Friday, January 14, 2011

Butterfly Effects

We received mention at Promoetheus Unbound a libertarian review of fiction and literature. This is encouraging, as I am fully convinced that real social change much begin in the culture. The arts and literature act as immanent criticism, as I've argued before, and this allows for cultural change at the margins. It may take a while, but eventually the effects can be felt. Consider the impact of a novel written back in 1957 -- Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged -- which has led to such things as the foundation of the Libertarian Party and eventually to the current conservative-libertarian climate. Of course, one cannot predict nor control where things end up -- Rand did not like the Libertarian Party, for example -- but that's the nature of spontaneous order, after all.

In my case, it didn't begin with Ayn Rand -- it began, rather, with a Christian Platonist philosopher, Ronald Nash, who was also a libertarian. I took him for Intro. to Philosophy, and ended up with my first lessons in economics, as he taught from his own book Poverty and Wealth. This led me to the library, where I read everything I could on capitalism, leading me to read Walter Williams, Milton Friedman, and many others -- among whom was Ayn Rand. So I did get to her eventually. Although I did read Hayek's The Road to Serfdom during this period, I wasn't really introduced to the Austrians until I was working on my Ph.D., when I took a Game Theory and the Humanities class from Frederick Turner, in which we read Hayek's Individualism and Economic Order. I bought a few more books by Hayek, and a few by Mises, with both Hayek and Mises (Human Action) ending up in my dissertation, Evolutionary Aesthetics. My invitation to submit a proposal, and then write and present a paper at the Fund for the Study of Spontaneous Orders led me directly into spontaneous order scholarship. An invitation to a colloquium on Hayek by Liberty Fund resulted in a full engagement of Hayek's writings and ideas. And now, somehow, I have been turned into a spontaneous order scholar and Austrian economics literary scholar.

Now, here's the clincher: I only took the Intro. to Philosophy class because the New Testament class I wanted was full, and I still wanted to fulfill one of those pesky required sections that I, as a recombinant gene technology major, found annoying. The class I took was the last class Nash taught at WKU before he retired and moved to Florida. Had the NT class not been full, I could have never taken Nash's class, and my life would be utterly different from what it is now.

You never know what tiny thing will have a huge effect. In chaos theory those are known as butterfly effects. Have we flapped a wing?

No comments:

Post a Comment