James Valliant on Rome and Christianity: Self in Society #4

James Valliant discusses his book, Creating Christ, in which he and his coauthor Warren Fahy argue that the Roman emperors Nero, Vespasian, and Titus played an active role in the development of early Christianity. Valliant discusses the broader context of the Jewish-Roman conflict of the First Century, the themes of the Gospels, and the remarkable parallels between the Flavian emperors and the Christian story.

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Buy Valliant’s book via Amazon: Creating Christ: How Roman Emperors Invented Christianity

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Michael Huemer on Animal Welfare: Self in Society #3

Philosopher Michael Huemer discusses his book, Dialogues on Ethical Vegetarianism, focusing on the problem of the severe suffering of most animals currently raised for their flesh, skin, milk, or eggs. He also discusses the difference between a strict vegan diet and a diet that includes bivalves and potentially lab-grown meat; the alternative strategy of reducing one’s consumption of animal products; the problem of social conformity; and more.

Listen to the episode via iTunes.

Buy Huemer’s book via Amazon: Dialogues on Ethical Vegetarianism

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Robert Anthony Peters on Tank Man, Hollywood, Liberty, and Stoicism: Self in Society #2

Writer and Director Robert Anthony Peters discusses his short film, Tank Man, in the context of Chinese politics. Peters, an actor as well, also offers advice to young actors, discusses his advocacy of liberty, and outlines what in Stoicism he finds valuable.

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Robert Zubrin on the Case for Space: Self in Society #1

Robert Zubrin, head of the Mars Society and of Pioneer Astronautics, discusses his new book, The Case for Space.

Buy at Amazon: The Case for Space: How the Revolution in Spaceflight Opens Up a Future of Limitless Possibility

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Rand on Biology and Egoism: A Reply to Mozes

I deeply appreciate Eyal Mozes’s thoughtful challenges to my critique of Ayn Rand’s metaethical theory, which I present in my book, What’s Wrong with Ayn Rand’s Objectivist Ethics, and in subsequent essays.

Here I reply to Mozes’s March 25, 2019, essay. My essay here is part of an exchange beginning with Mozes’s January 6 essay and continuing with my previous reply. Although I seek to put the present discussion in its broader context, I certainly do not try to recapitulate my entire case here, a fact to which I hope readers are sensitive. My goal here is to try to wrap up the exchange so that readers know where and how Mozes and I disagree.

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Exploring Value Integration: A Reply to Mozes on Rand’s Ethics

Eyal Mozes reviews my book, What’s Wrong with Ayn Rand’s Objectivist Ethics, in a detailed essay posted January 6, 2019.

Mozes and I agree very closely on the proper interpretation of Ayn Rand’s metaethical theory. We disagree about whether that theory is correct (I say no) and what the theory entails in terms of certain moral commitments. We also disagree about whether my proposed alternative, that the point of ethics is to help a person rationally integrate values experienced as ends in themselves, can succeed.

A bit of background: Mozes, whom I met years ago at an Objectivist event, has written important essays about Rand’s moral theory, including one on the free-rider problem, several of which I discuss in my book. In my view, Mozes is a widely underappreciated Objectivist theorist.

Here I do not limit myself to a point-by-point reply of Mozes’s commentary; I seek also to put the conversation in context and to expand my ideas in a way that I hope will prove helpful to the general reader.

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Rand’s Ethics: Reply to David W. Johnson

In his Amazon review of my book, “What’s Wrong with Ayn Rand’s Objectivist Ethics,” David W. Johnson claims that my essential point is that the “Objectivist ethics allegedly is heavily oriented toward basic survival, undervaluing . . . life’s greater potential.”

It is true that Rand’s metaethics is oriented to the individual’s survival, as I review, but Johnson’s terms “heavily” and “basic” are misleading.

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Critique of Rand’s Ethics: Reply to Pseudo-Objectivists

Objectivists I know and know of tend to be smart, thoughtful, balanced, joyful, successful people. They do profoundly important work in such areas as education, technology, aviation, business, law, and philosophy. In many ways their productive achievements directly or indirectly benefit my life.

Unfortunately, there is a brand of self-proclaimed Objectivist—more accurately, pseudo-Objectivist—who tends to parrot Ayn Rand’s ideas rather than seek to deeply understand them and to nastily smear both Objectivists whom they deem heretical and critics of Rand’s ideas. Continue reading “Critique of Rand’s Ethics: Reply to Pseudo-Objectivists”