Friday, March 26, 2004


Here is a new column by Burgess Laughlin:

The next 10 or 20 years?

My own book-writing projects are sweeping looks at some thread in the fabric of history. Likewise, some of my favorite nonfiction books for reading cover great periods of time. Leonard Peikoff's *Ominous Parallels* is an example. He traces the roots of National Socialism from Plato's philosophy, through Kant, and into the 20th Century.

From my reading of history, I have come to believe that a radically new philosophy -- whether good or bad -- can have its maximum effect on a culture only after at least three philosophical generations pass. That is how much time is needed, first, for the philosophy to pass from the originating philosopher to intellectuals who, second, apply that philosophy to each department of a culture, and then, third, for those effects to show up in daily life.

Lately, however, I have been thinking about shorter periods. Perhaps because I am about to become a grandfather, I have been wondering what the near-term future will bring for me, now at age 60, and for the individuals I value most.

My first thought was that 10 or 20 years would not make much difference in the society and culture in which I live. In reconsidering, I realized that for some individuals living at certain times and in certain places, 10 or 20 years could bring major changes in the conditions of life.

Here in the United States, there was a great difference politically and economically between life in 1922 (a few years after victory in Europe) and 1932 (in the depth of the Great Depression and at the conquest of Germany by Nazis). Ten years after that, in 1942, Western Civilization was fighting for survival -- as it has been ever since.

The initial assault came from post-modernists, the Latter Day Kantians. The follow-up attacks are coming from religious fundamentalists -- Islamic fundamentalists from without, and Christian, Jewish, Environmentalist, and Hindu fundamentalists from within nominally Western countries. Thus, fideism is filling the vacuum created by the philosophical skeptics.

While the Objectivist movement itself, led by The Ayn Rand Institute, continues to flourish, the surrounding culture is decaying at an accelerating rate.

For the short-term, however, one hope stands out clearly. A rational sub-culture -- of which this discussion forum is one element -- may offer a partial refuge. When, on the short-term, rational individuals devote their attention and their wealth to trading with other like-minded individuals, they not only benefit immediately, but they are building their long-term future as well.

Burgess Laughlin
The Aristotle Adventure - intellectual history for students and general readers.