Atlas Scratched His Head

by Kevin D. Williamson

I’d been looking forward to Jason’s article on Rand, because writing about Rand brings out the crazies, and it’s August, which is high season for crazies, who apparently don’t go to the beach or Maine or rustic and leafy campgrounds in the mountains or whatever, and just sit around waiting for people to write articles about Ayn Rand, basically. Two (non-crazy) things  got my attention.

First, I’m perplexed by this sentence in The American Prospect’s blog:

Jason Steorts, author of the National Review cover story on Ayn Rand, takes on critics and challenges one of the more obnoxious conservative beliefs, namely that there is an Objective Moral Order which is the sole source of morality in the universe.

Obnoxious? I’m vaguely aware that the phrase “moral order” has some specific Kantian use, but so far as I can tell here it is being used as a synonym for morality, so the sentence reads, to me: Conservatives believe that there exists a morality which is the sole source of morality. Well, mea most maxima culpa, Aristotle. That sole source is kind of interesting, too: I’ve never heard a fully persuasive rational argument establishing a single source of morality (I understand this is a thorny question among the philosophers, and that Jason thinks you don’t necessarily need one as much as you might think you do), and smart guys have been chewing on this one for millennia, but they’ve got multiples over at The American Prospect? Get these boys to work on cold fusion, I say.

Or maybe they just have Skippy the Intern updating the blog.

Second, I blinked a few times after reading this from Richard M. Reinsch:

No discussion of the theological-political project is complete without the Spanish Inquisition, I suppose. Yes, the Catholic Church erred in getting involved in state judicial proceedings whereby dissidents to the regime were marked for punishment and some for execution. However, as the late Fr. Richard Neuhaus noted, “Over the three centuries of its full operation fewer people were killed than were killed on a slow afternoon at Auschwitz or in the Gulag Archipelago, not to mention the millions starved or slaughtered by the Great Helmsman in China.”

“Not as bad as Auschwitz, the Gulag, or Mao” is not something I much want to see engraved in granite over the church doors. It certainly is not Neuhaus at his most persuasive. If the choice is between Ayn Rand and “Not as Bad as Auschwitz,” then the saints haven’t a chance and we might as well all pack it up and just go have ourselves an Objectivist garden party or something.  (And speaking of saints and Catholic misjudgments, today is the feast of St. Joseph Calasanz, who, I read, got himself into trouble for sending his students to hear Galileo’s lectures, and for his friendship with Tommaso Campanella, who was also crosswise with the Inquisition, which is a whole ’nother discussion.)

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