Friday, June 6, 2014

A Donor's Network for Reason Activists

This is a preliminary draft for initial review and public critique of its clarity, feasibility, and pitfalls. In comments, remember the rules of etiquette, including the need to state your name. Reason activists and potential donors can privately ask questions or express interest at

PURPOSE. A Donor's Network for Reason Activists (DNRA) intends to help certain activists connect to potential donors.[1] The donors hope their grants will enable activists in the U.S.A. to create cultural products that will disseminate the idea of reason—its nature, its applications, its implications, and its history, as well as its opposition to mysticism.[2, 3] DNRA's purpose is not to reward activists for existing projects, but to ease their financial struggle in creating and distributing future projects.

RATIONALE. The Objectivist movement—the movement that promotes Ayn Rand's philosophy of using reason alone to understand reality and guide one's life—is more than fifty years old. Particularly through The Ayn Rand Institute, proponents of Objectivism have made her philosophical writings available for study. Others, through public commentary and discussion groups, have further disseminated her philosophical ideas. Still others are laboring to apply the principles of Objectivism—particularly its ethics of egoism and politics of capitalism—to issues debated today.

A need remains for specialized activists to champion the key idea of each fundamental branch of the philosophy.
  • In metaphysics, philosophical naturalism: We live in one world, and every entity in it has a particular nature.
  • In epistemology, reason: It alone is our source of knowledge.
  • In ethics, rational egoism: The individual should be the beneficiary of his actions.
  • In politics, capitalism: The sole purpose of government should be the protection of individual rights from aggression and fraud.
DNRA supports one specialization: promotion of the idea that reason is one's only means of knowledge, rejecting mysticism in all forms. 

Ideally, DNRA will give small donations each year to individuals who are full-time activists specialized in promoting reason and rejecting mysticism. Unfortunately in the U.S.A today there are no such individuals. However, there might be other individuals who are working on the sort of individual projects that a full-time, specialized activist would undertake. DNRA's small donations will support such projects.

PLAN. No money will pass through DNRA. Money will flow directly from individual donors to individual activists. Perhaps I will be the only donor. The amounts I can donate will be small, totaling perhaps $2000/year.

REQUIREMENTS FOR ACTIVISTS. To receive a donation that will support your activist work, you must:
  • Be planning to produce a particular intellectual product, suitable for public dissemination, that supports reason by examining its nature, or its applications, or its implications, or its history, or its contrasts  to mysticism. Example products are: a book, a conference paper, a videotape of a lecture, an online transcript of a lecture, an online magazine essay, or a website devoted to reason or some major aspect of it.
  • Submit a brief proposal: What is the product you expect to create and offer to the intellectual public? When will it be available? How will it promote reason in U.S.A. culture? Describe the planned product in enough detail to allow a potential donor, if any, to make a decision about supporting it; and, after completing the project, describe the product so that interested viewers can decide whether to obtain it. The proposal should also provide (1) your name, (2) location, (3) contact information,and (4) current professional affiliation, if any. I will not make these last four items public but I or you will make them available to potential donors, if any.
  • Make the completed product available to the public, either for purchase at a competitive price or through other access (such as an open library archive).
  • Allow DNRA, in a public list of achievements, to identify the completed project (your name, the product title, abstract of the product, type of product, and the product's location for access). 
EXAMPLES. Existing products that would certainly qualify if proposed today are: 
  • Ayn Rand's lecture, "Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World," a lecture read at Yale University in 1960, and then printed in Philosophy: Who Needs It, 1982.
  • Ayn Rand's book, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, originally published as a series of articles in the periodical, The Objectivist, and re-published in 1990 in an expanded second edition.
Imaginary products that would qualify are:
  • A paper describing reduction, a tool of reason, for an academic conference.
  • A video explaining the nature of reason to young people mature enough to begin philosophizing.
  • A podcast surveying the types of mysticism active in our culture today.
  • An essay focusing on a particular current controversy, showing the way in which reason could solve the problem.
  • A lexicon of reason, that is, a short book that defines reason, its components, and the manner in which they relate to each other. 
  • A lecture demonstrating the use of reason in a particular historical setting—for example, a scientist solving a problem. 
  • A speech for a wide audience, championing reason by defining it, illustrating it, and suggesting the consequences for our lives if it were widely and consistently applied, even if only by intellectuals.
  • An essay explaining why there is one reason but many forms of mysticism.
  • An essay refuting the Christian, Muslim, and Judaic idea that we can use both reason and mysticism in some sort of compromise.
UNSUITABLE EXAMPLES. Examples of projects not suitable for donations from DNRA are: 
  • Products which treat reason tangentially.
  • Products created by using reason but not explaining it, its applications, its history, or its implications for the other branches of Objectivism.
  • Products that focus mainly on "reason" as it appears in non-objective philosophies such as Catholicism or Kantianism—unless the author fully compares each form to actual reason as characterized in Objectivism.
  • Products that commit the fallacy of the frozen abstraction by equating reason with mathematics, logic, or science (such as physics).
SUMMARY. A Donor's Network for Reason Activists offers small donations in trade for seeing new products become available for promoting reason or fighting mysticism in the U.S.A. today.

Burgess Laughlin
Author, The Power and the Glory: The Key Ideas and Crusading Lives of Eight Debaters of Reason vs. Faith, described here:

[1] DISCLAIMER: Donor's Network for Reason Activists has no connection—commercial, organizational, or philosophical—to The Reason Foundation (, Reason magazine, or any other entity that happens to use the word "reason" in its title.


  1. Any donors yet? I am working on a nonfiction economics book that will show that all real per capita increases in income are the result of human reason applied to the problems of living. Property rights for inventions are the key political/economic/legal policy that allowed us to escape the Malthusian Trap. My talk at Atlas Summit, will present some of the basic ideas related to this book. Is this the sort of work you are looking for?

  2. dbhalling, I have not forgotten your question. It is valuable to me because it gives me a test. I have been wrestling with a short-term illness, but I am now able to give you a tentative answer.

    First, I would remind all readers that my proposal to start a Donor's Network for Reason Activists is in the earliest stage. I published this draft of my proposal on my weblog, which is my journal for recording my notes, because (1) I wanted to test my own understanding first, and (2) I wanted to invite objections, questions, and suggestions from others who might have special insights I could not anticipate. My hope has be fulfilled.

    Specifically in answer to your question, dbhalling, I would, in the absence of more information, need to say that your project—an interesting and important one—would not qualify for my specific purpose.

    Is reason the subject of the book? Apparently not. Your book apparently will shine some light on the way that some individuals used reason in a particular historical situation, but the subject of the book is not reason. Nor is the theme wholly or mainly about reason, though apparently your theme will name reason as a crucial element.

    I must say, however, that your example presents the sort of borderline case that donors will inevitably encounter. So, I am glad you asked about it.


I welcome all pertinent comments and questions from readers who follow my strict rules of etiquette. I will not publish improper comments. If your screen name is not your first and last real name, be sure to include your name -- first and last -- in the body of your comment. Example acceptable forms of a name are: Burgess Laughlin; B. Laughlin; and Burgess L. or something similar that would be recognizable. The burden is on you to identify yourself.