Fearless, Provocative, and Inescapably Thought-Provoking: Review of Kyrel Zantonavitch’s “Pure Liberal Fire” – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Fearless, Provocative, and Inescapably Thought-Provoking: Review of Kyrel Zantonavitch’s “Pure Liberal Fire” – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
May 16, 2014
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Pure Liberal Fire by Kyrel Zantonavitch is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.
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There is perhaps not a single thinker in the world more fearless than Kyrel Zantonavitch. Pure Liberal Fire is the direct, provocative distillation of his thoughts on metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics, economics, culture, religion, and the history of philosophy – including Objectivism and Classical Liberalism. Zantonavitch seeks to evoke a pure, true liberalism, and he shows no mercy for ideologies and attitudes that constitute its antithesis. He certainly leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind about where he stands on the issues addressed – and each article within the book employs an abundance of superlative expressions – be they positive or negative. When Zantonavitch praises, he really praises – and the same goes for when he condemns.
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I give this book a rating of five stars because it invariably makes people think – no matter who they are or what their starting persuasions and assumptions might be. There are many areas in which I strongly agree with Zantonavitch – and quite a few where I strongly disagree as well. He articulates many valid points about the fundamentals of philosophy, the importance of liberty in political theory, atheism, the damage perpetrated by various political movements and policies, and the unfortunate tendencies among historical and current Objectivists toward dogmatism and conformism instead of independent thought and the honest pursuit of truth. Some of our areas of disagreement include war, areas of foreign policy, and, perhaps more generally, the desired mechanisms for achieving societal change.

Zantonavitch’s approach and style would entail achieving a fiery, dramatic, immediate deposition of everything (every person, every policy, every idea) he considers evil, dangerous, or damaging. My view of reform is more surgical, focused on getting the sequence of steps right so as to minimize the damage inflicted during the transition while ridding the world of the disease of bad policies (and, in a more long-term fashion, through persuasion and free-market education, also ridding it of bad thinking of the sort that motivates bad policies).

Zantonavitch combines his no-holds-barred treatment of his subject matters with a unique dialectical technique. There are several places in a book where he characterizes a particular set of ideas (or people) in a strongly negative way – but then later (or earlier) also portrays them as either highly praiseworthy, or at the very least understandable and characterized by redeeming attributes. Two examples that come to mind are (1) his discussions of Objectivism as a brainwashing cult in some places and as the most advanced, best-developed philosophy to date in others, and (2) his characterizations in some places of religious believers as not particularly bad as long as they do not take their belief too seriously – and in other places of anyone who believes in a god or teaches his/her children such beliefs as being guilty of evil and/or abuse. The reader can glimpse in this a deliberate juxtaposition of these opposing characterizations in a dialectical fashion – in an attempt to examine both the positive and the negative aspects of the ideas and behaviors Zantonavitch is writing about. (With regard to Objectivism, there is definitely merit in pointing out both the great strengths and the failures, as I have myself done, for instance.) This also creates a second layer of meaning in Zantonavitch’s work, as his uses of positive and negative superlatives with regard to the same subject are seldom immediately close to one another. While the rest of his writing endeavors to be extremely direct (indeed, provocative) with regard to its meaning, he seems to expect his readers to make their own connections in this respect without him deliberately pointing them out. As a result, with regard to Objectivism especially, Zantonavitch’s readers have the opportunity to acquire a more balanced, nuanced view after having been exposed to both his glorious praise and his scathing condemnation of the philosophy.

One thought on “Fearless, Provocative, and Inescapably Thought-Provoking: Review of Kyrel Zantonavitch’s “Pure Liberal Fire” – Article by G. Stolyarov II

  1. Many thanks to Mr. Stolyarov for his intelligent, lengthy, thoughtful, and insightful review! I hope I’m worthy.

    I’ve been intellectually active for 13 years now, ever since I acquired a computer. The book Pure Liberal Fire represents the very best of my short-form thinking and writing over that period. I make a whole series of avant-garde claims which aren’t found in the current neoliberal movement (as I call it.) I try to study the best of all of liberal thought, from the Greeks, Romans, Renaissance, Enlightenment, Austrian economic thinkers, libertarian political thinkers, and Objectivist philosophical thinkers. Then I try to present the pure cutting-edge of truth. In simple terms, this means the presentation of the epistemology of reason, the ethics of individualism, and the politics of liberty at the absolute highest level of human understanding.

    Mr. Stolyarov describes myself and my approach to philosophical and cultural issues as “dialectic.” I think this is true. The violent clash of intellectual opposites — like in an atom-smasher — seems to yield the most truth for me. I love extremist thinkers, and relish a firebrand style, such as might be found with Christopher Hitchens, Ann Coulter, Bill Maher, Pat Buchanan, etc. This might not be to everyone’s tastes, which is why (believe it or not!) I try to write with a kind of well-controlled and subdued fire, rather than a display of pure provocation. But ultimately my book is unapologetically aimed at the strong and bold — not the weak or timid. It’s also explicitly for the intellectual and moral elite — not the masses.

    In various respects I may indeed lightly contradict myself, as noted by Mr. Stolyarov. This is perhaps because each mini-essay stands on its own, and is an attempt to tell the exact truth to the furthest extent possible in just a tiny number of direct, simple, unambiguous words. Thus each essay is at least somewhat in competition with the others. And there may be two or more sides to the various issues considered, only one of which usually gets emphasized in any given mini-essay.

    To address some of Mr. Stolyarov’s quite legitimate concerns, I think that the cutting-edge philosophy of Objectivism by itself embodies the most advanced human thought in 2000 years, and yet many of its proponents are very much cultish and religious in their propaganda efforts.

    Stolyarov also says that my:

    “approach and style would entail achieving a fiery, dramatic, immediate deposition of everything (every person, every policy, every idea) [I consider] evil, dangerous, or damaging. [His] view of reform [in contrast] is more surgical, focused on getting the sequence of steps right so as to minimize the damage inflicted during the transition while ridding the world of the disease of bad policies.”

    We do indeed differ here. I don’t worry about the transition (at all). I figure mankind needs the pure truth first, last, most, always, and very clearly and loudly. They don’t need to be spoon-fed. They can handle the truth, and will process it correctly, and in the correct order.

    I like the first sentence of the book review most of all. Indeed, I think I’m the most fearless thinker on the planet. I try to be. It’s nothing but fun — a sheer joy.

    Gennady Stolyarov is a kind of Renaissance man and remarkable genius across an unprecedently-wide variety of endeavors. I don’t know anyone more ambitious or greater. Thus I’m truly flattered by his review. I hope the book is worthy. But it is an attempt by myself to present the best liberal ideas and theories on this earth. And I’m arrogant enough to think I succeeded! But…

    I certainly welcome dissent and disagreement — especially if it’s semi-intelligent. I’m neither intellectually nor morally perfect (nor even close), and I enjoy working on the far cutting-edge of liberal theory. Thus I make more errors than most writers, and am always eager to quickly correct them, and thus expand and uplift my thought, and that of mankind.

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