Peikoff says in his essay Fact and Value, that:
"there have been countless mass movements dedicated to inherently dishonest ideas—e.g., Nazism, Communism, non-objective art, non-Aristotelian logic, egalitarianism, nihilism, the pragmatist cult of compromise, the Shirley MacLaine types, who “channel” with ghosts and recount their previous lives; etc."
He says that the originators, leaders, and intellectuals of such movements must be evaders, and then says this about the followers:
"The mass base of such movements are not evaders of the same kind; but most of the followers are dishonest in their own passive way. They are unthinking, intellectually irresponsible ballast, unconcerned with logic or truth. They go along with corrupt trend-setters because their neighbors demand it, and/or because a given notion satisfies some out-of-context desire they happen to feel. People of this kind are not the helplessly ignorant, but the willfully self-deluded."
OK, so according to Piekoff anyone who believes in anything irrational is willfully self-deluded and intellectually irresponsible. He qualifies his statement by saying:
"EVEN IN REGARD to inherently dishonest movements, let me now add, a marginal third category of adherent is possible: the relatively small number who struggle conscientiously, but simply cannot grasp the issues and the monumental corruption involved. These are the handful who become Communists, “channelers,” etc. through a truly honest error of knowledge. Leaving aside the retarded and the illiterate, who are effectively helpless in such matters, this third group consists almost exclusively of the very young—and precisely for this reason, these youngsters get out of such movements fast, on their own, without needing lectures from others; they get out as they reach maturity...The very honesty of such individuals limits their stay in the movement; they cannot tolerate for long the massiveness of the evil with which they have become involved."
So if you are retarded, illiterate or very young, you are excused for not knowing any better. But if you are a mature, literate, adult, who still believes in an irrational philosophy, you are contributing to "massive evil" and you should be morally judged.
My question is this: my dad is 50 and is still a liberal. Two of my close friends, 20 and 28, are conservative Christians. It seems that Peikoff would accuse my Dad and friends of "intellectual dishonesty, evasion of truth and reality, and contributing to massive evil." I think they are simply making intellectual errors.
A brief answer here: Kant explicitly ruined reason in order to make room for religion. Kant's philosophy deliberately stripped man of his means of survival, its design serving to protect and promulgate the anti-man, anti-earthly-living subjugation of men to religious authority and dogma.
Thus, his was a clear, explicit choice, and was aimed at all men for all time. Kant was a very scholarly thinker, and he knew the historical facts of what religion had meant and done. He was living in a time when the virtues and lessons of the Renaissance and Enlightenment were plain. He knew, we must conclude, exactly what his doctrines meant: the death camps of one sort or another, the misery and cruelty and horrific suffering. He knew and he made that possible, deliberately and on principle.
Dictators, etc., use despicable means to achieve power and wealth and prestige; Kant enabled those means, put them in the hands of any would-be tyrant, rendering the common man indefensible, and did this not as a means to an end, but as the condition he preferred for all of mankind.
Check your premises. The judgment Peikoff is making here, even his judgment in regards to the "marginal third category," is a judgment about people who subscribe to "inherently dishonest" ideas. You are reading this to mean any false or irrational set of beliefs. That is your mistaken reading.
Re-read "Fact and Value." You will discover that inherently dishonest ideas are one subset of false/irrational ideas.
I seriously doubt that Peikoff or any other Objectivist would consider political liberalism to be inherently dishonest. There are very likely many dishonest liberals out there, and there are surely many inherently dishonest ideas that motivate liberalism (like egalitarianism), but dishonesty is not inherent in the idea of a welfare state per se.
An inherently dishonest idea is one that a person cannot accept save by blatantly evading reality. So, to use the classic example, the idea that there is no reality is inherently dishonest. Honesty means accepting reality, so one cannot reject the idea of reality honestly. There are other examples.
On a more psychological level, I think one can use a rule-of-thumb of benevolence. (This is my own idea, so perhaps not appropriate, but I will defend it as consistent with Objectivism, or, I'll delete it if it doesn't qualify.)
When people who hold seriously erroneous ideas are talking about their beliefs, do you get the sense that they are urging something in defense of themselves, or of innocent people, that they are moved by benevolence? This is not a matter of what people claim motivates their beliefs, it is a matter of something you "feel" about them, something akin to a sense of life. One gets a sense of the speaker's purpose in saying what they say, and that purpose may seem, in varying degrees, to contradict the logical import of their words. So, if, while they are arguing for their point of view, a person seems to me to be benevolent in purpose, I give them a big benefit of the doubt about the matter.
Labels, such as "liberal" or "neo-conservative," etc., are too broad to easily specify what an individual is thinking in naming themselves as they do. Some people classify themselves on the basis of some one thing a movement stands for, and some because they are passionately against something the alternative choice stands for. Many people completely overlook many of the implications of the position they identify themselves with. So, what can you conclude a person "believes," and what their values are from how they classify themselves?
When it comes to friends and family, one's priorities are usually not philosophical. The social connection is already there, and one wants to maximize its potential, not turn it into the ideal social relationship. That we look for across the wide world.
There are plenty of sources of conflict and disagreement with family members, so we are often forced to stand somewhat at arm's length from the people with whom we were once socially intimate. One usually knows their parents and siblings, etc., from the inside, from experience, and it is on that basis that we judge them. A is A, and one's grand, reliable and lovable parent IS who you think they are, whatever ticket they vote.
answered Dec 15 '10 at 22:24
Mindy Newton ♦