Joined: 07 Nov 2006 11:57 pm
|Let us begin with three examples. First, a Mafia gangster tries to intimidate a series of merchants along 86th Street in Brooklyn into paying him “protection money.” The leader of the merchants refuses, and the others waver; the leader wants them to stand up to the gangster and protect what is rightfully theirs. The gangster’s goons waylay the leader on a dark night; they beat him bloody and leave him in an alley. The merchants acquiesce to the gangster’s demands.
The second example: a great scientist defends a theory that is controversial in his day. He introduces new evidence that will corroborate that theory. But the theory contradicts cherished beliefs of the Catholic Church. The Church commands the scientist, himself a Catholic, to cease and desist. The scientist refuses. The Pope orders the Inquisition to have a “long, friendly talk” with the scientist; indeed, the discussion is so friendly that the Inquisition threatens him with torture if he does not publicly repudiate his theories. The scientist recants. He is sentenced to house arrest for the rest of his days.
The final example: Adolf Hitler invites Herr Schmidt to convert his plant manufacturing heavy trucks to one capable of manufacturing tanks for the Reich. Herr Schmidt politely declines. The Fuehrer suggests that Herr Schmidt might want to do this service for the Volk. Again, Herr Schmidt refuses. The Gestapo drags Herr Schmidt, his wife, his children, his mother and his father to a concentration camp and gasses them. Herr Mitterwald, Herr Schmidt’s former assistant, is placed in charge of the factory. The Fuehrer invites Herr Mitterwald to manufacture tanks for the Reich. He agrees.
Today many Mafia leaders are in prison, the Catholic Church currently lacks the political power it formerly held, and the Nazis are gone – for the moment. But it is obvious that their equivalents – or worse – are rampant in the world today.
Murderous gangs of drug dealers control entire neighborhoods in many American cities. The crime rate remains high and is becoming increasingly random and violent. Recently, the FBI reported that for the first time since they have kept such figures, a murder victim is more likely to be killed by a total stranger than by somebody he knows. The victim has significantly less control over his fate and, the FBI concludes, nobody is safe.
The religionists are still with us, fighting to ban abortion, shooting abortion doctors, seeking to control the realm of personal morality.
Heavily-armed neo-Nazi gangs roam the countryside of Montana and other states and hold a shared interest with Islamic terrorists in blowing up office buildings and murdering innocent victims.
Communism may have died in Eastern Europe, and it may be dying in Cuba, but it flourishes in American universities where hordes of Marxist professors promote socialism, racism and environmentalism. Today evil men hold enormous power in the world, and it is not an exaggeration to say that they threaten our prosperity and our lives.
In this environment, it is crucially important to prevent oneself from becoming a victim of evil. “Victim” in this context does not mean merely the possibility that evil men may literally violate one’s rights; but more subtly, that the ubiquitous presence of evil in the culture might insidiously wear down the desire to pursue values; that one might come to feel, at an emotional level, that the good has little chance in this world, then give up in hopelessness.
To prevent that, it is crucially important to understand the nature of evil. Evil must be examined – as an act of self-preservation – to keep it from poisoning one’s soul with the slightest bit of pessimistic despair.
In the face of evil run rampant, it is crucially important to protect the benevolent universe premise.
Ayn Rand has shown that the evil is the irrational, willful denial and evasion of the facts of reality. It is the deliberate defiance of the facts and laws of nature, a spitting in the face of existence. Human survival requires rationality, a commitment to discover and act on the full truth. Evil men stand opposed to this – to reality, to the rational, to every value on which human life depends.
Because of this, evil is metaphysically impotent: it cannot build, grow, create, or produce. Achievements require commitment to the laws and facts of reality. As stated by Francis Bacon, “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.” Men who forsake nature, whether to follow their own whims, conform to the group, or obey God, are incapable of producing or prospering on their own. Criminals, dictators, tribal warlords, Washington bureaucrats, and welfare leeches create and achieve nothing. Left to their own devices, they would huddle in caves and die. The irrational is helpless, utterly powerless.
There are many examples. There were the devout Christians who, desiring to take their diabetic son off of insulin and rely on prayer to cure to him, ignored the doctors’ warnings that such a course would kill him; tragically, it did. Drug dealers, we know, are murderously violent in protecting their territory; most die in their twenties, if they’re lucky enough to last that long. The Nazis, of course, brought destruction on their own country and themselves, as well as on millions of others. Communist regimes around the globe collapse in abysmal poverty. The principle is clear: irrationality is self-destructive.
But if evil men cannot even sustain their own lives, how do they acquire power to destroy the world? How is it possible for these helpless losers to threaten the achievements and even the existence of such giants as Aristotle, Michaelangelo, Newton and Jefferson?
How does Adolf Hitler – a dropout, a ne’er-do-well, an unemployed and unemployable itinerant – acquire life-and-death power over the great scientists, industrialists and thinkers of Western Europe? Though evil men have no metaphysical power, they can, and often do, acquire social power. They cannot rule nature, but they can rule men. It is the very impotence of evil as a metaphysical force that makes it dangerous as a social force. Since evil men cannot survive by their own effort, they must seek their survival by parasitical means. This is the theme of Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead: that evil is second-handed, surviving only as a parasite on the good.
Crucial to a villain’s success is the sanction of his victims. Evil men must cloak themselves in a veneer of righteousness, they must seek the moral approval of the producers they exploit. The communists argue that it is man’s moral duty to serve the people; the Nazis proclaim that there is a superior race whose rightful place is mastery; Saddam Hussein stated that Kuwait is properly part of Iraq, that the two were unjustly partitioned by the British; even a common criminal says that he has been victimized by “legit” society and is only taking back what is rightfully his.
An evil man needs a moral code in order to extort the sanction of his victim. Since he survives only as a parasite on the productive activities of honest men, he must circumvent their opposition to him. If they identify his monstrous nature, they will cut off dealing with him. They will refuse to support him and will oppose him. Honest men are scrupulously conscientious in striving to be moral. A villain must deceive them into believing that he is, too. In the face of opposition, an evil man pours out an endless litany of grievances, complaints and injustices perpetrated against him, protestations of the righteousness of his course, etc. He seeks to disarm his victims of their moral certainty, he seeks to undermine their belief in the justice of their fight. He seeks to appropriate the moral high ground.
This is why, for instance, Nazi and Communist totalitarian states construct vast propaganda machines to flood the world with claims upholding the justice of their battle, the superiority of their system, the evil of their enemies, and the inevitability of their triumph. Since the evil man is helpless, he must seek the voluntary compliance of the producers whose activities sustain his existence. He must convince them of his rectitude. Morality is man’s most powerful weapon. Evil men sense this and deploy it as their heaviest gun in the battle to enslave the good.
But this presents a paradox. It seems that we have discovered one realm in which evil is powerful, in which it overpowers the good. The question, then, is: If evil men are impotent, how is it that they have been able to so utterly dominate the field of morality in the twentieth century?
To answer this question requires a deeper analysis, an analysis of the nature and roots of the moral code that empowers evil. Is there a specific code of values upon which evil relies? Is there a particular creed that is the villain’s indispensable weapon against the good? Let us return to the three examples with which we started.
We saw common criminals force honest businessmen to serve their whims and support their existence. We saw religionists call upon a scientist to sacrifice his mind and obey God’s teachings. We saw twentieth-century collectivists demand that an individual give up his values and perform selfless service to the people. In brief, we have seen rational, productive individuals commanded to sacrifice themselves to gangsters, God, or the people.
It becomes obvious which moral code is the villain’s primary weapon, the power of which has won him many more battles than any arsenal of guns, bombs, or tanks. It is the moral code of human sacrifice.
The ethics of sacrifice has one purpose and one result: it enables parasites to survive as leeches on the efforts of productive men. It enables irrational men who evade reality to drain the blood of rational men who embrace it.
Without a code of sacrifice, evil could hold no power in the world. The mindless dolts would flail about, attempting to rob or enslave the good, but rational men would explicitly identify their evil and withdraw all support. The irrational men would be left with one alternative: convert or die – adhere to reality or starve. They would not have rational victims willing to support their existence. And if, in the absence of a sacrificial moral code, they attempted to seize wealth by force, rational men would fight them. The looters would then discover the truth of Ragnar Danneskjold’s observation regarding the outcome of any battle between mindless force and mind plus force (in Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged).
The only purpose of the code of sacrifice is to morally disarm productive men. This ethic is the indispensable instrument by means of which the good are delivered into slavery.
The code of sacrifice exists in three variations. One can be called upon to sacrifice for another individual or for a supreme being or for a group.
The first version is known in the history of moral philosophy as cynical egoism. It is the theory of the Greek Sophists, of Machiavelli, of Hobbes, and of Friedrich Nietzsche. It holds that men are essentially beasts – that they are driven by greed and power lust – that other men exist only as a means to an individual’s ends – and that he should exploit the others brutally in pursuit of his goals. According to this ethics, might makes right – or, as stated by the character Thrasymachus in Plato’s Republic, “Justice is the will of the stronger.”
Cynical egoism postures as a type of egoism. It is easy to see why. This theory tells a man to make himself happy – and to do so at the expense of others. But we must ask the question: Is this, in fact, egoistic? The answer is: No.
Egoism states that each man has a right to live for his own sake. Egoism is a principle; it is universal and applies to all men. Put negatively, it states that no man may survive as a parasitical victimizer of others. The same principle that protects one man’s life from all others also protects them from him.
Moreover, man’s nature is such that he must produce the goods his survival requires; he must create them. Human life requires rational achievement. It forbids plundering and mooching. Rational achievement is in a man’s self-interest. Plundering and mooching, because they undercut, enslave or even kill the producers, lead only to death.
The theory known as “cynical egoism,” therefore, does not advocate egoism. It is simply a variant on the ethics of human sacrifice – only now it is the selves of others that get sacrificed to the alleged egoist. Its purpose is to justify the actions of creatures that seek to drain the wealth of the productive. Its essence is the same as religion and collectivism: the enslavement of rational men by the irrational. As such, the name “egoism” should be dropped from its name and it should be called in exact accordance with what it is: cynical exploitation or parasitism. It must be treated as the variant on the theme of human sacrifice that it is. Cynical exploitation is a direct consequence of altruism; where men are enjoined to sacrifice themselves, it is a necessity that someone be there to collect their sacrifices.
The second variant on the theme of human sacrifice is religion, which claims that God holds dominion over the world, that all owe obedience to Him. Since He is the all-powerful Creator, He is the source of truth and falsity, right and wrong. A proposition is true if He says it is, false if He says so. An object or action is good if God so ordains, bad if He says otherwise. If He mandates robbery, destruction, murder – which He does repeatedly in the Old Testament – then those are also good. On this metaphysics, all owe obedience to God; all must be blindly, slavishly compliant to His every whim and command.
The third version of the sacrifice ethics is altruism, which holds that an individual must sacrifice himself for others. It is important to realize that altruism is a sub-category of the ethics of sacrifice. It says that an individual should sacrifice himself specifically to other men – whether they be his family, the state, the race, or some other group. It is not equivalent to the theory of self-sacrifice as such. The altruist rejects the horrors of cynical exploitation – the crimes, the savagery, the brutality – and reverses the form of the sacrifice. An individual has no right to sacrifice others to himself, the altruist declares. Rather, it is his duty to sacrifice himself – but not to God. The modern altruists, like Marx and his followers, seek to be “scientific;” they reject religion. It is not God who is the source of a man’s duty to sacrifice himself. It is Society. This has far worse consequences than the inquisitions and the burnings at the stake of religion; it leads to such heinous results as concentration camps, gas chambers, and world wars.
As Ayn Rand points out, these three theories have historically posed as enemies but are, in fact, merely variations on a theme. None has rejected the primitive call for human sacrifice. The only disagreement among them is over who should be sacrificed to whom. It is on this basis that Ayn Rand groups the three theories together and calls them “The Cannibal Morality.”
But it is possible to go deeper. In analyzing the means by which evil men gain the power to destroy, the question can be raised: Is there some deeper theory that underlies the ethics of sacrifice and gives rise to it?
Let’s go back to our three examples and see if they share something deeper in common.
The Mafia gangster, the cynical exploiter of others, desires money and is unwilling to earn it. Reality requires men to be productive – but he doesn’t feel like it. He has his desires, he has his whims, and they take precedence over all else. His belief that others should serve him is true for him, it’s right for him – because he feels it. So the true and the right for an individual are a matter of what that individual feels. He feels it is so, and reality must snap into line.
Next, we saw the religionists demand that a scientist give up his mind in order to obey the Bible’s teachings. What if observed facts support the scientist’s claims and contradict those of the religionists? That means nothing, say the religionists. Reality is anything God wants it to be. He decrees and it bends according to His will. If He wants dead men to rise or virgins to give birth, nothing to it. He commands and existence obeys.
Last, we saw the Nazis coerce a businessman to sacrifice himself for the people. If Herr Schmidt protests the Nazis’ brutality by exclaiming, “It is my right to do with my factory as I see fit,” the Nazis respond by saying, “The right is whatever the Aryan people say is right.” In other words, the people as a whole are the source of truth and falsity, right and wrong. They demand, and reality follows. The will of the people is omnipotent. Reality is malleable to their wishes.
All three versions of the self-sacrifice ethics rest upon what Ayn Rand calls the primacy of consciousness approach to metaphysics.
The primacy of consciousness metaphysics claims that consciousness in some form, controls reality; that it is fundamental and that existence depends on its functioning; that consciousness is the cause and controlling factor of the universe. In its supernatural form, the theory claims that God is the creator and master of the world. In its social form, it argues that human society, as a whole, is the creator and master of the world. In its personal version, it states that, each individual – for himself – is such a creator and master.
The ethics of sacrifice follow in one logical step. If God is the omnipotent creator and ruler of reality, then He is the source of right and wrong; virtue resides in unquestioning obedience to Him. Similarly, if society is the source of truth and right, individuality and independent thought are not virtues. The essence of moral life lies in conformity, in following, fawning, kneeling, in the toadying posture of Peter Keating (in The Fountainhead). Likewise, if each individual is the source of truth and right for himself, then each man’s desires are the final court of appeal regarding all cognitive issues and all value questions – for him. There is no way to reason out interpersonal differences, for each individual is locked in his own subjective world. Human life is a struggle of whims; differences are often settled by brutality. Conflicting individuals fight and the stronger wins. Man’s life is, in the words of Thomas Hobbes, “a war of each against all.”
The personal version of the primacy of consciousness theory leads directly to cynical exploitation in ethics – and to crime, drug addiction, random violence. The supernatural version leads to religion, to calls for unquestioning obedience to the deity, and ultimately to a theocratic dictatorship as in medieval Europe, Calvin’s Geneva, and the Ayatollah’s Iran.
The social version leads to collectivism and socialism in some form, whether Communist or Fascist. It calls for individual sacrifice to the nation, the working class, the race. It is the metaphysics responsible for Auschwitz, the annihilation of the Soviet peasants, and the regimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung and Pol Pot. It is the dominant metaphysics of our era.
If the morality of sacrifice is the ethics of evil, then the primacy of consciousness is the metaphysics of evil. In theory, it is the claim that the will of some consciousness controls reality; in practice, it is the means by which criminals, clergy or dictators control rational, productive men. If some consciousness rules metaphysically, then its agents or devotees must rule socially. The result is that those who deal in unreality give orders – and those who deal with reality take them.
We have now identified the philosophic roots of evil’s social power. But to understand better the means by which that power is able to overcome the good, we must ask which of these philosophies of evil is the most virulent.
The personal primacy of consciousness version gives rise to cynical exploitation, to criminals and gangsters who rob honest men on street corners. The supernatural primacy of consciousness version gives rise to religion, which seeks to control the thinking of scientists and, in principle, all men. The religionists want more than to take money out of a man’s pocket; they want his soul. The social version of the primacy of consciousness gives rise to Nazism and Communism, to the modern collectivists who establish totalitarian states to control men totally, body and soul. The collectivists close their borders, lock men in vast prisons, censor all verbal and literary expression, and slaughter millions for the “crimes” of holding a high school diploma, speaking English or possessing one hundred dollars in a bank account.
We are philosophical policemen. Here is a lineup of suspects: three types of parasites. Who is the most dangerous? Against whom must man be most conscientiously on guard? And why?
The Nazis and Communists have certainly butchered far more innocent victims and caused vastly more destruction than any of their rivals in evil. The three leading mass murderers in history, in order, are Mao Tse Tung, Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler – with Pol Pot belonging in the same group based on sheer percentages. This is a clue to the relative depth of the collectivists’ evil, but it is not conclusive proof that they are more destructive than the others. The number of victims is a consequence. What we are looking for is the fundamental cause.
To answer this question, it is important to remember that the good is the rational. It is the mind that is responsible for creating every value upon which human life depends. It is the mind that discovers cures for diseases and saves lives. It is the mind that builds transcontinental railroads, interstate highway systems, skyscrapers, and suspension bridges. It is the mind that discovers the principles of agriculture and grows food in abundance. It is the mind that knows reality and discovers truth.
If knowing reality is the source of good, and evasion is the root of evil, then the most destructive philosophy will be the one that divorces the mind from reality and thus provides a justification for evasion.
The essence of the criminal’s approach is the quest for unearned wealth. The criminal is not willing to perform the productive work necessary to create either the goods he desires or their value equivalents. He seeks neither to make nor trade for goods; he wants to steal them. But the gangster and mugger do not want to eradicate their victim’s thinking entirely, merely on one issue: how he disposes of some portion of his money.
Criminals deal only with effects, not causes. They don’t attack the mind at a fundamental level. If the mind is the motor of the world, they do not seek to wreck or sabotage the motor, they merely seek to siphon off some electricity.
In the big picture of evil’s destructive effect on rational men, criminals are puerile, back-alley louts. They terrorize passers-by on certain street corners of New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. In their own vernacular, they are “two-bit punks” of evil.
The religionists are next. Most significant here is Western religion, not merely because it is the one that most deeply affects American culture, but also because it possesses a belief that fundamentally differentiates it from collectivism.
The essence of religion is that God is the creator and governor of reality. Man must serve God. Human thinking is subordinated to God’s will, reason is rejected in favor of faith, unquestioning obedience to authority is demanded and independent thinkers run the risk of being burned at the stake. Religion does attack the mind; it does turn man’s life on earth into a hell.
The Dark Ages are the most dramatic example of religion in action. The leading philosopher of that period was Saint Augustine. His claim that “science is the lust of the eyes” is a vivid statement of the belief that it is presumptuous on the part of man to think he can unlock the mysteries of God’s universe by means of his unaided intellect. With science banned as a sin, disease was rampant, the mortality rate for both infant and mother at birth skyrocketed, the standard of living and life expectancy plummeted.
Religion does attack the mind and for that reason it is evil. However, the religionists hold that the soul is capable of knowing God and choosing to obey Him. The soul or the spirit or the mind is therefore efficacious; it can know the creator and first cause of existence. There is no skepticism in religion. A man’s soul can understand and embrace the most profound moral truths. Therefore, man has value. The attack on the mind is not complete. This is why Western religion has some good in it. It even has elements of egoism and individualism.
Since their metaphysics stipulates that justice exists only beyond the grave, the religionists must posit the immortality of the soul. The salvation of one’s own soul is the highest value to be attained. A sincere religionist will give up anything – his money, his clothes, his house – but there is one thing he will never give up: his hope for salvation. Giving up these other things is not a sacrifice if it furthers his quest for ultimate union with God. Salvation is the highest value. This is why no less an authority on sacrifice than Ellsworth Toohey says (in The Fountainhead) that Christianity is a selfish code, because it preaches the importance of one’s own personal soul. Toohey, the Marxist intellectual, here gives voice to one of the Communists’ major criticisms of Christianity.
Because of this element of egoism, religion also possesses an element of individualism. The soul is a personal attribute, an individual faculty, and as such it is not social. Nazis and Communists do everything in their power to extirpate this individualistic element in man; Christians glorify it.
Since the spiritual, non-material element of human nature is, in fact, man’s mind, the religionist, in spite of himself, is led to a grudging admiration for independent thought. The history of religion offers a long line of independent men (some of whom were martyred, some of whom triumphed in their lifetimes) whose integrity and standards are admired by religious men, e.g., Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, Sir Thomas More. This belief in the integrity of the individual soul is, without a doubt, in contradiction to the religionists’ ceaseless calls for blind faith and unquestioning obedience to God. Their metaphysics is inconsistent; the sovereignty of the soul clashes with the necessity for selfless service to the ruling consciousness. But this very inconsistency is a protector of man; it limits the religionists’ ability to call for obedience, conformity, and abject surrender of the self. And it is this belief in the individual soul that enabled Christianity – through the genius of Thomas Aquinas – to absorb the teachings of Aristotle and clear the road for the Renaissance.
Further, note that some contemporary religionists try to defend capitalism, Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh being just the most recent examples. It is hopeless to try to defend production, wealth and profit on the basis of supernaturalism, faith and self-sacrifice. But it is exactly the incongruity of religion and capitalism that requires an explanation. Why are these Christians defending a free market? Why aren’t they socialists like the fathers of the Catholic Church? The answer should be clear. The religionists should be socialist and most are. But their last ineradicable belief in the individual peeks out from their insistence on obedience to God, and they allow man some degree of political and economic freedom.
Further, it is true that the religionists require obedience to their God. But since, according to their mythology, He is omnipotent, He has no needs. He requires no one to feed Him, bandage His sores, resolve His homelessness, provide Him with free health care, and so on. The religionists would regard it as blasphemous to suggest that God is dependent on human ministration. Whatever their evils, this introduces a note of greatness, of exaltation, of high-mindedness, of independence as an ideal into their world view. God is above such weakness and pettiness. He is noble and grand-scale.
This is why the clergy are expected to be elite, and why the best among them are. They are supposed to exalt, and seek to emulate, God’s lofty stature. Priests, ministers and rabbis tend to be educated, learned men, and the best among them strive for unbending moral excellence. Some of the saints, the religious martyrs – Joan of Arc is a perfect example – are moral crusaders inflamed by reverence for the greatness of God. Victor Hugo is another example of a noble soul deeply convinced of God’s magnificence. His character, Monseigneur Bienvenu, the magnanimous bishop of Les Miserables, is fictional, but, like Howard Roark (of The Fountainhead) or Dagny Taggart (of Atlas Shrugged), his characterization has stature and power because great-souled individuals like him do, in fact, exist.
To summarize the essence of this point: the mind is heavily attacked by Western religion; this is the reason for its evil. But its insistence on an individual soul is a last, ineradicable shred of respect for the mind and restrains it from all-out war on man. Religion is evil – but is not the worst evil that men must confront.
This brings us to the third suspect in the philosophical lineup: the collectivists.
Collectivism is the political theory that states that the will of the people is omnipotent, an individual must obey; that society as a whole, not the individual, is the unit of moral value.
Altruism demands that an individual serve others, but doesn’t stipulate whether those others should be one’s family, or the homeless, or society as a whole. Collectivism states that, in politics, society comes first and the individual must obey. Collectivism is the application of the altruist ethics to politics.
The collectivist view that society’s will is omnipotent is a necessary result of modern and contemporary philosophy. The immediate and most obvious influence here belongs to Marx.
According to Marx, and to all Communist theory, the individual is and should be subordinate to society. Marx is a strict determinist in his view of human nature, holding that social and economic forces “condition” man, shaping every aspect of his character, personality and life. Since society is his master, it stands to reason that a man should spend his life as its slave, obeying its every command. An individual has no value in himself; he is merely a splintered fragment of the group; he must serve its needs.
But where does this view originate? How did truth become a matter of what the group believes? What about an individual discovering reality as it is and on his own, regardless of the group he belongs to? How did truth become social?
The answer lies in the theories of the German philosopher who dominated the thinking of the nineteenth century in general and of Karl Marx in particular. That philosopher is G.W.F. Hegel.
Hegel holds that truth evolves – that it changes for different groups at different periods. Tenth-century Christians, who understand the cause of an earthquake in terms of God’s will, inhabit a different universe than twentieth century westerners who understand the upheaval in terms of geological shifts. Since the basic concepts by means of which men understand their world change, differing cultures hold differing world views. An individual is raised in a culture, he is steeped in its world view, he absorbs it, he understands the world by means of its concepts. Truth is social.
But a rational man, here, too, will raise a question. How is it that truth is now conceived as something created – not discovered, but created – by man? Philosophers of an earlier age had held that facts exist independently, and that truth is born when human beings discover these facts. But Hegel says that each society creates its own truth. How did truth change from something discovered by the mind to a thing created by it? Who is responsible for so momentous a transformation?
The answer comes as no surprise. The man responsible for this epistemological revolution is Immanuel Kant.
The human mind, Kant says, has certain built-in concepts – or categories, as he calls them – that it imposes on our sense experience. Among these is the concept of “entity.” The mind imposes this concept on incoming sensations, thereby creating the world of objects that we experience. Do these objects exist in some independent realm? Who knows. All we know is the subjective world, the world created by our mind. The mind is an instrument of distortion.
Ayn Rand addresses this theory in For The New Intellectual:
Even apart from the fact that Kant’s theory of the “categories” as the source of man’s concepts was a preposterous invention, his argument amounted to a negation, not only of man’s con- sciousness, but of any consciousness, of consciousness as such. His argument, in essence, ran as follows: man is limited to a consciousness of a specific nature, which perceives by specific means and no others, therefore, his consciousness is not valid; man is blind, because he has eyes – deaf, because he has ears – deluded, because he has a mind – and the things he perceives do not exist, because he perceives them.
For Kant, the human mind is simultaneously omnipotent and helpless, all-knowing and hopelessly ignorant. Man is the creator, therefore the master, of the world of things as they appear to him, but he is permanently cut off from the world of things as they are “in themselves.” He can never know independently existing reality; he knows only the realm of appearance.
The essence of Kant’s influence, and the key to understanding the last two hundred years, is his theory that the human species, as a collective, creates its own reality. The world man occupies is not controlled by any single human consciousness, but by society as a whole. God has been dethroned by Kant and society elevated to the role of creator and governor of the human world.
Hegel applies this social primacy of consciousness view to politics. If the collective creates the world, Hegel argues, then it is logical to conclude that the collective must be the source of right and wrong and that it must be all-powerful regarding social issues. The group as a whole, and its emissary, the state, gives orders and the individual obeys. This is the birth of state-worship in modern Western culture.
Marx applies this social primacy of consciousness view to economics. If the collective creates the world, Marx argues, then it is logical to conclude that the collective must be supreme in economics. The economic needs of the people as a whole possess primacy, and the individual must serve. The function of the state is to enforce the economic obligations of the individual to the people. This is the birth of socialism.
Observe the fundamental premises of the Kantian philosophy: reality is unknowable, the mind is inefficacious. Man cannot know reality; he cannot choose the good. He is useless and valueless. The individual is nothing more than a fragment of the group, an interchangeable part with no value in himself.
The individual cannot know reality; therefore, he is helpless; independence is impossible. The group creates reality; it is omnipotent; the individual must render blind obedience to it.
This is the essence of Kant. This represents an all-out attack on the mind and on man. What logically follows, and what historically does follow, is a culture of destruction; an orgy of hatred, a full-scale war on every requirement of man’s survival. Kant and his heirs attack the mind, the root cause of all human values. His contemporary followers necessarily attack every consequence of that cause. The statists attack freedom; the socialists attack the profit motive; the ethnicity-worshippers and racists attack individualism; the multiculturalists attack Western Civilization; the modern artists attack objectivity; the feminists attack masculinity; the environmentalists attack science, technology, progress and prosperity.
The modern collectivists are nihilists. Nazis and Communists slaughter millions and lay waste to continents. Their purpose is neither to steal money nor to exalt God. Their purpose is to destroy the mind and to rain destruction. In The Ominous Parallels, Leonard Peikoff gives an eloquent description of the modernist mentality:
The term that captures twentieth-century culture – the term that names the modern soul is: nihilism.
“Nihilism” in this context means hatred, the hatred of values and of their root, reason. Hatred is not the same as disapproval, contempt or anger. Hatred is loathing combined with fear, and with the desire to lash out at the hated object, to wound, to disfigure, to destroy it.
The essence and impelling premise of the nihilist-modern is the quest for destruction, the destruction of all values, of values as such, and of the mind. It is a destruction he seeks for the sake of destruction, not as a means, but as an end.
This is the deepest reason why the modernists are, without exception, collectivists in their politics – because these are the politics of enslaving and destroying the good.
The collectivists deny the efficacy of the mind, thereby attacking the good at its source. Destruction is their goal and their result; the body counts in China, Russia, Germany, and Cambodia bear grim testimony to this.
Unfortunately, this ideology continues to dominate modern culture. How is this possible? How can a philosophy of destruction gain power over productive men?
It is important to grasp that this power is not the product of any positive action or productive achievement on the part of the evil. The power of evil is based on a negative, a vacuum – on the ignorance and philosophical confusions of honest men. The pro-reason thinkers of the Renaissance and Enlightenment failed to provide reason with a proper philosophical foundation, leaving it open to the attacks of Kant. The scientists, the inventors, the industrialists, et al., are not innovative philosophers; they accepted the moral codes taught them; they unwittingly sanctioned the creeds that were destroying them.
These errors, moreover, are not so much a reflection on the ability of the good men as on the difficulty of their task. To discover and validate the foundations of reason requires an extraordinary genius. Once the proper foundations of reason and egoism have been discovered, the errors and confusions on which evil feeds evaporate.
The morality of sacrifice lives on borrowed time.
As soon as productive men identify the evil of the altruist code – and discover a rational, life-giving alternative – its power is easily vanquished. In this respect, things have never been brighter for man. The status of evil has never been more fragile.
Project what would have to be done to refute and defeat the collectivists. First, it would be necessary to formulate a philosophical system that identifies and validates the mind as the root of all good and the individual as the proper beneficiary of his own actions. Then, it would be necessary to express that philosophy in a vividly powerful piece of writing. Yet these two tasks have already been achieved by Ayn Rand in her many nonfiction works and, above all, in Atlas Shrugged. All that remains to be done is to make more of the rational and productive men aware of the existence of her philosophy.
For the first time in history, the rational and the good are fully armed in the battle against evil. Here we finally find the answer to our paradox; now we can understand the nature of the social power held by evil. Ultimately, the evil, the irrational, truly has no power. The evil men’s control of morality is transient; it lives on borrowed time made possible only by the errors of the good. In time, as more honest men grasp the truth, evil’s stranglehold will be easily broken.
The essence of the struggle between good and evil is summed up in Hank Rearden’s words from Atlas Shrugged:
He was seeing the enormity of the smallness of the enemy who was destroying the world. He felt as if, after a journey of years through a landscape of devastation, past the ruins of great factories, the wrecks of powerful engines, the bodies of invincible men, he had come upon the despoiler, expecting to find a giant – and had a rat eager to scurry for cover at the first sound of a human step. If this is what has beaten us, he thought, the guilt is ours.
These words are certainly true. But it is important to focus not on the guilt of the good men in this respect, but instead on the enormous advantage they have over evil – and the joy that will be theirs when they sweep aside Kant’s philosophy and start to build a cultural renaissance on the foundations established by the philosophy of Ayn Rand. http://www.andrewbernstein.net/articles/34_villainy.htm