Thomas Aquinas v. Ayn Rand

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

In a recent interview, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) rejected Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism as atheist. Instead, Ryan prefers the epistemology of Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas adhered to the correspondence theory of truth, which says that something is true “when it conforms to the external reality.” This sounds a lot like Rand’s Primacy of Existence wherein consciousness is subordinate to  reality – wishing doesn’t make it so.

Rand’s and Aquinas’ worldviews quickly diverge after that brief congruence.

Aquinas claimed that certain truths were only available through supernatural revelation. Aquinas’ first problem is to resolve this supernatural transmission to a human mind with external reality. Calvin postulated the “Sensus Divinitatis,” but this revelation wasn’t available to Aquinas. How does one distinguish a supernatural revelation from a mere product of one’s imagination?

Rand’s Objectivism separates consciousness from the objects of consciousness. These objects exist independently of any cognition of them. Reality is not subject to the mind, any mind.

To postulate divine revelation is to postulate the divine, that is God. Aquinas wrote “The Five Ways” to prove the existence of God, of which, the second one, is the Argument from Efficient Cause:

  1. There is an efficient cause for everything; nothing can be the efficient cause of itself.
  2. It is not possible to regress to infinity in efficient causes.
  3. To take away the cause is to take away the effect.
  4. If there be no first cause then there will be no others.
  5. Therefore, a First Cause exists (and this is God).

This argument is self-refuting. If everything has a cause other than itself, then God must also have a cause other than God, so God cannot be the first cause. If the first premise is true then the conclusion must be false.

The worldview offered by Aquinas is inherently subjective, incoherent, and imaginary.

Has Paul Ryan ever received knowledge via divine revelation? If so, what was this knowledge, more tax breaks for the wealthy?

H/T: Theodore Schick Jr., Dawson Bethrick, p.l.e., Gordon H. Clark, Sarah Posner, Steve Benen.

137 thoughts on “Thomas Aquinas v. Ayn Rand”

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  2. Bron:

    If I understand her correctly, she is saying that consciousness is not separate from reality (objects of consciousness), reality is a necessary condition for consciousness. Consciousness must obey reality. Reality does not conform to consciousness.

    Perhaps “separate” is not the best word to express the one-way relationship between consciousness and reality. Rand’s Primacy of Existence describes this one-way relationship.

    The dog catching the frisbee in the Byrd’s video is doing it in front of the Austin skyline. An old skyline, too.

  3. Wow, Bron, thanks for the education AND the music!

    By th way, I agr with your ida that it’s mor sophisticatd without th “e.”

  4. Malisha:

    I never heard of a redneck dog named Red, its a communist thing, and Ole Yeller was a movie which made grown men cry so that isnt going to cut it and who wants to have to shoot your dog in the end?

    So I settled on Blu. As in Blue Tick, or Blue Heeler and there is always this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1LUNeHL6Y_o

    and this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CovN4vmr0Vg&feature=related

    I dropped the “e” because it seemed less sophisticated.

  5. Why is the dog named “Blu”? Couldn’t he be named “Red” or even “Ole Yeller”?

  6. I know a guy who looks down on Julian Jaynes. Thinks his [Jaynes] idea of consciousness is ridiculous.

    That is a good attitude to have. Self acceptance/self love is important to be able to extend yourself to other people.

    One of the things I learned in working with white rednecks was that they were very insecure people and most were not very accomplished and generally they were at the lower end of IQ, not idiots or morons just very average. They needed someone to look down on and blacks filled the bill.

    A man doesnt need much education to set off the spark of humanity but he needs some. The rednecks who read or who attended a semester of college were far different than the ones who didnt. It was almost like night and day. So I guess you cant really call them rednecks even though the outward manifestation was pickups, dogs named Blu, beer and NASCAR.

  7. Bron, yeah, I agree. I think that’s correct.

    That’s why I’m not a member of anything (except the Julian Jaynes Society). I figure I’m so naturally superior that I don’t need to look down on anybody! (Hey all you sock puppets, you can attack me now!)

  8. And I want to add, pretty typical of white trash. I used to work with them and they were as bigoted as they come.

    I think the human condition is to need someone to look down on. It seems everyone does it. That is why people join so many different groups; fraternities, sororoties, churches, religions, cults, etc.. Look at us we are special because – X, Y or Z.

  9. Yeah, Bron, I know. And damn if it doesn’t keep surprising me every time!

    One of the funniest, and yet saddest, surprises I had: When my son (during undergraduate days) lived in a trailer park near Charlottesville, VA. Real redneck territory. On the left of his trailer lived a white couple, and on the right of his trailer lived a single Black man. We got to know each of them a little bit. The white guy, Randy, kept finding us weird, though he liked “our” whippet. He began to mow our “lawn” (which was 24 feet of grass) without our asking. We had a ton of purple irises so we gave him half a ton. And I said we should either trade off with him, mowing his, or barter some other services (my son is a very talented mechanic). So he said no, he enjoyed it, and wouldn’t let us kick in something, so now and then we’d bring over some barbecue or a six pack, in appreciation.

    He was always curious about us. Then one day he asked me, “You’re from someplace else, ain’t you? EYE-Talian?” I said we were Jews. “Oh, yeah, I guessed that!” he concluded. He still mowed our grass.

    Then one day, for no known reason, my son’s whippet got it into his head to drag a bunch of branches out of the nearby woods and deposit them in our OTHER neighbor’s yard, right by his porch! I don’t know what got into him, it was like a compulsive behavior, for hours! SO I began to clean them up and throw them back into the woods. Up walks Randy and asks me why I’m cleaning up the other neighbor’s yard. “Oh, Argos piled up all these branches on David’s lawn for some unknown reason, I’m just clearing up the mess he made.” “LEAVE IT” Randy bellowed. “DON’T YOU GO CLEANING SOME N*&&#R’s YARD!” I stood there, kind of stunned, and realized he was actually OFFENDED. I said, “We Jews don’t use those words for other people because other people can use those words for us.” He said, “I got nothin’ against you folks, you can go to any church you want to.” He did look sheepish. I said, “Thanks.” I kept cleaning up David’s yard and by the time he got home, the evidence of my grandwhippet’s misconduct was gone.

    But after that, Randy stopped mowing our lawn! So I stopped bringing him cakes.

  10. Malisha:

    I used to do work for a black contractor in the Baltimore Washington area 20+ years ago, great guy, hard working and very smart. He could make money and used to always say “I am just a little black contractor” when he was talking to the project managers of the large construction companies he subcontracted to. I knew him well enough to know that when he uttered those words, the project managers were going to have to open up their check books and write a check for extras. He could sniff out an extra on a job better than a poodle could find a truffle. He was wealthy too but drove around in a pickup and always wore a T-shirt, boots and jeans. He owed me a couple of hundred dollars for some small job I did for him and we went to a branch of his bank to cash the check and they gave him a real hard time about it.

    I asked him about it and he said it happened all the time. He was probably worth more than the branch had in its vault and probably made 2-3 times what the bank president made. It was the first time I really understood what blacks go through on a regular basis.

    It is sad that your friend and this guy go through that type of thing. I think you either rise above it or it destroys your humanity.

  11. Yes, Bron. I think it was the hoodies and the youth of these three young men that surprised me the most.

    A friend of mine is a well known and highly acclaimed African American actress. It’s hard for me to forget the night we exited the theater after her show (she starred in that, got a Tony nomination for it) and after she signed autographs for a while, a light rain started. We usually walked back to her NY apartment (less than a mile) but in view of the rain, she didn’t want to, and said, “Malisha [but used my world name] hail us a cab, OK, they won’t stop for me.” Dumbly, I said, “why not?” She answered, “I’m Black.” Her picture was up on the Theater Marquee above my head, but she wouldn’t be able to hail a cab standing right under her own likeness. I hailed a cab; it took less than a minute. When we got out, she paid. Surprises have kept happening to me over the course of 60 years (for the first five, maybe they happened and maybe they didn’t but I can’t remember them). They keep being surprises.

  12. Malisha:

    your experience with blacks is common. They are, apparently, universally willing to help out people in a jam and to offer civil courtesies to others.

    I use a wheelchair and I cannot tell you the number of times blacks of all ages and sexes have come to my assistance or opened doors for me or helped me change flat tires or offered to be of assistance. Whites are not nearly as willing to be of help. Blacks are much friendlier than whites and much warmer people too.

    So your experience is not isolated.

  13. Thanks, Gene H. I receive something called “The Teaching Company” that offers DVDs and books that are compilations of the lectures of various professors here and there, and whenever there’s a sale on the “Newton and Einstein” type stuff (or Feynman or Leonardo or…) I send him DVDs. The generation below mine seems to prefer electronic media to paper-and-cloth books anyway.

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