Friends and Fans — I have retired from my work as a public intellectual, so Philosophy in Action is on indefinite hiatus. Please check out the voluminous archive of free podcasts, as well as the premium audio content still available for sale. My two books — Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame and Explore Atlas Shrugged — are available for purchase too. Best wishes! — Diana Brickell (Hsieh)

Human Nature

  • Q&A: Evolution and Objectivism: 4 Aug 2013, Question 2
  • Question: Does evolutionary theory contradict the principles of Objectivism? I am new to atheism and Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism, and I embrace both wholeheartedly. However, I take issue with the theory of evolution. Atheism seems to imply evolution, but evolution seems to clash with Objectivism. Evolution holds that man is an insignificant piece of the larger, grander picture of the randomness that is life, that man is just one small insignificant step in the collective evolution of the earth, and that man is one with Mother Earth, not superior to it. In contrast, Objectivism holds that man has a purpose and that man is the most significant being, supreme over all other life. Also, Objectivism holds that "A is A" and that "Existence exists." Evolution, in contrast, claims that life came from non-life, fish came from non-fish, and man came from non-man – meaning that A came from non-A. Am I correct in my criticisms? Might some theory other than evolution be more compatible with Objectivism?

    Tags: Egoism, Epistemology, Ethics, Evolution, Human Nature, Logic, Meaning, Metaphysics, Objectivism, Rationalism, Science

  • Q&A: The "Marginal Humans" Argument: 21 Jul 2013, Question 1
  • Question: What's wrong with the "marginal humans" argument against uniquely human rights? Ayn Rand, following Aristotle, defined man as the rational animal – meaning that man's essential quality is that he possesses the faculty of reason, while other animals do not. Such is the basis for rights, in her view. Opponents of animal rights often appeal to this gap between humans and other animals to justify raising animals to be killed and eaten. They claim that animals can't have rights because they're not rational. Advocates of animal rights, however, often attempt to refute this claim via the "marginal humans" argument. They observe that human infants lack the faculty of reason, and hence, we should not use rationality as the moral criterion for rights. What is wrong with this argument? Do opponents of animal rights conflate potential with actual rationality, in that the infant seems potentially but not actually capable of reason?

    Tags: Animal Rights, Animals, Children, Disability, Human Nature, Politics, Rights

  • Q&A: Man the Rational Animal: 1 Jul 2012, Question 4
  • 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?

    Tags: Definition, Epistemology, Human Nature, Reason

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