The Enlightenment enshrined in Western culture a deeply held respect for reason, science and individualism. The result was an explosion of progress unprecedented in human history. In this talk, Yaron Brook discusses the consequences of the Enlightenment, and the future progress that’s possible if Enlightenment ideals can be reestablished on the more secure foundation provided by Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism.
Respect for reason has suffered a notable decline in recent decades. This lecture examines one of the central contributors: the attempt to evade the fundamental alternative between reason and faith. It surveys numerous ways in which people disparage reason (sometimes unwittingly) and explains why the prevalent tendency to fudge the reason/faith alternative cannot succeed—and has actually hastened reason’s decline.
People often speak as though freedom is a default state from which human societies have strayed. This talk argues that the opposite is true. In a state of nature, human beings are unfree because we are under constant threat of force from one another. Extracting this force from human society is a tremendous achievement that has only ever been partially and fitfully reached. The greatest single step in the liberation of humanity was the founding of the United States of America based on Enlightenment ideals. But these ideals were never adequately defended or consistently applied, and our history is one of progressing toward freedom in some respects while backsliding in others. Those of us who value freedom must appreciate the achievements of the past and work to complete them in the future. The alternative is a descent into barbarism.
The rebirth of reason in the Renaissance made possible, in the Enlightenment period that followed, was a reassessment of religion. In this lecture Dr. Mayhew sketches the main trends in a number of Enlightenment figures’ attitudes toward religion—with a focus on faith and Christian ethics—and then describes to what extent Ayn Rand’s criticism of religion represents a continuation of the Enlightenment approach to religion, and in what way she goes beyond it.