So Much Evolution, So Little Progress

2008-02-09

Continuing my reading of the Journals of Ayn Rand, I recently found the following passage (pp. 248-249):

Why has man displayed such magnificent capacity for progress in the material realm and yet remained stagnant on the level of savagery in spiritual stature? This discrepancy has been recognized, decried, deplored, denounced by everyone. It has never been explained.

Rand thought that the explanation, or rather the solution, was to be found in philosophy (what elsewhere in her letters and journals she calls a "new faith" in individualism). Yet material progress has not been a matter of faith or philosophy. Instead, it has been caused by relentless tinkering and experimentation, endless incremental improvements, the application of scientific results and thinking to practical problems, the cumulative expansion of knowledge and techniques and institutions, new technologies building on the success of old technologies, the acceptance of inconvenient facts, nature being commanded by being obeyed. Unfortunately, few philosophers take a similar approach to ethics...


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