Monday, 12 December 2016

Aristotle for Objectivists

Aristotle for Objectivists 
Robert Mayhew

In this lecture Robert Mayhew provides an analysis of the good ideas that those who follow Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism can hope to find in Aristotle's works.

Ayn Rand has called Aristotle the “Philosophical Atlas who carries the whole of Western civilization on his shoulders.” She has said: “Whatever intellectual progress men have achieved rests on [Aristotle’s] achievements.” (“Review of Randall’s Aristotle” by Ayn Rand; Voice of Reason)

Yet Rand is also critical of several Aristotelian ideas. She has said that Aristotle’s ethics and politics are not his greatest achievement.

In Virtue of Selfishness, she says: “The greatest of all philosophers, Aristotle, did not regard ethics as an exact science; he based his ethical system on observations of what the noble and wise men of his time chose to do, leaving unanswered the questions of: why they chose to do it and why he evaluated them as noble and wise.”

But Rand has not explained in detail the logic and the method that she has used in formulating her views on Aristotle’s ideas.

In his lecture, Mayhew provides the context behind some of the comments that Ayn Rand has made on various aspects of Aristotelian thought. He offers the specific chapters that the Objectivists may prefer to read in Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Nicomachean Ethics, Posterior Analytics, Categories, Politics, Poetics, DeAnima, and other works.

However, Mayhew's primary focus is on Aristotelian Metaphysics; the discussion on Ethics and Politics is quite brief.

The list of books that Mayhew recommends for further reading on Aristotle’s own writings is helpful. Here is a quote from Aristotle by Jonathan Barnes, one of the books that Mayhew has suggested that I already have with me: 


“Aristotle died in the autumn of 322 BC. He was sixty-two and at the height of his powers: a scholar whose scientific explorations were as wide-ranging as his philosophical speculations were profound; a teacher who enchanted and inspired the brightest youth of Greece; a public figure who lived a turbulent life in a turbulent world. He bestrode antiquity like an intellectual colossus. No man before him had contributed so much to learning. No man after him might aspire to rival his achievements.”

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