The Ayn Rand Letter (August 1973 to April 1974)

The Ayn Rand Letter. Articles published by Ayn Rand from August 1973 to April 1974.

113 4 1MB

English Pages 40 Year 1973-1974

Report DMCA / Copyright

DOWNLOAD FILE

Polecaj historie

The Ayn Rand Letter (August 1973 to April 1974)

Citation preview

LETTER®

August 27, 1973

Vol. II, No. 24

CENSORSHIP: LOCAL AND EXPRESS

Part II



A profound commitment to moral collectivism does not occur in a vacuum, as a causeless primary: it requires an epistemological foundation. The Supreme Court's majority decision in the case of Paris Adult Theater I v. Slaton reveals that foundation. This case involves two movie theaters in Atlanta, Georgia, which exhibited allegedly obscene films, admitting only adults. The local trial court ruled that this was constitutionally permissible, but the Georgia Supreme Court reversed the decision - on the grounds that hard-core pornography is not protected by the First Amendment) Thus the issue before the u.S. Supreme Court was whether it is constitutional to abridge the freedom of consenting adults. The Court's majority decision said: "Yes." Epistemologically, this decision is a proclamation of ~-objectivity: it supports and defends explicitly the most evil of social phenomena: non-objective law. The decision, written by Chief Justice Burger, declares: "we hold that there are legitimate state interests at stake in stemming the tide of commercialized obscenity ••• These include the interest of the public in the quality of life and the total community environment, the tone-of commerce i~the great citY-centerS;-and, possibly, the public safety itself." (Emphasis added.) Try to find a single issue or action that would be exempt from this kind of "legitimate" state interest. Quoting a book by Professor Bickel, the decision declares: "A man may be entitled to read an obscene book in his room ••• But if he demands a right to obtain the books and pictures he wants in the market ••• then to grant him his right is to affect the world about the rest of us, and to impinge on other privacies •••• what is commonly read and seen and heard and done intrudes upon us all, want it or not." Which human activity would be exempt from a declaration of this kind? And what advocate of a totalitarian dictatorship would not endorse that declaration? Mr. Burger concedes that "there is no scientific data which conclusively demonstrates that exposure to obscene materials adversely affects men and women or their society." . But he rejects this as an argument against the suppression of such materials. And there·follows an avalanche of statements and of quotations from earlier Court decisions - all claiming (in terms broader than the issue of pornography) that scientific knowledge and conclusive proof are not

© Copyright 1973, The Ayn Rand Letter, Inc. All rights reserved. Material may not be reproduced in any form without written permission.

-2-

required as a basis for legislation, that the State has the right to enact laws on the grounds of what does or might exist. "Scientific data" (in the proper, literal sense of these words) means knowledge of reality, reached by a process of reason; and "conclusive demonstration" means that the content of a given proposition is proved to be a fact of reality. It is reason and reality that are here being removed as a limitation on the power of the State. It is the right to legislate on the basis of any assumption, any hypothesis, any guess, any feeling, any whim - on any grounds or none - that is here being conferred on the government. "We do not demand of legislatures 'scientifically certain criteria of legislation,'" the decision affirms. "Although there is no conclusive proof of a connection between antisocial behavior and obscene material, the legislature of Georgia could quite reasonably determine that such a connection does or might exist. In deciding Roth, this Court implicitly accepted that a legislature could legitimately act on such a conclusion to protect 'the social interest in order and morality.'" If the notion that something might be a threat to the "social interest," is sufficient to justify suppression, then the Nazi or the Soviet dictatorship is justified in exterminating anyone who, in its belief, might be a threat to the "social interest" of the Nazi or the Soviet "community." Whatever theory of government such a notion represents, it is not the theory of America's Founding Fathers. Strangely enough, Chief Justice Burger seems to be aware of it, because he proceeds to calIon a pre-American precedent. "From the beginning of civilized societies, legislators and judges have acted on various unprovable assumptions. Such assumptions underlie much lawful state regulation of commercial and business affairs." This is pre-eminently true - and look at the results. Look at the history of all the governments in the world prior to the birth of the United States. Ours was the first government based on and strictly limited by a written document - the Constitution - which specifically forbids it to violate individual rights or to act on whim. The history of the atrocities perpetrated by all the other kinds of governments - unrestricted governments acting on unprovable assumptions - demonstrates the value and validity of the original political theory on which this country was built. Yet here is the Supreme Court citing all those bloody millennia of tyranny, asa precedent for us to follow. If this seems inexplicable, the very next sentence of Mr. Burger's decision gives a clue to the reasons - and a violently clear demonstration of the role of precedent in the development of law. That next sentence seems to unleash a whirling storm of feathers, as chickens come flying home from every direction to roost on everyone's coop, perch or fence - in retribution for every evasion, compromise, injustice, and violation of rights perpetrated in past decades. That next sentence is: "The same [a basis of unprovable assumptions] is true of the federal securities, antitrust laws and a host of other federal regulations." Formally, I would have to say: "Oh, Mr. Chief Justice!" to say: "Oh, brother!"

Informally, I want

"On the basis of these assumptions," Mr. Burger goes on, "both Congress and state legislatures have, for example, drastically restricted associational rights

-3-

by adopting antitrust laws, and have strictly regulated public expression by issuers of and dealers in securities, profit sharing 'coupons,' and 'trading stamps,' commanding what they must and may not publish and announce •••• Understandably those who entertain an absolutist view of the First Amendment find it uncomfortable to explain why rights of association, speech, and press should be severely restrained in the marketplace of goods and money, but not in the marketplace of pornography." On the collectivist premise, there is, of course, no answer. The only answer, in today's situation, is to check that premise and reject it - and start repealing all those catastrophically destructive violations of individual rights and of the Constitution. But this is not what the Court majority has decided. Forgetting his own warning about the "gestative propensity" of the judicial and legislative processes, Chief Justice Burger accepts the precedent as an irrevocable absolute and pushes the country many steps further toward the abyss of statism. "Likewise," the decision continues, "when legislatures and administrators act to protect the physical environment from pollution and to preserve our resources of forests, streams and parks, they must act on such imponderables as the impact of a new highway near or through an existing park or wilderness area •••• Thus the FederalAid Highway Act of 1968 ••• and the Department of Transportation Act of 1966 ••• have been described by Mr. Justice Black as 'a solemn determination of the highest lawmaking body of this Nation that beauty and health-giving facilities of our parks are not to be taken away for public roads without hearings, fact-findings, and policy determinations under the supervision of a Cabinet officer •••• ' The fact that a congressional directive reflects unprovable assumptions about what is good for the people, including imponderable aesthetic assumptions, is not a sufficient reason to find that statute unconstitutional." Isn't it? If it is not, then the imponderable aesthetic assumptions of government officials are entitled to invade the field of literature and art - as Mr. Burger's decision is inviting them to do. The ugly hand of altruism slithers into the decision, in a passage that sideswipes the concept of free will. "We have just noted, for example, that neither the First Amendment nor 'free will' precludes States from having 'blue sky' laws to regulate what sellers of securities may write or publish about their wares • ••• Such laws are to protect the weak, the uninformed, the unsuspecting, and the gullible from the exercise of their own volition." It is for this kind of purpose that the rest of us - who are not weak, uninformed; unsuspecting, and gullible are to be protected from our volition and deprived of the right to exercise it. So much for the relation of altruism to rights and to freedom. Here is another chicken flying home: "States are told by some that they must await a 'laissez-faire' market solution to the obscenity-pornography problem, paradoxically 'by people who have never otherwise had a kind word to say for laissez-faire,' particularly in solving urban, commercial, and environmental pollution problems." The decision contain!? many other homing chickens of this kind - an entire barnyard of them - many more than I have space to quote. But these are sufficient to give you the nature, style and spirit of that ruling. In his dissenting opinion, Justice Brennan, joined by Justices Stewart and Marshall, offers some good arguments to support the conclusion that censorship in regard to consenting adults is unconstitutional. But he wavers, hesitates to

-4-

go that far, and tries to compromise, to strike "a better balance between the guarantee of free expression and the States' legitimate interests." He concedes the notion that obscene material is not protected by the First Amendment, but expresses an anxious concern over the Court's failure to draw a clear line between protected and unprotected speech. He cites the chaotic, contradictory record of the Court's decisions in "obscenity" cases, but side-steps the issue by saying, in a footnote: "Whether or not a class of 'obscene' and thus entirely unprotected speech does exist, I am forced to conclude that the class is incapable of definition with sufficient clarity to withstand attack on vagueness grounds. Accordingly, it is on principles of the void-for-vagueness doctrine that this opinion exclusively relies." Justice Brennan speaks eloquently about the danger of vague laws, and quotes Chief Justice Warren, who said that "the constitutional requirement of definiteness is violated by a criminal statute that fails to give a person of ordinary intelligence fair notice that his contemplated conduct is forbidden by the statute." But Justice Brennan does not mention the antitrust laws, which do just that. He states: "The resulting level of uncertainty is utterly intolerable, not alone because it makes 'bookselling ••• a hazardous profession,' ••• but as well because it invites arbitrary and erratic enforcement of the law." He deplores the fact that "obscenity" judgments are now made on "a case-by-case, sight-by-sight" basis. He observes that the Court has been struggling "to fend off legislative attempts 'to pass to the courts - and ultimately to the Supreme Court - the awesome task of making case by case at once the criminal and the constitutional law.'" But he does not mention the living hell of antitrust, the grim monument to law made case by case. However, a greater respect for principles and a greater understanding of their consequences are revealed in Justice Brennan's dissenting opinion than in the majority decision. He declares that on the basis of that majority decision: "it is hard to see how state-ordered regimentation of our minds can ever be forestalled. For if a State may, in an effort to maintain or create a particular moral tone, prescribe what its citizens cannot read or cannot see, then it would seem to follow that in pursuit of that same objective a State could decree that its citizens must read certain books or must view certain films." The best statement, however, is made again by Justice Douglas, who ends his forceful dissent with the words: "But our society- unlike most in the world presupposes that freedom and liberty are in a frame of reference that make the individual, not government, the keeper of his tastes, beliefs, and ideas. That is the philosophy of the First Amendment; and it is the article of faith that sets us apart from most nations in the world." I concur - except that it is not an "article of faith," but a provable, rational conviction. (To be continued.)

The Ayn Rand Letter, published fortnightly by The Ayn Rand Letter, Inc., 183 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10016. c-"

Contributing Editor: Leonard Peikoffj Subscription Director: Elayne Kalbermanj Production Manager: Barbara Weiss.

LETTER®

Vol. II, No. 25

September 10, 1973

CENSORSHIP: LOCAL AND EXPRESS Part III

In the life of a nation, the law plays the same role as a decision-making process of thought does in the life of an individual. An individual makes decisions by applying his basic premises to a specific choice - premises which he can change, but seldom does. The basic premises of a nation's laws are set by its dominant political philosophy and implemented by the courts, whose task is to determine the application of broad principles to specific cases; in this task, the equivalent of basic premises is precedent, which can be challenged, but seldom is. How far a loosely worded piece of legislation can go in the role of precedent, is horrifyingly demonstrated by the Supreme Court's majority decision in another one of the five "obscenity" cases, u.S. v. Orito. This case involves a man charged with knowingly transporting obscene material by common carrier in interstate commerce. The clause g1v1ng Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce is one of the major errors in the Constitution. That clause, more than any other, was the crack in the Constitution's foundation, the entering wedge of statism, which permitted the gradual establishment of the Welfare State. But I would venture to say that the framers of the Constitution could not have conceived of what that clause has now become. If, in writing it, one of their goals was to facilitate the flow of trade and prevent the establishment of trade barriers among the states, that clause has reached the opposite destination. You may now expect fifty different frontiers inside this country, with customs officials searching your luggage and pockets for books or magazines permitted in one state, but prohibited ip another. Chief Justice Burger's decision declares, quoting an earlier Court decision: "The motive and purpose of a regulation of interstate commerce are matters for the legislative judgment upon the exercise of which the Constitution places no restriction and over which the courts are given no control." Such an interpretation means that legislative judgment is given an absolute power, beyond the restraint of any principle, beyond the reach of any checks or balances. This is an outrageous instance of context-dropping: the Constitution, taken as a whole, is a fundamental restriction on the power of the government, whether in the legislative or in any other branch. 1 "It is sufficient to reiterate," Mr. Burger declares, "the well-settled principle that Congress may impose relevant conditions and requirements on those who use the channels of interstate commerce in order that those channels will not become the

© Copyright 1973, The Ayn Rand Letter, Inc. All rrghts reserved. Material may not be reproduced in any form without written permission.

-2-

means of promoting or spreading evil, whether of a physical, moral or economic nature." As if this were not clear enough, a footnote is added: "Congress can certainly regulate interstate commerce to the extent of forbidding and punishing the use of such commerce as an agency to promote immorality, dishonesty, or the spread of any evil or harm to the people of other states from the state of origin." Immorality, evil and harm - by what standard? The only rights which the five majority decisions leave you are the right to read and see what you wish in your own room, but not outside it - and the right to think whatever you please in the privacy of your own mind. But this is a right which even a totalitarian dictatorship is unable to suppress. (You are free to think in Soviet Russia, but not to act on your thinking.) Again, Justice Douglas's dissent is the only voice raised in desperate protest: "Our whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men's minds." The division between the conservative and the liberal viewpoints in the opinions of the Supreme Court, is sharper'and clearer than in less solemn writings or in purely political debates. By the nature of its task, the Supreme Court has to and does become the voice of philosophy. The necessity to deal with principles makes the members of the Supreme Court seem archetypical of the ideas - almost, of the soul - of the two political camps they represent. They were not chosen as archetypes: in the undefined, indeterminate, contradictory chaos of political views loosely labeled "conservative" and "liberal," it would be impossible to choose an essential characteristic or a typical representative. Yet, as one reads the Supreme Court's opinions, the essential premises stand out with an oddly bright, revealing clarity - and one grasps that under all the lesser differences and inconsistencies of their followers, these are the basic premises of one political camp or of the other. It is almost as if one were seeing not these antagonists' philosophy, but their sense of life. The subject of the five "obscenity" cases was not obscenity as such - which is a marginal and inconsequential matter - but a much deeper issue: the sexual aspect of man's life. Sex is not a separate nor a purely physical attribute of a man's character: it involves a complex integration of all his fundamental values. So it is not astonishing that cases dealing with sex (even in its ugliest manifestations) would involve the influence of all the branches of philosophy. We have seen the influence of ethics, epistemology, politics, aesthetics (this last as the immediate victim of the debate). What about the fifth branch of philosophy, the basic one, the fundamental of the science of fundamentals: metaphysics? Its influence is revealed in - and explains - the inner contradictions of each camp. The metaphysical issue is their view of man's nature. Both camps hold the same premise - the mind-body dichotomy - but choose opposite sides of this lethal fallacy. The conservatives want freedom to act in the material realm; they tend to oppose government control of production, of industry, of trade, of business, of physical goods, of material wealth. But they advocate government control of man's spirit,i.e., man's consciousness; they advocate the State's right to impose censorship) to determine moral values, to create and enforce a governmental establishment of morality, to rule the intellect. The liberals want freedom to act in the spiritual realm; they oppose censorship, they oppose government control of ideas, of the arts, of the press, of education (note their concern with "academic freedom"). But they advocate government control of material production, of business, of employment, of wages, of profits, of all physical property - they advocate it all the way

-3-

down to total expropriation. The conservatives see man as a body freely roaming the earth, building sand piles or factories - with an electronic computer inside his skull, controlled from Washington. The liberals see man as a soul freewheeling to the farthest reaches of the universe - but wearing chains from nose to toes when he crosses the street to buy a loaf of bread. Yet it is the conservatives who are predominantly religionists, who proclaim the superiority of the soul over the body, who represent what I call the "mystics of spirit." And it is the liberals who are predominantly materialists, who regard man as an aggregate of meat, and who represent what I call the "mystics of muscle." This is merely a paradox, not a contradiction: each camp wants to control the realm it regards ~ metaphysically important; each grants freedom only to the ~­ tivities it despises. Observe that the conservatives insult and demean the rich or those who succeed in material production, regarding them as morally inferior and that the liberals treat ideas as a cynical con game. "Control," to both camps, means the power to rule by physical force. Neither camp holds freedom as a value. The conservatives want to rule man's consciousness; the liberals, his body. On that premise, neither camp has permitted itself to observe that force is a killer in both realms. The conservatives, frozen in their mystic dogmas, are paralyzed, terrified and impotent in the realm of ideas. The liberals, waiting for the unearned, are paralyzed, terrified and, frequently, incompetent in or hostile to the realm of material production (observe the ecology crusade). Why do both camps cling to blind faith in the power of physical force? I quote from Atlas Shrugged: "Do you observe what human faculty that doctrine [the mind-body dichotomy] was designed to destroy? It was man's mind that had to be negated in order to make him fall apart." Both camps, conservatives and liberals alike, are united in their hatred of man's mind - i.e., of reason. The conservatives reject reason in favor of faith; the liberals, in favor of emotions. The conservatives are either lethargically indifferent to intellectual issues, or actively anti-intellectual. The liberals are smarter in this respect: they use intellectual weapons to destroy and negate the intellect (they call it "to redefine"). When men reject reason, they have no means left for dealing with one another except brute, physical force. I quote from Atlas Shrugged: " ••• the men you call materialists and spiritualists are only two halves of the same dissected human, forever seeking completion, but seeking it by swinging from the destruction of the flesh to the destruction of the soul and vice versa ••• seeking any refuge against,reality, any form of escape from the mind." Since the two camps are only two sides of the same coin - the same counterfeit coin - they are now moving closer and closer together. Observe the fundamental similarity of their philosophical views: in metaphysics - the mind-body dichotomy; in epistemology - irrationalism; in ethics - altruism; in politics - statism. The conservatives used to claim that they were loyal to tradition - while the liberals boasted of being "progressive." But observe that it is Chief Justice Burger, a conservative, who propounds a militant collectivism, and formulates general principles that stretch the power of the State way beyond the issue of pornography - and it is Justice Douglas, a liberal, who invokes "the traditions of a free society" and pleads for "our constitutional heritage." If someone had said in 1890 that antitrust laws for the businessmen would,

-4sooner or later, lead to censorship for the intellectuals, no one would have believed it. You can see it today. When Chief Justice Burger declares to the liberals that they cannot explain why rights "should be severely restrained in the marketplace of goods and money, but not in the marketplace of pornography," I am tempted to feel that it serves them right - except that all of us are the victims. If this censorship ruling is not revoked, the next step will be more explicit: it will replace the words "marketplace of pornography" with the words "marketplace of ideas." This will serve as a precedent for the liberals, enabling them to determine which ideas they wish to suppress - in the name of the "social interest" when their turn comes. No one can win a contest of this kind - except the State. I do not know how the conservative members of the Supreme Court can bear to look at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, where his words are engraved in marble: "I have sworn ••• eternal hos,tility to every form of tyranny over the mind of man." Permit me to add without presumptuousness: "So have 1."

OBJECTIVIST CALENDAR The broadcast of Ayn Rand's lecture, "Censorship: Local and Express," originally scheduled for October 26 in New York City, has been rescheduled for Saturday, November 10,11 A.M.-l P.M., over radio station WNYC-AM (830). We have also been informed that the lecture will be broadcast in Philadelphia on Sunday, November 25, at 8 P.M., over radio station WUHY-FM (90.9). As we go to press, these dates have been confirmed. However, changes in scheduling are possible, and it is advisable to check with the stations. Beginning Tuesaay, January 15, 1974, Leonard Peikoff will offer a ten-lecture course on Introduction to Logic. The course covers the standard topics taught in introductory college courses in Aristotelian logic. It defines the basic principles and standards of valid reasoning, and discusses the most prevalent logical fallacies. It formalizes the steps by which one derives conclusions from premises; it provides the student with a methodology by which to evaluate his own thinking processes, and teaches him the art of proper argumentation. Introduction to Logic will be given every week, on Tuesday evening at 7:30 P.M., from January 15 to March 19, at the Statler Hilton Hotel, 7th Ave. at 33rd St., New York City. Tuition is $50; registration is limited to 200 students. Brochures, including registration forms, will be sent, at the end of November, to The Ayn Rand Letter subscribers in the New York Metropolitan area. For further information, write to Dr. Peikoff at P.O. Box 381, Forest Hills, N.Y. 11375. In other cities, tapes of the lectures will be made available, to groups of ten persons or more, on a rental basis; inquiries should be addressed to Susan Ludel, 120 East 34th St., New York, N.Y. 10016. B.W.

The Ayn Rand Letter, published fortnightly by The Ayn Rand Letter, Inc., 183 Madisoll Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10016. Contributing Editor: Leonard Peikoff; Subscription Director: Elayne Kalberman; Production Manager: Barbara Weiss.

LETTER®

Vol. II, No. 26

September 24, 1973

THOUGHT CONTROL In the first obscenity case brought before the Supreme Court of the State of New York since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on this subject of June 21, 1973, Judge Abraham J. Gellinoff dismissed the case against the defendants and wrote a very interesting decision (August 14,1973). The defendants were the exhibitors of films claimed to be obscene by New York City authorities. The most significant part of Judge Gellinoff's decision was its conclusion: " .•• the films are, in this court's view, obscene. In the court's personal opinion, they are patently offensive. "However, the Supreme Court has determined that 'obscenity is to be determined by applying "contemporary community standards" ... not "national standards'" ••. "Formerly, a court could determine national standards, based in part on prior trials of similar cases, and could judge a film merely on its content. But this is the first case of its kind since the Supreme Court decreed that community standards, not national standards, govern, and there is no evidence before the court, at this stage of the case, to enable the court to gauge the contemporary standards of this community. While the court knows its own standards, and believes it knows what the community standards should be, there are no facts presented before the court to enable it to say, with reasonable assurance, in advance of a full trial, what the trier of the facts will find the community standards actually to be." If a conscientious judge cannot determine what the "community standards" are, who can? What would a judge accept as evidence of such standards? If he has to wait for a precedent, for a trier of the facts to determine these standards, who is that trier to be and how will he do it? On November 27, 1973, the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court reversed Judge Gellinoff's ruli:lg and said in regard to the films: "The multiple and variegated ultimate acts of sexual perversion would have been regarded as 'obscene' by the community standards of Sodom and Gomorrah." This is undoubtedly true, but it is an attempt to invoke standards applicable to all communities, national and international, contemporary and ancient (an attempt which the U.S. Supreme Court has invalidated), and it gives no clue to the method by which the particular "community standards" of New York City (or of Sodom and Gomorrah, for that matter) are to be established. The Appellate Division's ruling declared: "the average person in New York State, City or County would in all likelihood have concluded these pictures appealed to prurient interest." This is a guess about the average person's guess about the standards of other average persons in New York State. The decision decreed that the State's courts should "synthesize" these unnamed standards "by judicial construction" - which means, arbitrarily. There is no other way to determine © Copyright 1973, The Ayn Rand Letter, Inc. All rights reserved. Material may not be reproduced in any form without written permission.

-2-

the meaning of a term that denotes the non-existent, such as "community standards." "Judicial construction" is one method of exercising arbitrary power. There is another - still more reprehensible in its actual meaning and potential consequences. The present U.S. Supreme Court's rulings do not describe that method explicitly. To find it, one must go back some fifteen years, to the Court's decision in the Roth case (1957). The Roth case is, in large part, the foundation of all the subsequent Supreme Court decisions in regard to obscenity. It is interesting to note that the present rulings carry the practical application of the principles enunciated in Roth further toward censorship than did the Roth decision, but they do not discuss the principles: these are merely suggested implicitly, as if taken for granted and not open to critical examination. (This is an example of the similarity in the working of legal precedents and of a man's basic premises: a bad premise may be available to a man's conscious awareness, at first; then, with each successive application to practice, the premise becomes automatized and is taken for granted, while its reasons or sources are forgotten and closed to re-examination; yet - unless he identifies and rejects it - that premise continues to direct the man's actions, and it works toward its ultimate logical consequences without his conscious knowledge or choice.) The Roth decision, written by Justice Brennan, quotes with approval the trial judge's definition of obscenity: "The words 'obscene, lewd and lascivious' as used in the law, signify that form of immorality which has relation to sexual impurity and has a tendency to excite lustful thoughts." (Emphasis added by Justice Brennan.) The decision states that the trial court "followed the proper standard" and "used the proper definition of obscenity." And, apparently as a clarification and as a guideline for other courts, the decision quotes the following passage from the Roth trial judge's instructions to the jury: " ..• The test is not whether it would arouse sexual desires or sexual impure thoughts in those comprising a particular segment of the community, the young, the immature or the highly prudish or would leave another segment, the scientific or highly educated or the so-called worldly-wise and sophisticated indifferent and unmoved .••• "The test in each case is the effect of the book, picture or publication considered as a whole, not upon any particular class, but upon all those whom it is likely to reach. In other words, you determine its impact upon the average person in the community. The books, pictures and circulars must be judged as a whole, in their entire context, and you are not to consider detached or separate portions in reaching a conclusion. You judge the circulars, pictures and publications which ~ave been put in evidence by present-day standards of the community. You may ask yourselves does it offend the common conscience of the community by present-day standards .••. "In this case, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you and you alone are the exclusive judges of what the common conscience of the community is, and in determining that conscience you are to consider the community as a whole, young and old, educated and uneducated, the religious and the irreligious - men, women and children." The formula: "you and you alone are the exclusive judges" is taken from the usual instructions to the jury in criminal cases, in which it reads: "you and you alone are the exclusive judges of the facts." Observe the horrendous enormity of

-3-

the difference, when this formula is applied to intellectual issues. "Facts," in a criminal case, means specified, defined, objectively perceivable, physical actions, such as murder or robbery. The rule,s of the jury's process of deliberation - what is relevant or not, what must be considered or ignored, what grounds are valid or invalid, even what degree of certainty is required - are determined by law, by the complex rules of legal evidence. The jury is not given carte blanche to determine something somehow; the judge is the guardian of the law, and it is his task to see that the jury abides by those legal rules; if it does not, he has the power to set aside its verdict. Moreover, the only thing submitted for the jury's decision is the particular facts of a particular case. The jury passes judgment on concretes, not on abstractions: it does not write laws, it does not determine principles, its power ends with the case. How are jurors to determine an issue such as "what the common conscience of the community is"? Most people are unable to identify, in clear, conceptual terms, what their own conscience is, i.e., their own moral convictions. Of those who can do so, very few (if any) are able to identify, with any degree of certainty, the conscience of others, of their own families, of their closest friends; in this respect, people often experience painful shocks of disappointment. Yet they are asked to judge the "common conscience of a community" - a floating abstraction which is not defined in any respect: neither what it is, nor what one may take it to be, nor the means of identifying it and judging it-rnor even whether it exists). There is no scientific method by which the "common conscience of a community" can be identified; there is no psychological method; there is no philosophical method. (A rational philosophy can demonstrate that that notion is a myth: "conscience" being a moral term, there is no such tbing as a communal or collective morality, because there is no such thing as a communal or collective brain; a community is merely a number of individual citizens, the sum of whose moral standards cannot be computed.) Agreeing with and paraphrasing Judge Gellinoff, a conscientious, thinking man would have to say: "I know my own standards and I know what the community members' standards should be, but I do not (and cannot) know what the community standards are." The trial judge in the Roth case was, apparently, aware of the intellectual problems involved: he did not instruct the jury to "identify" the community conscience, but to "determine" it - Le., to issue an edict, an arbitrary pronouncement which, thereafter, is to be given the status of a proved fact and to be enforced by law. This means that twelve persons picked at random - 'regardless of their knowledge, intelligence, integrity, or moral character, regardless of their "conscience" - are given the power to rule the most profoundly personal aspects of a man's life, and to force on him their own notions of morality (if any). To add insult to injury, it is not even the jurors' own views that are given such power, but worse: their guess about the views of others. As a method of exercising arbitrary power, this is much worse than "judicial construction." The latter offers, at least, a pseudo-justification: the suggestion that legally trained minds are interpreting a difficult problem (which some judges try to do fairly, though it is impossible to do under non-objective laws). But an arbitrary pronouncement by a random jury implies and establishes three disastrous premises: 1. the collectivist notion that the will of the people (of the "community") is the source, the standard, and the ultimate authority in the field of morality; 2. the mystic notion that the jury is, somehow, an embodiment of the people's unlimited will (and thus the opposite of what a jury actually is: a practical device to obtain as objective a judgment as possible, limited by objective rules, in objectively defined cases); 3. an endorsement of the tendency toward

-4the worst form of tyranny, which is fashionable today as the outgrowth of a mixed economy: the random endowment of private citizens with governmental power - i.e., the union of government and self-appointed, irresponsible private groups which were not elected by anyone, yet claim to represent the people or part of the people (e.g., Women's Lib). The arbitrary power conferred on the jury by the Roth trial judge's instructions is all but explicit in the fact that the task he assigns to the jurors is a solid contradiction and, therefore, impossible: "in determining that conscience you are to consider the community as a whole, young and old, educated and uneducated, the religious and the irreligious - men, women and children." To consider them in what respect? In respect to the kind of thoughts which a given "book, picture or publication" would arouse in them, specifically "lustful thoughts." Since a man's views on sex are determined by the sum of his fundamental conscious and subconscious values, would the reaction of the young (who do not understand the subject) and of the old (who may have lost interest) be the same? Or of the educated (who may hold any number of false theories) and of the uneducated (who may regard sex as physicalistic brutality)? Or of the religious (who regard sex as sin) and of the irreligious (who may regard it as a great value)? Or of promiscuous men, of prudish women, and of uninformed children? The views and reactions of all these people will not merely be different, but diametrically opposed. Since no one can reconcile opposites, the Roth trial judge by-passed the problem by substituting force for justice, as all seekers of the impossible must do: let the jury issue an arbitrary edict and let it be enforced as the voice of the entire community. Why? Because the jury is the embodiment of the community's will. Such is the mystique of intellectual collectivization. Morally, the most offensive part of this procedure is the fact that you, as an individual, are deprived of the right to express your own views, but a jury is given the right to determine what your views are and to censor public expression accordingly, in your name. (TO be continued.)

P.S.

This Letter was written later than the date that appears on its heading.

OBJECTIVIST CALENDAR On Friday, November 2, Ayn Rand conducted a seminar in political philosophy for the New York City Urban Fellowship, a project affiliated with the Office of the Mayor of New York City; the project enables a group of outstanding college seniors and graduate students, selected from across the country, to study the workings of city government. Starting on January 21, 1974, the tape lectures of Leonard Peikoff's course, Modern Philosophy: Kant to the Present, will be given in Atlanta. For further information, contact Dr. Bonar Newton at (404) 351-9096. B.W.

The Ayn Rand Letter,

putllisl~ed

fortnightly by The Ayn Rand Letter, Inc., 183 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10016.

Contributing Editor: Leonard Pelkoff; Subscription Director: Elayne Kalberman; Production Manager: Barbara Weiss.

LETTER®

October 8, 1973

Vol. III, No.1

THOUGHT CONTROL Part II What is the purpose of the anti-obscenity legislation? The present Supreme Court decisions attempt to camouflage the issue by alleging that the purpose is to protect the nation from "antisocial" (Le., criminal) actions. But the Supreme Court decision in the Roth case is more candid: it states clearly and openly that the purpose is not the control of action, but the control of thought. In addition to the trial judge's definition of obscenity, the Roth decision quotes with approval a definition given in an earlier case, which holds material to be obscene if it has "a substantial tendency to deprave or corrupt its readers by inciting lascivious thoughts or arousing lustful desires." (Emphasis added by Justice Brennan.) This is an unequivocal declaration and an official endorsement of the tenet that sex as such is evil. Observe that that statement does not refer to some sorts of sexual aberrations or abuses; it does not refer to the conventional censure of extramarital sex; it makes the sweeping declaration that any "lustful," i.e., sexual, desire (presumably, even toward one's spouse) constitutes depravity and corruption. Immediately following that quotation, the decision mentions the objection of those who hold that such rulings violate constitutional guarantees "because convictions may be had without proof either that obscene material will perceptibly create a clear and present danger of antisocial conduct, or will probably induce its recipients to such conduct." Justice Brennan disposes of this objec'tion by declaring that "in light of our holding that obscenity is not [constitutionally] protected speech," it is unnecessary for the courts to consider such issues. In other words, the government's purpose in anti-obscenity cases is not to prohibit criminal conduct, but to prohibit thought - sexual thought. "However," the decision continues, "sex and obscenity are not synonymous. Obscene material is material which deals with sex in a manner appealing to prurient interest" - and adds a footnote: "I.e., material having a tendency to excite lustful thoughts." The adjectives "prurient," "lustful," "lascivious," "lewd," etc. are repeated over and over again in court decisions in obscenity cases, as if these adjectives were clear, sufficient definitions. But if you want to make a linguistic experiment, look up the definitions of these adjectives in a good, unabridged dictionary. You will find yourself on a hopeless chase, being pushed from one word to another to another, in as bad an example of circularity as any which a class in freshman logic would teach you not to

© Copyright 1973, The Ayn Rand Letter, Inc. All rights reserved. Material may not be reproduced in any form without written permission.

-2-

commit - and, buried somewhere along the way, as definition No. 2 or 3, you will find the words: "sexual desire." Apparently, the Roth decision considers discussions of sex permissible (particularly, as it points out, "in art, literature and scientific works"), but prohibited if they appeal to sexual interest or arouse sexual desire. I submit that a work of art or literature which deals with sex without appealing to such interest, is guilty of lousy craftsmanship. The attempt to prohibit thought - any kind of thought on any subject - is grotesquely futile. It is worse than grotesque in this country: it means that the Constitution guarantees us freedom of speech and of the press, but not freedom of thought. To make matters still worse, the author of material claimed to be obscene is held responsible and punished not for his own thoughts, but for the thoughts his work might arouse in others. Who can tell what thoughts (or~elings) a book-=on any subject - would arouse in a reader? Logically, it is possible to tell what thoughts a given book should arouse - if a reader is faultlessly logical. How many such readers are there today? And, for-that matter, how many faultlessly logical authors? In a Kantian-Hegelian age, logic is the most unfashionable discipline. When men are trained to use words as meaningless sounds, as emotional grunts, or as tools of deception, who can tell which book will inspire whom to what? Many people believe that the obscenity rulings apply only to pornography. But the Supreme Court has repeatedly admitted its inability to draw a line between pornography and other kinds of writing. And the Supreme Court does not deal with concretes - it deals with principles which establish legal policy. The principle of suppressing a book and punishing its author on the basis of the thoughts or feelings it might arouse in readers - is a monstrous notion, irreconcilable with the Constitution and with all constitutional guarantees. (Yet this notion is being voiced today outside the field of law and is being applied to issues other than pornography - as I shall discuss later.) Justice Harlan, who dissented in part, states explicitly that the Roth majority decision attempts to prohibit thoughts. "Under the federal definition [of obscenity] it is enough if the jury finds that the book as a whole leads to certain thoughts. In California, the further inference must be drawn that such thoughts will have a substantive 'tendency to deprave or corrupt' - i.e., that the thoughts induced by the material will affect character and action." Justice Harlan points out that there is no proof of such a causal connection. He quotes from a document issued by the American Law Institute: " ••• regulation of thought or desire, unconnected with overt misbehavior, raises the most acute constitutional as well as practical difficulties." He declares: "The Federal Government has no business, whether under the postal or commerce power, to bar the sale of books because they might lead to any kind of 'thoug~ts.'" But Justice Harlan undercuts his case and destroys the meaning of his dissent by granting this power to state governments. "Since the domain of sexual morality is pre-eminently a matter of state concern, this Court should be slow to interfere with state legislation calculated to protect that morality." And: "Congress has no substantive power over sexual morality. Such powers as the Federal Government has in this field ••• are not of the same nature as those possessed by the States, which bear direct responsibility for the protection of the local moral fabric." The Supreme Court's best defender of intellectual freedom, in the Roth case

-3-

as well as today, is Justice Douglas. His uncomprom~s~ng dissent (with which Justice Black concurs) opens with the words: "When we sustain these convictions [of the defendants in the Roth case], we make the legality of a publication turn on the purity of thought which a book or tract instills in the mind of the reader. I do not think we can approve that standard and be faithful to the command of the First Amendment, which by its terms is a restraint on Congress and which by the Fourteenth is a restraint on the States." He declares: "By these [California's] standards punishment is inflicted for thoughts provoked, not for overt acts nor antisocial conduct" - and insists that "speech to be punishable must have some relation to action which could be penalized by government." And: "To allow the State to step in and punish mere speech or publication that the judge or the jury thinks has an undesirable impact on thoughts but that is not shown to be a part of unlawful action is drastically to curtail the First Amendment." Justice Douglas, properly, objects to the Roth trial judge's standard of defining obscenity, which he finds more inimical to freedom of expression than various other criteria. "The standard of what offends 'the common conscience of the community' conflicts, in my judgment, with the command of the First Amendment that 'Congress shall make no law ••• abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.' Certainly that standard would not be an acceptable one if religion, economics, politics or philosophy were involved. How does it become a constitutional standard when literature treating with sex is concerned?" Further, he points out that "the test that suppresses a cheap tract today can suppress a literary gem tomorrow. All it need do is to incite a lascivious thought or arouse a lustful desire. The list of books that judges or juries can place in that category is endless." These arguments are unanswerable. So is the following, for which I applaud Justice Douglas: "The tests by which these convictions were obtained require only the arousing of sexual thoughts. Yet the arousing of sexual thoughts and desires happens every day in normal life in dozens of ways. Nearly 30 years ago a questionnaire sent to college and normal school women graduates asked what things were most stimulating sexually. Of 409 replies, 9 said 'music'; 18 said 'pictures'; 29 said 'dancing'; 40 said 'drama'; 95 said 'books'; and 218 said 'man.'"

,( It

I would like to add that whenever a young man shaves or a young girl makes up her face, or either of them puts on attractive clothes, it is done for the implicit purpose of arousing sexual thoughts and desires - which does not mean the intention of rushing to bed with every stranger, but merely the wish to be admired, to receive a tacit acknowledgment of one's sexual value qua man or woman. This type of acknowledgment creates the heightened interest, the excitement, the color, the personal enjoyment in human relationships with the opposite sex. There is only one ideology that would condemn it - the ideology that opposes man's enjoyment of his life on earth and holds sex as such to be evil - the same ideology that is the source and cause of anti-obscenity censorship: religion. For a discussion of the profound, metaphysical reasons of religion's antagonism to sex, I refer you to my article "Of Living Death" (The Objectivist, September-November 1968), which deals with the papal encyclical on contraception, "Of Human Life." Today, most people who profess to be religious, particularly in this country, do not share that condemnation of sex - but it is an ancient tradition which survives, consciously or subconsciously, even in the minds of many irreligious persons, because it is a logical consequence implicit in the basic causes and motives of any form of mysticism. Justice Brennan's decision in the Roth case indicates the religious source

-4of anti-obscenity legislation. Defending the tenet that obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment, Justice Brennan writes: "As early as 1712, Massachusetts made it criminal to publish 'any filthy, obscene, or profane song, pamphlet, libel or mock sermon' in imitation or mimicking of religious services • ••• Thus, profanity and obscenity were related offenses." Justice Douglas acknowledges this connection by saying: "I can understand (and at times even sympathize) with programs of civic groups and church groups to protect and defend the existing moral standards of the community. I can understand the motives of the Anthony Comstocks who would impose Victorian standards on the community." But he does not think that government "can become the sponsor of any of these movements" or that government "can throw its weight behind one school or another." Some day, in a better, i.e., more philosophical age, someone will convince the Supreme Court that anti-obscenity legislation is unconstitutional because it represents an act explicitly forbidden by the Constitution: an establishment of religion - an attempt to enforce a purely religious doctrine. The Supreme Court has been struggling from case to case, seeking to protect freedom of speech, but unable, apparently, to resist the perennial pressures clamoring for censorship. That struggle offers an important lesson on the consequences of clinging to or compromising with any irrational - i.e., indefinable, unprovable and indefensible - notion. The Roth decision explicitly admitted the intention to control thought, but still attempted to preserve a semblance of legal objectivity by demanding a national "community standard." The present Supreme Court gave up this attempt as impossible and opened the gates wide to the worst possible form of wanton, collectivist tyranny: judgment by local "community standards." And, in order to justify the unjustifiable, in order to claim that the purpose of censorship is to prohibit "antisocial" actions, not thoughts, the conservative Chief Justice Burger was willing to propound a doctrine with a far more destructive potential than that of any smutty films or filthy post cards: the doctrine of a government's right to legislate on the basis of unprovable assumptions. (To be continued.)

OBJECTIVIST CALENDAR On Saturday, Decemb.er 29, Ayn Rand will appear as one of the guests on Larry Cole's radio program in New York City. Station WRVR-FM (106.7),10-11 A.M. The following starting dates have been scheduled for the tape lectures of Dr. Leonard Peikoff's course, Modern Philosophy: Kant to the Present. Winnipeg, January 15 (contact Ellen Moore, 204-253-1630); Toronto, January 23 (Edmund West, 416-661-1777, after 8 P.M.). B.W. iii!! The Ayn Rand Letter, published fortnightly by The Ayn Rand Letter, Inc., 183 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10016. Contributing Editor: Leonard Peikoff; Subscription Director: Elayne Kalberman; Production Manager: Barbara Weiss.

LETTER® December 31, 1973

Vol. III, No. 7

PHILOSOPHY: WHO NEEDS IT (An address given to the graduating class of the United States Military Academy at West Point on March 6, 1974.) Since I am a fiction writer, let us start with a short short pose that you are an astronaut whose spaceship gets out of control on an unknown planet. When you regain consciousness and find that hurt badly, the first three questions in your mind would be: Where can I discover it? What should I do?

story. Supand crashes you are not am I? How

You see unfamiliar vegetation outside, and there is air to breathe; the sunlight seems paler than you remember it and colder. You turn to look at the sky, but stop. You are struck by a sudden feeling: if you don't look, you won't have to know that you are, perhaps, too far from the earth and no return is possible; so long as you don't know it, you are free to believe what you wish - and you experience a foggy, pleasant, but somehow guilty, kind of hope. You turn to your instruments: they may be damaged, you don't know how seriously. But you stop, struck by a sudden fear: how can you trust these instruments? How can you be sure that they won't mislead you? How can you know whether they will work in a different world? You turn away from the instruments. Now you begin to wonder why you have no desire to do anything. It seems so much safer just to wait for something to turn up somehow; it is better, you tell yourself, not to rock the spaceship. Far in the distance, you see some sort of living creatures approaching; you don't know whether they are human, but they walk on two feet. They, you decide, will tell you what to do. You are never heard from again. This is fantasy, you say? You would not act like that and no astronaut ever would? Perhaps not. But this is the way most men live their lives, here, on earth. Most men spend their days struggling to evade three questions, the answers to which underlie man's every thought, feeling and action, whether he is consciously aware of it or not: Where am I? How do I know it? What should I do? By the time they are old enough to understand these questions, men believe that they know the answers. Where am I? Say, in New York City. How do I know

© Copyright 1974, The Ayn Rand Letter, Inc. All rights reserved. Material may not be reproduced in any form without written permission.

-2-

it? It's self-evident. What should I do? Here, they are not too sure - but the usual answer is: whatever everybody does. The only trouble seems to be that they are not very active, not very confident, not very happy - and they experience, at times, a causeless fear and an undefined guilt, which they cannot explain or get rid of. They have never discovered the fact that the trouble comes from the three unanswered questions - and that there is only one science that can answer them: philosophy. Philosophy studies the fundamental nature of existence, of man, and of man's relationship to existence. As against the special sciences, which deal only with particular aspects, philosophy deals with those aspects of the universe which pertain to everything that exists. In the realm of coqnition, the special sciences are the trees, but philosophy is the soi.l which makes the forest possible. Philosophy would not tell you, for instance, whether you are in New York City or in Zanzibar (though it would give you the means to find out). But here is what it would tell you: Are you in a universe which is ruled by natural laws and, therefore, is stable, firm, absolute - and knowable? Or are you in an incomprehensible chaos, a realm of inexplicable miracles, an unpredictable, unknowable flux, which your mind is impotent to grasp? Are the things you see around you real - or are they only an illusion? Do they exist independent of any observer - or are they created by the observer? Are they the object or the subject of man's consciousness? Are they what they ~ - or can they be changed by a mere act of your consciousness, such as a wish? The nature of your actions - and of your ambition - will be different, according to which set of answers you come to accept. These answers are the province of metaphysics - the study of existence as such or, in Aristotle's words, of "being qua being" - the basic branch of philosophy. No matter what conclusions you reach, you will be confronted by the necessity to answer another, corollary question: How do I know it? Since man is not omniscient or infallible, you have to discover what you can claim as knowledge and how to prove the validity of your conclusions. Does man acquire knowledge by a process of reason - or by sudden revelation from a supernatural power? Is reason a faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses - or is it fed by innate ideas, implanted in man's mind before he was born? Is reason competent to perceive reality - or does man possess some other cognitive faculty which is superior to reason? Can man achieve certainty - or is he doomed to perpetual doubt? The extent of your self-confidence - and of your success - will be different, according to which set of answers you accept. These answers are the province of epistemology, the theory of knowledge, which studies man's means of cognition. These two branches are the theoretical foundation of philosophy. The third branch - ethics - may be regarded as its technology. Ethics does not apply to everything that exists, only to man, but it applies to every aspect of man's life: his character, his actions, his values, his relationship to all of existence. Ethics, or morality, defines a code of values to guide man's choices and actions - the choices and actions that determine the course of his life.

-3-

Just as the astronaut in my story did. not know what he should do, because he refused to know where he was and how to discover it, so you cannot know what you should do until you know the nature of the universe you deal with, the nature of your means of cognition - and your own nature. Before you come to ethics, you must answer the questions posed by metaphysics and epistemology: Is man a rational being, able to deal with reality - or is he a helplessly blind misfit, a chip buffeted by the universal flux? Are achievement and enjoyment possible to man on earth - or is he doomed to failure and disaster? Depending on the answers, you can proceed to consider the questions posed by ethics: What is good or evil for man - and why? Should man's primary concern be a quest for joy - or an escape from suffering? Should man hold self-fulfillment - or self-destruction - as the goal of his life? Should man pursue his values - or should he place the interests of others above his own? Should man seek happiness - or self-sacrifice? I do not have to point out the different consequences of these two sets of answers. You can see them everywhere - within you and around you • ./

The answers given by ethics determine how man should treat other men, and this determines the fourth branch of philosophy: politics, which defines the principles of a proper social system. As an example of philosophy's function, political philosophy will not tell you how much rationed gas you should be given and on which day of the week - it will tell you whether the government has the right to impose any rationing on anything. The fifth and last branch of philosophy is esthetics, the study of art, which is based on metaphysics, epistemology and ethics. Art deals with the needs - the refueling - of man's consciousness. Now some of you might say, as many people do: "Aw, I never think in such abstract terms - I want to deal with concrete, particular, real-life problems what do I need philosophy for?" My answer is: In order to be able to deal with concrete, particular, real-life problems - i.e., in order to be able to live on earth. You might claim - as most people do - that you have never been influenced by philosophy. I will ask you to check that claim. Have you ever thought or said the following? "Don't be so sure - nobody can be certain of anything." You got that notion from David Hume (and many, many others), even though you might never have heard of him. Or: "This may be good in theory, but it doesn't work in practice." You got that from Plato. Or: "That was a rotten thing to do, but it's only human, nobody is perfect in this world." You got it from Augustine. Or: "It may be true for you, but it's not true for me." You got it from William James. Or: "I couldn't help it! Nobody can help anything he does." You got it from Hegel. Or: "I can't prove it, but I feel that it's true." You got it from Kant. Or: "It's logical, but logic has nothing to do with reality." You got it from Kant. Or: "It's evil, because it's selfish." You got it from Kant. Have you heard the modern activists say: "Act first, think afterward"? They got it from John Dewey. Some people might answer: "Sure, I've said those things at different times, but I don't have to believe that stuff all of the time. It may have been true yesterday, but it's not true today." They got it from Hegel. They might say: "Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." They got it from a very little mind, Emerson. They might say: "But can't one compromise and borrow different

-4-

ideas from different philosophies according to the expediency of the moment?" They got it from Richard Nixon - who got it from William James. Now ask yourself: if you are not interested in abstract ideas, why do you (and all men) feel compelled to use them? The fact is that abstract ideas are conceptual integrations which subsume an incalculable number of concretes - and that without abstract ideas you would not be able to deal with concrete, particular, real-life problems. You would be in the position of a newborn infant, to whom every object is a unique, unprecedented phenomenon. The difference between his mental state and yours lies in the number of conceptual integrations your mind has performed. You have no choice about the necessity to integrate your observations, your experiences, your knowledge into abstract ideas, i.e., into principles. Your only choice is whether these principles are true or false, whether they represent your conscious, rational convictions - or a grab-bag,of notions snatched at random, whose sources, validity, context and consequences you do not know, notions which, more often than not, you would drop like a hot potato if you knew. But the principles you accept (consciously or subconsciously) may clash with or contradict one another; they, too, have to be integrated. What integrates them? Philosophy. A philosophic system is an integrated view of existence. As a human being, you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious,.rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation - or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears, thrown together by chance, but integrated by your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single, solid weight: self-doubt, like a ball and chain in the place where your mind's wings should have grown. You might say, as many people do, that it is not easy always to act on abstract principles. No, it is not easy. But how much harder is it, to have to act on them without knowing what they are? Your subconscious is like a computer - more complex a computer than men can build - and its main function is the integration of your ideas. Who programs it? Your conscious mind. If you default, if you don't reach any firm convictions, your subconscious is programmed by chance - and you deliver yourself into the power of ideas you do not know you have accepted. But one way or the other, your computer gives you print-outs, daily and hourly, in the form of emotions - which are lightning-like estimates of the things around you, calculated according to your values. If you programmed your computer by conscious thinking, you know the nature of your values and emotions. If you didn't, you don't. (To be continued.)

h ¥

56

The Ayn Rand Letter, published fortnightly by The Ayn Rand Letter, Inc., 183 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10016.

Contributing Editor: Leonard Peikoff; Subscription Director: Elayne Kalberman; Production Manager: Barbara Weiss.

LETTER®

January 14, 1974

Vol. III, No. 8

PHILOSOPHY: WHO NEEDS IT (An address given to the graduating class of the United States Military Academy at west Point on March 6, 1974.) Part II

Many people, particularly today, claim that man cannot live by logic alone, that there's the emotional element of his nature to consider, and that they rely on the guidance of their emotions. Well, so did the astronaut in my story. The joke is on him - and on them: man's values and emotions are determined by his fundamental view of life. The ultimate programmer of his subconscious is philosophy - the science which, according to the emotionalists, is impotent to affect or penetrate the murky mysteries of their feelings. The quality of a computer's output is determined by the quality of its input. If your subconscious is programmed by chance, its output will have a corresponding character. You have probably heard the computer operators' eloquent term "gigo" which means: "Garbage in, garbage out." The same formula applies to the relationship between a man's thinking and his emotions. A man who is run by emotions is like a man who is run by a computer whose printouts he cannot read. He does not know whether its programming is true or false, right or wrong, whether it's set to lead him to success or destruction, whether it serves his goals or those of some evil, unknowable power. He is blind on two fronts: blind to the world around him and to his own inner world, unable to grasp reality or his own motives, and he is in chronic terror of both. Emotions are not tools of cognition. The men who are not interested in philosophy need it most urgently: they are most helplessly in its power. The men who are not interested in philosophy absorb its principles from the cultural atmosphere around them - from schools, colleges, books, magazines, newspapers, movies, television, etc. Who sets the tone of a culture? A small handful of men: the philosophers. Others follow their lead, either by conviction or by default. For some two hundred years, under the influence of Immanuel Kant, the dominant trend of philosophy has been directed to a single goal: the destruction of man's mind, of his confidence in the power of reason. Today, we are seeing the climax of that trend. When men abandon reason, they find not only that their emotions cannot guide them, but that they can experience no emotions save one: terror. The spread of drug addiction among young people brought up on today's intellectual fashions, demonstrates

© Copyright 1974, The Ayn Rand Letter, Inc. All rights reserved. Material may not be reproduced in any form without written permission.

-2-

the unbearable inner state of men who are deprived of their means of cognition and who seek escape from reality - from the terror of their impotence to deal with existence. Observe these young people's dread of independence and their frantic desire to "belong," to attach themselves to some group, clique or gang. Most of them have never heard of philosophy, but they sense that they need some fundamental answers to questions they dare not ask - and they hope that the tribe will tell them how to live. They are ready to be taken over by any witch doctor, guru, or dictator. One of the most dangerous things a man can do is to surrender his moral autonomy to others: like the astronaut in my story, he does not know whether they are human, even though they walk on two feet. Now you may ask: If philosophy can be that evil, why should one study it? Particularly, why should one study the philosophical theories which are blatantly false, make no sense, and bear no relation to real life? My answer is: In self-protection - and in defense of truth, justice, freedom, and any value you ever held or may ever hold. Not all philosophies are evil, though too many of them are, particularly in modern history. On the other hand, at the root of every civilized achievement, such as science, technology, progress, freedom - at the root of every value we enjoy today, including the birth of this country - you will find the achievement of one man, who lived over two thousand years ago: Aristotle. If you feel nothing but boredom when reading the virtually unintelligible theories of ~ philosophers, you have my deepest sympathy. But if you brush them aside, saying: "Why should I study that stuff when I know it's nonsense?" - you are mistaken. It is nonsense, but you don't know it - not so long as you go on accepting all their conclusions, all the VlClOUS catch phrases generated by those philosophers. And not so long as you are unable to refute them. That nonsense deals with the most crucial, the life-or-death issues of man's existence. At the root of every significant philosophic theory, there is a legitimate issue - in the sense that there is an authentic need of man's consciousness, which some theories struggle to clarify and others struggle to obfuscate, to corrupt, to prevent man from ever discovering. The battle of philosophers is a battle for man's mind. If you do not understand their theories, you are vulnerable to the worst among them. The best way to study philosophy is to approach it as one approaches a detective story: follow every trail, clue and implication, in order to discover who is a murderer and who is a hero. The criterion of detection is two questions: Why? and How? If a given tenet seems to be true - why? If another tenet seems to be false - why? and how is it being put over? You will not find all the answers immediately, but you will acquire an invaluable characteristic: the ability to think in terms of essentials. Nothing is given to man automatically, neither knowledge, nor self-confidence, nor inner serenity, nor the right way to use his mind. Every value he needs or wants has to be discovered, learned and acquired - even the proper posture of his body. In this context, I want to say that I have always admired the posture of west Point graduates, a posture that projects man in proud, disciplined control of his body. Well, philosophical training gives man the proper intellectual posture - a proud, disciplined control of his mind.

-3-

In your own profession, in military science, you know the importance of keeping track of the enemy's weapons, strategy and tactics - and of being prepared to counter them. The same is true in philosophy: you have to understand the enemy's ideas and be prepared to refute them, you have to know his basic arguments and be able to blast them. In physical warfare, you would not send your men into a booby trap: you would make every effort to discover its location. Well, Kant's system is the biggest and most intricate booby trap in the history of philosophy - but it's so full of holes that once you grasp its gimmick, you can defuse it without any trouble and walk forward over it in perfect safety. And, once it is defused, the lesser Kantians - the lower ranks of his army, the philosophical sergeants, buck privates, and mercenaries of today - will fall of their own weightlessness, by chain reaction. There is a special reason why you, the future leaders of the United States Army, need to be philosophically armed today. You are the target of a special attack by the Kantian-Hegelian-collectivist establishment that dominates our cultural institutions at present. You are the army of the last semi-free country left on earth, yet you are accused of being a tool of imperialism - and "imperialism" is the name given to the foreign policy of this country, which has never engaged in military conquest and has never profited from the two world wars, which she did not initiate, but entered and won. (It was, incidentally, a foolishly overgenerous policy, which made this country waste her wealth on helping both her allies and her former enemies.) Something called "the military-industrial complex" - which is a myth or worse - is being blamed for all of this country's troubles. Bloody college hoodlums scream demands that R.O.T.e. units be banned from college campuses. Our defense budget is being attacked, denounced and undercut by people who claim that financial priority should be given to ecological rose gardens and to classes in esthetic selfexpression for the residents of the .slums. Some of you may be bewildered by this campaign and may be wondering, in good faith, what errors you committed to bring it about. If so, it is urgently important for you to understand the nature of the enemy. You are attacked, not for any errors or flaws, but for your virtues. You are denounced, not for any weaknesses, but for your strength and your competence. You are penalized for being the protectors of the United States. On a lower level of the same issue, a similar kind of campaign is conducted against the police force. Those who seek to destroy this country, seek to disarm it - intellectually and physically. But it is not a mere political issue; politics is not the cause, but the last consequence of philosophical ideas. It is not a communist conspiracy, though some communists may be involved - as maggots cashing in on a disaster they had no power to originate. The motive of the destroyers is not love for communism, but hatred for America. Why hatred? Because America is the living refutation of a Kantian universe. Today's mawkish concern with and compassion for the feeble, the flawed, the suffering, the guilty, is a cover for the profoundly Kantian hatred of the innocent, the strong, the able, the successful, the virtuous, the confident, the happy. A philosophy out to destroy man's mind is necessarily a philosophy of hatred for man, for man's life, and for every human value. Hatred of the good for being the good, is the hallmark of the twentieth century. This is the enemy you are facing. A battle of this kind requires special weapons. It has to be fought with a full understanding of your cause, a full confidence in yourself, and the fullest certainty of the moral rightness of both. Only philosophy can provide you with these weapons.

-4The assignment I gave myself for tonight is not to sell you on my philosophy, but on philosophy as such. I have, however, been speaking implicitly of my philosophy in every sentence - since none of us and no statement can escape from philosophical premises. What is my selfish interest in the matter? I am confident enough to think that if you accept the importanc~ of philosophy and the task of examining it critically, it is my philosophy that you will come to accept. Formally, I call it Objectivism, but informally I call it a philosophy for living on earth. You will find an explicit presentation of it in my books, particularly in Atlas Shrugged. In conclusion, allow me to speak in personal terms. This evening means a great deal to me. I feel deeply honored by the opportunity to address you. I can say not as a patriotic bromide, but with full knowledge of the necessary metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, political and esthetic roots - that the united States of America is the greatest, the noblest and, in its original founding principles, the only moral country in the history of the world. There is a kind of quiet radiance associated in my mind with the name West Point - because you have preserved the spirit of those original founding principles and you are their symbol. There were contradictions and omissions in those principles, and there may be in yours - but I am speaking of the essentials. There may be individuals in your history who did not live up to your highest standards - as there are in every institution - since no institution and no social system can guarantee the automatic perfection of all its members; this depends on an individual's free will. I am speaking of your standards. You have preserved three qualities of character which were typical at the time of America's birth, but are virtually non-existent today: earnestness - dedication a sense of honor. Honor is self-esteem made visible in action. You have chosen to risk your lives for the defense of this country. I will not insult you by saying that you are dedicated to selfless service - it is not a virtue in my morality. In my morality, the defense of one's country means that a man is personally unwilling to live as the conquered slave of any enemy, foreign or domestic. This is an enormous virtue. Some of you may not be consciously aware of it. I want to help you to realize it. The army of a free co~ntry has a great responsibility: the right to use force, but not as an instrument of compulsion and brute conquest - as the armies of other countries have done in their histories - only as an instrument of a free nation's self-defense, which means: the defense of man's individual rights. The principle of using force only in retaliation against those who initiate its use, is the principle of subordinating might to right. The highest integrity and sense of honor are required for such a task. No other army in the world has achieved it. You have. West Point has given America a long line of heroes, known and unknown. You, this year's graduates, have a glorious tradition to carryon - which I admire profoundly, not because it is a tradition, but because it is glorious. ,

Since I came from a country guilty of the worst tyranny on earth, I am particularly able to appreciate the meaning, the greatness and the supreme value of that which you are defending. So, in my own name and in the name of many people who think as I do, I want to say, to all the men of West Point, past, present and future: Thank you.

The Ayn Rand Letter, published fortnightly by The Ayn Rand Letter, Inc., 183 Madison Avenue, NewVork, N.V.1001S. Contributing Editor: Leonard Peikoff; Subscription Director: Elayne Kalberman; Production Manager: Barbara Weiss.

LETTER®

January 28, 1974

Vol. III, No. 9

PHILOSOPHICAL DETECTION My last two Letters were devoted to a brief presentation of an enormous subject: "Philosophy: Who Needs It." I covered the essentials, but a more detailed discussion of certain points will be helpful to those who wish to study philosophy (particularly today, because philosophy has been abolished by the two currently fashionable schools, Linguistic Analysis and Existentialism). I said that the best way to study philosophy is to approach it as one approaches a detective story. A detective seeks to discover the t!uth about a crime. A philosophical detective must seek to determine the truth or falsehood of an abstract system and thus discover whether he is dealing with a great achievement or an intellectual crime. A detective knows what to look for, or what clues to regard as significant. A philosophical detective must remember that all human knowledge has a hierarchical structure; he must learn to distinguish the fundamental from the derivative, and in judging a given philosopher's system, he must look - first and above all else - at its fundamentals. If the foundation does not hold, neither will anything else. In philosophy, the fundamentals are metaphysics and epistemology. On the basis of a knowable universe and of a rational faculty's competence to grasp it, you can define man's proper ethics, politics and esthetics. (And if you make an error, you re~ tain the means and the frame nf reference necessary to correct it.) But what will you accomplish if you advocate honesty in ethics, while telling men that there is no such thing as truth, fact or reality? What will you do if you advocate political freedom on the grounds that you feel it is good, and find yourself confronting an ambitious thug who declares that he feels quite differently? The layman's error, in regard to philosophy, is the tendency to accept consequences while ignoring their causes - to take the end result of a long sequence of thought as the given and to regard it as "self-evident" or as an irreducible primary, while negating its preconditions. Examples can be seen all around us, particularly in politics. There are liberals who want to preserve individual freedom while denying its source: individual rights. There are religious conservatives who claim to advocate capitalism while attacking its root: reason. There are sundry "libertarians" who plagiarize the Objectivist theory of politics, while rejecting the metaphysics, epistemology and ethics on which it rests. That attitude, of course, is not confined to philosophy: its simplest example is the people who scream that they need more gas and that the oil industry should be taxed out of existence. As a philosophical detective, you must remember that nothing is self-evident except the material of sensory perception - and that an irreducible primary is a fact which cannot be analyzed (i.e., broken into components) or derived from antecedent facts. You must examine your own convictions and any idea or theory you study, by asking: Is this an irreducible primary - and, if not, what does it depend on? You

© Copyright'1974, The Ayn Rand Letter, Inc. All rights reserved. Material may not be reproduced in any form without written permission.

-2-

must ask the same question about any answer you obtain, until you do come to an irreducible primary: if a given idea contradicts a primary, the idea is false. This process will lead you to the field of metaphysics and epistemology - and you will discover in what way every aspect of man's knowledge depends on that field and stands or falls with it.

There is an old fable which I read in Russian (I do not know whether it exists in English). A pig comes upon an oak tree, devours the acorns strewn on the ground and, when his belly is full, starts digging the soil to undercut the oak tree's roots. A bird perched on a high branch upbraids him, saying: "If you could lift your snoot, you would discover that the acorns grow on this tree." In order to avoid that pig's role in the forest of the intellect, one must know and protect the metaphysical-epistemological tree that produces the acorns of one's convictions, goals and desires. And, conversely, one must not gobble up any brightly colored fruit one finds, without bothering to discover that it comes from a deadly yew tree. If laymen did no more than learn to identify the nature of such fruit and stop munching it or passing it around, they would stop being the victims and the unwary transmission belts of philosophical poison. But a minimal grasp of philosophy is required in order to do it. If an intelligent and honest layman were to translate his implicit, common-sense rationality (which he takes for granted) into explicit philosophical premises, he would hold that the world he perceives is real (existence exists), that things are what they are (the Law of Identity), that reason is the only means of gaining knowledge and logic is the method of using reason. Assuming this base, let me give you an example of what philosophical detective would do with some of the catch phrases I cited in my preceding Le.tters.

/a

"It may be true for you, but it's not true for me." What is the meaning of the concept "truth"? Truth is the recognition of reality. (This is known as the correspondence theory of truth.) The same thing cannot be true and untrue at the same time and in the same respect. That catch phrase, therefore, means: a. that the Law of Identity is invalid; b. that there is no objectively perceivable reality, only some indeterminate flux which is nothing in particular, i.e., that there is no reality (in which case, there can be no such thing as truth); or c. that the two debaters perceive two different universes (in which case, no debate is possible). (The purpose of the catch phrase is the destruction of objectivity.) "Don't be so sure - nobody can be certain of anything." Bertrand Russell's gibberish to the contrary notwithstanding, that pronouncement includes itself; therefore, one cannot be sure that one cannot be sure of anything. The pronouncement means that ' no knowledge of any kind is possible to man, i.e., that man is not conscious. Furthermore, if one tried to accept that catch phrase, one would find that its second part contradicts its first: if nobody can be certain of anything, then everybody can be certain of everything he pleases - since it cannot be refuted, and he can claim he is not certain he is certain (which is the purpose of that notion). "This may be good in theory, but it doesn't work in practice." What is a theory? It is a set of abstract principles purporting to be either a correct description of reality or a set of guidelines for man's actions. Correspondence to reality is the standard of value by which one estimates a theory. If a theory is inapplicable to reality, by what standard can it be estimated as "good"? If one were to accept that notion, it would mean: a. that the activity of man's mind is unrelated to reality; b. that the purpose of thinking is neither to acquire knowledge nor to guide man's actions. (The purpose of that catch phrase is to invalidate man's conceptual faculty.)

-3-

"It's logical, but logic has nothing to do with reality." Logic is the art or skill of non-contradictory identification. Logic has a single law, the Law of Identity, and its various corollaries. If logic has nothing to do with reality, it means that the Law of Identity is inapplicable to reality. If so, then: a. things are not what they are; b. things can be and not be at the same time, in the same respect, i.e., reality is made up of contradictions. If so, by what means did anyone discover it? By illogical means. (This last is for sure.) The purpose of that notion is crudely obvious. Its actual meaning is not: "Logic has nothing to do with reality," but: "I, the speaker, ha~e nothing to do with logic (or with reality)." When people use that catch phrase, they mean either: "It's logical, but I don't choose to be logical" or: "It's logical, but people are not logical, they don't think - and I intend to pander to their irrationality." This is a clue to the kind of error (or epistemological sloppiness) that permits the spread of such catch phrases. Most people use them in regard to some concrete, particular instance and are not aware of the fact that they are uttering a devastating metaphysical generalization. When they say: "It may be true for you, but it's not true for me," they usually mean some optional matter of taste, involving some minor valuejudgment. The meaning they intend to convey is closer to: "You may like it, but I don't." The unchallenged idea that value-preferences and emotions are unaccountable primaries, is at the root of their statement. And, in defense of their failure of introspection, they are recklessly willing to wipe the universe out of existence. When people hear the catch phrase: "It may have been true·.yesterday, but it's not true today," they usually think of man-made issues or customs, such as: "Men fought duels yesterday, but not today" or: "Women wore hoop skirts yesterday, but not today" or: "We're not. in the horse-and-buggy age any longer." The proponents of that catch phrase are s~ldom innocent, and the examples they give are usually of the above kind. So their victims - who have never discovered the difference between the metaphysical and the man-made - find themselves, in helpless bewilderment, unable to refute such conclusions as: "Freedom was a value yesterday, but not today" or: "Work was a human necessity yesterday, but not today" or: "Reason was valid yesterday, but not today." Now observe the method I used to analyze those catch phrases. You must attach clear, specific meanings to words, i.e., be able to identify their referents in reality. This is a precondition, without which neither critical judgment nor thinking of any kind is possible. All philosophical con games count on your using words as vague approximations. You must not take a catch phrase - or any abstract statement - as if it were approximate. Take it literally. Don't translate it, don't glamorize it, don't make the mistake of thinking, as many people do: "Oh, nobody could possibly mean this!" and then proceea to endow it with some whitewashed meaning of your own. Take it straight, for what it does say and mean. Instead of dismissing the catch phrase, accept it - for a few brief moments. Tell yourself, in effect: "If I were to accept it as true, what would follow?" This is the best way of unmasking any philosophical fraud. The old saying of plain con men holds true for intellectual ones: "You can't cheat an honest man." Intellectual honestyconsists in taking ideas seriously. To take ideas seriously means that you intend to live by, to practice, any idea you accept as true. Philosophy provides man with a comprehensive view of life. In order to evaluate it properly, ask yourself what a given theory, if accepted, would do to a human life, starting with your own. Most people would be astonished by this method. They think that abstract thinking must be "impersonal" - which means that ideas must hold no personal meaning, value or importance to the thinker. This notion rests on the premise that a personal interest is an agent of distortion. But "personal" does not mean "non-objective"; it de-

-4-

pends on the kind of person you are. If your thinking is determined by your emotions, then you will not be able to judge anything, personally or impersonally. But if you are the kind of person who knows that reality is not your enemy, that truth and knowledge are of crucial, personal, selfish importance to you and to your own life - then, the more passionately personal the thinking, the clearer and truer. Would you be willing and able to act, daily and consistently, on the belief that reality is an illusion? That the things you see around you, do not exist? That it makes no difference whether you drive your car down a road or over the edge of an abyss - whether you eat or starve - whether you save the life of a person you love or push him into a blazing fire? It is particularly important to apply this test to any moral theory. Would you be willing and able to act on the belief that altruism is a moral ideal? That yo~ust sacrifice everything - everything you love, seek, own, or desire, including your life - for the benefit of any and every stranger? Do not evade such issues by means of self-abasement - by saying: "Maybe reality is unreal, but I'm not wise enough to transcend my low-grade, materialistic bondage" or: "Yes, altruism is an ideal, but I'm not good enough to practice it." Self-abasement is not an answer - and it is not a license to apply to others the precepts from which you exempt yourself; it is merely a trap set by the very philosophers you are trying to judge. They have spent a prodigious effort to teach you to assume an unearned guilt. Once you assume it, you pronounce your mind incompetent to judge, you renounce morality, integrity and thought, and you condemn yourself to the gray fog of the approximate, the uncertain, the uninspiring, the flameless, through which most men drag their lives - which is the purpose of that trap. The acceptance of unearned guilt is a major cause of philosophical passivity. There are other causes - and other kinds of guilt which are earned. (To be continued.)

OBJECTIVIST CALENDAR On Tuesday, April 30, Ayn Rand will appear on "Day at Night," an interview program on WNET-TV (Channel 13), at 11:30 P.M., in New York City. This program is syndicated in many other cities, on different dates; for information, contact your local public TV station. The following starting dates have been scheduled for Dr. Leonard Peikoff's taped courses. Introduction to Logic. Eugene, Oreg., April 14 (contact Joyce H. Lee, 503-636-4268, eves.); Atlanta, May 6 (Dr. Bonar Newton, 404-351-9096). Founders of Western Philosophy: Thales to Hume. San Diego, April 17 (Anton Rosenlund, 714-297-1990 or 714-296-2277); San Antonio, April 20 (Dr. Lee Brooks, 512-6847565, eves.). B.W.

8M

4*4b The Ayn Rand Letter, published fortnightly by The Ayn Rand Letter, Inc., 183 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10016. Contributing Editor: Leonard Peikofl; Subscription Director: Elayne Kalberman; Production Manager: Barbara Weiss.

LETTER®

February 11, 1974

Vol. III, No. 10

PHILOSOPHICAL DETECTION Part II

A major source of men's earned guilt in regard to philosophy - as well as in regard to their own minds and lives - is failure of introspection. Specifically, it is the failure to identify the nature and causes of their emotions. An emotion as such tells you nothing about reality, beyond the fact that something makes you feel something. Without a ruthlessly honest commitment to introspection - to the conceptual identification of your inner states - you will not discover what you feel, what arouses the feeling, and whether your feeling is an appropriate response to the facts of reality, or a mistaken response, or a vicious illusion produced by years of self-deception. The men who scorn or dread introspection take their inner states for granted, as an irreducible and irresistible primary, and let their emotions determine their actions. This means that they choose to act without knowing the context (reality), the causes (motives), and the consequences (goals) of their actions. The field of extrospection is based on two cardinal questions: "What do I know?" and "How do I know it?" In the field of introspection, the two guiding questions are: "What do I feel?" and "Why do I feel it?" Most men can give themselves only some primitively superficial answers - and they spend their lives struggling with incomprehensible inner conflicts, alternately repressing their emotions and indulging in emotional fits, regretting it, losing control again, rebelling against the mystery of their inner chaos, trying to unravel it, giving up, deciding to feel nothing - and feeling the growing pressure of fear, guilt, self-doubt, which makes the answers progressively harder to find. Since an emotion is experienced as an immediate primary, but is, in fact, a complex, derivative sum, it permits men to practice one of the ugliest of psychological phenomena: rationalization. Rationalization is a cover-up, a process of providing one's emotions with a false identity, of giving them spurious explanations and justifications - in order to hide one's motives, not just from others, but primarily from oneself. The price of rationalizing is the hampering, the distortion and, ultimately, the destruction of one's

© Copyright'1974, The Ayn Rand Letter, Inc. All rights reserved. Material may not be reproduced in any form without written permission.

-2-

cognitive faculty. Rationalization is a process not of perceiving reality, but of attempting to make reality fit one's emotions. Philosophical catch phrases are handy means of rationalization. They are quoted, repeated and perpetuated in order to justify feelings which men are unwilling to admit. "Nobody can be certain of anything" is a rationalization for a feeling of envy and hatred toward those who are certain. "It may be true for you, but it's not true for me" is a rationalization for one's inability and unwillingness to prove the validity of one's contentions. "Nobody is perfect in this world" is a rationalization for the desire to continue indulging in one's imperfections, i. e., the desire to escape morality. "Nobody can help anything he does" is a rationalization for the escape from moral responsibility. "It may have been true yesterday, but it's not true today" is a rationalization for the desire to get away with contradictions. "Logic has nothing to do with reality" is a crude rationalization for a desire to subordinate reality to one's whims. "I can't prove it, but I feel that it's true" is more than a rationalization: it is a description of the process of rationalizing. Men do not accept a catch phrase by a process of thought, they seize upon a catch phrase - any catch phrase - because it fits their emotions. Such men do not judge the truth of a statement by its correspondence to reality - they judge reality by its correspondence to their feelings. If, in the course of philosophical detection, you find yourself, at times, stopped by the indignantly bewildered question: "How could anyone arrive at such nonsense?" - you will begin to understand it when you discover that evil philosophies ~ systems of rationalization. The nonsense is never accidental, if you observe what subjects it deals with. The elaborate structures in which it is presented are never purposeless. You may find a grim proof of reality's power in the fact that the most virulently rabid irrationalist senses the derivative nature of emotions and will not proclaim their primacy, their sovereign causelessness, but will seek to justify them as responses to reality - and if reality contradicts them, he will invent another reality of which they are the humble reflectors, not the rulers. In modern history, the philosophy of Kant is a systematic rationalization of every major psychological vice. The metaphysical inferiority of this world (as a "phenomenal" world of mere "appearances"), is a rationalization for the hatred of reality. The notion that reason is unable to perceive reality and deals only with "appearances," is a rationalization for the hatred of reason; it is also a rationalization for a profound kind of epistemological egalitarianism which reduces reason to equality with the futile puttering of "idealistic" dreamers. The metaphysical superiority of the "noumenal" world, is a rationalization for the supremacy of emotions, which are thus given the power to know the unknowable by ineffable means. The complaint that man can perceive things only through his own consciousness, not through any other kinds of consciousnesses, is a rationalization for the most profound type of second-handedness ever confessed in print: it is the whine of a man tortured by perpetual concern with what others think and by inability to decide which others he should conform to. The wish to perceive

-3-

"things in themselves" unprocessed by any consciousness, is a rationalization for the wish to escape the effort and responsibility of cognition - by means of the automatic omniscience a whim-worshiper ascribes to his emotions. The moral imperative of the duty to sacrifice oneself to duty, a sacrifice without beneficiaries, is a gross rationalization for the image (and soul) of an austere, ascetic monk who winks at you with an obscenely sadistic pleasure - the pleasure of breaking man's spirit, ambition, success, self-esteem, and enjoy-' ment of life on earth. Et cetera. These are just some of the highlights. Observe that the history of philosophy reproduces - in slow motion, on a macrocosmic screen - the workings of ideas in an individual man's mind. A man who has accepted false premises is free to reject them, but until and unless he does, they do not lie still in his mind, they grow without his conscious participation and reach their ultimate logical conclusions. A similar process takes place in a culture: if the false premises of an influential philosopher are not challenged, generations of his followers - acting as the culture's subconscious - milk them down to their ultimate consequences. Since Kant substituted the collective for the objective (in the form of "categories" collectively creating a "phenomenal" world), the next step was the philosophy of Hegel - which is a rationalization for subjectivism, for the power-lust of an ambitious elite who would create a "noumenal," non-material world (by means of establishing the brute force of an absolute state in the "phenomenal," material one). Since those outside the elite could not be counted upon to obey or accept such a future, the next side step was Pragmatism - which is a rationalization for the concrete-bound, range-of-the-moment, anti-conceptual mentalities that long for liberation from principles and future. Today, there is the phil6sophy of Linguistic Analysis - which is a ra~ tionalization for men who are able to focus on single words, but unable to integrate them into sentences, paragraphs or philosophical systems, yet who wish to be philosophers. And there is the philosophy of Existentialism - which discards the politeness of rationalization, takes Kant straight, and proclaims the supremacy of emotions in an unknowable, incomprehensible, inexplicable, nauseating non-world. Observe that, in spite of their differences, altruism is the untouched, unchallenged common denominator in the ethics of all these philosophies. It is the single richest source of rationalizations. A morality that cannot be practiced is an unlimited cover for any practice. Altruism is the rationalization for the mass slaughter in Soviet Russia - for the legalized looting in the welfare state - for the power-lust of politicians seeking to serve the "common good" - for the concept of a "common good" - for envy, hatred, malice, brutality - for the arson, robbery, highjacking, kidnapping, murder perpetrated by the selfless advocates of sundry collectivist causes - for sacrifice and more sacrifice and an infinity of sacrificial victims. When a theory achieves nothing but the opposite of its alleged goals, yet its advocates remain undeterred, you may be certain that 'it is not a conviction or an "ideal," but a rationalization. Philosophical rationalizations are not always easy to detect. Some of them are so complex that an innocent man may be taken in and paralyzed by intellectual confusion. At their first encounter with modern philosophy, many people make the mistake of dropping it and running, with the thought: "I know

-4-

it's false, but I can't prove it. I know something's wrong there, but I can't waste my time and effort trying to untangle it." Here is the danger of such a policy: you might forget all about Kant's "categories" and his "noumenal" world, but some day, under the pressure of facing some painfully difficult choice, when you feel tempted to evade the responsibility or to make a dishonest decision, when you need all of your inner strength, confidence and courage, you will find yourself thinking: "How do I know what's true? Nobody knows it. Nobody can be certain of anything." This is all Kant wanted of you. A thinker like Kant does not want you to agree with him: all he wants is that you give him the benefit of the doubt. He knows that your own subconscious does the rest. What he dreads is your conscious mind: once you understand the meaning of his theoriep, they lose their power to threaten you, like a Halloween mask in bright sunlight. One further suggestion: if you undertake the task of philosophical detection, drop the dangerous little catch phrase which advises you to keep an "open mind." This is a very ambiguous term - as demonstrated by a man who once accused a famous politician of having "a wide open mind." That term is an anticoncept: it is usually taken to mean an objective, unbiased approach to ideas, but it is used as a call for perpetual skepticism, for holding no firm convictions and granting plausibility to anything. A "closed mind" is usually taken to mean the attitude of a man impervious to ideas, arguments, facts and logic, who clings stubbornly to some mixture of unwarranted assumptions, fashionable catch phrases, tribal prejudices - and emotions. But this is not a "closed" mind, it is a'passive one. It is a mind that has dispensed with (or never acquired) the practice of thinking or judging, and feels threatened by any request to consider anything. What objectivity and the study of philosophy require is not an "open mind," but an active mind - a mind able and eagerly willing to examine ideas, but to examine them_crItIcally. An active mind does not grant equal status to truth and falsehood; it does not remain floating forever in a stagnant vacuum of neutrality and uncertainty; by assuming the responsibility of judgment, it reaches firm convictions and holds to them. Since it is able to prove its convictions, an active mind achieves an unassailable certainty in confrontations ~with assailants - a certainty untainted by spots of blind faith, approximation, evasion and fear. If you keep an active mind, you will discover (assuming that you started with common-sense rationality) that every challenge you examine will strengthen your convictions, that the conscious, reasoned rejection of false theories will help you to clarify and amplify the true ones, that your ideological enemies will make you invulnerable by providing countless demonstrations of their own impotence. No, you will not have to keep your mind eternally open to the task of examlnlng every new variant of the same old falsehoods. You will discover that they are variants of attacks on certain philosophical essentials - and that the entire, gigantic battle of philosophy (and of human history) revolves around the upholding or the destruction of these essentials. You will learn to recognize at a glance a given theory's stand on these essentials, and to reject the attacks without lengthy consideration - because you will know (and will be able to prove) in what way any given attack, old or new, is made of contradictions

-5and "stolen concepts." I will list these essentials for your future reference. But do not attempt the shortcut of accepting them on faith (or as semi-grasped approximations and floating abstractions). That would be a fundamental contradiction and it would not work. The essentials are: in metaphysics, the ~ of Identity - in epistemology, the supr~macy of reason - in ethics, rational egoism - in politics, individual rights (i.e., capitalism) - in esthetics, metaphysical values. If you reach the day when these essentials become your absolutes, you will have entered Atlantis - at least, psychologically; which is a precondition of the possibility ever to enter it existentially.

A REPORT Many readers have written to us asking about the response to Ayn Rand's lecture at West Point. They are interested, they said, because they regard West Point as an institution representing the original premises of this country. Miss Rand's lecture, sponsored by the English Department, had been intended for the graduating class (about 400), as part of the senior-year philosophy course. With military punctuality, the audience assembled - 1200 people, including row after row of gray-uniformed cadets, a great many faculty members (all of whom are military officers), and some civilians; when Miss Rand reached the podium, they greeted her with a standing ovation. Throughout the talk, attentive silence alternated with bursts of laughter or applause, at appropriate points. At the end, after her solemn tribute to the Army of the United States, as Miss Rand raised her hand in a military salute, the audience rose in a body, offering a longer, more tumultuous ovation. After a brief question period, during which Miss Rand's answers on political and philosophical subjects evoked stormy cheers, a reception was held in another building. The place was jammed with cadets struggling to break a path to Miss Rand, bombarding her with questions. A distinguished colonel, a senior faculty member, told me: "Usually these receptions consist of a handful of people seated in a corner. I've never seen anything like this." As we were leaving, I overheard an exchange between Miss Rand and the head of the Point's philosophy program. "Did I sell the cadets on philosophy to your satisfaction?" she asked. "You did more," he said. "You satisfied

-6-

me qua philosophy teacher, qua colonel, and qua man." Since our return to New York, we have received reports of unusual philosophic ferment among the cadets, including heated discussions in class and out. We have received a request for 100 copies of the Letters containing the lecture, to be distributed to students and teachers who wish to study it. The most eloquent evidence of the response is the following: West Point has asked (and received) permission to reprint "Philosophy: Who Needs It" in a new philosophy textbook which the English Department is publishing for this fall's classes. The editors are placing Ayn Rand's lecture at the beginning of the book - to serve as our future officers' introduction to the subject of philosophy. Leonard Peikoff

OBJECTIVIST CALENDAR The following starting dates were scheduled for the taped lectures of Dr. Leonard Peikoff's course, Introduction to Logic: Denver, May 23 (contact Robert Gifford, 303-751-8052); Montreal, June 13 (Christian David Sweeny, 514-484-8094). B.W.

The Ayn Rand Letter, published fortnightly by The Ayn Rand Letter, Inc., 183 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10016. Contributing Editor: Leonard Peikoff; Subscription Director: Elayne Kalberman; Production Manager: Barbara Weiss.

LETTER®

Vol. III, No. 15

April 22, 1974

IDEAS V. MEN

In my Letter of February 25, 1974, under the title "Ideas v. Goods," I discussed a Time magazine story about a lecture by Professor Ronald H. Coase, advocating government control of the press. Thereafter, I received several interesting letters on the subject. They may be summarized by two representative excerpts: Declaring that I have made "a disastrous error," one letter says: "The error consi.sted in trusting the veracity of Time's account of the talk ••• Time's account ~as disgracefully inaccurate, and in fact represented Coase's thesis as having been precisely the opposite of what it was." The other letter says: "Your article on Coase was brilliant •••• I have the text of his speech - it is far more evil than the Time summary." This great a difference of opinion about the same story, was intriguing. So I read the full text of Mr. Coase's lecture, which was published in the May 1974 issue of Tn~ Americap Economic Review, under the title "The Market for Goods and the Market for Ideas." The lecture was originally delivered at a meeting of the American Economic Association, as part of a discussion devoted to liThe Economics of the First Amendment." Of the two letters I quoted, the second one is right. If the Time erred at all, it erred on the side of kindness to Mr. Coase: it imparted to his lecture by presenting it as if it were the forthright advocacy of cific viewpoint. But it wasn't. The reporter got the message, however; omitted was the deviousness of the form.

summary dignity a spewhat he

Mr. Coase did not say that he favors government control of the press. He structured his talk in the form of a question mark, as if he were merely presenting an issue raised by others, to be mulled over and resolved by others - while his part was confined to piling up the kind of evidence that could lead to only one conclusion: the one reached by the Time reporter. Mr. Coase states his thesis as follows: "What is the general view that I will be examining? It is that, in the market for goods, government regulation is desirable whereas, in the market for ideas, government regulation is undesirable and should be strictly limited." He challenges this "ambivalence" and states (later): "I do not believe that this distinction between the market for goods and the market for ideas is valid. There is no fundamental difference between these two markets and, in deciding on public policy with regard to them, we need to

© Copyright'1974, The Ayn Rand Letter, Inc. All rights reserved. Material may not be reproduced in any form without written permission.

-2-

take into account the same considerations." If this is his thesis, how does Mr. Coase proceed to discuss it? Presumably for the sake of argument, he accepts all the arguments advocating government regulation of the market for goods, or he takes such arguments as an unchallenged given, and applies them to the market for ideas. Does he do it facetiously? No, in dead earnest. Does he reduce those arguments to absurdity? No, he makes them sound plausibly and easily applicable to the market for ideas. Does he use that method to dramatize the impracticality or the evil of government regulation? No, he suggests that such regulation would be more desirable in the market for ideas than in the market for goods. Mr. Coase begins his attack on the dichotomy, not by defending the market for goods, but by denouncing "the peculiar status of the market for ideas." He seems to regard the importance which men attach to the freedom of the mind as inexplicable, and seeks for an explanation. He quotes from an article by Aaron Director, who quotes a statement by Justice William o. Douglas in a Supreme Court opinion: "free speech, free press, free exercise of religion are placed separate and apart; they are above and beyond the police power; they are not subject to regulation in the manner of factories, slums, apartment houses, production of oil and the like." Mr. Coase' s own comment on this quotation is: "a statement which is no doubt intended as an interpretation of the First Amendment, but which obviously embodies a point of view not dependent on constitutional considerations." (?!) "Director remarks of the attachment to free speech that it is 'the only area where laissez-faire is still respectable.' Why should this be so? In part, this may be due to the fact that belief in a free market in ideas does not have the same roots as belief in the value of free trade in goods. To quote Director again: 'The free market as a desirable method of organizing the intellectual life of the community was urged long before it was advocated as a desirable method of organizing its economic life. The advantage of free exchange of ideas was recognized before that of the voluntary exchange of goods and services in competitive markets.'" Mr. Coase seems to regard this as a historical accident or a matter of tradition. He does not see or mention the fact that the demand for freedom of ideas had to precede freedom of trade, that without the heroic struggle of those who fought for a free market in ideas, no such thing as a free market in goods would or could have been discovered. That he does not see it, is indicated in his next paragraph: "For most people in most countries (and perhaps in all countries), the provision of food, clothing, and shelter is a good deal more important than the provision of the 'right ideas,' even if it is assumed that we know what they are." Obviously, Mr. Coase does not know and does not care to know what they are - nor does he care to observe that the food, clothing and shelter of most people in all countries depend on certain philosophical ideas and vanish when those ideas vanish. It is not on the basis of Time's alleged "inaccuracy" that I accuse the conservatives of anti-intellectuality. " ••• the difference in view about the role of government in these two markets," Mr. Coase goes on, "is really quite extraordinary and demands an explanation. It is not enough merely to say that the government should be excluded from a sphere of activity because it is vital to the functioning of our society •••• The paradox is that government intervention which is so harmful in the one sphere becomes beneficial in the other •••• What is the explanation for the paradox?" And now, his manner implying the approach of the new, the startling, the daringly original ("Director's gentle nature does not allow him to do more than

-3-

hint at it ••• I WOUld. put the point more bluntly"), Mr. Coase reveals the notion he regards as sufficiently explanatory: "The market for ideas is the market in which the intellectual conducts his trade. The explanation of the paradox is selfinterest and self-esteem. Self-esteem leads the intellectuals to magnify the importance of their own market. That others should be regulated seems natural, particularly as many of the intell.ectuals see themselves as doing the regulating. But self-interest combines with self-esteem to ensure that, while others are regulated, regulation should net apply to them. And so it is possible to live with these contradictory views about the role of government in these two markets. It is the conclusion that matters. It may not be a nice explanation, but I can think of no other for this. strange situation." Observe that an alleged defender of capitalism regards self-interest as a base motive, and uses the werd "self-esteem" as a pejorative term. What follows is columns and columns devoted to denouncing the sins of the American and British press, some ef which is true, some too trivial to bother about, all of it held together by an intense hostility and prefaced by the statement: uIf we examine the actions: and views of the press, they are consistent in only one respect: they are al.ways. consistent with the self-interest of the press." (I wish this were true;. if it were, New York City would still have eight newspapers, instead ef the present three, five of them committed suicide by advocating or compromising with the pub.lic policies that killed them.) If the purpose of Mr. Coase's talk was to fight government control of business by showing that the extension of such centrol to the press would be a calamity, can that purpose be achieved by presenting the press as so irresponsible and unscrupulous that an innocent bystander would be.gin to. wish for government control? But the issue goes de.eper than that. Mr. Coase's hostility is not directed merely at modern jeurnalists: it is directed at man's mind as such and at the mind's demand for freedom. A revelt.ing sequence, which Time generously omitted, begins with: "There has surely neve'r been a more high-minded scholar than John Milton. As his Areopagitica 'fo.r th.e liberty of unlicensed printing' is probably the most celebrated defense of the doctrine of freedom of the press ever written, it seemed to me that it. would be worthwhil.e to. examine the nature of his argument for a free press." He quotes frOID. Milton~ II:Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely accordinq to co,nscien'ce" abeve all liberties u - and he quotes a series of other passages from Milton,; which are beautiful, eloquent and unanswerable. Mr. Coasets' answer is:: liT]]) thefo·rmation of Milton's views, self-interest may perhaps have played a part ,; but there can be little doubt that his argument embodies a good deaJL of inte,ll.ecit:ual pride ••• " There follows Mr. Coase' s sarcastic, inaccurate paraphrase of Mi1ton's arguments: "The writer is a learned man,. diligent and trustworthy~ The licenser [censor] would be ignorant, incompetent,; and basely mo:tivated, perhaps • younger , and 'inferior in judgment.' The . common man always ch.o.eses trutfu as against falsehood u - and Mr. Coase' s conclusion: "The: pie:ture is a li.ttl.e too one-sided to be wholly convincing."

No, Mr. Cease does no:t. say that he favors government regulation of the press. He merely suggests: that. in. all. the history of thought, from a great classic on down, no valid argument. for a. free' pres:s: has ever been offered. As to. Mr .. Coase"s: vi.ew o;f man and of man's nature: "In all markets, produce:rs have some' reasons: for bedingj honest and some for being dishonest; consumers have some info:rmation Ibu.t are no,t ful.ly informed or even able to digest the infoxmation they have';; regul.ato;rs: common1y wish to do a good job, and though often incompetent and s:1:lbj:ect to) the influence of special interests, they act like this

-4-

because, like all of us, they are human beings whose strongest motives are not the highest." (E.g., such low-grade motives as self-interest, self-esteem and intellectual pride.) In case any listener missed the implications of his foggier statements, Mr. Coase permits himself an explicit one: "My argument is that we should use the same approach for all markets when deciding on public policy. In fact, if we do this and use for the market for ideas the same approach which has commended itself to economists for the market for goods, it is apparent that the case for government intervention in the market for ideas is much stronger than it is, in general, in the market for goods." To prove this, Mr. Coase lists a number of examples, applying to the market for ideas the arguments used by economists to justify government intervention in the market for goods. He succeeds: granting the unchallenged premises of the arguments, the list is a veritable arsenal for statists. E.g.: "Or consider the question of consumer ignorance which is commonly thought to be a justification for government intervention. It is hard to believe that the general public is in a better position to evaluate competing views on economic and social policy than to choose between different kinds of food. [This particular bit of argumentation was picked up and mentioned, without rebuttal, by the three press reports that I have read.] Yet there is support for regulation in the one case but not in the other." In the concluding paragraph of his lecture, Mr. Coase states that "there remains the question of which policies would be, in fact, the m9st appropriate • ••• 1 do not believe that we will be able to form a judgment in which we can have any confidence unless we abandon the present ambivalence about the performance of government in the two markets and adopt a more consistent view. We have to decide whether the government is as incompetent as is generally assumed in the market for ideas, in which case we would want to decrease government intervention in the market for goods, or whether it is as efficient as it is generally assumed to be in the market for goods, in which case we would want to increase government regulation in the market for ideas. Of course, one could adopt an intermediate position - a government neither as incompetent and base as assumed in the one market nor as efficient and virtuous as assumed in the other. In this case, ~ ought to reduce the amount of government regulation in the market for goods and might want to increase government intervention in the market for ~as. I look forward to:Learning which of these alternative-Views will be--espoused by my colleagues in the economics profession." (Emphasis added.) Can there be any doubt as to which of these alternative views will be espoused by most of Mr. Coase's colleagues on the basis of his lecture? Men committed to statism will not be stopped by the fear of propounding a logical contradiction; but if they choose to be consistent, they will leap at the opportunity to extend government regulation to the market for ideas - particularly since Mr. Coase has provided them with the ammunition by formulating all the arguments they need, in terms of their own premises. The tone of the lecture gives the impression that Mr. Coase does not care about the issue one way or the other: it is the tone of a speaker taking pleasure, not in presenting his topic, but in outwitting his audience. The lecture is not an open advocacy: it is a futile threat. It says to the liberals, in effect: If you don't let up on the controls of business, we conservatives will turn the tables on you and introduce government controls of the press. Such escalation of controls has been the policy of conservatives in regard to antitrust laws, labor legislation, the military draft, taxation, the "negative income tax," etc.

-5-

Mr. Coase does not seem to understand that the statist liberals would be delighted to let him do their dirty work for them and that they would be first to pounce upon the jobs of censors - as has been the case in every other instance of conservatives trying to cash in on the liberals' premises. Nor does he seem to see that at a time like the present, in the face of statism's triumphant advance, one does not play games, parlor tricks, or rhetorical in-jokes with an issue such as freedom of the press. If the liberation of the market for goods was Mr. Coase's purpose, why didn't he reverse his method? Why didn't he take the best arguments for the freedom of the market of ideas and demonstrate that they apply to the market of goods? Think of how different the impact of his lecture would have been. But Mr. Coase is contemptuous of the arguments for the freedom of the market of ideas. It is interesting to note that The Wall Street Journal (January 11, 1974) came to the defense of Mr. Coase against the critique of his lecture in Time magazine. " ••• it seems to us that Time entirely missed the point of the professor's thesis, which is that there should be no distinction 'between the market for goods and the market for ideas.'" (Time did not miss the thesis: they saw through it.) And: "While we don't subscribe to the professor's undiluted brand of laissez faire [this is in reference to his reputation], and see a usefulness to society in libel laws and pure food and drug acts, we see merit of another sort in the Coase thesis. It's not really a long step to argue that just as consumers need government help in choosing among competing goods, they need assistance in choosing between good ideas and bad. Given the hypothetical situation of a United States that controls every facet of economic life but that of the press, who can doubt that the press too would fall like a feeble domino?" The rest of the piece goes the same way, substituting threats for principles. By contrast, The New York Times's report on the same lecture was like a breath of fresh air (December 23, 1973). It was written by Leonard Silk, who is, I believe, a liberal. "In a sense, the First Amendment is the finest and perhaps the last flower of the liberal revolutions of the 17th and 18th centuries. Economists, like other intellectuals, cling to it as a defense a:gainst tyranny." When I read that paragraph, I felt as if I were emerging from a dank cave where concrete-bound children whimper about the "good" or the "bad" character of government officials, to a hillside where adults are still able to deal with abstractions and to remember the concept "tyranny." It was not an unblemished hillside, there were patches of dangerous fog - such as the contention that newspapermen and broadcasters "still insist upon their unique right to freedom from government regulation" (emphasis added) - but what a relief it was to hear a man say that government controls represent tyranny, and not a matter of efficient or inefficient functioning! The worst error of the non-totalitarian liberals is their failure to understand that material production depends on man's mind and requires freedom, just as intellectual production does. But, at least, they retain some (implicit) inkling of the existence of a faculty such as the mind - as against the sort of C9nservatives who propose to save freedom by seeking an explanation for the "incomprehensible" importance which men attach to the freedom of ideas (and finding the explanation in human "imperfections," such as intellectual pride). This brings us to the common denominator uniting Mr. Coase, The Wall Street Journal, and those readers who wrote to me in defense of Mr. Coase. As I have pointed out many times, those who discard abstractions and

-6-

principles, i.e., philosophy, discard the conceptual level of their consciousness; they confine themselves to the perceptual level, are able to deal only with imme~ diate concretes, and are compelled to substitute men for ideas. Hence the preposterous spectacle of a scholarly economist who, denying the importance of ideas, offers the childish, cracker-barrel notion of conceit and material greed as the motive power of men's struggle for intellectual freedom throughout history; and, denying the relevance of morality to economics, resorts to the crudest kind of conventional morality, takes for granted that self-interest is evil, and presents the issue of government controls as a matter of the personal honesty or dishonesty, the good or bad character of government officials. The same kind of problem affected the listeners who were taken in by his lecture. They did not focus on the speech, but on the speaker: since he was known as a defender of free enterprise, they assumed that anything he said was in defense of freedom. They listened selectively, in snatches, trusting the superior knowledge of the "leader," hearing only what they wanted to hear, ignoring the rest. This means that they were listening emotionally - and, in this respect, the speech did give them what they wanted: it fed their smoldering hostility toward the liberal-dominated press, and this made them feel certain that they had heard a defense of free enterprise. But emotions are not tools of cognition, and negative emotions less so than any others. It has been said that the enemies of our enemies are not necessarily our friends. But this is an abstract statement, which the unphilosophical mentality can neither grasp nor remember. There is, however, a valuable lesson in Mr. Coase's lecture for those young people who, being desperately anxious to fight statism, are willing to form a united front with any of its alleged opponents. That lecture might help them to see why there is no way to fight a political or economic battle while by-passing philosophy, why there is no shortcut, no escape from fundamental principles - and why an indtscriminate activism will not merely fail, but will hasten the victory of the enemy.

OBJECTIVIST CALENDAR Starting on October 29, the taped lectures of Dr. Leonard Peikoff's course, Introduction to Logic, will be given in Winnipeg. For further information, contact Ellen Moore, (204) 253-1630. B.W.

The Ayn Rand Letter, published fortnightly by The Ayn Rand Letter, Inc., 183 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10016. Contributing Editor: Leonard Peikoff; Subscription Director: Elayne Kalberman; Production Manager: Barbara Weiss.