Sunday, April 18, 2004


A voter's method?

Objectivists are few in number, and we live in an archipelago of semi-free republics around the world. We face many common problems. One is the subject of this post:

If a rational person chooses to vote for any politician, what method should he use to select one politician rather than another?

Ayn Rand characterizes methods as products of consciousness, products that "designate systematic courses of action devised by men for the purpose of achieving certain goals." She notes that a method may be purely psychological (as in a method of memorizing a password) or a mixture of psychological and physical actions (as in a method of drilling for oil).[1]

In my post last week ("A voter's dilemma?"), I sketched an application of my method for selecting a candidate: essentializing in philosophical detection. The latter component stands on the belief that ideas cause actions, and that the widest ideas -- philosophical principles -- cause the most actions, including political ones. Philosophy causes history, including political history.[2]

The first step of my method consists of gathering candidates' statements (verified by actions) that might reveal the candidates' underlying philosophical premises.[3] The second step is performing philosophical detection on those statements.[4] The third step is evaluating the philosophy of each candidate. For example, would a fideist be worse than a secular pragmatist? The answers in this last step are my guide in selecting one candidate rather than another -- if I choose to vote for any candidate at all.

For anyone who has selected a candidate in an upcoming election: What method led you to your conclusion?

Burgess Laughlin
The Aristotle Adventure -- a work of history for general readers and students.


[1] For Ayn Rand on method: Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, 2nd edition, pp. 35-36 and 304-305. The password example is mine; the oil-drilling example comes from Ayn Rand.

[2] For the idea of philosophy causing history (including the actions of a particular politician), see Ayn Rand's "Introduction," in Leonard Peikoff, Ominous Parallels, p. viii. See also his comments, reviewed and sanctioned by Ayn Rand, on pp. 14, 16, and (for an application of philosophical detection) 143-144 (hardback edition).

[3] Working under Ayn Rand's editorship, Leonard Peikoff, Ominous Parallels, pp. 143-144 (hardback edition), mentions the point about examining individuals' own statements and offers a brief recipe of detection.

[4] See Ayn Rand, "Philosophical Detection," Ch. 2 of Philosophy: Who Needs It.