Sep 302009

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 4, “The Ethics of Evil” — a reference to the implications for peoples’ lives that flow from the ideas they accept about values. Topics we discussed included:
  • How Obama matches and doesn’t match fascists in history — an important distinction to observe.
  • The two fundamentally opposed approaches to morality.
  • How Kant carried Christianity’s ethics to its climax — and how Christianity “prepared the ground” for modern totalitarianism by entrenching three fundamental ideas in the Western mind.
  • Christianity’s non-sacrificial ethical nod to Pagan egoism — and how Kant expunged this.
  • How Kant felt he wasn’t an innovator in the realm of morality, but yet he was an innovator in in an important respect: actually divorcing morality from values, with moral perfection being uninterested action devoid of any love or desire.
  • What evil consists in, for Kant: not self-love per-se, but giving self-love priority over morality in one’s heart. Kant’s version of Original Sin.
  • How for Kant, “It is the lot of the moral man to burn with desire and then, on principle — the principle of duty — to thwart it. The hallmark of the moral man is to suffer. … It is sacrifice — sacrifice as against apathy or indifference, sacrifice continual and searing — which is the essence of Kant’s moral counsel to living men.” [p.80]
  • How Kant did not preach Nazism (he likely would have frowned on the Nazis) — yet he established a necessary precondition for their development.
  • The rise of the formal doctrine of Altruism, giving a target to sacrifice… Then Hegel’s development bringing ‘social relativism’ to ethics — and how the Nazis’ pragmatism dovetails with it to strengthen their sacrificial, collectivist program.
  • Why physical coercion and persuasion are the only two methods for people to deal with one another — and how altruism gives the use of force a moral sanction, making it not just a practical recourse, but a positive virtue (in both secular and religious forms).
  • How the many “mindless activists and nonideological brawlers” were nonetheless in the grip of a particular philosophy, morphing and rewriting their program, yet never altering the three fundamental ideas that their program rested on from start to end.
  • That the world has not learned its lesson from history, with these three fundamental ideas still spreading throughout the Western world and increasing in their potency (and damage).
  • 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