Wednesday, June 30, 2010


After posting general agreement with the idea that rule of law and property rights must be respected vis-à-vis the proposed mosque near Ground Zero, I also felt it important to highlight Dr. Peikoff’s recent — and strong — denunciation of this view. You can hear his take on the issue at his website.

While I understand and agree with the general points he makes, I don’t clearly see their applicability in this situation. Moreover I worry that his considerations are less important than issues of mob rule vs. rule of law, property rights (and by extension rights to freedom of speech), etc. Indeed I keep picturing what would happen if (when?) a mob decides that Objectivist views are hateful and harmful to the nation’s way of life and founding principles?

But I was having trouble uniting all of these considerations into a comprehensive post, partly because of my great respect for Dr. Peikoff (I’ve learned a lot from his writings and audio lectures and thus wonder if perhaps I'm missing something here), and partly because I don’t know all of the particulars and details pertaining to the mosque. (For example I wonder why existing laws, even without a declaration of war, aren't enough to shut the mosque down if its owners are truly guilty of criminal activity, not just of promulgating ideas we find pernicious? Here a formal declaration of war is relevant, but perhaps not the whole issue as some have intimated. Similarly, I wonder why we wouldn't advocate using this highly controversial and visible event to engage in persuasion and moral evaluation? Expose the tenets and practices of Islam. Repudiate its thinkers and practitioners. Publicly condemn and morally ostracize all those associated with the project, including contractors, real estate agents, lawyers, etc. To me this would be a much more effective route to combat the particular and general threat -- without endorsing political principles and actions with which we disagree.)

In any case, given the complexity of the issue and my inability to grapple with it convincingly, I’m now happy to simply highlight Paul Hsieh’s excellent post on the subject, with which I agree. I find myself having the same attitude that he closes with (his point 5), and sometimes think that it will be a positive sign when not every Objectivist debate is framed as some type of litmus test. (I don’t ever recall running into such tests in my professional engineering life, despite having been involved in some highly acrimonious disputes.) (Of course, by this last observation I don't mean to imply that my level of knowledge is sufficient to qualify me as an Objectivist and thus subject to, or worried about, such a test. I consider myself a student of Objectivism, which means that my views are informed by what I understand of the philosophy and that I'm committed to bettering my grasp of it over time.)

Update: Amy Peikoff provides more arguments and support for Dr. Peikoff's position. I'm still not persuaded however.


Blogger Paul Hsieh said...

Amit: I've just posted a reply to Amy on her blog comments section. A version will likely also appear in NoodleFood soon.

3:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lovely post!

11:27 AM  

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