- - Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ideas matter

“Even after I’d finished ‘Atlas Shrugged’ I still had no idea Ayn Rand was a philosopher. All I knew was that she had written a very long and very dull book. Reading ‘Atlas Shrugged’ taught me something about ‘The Fountainhead’ though. It was a bad book too. And from this I concluded that Ayn Rand was a bad writer.

“I can’t remember when I learned that a lot of people overlooked her bad writing on the grounds that she was a philosopher and what her philosophy was. Before I got to grad school, I think. I immediately spotted two things wrong here.

“Nobody had to excuse Camus’ writing. And there was an obvious flaw in her thinking which was, What kind of world would we be living in if every selfish, self-infatuated little [jerk] decided he was a Howard Roark or a John Galt? Seemed to me Dostoevsky had already asked and answered that one. A world in which selfish, self-infatuated little [jerks] take axes to the heads of little old ladies. …

“It wasn’t until I started spending time reading blogs that I found out that there were people reading Rand’s work and taking it seriously. Who knew the world contained so many selfish, self-infatuated little [jerks] looking for permission to take axes to the heads of little old ladies?”

Lance Mannion, writing on “For the love of Ayn Rand,” on Oct. 6 at his Tyepad site

Ideas have consequences

“You may wonder why the incessant harping on whether Hitler was an atheist, or why it doesn’t matter that Stalin was, or that there is no correlation between atheism and acts of wickedness. [Richard] Dawkins goes through this so often, and so intensely, that it is not hard to speculate on whom he is really trying to convince.

“For while there is of course no direct link to evil from atheism, Dawkins knows all too well the connection between nihilism, selfishness, cruelty and lawlessness and the lack of an overarching, self policing system of restraint and governance, such as religion once provided.

“He knows full well that the gradual erosion of this system, and its footsoldier stigma … is what accounts for the descent into callous individualism, ignorance and triviality that besets most modern democracies. He knows that his brave new Godless, freed of religion’s control, are not rushing instead to evolutionary biology but to drugs and pornography and idle sensation; not to reality but to virtual reality.

“The Venerable Bede,” writing on “Did we prove that guy wrong or what?” on Sept. 23 at Venerable Beads

Ideas still matter

“There is no more serious accusation in Canadian politics than that of having an ideology. Politicians would confess to killing their own grandmother rather than own up to such a thing: what the dictionary defines as ‘a body of ideas.’ Possession of cocaine is a charge you can probably survive. But possession of ideas is career-ending.

“Rather, practical men that they are, politicians prefer to say they live in the real world, guided … by facts, not ideology. ‘I’m not ideological,’ many will say. ‘I just do what works.’

“As a practical matter, this amounts to saying: I am insane. Everyone has an ideology, or at any rate everyone certainly should. It is simply not possible to comprehend the world around us without some sort of interpretive filter, some mental scaffolding on which to hang events. To say that you ‘just do what works’ presumes that we can define ‘what works’ without reference to some vision of the society we are trying to create — that is, an ideology.

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