"Most philosophers did not intend to invalidate conceptual knowledge, but its defenders did more to destroy it than did its enemies. They were unable to to offer a solution to the problem of universals." --Ayn Rand
Where did Rand acquire this odd notion that the so-called failure to solve the problem of universals has brought about a major crisis in Western Civilization? Consider the following take on universals:
"A 'universal,' to philosophy, is our conceptual categorization of a thing. Is there, for example, such a thing as Apple? We know the things so categorized... But does Apple have a real existence? Occam said no, won the debate, and put Western Civilization into reverse gear... It is very difficult to see where [Occam] erred.... The mistake was incredibly subtle. To deny 'Apple' is, in the end, to deny the reality of human concepts. It is to deny the workings of the human mind..."
Sounds suspiciously similar to Rand. Is this perhaps by one of her less orthodox followers? No, not at all. It's by George Roche, former President of Hillsdale College and someone who despised and probably never read Rand. So where did Roche get this notion that the ills of Western Civilization can be traced to the philosophical issue of universals? Roche's source is Richard Weaver's book Ideas Have Consequences, published in 1949. Is it possible that Rand's original inspiration for blaming the problem of universals for crisis of Western Civilization also came from the same source? But where else could it have come from? Rand is not known to have been widely read in philosophy. She only, we have been told, read synopses. She was, it is true, a history major, but she got her degree at a Soviet University, and if her philosophical writings are any indication, she does not appear to have had more than a superficial knowledge of history. So once more the question arises: where else but from Weaver could she have gotten her odd notions about the problem of universals? It is entirely conceivable that one of her conservative acquaintences brought up the Weaver's thesis during one of Rand's intellectual bull sessions; that from hence, Rand absorbed the thesis and integrated it into her own philosophy, altering it somewhat in the process but not substantially changing it; and then she introduced it to the world in her essay "For the New Intellectual," published in 1961. Weaver's thesis clearly would have appealed to Rand, because it gives importance to an issue that hardly anyone has cared about since the age of scholasticism, when the philosophy of Aristotle, Rand's master of masters, dominated the intellectual scene.