adult, adult to teen, and to all the various combinations of that flow. The flow is constant, yet constantly changing.

Television, old fashioned radio, phones, smart devices and The Net are sneaking around government attempts to censor or propagandize. Can Government put that genie back in the bottle? If they try it will be obvious through gossip . . . through the grapevine . . . through humans wanting to succeed in being *human*.

In free to semi free geographical regions of the human habitat an unstoppable force is growing. More undeveloped places as in Africa and Asia are moving beyond the clan and tribal stages of human development. It might be of interest to internet search Africa and observe the growth in countries like Cameroon and South Africa.

Unfree regions like North Korea and Iran are suffering and declining. Russian and other less free areas are still economically and socially restrained by remnants of the Old Communist Party or despots. Their initiation of force outside its borders is still a threat, but the eyes of the world are upon you. Gradually things are improving. It seems like everybody wants to join NATO or a facsimile of it. The U.S.A. is still an individually huge, moral and defensive force but many, many countries want to freely live and trade. They are ready to put their minds to work in a free and peaceful world.         

Is the free world beginning a Second Renaissance? Peter

Link to comment
Share on other sites

TIA Daily • January 4, 2007 What Went Right? Part 5: The Summit and the Foundation by Robert Tracinski. . . . As a final example, let me briefly indicate what I think this analysis implies about the historical role of the philosophy of Objectivism. We hope that Objectivism will be the foundation for a "Second Renaissance" of pro-reason and pro-liberty ideas. But we should also recognize that Objectivism is the product of enormous cultural achievements in many fields during the 18th and 19th centuries.

I don't think it diminishes Ayn Rand's philosophical achievement in any way to point out how much it was dependent on a vast range of achievements that preceded it. In fact, Ayn Rand's philosophy is strengthened when we recognize it as an inductive integration of the achievements of both philosophers and non-philosophers who came before her. All of these achievements were, of course, made possible by the revival of Aristotelian philosophy and its consequences: a renewed confidence that knowledge was to be gained by reasoning from observation of the world, and the subsequent liberation of secular learning from the control of the Church.

But the centuries that preceded Ayn Rand offered significant new accomplishments built on top of this foundation by scientists, artists, and businessmen.

I could cite a number of important examples: the political theory developed and implemented by America's Founding Fathers, which demonstrated for the first time the mechanics of a free society, or the literary trend of Romanticism, which influenced Ayn Rand's own novels and her view of the role of art. But the most interesting factor is the role played by the Industrial Revolution, which Ayn Rand herself credited as the indispensible inductive basis for her view of the role of the mind in human life.

It is interesting that Ayn Rand began her career as a novelist and only later become a philosopher, because her novels can be seen as a step in the inductive process by which she developed her philosophy. The characters and events in her novels were inspired by observation of real individuals and events. Could Ayn Rand have projected the character of Howard Roark in The Fountainhead, for example, without observing the career of Frank Lloyd Wright? More to the point, in Atlas Shrugged, could Ayn Rand have conceived of the character of Nathaniel Taggart without the example of Commodore Vanderbilt, or someone like him? Could she have conceived of Henry Rearden, who works his way up from a child laborer at a coal mine to become a steel magnate, without the example of Andrew Carnegie? And so on; her journals contain notes on her observations of various individuals, both famous and obscure, who inspired characters in her novels.

But in creating these characters—and given the ambitiousness of her esthetic goals—she was led to investigate what principles defined her characters and made them possible, and this is what led her to develop her philosophy. As she tells us, in her essay "The Goal of My Writing,"

Since my purpose is the presentation of an ideal man, I had to define and present the conditions which make him possible and which his existence requires. Since man's character is the product of his premises, I had to define and present the kind of premises and values that create the character of an ideal man and motivate his actions; which means that I had to define and present a rational code of ethics.

It is not that her characters were all modeled on some specific individual, but that they were modeled on her observation of many real individuals. They are a stage in the process of induction: from observation of real people and events, she created characters who essentialized a particular character trait or world view—and that essentialization served as an abstraction from which she could then draw larger, philosophical conclusions.

The Industrial Revolution and the history of American capitalism was clearly the inspiration for many characters and events in Atlas Shrugged—and this, in turn, enabled her to draw some of the profound philosophical conclusions in that novel, most especially the conclusion that reason is man's means of survival.

But what is interesting is that the Industrial Revolution and the development of American capitalism was not the direct product of any previous philosophical projection. Philosophers such as John Locke developed the notions of individual rights and representative government, while other philosophers, from Francis Bacon on, had projected the practical value of scientific knowledge, and these ideas helped lay the intellectual groundwork for the Industrial Revolution. But I have always been intrigued by the fact that no one was able to predict the degree to which the Industrial Revolution would transform human life—no one even came close—or to guess beforehand what a fully free, scientific and technological economy would actually look like.

Thomas Jefferson, for example, imagined that the political framework he helped create would lead to a agrarian society of independent yeoman farmers—never realizing what his own principles would lead to when fully realized.

I don't just mean that no one guessed the specific inventions and technologies that would emerge. What I mean is that no one guessed, or could have guessed, all of the legal structures, business organizations, individual attitudes and lifestyles—the entire way of life of a modern capitalist society. The philosophers laid an intellectual foundation for capitalism and the Industrial Revolution—but modern capitalism was, in effect, created by the capitalists. It was created by the innovators who conceived of ever more complex forms of the division of labor, who developed the extraordinary complexity of modern capital markets, who developed entire new economic institutions such as lines of credit and insurance, and who pioneered the legal theory behind patents and the corporation.

In effect, what I am pointing out is that the full moral and philosophical basis of capitalism was not and probably could not have been identified before the fact. It could only be identified after the fact, by any intellectual who was willing to look at the facts honestly and draw the conclusions they suggested. Some thinkers drew important conclusions in the fields of economics and history, but Ayn Rand was the only one to draw the full philosophical implications of the Industrial Revolution and the rise of capitalism.

That, among other reasons, is why her philosophy is so crucially needed today. It is needed because it serves the function of philosophy: as a new abstraction that integrates, preserves, and magnifies all of the knowledge produced by the scientists, economists, novelists, businessmen who came before it. It represents the greatest such sum to date, the highest integration yet made of what humanity has learned in the five millennia of human civilization.

Is this crucially important? Of course it is.

Ayn Rand's ideas are crucially important for a reason far wider than helping the West avoid a civilizational collapse. For such a modest goal as not collapsing, the current state of knowledge prior to Ayn Rand might well be adequate. The real reason we need Ayn Rand's ideas is because they open to mankind a swifter, straighter, more certain road to even higher achievements—achievements made possible by exploiting the enormous integration of knowledge captured in her philosophy, and by building new specialized knowledge and further philosophical insights on top of this summit.

Ayn Rand's ideas make it possible to ensure that what has gone right keeps going right, that things go right in an ever-expanding portion of the globe—and that even more things go right in the future.

If my view is correct—to the extent that I have offered, in this series of articles, a new and original perspective on the current state of the world and of the role of ideas in history—what does it imply about what we should do, both as Objectivists and as individuals attempting to live and succeed in the world? That is the question I will address in the final article in this series. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

At this beginning of the Second Renaissance, humans need to figure out the missing pieces of a puzzle. We know of the correlation between peace, freedom, prosperity, economic expansion, and humanity’s huge growth in knowledge. News of The Free World is accessible to countries like China and Russian, and perhaps quite soon to a stagnant, and collapsing North Korea. That news is surely sinking into their leaders and citizens consciousness’s. We should soon hear the equivalent of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.


So what is the missing piece? Rand described what came before humanity: “There is an enormous breach of continuity between men and all the other living species. The difference lies in the nature of man's consciousness, in its distinctive characteristic: his conceptual faculty.” end quote

That describes what came before we conceptually thinking humans. But what new paradigms will drive us forward? Peter  

Notes. From: "William Dwyer" To: <objectivism Subject: OWL: The mind is PART OF the body Date: Thu, 24 Jul 2003 11:22:54 -0700 It is often said that a person is composed of a mind AND a body (as if the two were radically different substances), when in fact the mind is simply a certain activity of the brain as experienced subjectively and is therefore PART OF the body. Since mental activity is brain activity, and brain activity is a physical process, it follows that mental activity is a physical process. Whereas not all physical activity is mental, all mental activity is nevertheless physical, because it is performed by the brain, which is a physical organ.

Indeed, people will often say, "Use your head!" or "Use your brain!" when they could just as well have said, "Use your mind!"  In short, mental activity simply IS brain activity, experienced from an internal, rather than an external perspective.

Perhaps an analogy will help.  Because of its appearance in both the morning and evening skies at different times of the year, the Greeks thought the planet Venus was two separate objects, which they named Hesperus and Phosphorus.  Eventually, it was discovered that Hesperus ("the morning star") and Phosphorus ("the evening star") were the same celestial body seen at different times and from different perspectives. Just as "the morning star" (visible in the eastern sky before sunrise) and "the evening star" (visible in the western sky at sunset) are not two different planets, but the same planet identified from two different perspectives, so the mind (identified introspectively) and the brain (identified extrospectively) are not two different organs, but the same organ identified from two different perspectives.

Moreover, just as one can refer to Venus in the morning sky, as "the morning star," while recognizing that it is the same planet that's visible in the evening sky, so one can refer to (a certain part of) the active brain as "the mind," while recognizing that it is the same organ that's visible to the surgeon when he does a craniotomy. Another analogy which may be helpful is the atmospheric discharge of electricity, which we see as lightening.  Thunder was not recognized as lightening, until scientists discovered that it simply _is_ the atmospheric discharge as reflected by the generation of sound waves, which travel slower than light.  Today, lightning and thunder are recognized as the same electrical phenomenon identified by different means or from different perspectives.

It is true that one cannot know, simply by looking at a certain part of the active brain (externally), that it is the organ that performs mental activity, just as one cannot know by engaging in mental activity that a certain part of the active brain is the organ performing it.  Further study is needed to make the connection, just as further study was needed to make the connection between the morning star and the evening star, or between lightning and thunder.  But once having made that connection, it is folly to deny it on the grounds that the brain's activity _appears_ different from a subjective perspective than it does from an objective one. Bill

Link to comment
Share on other sites

11 hours ago, Peter said:

At this beginning of the Second Renaissance, humans need to figure out the missing pieces of a puzzle. We know of the correlation between peace, freedom, prosperity, economic expansion, and humanity’s huge growth in knowledge. News of The Free World is accessible to countries like China and Russian, and perhaps quite soon to a stagnant, and collapsing North Korea. That news is surely sinking into their leaders and citizens consciousness’s. We should soon hear the equivalent of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.


So what is the missing piece? Rand described what came before humanity: “There is an enormous breach of continuity between men and all the other living species. The difference lies in the nature of man's consciousness, in its distinctive characteristic: his conceptual faculty.” end quote


That describes what came before we conceptually thinking humans. But what new paradigms will drive us forward? Peter  






Your rational optimism rests on the assumption that everyone supports the same (objective) values you do, Peter.

Looked at another way, from another pov, all that visible and fast progress made by mankind is exactly what makes for resentment, envy, ungratefulness, ennui, simple sensationalism, self-contempt, fear, cynicism, anti-reason, anti-freedom, anti-individualism and general bitterness - nihilism, in short. ("All alone and afraid in a world I never made"). Look at the huge rash of dystopian, post-apocalyptic, movies and 'reality' survival shows, from at least the last 10 years, where everything man-made is destroyed, and momentary survival and dog eat dog is the only morality left. That shows signs that people are hankering for a return to primitivism. Many appear to wish sentimentally for J-J Rousseau's "noble savage" ideal. When people's expanding needs and demands for free things and security at all costs, are being met by the state, and many have surrendered their minds and independence to governments and the general 'other', I guess there is little challenge left for most for living.  A Renaissance implies a preceding Dark Age. Just saying...;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Anthony wrote: A renaissance implies a preceding Dark Age. Just saying...;) end quote

A continuation of the First Renaissance is not as dramatic, but I suppose that is what I am talking about. You hear newly coined phrases like “The Information Age” or “The age of the computer,” and we see other adults and even kids constantly using smart phones with the latest news and their latest friends at their fingertips.

Recent history has been dramatic since the moon landing, planetary exploration, and the dawn of the computer age. As I type this I am watching TV where Hong Kong protests are being instantly or quickly broadcast to me. Simultaneously, I am typing from the east coast of America, via middle America, to you in South Africa. It seems so ordinary. I remember back in the 1960’s when the dark side of the moon was shown for the first time on TV. So many conspiracy theories were debunked in the blink of an eye. People were glued to their TV screens for that and the first moon landing.

So when did the modern age, even if it is not a Second Renaissance, begin? Did an invention start the modern era? Was it world-wide electrical power, engines with various power sources, the computer chip, modern medicine, or something else that heralded this modern era? What can stop us now? War? Overpopulation? (that story has diminished.) A.I.? (I think Hawking was worried about that before he died.) A catastrophe on earth or from outer space?

Without a catastrophe, I envision humanity surging and exponentially learning in the near future. If a catastrophe occurs we still have survivable repositories of knowledge, seed banks, and the expertise to start again from the ending point of most catastrophes.

As an aside I saw a news story about old Soviet nukes rusting away in their silos, though I suppose the Russians still have serviceable nukes on their submarines. They looked like junk. The West, China, India, Pakistan and supposedly Israel and North Korea have nukes, though the North Korea story has been somewhat debunked. I see no inevitability of a nuclear war. No asteroids are set for a collision. Does anything else need to be checked off? Universe, here we come! Peter       

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now