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”

  1. Malisha,

    I can state with absolute certainty that your friend’s life will not be impoverished should he miss out on Aquinas or Rand. Neither of them had civilization critical ideas and when your bent is (as his apparently is) toward hard science/applied sciences, they would just take up valuable space better served by reading more Newton and Einstein.

  2. Idealist, re Exudations: When my son was in kindergarten, the school psychologist used to visit all the classrooms and if anybody wanted to see her, they could do so, to learn how their children were relating in the group and so forth. So I got an appointment and she sat with me to go over the notes of how my kid was doing. She said there was something very unusual about him: “He elicits touch from the other kids.” I was a bit worried about this, thinking he was getting sort of mauled in class, but she quickly explained that he was somehow eliciting FRIENDLY touch and approval gestures. She said kids ran up to him and patted him on the back, shook and held hands with him, even ruffled his hair, and all in positive ways. She said, “some kids even hug him to greet him!” So I was bemused but glad.

    When I was in school kids used to pull my hair and trip me. I guess things get better generation at a time.

    Oh, so this weekend I was in New York City, and spent quite a lot of time on the subways between and among the various different boroughs. Long crowded subway rides. I have grey hair but don’t otherwise look too frail or weak. THREE TIMES as I got onto a crowded subway car, someone deliberately caught my attention and offered me a seat! This is almost unbelievable to me, especially on the third one (first two were little surprise, then big surprise, and the third was astonishment at the coincidence) but all three offers were made by young African American teen-aged boys in hoodies! In each case I thanked them but remained standing because I wanted to use the time to speak with my friend, who was standing, and who is tall, and I would have to shout up to her if I were seated. But I thought about the general assumption that these “types” were up to no good, or hostile to whites, or generally disrespectful. Why did they go out of their way to offer their seat to a grey-haired conservative-looking white woman? What were my exudations saying to THEM, BTW?

    When I returned to my own city, I was on a train and my attention got torn from my book by a loud, very accusatory, hostile, threatening and vulgar argument. I couldn’t figure out the issue, but I saw that a fairly large person was loudly berating a smaller person, and that between me and the two of them, there were maybe 12 people who sat still and unresponsive to it. I dialed 911 on my cell phone and gave our coordinates as well as I could, but then the larger, angry person got off at the next stop, but the smaller person stayed on the train. I told the dispatcher that there did not seem to be any more reason for alarm, and rang off. Then about a 10-year-old schoolboy sitting in the seat opposite me said, with a very sophisticated smile, “I generally find that ignoring these scenes works.” For a minute I was so surprised by his advice that I couldn’t think, and then I said, “Thank you for that advice. It was hard for me to tell that the risk of violence would dissipate on its own, though, so I figured I should try to get help, just in case.” He gave me a pitying smile (“These old ladies are such old ladies,” I could hear him think.) So I don’t know what, in the final analysis, I exuded.

  3. Oh, here’s an update on my inventor son, and it relates to the diesel engine fuel thing just mentioned, Bron. (And an update on what the young genius is doing now, too, Idealist.)

    He loves “project cars” so whenever he feels particularly depressed he buys some old wreck and starts doing things to it. He turned an old pick-up truck into an alternative-fuel vehicle that burned used vegetable oil discarded by restaurants. Now he’s very much involved in saving the earth and so he’s finishing an engineering degree at a mid-Atlantic university and he’s probably headed toward building the prototype on a real small-building generator that can power single family dwellings. At least I hope that’s what he wants to do; he took the first steps.

    One oft hose old pick-up trucks could just as easily be turned into a mobile generator, actually.

    Still, some of the things he said in his childhood are the things I remember as being the smartest. He hasn’t read Aquinas; he hasn’t read Rand. I’m not sure I worry about that. But he also hasn’t read Garcia Marquez! I do worry about that but I keep my peace. (And I have never told Gabo.)

  4. Malisha:

    “And still, his old mother will never understand the great ideas of philosophy, phenomenology and cosmology. Oh well…”

    Near as I can figure, you are one of the smartest people who posts here.

  5. Malisha:

    good examples.

    From my understanding, the Diesel engine was designed for use in the German Colonies so that local botanical oils could be used as the combustible.

    Anyone for a car powered by soybean and corn oil? Henry Ford used soy bean oil to produce plastic for the body of a model car.

  6. Nor epistemology either. But logic she can. Not really a judge, just on rep.

    And IF the 500 children happen to be SOLDIERS, and the 500 is really 500,000, and we call the ceremony WAR—then all will CHEER, even some MOMS will push back the tears and SQUEEZE from another SOLDIER.

    All for religion, and as our leader decrees, god’s surrogate here on earth.

  7. Bron,

    Don’t get excited about paleolithic defective belief systems. They could not and did not spread until some greedy ass said: “Let’s build a city and sow wheat. We need someone to offer the excess to in thanks. Why not me. The sun rises and sets on me.” And thus started the spread: of religion and consolidated power. Ta da! (Swedish musical expression)

    The rise of a hellish sun. Civilisation. Civi=city. La citta.

    Besides, when you spend your nights perched on a branch, your mind gets stiff too. Smile.

    Just hope for gene therapy or innoculation. We’re teetering on the branch now, and the WS sharks are circling. In the savanna?

  8. Bron, he’s a genius, thank you for your vote.

    On behalf of the primitives, though (many of whom were geniuses as well, I think), I will say that when they tried to figure out, from observation of their environment, WHAT the gods wanted them to do to earn favorable interventions, they were not always barking up the wrong trees. (TalkinDog, back me up here, right?) So when the primitives figured, “in order to get good nuts from this tree, the gods want us to pour offerings of water on it, and then they’ll intervene and deliver for us,” they were doing good. Of course, when they later decided, “In order to get good weather, we have to bury 500 children alive, standing up, and their mothers have to watch and not cry or protest,” they were probably all wrong but that just goes to show you how wildly government can go off the rails. Oh hey, so that probably means — oh well, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

    One of these days my kid’s gonna invent and patent a small generator that can be used to run a small dwelling in a fossil-fuel-deprived third world. And still, his old mother will never understand the great ideas of philosophy, phenomenology and cosmology. Oh well…

  9. Malisha,

    And I was asking my mom what to do with the empty tin cans at the same age. Intelligence does seem to run in “jeans”. And you did not apply for a Rhodes scholarship for him (home tutoring edition, of course)?

    And now he adjusts auto insurance claims. Say it is not so. Not an invitation to brag. Resist the mother reflex action.

    The ten year old who went to math courses at Princeton, must have had an “Off limits” jacket on him. As you say, mental and emotional are two different things.

    As was discussed earlier on this thread: MikeS, I think, said that some never get connected with their feelings IRL. For some late starters, it can begin at 75, so be glad or don’t despair as appropriate. I’m just glad it did.
    Thanks GeneH.

    What a responsibility parents have, whatever level of talent there is.
    My poor mom, who met the principal and I when I was 7. What a difference.
    But your challenge was no less.

  10. Malisha:

    you have a very smart son. The idea that government should interfere in people’s lives is definitely a superstition formulated by paleolithic hunter-gatherers who believed in all sorts of gods intervening on their behalf to ensure a successful hunt. A very primitive belief system and very bright of him to understand the similarity to a savages understanding of the world.

  11. @ Idealist: If I remember the Vietnamese guy’s autobiography correctly, the dog did not die from licking the boy’s wounds, but from either starvation while they were still on the run or from some other injury or event — I read that book decades ago. It was just the memory of that one scene, the boy in the rubble and the dog licking his wounds non-stop, that stayed with me.

    No, for the saliva-medicine to work, clearly, the dog would have had no ill effects from contact with the bacteria his saliva was killing. Telescoping back to the pack, those doctor dogs were among the strongest in the pack and their habits persisted over the generations.

    Alas, my 12-year-old friend is not going to be ready for college until his emotional age catches up to his formidable intellect. I sure wish I had waited for the same.

    But a story from my own kid, when he was about 7. I picked him up at school (I took the bus home from work then and stopped at his school to get him) and we were walking home. I told him that over the weekend, we would all change our clocks so that we would be in Daylight Savings Time by the following Monday. He didn’t get it. I explained. I said the government had decided that kids should get an extra hour’s daylight in the morning so we were changing the clocks to make that happen. He was indignant: “You can’t just decide to change TIME; TIME is part of the WORLD, not part of the GOVERNMENT!”

    I explained that time was part of the world, but what we CALLED it (like “six o’clock in the morning”) was just a convention, an agreement we had made so we could do things all at the same time and know ahead of time when to do them. So since it was all by agreement, if we agreed, we could change it whenever we agreed to change it. He asked me about 20 questions about how the agreement is made, etc. And finally, he stopped walking, and dropped into his “I REBEL AGAINST THIS IDEA” posture, frowned, pointed at me, and intoned:

    “That is something like a superstition!”

    He didn’t go to college early either.

  12. Malisha,

    Re your story of the young genius. It’s hell enough that they can so much data stuff, but when they start explaining Einstein, it’s time to send them to college.
    One started college at 10 years recently. It was Einsteinian math he was grappling with. He was just in Princeton (?) math courses, but that was what interested his mind, otherwise occupied with 10-year old stuff.

  13. Malisha,
    How smart of you.
    I, as an old Southern boy, let my dog routinely lick my sores and scrapes. Any dentist will confirm the bacteriocidal effect of saliva.
    But that it was not nutrition, which was sought when the dogs ate doo, escaped me.
    It is what we all do who eat yogurt and other concoctions to restore balance in our large intestinal anearophobic bacteria flora. ( Particularly after penicillin cures.) But dogs consume that which has a much higher chance of passing the stomach and reaching the goal undiminished in anerobic bacteria content..

    Apparently, it does convey direct healing to injured pack members, otherwise this gene variant would have faded. And your surmise of increased mating attraction is of course a consequence.
    The first things done on an encounter: Smell the genitals, and smell the breath for confirmation of the shit eating genes expression.

    I WILL TAKE YOUR IDEA A STEP FURTHER: That the condition of the colon and its flora benefits us, as any wiki will tell you, we can take as a given.

    But further than that, I would propose that the dog’s repeated licking of an infected sore turns him into a system producing saliva components which are tailor made for combatting just the bacteria in the sore.
    He is using his own, previously innoculated body, to produce an anti-toxin.
    (assuming a common bacteria flora which infect pathologically)

    The re-innoculation does just what a booster shot does. It raises the level of antibodies.
    BUT IN THIS WONDERFUL CASE of nature’s magic, IT ALSO produces specific anti-toxins for saliDELIVERY BY SALIVA.
    His licking has other effects, like aeration, etc., but enough for now. I would not be so sure that the dog died from the licking.

    You can perhaps enlighten us on dogs eating of grass, particulayly in the Spring. It us usually followed by vomiting, but the use?????

    I’m sure you have reassured and enlightened many dog lovers.

  14. “Morning exercise complete.” (id707)

    I’m all worn out! 😉

  15. Oro Lee — next time invite me to the party, then.

    I have to tell a story again: a conversation between me (while loading the dishwasher) and a friend 12 years old (who has been asking me questions about music theory to which I have had to answer, “I don’t know” about six times in a row). He says something and I say something and then he says something else and I say, “You’re right, something can be grammatically correct and still be a wrong statement or even a logically impossible statement.” He immediately says: “Oh, like ‘This is a box within which several larger boxes are contained?’.”

    That’s my brilliant 12-year-old friend for you! I think I’ll let him read this blog some time soon and ‘splain it all to me.

  16. Idealist, although I’m almost afraid to address this issue (because I think it must in some way be related to Aquinas and/or Rand and I’ll have to drop out of the conversation before I understand how), you have said something that opens the door to another one of my baseless theories, and I can’t help myself. You said:

    “Moral? When hungry, huskies will gladly eat other dogs excrement.”

    Well, I’m a dog person (not a cat person) and I have noticed that — and this is well known among the veterinarians — even a dog who is not hungry will casually munch on shit. Sometimes, a small or young dog in unknown territory will ROLL IN another dog’s shit, too. I’m leaving that second part out of this screed because I think the veterinarians and behaviorists have it figured out, but to date, I haven’t read a good explanation of the former habit, which at first horrified me. (Walking my son’s young whippet in the woods, I saw him snarfle something up, and was worried about what he was eating, so I took it out of his mouth — he was unfailingly polite and would never nip me — only to shudder at the realization that I was holding a small wad of shit!)

    Then I put together many of the things I knew about dogs in their natural habitats, and some of the things I had read about dogs, just by chance, and looked at the following admittedly unconfirmed data:

    Dogs hunt in packs

    In the hunting pack, a natural order arises based on who is most efficient

    There is only competition between the pack and the prey, while the hunt is on

    Competition between the pack members is related to mating, not hunting

    As the pack hunts, each member fo the pack wants to advance the position of every other member of the pack as well as his or her own

    The only goal of the hunt is to bring down the prey, eat, and carry food (which is sometimes swallowed and then regurgitated) back to the rest, including mothers and puppies

    After the hunt, Alpha eats first, and Beta’s job is to see to it that everyone, even Omega, gets a share; the others whine until they have eaten to remind Beta that they have not yet gotten their share

    After the hunt, ANYONE INJURED must be treated

    Some dogs are medicine-dogs, they lick wounds and care for the injured

    ALL dogs can do that, but some are better than others

    The better the pack’s medicine-dogs are, the healthier the pack

    I read a book once that memorialized the well-known fact that a dog licking even a human suppurating wound can sometimes help the human recover from infection that would otherwise be fatal. This book was an autobiography of a young Vietnamese man who had survived some horrible experiences during the war. He was isolated in a war-torn bombed out place, injured somehow (I cannot remember how) and he had been running around that area, orphaned, for a few days and a stray mangy dog had “adopted” him and they searched for food together. Once the boy was injured, he fell in some corner somewhere and was unable to recover, and had no food or water, and was running a high fever, delirious, in pain. The dog came and licked his wound literally for hours at a time, then ran somewhere, then came back and licked his wound for hours more, on and on and on and the kid recovered and was able to get up, run away, and escape. The dog died of course, but not right then. The kid got out somehow and emigrated here.

    When I put these seemingly unrelated facts together, I came up with my “why dogs eat shit” theory. It was adaptive. Dogs who ate shit became better medicine-dogs.

    It is well known that our immune response starts in our mouths. For dogs, that would be much more the case because of their diet in the wild. (We have changed our diet over the thousands, dogs only over the hundreds) If a dog occasionally eats the shit that is found near his habitat AND HE DOES NOT DIE FROM IT, he is strengthening his immune system turd by turd, until he’s really virtuoso. THAT dog is the one you want licking your wounds if the prey (usually a hoofed animal with strong legs) gave you a sharp kick in YOUR flank.

    I think evolutionarily, dogs that ate shit hat stronger, more successful packs. Their hunters were not too afraid to try really tough prey because they had lead hunters who were very endurant. The shit-eater medicine-dogs probably hat lots of puppies because they also were good in the competitions for mates. And so on.

    OK, that’s my OT recitation of my theory of “why dogs eat shit.”

    PS: Oh, my son and I found it offensive that his pretty, aristocratic looking whippet was eating shit, so we turned, naturally, to the expert, the vet. He told us it was harmless but if we didn’t want the little guy to do it, we should drop a bit of tobasco on an inviting little turd one day, and let him find out that it didn’t taste good. I did that (so fastidious!) and he chomped down, then dropped it, responded to the taste by rolling his tongue around, and then shot me a glance that said, very clearly, “Now why did you have to go and ruin a perfectly good piece of shit if you didn’t even want it yourself!?”

    We have a friend whose dog LIKES hot sauce and she has to put it on ALL his shit.

  17. In that big land there are four (5?) time zones. Do you find that disjointing?
    Or are the reports from the east coast on the moon helpful to west coasters planning their evenings?
    Where is the moon most romantic? In Neil Armstrong’s heart.
    How do you fool a fool? You don’t…..he is.
    So that’s how law students make their tuition: shilling and betting on gbk.
    Are their practices laid up in the same fashion. A lady I know would say yes.
    Blouise asks the question none dared do. But she has bearded the lion before.
    Even the insane can be teased back into their lambskin.
    Old men can’t think well, but they can be serendipitous.
    Humans symbionting with bacteria, bacteria with virus….does animate life exist below that level? What does it have for ambitions?
    Blouise like my Kerstin always knows to await the proper time to act.
    Do you feel integrated with the real world? How now this mess?
    Put it in a sock—-how cruel to be reminded of youthful practices.
    MikeS groupie, me? Welllll, once upon a time. But it’s a common sequence: first you’re infatuated, then you notice their feet stink (not his, the example’s, idiot), and then you notice their other faults. If you’re lucky you still manage to see the good parts through your disappointmen.t I once had a psychologist assigned to help me over my heart attack anguish. Same thing. I was his thesis. And he became a reknown clinic chief. Still the same, a chronically stressed person to head a stress clinic. Stockholm’s first.
    Moral? When hungry, huskies will gladly eat other dogs excrement. Ie anything calming the pains will do. Remeber the first time you ate a pizza? If you’d had the money, how many times would you have eaten it before you tired?

    Morning exercise complete.

  18. gbk,

    Checked my email before going to bed then went out on the porch to look at the moon. Man, you’re right … unbelievable. Used to go to a club in the Flats called Howl at the Moon which has nothing to do with anything … it’s late.

  19. Blouise,

    Just got back from taking pictures of the moon, what a sight it was tonight. Pool sounds good, Gene can rack, you can break, and then I’ll run them all in! Ran 120 balls once (15 games of eight ball) till I got thrown out of the establishment; some people just have no sense of humor!

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