Thursday, 10 August 2017

Tibor Machan’s Advice to Philosophers: “Check Your Premises”

Tibor R. Machan provides a clear advice to philosophers that they must observe Ayn Rand’s “check your premises” policy. He suggests that even the Objectivist philosophers need to “check their premises” at regular intervals.

Here’s an excerpt from his letter (Dated: 12 Nov, 1995) to Roger Bissell:
Philosophy is often a kind of pleading of one's own case, of trying to show that how one lives, what one thinks, squares with a comparatively superior account one can give of reality.  I have never known of any major or minor philosopher who does not at the end of the day try to give an account of the world that in some ways makes sense of his life and shows him to be something of a happy camper in the process, doing the best one can do at living one's human life.  This runs the terrible risk of making philosophy terribly subjective, and if one does not keep checking back—that old "check your premises" policy Ayn Rand recommended—conscientiously, relentlessly, with every halfway decent objection taken reasonably seriously, one will fall prey to such subjectivity or wishful thinking.  Indeed, one reason I think the inner circle Objectivist crowd, as well as many other dogmatists, misunderstand philosophy - the debate between Kelley and Peikoff on truth is a case in point - is that they do not take seriously the awesome responsibility of never being able to close the book on the process.” 
In an early paragraph of the same letter, Machan makes another interesting point:
When one remarks that his misconduct occurred "because I didn't think," as in "Dammit, I didn't think" said in a reproachful way, one implies that it was an option to think or not to, on which important things hinge.  This power of thinking is at once the power of self-direction.  So thinking and freedom are two aspects of the same power human beings possess qua human beings.
I think there is a lot of wisdom in Machan's words.

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