Ayn Rand v. Thomas Aquinas in Paul Ryan’s Mind
by Mike Kimel
Ayn Rand v. Thomas Aquinas in Paul Ryan’s Mind
Think Progress piece on Paul Ryan.
Think Progress has a post noting that though Paul Ryan used to go around telling people he got into politics because of Ayn Rand, and he required all his aides to read Atlas Shrugged, now he tells the National Review:
“I reject her philosophy,” Ryan says firmly.“It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas,” who believed that man needs divine help in the pursuit of knowledge. “Don’t give me Ayn Rand,” he says.
I’d be inclined to believe him if he started handing out copies of the Summa Theologica (in the original Latin, of course) to his aides and requiring them to read them as he did with Atlas Shrugs. But seriously, Aquinas? On the plus side, what he wrote is free today. (Here’s the Summa Theologica, considered his greatest work, in English.) I’ll be honest – I tried to stumble through the Summa Theologica in my youth, but with no success. That said, I don’t I’d pay to hear Ryan explain Aquinas’s work (provided it was a truthful and honest explanation) and how he plans to implement it to the American public. I’d especially love to hear him explain this to the banking community:
Consequently, just as it is a sin against justice, to take money, by tacit or express agreement, in return for lending money or anything else that is consumed by being used, so also is it a like sin, by tacit or express agreement to receive anything whose price can be measured by money. Yet there would be no sin in receiving something of the kind, not as exacting it, nor yet as though it were due on account of some agreement tacit or expressed, but as a gratuity: since, even before lending the money, one could accept a gratuity, nor is one in a worse condition through lending. On the other hand it is lawful to exact compensation for a loan, in respect of such things as are not appreciated by a measure of money, for instance, benevolence, and love for the lender, and so forth.
Of course, if Bank of America did start making loans simply out of benevolence or to encourage love for the lender, perhaps they’d make a lot fewer loans of the type that later require the benevolence of the Treasury and the Fed to bail them out.
Here’s more from the Summa Theologica
Things which are of human right cannot derogate from natural right or Divine right. Now according to the natural order established by Divine Providence, inferior things are ordained for the purpose of succoring man’s needs by their means. Wherefore the division and appropriation of things which are based on human law, do not preclude the fact that man’s needs have to be remedied by means of these very things. Hence whatever certain people have in superabundance is due, by natural law, to the purpose of succoring the poor. For this reason Ambrose [Loc. cit., 2, Objection 3] says, and his words are embodied in the Decretals (Dist. xlvii, can. Sicut ii): “It is the hungry man’s bread that you withhold, the naked man’s cloak that you store away, the money that you bury in the earth is the price of the poor man’s ransom and freedom.” Since, however, there are many who are in need, while it is impossible for all to be succored by means of the same thing, each one is entrusted with the stewardship of his own things, so that out of them he may come to the aid of those who are in need. Nevertheless, if the need be so manifest and urgent, that it is evident that the present need must be remedied by whatever means be at hand (for instance when a person is in some imminent danger, and there is no other possible remedy), then it is lawful for a man to succor his own need by means of another’s property, by taking it either openly or secretly: nor is this properly speaking theft or robbery.
Like I said, I’d love to hear Ryan explain this stuff to the American public. But somehow I don’t think this is what Ryan had in mind when he says “give me Thomas Aquinas.” I’d be willing to bet he read less of Aquinas than I did. Hat tips to both Paul Krugman and TBogg (great minds think alike?).
It’s not often that a post on Angry Bear makes me laugh out loud, but the mental image of Ryan handing out copies of Summa Theologica in Latin did it. It’s only too obvious he’s never read Aquinas in any language, and never will, unless someone puts out a comic book version. What on earth possessed him to come up with Aquinas as a prop for his granny-starving ideas anyway? Someone on his staff must have found the name on Google. Wouldn’t it be fun to see him try to expain himself? Never gonna happen, tho, unless he goes on the Colbert Report. Now I’m laughing again at THAT mental image. Bravo, Mr. Kimmel!
Did Ryan just discover Rand’s atheism? If so, what else has he overlooked that would influence his views on public finance and governance, should he now become aware of it? It would be reassuring if Ryan knew what epistemology is, also too. But, that’s asking a lot of a Budget Committee Chairman. 😉 NancyO
Perhaps a witch hunt?
“In Summa Theologian, a Dominican monk named Thomas Aquinas made his case for the existence of God. In his work, much of which became adopted as the orthodoxy of the Church, Aquinas argued that the world was full of evil and dangerous demons. Among other things, Aquinas argued, these demons had the habit of reaping the sperm of men and spreading it among women. In Aquinas’s mind, sex and witchcraft begin what will become a long association. Demons thus are seen as not merely seeking their own pleasure, but intent also on leading men into temptation.”
Once we get into religion, there are no rules.
There is the known dog whistle act used by the conservative operatives to attract a certain philosophical species.
I admit, I had to look up Thomas. Having just read a bit of the wiki, some doing the same may say this is Ryan whistling. It is not.
The mentioning of Thomas and epistemology during an explanation about himself is the cow bell ringing to the US Catholic bishops and by extension the Vat.
If this is true: Thomas is held in the Catholic Church to be the model teacher for those studying for the priesthood..
then Ryan is ringing the cow bell by running with it hung around his neck. He’s not calling the Vat, it’s believers, he’s running to it.
Maybe the focus of Ryan’s change of ideals, from Rand to Aquinas, has more to do with him recently discovering that Rand was a nice, young Russian-Jewish emigre who had ended up in Hollywood seeking to make her fortune. If he were looking for light fiction it would have been more appropriate, and a smoother transition, had Ryan chosen Jacqueline Suzanne as his more current source of inspiration. With apoplgies to Ms Suzanne.
Let us not be tempted to give Ryan credit for learning something. Ryan “just discovered” that embracing Ayn Rand could have some negative political implications for him, coming from the Catholic church. Previously, embracing Ayn Rand had nothing but positive political implications for him, coming from the Koch brothers, John Allison, and many others like them. When the bishops attacked him for (a) his praise of Rand and (b) his budget proposals, guess which one he found easier to renounce?
Let us not be tempted to give Ryan credit for learning something outside his area of expertise–politics. Ryan “just discovered” that embracing Ayn Rand could have some negative political implications for him, coming from the Catholic church. Previously, embracing Ayn Rand had nothing but positive political implications for him, coming from the Koch brothers, John Allison, and many others like them. When the bishops attacked him for (a) his praise of Rand and (b) his budget proposals, guess which one he found easier to renounce?
It was some 90 teachers of the university and bishops who pulled him down. The name of St Thomas Aquinas came up in their letter, he is also the man who said women are just under -developed men.
He did not think the bishops conference spoke for all the bishops and he could pick his social teachings and than realized, it is not good to fight the Church.
The real question is why it took the Church so long when they acted instantly in the case of contraception? The influence of Ayn Rand on Republican economics has been around and for a long time.
Ayn Rand, intellectual icon for Republicans and right wing ideologues, but with no credentials for serious social commentary beyond having started her career as a mediocre script writer in Hollywood in the early ’30s. This is the person that Republicans looked upo to for ideological inspiration?
Money lending at interest few recall was forbidden by the Catholic church for 1500 years give or take. There are deep reasons for this and even though the ban was dropped mistrust of debt was deep in the psychs of all Christians until about let’s say 1960.
The relegation of distrust of debt to being a worry only of government debt is actually bizarre. While I do not discount the importance of the problem of soverign debt our problem is the embrace of debt, period.
Margaret Atwoods timely 2008 rumination on debt Payback has been made into a film.
Better late than never, and actually it’s pretty good timing. The really fun part will be to watch Romney’s candidacy implode as people come to understand what these people really stand for. And Ryan’s invocation of the pope as his budget guide will draw wide attention to what’s really at issue.
Mike Wallace interviewed Rand some 50 years ago, the video is still around on you tube. From what she said and what she wrote, she was really intellectual and emotional a basket case. She was really an early female Rush Limbaugh without the microphone.
The referenced video is here:
“While I do not discount the importance of the problem of soverign debt”
It’s not a “problem”. Govt always has the authority to credit a bank account to redeem Treasury securities…
This is how it works:
yep. right after that other Philosopher of the Screen Actors Guild who changed the course of American and World history.
NO. not John Wayne.
Graeber’s book, Debt: the first five thousand years, gives some background on why money lending is dangerous to people. i don’t know if Graeber would go so far, but it seems to me the art and technique of creating debt peonage is not only still alive and well, it is just about to resume sovereign power uber alles.
it’s not as simple as that.
Been re-reading The Name of the Rose. Seems there was a lot of debate about the weath of the Church in those days and preaching or writing about it could get you burned at the stake. Therefore Aquinas had to use baffle gab to avoid the fire.
Hmm, maybe it is the coffee, but I read something completely different from this. By denouncing “atheism” including Ayn Rand’s atheism, Paul Ryan is trying to suck up to the evangelical/taleban wing of the GOP. Furthermore, by denouncing Ayn Rand, he is denouncing Ron Paul. So to me, this is a case of dog whistle politics – he wants to get reelected, and he wants to kick Ron Paul in the short and curlies.
One course I had in college used the book Woman Defamed and Woman Defended, which focused on a lot of the mysogynistic writings of many of the folks who shaped Christianity, including Aquinas and St John Chrysostom among others.
My personal favorite take-down of Atlas Shrugged is a post by Brad Hicks where he states that Atlas Shrugged was a trilogy: Atlas Shrugged, an unwritted novel, Anthem. From Brad:
Anthem is actually the best book of the three. And it’s a credit to Rand that she realized just how monstrous the real results of the Strike would be. Many, many so-called Objectivists and Libertarians, who only read the first book, thought they were supposed to cheer for the Strikers, believed the Strikers’ personal delusion that the Strike, and the resulting mass genocide, would usher in a techno-libertarian paradise on earth. No, in Anthem we get a view of John Galt’s Earth from the viewpoint of someone who grew up in the next generation, never having known a technological world, knowing only a world in which selfishness is labeled the ultimate sin. The massive die-off from John Galt’s strike has resulted in the rise of the most vicious and backwards and cruelly unfair totalitarian regime in human history. And our nameless hero slowly has it dawn on him that the ruling council is so afraid of selfishness that they’re retarding any attempt to restore human technological civilization, no matter how miserable and stunted low-tech life is, until they figure out some way to integrate technological progress into their civilization without anybody being able to claim credit for it. Which cannot possibly work.
Ryan, as a young pol, chose a woman as his guiding light. The Church, in theory, reserves a high place for women. Mary is a big iconographic deal.
The reality of the situation is altogether different, though. The Church doesn’t have a whole lot of room in it for actual women in influential positions. Now that Ryan has gotten crossways with the Church, he needed to switch from lionizing a Jewish woman to lionizing a Catholic man. He coulda said “Jesus”, but that isn’t sufficiently Catholic. Heck, Jesus even had a soft spot for actual women and didn’t have much use for church hierarchy. When you get right down to it, sucking up to the Church requires great care in name-checking.
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