The concept of inherently dishonest ideas is made possible by the concept of evasion. A dishonest idea is one that is held as the result of evasion, rather than honest error. In his book, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, Peikoff defines evasion as follows:

"Evasion is the act of blanking out, the willful suspension of one's consciousness, the refusal to think--not blindness, but the refusal to see; not ignorance, but the refusal to know. It is the act of unfocusing your mind and inducing an inner fog to escape the responsibility of judgment--on the unstated premise that a thing will not exist if only you refuse to identify it." In essence, evasion is defined as the refusal to think. Evasion is certainly an interesting psychological phenomenon, but of what value is it to a philosophy? How are we know when a man is engaging in evasion? It's very rare that someone will openly admit, "I refuse to think about it." And even in such a case, how can we be certain that we are actually witnessing deliberate evasion, as opposed to an involuntary psychological problem?

For example, suppose we show Mrs. Jones a videotape of her son robbing a liquor store? She responds by closing her eyes, clapping her hands over her ears, and shouts, "I refuse to watch! I refuse to think about it!" Now is Mrs. Jones engaging in evasion, or is she simply manifesting a severe psychological problem? Perhaps evasion is a psychological problem, in which case it would be incredibly unjust to morally condemn Mrs. Jones for being mentally ill.

One can certainly imagine the phenomenon of evasion. Once can look inside one's own mind and easily imagine a situation where one simply refuses to integrate a particular fact with the rest of one's knowledge. Unfortunately, this tells us nothing about the minds of others. It does not tell us if they are actually engaged in such a phenomenon.

There is no question that Peikoff considers evasion to be a widespread phenomenon. In his book, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, he writes:

"Morally, it is the essence of evil. According to Objectivism, evasion is the vice that underlies all other vices. In the present era, it is leading to the collapse of the world." If one believes that evasion is the essence of evil, and is leading to the collapse of the world, wouldn't it be a good idea to have ironclad proof that such a phenomenon not only exists, but is also widespread? But Peikoff offers no proof that this is the case, and he certainly offers no test for the presence of evasion. Once again, Peikoff simply makes an unsupported psychological assertion, and treats it as a self-evident philosophical truth.

As a result of this unsupported assertion, many Objectivists treat the phenomenon of evasion in exactly the same fashion as they do the concept of inherently dishonest ideas. They simply look inside their own minds for a standard of reasonableness, and ask the question, "Could I hold such an idea honestly?" If the answer is "no," they immediately pronounce the judgment of evasion.

Many Objectivists are willing to pronounce the judgment of evasion after little or no debate with their opponents. If such an Objectivist decides that an opponent's idea is 'inherently dishonest,' then of course no debate is necessary, and we may proceed with the hanging. Frequently an Objectivist will make an argument (sometimes repeatedly), and when his opponent continues to disagree, the Objectivist will simply decide that his opponent is evading. "After all," the Objectivist reasons, "I have just made a shatteringly brilliant argument that no honest man could fail to understand. Therefore if my opponent still claims to disagree, then he must be evading." Needless to say, this is an incredibly naive (and stupid) conclusion.

There are a thousand reasons (in addition to evasion) why an honest man may fail to grasp a particular argument, no matter how clear and brilliant the argument may be. This is inherent in the nature of Man's conceptual faculty. Men are not moved by mere facts; they are moved by principles, and an honest man does not change his principles on the spur of the moment, even when confronted with an unanswerable argument. An honest, conscientious man needs time to think things through. This is an inescapable result of the fact that men can make enormous mistakes on the conceptual level, and must always proceed with great caution.

Many Objectivists acknowledge that Man is fallible on the conceptual level, but then seem to promptly forget this fact. Observing the depressing frequency with which many Objectivists denounce their opponents as evaders, one is tempted to conclude that Objectivism is a great magnet for simple-minded fools who have deluded themselves into thinking that they are philosophical and psychological


The point is, there is no simple way to instantly and reliably identify a phenomenon such as evasion. Realistically, such a determination requires a long period of observation and analysis. In the end, it is a psychological evaluation; a judgment-call of great uncertainty. It cannot be done solely on the basis of a man's ideas. The critical point here is that in dealing with the phenomenon of evasion, we have left the realm of philosophy and have entered the realm of human psychology. Once again, an unproven psychological assertion is being used to judge the honesty of others. One might as well read tea leaves.



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