The Onion hits a bit too close to home with this satirical news report on the new Prius, which will reduce the carbon footprint of its drivers to zero:

The “green garden” was almost too much for me, I must admit.

More seriously, I’ll say: Lots of Americans are concerned with “the environment” for basically good reasons. They want to live in world with clean air, clean water, and clean soil. They want to experience wildness and wildlife for themselves, as well preserve it for future generations.

Alas, people often attempt to accomplish these ends with good intentions alone, without rational analysis of the costs and benefits — and worse, without concern for individual rights. As a result, to take an example close to home for me, people will decry logging and demand less (or no) logging federal lands. The result is massive overgrowth of the forest — and ultimately, wildly destructive crowning wildfires, just like we’re seeing here in Colorado this year.

Here, as in every area of life, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. A person who “means well,” yet ignores or evades the facts of reality is morally negligent at best and evil at worst.

Even worse, the ideological core of the environmentalist movement is nihilistic hatred for mankind. The “deep ecologists” want to see humans reduced to a primitive state, living as animals do, supposedly in harmony with nature. A common theme in environmentalist circles is that humans are a cancer upon the earth. For example, a blogger writes:

Humans are exceptional in one respect – in their ability to sequester all the resources for themselves. In nature, when a virus or bacterial infection spreads unchecked, it is called a disease. When an organism multiplies without restraint, it is referred to as a biological nuisance. When cells grow out of control, it is cancer. Within nature, people are a cancer upon the planet.

You can find the full argument for humans as a cancer on the earth made in these two papers: Why Are There So Many of Us? by Warren M. Hern University of Colorad and Humans as Cancer by A. Kent MacDougall.

To adopt “deep ecology” would mean denying our own human nature as rational agents who survive and flourish by the exercise of our reasoning minds to create values — values like cities chock full of skyscrapers, easy transportation in cars on paved roads, oil for use as energy and to create plastics, computers and the internet, anesthesia for surgery, zillions of books, and more. If they knew just how “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” life would be if we allowed nature to rule us, most people would recoil in horror and disgust.

So, by all means, enjoy those man-made trails through the wilderness, just as Paul and I are doing here:

But … beware of mere “good intentions” on environmental issues and run from “deep ecology” like the plague that it is! Most of all, don’t buy that Prius!

 

Not too long ago, I realized that my four-lecture 2010 OCON course — Luck in the Pursuit of Life: The Rational Egoist’s Approach to Luck — is available from the Ayn Rand Bookstore for just $22.38.

Update: As of January 2013, this course is no longer available from ARB. Check this page to see if it’s available now.

Here’s the course description:

Many people think of luck as a metaphysical force in the universe: they aim to increase good luck and decrease bad luck. That’s wrong—but how should rational egoists think about luck? This course argues that we ought to diminish the influence of luck on our lives by more fully exerting our powers of rational, purposeful control.

After defining luck, the first two lectures of this course survey two major false views of luck. The first lecture examines the religious view, exemplified by Augustine, that luck is a mere illusion because every event is the product of divine providence. The second lecture examines the modern egalitarian view, developed by philosophers John Rawls and Thomas Nagel, that luck is so pervasive in life that no one can be said to justly deserve anything, not merely economic goods but moral praise and blame too. These two views of luck are not merely based on false assumptions. When practiced, a person is subject to more blind luck than ever before.

Then the course turns to the rational approach to luck. First, Aristotle’s writings on moral responsibility, plus Ayn Rand’s argument for explicit philosophy, provide a framework for thinking about how to expand our power to shape our lives and thereby minimize luck. The heroes in Atlas Shrugged exemplify this approach, while the villains concretize its opposite. Next, the course considers some of the ways in which the Objectivist virtues make possible greater rational, purposeful control over our pursuit of values. Finally, the fourth lecture discusses some practical strategies for minimizing the effects of luck on our pursuits, with a focus on managing emergencies, increasing productivity, dealing with irrational people, and engaging in political activism.

Apr 302012
 

Henri is a French cat suffering from existentialist boredom:

Here Henri is again, now suffering from existential angst:

Feb 022012
 

In Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Webcast, I discussed being pragmatic. The question was:

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”?

My answer, in brief:

Pragmatism is a philosophic view that rejects thinking long-range and on-principle in favor of short-term expediency. However, many people just use the term to mean “practical,” and others are honestly confused by all the bad theories and principles rampant in the culture.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

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Monty Python: Argument Clinic

 Posted by on 23 January 2012 at 2:00 pm  Funny, Philosophy
Jan 232012
 

Ah, this seems a tad too familiar:

Nov 292011
 

In this brief clip from a 1995 interview, Steve Jobs speaks about the importance of living a life that’s fully your own, rather than accepting limits imposed by others. Implicitly, he’s drawing on the distinction between the metaphysically given and the man-made:

Here’s another short clip from the same interview on the importance of being willing to act in pursuit of what you want. I love the benevolence in the initial discussion of asking for and giving help!

The Oddity of the Falling Slinky

 Posted by on 3 October 2011 at 1:00 pm  Fun, Philosophy, Science
Oct 032011
 

This floating slinky effect is pretty awesome, but the discussion of it in terms of “information” and “knowledge” makes me cringe! There’s no knowledge involved whatsoever! Instead, the removal of the upward force of tension does not happen instantaneously, but rather requires some time to propagate, due to the structure of the slinky.

Via Gizmodo

Aug 262011
 

In Sunday’s Rationally Selfish Webcast, I discussed two questions on maintaining friendships despite philosophic disagreements.

The first question was:

How can I maintain my integrity in friendships with people of opposite philosophic views? I struggle to keep good relations with family and friends who support our current political system in which some people are helped at the expense of others, which I regard as slavery. They support ObamaCare, EPA restrictions, and welfare programs. Through years of caring discussions, I realize that they do not hold the individual as sacred but instead focus on what’s best for “the group.” At this point, I often feel more pain than pleasure being with them, even though we have many other values in common, yet I hate to cut them off. How can I maintain good relationships with them — or should I stop trying?

Here’s the 9-minute video, now posted to YouTube:

The second question was:

Should I terminate friendships with people who steal music and other intellectual property from the internet? I don’t know a single person who doesn’t steal something off the internet. I used to do this myself, but stopped when I realized it was wrong and why. Normally, I would cut off contact with anyone who violates rights, because that’s worse than just holding wrong ideas, but the activity is so prevalent now that doing so would end my social life. Even now, my clear moral position strains my friendships. So what should I do?

Here’s the 7-minute video, now posted to YouTube:

 

In Sunday’s Rationally Selfish Webcast, I discussed what’s wrong with the standard calls for “moderation,” including in diet. Here’s the 17-minute video, now posted to YouTube:

Brad Thompson on Neoconservatism

 Posted by on 21 March 2011 at 7:00 am  Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics
Mar 212011
 

Brad Thomson’s critique of neoconservativism has been featured in an online roundtable on Cato Unbound. I’ve not yet had time to read the essays myself. However, I was very much impressed with Dr. Thompson’s OCON lecture on neoconservatism some years ago. Based on the abstracts, I expect the responses to be of varying quality.

Below are Dr. Thompson’s article and the responses, with abstracts. More — particularly Dr. Thompson’s responses — will be posted soon. You’ll be able to find that at Cato Unbound.

  • Neoconservatism Unmasked by C. Bradley Thompson.
    Neoconservative intellectuals often describe themselves as having a particular mode of thinking — maybe even just a “mood.” C. Bradley Thompson argues that neoconservatism is much more than that. Its key philosophical inspiration of comes from Irving Kristol, and particularly from Kristol’s engagement with the philosopher Leo Strauss. Thompson argues that, under Straussean influence, neoconservatives champion the rule of a philosophically cunning elite over a population that will never be able to understand their intellectual masters. Instead, the populace is steered toward self-sacrifice, war, and nationalism — as well as a set of religious and moral beliefs that the elites in no way share. Such a doctrine, Thompson charges, points disturbingly toward fascism.

  • Neoconservatism, Leo Strauss, and the Foundations for Liberty by Douglas Rasmussen.
    Douglas Rasmussen argues that post-Lockean natural rights theory does not entail nihilism, as Strauss seems to have feared. A further error of Straussean neoconservatism, Rasmussen argues, is that it often conflates society with the state. Although the members of a civil society may rightly desire that society’s continuance, it does not follow that the state must coerce people into being good. Statecraft is not soulcraft; governing consists of setting ground rules that leave individuals free to seek the good.

  • The American Roots of Neoconservatism by Patrick J. Deneen
    Patrick Deneen disagrees that neoconservatism is alien to the American political tradition. In particular, founders such as James Madison and Alexander Hamilton envisioned politics as a realm where men of extraordinary wisdom and talent would shape the course of the new nation. The idea that commerce may corrode the morals is certainly present at the founding, as are civic virtue, self-sacrifice, and concern for the public good, the latter to be divined by wise statesmen. The neoconservative claim to Americanism is as strong, if not stronger, than Thompson’s preferred libertarian ideology

  • Strauss and National Greatness by Damon Linker
    Damon Linker argues that, although Thompson’s treatment of neoconservatism has considerable value, he errs in his characterization of Leo Strauss and his followers’ political theory. Strauss was an Aristotelian, Linker argues, and Aristotelian political thought is comparatively benign. Linker also argues that national greatness conservatism—a staple of today’s neoconservatives—is a 1990s addendum to the philosophy with little relation to Strauss, Irving Kristol, or the other early lights of neoconservatism.

Enjoy!

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