SCIABARRA RESPONDS TO THE CRITICS
RESPONSE TO BRYAN CAPLAN
The following post was made to an internet group, in response to Bryan Caplan's review, which was later published in Libertarian Alliance.
Just a quick note here to thank Bryan publicly for his very perceptive critique of my book. I did however, wish to make a few points in response. Bryan states that I characterize my approach as "historical." Actually, I state it is "hermeneutical" -- which means that I pay attention to historical issues for sure, but I am also interested in reconstructing the "text" of Objectivism both historically and synchronically as a radical project.
He is right to characterize my understanding of the Lossky-Rand relationship as speculative. But more than this, I have shown that Lossky was merely one (possibly major) transmission belt for themes that were endemic to Russian culture, themes which were in the very intellectual air that Ayn Rand breathed.
On the dialectic as method, I think there is much more to it than merely a transcendence of opposites. It is a method that preserves the analytical integrity of the whole and that traces internal relations. I do not believe that internal relations are universally accepted; the analytic tendency to think of issues as singular and unintegrated with other issues is a case in point. Moreover, dialectics as method highlights historical and systemic context, and, it is, as Marx supposed, a unity of critique and revolution.
Like Bryan, I wish that I had more information to give on Rand's connection to the Russian novelists and to individualist thinkers of the 30s and 40s. I indicate in my epilogue that these are issues that need to be explored in greater detail. With regard to the former, I am not an expert in Russian literature, though I certainly give space to a consideration of the themes. With regard to the latter, I had no information at my disposal--not even the Letters of Ayn Rand--with which to base any exposition on.
With regard to Bryan's disappointment of my summary of Rand's "life as the standard" argument as somehow "dialectical"--it was in essence, my summary of everything that came before it in chapters 5-9, and falls squarely in the tradition of those who see her as a eudaimonistic thinker. Rand was aware of internal relations, as a dialectical thinker, and exhibits this rich conception in her understanding of the constituents of "life," in which the means of achieving the standard are also part of the goal itself.
I am delighted that Bryan highlighted Part Three -- as a political theorist, I believe that Part Three is the major contribution of the book theoretically speaking. I was not aware of Kelley's position on the parallel of Marx and Rand; however, I would be less inclined to view it in such terms. This formulation that Rand put Marx on his head is OK for those of us who understand Rand, but it might make people outside Objectivist circles think that Rand endorsed Hegelian "Ideas" as causal agents in history. Turning Marx on his head, when Marx allegedly turned Hegel on his head, makes Rand more Hegelian than even << I>could stomach!
Anyway, thanks again Bryan for your fine critical assessment, and for being the first critic yet to put great emphasis on Part Three, which after all, is where the whole enterprise is headed.
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