Last Week’s Podcasts and Shows:
Philosophy in Action – Each week Dr. Diana Hsieh and Greg Perkins apply rational principles to questions submitted by their listeners. Most weeks the answers are quite lengthy and in-depth. This weeks questions included:
- Are egoism and altruism mutually exclusive? This was a very interesting question that went into the difference between what the terms egoism and altruism actually mean, they define who is the proper beneficiary of your actions, and the muddled way in which most people understand them, e.g. that egoism involves predation.
- Is it immoral or unwise to accept a better job soon after starting a different one? I thought this one was a good application of the virtue of honesty which in brief says you should not seek to gain a value by faking reality. In this case, it is not moral to obtain a job by saying you will stay for 3 years when you have no intention of doing so.
- Is it moral to advocate for the boycott of businesses? This is a question I submitted to the queue. They broke it down into three parts: 1) rights and morality, 2) does a boycott violate the rights of a business, and 3) is calling for a boycott immoral. Having it broken down step by step in this way helped clarify my own thinking, which was the point of my asking the question. I liked Paul Hsieh’s comment in the chat during the show about film reviewers.
Don’t Let it Go…Unheard – No new episode this week from Amy Peikoff and Bosch Fawstin.
Peikoff.com: Episode 359 – This week’s podcast is actually a 30 minute clip from Dr. Peikoff’s radio show from Christmas Eve 1998. The topic that was covered in this segment was President Clinton’s post-impeachment atonement. Quoting from the New York Times, Dr. Peikoff discussed Clinton’s claim that he was “no better but thankfully no worse” than anyone else, pointing out this was moral egalitarianism which claimed that, at root, no one is better or worse than anyone else. The recording was apparently done in the studio as you get hear the behind the scenes discussion that went on during commercial breaks. You can find the entire show here at the Ayn Rand e-store. The complete show also contains a discussion about Christmas.
The Yaron Brook Show – The theme for this week’s show is “What does being selfish mean?” This week was another great show. The two hours just flew right by today I thought. The show covered a lot of ground, all centered around the idea of selfishness and its opposite, altruism/selflessness. There is a lot of overlap between Yaron’s show and the first question this week at Philosophy in Action. This gives a good opportunity to come at the same subject from slightly different directions.
- How modern definitions, but not the definition from Webster’s 1828 dictionary, all slant the meaning towards selfishness being immoral. The old definition, regarding one’s own interest chiefly or soley; influenced in actions by a view to private advantage, has no moral connotation either way.
- The idea that the concept of selfishness today is really a package deal combining elements that do not belong together such as self interest and predation or Steve Jobs and Bernie Madoff. It is important not to lump these together.
- On the other hand, the definition of altruism is pretty good as it clearly indicates that the proper beneficiary of action, under that philosophy, is someone else.
- Yaron gave us all “homework.” He suggested we read an essay a week, starting with those in Ayn Rand’s Virtue of Selfishness. He suggested reading the introduction and chapter 2 for next week.
- It is important to think about how concern for one’s own interests translates into a moral code. Doing so allows you to more easily compare to other codes such as hedonism and altruism.
- He ended the show with a book recommendation: Trustee from the Toolroom by Nevil Shute. I think I need to learn to read faster. With all these recommendations I am falling way way behind.
Other Listening and Reading:
I have finally finished Winning the Unwinnable War by Elan Journo, Yaron Brook and Alex Epstein. This is an extremely fascinating, though in some ways depressing, book that I would encourage everyone who has an interest in what is going on in the Middle-East, and our country’s response to it, to read it. I was glad the final chapter discussed what a proper principled policy would be as the bulk of the book really hammered home how unprincipled and immoral our response has been so far, which I found disturbing to say the least.
After finishing Winning the Unwinnable War, I returned to reading How We Know: Epistemology on an Objectivist Foundation by Dr. Harry Binswanger. I had started reading this last year but, as with a lot of things last fall, real life interrupted so I have started reading it again from the beginning. The topic is complex enough that I didn’t feel I could really get much out of it by jumping in where I had left off. I find this sort of thing pretty fascinating.
I also listened to the next, for me, lecture in Leonard Peikoff’s History of Philosophy course at the Ayn Rand Online Campus. This lecture dealt with Descartes and his influence on modern philosophy. I was also pleased to notice that they are in the process of adding Leonard Peikoff’s 12 lecture series Philosophy of Objectivism. I have this one in mp3 form from the Ayn Rand estore, and Ayn Rand was present during the lectures and participated in most of the Q&A sessions. I was pleased to see the Q&A is included in the version on the campus which is not the case for some of the other lectures.