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Notes on dialectic

Or: An exercise in advanced differentiation and integration* 75+ hours fasted (with electrolyte water), listening to some favorite music, and cannabinized with just a couple hits of very-residual kief.  (* - "Consciousness, as a state of awareness, is not a passive state, but an active process that consists of two essentials: differentiation and integration." --Rand, ITOE, first sentence)

Also: How a dialectic between leading philosophers in history and the likes of Ayn Rand might realistically play out, given a now large and ever growing roster of prominent philosophy professionals now taking a serious interest in her thought.

How might Nietzsche and Rand have 'dialectized' to reach a conclusion they could agree on?  Nietzsche spoke of an 'overman', but Rand spoke more matter-of-factly of 'man the rational animal,' a position she claims to have shared in a very deep sense with Aristotle and also Aquinas.  ("The three As" Rand would call them.  She thought very highly of her own philosophical ability, but didn't proclaim to have surpassed these other two.  But the only other philosopher she acknowledged a philosophical debt to, is Aristotle.)

Aristotle, the 'fountainhead of dialectic,' as Chris Matthew Sciabarra, author of Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism (published 2000 by PSU Press, so exhaustively researched as to have a 48-page or approximately 1300-reference bibliography, which is at least 3 times what any other impressively researched academic book would have; the man is thorough) (Also, he wrote an also-thoroughly researched book on Rand, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical (1995, PSU), containing the most complete bibliography of Leonard Peikoff materials, especially including Understanding Objectivism, an essential reference source for serious understanding of Rand's philosophy of Objectivism, Peikoff having spent oodles more time discussing philosophical issues with Rand than anyone else, etc. etc., although philosopher (and a serious well-reputed academic one at that) John Hospers also took Rand seriously enough to spend a lot of time discussing philosophical topics as well; but it's materials like Understanding Objectivism that one needs to master in order to be a seriously qualified scholarly commentator on Rand), dubbed him.

Hold on, let's say that it was Aquinas (say) dialecticalizing with Nietzsche (say), and while I haven't spent nearly the time studying these two that I had studied Rand's ideas (mainly for their claimed and real similarity to those of Aristotle, the fucking MAN...although much of my understanding of the fucking MAN comes from solidly reputed secondary sources, e.g., John M. Cooper's 1975 Reason and Human Good in Aristotle...), I can kinda imagine how a dialectic between (pre-Revelation-and-death) Aquinas and the (pre-going-mad) Nietzsche might have transpired, given the basic sensibility-vibe that I get from the various research sources (both primary and secondary) I've consulted on these two.  But what if we hypothesize that Nietzsche got to know Aquinas and Aristotle and Rand better than he apparently did, how might a dialectical synthesis between these four (say) figures transpire?  What sort of 'overlapping consensus' might they reach?

But wait, for Nietzsche to have become more familiar with these thinkers (most importantly Aristotle?), we have to hypothesize that, at minimum, he had a few more decades of intellectual productivity in him, and as we know from Aristotle and others and hopefully first-hand to a great extent, intellectual productivity is a very lofty thing for a human being to aspire to.  I don't know how long it would have taken for Nietzsche to get around to a serious and close study of Aristotle.

One thing I do know, is that in Walter Kaufmann's (leading Nietzsche scholar and fairly prominent philosopher in his own right) translation of Beyond Good and Evil, namely aphorism 287 (or is it 257) about the noble soul having reverence for itself, Kaufmann makes a footnoted reference to Aristotle on the great-souled man.  But it's that same aphorism that Rand had originally considered placing at the beginning of The Fountainhead, my pick for her best novel even though Atlas Shrugged has a great many virtues, as aesthetics-expert Hospers highlighted.  This is during the phase of her career when Nietzsche was her primary intellectual influence (aside from herself, obviously) (and there was also Isabel Paterson), but it was within a few years that Aristotle (and secondarily Aquinas) became the chief intellectual influence to the point she acknowledged a philosophical debt only to him.  Anyway, all three of the thinkers - Aristotle, Nietzsche, Rand - seem to be in fundamental agreement about a great-souled man or noble soul having reverence for itself, a fundamental component of Rand's distinctive variety of egoism for sure.  So why isn't she taken that much more seriously by academic philosophers already?  Good question.  One thing is, few if any of them were in the epistemic position that, say, Hospers was in, now were they.

Anyway, if we could get these three rather meticulous thinkers to agree on that premise - I say if, but I think it's a given? - about the great-souled and (therefore?) Randian-egoistic man, then shouldn't that inform a dominant new paradigm in ethical thinking?

What is dialectic, anyway?  Sciabarra refers to it as "the art of context-keeping" (a fundamental focus of Understanding Objectivism, the chief methodological 'treatise' of Objectivism, duh.), and I take his Total Freedom to be a pretty complete - indeed 'dialectically complete or perfectionistic' - exercise in the art of context-keeping, starting with that fucking massive bibliography.  (There are two books that I know of with larger bibliographies: Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature (Rand's phrase "in the name of the best within us" comes to mind in this context) and T.H. Irwin's monumental 3-volume, 5000-ish-page-equivalent The Development of Ethics (OUP, 2008).  Irwin is I think definitely most impressed with the Aristotelian-Thomistic ethical tradition, no surprise given how he compares them exhaustively with prominent alternatives including even Kant.  All three of these books strike me as seriously impressive; what if they were in some way dialectically synthesized together along with the putative Aristotelian-Nietzsche-Randian synthesis about ethical egoism or individualism or eudaimonist-individualism or individualist-perfectionism, etc.

And funny I should bring up individualist-perfectionism, since that's a key theme of neo-Aristotelians Douglas Rasmussen (a Catholic who could be the leading authority on how Randian and Thomistic thought might be synthesized) and Douglas Den Uyl.  Funny I should bring them up, since they did a response to Nozick on the Randian argument and I hadn't even brought Nozick up.  Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia was praised on the back cover by some prominent philosopher type as exhibiting an unsurpassed 'dialectical sensibility,' which it arguably does.  Does this mean that he out-dialecticizes Rawls?  Does anyone out-dialecticize Alan Gewirth, who wrote the book Self-Fulfillment (1998, PUP, at age 86, mind you) and Reason and Morality (1978, Chicago UP), the key themes of which are defended in Deryck Byleveld's daunting-looking 1991 book, The Dialectical Necessity of Morality: An Analysis and Defense of Alan Gewirth's Argument to the Principle of Generic Consistency (PGC)?  That book looks thoroughly researched as well.  Does dialectical completeness require some sort of positive rights after all?  But if everyone adopts an Aristotelian-Nietzsche-Randian ethos about eudaimonistic individualistic perfectionist dialectical-completist, etc., would positive rights ever be a factor at that point, with everyone flourishing so?  But is that realistic?  Well, let's say we stage for a national audience a debate (well, dialectic) between long-dead but now-taken-very-seriously figures such as Plato, Aristotle, Kant, et al, and see what kind of overlapping consensus they reach.

I'm not talking about intellectually lazy trolls on social media, now, I'm talking serious dialectical synthesis here.

Assume that all these thinkers in this staged debate/dialectic are adequately informed of at least a lot of the scholarship and philosophical writing that has occurred since their actual lifetimes.  Would they all at least agree that you can only hope to match but not exceed Aristotle?  Dougs Rasmussen and Den Uyl (RDU) appear to do so, and they're pretty dialectically complete, too, and they also happen to be in fundamental agreement (from all available indications) with Sciabarra about that (Aristotle the fountainhead of dialectic being among them, eudaimonism in ethics being another, and so on).  Indeed, one must think of post-2000 RDU writings as having dialectically presupposed Total Freedom (a unit that condenses another 1300-ish units, we might say, or the way an internet link can condense a reference to a wider context within one word...), which makes it that much more dialectically complete.  (What if Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism and (RDU's) Norms of Liberty: A Perfectionist Basis for Non-Perfectionist Politics (2006, PSU) translate into essentially the same idea?)  But have they dialecticized with Gewirth?  Not that I know of, beyond Den Uyl's 1970s article on what he then referred to as Gewirth's Principle of Categorial Consistency or PCC at the time, but I do remember reading Rasmussen vs. Sterba in a 1987-ish book, The Catholic Bishops and the Economy: A Debate, and I'm not sure the debate there was resolved to my complete satisfaction.

(okay, that was composed during a listen of the 50-minute album Yellow House by Grizzly Bear, currently #6 on my list of favorites.  to be continued, or have I made my point? ^_^ )

also, context-keeping and integration (a key focus of Rand's, and Peikoff's lecture courses and books) are essentially the same process.  I.e., integration and dialectical synthesis are the same process.  Where does Marx fit into all this, I haven't even mentioned him yet.  But then I have to bring up Mises and Kolakowski, i.e., see how they fit into, i.e., integrate with these other concrete instances (of thinkers), and so on and so on.  But how can I understand all these other thinkers to the same extent, with the same resource-constraints, that I studied and understood Rand so extensively?  (My one "peer reviewed professional literature publication" is on Rand.  My book was reviewed by a few esteemed peers (including an academic neo-Aristotelian philosopher) and passed with flying colors, I also think it's pretty good shit...but almost sure to be overshadowed by BLTP....)

also, dialectical completeness has something fundamental/essential to do with perfectionism in the philosophical tradition (of whom Aristotle was an exemplar, given his dialectical completeness, i.e., perfectionism and - therefore ultimately - intellectual perfectionism).  Also, Rand is some sort of intellectual perfectionist (although she didn't seem to think that theoretical contemplation was the highest or most noble of the intellectual activities, but seemed to include all activities resulting from intensive focus, a fundamental that would lie at any account of 'Randian perfectionism' and perhaps arguably any similar perfectionist account such as the Dougs').

Also, Norton's eudaimonist perfectionist individualist self-actualization-ethics fits into all this quite beautifully, synthesizing ancient Greek themes with themes from modern psychologists like Jung (a big 'individuation' guy) and Maslow (hierarchy of needs or objective goods).

Ok so that's about an hour and 8 minutes worth of output, not bad I guess.  Some promising, uh, leads anyway.

also this should tie in (integrate) closely with any philosophy curricula for children, duh.

1.5hrs spent after edits/additions, and the cannabuzz is gone.  later?... (Next up?: How would Aristotle blog, cannabanized and fasted?  Or: Aspiring to great-souled dialectical perfection/integration/kalon, etc.)  (Is this one chock full of enough thorough-research-derived contextualizing links/leads yet?  Hell, I hadn't even brought up Hegel yet, but Sciabarra incorporates his insights as well.  And what did Hegel think of Aristotle?  Surely Ferrarin (2001, CUP, post-dating Total Freedom by one year...) has insights there.)


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