Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Note From Winston Smith

Before I post the next installment of my "What Went Right?" series, I wanted to post a few clarifications in response to questions and comments from TIA Daily readers.

First, I want to thank everyone who has sent a note expressing their agreement with the series, and also to those who have disagreed but found the series thought-provoking.
A few people seem to be under the impression that I have completed the series, partly because I did not say at first how many parts it would have. While I haven't yet finished writing the whole series, I can now say that it will have six parts, of which the most recent installment was only the third. So I can promise that some of the concerns I have heard so far are answered in the coming installments, particularly part five.

Second, I have differentiated my view from what I regard as the prevailing view among Objectivist intellectuals on the role of ideas in history, but I haven't been very precise in defining what I mean by this—whether I disagree with the theory as stated by Ayn Rand herself, or merely with a wrong interpretation of that theory.

Primarily, I have been trying to differentiate my theory from an implicit view that is common among Objectivist intellectuals, and which seems to be the source of a long series of overly pessimistic assessments of the world—which is the issue with which I began this series. So I can say with assurance that what I am opposing is a common interpretation of Ayn Rand's view of the role of ideas in history, but I think this interpretation has some basis in the writings of prominent advocates of Objectivism, such as Leonard Peikoff, and possibly also in a few comments on the subject by Ayn Rand.
So on the question of whether I disagree with Ayn Rand on this topic, the answer is: I'm still trying to figure that out for sure, and I am certain there will be many people who will offer their suggestions (friendly or otherwise) on this question. I certainly don't reject the essentials of Ayn Rand's philosophy—indeed, I am relying upon them in this series—nor do I mean to imply, for example, that she held that the content of specialized fields could be deduced from philosophy.

That leads me to say something about the status of my own theory. I have always held that Objectivism is Ayn Rand's philosophy and stands for her ideas, and that any new theory contributed by a subsequent thinker is his own. So I am not arguing that my view on the role of ideas in the world is the "real" Objectivist theory. To the extent that what I am saying is original, it is my theory, and the reader may judge for himself to what extent it is consistent with Ayn Rand's philosophy—and, most important, with the facts of reality.

Finally, the ideas presented in this series are ones I have been developing in private discussions for the past few years, but this is the first time I have discussed them in public, for what I hope will be a friendly audience. I am definitely interested in hearing feedback and constructive criticism from my blog's readers.

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