To be a social animal is not to be a socialist animal, though it certainly is to recognize that our relations to one another are not, at the deepest level, the product of a social contract or worthwhile only because of the mutual benefit we might derive from them. The correct alternative to Randian capitalism is not socialism, but rather the sort of market economy Burke would have favored, i.e. one balanced by robust moral and religious institutions and conservative government. Not to recognize that we are social animals is quite obviously bound to lead to all sorts of distortions in one’s conception of what human life is like, can be like, and should be like. Her novels illustrate this perfectly. Notoriously, there does not seem to be any clear place for children and family life in the ideal world she tries therein to describe. The perfect society, she seems to think, would be populated by hyper-rationalistic careerists, who copulate sterilely with whomever they happen to be interested in this week, and whose only offspring are the products they can put on the market or the artistic creations or inventions they can put into the history books. This is a vision of human life no less grotesquely one-sided than that of the touchy-feely hippies and egalitarian feminists Rand so despised, precisely because it is no less hostile to the traditional family than their worldview is. The right direction to take Aristotle is the one the mainstream Western tradition in general took him: the natural law tradition, which puts the family, and not the individual or “society,” at the center of social and political thinking.Fesser and I continue to agree on a number of things. Like a number of young people who found themselves disatisfied and disaffected with the mindset of the academy, there was a time when I found Rand to be exciting, even exhilarating. In the end I grew up and saw that her ideas have a number of problems - as Fesser points out. Nevertheless, I still remember Atlas Shrugged fondly.
Thursday, September 29, 2005
Edward Fesser shares a few thoughts and criticisms of Ayn Rand at The Conservative Philosopher: