Sep 162009

The Objectivism Seminar is working through Dr. Leonard Peikoff’s all-too-topical book, The Ominous Parallels. In it, he explores what gave rise to to the fascist, totalitarian regime of Nazi Germany — and analyzes whether and how a fascist, totalitarian regime could emerge here in America.

Our focus this week was Chapter 2, “The Totalitarian Universe” — a reference to the implications for peoples’ lives that flow from the metaphysical ideas they accept about the nature of reality. Topics we discussed included:
  • The complex, centuries-long development in the history of philosophy involving dozens of figures that brought about modern German culture and its Nazi climax — boiled down to the essential turning points found in three major philosophors: Plato, Kant, and Hegel.
  • Plato’s metaphysics and what it says about men, ethics, and politics — how the implications in politics mean some men must rule others.
  • The fundamental contrast Aristotle offered.
  • The points at when Plato’s and Aristotle’s contrasting outlooks alternately dominated cultures, and how Kant’s innovations drove the most recent transition to an essentially Platonic outlook.
  • The difference between Plato and Kant — how Kant “purified” Plato epistemologically and ethically.
  • How Kant and Aristotle are similar in their professed political ideas not expressing the implications of their metaphysics/epistemology (and how later thinkers in their lines went on to develop those implications).
  • The role of Hegel as a post-Kantian Platonist; how he “purified” the Kant and made Plato’s totalitarian blueprint pale by comparison.
  • The forms in which Hegel’s ideas propagated — Fascist Italy vs. Nazi Germany — as well as the ways in which Hegel’s ideas were secularized and made more materialistic and seemingly scientific. (Social Darwinism with Hitler, and class/economic determinism with Marx).
  • And a lot more…
If this sounds interesting, you can listen in on the podcast (just download the session’s MP3 directly, or listen to it with the little player on the right, or subscribe to the podcast series over on the Seminar’s TalkShoe page). And if you have something to ask or add, please do pick up the book and join the discussion! We meet at 8:00pm Mountain on Mondays, for about an hour.
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