Leonard Peikoff has released his 18th podcast, which deals partly with matters of religion. My summary of the discussion should not be taken as a substitute for the original.
1. Peikoff first answers a question about the military, expressing concern that it will suffer continued problems. He adds that the military is the consequence of cultural shifts, not a main cause of them.
2. What is a hero? What one regards as a hero depends on one’s moral code, Peikoff answers, but in general a hero is the “complete embodiment of a certain moral code.”
3. Is there any proof for reincarnation? I consider Peikoff’s discussion of this point the most interesting segment of the podcast. “What do you call evidence?” Peikoff begins. He points out that evidence is based on observation and must be integrated with the rest of our knowledge. Claims for reincarnation rest upon no means of knowledge other than some sort of mystic insight. Thus, such claims reject reason, the senses, and logic, Peikoff argues. So what’s going on with claims of reincarnation? Peikoff offers four possibilities. People making claims about reincarnation might through “sheer chance” work in some factually true detail. People can selectively focus on the more seemingly plausible claims while ignoring all of the obviously ridiculous ones; any psychic can occasionally make some accurate (if vague) prediction, just by chance. Children making claims about reincarnation might be subject to coaching or tricks. Finally, people making claims about reincarnation may simply be lying.
4. Peikoff makes a few notes about thinking conceptually.
5. Did Ayn Rand use or comment on psychotropic drugs? Peikoff replies that she was “completely against them.” He distinguished between alcohol, which when used in moderation can facilitate relaxation but “doesn’t warp your consciousness,” and a drug that “blows up your perceptual faculty” such as LSD. I basically agree with Peikoff here, but I add that some illegal stimulants, when used in moderation, also don’t undermine the perceptual faculty and likely have legitimate uses. Likewise, some illegal pain-killers are very useful for certain medical issues. Of course, while Peikoff didn’t discuss the issue of prohibition, Rand opposed the prohibition of any drug.
6. Is there a problem with “flooding our country with Mexicans?” Peikoff answers that immigration “should be free,” on the grounds that some people in the country shouldn’t be able to forcibly restrict the rights of property and contract of others. Regarding the problems of the welfare state, Peikoff notes that the proper solution is to “re-instate capitalism,” not restrict immigration. Regarding culture, Peikoff points out that some Mexican immigrants may listen to Spanish music and prefer Tequila, but this hardly subverts American culture. Personally, I regard some of of the Mexican immigrants I know as more American than the xenophobic statists trying to shut down the borders.