A Brilliant Tour in 2500 Words

 Posted by on 1 February 2007 at 5:12 am  Uncategorized
Feb 012007

I just took a look at a brief overview of Rand and Objectivism authored by Greg Salmieri and Allan Gotthelf for a dictionary of modern philosophers. Wow! They accomplished so much in so little space, and so brilliantly. Reading it feels almost like reading a poem. One can tell that everything from the major structural decisions down to the last jot and tittle was carefully balanced and designed to work in concert to squeeze in maximal meaning and clarity for any engaged, attentive reader whose eyes might fall on those 2500 words. And while it is dense and aimed at distinguishing and explaining (and enticing further study of) Rand’s system for an academically-trained audience in terms they can understand, it is nonetheless accessible to the rest of us.

I could gush about its particular virtues for more than its own length, so I’ll leave it at gesturing to just one of my favorite structural choices and the wonderful connections it supported. They closed out the metaphysics by pointing to the importance Rand placed on distinguishing the metaphysically-given from the man-made, and then as they worked upward through the normative branches of her system, they called on it in ways that would clarify what Rand was up to (always striving to distinguish her approach from others it might be superficially confused with). After all that, they strode into a conclusion that used the distinction to address the objectivity of values while reinforcing the integrated nature of her system by making a gigantic connection with references that resolved all the way down through metaphysics. This also set them up to credibly point to her distinctive conception of objectivity and its pervasive influence on her system. That gigantic connection appeared in the final two sentences of their penultimate paragraph, and I actually laughed out loud when I saw how they were cashing in on what they had set up:

On her view values are objective. Values (like concepts) are formed by a consciousness in accordance with the facts of reality. To be a value something must be identified by an agent as furthering his life. The identification is man-made, as is the choice to live that gives it meaning. But the relationship between the value and the agent’s life is metaphysically given, as is the need to identify this relationship conceptually.

That’s just righteously cool.

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