One Reality Is Enough

RS argued for the validity of multiple competing world views, none of which can claim to be any more true than the others.

The essence of RS’s “Robin, is one rational view enough?” (TableAus, Jul-Aug 2009) is in his words “all deliver logically valid world views (once you accept certain premises)” and “the intellectual world is inescapably marked by competing world views.” His belief is there is no objective basis for deciding between these effectively arbitrary premises and world views.

The missing point there is that there is a real world out there, whose nature is what it is, whatever we might wish or think. The validity of objective thought depends only on that and on the one other thing on which it is based: that reason is efficacious for discovering the truth, that is, the nature of that real world. Sure, some of those competing world views dispute one or both of those facts: but I have yet to meet (or read) one of their proponents who is not a hypocrite. Words are cheap, but whatever we say, we all know that there is a real world out there and that our lives, health and happiness depend crucially on acting in accordance with its nature: and that is how we all act. I will accept the honesty of anyone’s claims to the contrary when they agree to hold their unprotected hands in boiling water for a minute.

We can thus leave those who claim otherwise to prove their sincerity by playing in the traffic, and all we need to worry about is what objective reason tells us about the nature of the world. And inherent in what we have just seen about the nature of objectivity and the nature of its critics is the conditional nature of life – which gives us our link between is and ought. Life requires a specific course of action, or it dies, so if you choose to live you must act as your nature demands. Thus we have an objective ethics as well. None of this requires spinning abstruse arguments from arbitrary assumptions or conjuring complex world views out of smoke. All it requires is objectivity: looking at the world through open, honest eyes using your reason to identify and understand what you see.

This does not mean that everyone will be objective. That is a matter of choice. But the failure or refusal of some to be objective does not mean that objectivity is impossible: truth is not subject to the permission of those who refuse to see it. Nor does objectivity mean everyone will agree. But it does mean that there is an objective means of judgment. And because reality is out there, in the long term the truth will win. But it can take a long time. Again, that is not the fault of objectivity: it is the fault of those who will not or cannot see. For example, the theory of evolution is objectively true, and that many people can’t see it is their fault, not a weakness in the theory or its objective validation.

On the details of my philosophy derived from that, contrary to R’s claim Objectivism has not been falsified nor proved non-objective. Criticised, yes. But criticism – by those do not understand it and thus miss the point – is not refutation.

I find his other arguments inconsistent. Why should he worry that I think some theories are irrational and some actions evil? Does he himself believe Nazism is rational and its consequences not evil? If not, what is the nature of his criticism? And if he thinks that “objective rationality” merely reflects contemporary power relations, how is my promoting capitalism, freedom and inviolate individual rights “similar”? The intellectual and political establishment been overwhelmingly subjectivist-collectivist for generations: in terms of our society’s “power relations”, what I am proposing is radical and it is his theories which merely reflect the entrenched establishment. And if Ralf wishes I were less one-sided in my essays – why does he not lead by example? I see no acknowledgement in his essay that I might be right or that my theories deserve the respectful attention other world views receive.

Finally on that point, writing from one point of view is not an “imposition of opinions”. One can’t impose an opinion, except by force. And it is only appropriate for a scholar to discuss all “the different possibilities” if there are different possibilities worthy of consideration, in that scholar’s judgement. It would be criminal for a medical lecturer to give equal time to scientific medicine and voodoo as if the difference were a matter of opinion – and the same is even more true of philosophers. The whole purpose of philosophy is to find the truth and guide people in how to live their lives. The philosopher who cannot find the truth should seek a more appropriate profession. The philosopher who thinks they have found the truth but lacks the courage or integrity to tell it as it is, should be ashamed.

© 2009 Robin Craig: first published in TableAus.