Hayek and Rand on reason


I am organizing a session for the Association for Private Enterprise Education conference to be held April 11-13, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The theme is “Reason in Hayek and Rand.”

Here we have two giants of twentieth-century thought, but few comparative studies have been done. So as a start I have chosen Reason as a focusing theme and have solicited papers from several scholars on topics such as the following:

* How does Friedrich Hayek’s account of reason compare to Ayn Rand’s?

* Hayek is more focused on reason’s role in social causation while Rand is more focused on reason as an individual phenomenon. True?

* Is it accurate to say that Hayek is a sociologist of reason while Rand is a philosopher of reason?

* Hayek is an empiricist, broadly speaking, as is Rand, but Hayek’s reason is more Humean while Rand’s is more Aristotelian. True?

* Hayek has been interpreted as being a skeptic about reason and as tending to postmodernism (e.g., by Theodore Burczak). True? And if so, does this put him in direct contrast to Rand, who is a strong anti-skeptic?

* Hayek sometimes seems ambivalent about the relation between reason-based discoveries of social science and normative issues. Rand tightly integrates reason’s descriptive and normative functions. Issue here?

* On socialism: Hayek argues a reason-as-fatal-conceit thesis, while Rand places the blame primarily on an ultimately irrational altruism. Are these interpretations complementary or in conflict?

When the session’s panel is finalized, I’ll post it.

2 thoughts on “Hayek and Rand on reason

  • Pingback: Stephen Hicks, Ph.D. » The Ethics of the Financial Crisis

  • February 14, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    “Hayek argues a reason-as-fatal-conceit thesis”

    I agree with hayek here but only temporarily, in that I believe human beings are the problem with ANY system of politics, economics and government – i.e. genetic engineering, robotics, nanotech will hopefully clear out the evolutionary detritus of negative behaviour encoded in our biology as well as increase our capacity to control or turn off our negative instincts.

    People in the west think that capitalism will last forever, history ain’t over yet. We just had the biggest bit of socialism ever – the bail out, that’s going to cause some severe criticism of what capitalism really is in the real world – socialism for the elite, tough love for everyone else.

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