Sep 232009

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 3, “Hitler’s War Against Reason” — a reference to the implications for peoples’ lives that flow from the ideas they accept about knowledge and its acquisition and use. Topics we discussed included:
  • The connection between the rejection of reason and the use of force.
  • the Nazi “epistemology”: the wholesale undercutting and replacement of reason as a source of knowledge and guide to action — in favor of feelings, instincts, “will” or (as Hitler was so surprisingly breezy in putting it) whatever you want to call such things.
  • Irrationalism as the rejection of reason, Mysticism as the supplementing or replacement of reason, and [non-esthetic] Romanticism’s existing strength in the German culture being necessary for Hitler and the Nazis to accomplish their aims.
  • The timeline and major philosophical players in the transition from the Enlightenment reliance on reason to its rejection for romanticism and voluntarism.
  • Hitler and the Nazi’s profound, central reliance on and promotion of two forms of anti-reason: dogmatism and pragmatism.
  • How this mixture of dogmatism and pragmatism brought something new (and seemingly paradoxical) to the world: “the absolute of the moment, or the immutable which never stands still, issued by an omniscience that ceaselessly changes its mind.”
  • A more general exploration of the subjectivism that underlies the above, how despite being present systematically since Greek times, it was able to take off and dominate a culture at this time and in this place.
  • The naked use of force that subjectivism/primacy-of-consciousness has always brought — even necessitated — in politics.
  • How the Nazis were utterly dependent on the groundwork laid by philosophers, merely “cashing in” on what was already in place.
  • 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.
Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha