Rand versus Hayek on Abstraction

Reason Papers 33:12-30 (2011)
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Ayn Rand and Friedrich Hayek were notable 20th century advocates of libertarianism, and both of them based their political views, in part, on theories in epistemology. This paper discusses the radical difference in their views on a core epistemological issue, the nature of abstractions. Rand held that we form abstractions from the observation of particular, concrete things. Hayek held the opposite view that abstractions are primary; some are innate, some acquired from our cultural environment, but neither can be independently supported by observation of concretes. Kelley will show why Hayek’s view is both false and inconsistent with a fully individualist moral and political theory.



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