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?
Question: What is the relationship between personality and sense of life? What is the difference between them? How does a person's sense of life relate to his personality? Does understanding someone's sense of life help us to understand his personality and vice versa?
Subjects Discussed: * What "bleeding heart libertarianism" (BHL)-- or rawlsekianism, liberaltarianism, new libertarianism – is * why BHL matters * What's new about BHL, as a form of libertarianism * The meaning of "social justice" * The seeming incompatibility of libertarianism and social justice * Why BHLs want to reconcile libertarianism and social justice * How BHLs attempt to reconcile libertarianism and social justice: Friedrich Hayek * Hayek's views * Hayek + Rawls = BHL * BHL verus altruistic defenses of libertarianism * The moral assessment of BHL * The need to develop a better defense of a win-win world * How to talk about how capitalism helps the poor: benefits versus goals * The success of BHL * The potential effect of BHL on American politics * Silver linings and take-home points * Rawls' conception of justice.
Question: What is the solution to the is-ought problem? David Hume famously claimed that statements about what ought to be cannot be derived from statements about what is the case. Does that mean that ethics is impossible? Can the gap be bridged, and if so, how?
Subjects Discussed: * Chris Mortensen's introduction to Ayn Rand and "Atlas Shrugged" * Documentary projects before "Ayn Rand and the Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged" * The theme of the documentary * Creating the documentary * How the documentary came about * Interviews for the documentary with Objectivist intellectuals * The documentary as fact-focused * Interviews for the documentary with businesspeople * Stories of and about Al Ruddy * Current politics in the documentary * The response to the documentary * The value of "Atlas Shrugged" * If the documentary were made now... * The book of full interviews * America's future.
Question: Can Objectivism save the culture? Advocates of Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism often claim that the philosophy is necessary for substantially changing the culture for the better. That seems presumptuous to me. Is it true? Also, is the philosophy sufficient for saving the culture? Or is more needed?
Subjects Discussed: * The nature and importance of ethics * Religious ethics * Duty ethics * Collectivist ethics * Pragmatism * Rational, life-serving ethics * The Objective Standard.
Question: Why do so many cultural commentaries condemn the evil rather than praise the good? The virtue of justice, properly understood, means that praising good is more important than condemning evil. As Leonard Peikoff says in Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand: "The conventional view is that justice consists primarily in punishing the wicked. This view stems from the idea that evil is metaphysically powerful, while virtue is merely 'impractical idealism.' In the Objectivist philosophy, however, vice is the attribute to be scorned as impractical. For [Objectivists], therefore, the order of priority is reversed. Justice consists first not in condemning, but in admiring – and then in expressing one's admiration explicitly and in fighting for those one admires..." (pg 284). Despite that, the majority of cultural commentaries, including those written by Objectivists, focus on exposing and condemning evil, rather than praising the good. Why is that? Is it a mistake?
Question: What is happiness? When philosophers such as Aristotle, John Stuart Mill, Immanuel Kant, and Ayn Rand speak of happiness, what do they mean? Is happiness just a fleeting sensation of pleasure? Or is it something more enduring and stable?
Question: Why are older people less likely to change their core beliefs? Recently, I had a conversation with a long-time committed leftist who changed his views when confronted with the fact that collectivism always fails, and it fails because the underlying theory is wrong in principle. Many people, particularly older people, are unwilling to reconsider their core views, however. As to the reason why, my hypothesis is that older people have significant sunk costs in their philosophy, such that they could not psychologically survive the realization that they were so wrong for so many decades. Is that right? If so, what can be done to help them change for the better, if anything?
Question: Can parenting be a central purpose in life? Many people think that only a career can serve as a person's central purpose. They think that a central purpose must be remunerative, and that it can't be merely temporary. Is that right? Can parenting be a person's central purpose, even if only for a few years?
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: Are women subservient to men in Objectivism like in Christianity? The Bible and Christians teach that God made women to be subservient to men and not to be their leader. Ayn Rand seems to think that women are naturally subservient to men and should not be their leader. Aside from the appeal to God, what's the difference?
Question: Did Ayn Rand regard women as inferior to men? I admire Ayn Rand, and I've used her philosophy in my business and personal life, but I disagree with her view of women. In her article "About a Woman President," Ayn Rand said that "For a woman qua woman, the essence of femininity is hero-worship – the desire to look up to man. 'To look up' does not mean dependence, obedience or anything implying inferiority." Yet her view seems to imply inferiority in practice: Rand says that no woman should aspire to be U.S. President because that would put her in the psychologically unbearable position of not having any man to look up to. So, does Rand's view imply that women are inferior to men? What is the factual basis of her view, if any? Do you agree with her?
Question: How can I become more tenacious in pursuit of my goals? I find that I give up too easily on some of my goals, particularly when success is far away and much effort is required now. What can I do to make myself more tenacious?
Question: Are people in real life as evil as in Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged? In Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand presents almost every bad person as very evil. I understand the purpose of that in the novel, but are their equivalents in real life (meaning the legislators passing similar laws nowadays) as evil as that – or are some of them just misguided or even stupid? In other words, do real-life people act on the death premise and hate the good for being the good? I just can't imagine that. Am I being too optimistic?
Question: Does Objectivism need a psychology? The philosophy of Objectivism does not address the domain of human psychology as a distinct and significant category. Does that make it incomplete? If so, is that important?
Question: How do I become an expert on the Objectivist ethics? I want a complete understanding. I want to be able to prove it to myself and others. How do I get there most effectively? Can you recommend any material other than the most popular books out there?
Question: Why are subpoenas justified but not compulsory juries? In your 15 May 2011 webcast, you contrasted your position on jury duty with that of Dr. Peikoff's, saying that compulsory jury duty constituted the initiation of force. My understanding is that Ayn Rand's position was that subpoenas and the jury selection process are entirely consistent with justice, as Peikoff mentions in this podcast. Juries are selected using subpoenas. How would you reconcile being for subpoenas but against compulsory jury duty? And, does this also mean that you disagree with Ayn Rand's view of justice?
Question: What do people mean when they say "I liked Ayn Rand's ideas, but then I grew up"? On several occasions, I have discussed Rand's ideas with others. They have admitted to reading Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead when a teenager. They claim that they liked or even agreed with her ideas back then. "But, now I've grown up." I guess that is supposed to embarrass me since I am in my mid-40's. It doesn't. But I am left wondering, what is going on in their heads? Are they just jaded? Do they think life naturally leads to pragmatism or an acceptance of evil?
Question: Are compulsory juries moral? Is it necessary and/or proper to compel citizens to serve on a jury? If not, what is the best way to ensure the right to a trial by a jury of your peers, rather than trial by government agents? Should a free society have professional volunteer juries like the military?
Question: Where is the best place in the country for an Objectivist to live? The Free State Project in New Hampshire is proving to be a success for libertarians; especially in the town of Keene. I wonder if there might be some potential for a critical mass of Objectivists along similar lines. Is this even worthwhile?
Question: How should one promote Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism? What are some right and wrong ways to do that? What are some good methods and target audiences?
Question: What were Ayn Rand's shortcomings in her understanding and/or practice of Objectivism? After having listened to a number of Rationally Selfish Webcast episodes, some passing statements make it sound like Ayn Rand had a complete understanding and perfect execution of Objectivism. I'm attracted to Objectivism as a rational approach to morality and philosophy but bothered by how untouchable Ayn Rand appears to be. To compare, Isaac Newton did wonders for the world of physics, but if we hadn't evolved his theories, our world would be far less advanced. Maybe a better question would be: What progress in understanding has been made by Objectivists since Ayn Rand's death?
Question: What do you think about Objectivism and the Corruption of Rationality: A Critique of Ayn Rand's Epistemology by Scott Ryan? I came across the book on Amazon, and I was wondering if it's worth reading. Would it change my view about Objectivism?