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)


Literature

  • Q&A: Enjoying Atlas Shrugged: 19 Jul 2015, Question 2
  • Question: How can I be less annoyed with Atlas Shrugged? I love Ayn Rand's ideas, and I thoroughly enjoy her non-fiction. I want to enjoy Atlas Shrugged and her other fiction more, but I'm often annoyed with the aesthetics of her work. I acknowledge the fact that the novels are great, but every time I see mention of Francisco's mocking smile or John Galt's mocking eyes or Hank Rearden's mocking laugh or John Galt's implacable voice or New York City's implacable skyline or Dagny Taggart's silent terror, I just want to pull my hair out. I find myself wanting to throw the book at the wall every time she uses those words! I understand that loving her novels is not a prerequisite for applying her philosophy, but I really desire to experience the joy that many other people feel while reading her work. How can I get more enjoyment out of it?

    Tags: Art, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Literature, Objectivism, Philosophy, Style, Values

  • Q&A: The Power of Fiction: 12 Jul 2015, Question 2
  • Question: Why does fiction arouse such a powerful emotional response? Why are people moved emotionally by literature and movies, even though they know that they're fictional? Shouldn't people respond emotionally only to real events, not products of imagination? Is there a rational basis for our emotional response to fiction?

    Tags: Art, Emotion, Film, Imagination, Life, Literature, Philosophy, Psychology, Values

  • Q&A: John Galt's Motor: 24 May 2015, Question 2
  • Question: Was John Galt evil, wrong, or a jerk for not commercializing his motor? In Atlas Shrugged, John Galt went on strike when the world seemed only a little worse off than today politically in America. Things got really bad so fast because Galt dismantled everything. If, instead of going on strike, he had quit the Twentieth Century Motor Company and started the Galt Motor Company, things seem like they would have gone a very different way. By my reading, Galt's motor was pretty much a free energy miracle – for the same price as a car engine a car could need no fuel and be nearly maintenance free. Electricity would be too cheap to meter and probably within a decade the Galt Motor Company would provide the engines for every plane, train, automobile, and power plant in America. The resulting economic boom from ultra-cheap energy would have probably improved conditions – there'd be fewer calls for controls because everything would be going so swimmingly. Galt could have gone into the other countries and demanded they liberalize their economies if they wanted him to electrify their countries. His wealth and influence would let him meet with titans of industry and convince them of his morality. He could invest in Hollywood and make movies and TV shows that showed his views. He could have met Dagny and fallen in love with her, and I'm sure over months of dating she would have come around to realize that his morality was right. Her resistance was, after all, to the strike, not really the idea that we should be selfish. People seem to get more panicky and politicians more lusting after power when the economy is doing poorly. In huge booms things seem to get better. People who are well off don't cry out for a savior and accept whatever anyone tells them will make things better, because things are going pretty well. If Galt probably could have gotten rich, liberalized the economies of the world, married Dagny, and sparked a moral revolution all without dismantling civilization, shouldn't he have? If his motor really could save everyone (and it seems like it could have), he is at least kind of a jerk to not commercialize it – and probably self-destructive too. So why go on strike at all?

    Tags: Activism, Altruism, Atlas Shrugged, Business, Death Premise, Duty Ethics, Economics, Ethics, Ethics, Law, Literature, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics, Responsibility

  • Q&A: The Cultural Effects of Superhero Movies: 27 Jul 2014, Question 3
  • Question: Do good ideas in superhero movies and television change people's philosophy? I have really enjoyed the pro-freedom and pro-personal responsibility messages of some recent superhero movies. However, I wonder whether those messages do any good. Rationally, I believe that a person can enjoy these superhero characters and then relate their qualities to a normal human standard. However, for the average viewer, I wonder whether the gulf between their superpowers and ordinary human powers creates a moral gulf too, so that people see the moral ideals of the superheroes as beyond the reach of us mere mortals. Is that right? Can these movies really affect people's ideas?

    Tags: Art, Culture, Culture, Ethics, Film, Literature, Politics

  • Q&A: The Purpose of Atlas Shrugged: 6 Jul 2014, Question 2
  • Question: Was Atlas Shrugged written to save America? Recently, I ran across this comment on the internet: ""Saving America wasn't the point of Atlas Shrugged, that's not the happily ever after it proposes in the end. It chronicles the main characters getting over that misguided mission and why." Two questions come to mind: (1) What was Ayn Rand's purpose in writing Atlas Shrugged? And (2) Do you think that being inspired to "save America" after reading Atlas Shrugged is misguided?

    Tags: Activism, Art, Atlas Shrugged, Free Society, Literature, Politics

  • Q&A: Creating a Stylized Life: 25 May 2014, Question 1
  • Question: Should a person seek to create a stylized life? In "The Romantic Manifesto," Ayn Rand said that "An artist does not fake reality – he stylizes it. He selects those aspects of existence which he regards as metaphysically significant – and by isolating and stressing them, by omitting the insignificant and accidental, he presents his view of existence." Should a person try to stylize his own life, such as by deliberately cultivating a consistent personal aesthetic? Should he aim to make every aspect of his life reflect his values, eliminating the rest? Would that make for a more integrated and meaningful life or might that be dangerous or undesirable in some way?

    Tags: Aesthetics, Art, Honesty, Independence, Integrity, Life, Literature, Objectivism, Values

  • Q&A: The Problem of Overwork: 13 Apr 2014, Question 3
  • Question: Does the example set by Ayn Rand's heroes encourage overwork? The heroes of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead seem to have a nearly unlimited well of energy. They work long hours, and they don't have many interests outside work. However, isn't that dangerous? Does this approach to work risk exhaustion and burnout? More generally, what's the rational approach to balancing work and self-care?

    Tags: Atlas Shrugged, Business, Ethics, Life, Literature, Productiveness, The Fountainhead, Values

  • Q&A: The Value of Studying Theology: 30 Mar 2014, Question 3
  • Question: Can a rational atheist extract any value from studying theology? Theology includes a mix of arguments for the existence of God, plus views on ethics, and more. It's the earliest form of philosophy. Can a person benefit by cherry picking ideas from theological teachings or does the mysticism and other faults outweigh any benefits?

    Tags: Activism, Epistemology, Ethics, Literature, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Relationships, Religion, Society, Theology

  • Q&A: Romanticizing Historical Figures in Art: 28 Jul 2013, Question 2
  • Question: Are there moral limits to romanticizing historical figures in art? For example, a writer might romanticize Robin Hood as the Ragnar Danneskjöld of the Middle Ages. If this is proper, is there an ethical limit as to what kinds of persons one may or may not romanticize, or as to how far one may stretch the historic truth? For example, does it matter if there are still contemporaries of that historic person alive who suffered unjustly because of him? Would it be wrong to ignore some unpleasant facts in order to present a fictionalized heroic character?

    Tags: Art, Ethics, History, Honesty, Justice, Literature

  • Interview: Chris Mortensen on Ayn Rand and the Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged: 20 Feb 2013
  • Summary: Chris Mortenson directed the excellent documentary, Ayn Rand and the Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged. How did that project get started? What was required to make it a reality? How was it received? What's next?

    If you haven't yet seen the documentary... don't delay! It's available on NetFlix (streaming and DVD) and Amazon (streaming and DVD). If you enjoy the documentary, be sure to pick up the new book with the full text of the interviews, including much material that wasn't included in the documentary. That's available in paperback or for kindle.

    Tags: Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Film, Literature, Objectivism

  • Q&A: Rooting for Antiheroes: 25 Nov 2012, Question 2
  • Question: Is it wrong to root for antiheroes in movies? I often root for characters like Daniel Ocean (of Ocean's 11, 12, etc.), Erik Draven (of The Crow), Harry Callahan (a.k.a. Dirty Harry), and "Mad" Max. Should I instead seek out movies with more consistently good heroes?

    Tags: Aesthetics, Character, Culture, Ethics, Film, Judgment, Justice, Literature, Personality, Progress, Psychology, Respect

  • Q&A: Enjoying Fantasy and Theology Literature: 1 Apr 2012, Question 4
  • Question: Is an interest in fantasy and theology literature proper? I'm fascinated with fantasy as a literary genre. I find it easier to get excited about a fantastic story rather than about a realistic one, and I'm also really interested in fantasy with a certain sophistication: the extremely well-constructed world of Tolkien in Lord of the Rings, for example, or the mythological background of vampire stories and so on. Along the same lines, I am also fascinated with theology. For example, I found it extremely interesting to read Paradise Lost, and to read up on the many theological questions it raises and answers. Is such an interest proper – or am I indulging in some kind of evasion or escapism from reality? Does it matter that I want to become a writer? I find inspiration for my own potential stories this way.

    Tags: Art, Introspection, Literature, Personal Values

  • Q&A: The Depth of Ayn Rand's Fictional Characters: 4 Mar 2012, Question 4
  • Question: Are the characters in Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged flat due to philosophic consistency? I'm reading the novel currently, and rather enjoying it. However, I've heard many people claim her characters are flat, one-dimensional, etc. I usually respond to this by saying that Ayn Rand's characters are the incarnation of her ideas, the physical embodiment of her ideas: an individual is consumed with this philosophy, so much so that they are entirely logically consistent (or at least as much as humanly possible, they are human, and do make mistakes, e.g. Rearden's marriage), thus, because of their abnormally extensive logical consistency within their philosophy, these characters merely appear to be 'one-dimensional'. Is this an accurate understanding of Rand's characters?

    Tags: Aesthetics, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Literature, The Fountainhead

  • Q&A: The Value of Reading Literature: 18 Dec 2011, Question 2
  • Question: What value do you gain from reading literature? I've never much connected with literature, particularly not the classics. I know that you read them routinely. What value do you find in them? Or, what am I missing?

    Tags: Art, Literature

  • Q&A: Product Placements in Art: 9 Oct 2011, Question 3
  • Question: Is product placement in art a breach of artistic integrity? Given that an artist must select every aspect of an artistic work, does delegating some selection to the highest bidder breach the integrity of the work? Does the type of artwork matter? Would it be okay in movies, television, and literature but not paintings? Why?

    Tags: Art, Business, Ethics, Film, Integrity, Literature

  • Q&A: Ayn Rand's Alleged Admiration for William Hickman: 9 Oct 2011, Question 1
  • Question: Did Ayn Rand draw inspiration from the serial-killer William Hickman? I ask due to this article by Mark Ames on Alternet: "Ayn Rand, Hugely Popular Author and Inspiration to Right-Wing Leaders, Was a Big Admirer of Serial Killer." According to the article, Rand idolized the serial killer William Hickman and used him as inspiration for the leads male characters in her books, notably Howard Roark. Also, Rand is said to seek an environment in which sociopaths like Hickman can thrive. Are these claims true or not? If so, would they affect the validity of Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism?

    Tags: Ayn Rand, Ethics, Literature, Philosophy, Psychology

  • Q&A: JK Rowling's Welfare Payments: 7 Aug 2011, Question 2
  • Question: Should JK Rowling repay the British government for welfare payments made to her? She famously wrote the first Harry Potter novel while "on the dole." She has been fabulously successful since then, but she likely could not have written that first book without state support. Should she now pay back all the government welfare paid to her during that period?

    Tags: Ethics, Government, Justice, Literature, Statism, Taxes, Welfare

  • Interview: Ari Armstrong on Values of Harry Potter: 12 Jul 2011
  • Summary: In preparation for the release of the final Harry Potter movie, I interviewed Ari Armstrong about the values – moral, psychological, and political – of J. K. Rowlings' Harry Potter novels. (Beware: The interview contains some major spoilers, so don't listen to it unless you've read all the books.)

    Tags: Ethics, Film, Harry Potter, Literature, Politics, Religion

  • Q&A: Imitating the 'Rape' Scene in The Fountainhead: 29 May 2011, Question 4
  • Question: Should a man ever act in real life as Howard Roark did in his first sexual encounter with Dominique? In your 24 April 2011 webcast, you said that a person should not act as Howard Roark did in the "rape" scene in The Fountainhead, implying it would be immoral. Could you explain why? Is the problem that you cannot know for certain what the woman wants? I've slept with a few women and only once have I ever been 100% certain that she wanted it that way and so I took it without any real permission and I was right. She even told me later she wouldn't have wanted it any other way. I understand it is very dangerous to say to guys, "Hey, its okay to do this!" because most people are idiots, but wouldn't there be rare real-life cases in which a man would be right to act like Roark did?

    Tags: Ayn Rand, Crime, Ethics, Literature, The Fountainhead

  • Q&A: Francisco's Slap of Dagny: 29 May 2011, Question 3
  • Question: Was Francisco justified in slapping Dagny? In their teenage years, when Dagny asked Francisco whether she should try to get D's in order to gain popularity in school, Francisco slapped her. I understand what he meant by the "unspeakable" thing that she said. But couldn't have he talked it over with her instead of slapping her – and shouldn't he have done so? Why does he use physical violence – and why does Dagny not just accept but relish in it?

    Tags: Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Ethics, Literature, Relationships, Rights, Romance

  • Q&A: Personal Art Recommendations: 22 May 2011, Question 5
  • Question: Can you give some art recommendations? Specifically, what would say would be your two or three favorites in the following categories, and why? (1) literature, (2) paintings/sculpture, (3) music, (4) movies, and (5) television.

    Tags: Art, Film, Literature, Music, Television

  • Podcast: Atlas Shrugged at Liberty on the Rocks: 14 Apr 2011
  • Summary: On Wednesday, April 6th, 2011, I spoke at Liberty on the Rocks in Denver about the deeper themes of Atlas Shrugged, using the example of Robert Stadler. Also included is a summary of Objectivism from the Q&A, as well as a trivia contest.

    Tags: Atlas Shrugged, Epistemology, Ethics, Literature, Metaphysics, Objectivism

  • Podcast: Explore Atlas Shrugged, Session 20: 9 Oct 2010
  • Summary: I discuss the events, characters, and ideas in Part 3: Chapters 9 and 10 of Ayn Rand's epic novel Atlas Shrugged.

    Tags: Art, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Epistemology, Ethics, Literature, Metaphysics, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics

  • Podcast: Explore Atlas Shrugged, Session 19: 16 Sep 2010
  • Summary: I discuss the events, characters, and ideas in Part 3: Chapter 8 of Ayn Rand's epic novel Atlas Shrugged.

    Tags: Art, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Epistemology, Ethics, Literature, Metaphysics, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics

  • Podcast: Explore Atlas Shrugged, Sessions 17 and 18: 4 Jun 2010
  • Summary: I discuss the events, characters, and ideas in Part 3: Chapter 7 of Ayn Rand's epic novel Atlas Shrugged.

    Tags: Art, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Epistemology, Ethics, Literature, Metaphysics, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics

  • Podcast: Explore Atlas Shrugged, Session 16: 24 May 2010
  • Summary: I discuss the events, characters, and ideas in Part 3: Chapters 5B and 6 of Ayn Rand's epic novel Atlas Shrugged.

    Tags: Art, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Epistemology, Ethics, Literature, Metaphysics, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics

  • Podcast: Explore Atlas Shrugged, Session 15: 30 Apr 2010
  • Summary: I discuss the events, characters, and ideas in Part 3: Chapters 4 and 5A of Ayn Rand's epic novel Atlas Shrugged.

    Tags: Art, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Epistemology, Ethics, Literature, Metaphysics, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics

  • Podcast: Explore Atlas Shrugged, Session 14: 16 Apr 2010
  • Summary: I discuss the events, characters, and ideas in Part 3: Chapter 3 of Ayn Rand's epic novel Atlas Shrugged.

    Tags: Art, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Epistemology, Ethics, Literature, Metaphysics, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics

  • Podcast: Explore Atlas Shrugged, Session 13: 26 Feb 2010
  • Summary: I discuss the events, characters, and ideas in Part 3: Chapter 2 of Ayn Rand's epic novel Atlas Shrugged.

    Tags: Art, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Epistemology, Ethics, Literature, Metaphysics, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics

  • Podcast: Explore Atlas Shrugged, Session 12: 19 Feb 2010
  • Summary: I discuss the events, characters, and ideas in Part 3: Chapter 1 of Ayn Rand's epic novel Atlas Shrugged.

    Tags: Art, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Epistemology, Ethics, Literature, Metaphysics, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics

  • Podcast: Explore Atlas Shrugged, Session 11: 15 Feb 2010
  • Summary: I discuss the events, characters, and ideas in Part 2: Chapters 9 and 10 of Ayn Rand's epic novel Atlas Shrugged.

    Tags: Art, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Epistemology, Ethics, Literature, Metaphysics, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics

  • Podcast: Explore Atlas Shrugged, Session 10: 2 Feb 2010
  • Summary: I discuss the events, characters, and ideas in Part 2: Chapters 7 and 8 of Ayn Rand's epic novel Atlas Shrugged.

    Tags: Art, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Epistemology, Ethics, Literature, Metaphysics, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics

  • Podcast: Explore Atlas Shrugged, Session 9: 25 Jan 2010
  • Summary: I discuss the events, characters, and ideas in Part 2: Chapters 5 and 6 of Ayn Rand's epic novel Atlas Shrugged.

    Tags: Art, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Epistemology, Ethics, Literature, Metaphysics, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics

  • Podcast: Explore Atlas Shrugged, Session 8: 13 Jan 2010
  • Summary: I discuss the events, characters, and ideas in Part 2: Chapters 3B and 4 of Ayn Rand's epic novel Atlas Shrugged.

    Tags: Art, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Epistemology, Ethics, Literature, Metaphysics, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics

  • Podcast: Explore Atlas Shrugged, Session 7: 7 Dec 2009
  • Summary: I discuss the events, characters, and ideas in Part 2: Chapters 2 and 3A of Ayn Rand's epic novel Atlas Shrugged.

    Tags: Art, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Epistemology, Ethics, Literature, Metaphysics, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics

  • Podcast: Explore Atlas Shrugged, Session 6: 16 Nov 2009
  • Summary: I discuss the events, characters, and ideas in Part 1: Chapter 10B and Part 2: Chapter 1 of Ayn Rand's epic novel Atlas Shrugged.

    Tags: Art, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Epistemology, Ethics, Literature, Metaphysics, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics

  • Podcast: Explore Atlas Shrugged, Session 5: 9 Nov 2009
  • Summary: I discuss the events, characters, and ideas in Part 1: Chapters 9 and 10A of Ayn Rand's epic novel Atlas Shrugged.

    Tags: Art, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Epistemology, Ethics, Literature, Metaphysics, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics

  • Podcast: Explore Atlas Shrugged, Session 4: 26 Oct 2009
  • Summary: I discuss the events, characters, and ideas in Part 1: Chapters 7B and 8 of Ayn Rand's epic novel Atlas Shrugged.

    Tags: Art, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Epistemology, Ethics, Literature, Metaphysics, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics

  • Podcast: Explore Atlas Shrugged, Session 3: 19 Oct 2009
  • Summary: I discuss the events, characters, and ideas in Part 1: Chapters 6 and 7A of Ayn Rand's epic novel Atlas Shrugged.

    Tags: Art, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Epistemology, Ethics, Literature, Metaphysics, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics

  • Podcast: Explore Atlas Shrugged, Session 2: 12 Oct 2009
  • Summary: I discuss the events, characters, and ideas in Part 1: Chapters 4 and 5 of Ayn Rand's epic novel Atlas Shrugged.

    Tags: Art, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Epistemology, Ethics, Literature, Metaphysics, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics

  • Podcast: Explore Atlas Shrugged, Session 1: 5 Oct 2009
  • Summary: I discuss the events, characters, and ideas in Part 1: Chapters 1, 2, and 3 of Ayn Rand's epic novel Atlas Shrugged.

    Tags: Art, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Epistemology, Ethics, Literature, Metaphysics, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics

  • Podcast: Count of Monte Cristo, Change Your Voice, and Overcoming Problems: 4 Sep 2009
  • Summary: I discuss two books: Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo and Dr. Morton Cooper's Change Your Voice, Change Your Life. Then I examine the moral significance of a story from the latter book in which a person struggling to solve a major problem for a very long time rejected a simple solution thereto.

    Tags: Egoism, Literature, Pride, Rationality, Self-Improvement

  • Podcast: The Launch: 1 Sep 2009
  • Summary: I introduce myself, discuss the new Atlas Shrugged Reading Groups sponsored by Front Range Objectivism, and offer my advice on an ethical question about a no-show at a wedding.

    Tags: Activism, Atlas Shrugged, Boundaries, Communication, Egoism, Ethics, Literature, Moral Wrongs, Objectivism, Wedding


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