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 past two weeks (due to technical difficulties) was Chapter 5, “The Nation of the Enlightenment” — a reference to the central influence of the ideas and spirit of the Enlightenment in America’s founding. Topics we discussed included:
  • The eras of reason in Western philosophy, and how this relates to Peikoff’s characterization of the US as the Nation of the Enlightenment. Whether the US is indeed unique in being a “nation of ideas”.
  • How achievements in science and philosophy basically proclaimed the world open to reason — with reason becoming a virtue, the norm and expected.
  • The difference between early America and the America that the Founders built. How the American Enlightenment is a ‘profound reversal’ of the Puritans’ philosophic priorities. What brought about the dislodging of Puritanism, and the religious outlook of the founding leaders.
  • Why Aristotle is the first father of this new world. And Locke’s contribution to that legacy.
  • How the founders integrated their considerable knowledge of history to devise a brilliant, practical implementation of these abstract ideas with checks and balances, trying to isolate the operation of the state as much as possible from the moral character of any of its temporary officials, as well as subversion by an aspiring dictator or temporary sentiment.
  • How this rising nation of ideas then fell prey to bad ideas in Europe: There was no American attempt to give systematic statement to and defense of the American approach to liberty — we had no major philosophical innovators and relied on Europe to provide this (e.g., Locke). Unfortunately, there were gaps and problems, leading to the “American conflict” between the implicitly egoistic upholding of rights vs. the explicitly altruistic morality of the culture.
  • 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