Next Tuesday, Ari Armstrong will deliver a lecture for CU Boulder Philosophy Department’s Think! series entitled “Ayn Rand and the Scope of One’s Interests.” I think that Ari will do a marvellous job with this topic, so I hope that some of my readers can attend! Here are the details:

When: Tuesday, April 28, 7:30 pm Where: University of Colorado, Boulder, Eaton Humanities 1B50 A Think! Talk, sponsored by the Center for Values and Social Policy

Abstract: Ayn Rand says that selfishness is a virtue, a claim that many people find odd or outlandish. Won’t an egoist abuse others; ignore the interests of others; free-ride on the efforts of others to better the world; and lie, cheat, and steal if he can get away with it? On the contrary, argued Rand: A rational egoist is concerned with principle, virtue, and justice. How could this be so? The key to the paradox is to discover what, in fact, is in a person’s interests. This talk explores why acting on principle, developing meaningful social relationships, and working toward a rights-respecting society are integral to a person’s rational self-interests.

Bio: Ari Armstrong is an associate editor for the Objective Standard and the author of Values of Harry Potter: Lessons for Muggles. He has written about such issues as abortion rights, gun rights, and the drug war for various newspapers, including the Denver Post and Boulder Weekly. In 2009 Ari won the Modern Day Sam Adams award, and in 2011 he was a finalist in the Hoiles Prize for regional journalism.

Activism Recap

 Posted by on 19 April 2015 at 7:00 pm  Activism Recap
Apr 192015
 

This week on We Stand FIRM, the blog of FIRM (Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine):

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This week on The Blog of The Objective Standard:

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This week on The Blog of Modern Paleo:

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The Pitfalls of Animal Rescue

 Posted by on 18 April 2015 at 10:00 am  Animals, Economics, Horses
Apr 182015
 

I saw this post on a group about draft horses on Facebook a few days ago:

Here’s my question: How many sweet, wonderful, and sound draft horses went to slaughter while this person lived out his fantasy of “fate” with this poor colt … who will likely never be more than a pasture ornament? This kind of emotionalism — combined with the broken window fallacy — makes me so very sad.

No Philosophy in Action Radio on Sunday

 Posted by on 17 April 2015 at 8:00 am  Cats, Dogs, Personal
Apr 172015
 

This Sunday morning, we’re putting doggie Mae to sleep for the aggression problems that I discussed here. At the same time, we’re also putting kitty Elliot to sleep too: his heart is definitely failing, and by keeping him alive, we risk him throwing a clot and thereby having a terribly painful end. My wonderful, wonderful vet is making a special trip out to our place on her day off to do this.

So Sunday will be a terribly day for me, and I couldn’t even think of broadcasting. I know that we’re making the right choice, but still, this is so hard.

Apr 162015
 

Here’s an interesting philosophical question, raised indirectly by philosopher Iskra Fileva on Facebook:

If a person refrains from doing a wrong act due to some wrong motive, does that person count as self-controlled (in Aristotle’s sense) or not?

For example, a married man wants to have an affair with a co-worker but he refrains — not because he’s pledged his fidelity to his wife, but due to fear of social disapproval if the affair is revealed because she’s black/Jewish/older/Catholic/wiccan/whatever.

I don’t think that this counts as self-control (a.k.a. continence) because the person is ignorant of and/or blind to the relevant moral considerations. On Aristotle’s descending moral scale from virtuous to self-controlled to un-self-controlled to vicious (explained briefly here), he’s in the vicious category, even though he happens not to have done the immoral act of cheating on his wife.

This is why — as I argue in my book on moral luck — we need to distinguish between judgments of actions, outcomes, and character. These judgments identify different facts and serve different purposes. A person can still be of vicious character, yet not perform any immoral acts. (At least, that can happen in the short term. Long-term, bad acts are pretty darn likely.) That’s only a puzzle if we’re not clear about the various purposes and bases of our various kinds of moral judgments.

Forget Inbox Zero…

 Posted by on 15 April 2015 at 10:00 am  GTD, Productivity
Apr 152015
 

Forget Inbox Zero… Yesterbox Zero is the sweet spot! With Yesterbox Zero, I have to have all of yesterday’s email processed sometime today by 9 pm (i.e. my daily stand-up meeting with Andrew and Arthur Zey).

As a result, I tend to answer only important or interesting emails on the day that I receive them (as opposed to fussing about every new email because I want to stay at Inbox Zero), and then I answer all the rest sometime on the next day, usually in the morning. Then, my inbox is clear to receive this day’s mail. So I delete the unimportant stuff, answer what I please, and leave the rest for later. (I’ve never been able to do a “reply later” folder, as GTD recommends… that’s just a black hole for me.)

As a result, since I cleared out my inbox after SnowCon (when I had about 20 messages languishing in my inbox, which took about 5 hours to process), I’ve spent just 1 hour per week on email. It’s amazing. I’ve felt oppressed by my inbox for years, and just this one small change has made so much difference.

Damm Americans!

 Posted by on 14 April 2015 at 11:00 am  Culture
Apr 142015
 

Lately, I’ve been reading some cross-cultural comparisons — meaning, comparing contemporary American culture to various other cultures of the world — in preparation for my upcoming ATLOSCon talk on the role of philosophy in life. Such comparisons help illuminate the hidden assumptions and dispositions which influence the effect of philosophic principles on a person’s life.

I thought that I’d share this delightfully cantankerous gem: 17 Cultural Clashes This European Had in America. Here’s a bit:

3. SMILES MEAN NOTHING

When I meet Americans abroad, one of their biggest complaints are along the lines of “nobody smiles on Prague’s trams!” “That waitress was so rude to me! She didn’t even smile!”

Goddamnit America – I have the opposite complaint for you. You guys smile way too much. It’s annoying! How can you tell when someone means it? And why the hell would a stranger doing a crossword puzzle on public transport want to look giddy?

When people smile in Europe it means something. For example, because Germans don’t go around looking like an American toothpaste commercial when I was with them and they smiled, it lit up the room – you know it’s genuine and you can’t help but smile back, because you are genuinely happy. You’ve shared a joke, or a funny story or you are in love etc.

But all the time? When you smile all the time in public it means nothing. Apparently a smile releases endorphins, but if your face is stuck that way I’m sure your dreams of a natural high will fade soon. I’d rather focus on trying to make my life better and have reasons to smile than lie to myself and the world.

Despite how surely I sound in this post, because complaining is the theme of the article, the fact that I vent when I mean it, means that when you see me happy you know I’m truly happy. And that is indeed a lot of the time :) But not all of it!

As someone who smiles even more than the average American… I can’t help but laugh!

 

I’m pleased to announce that the book version of Explore Atlas Shrugged, my study guide for Ayn Rand’s epic novel, is now available in paperback and kindle formats.

Explore Atlas Shrugged is an in-depth course consisting of study questions, podcasts, and other resources developed by me over the past few years. The course breaks Atlas Shrugged into 20 manageable sessions, each covering about 65 pages of the novel.

The newly expanded course — including over 1400 study questions, plot synopses, character summaries, questions for a three-session book club, and a FAQ on creating an Atlas Shrugged Reading Group — is available online at ExploreAtlasShrugged.com. That online course also includes over 22 hours of lively and engaging podcasting. Each podcast — one per session — is an in-depth look at the events, characters, and ideas from those chapters of the novel. The price for all that is $20.

Now, I’ve also made available the print material from the course (meaning: everything except the podcasts) available in book form on Amazon. That’s here:

If you purchase one of these versions, you can access the full online course (including the podcasts) for half price — just $10.

For more details, including free previews of the questions, podcasts, and other resources, visit ExploreAtlasShrugged.com

Explore Atlas Shrugged will help you gain fresh insights into the complex events, characters, and ideas of Ayn Rand’s epic novel—whether you’ve read it just once or a dozen times before.

Notably, the response to Explore Atlas Shrugged has been overwhelmingly positive, including the following remarks:

I require students to read Atlas Shrugged in my introductory economics class. Dr. Hsieh’s Explore Atlas Shrugged podcasts were an essential tool to help communicate the novel’s lesson and hold effective class discussion. Do not attempt to teach the book without consulting the podcasts first!

— Bailey Norwood, Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, Oklahoma State University

And:

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Diana – our GLO Atlas Reading Group is going so very well. We have about 12-13 people attending, and it is truly the most fun we’ve had in a long time. So much rewarding fun comes out of your ideas and organization. Can’t thank you enough for your efforts!!!

And:

I just wanted to send you a quick note and thank you for your efforts on Explore Atlas Shrugged. As part of the Charm City Objectivists Society we used your questions and podcast to help kick off our reading group yesterday for session one. We had epiphanies all around the table from someone who is a firm student of Objectivism to a person who had read Atlas Shrugged but is new to Objectivism. I know that neither Ray (our moderator) or myself could have undertaken this kind of thing without the wonderful resource you have created. You have helped me make a difference in my community and I thank you for it.

And:

The other day, I began listening to your Explore Atlas Shrugged podcasts. I have read and listened to the book several times, but it has been admittedly too long since the last time. Although I can not adequately express how much experiencing your podcasts has meant to me and the extent to which they have reinvigorated me, I did want to thank you…Thank you.

 

On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I answered questions on the major virtues, signs of repression, the ethics of care for the body, and more. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading.

You can automatically download podcasts of Philosophy in Action Radio by subscribing to Philosophy in Action’s Podcast RSS Feed:


Whole Podcast: 12 April 2015

Listen or Download:

Remember the Tip Jar!

The mission of Philosophy in Action is to spread rational principles for real life… far and wide. That’s why the vast majority of my work is available to anyone, free of charge. I love doing the radio show, but each episode requires an investment of time, effort, and money to produce. So if you enjoy and value that work of mine, please contribute to the tip jar. I suggest $5 per episode or $20 per month, but any amount is appreciated. In return, contributors can request that I answer questions from the queue pronto, and regular contributors enjoy free access to premium content and other goodies.


Podcast Segments: 12 April 2015

You can download or listen to my answers to individual questions from this episode below.

Introduction

My News of the Week: The book version of Explore Atlas Shrugged is now now available on Amazon in kindle and paperback formats. I’ve resumed my ReligionCasts series of podcasts on philosophy of religion. And I won’t be broadcasting next Sunday for personal reasons.

Question 1: The Major Virtues

Question: What’s so special about the seven virtues? Ayn Rand identified seven virtues: rationality, honesty, productiveness, independence, justice, integrity, and pride. What’s different about those qualities – as compared to other commonly touted virtues like benevolence, creativity, temperance, or courage? Basically, why are those seven the virtues in Objectivism? Is Objectivism right to single them out? Are they exhaustive?

My Answer, In Brief: Ayn Rand was not concerned that her virtues be exhaustive or symmetrical. But the major virtues of the Objectivist ethics are such because they provide crucial, fundamental guidance and they’re contextual absolutes – unlike moral amplifiers. (Productiveness is an anomaly, in part.)

Listen or Download:

Links:

To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Question 2: Signs of Repression

Question: What are the signs of emotional repression? It’s very important not to repress your emotions, especially if you are a person with rationalistic tendencies. But how might a person identify when he’s repressing some emotions? What are the signs? What can be done to avoid and overcome the tendency to repress, if such a tendency has become habitual?

My Answer, In Brief: Repression is an automatized refusal to think or feel that greatly impairs a person’s capacity to solve the problems of his life. A person can look for the signs of repression by constantly monitoring himself for signs of shutting down thoughts and feelings. He can overcome repression by allowing himself to think and feel everything, even while declining to act on random thoughts and feelings.

Listen or Download:

Links:

To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Question 3: The Ethics of Care for the Body

Question: What is the moral status of actions aimed at tending to one’s body? In an egoistic ethics, the ultimate end of moral action is the growth and continuation of one’s own life. Ayn Rand discussed many of the kinds of actions required to achieve this goal, but she didn’t discuss matters of “bodily care,” such as cleaning your teeth, eating well, exercising regularly, tending to a wound, and seeking necessary medical care. These constitute a whole universe of actions necessary for the maintenance of one’s body and, hence, one’s life. Are such actions moral and virtuous? Should bodily care itself be considered a virtue? Or are these actions already subsumed under the virtues? (If so, I would love to know how to brush my teeth with integrity and pride!)

My Answer, In Brief: A person’s bodily health matters hugely to his well-being and longevity. New virtues are not required to account for this, however, as the virtues of integrity and pride do apply in spades.

Listen or Download:

Links:

To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Rapid Fire Questions

Questions:

  • Would it be wrong to say, “When you die, nothing happens” instead of “God bless you” when someone sneezes?
  • Is it okay to copy and distribute someone’s intellectual property if that person doesn’t believe in intellectual property?
  • Isn’t there a risk in a society without government welfare that the poor would commit crimes in order to go to prison and get free food, shelter etc.?

Listen or Download:

  • Start Time: 1:31:16
  • Duration: 5:01
  • Download: MP3 Segment

To comment on these questions or my answers, visit its comment thread.

Conclusion

Be sure to check out the topics scheduled for upcoming episodes! Don’t forget to submit and vote on questions for future episodes too!

  • Start Time: 1:36:18


About Philosophy in Action Radio

Philosophy in Action Radio focuses on the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. It broadcasts live on most Sunday mornings and many Thursday evenings over the internet. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

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Activism Recap

 Posted by on 12 April 2015 at 1:00 pm  Activism Recap
Apr 122015
 

This week on We Stand FIRM, the blog of FIRM (Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine):

Follow FIRM on Facebook and Twitter.


This week on The Blog of The Objective Standard:

Follow The Objective Standard on Facebook and Twitter.


This week on The Blog of Modern Paleo:

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