Paul Ryan and Aquinas, Again

My last post on Paul Ryan and Aquinas has apparently caused something of a stir. I had only intended it as a bit of humor but some people took it more seriously. In response to that I have tried to put together some more substantive thoughts on Ryan’s relation to Aquinas at our new AMU Philosophy Department blog.

Paul Ryan: "Give me Thomas Aquinas"

I know I probably get the award for the most silly posts on But sometimes I can’t help myself. If you despise these silly posts of mine, then, please, read no further, for this one is sure to bother you too.

We all (at least we Americans) know by now that the big news in the US presidential race is that GOP contender Mitt Romney has just named Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his vice presidential running mate. Ryan, who is Catholic, has often been connected in the past with the economic views of Russian-American author Ayn Rand (not known for her embrace of Catholic social doctrine), for whom he does appear to have some appreciation.

But not long ago Ryan publicly distanced himself from Rand and let people know that, philosophically speaking, he’s more of a Thomist than a Randian. This is what emerges in an April interview with the National Review’s Robert Costa:

“I, like millions of young people in America, read Rand’s novels when I was young. I enjoyed them,” Ryan says. “They spurred an interest in economics, in the Chicago School and Milton Friedman,” a subject he eventually studied as an undergraduate at Miami University in Ohio. “But it’s a big stretch to suggest that a person is therefore an Objectivist.”

“I reject her philosophy,” Ryan says firmly. “It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas,” who believed that man needs divine help in the pursuit of knowledge. “Don’t give me Ayn Rand,” he says.

I couldn’t agree more.

By the way, in the same interview Ryan also talks about reading Benedict XVI’s Light of the World and mentions how the Catholic principle of subsidiarity has been an influence on his thinking.


UPDATE: I’ve discovered that others have beat me to the punch on this “headline,” some by a few months. I guess the news cycle is a little longer than the mainstream media’s, which makes sense, right? At any rate, there are pieces that applaud Ryan’s “Thomism,” others that claim his commitment to Randianism is deeper than he lets on, and still others that wonder about the incompatibility of Randianism and Thomism.

I don’t know whether will involve itself in this debate but it is certainly a worthy one to engage.