Question: Does individualism imply social isolation and atomism? Many critics of Ayn Rand argue that her individualism is hostile to love, concern, and respect for other people. They claim that her "atomistic individualism" doesn't permit, let alone support, groups or community. Are these criticisms true? What is the right view of human society and sociability?
Subjects Discussed: * Parliamentary government in Canada * Paul's political philosophy * About the Freedom Party of Ontario * Why focus on electoral politics * Paul's role in the Freedom Party of Ontario * The platform of the Freedom Party of Ontario * Taking steps toward freedom * The benefits of focusing on small issues * Liquor regulations * Getting media attention * The role of a political party * How political power is won in Canada * Destroying the "progressive conservatives" * Not voting for the lesser of two evils * What's wrong with the strategy of "buying time" * Electoral strategy * The problems with libertarians * Optimism about the future * Political parties in the US.
Question: Are high taxes comparable to slavery? On Facebook, some friends suggest that America is becoming more like Nazi Germany. Others share images comparing Americans workers to slaves picking cotton in the antebellum south due to our ever-higher taxes. I think these comparisons go way too far: Americans are still some of the freest people the world has ever known. No doubt, our freedom is being chipped away, but are we really like slaves?
Subjects Discussed: * Eric's background as a classical pianist * Starting with movement therapy: the "Feldenkrais Method" * Moving to the Dalcroze Eurhythmics * Discoveries about music and movement * Teaching children about music and movement * On learning and music * Activities at home and in the classroom * Adults using these techniques * Training horses and communicating with others * Teaching developmentally disabled kids * The problem with behavioral therapy * Teaching well-off versus poor kids * Noisy environments * Eric's plans in graduate school and beyond.
Question: Should people define themselves using the negative term "atheist"? To me, a rational person sells himself short when he calls himself an "atheist": he's only saying what he doesn't stand for, not what he does stand for. Plus, to use the term "atheist" seems to be accepting the religious frame of reference. A rational person values individual healthy human life, and everything else he believes follows from that, such as respect for reality, reason, and rights. When a person defines himself in those positive terms, what he's against follows. So, can a person be more clear and persuasive when he focuses on what he's for rather than what he's against? If so, what terms might he use to describe himself?
Question: Can people with divergent political views enjoy a good romantic relationship? Some of my liberal friends won't date conservatives, and some of my conservative friends are horrified at the thought of dating a liberal. Is that reasonable? Since I'm in favor of free markets, should I only date other advocates of free markets? Can people with very different political views enjoy a good romantic relationship?
Question: Should a person allow his ideology to set his default positions? When people adopt a religion, philosophy, or politics as their own, they often don't think through every issue - or they've not done so yet. Does accepting the various positions of that ideology as a kind of default amount to accepting them on faith? What should a person do when he hasn't thought through the issue for himself?
Question: What is mysticism? Is mysticism distinct from religion, faith, and belief in the supernatural? Can a person be non-religious but mystical? Can a person be religious but non-mystical?
Question: Is it wrong for an atheist to pray? I used to be a Christian, but I've not believed in God for many years. However, I still pray when I'm under stress, even though I know that it doesn't accomplish anything. What's the harm in praying to a non-existent being?
Subjects Discussed: * What is the difference between "skeptics" like James Randi who provide a valuable service in debunking supernatural claims and the "skeptics" condemned throughout Ayn Rand's and other Objectivists' writings? * What is your advice on coping with existential anxiety? * Should doping for greater athletic performance be considered morally or legally wrong? Should the US Anti-Doping Agency exist? * Why are the Republicans considered fiscally responsible? Just a little research on the internet and you can see Reagan and Bush 43 both ran up huge deficits. * What tips do you have for someone planning to study horrible philosophy, like Marx and Foucault. Will contemporary critics be of use? * Talk of politics and rights is prevalent in my household, and we are burdened by the news and active violations of our rights. I feel like I have to choose between either being in the gladiator pit, plagued with anxiety and disgust with society and government or take a much less active role in order to maintain my personal goals, happiness, and sanity. Is it immoral to choose my battles? Because if I battled each one I see every single day, I wouldn't have time to do much more. Where then would be my happiness? * Do you find that at the end of "Anthem," Liberty 5-3000 surrendered her sense of independence/personal identity? * Is the limited liability enjoyed by corporations justified? * Do you think it was wrong for Chris Brown to be awarded a Grammy, given his admitted abuse of Rihanna? * Should the U.S. government forbid private businesses from trading with Iran? * When should it be ok for a teenage (or pre-teen) girl to get her ears pierced? * Is it wrong to give your pet to a shelter if you're moving to a new apartment that doesn't permit pets?.
Question: What is the proper role of deductive reasoning? Is it proper, for example, to deduce the principles of intellectual property from the more general principles of individual rights? Or is that rationalism? More generally, when and how should a person use deduction as opposed to induction?
Question: Are psychic powers bunk? A friend convinced me to join him in visiting a psychic for a tarot card reading. Although I am opposed to mysticism, I didn't mind going and thought it would be funny. I was surprised to find this psychic knew things about me that (while vague) were very accurate descriptors, and could not have been known from my appearance (nor prior knowledge since it was an impromptu visit). It seems highly unlikely they could have guessed (and have guessed so accurately) correct character traits, issues and feelings. Is this evidence in favor of psychic powers? Or have I been misled?
Question: What does it mean to say that "man is a rational animal"? The fact that man is a rational animal distinguishes him from all other living entities and makes the whole of philosophy possible and necessary. But, taking a step back, what does it mean to say that man is a (or the) rational animal? What is rationality, not as a virtue, but as the essential characteristic of man?
Question: How can a person be certain of his own objectivity? It's often difficult to stick to the facts in reasoning, and it's even harder to make sure that you're focused on all and only the relevant facts. How can a person know that he's being objective – as opposed to relying on unwarranted assumptions, ignoring relevant facts, or rationalizing what he wants to be true?
Question: Should I use the term "selfish" in conversation without explanation? According to Ayn Rand, selfishness means acting for your own long-range life and happiness, and that's moral and proper. Yet most people think that selfishness means brutalizing other people, lying and cheating to satisfy your desires, or at least acting like an insensitive jerk. Should I avoid using the term unless I can explain what I mean by it? And how can I best explain its proper meaning?
Question: When should we give another person the benefit of the doubt? Often, people say that public figures facing some scandal should be given the benefit of the doubt? What does that mean in theory and in practice? When ought people give the benefit of the doubt? Is doing so a matter of generosity or justice?
Question: Is it wrong to use "faith" to mean "trust and confidence in a person"? Some people talk about having "faith" in their friends or in themselves – and by that, they mean that they trust and have confidence in those people. Is it wrong to use "faith" in that way? In other words, blind faith is wrong, but is all faith blind faith?
Question: What's wrong with being pragmatic? My dictionary defines being pragmatic as "dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations." What's wrong with that, if anything? Is that the same as "pragmatism"?
Question: Is the death penalty moral? I understand why people are opposed to the death penalty when there might be genuine doubt as to whether the accused person really committed the crime. Certainly, we've seen cases where DNA evidence has exonerated someone who was convicted several years ago for a crime they didn't actually commit. But if someone confesses to first degree murder and if there's incontrovertible physical evidence to confirm their guilt, is the death penalty then appropriate?
Question: How should a rational person evaluate unproven accusations of serious wrongdoing about people he deals with? I recently heard some information about a business associate's dealings with another of his associates that, if true, would make me reconsider doing business with him. However, his side of the story is that the other person is the one who acted wrongly. This is a serious matter, and it's clear that one or both of them acted very badly, but since I was not personally involved and the only information I have is of a "he said/she said" nature, I am not sure how to decide what I should do. Am I right to consider the information I heard at all, since I can't confirm it?
Question: What's wrong with the principle of sustainability? In the discussion of "sustainable agriculture" in your October 9th webcast, you didn't explain the problem with the basic principle of the "sustainability movement," namely "that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Doesn't that just mean respecting rights? If not, what does it mean and why is it wrong?
Question: How do I know that I'm reasoning based on facts, rather than just being driven by my emotions? Often, I feel strong emotions on some personal or political issue. How do I know that I'm not rationalizing what I want to be true?
Question: Why do religious fanatics seek to impose their beliefs on others? Most religious fanatics aren't content to practice their religion for themselves: they seek to impose it on others by law. Why is that? Why is that wrong? What can be done to combat it?
Question: How are evasion, rationalization, and context-dropping similar and different? When thinking over a problem I notice that these terms can often be applied simultaneously. So what do they mean – and how are they similar and different?
Question: Why do some people of faith survive and even flourish? If reason is required for life, and faith abdicates reason, then how can anyone who has faith live and prosper? In particular, how do some devoutly religious people manage to be so productive and creative in business?
Question: How should I respond to the urban legends forwarded by a family member? I've repeatedly pointed this family member to Snopes.com, in response to his forwarding of yet another urban legend. I keep hoping that he'll get the hint – and check for himself before hitting the "forward" button. Yet he never does so, and he's sending false, defamatory, and/or possibly dangerous information to everyone in his address book. This person is pretty smart – and he's kind and friendly. I'd hate to do anything that would mar our relationship. What should I do?
Question: Is pejorative rhetoric useful? When should you or when may you describe someone's argument or analysis in pejorative terms, because you don't consider them intellectually honest or educable, and you just want to make it clear to the wider audience that you don't accept them as a worthwhile opponent? Is it acceptable to just vent in such cases?
Question: What do you think of people using pejorative terms for themselves, such as gays referring to themselves as "faggots" or Objectivists calling themselves "Randroids"? The term "Randroid" is supposed to imply that Objectivists are unthinking, mindless drones. However, I happily use this term to describe myself – after first calling myself an Objectivist, of course – because I think it squashes a lot of the negativity behind the pejorative when I adopt it willingly. Do you think it's for good Objectivists to adopt this term – and more generally, for people to use insults as badges of honor?
Question: What role should experts play in our decision-making? Specifically, should a person defer to experts in fields where he's not well-informed? What if he's only partially knowledgeable? Should experts expect such deference? Does it matter whether the field is philosophy, plumbing, diet, or something else?
Question: Should pharmacies sell homeopathic remedies next to real medicines? For example, Cobroxin with Asian Cobra Venom 4x HPUS is sometimes sold next to acetaminophen (or Tylenol). Calms Forte's non-drowsy sleeping pills are often displayed next to diphenhydramine (the generic for Benadryl or Tylenol p.m.). James Randi, a magician in his 80's, took 30 of these sleeping pills with no effect. Basically, these homeopathic alternatives are nothing more than expensive water. So is it wrong for pharmacies to sell them as if they were effective medicine?
Question: When should a rational person be open-minded? Many people seem to have a mistaken idea of what it means to have an open mind. Where should a person draw the line between (a) listening to an opinion/idea and considering its value and (b) writing off the idea/opinion as hogwash?
Question: What's the best way to mentally focus on one activity when I can't stop thinking about another? Sometimes I get overly focused on or worried about a problem I'm having at work, and then I have difficulty focusing in class. Similarly, sometimes I'll think about an issue I'm having with a close friend, and I know I should focus my energy elsewhere, but it's difficult to do so. I know that I should give my full attention to class during the actual class period, but it's difficult to stop thinking about the other issue I have. What kind of method can I used to stop worrying about work, and focus on class instead? What's a good way to switch my focus from one thing to another over the course of a day?
Question: What is a proper view of gossip? Should a rationally egoistic person listen to and/or tell gossip about other people? Why or why not?
Question: Is it ever rational to rely on a "gut" feeling? More than once I have dismissed feelings that a person is not trustworthy, if I couldn't find a rational basis for them. Every time my initial instinct was proven to be accurate. Is it possible that I'm picking up on something that I can't consciously identify?
Question: How should we act towards others with poor conceptual habits? How should one act towards others who consistently refuse to use some concepts properly? For example, those who call margarine "butter" despite the drastic difference in their chemical makeup.
Question: Isn't it wrong to be a "black and white" thinker? To a lot of people that is not a good trait. Life isn't black and white. Black and white thinking limits you. It closes doors instead of opening them and it also closes minds. In the case of gray, you can give and take. Why is black and white thinking a necessary part of Objectivism? Shouldn't common contradicting viewpoints be welcome in a healthy discussion?
Question: Why is capitalism so misunderstood? I've noticed a huge backlash against capitalism in the media and on the internet for a while. Why? Why are people so resentful towards capitalism when it gave them all the prosperity?
Question: Can an Objectivist believe in God? Can a person be a theist and an Objectivist? Or is that too fundamental a conflict? If so, why?