The existence of inanimate matter is unconditional, the existence of life is not: it depends on a specific course of action. Matter is indestructible, it changes its forms, but it cannot cease to exist. It is only a living organism that faces a constant alternative: the issue of life or death. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action. If an organism fails in that action, it dies…
–Ayn Rand, “The Objectivist Ethics”
Imagine a version of Atlas Shrugged in which the Taggart Tunnel disaster involves a causal process driven primarily by Mother Nature, and what goes off the rails is not a train but a health care system. Now imagine that the hero of the piece is not a shadowy figure like John Galt but the functional (not moral) equivalent of Dr. Robert Stadler. Now imagine that a retreat to Galt’s Gulch is a physical impossibility. If, for some readers, this requires a re-conceptualization of how the world works, maybe a lot of other things do, too. Continue reading
I had a sobering half-hour phone conversation today with my brother Suleman, a hospitalist at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, New Jersey. Ridgewood lies just a few miles northwest of the current epicenter of coronavirus cases in New Jersey, Teaneck. My own county, Hunterdon, has just seen its first case. Continue reading
The title of this book may evoke the kind of question that I hear once in a while: “Why do you use the word ‘selfishness’ to denote virtuous qualities of character, when that word antagonizes so many people to whom it does not mean the things you mean?”
To those who ask it, my answer is: “For the reason that makes you afraid of it.”
–Ayn Rand, “Introduction,” The Virtue of Selfishness
Apropos of selfishness, a snippet from my Phil 100 class today, devoted to discussing J.W. Davis et al, “Aggressive Traffic Enforcement: A Simple and Effective Injury Prevention Program,” Journal of Trauma 60:5 (May 2006). Continue reading
The long-awaited second issue of the Molinari Review (the Molinari Institute’s interdisciplinary, open-access, libertarian academic journal) is here! Nearly twice the length of the first issue!
You can order a paper copy from Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Amazon UK, or, I believe, any of the other regional incarnations of Amazon.
(A Kindle copy should be available later this month. In the meantime, the previous issue is available as a free PDF download here.)
So what’s in the new issue? Here’s a rundown: Continue reading
… [T]here were double meanings in
the Necronomicon of the mad Arab
Abdul Alhazred which the initiated
might read as they chose ….
Sometimes two terms can be the same in reference but different in sense, like “the morning star” and “the evening star,” or “Mark Twain” and “Samuel Clemens,” or … “John Galt” and “Cthulhu.” Continue reading
From a news release by the New Jersey Department of Transportation:
(Trenton) – New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) officials announced today the start of a railroad crossing rehabilitation project that will require a seven-day closure and detour of John Galt Way to start tomorrow in Florence, Burlington County.
Beginning at 7 a.m., Friday, October 4, until 7 p.m., Friday, October 18, John Galt Way will be closed and detoured in both directions at the railroad crossing between Richards Run and Route 130/Bordentown Road to remove the existing crossing and replace it with a new concrete crossing, as well as new asphalt approaches.
I don’t know, I feel like there’s something off about this.
Useful back story.
In June 1963, when Nathaniel Branden published a piece on “Inherited Wealth” in The Objectivist Newsletter, he was still the beloved disciple of Ayn Rand, who reprinted his piece in her 1966 collection Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, and continued to include it in subsequent editions despite her break with Branden in 1968. As Rand famously did not allow opinions deviating even in the slightest from her own to appear in journals or books that she edited, we can assume Branden speaks for Rand when he writes:
Stoicism, particularly in its ethical and political aspects (a defense of individual self-mastery on the one hand and commercial society on the other – for the latter, see, e.g., Cicero’s De Officiis), has been enormously influential throughout western history. During the Roman period it took on something like the character of a mass religious movement; Stoics were also statistically overrepresented among assassins or attempted assassins of Roman emperors. (One third of all Roman emperors died by assassination, so that’s not an insignificant number.) Later on, philosophical thinkers as diverse as Augustine, Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, Adam Smith, and Kant would draw on Stoic ideas (though always selectively) in crafting their own ethical and political views.
I just did this survey, “put together by the Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization (PLATO) and the APA Committee on Pre-College Instruction in Philosophy.” (You have to be an APA member to take it.)
It was fun. It gave me a chance to reflect on my first encounter with philosophy, which, contrary to the old saw, didn’t begin with Ayn Rand. It began in a high school English class on American literature, where we read Emerson and Thoreau. I’m not sure contemporary analytic philosophers would regard either of the two as real philosophers, but whatever you call them, they were my first contact with anything describable as philosophy.* I found them pretty enthralling, and still do. As it happens, I’m re-reading Walden for the first time in a couple of decades, and enjoying it immensely. One of my undergraduate teachers, George Kateb, predicted to me back then that I would one day forsake Ayn Rand and return home to the American Transcendentalists. I was offended at the time, but by George, he was right. Continue reading
A few brief conversations on aesthetics with Anoop Verma: Nietzsche on the idea of “giving style to one’s character“; postmodern art and postmodern philosophy; and Dewey’s philosophy of aesthetics.
Though my promises obviously mean nothing, I’m hoping to post a series of critical reflections here on Ayn Rand’s aesthetics. Of course, having put that hope in print, it’s now likely that I’ll end up reneging or backsliding on my quasi-commitment, and say nothing at all on the subject. But having re-read Rand’s Romantic Manifesto for the first time in several years, I’m struck by how frankly awful a book I find it–much worse than I did on my last reading in 2014, when my marginal notes, though highly critical of Rand’s claims, were not as dismissive of them as I now feel. Right now, I’m having a hard time understanding how anyone could take the book seriously.
So if you think it should be taken seriously, feel free to convince me when the time comes. I’d like to think that there’s more there than meets the eye, but right now, I’m not seeing it. At the moment, The Romantic Manifesto strikes me as one of the worst books of its kind (of any kind) that I’ve ever read.