Update on Peikoff’s Podcasts

Leonard Peikoff continues to release interesting podcasts applying Objectivist philosophy to various issues and problems. Here I review some of the highlights of his podcasts numbers 12-15 (even though only some of the issues he addresses pertain to religion).

Podcast 12

Peikoff first addresses the question of whether it’s appropriate to take a “slightly less fulfilling” career in order to make more money. Peikoff answers that each person must decide what it is they want to do as a career and establish a hierarchy of values. Assuming that one’s career is possible and that one can survive by pursuing it, “then money is irrelevant.” (That should surprise those who deal only with caricatures of Ayn Rand.) Likewise, one should not avoid one’s chosen career merely to avoid extra years of education.

I find Peikoff’s answer persuasive, yet I continue to think that there are many legitimate trade-offs within a career. He gives the example of medicine versus law. However, within medicine and law, there are a great many specialties that impact salary, schedule, place of residence, and so on. Most fields are sufficiently broad that one can enter it at a wide range of salary and education. To take another example, while teaching philosophy at a college requires a Ph.D., it is possible to work on applied philosophy by writing columns and books.

In the podcast, Peikoff also reviews some interesting points about induction and liberty in medicine.

Podcast 13

To what extent must every person understand philosophy? Peikoff answers that, while a formal study of philosophy is not necessary to live a good life, one must grasp the essentials: this world exists, we gain knowledge by observing facts and thinking about them, and we should seek happiness through reason. Peikoff also discusses the importance of applying philosophy in one’s own life (as opposed to adopting ideas rationalistically) and the proper relationship between children and parents.

Podcast 14

Is it proper for a soldier to have short-term sexual relationships? Yes, in the situation where a long-term relationship is impossible and death is a possibility of the job. However, one should still find value in sexual partners, avoid self-deception, and practice sex responsibly.

Can homosexuals be Objectivists? Peikoff emphatically answers yes. He points out that philosophy can address certain broad questions regarding sex — for instance, philosophy shows that force, sadism, and promiscuity are wrong — but homosexuality is a psychological matter. Peikoff argues that sexual orientation generally evolves early in life and doesn’t “involve choice.” Peikoff tires of the question, noting that he personally knows good, hard-working, romantically committed homosexuals.

In this podcast, Peikoff also discusses the “human desire for transcendence,” children’s rights, and science-fiction.

Podcast 15

Peikoff first answers a question about alleged falling standards in the software industry. He doesn’t really answer the question; instead, he discusses all of the things he’d have to know to answer it, which to me is the more interesting exercise. Peikoff points out that there is a proper place in the market for lower-quality goods at lower prices.

Is a romantic relationship between an Objectivist and a Christian possible? Peikoff argues that the answer depends on the circumstances, such as how the Christian interprets the religion. One who believes that Christianity offers an alternative to nihilism is different than someone who believes that faith should obliterate reason. However, Peikoff concludes, such a relationship is likely to fall into a number of problems.

After discussing parental rights, Peikoff turns to the question of whether one can surrender certain rights. For example, can one agree to enter slavery or be severely beaten? Peikoff argues that such things may be properly prohibited. He suggests that government should not protect such agreements and should arrest those doing the enslaving and beating. While this thorny issue deserves more attention, Peikoff offers some interesting starting points.

Finally, how does “self-ownership” fit with individual rights? Peikoff argues that ownership properly applies to external objects, and that ownership of one’s self doesn’t make sense. Peikoff traces the problem to a conservative effort to reduce the politics to property rights, which, Peikoff argues, are derivative (of ethics and the right to life), not fundamental.

As always, my brief summaries should not be taken as a substitute for Peikoff’s complete comments.