Lectures

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Philosophy

  1. Introduction to Objectivism: A succinct explanation of the central principles of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, based on my book, Objectivism in One Lesson: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Ayn Rand (Hamilton Books, 2008). (This talk has been presented at numerous universities under the auspices of the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI).)
  2. Religion Versus Morality: This lecture shows that religion and a proper, rational, life-promoting morality are utterly incompatible. The talk goes well beyond falsifying the conventional claim that religion is the foundation of morality; it demonstrates that religion and morality are mutually exclusive antipodes.   (This lecture has been presented many times for ARI—and an essay version was published in The Objective Standard, Fall 2012.)
  3. The Nature of Heroism: What are the facts of reality that make heroism possible? What is it about the world that makes heroism necessary? What is a proper definition of the concept “hero”? Who is mankind’s greatest hero—and why? This talk answers these fundamental questions. (This lecture was first given at OCON—ARI’s summer conference—in 2013; its content is the basis of my forthcoming book, Heroes and Hero Worship: An Examination of the Nature and Importance of Heroism.)
  4. Aristotle Versus Religion: All three of the major middle-eastern, monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—have confronted Greek culture and its brilliant secular philosopher, Aristotle. When they embraced Aristotle’s cognitive method of observation-based rationality, there followed golden ages and renaissances; when they rejected it in favor of faith, there followed ages abysmally dark. This talk explains the history of the West, from the 2nd century B.C. until the 18th century Enlightenment, as essentially a struggle of Greek versus Jew and Christian, reason versus faith, Aristotle versus religion. (The content of this talk was originally published as an essay in The Objective Standard, Spring 2014.)
  5. Villainy: An Analysis of the Nature of Evil: Given the devastation wrought by evil men bothhistorically and currently, it is vital—as a tool of intellectual and moral self-defense—for honest men to understand evil’s nature. What is the ethics of evil? What is its underlying philosophy? What are the specific variants of evil? Who are history’s most evil men—and why? This talk addresses and answers these questions. (This talk was originally presented at an Objectivist summer conference, and forms the basis of a chapter on this theme in my forthcoming book on heroism.)
  6. Rational Self-Interest as the Moral Basis of Benevolence: This talk shows that the conventional equation of kindness with self-sacrifice is a deadly error; that the exact opposite is true: A self-sacrifice ethic necessarily promotes only resentment toward our fellow man—and that authentic goodwill logically requires a moral basis of rational self-interest. (This talk is based on a chapter , “Egoism as the Necessary Foundation of Goodwill,” in my book, Capitalism Unbound: The Incontestable Moral Case For Individual Rights (University Press of America, 2010).)
  7. The Trader Principle: An important moral principle of a free economy, and of a free society more broadly, is that all exchange of values must be performed by the mutual consent and to the mutual advantage of all parties involved in the transaction. Often overlooked is that trade involves exchange of intellectual-spiritual values as well as of material ones. An important component of the moral virtue of justice, the trader principle is antipodal to socialism, under which values are coercively redistributed by the state. This talk demonstrates the moral virtue inherent in freely and voluntarily trading value for value. (“The Trader Principle” was originally presented at the Liberty, Free Markets, and Moral Character conference held jointly by the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) and the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism (CISC) in May 2014.)
  8. Is Money the Root of All Evil?: Goods and services—not money—constitute wealth. But money, because it immensely facilitates the exchange of goods and services, thereby immensely spurs the production of such wealth. Anyone sincerely concerned with man’s earthly well-being should therefore celebrate money as an unqualified good. The only thing evil regarding money is opposition to it, which comes principally, in differing forms, from the two dominant philosophies of the modern West: Christianity and Marxism. (This talk was first presented at the 2014 Liberty, Free Markets, and Moral Character conference jointly sponsored by FEE and CISC.)

 

Literature

  1. Objectivism Versus Kantianism in The Fountainhead :The theme ofThe Fountainhead is the struggle of the independent thinker against every form of spiritual collectivism—of Howard Roark against those who conform to the group, e.g., Peter Keating; those who rebel against the group, e.g., Lois Cook; and those who seek to rule the group, e.g, Ellsworth Toohey. But why is the collective dominant in the lives of so many people both in the novel and in contemporary real life? Because of the pervasive influence of German philosophy—of Marx, Hegel, and principally Kant. Roark, on the other hand, the autonomous thinker, embodies every virtue of Rand’s ethics, above all independence. The theme of The Fountainhead can therefore be examined as a struggle of Objectivist versus Kantian principles. (This talk was first given at an Objectivist summer conference. An essay version was published in The Objective Standard, Spring 2012.)
  2. The Mind as Hero in Atlas Shrugged: Virtually every major positive character in Atlas Shrugged is a creative genius. Indeed, throughout the novel, the mind—shown to be mankind’s survival instrument—is so glorified as to constitute the story’s essential hero. This hero—whose flourishing requires political-economic freedom—is then pitted against adherents of every form of statist principle and policy seeking to enslave and/or suppress it. Atlas Shrugged dramatizes the central conflict of the modern world: The free-thinking mind versus every variant of statism. (This talk has been presented, under the auspices of ARI, at dozens of universities. Its content was later incorporated into my CliffsNotes for Atlas Shrugged.)
  3. Rational Egoism in The Fountainhead: Rational egoism, in Rand’s thinking, requires satisfying two criteria: to hold healthy, reality-based, life-promoting values—and to indefatigably pursue those values, never to sacrifice them, regardless of the impediments or antagonism confronted. This talk shows that and how Howard Roark, the novel’s hero, perfectly embodies this moral code. (This talk, under ARI’s auspices, has been presented at numerous universities, and its content subsequently incorporated into my CliffsNotes for The Fountainhead.)

 

Politics

  1. Global Capitalism: The Cure for World Oppression and Poverty: This talk shows that, how, and why the rise of capitalism in the West at the turn of the 19th century, and its spread into Asia during the 20th, constitutes the single greatest hope for world peace and prosperity. The capitalist and/or semi-capitalist nations of the past two centuries—from Great Britain to the United States to Hong Kong and Taiwan—have set the template for establishing a measure of political-economic freedom and thereby rising from abysmal poverty into significant, widespread wealth. (This talk has been presented, for ARI, at dozens of colleges and universities.)
  2. The Philosophic Basis of a Woman’s Right to Abortion: This talk is emphatically on the side of the right to life—a woman’s right to her own life and her own body. The right to abortion must be seen as but one application of the broader principle of individual rights. A woman, organically formed, biologically viable, a single individuated human person, has the right to her own life; a pre-viability fetus, not fully formed, yet to be individuated, a growth within the body of another, is not an individual and does not yet possess the right to life. A human being is, among other things, a bodily individual. This talk grounds the right to abortion in observed facts regarding biological individuation, exposes the errors and logical fallacies of the anti-abortion argument, and shows why neither liberalism nor conservatism—but only Objectivism—can provide a comprehensive and consistent philosophic case for the right to abortion. (For twenty years I have given this talk on college campuses; it was also published in pamphlet form by the Ayn Rand Bookstore.)
  3. The Moral Basis of Capitalism: This talk opens by doing what is rarely done in political discourse: It provides rigorous definitions of such key concepts as “capitalism,” socialism,” “mixed economy,” and others. On this foundation, it shows that capitalism, the system of individual rights, protects a man’s right to his own life and, consequently, to his own mind—mankind’s survival instrument. Because of this, it liberates human brain power to make life-giving advances in every field. Numerous examples are provided from America’s freest period, the late-19th century, the period I dubbed, in my book, The Capitalist Manifesto,” the “Inventive Period.” Under full socialism, conversely, a man’s life is socialized; it belongs not to him but to society. It stands to reason that if his life belongs to the state, so does his mind—and the only “thinking” a man can do is that permitted by the state; all else is banned. Cultural stagnation and collapse are thereby assured. (This talk was given, in academic 2013-14, at Wayne State University and—under the auspices of CISC and the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS)— at Clemson University. It is based on material from my book, The Capitalist Manifesto: The Historic, Economic, and Philosophic Case for Laissez-Faire [University Press of America, 2005].)
  4. The Moral and Practical Case for Second Amendment Rights: Guns in the hands of honest, competent individuals save innocent lives. This talk provides both a moral validation of the right to bear arms—and, as well, a wealth of evidence demonstrating the practicality of this conclusion. (This talk is based on a section in my book, Capitalist Solutions: A Philosophy of American Moral Dilemmas [Transaction Publishers, 2011].)
  5. The Case for Drug Legalization: The legal-political war on drugs is an abysmal failure: It violates the right of adults to legally buy, sell, or consume any substance(s) they choose, while failing—for necessary and predictable reasons—to control drug trafficking. Legalizing drugs both protects the right of adult citizens in a free society to legally choose which substances they will or will not ingest and, with the failed anti-drug war repudiated, leaves open the possibility of a vastly more effective effort: A moral-philosophic-educational campaign, exhorting each individual to recognize both that his life belongs to him—and the healthy, value-laden, joy-inducing possibilities his life holds out for him. The legalization of drugs is an integral aspect of an intensified, significantly more effective war on drugs. (This talk, too, is based on a section in Capitalist Solutions.)
  6. The Moral-Practical Case for (Generally) Open Immigration: It is the inalienable right of an honest man to live in the nation of his choice, and the responsibility of a free country’s government to uphold that right. Related, immigrants and their offspring have made incalculable contributions to American life: From Andrew Carnegie to John Roebling to Ayn Rand to Albert Einstein to Ludwig von Mises to founders of Yahoo, Google, and Sun Microsystems to millions of hard-working laborers to numerous others, America has immensely benefited from immigrant productivity. However, intensive background checks must be performed to ensure that criminals and jihadists are excluded. The enormous expense of this is substantially outweighed by even more enormous immigrant productivity. (This talk also is based on a section in Capitalist Solutions.)
  7. The Superiority of Free Market Healthcare to Socialized Medicine: The United States is, and has been for many decades, not a capitalist system—but a mixed economy, part capitalism, part socialism; part freedom, part statism; part private ownership, part government controls. Which part of the mixture is responsible for the high quality of American health care? Which part is responsible for its high cost? Which part of the mixture must be retained—and which part excised? What will be the result of a free market in medicine? This talk answers these questions. (This talk, as well, is based on a chapter in Capitalist Solutions.)
  8. The Educational Bonanza of Privatizing Government Schools: The leftist claim that, prior to imposition of government schools in the 1850s, American education suffered, is a miserable canard. This talk shows that America’s free market of education, during the 18th and early-19th centuries, provided education superlative and widespread; presents the principles that explain this truth; and the reasons that, if an educational free market were re-implemented in contemporary America, the results would be similarly superb. (The content of this talk was originally published as an essay in The Objective Standard, Winter 2010-2011.)

 

History

  1. Black Innovators and Entrepreneurs Under Capitalism: That innovative black American thinkers and entrepreneurs flourished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries—during the freer periods of the country’s economic history—is a little-known part of our heritage. From Madame C.J. Walker—the first female millionaire—to George Washington Carver—who revolutionized agricultural science—to Elijah McCoy—an engineer, largely in railroading, upon whose inventions the phrase “the real McCoy” is based—to many others—black producers made significant advances under freedom. Elimination of bigotry, in all of its hideous iterations, is an unqualified good toward which all rational men should strive. However, this talk shows that the rise of a deprecated ethnic minority requires not necessarily an end to racism but consistent and universal protection of individual rights. (The content of this talk was originally published as an essay in FEE’s publication, The Freeman, October 2001. [Fee’s publication was known, at that time, as Ideas On Liberty.])
  2. Great Islamic Thinkers Versus Islam: The Golden Age of Islam was truly golden—and not a fabrication of politically correct myth-makers. Who were the great minds involved—and what were their achievements? Whose philosophic influence made it possible? What intellectual power brought it to an untimely end? Why has the Arab-Islamic world, after such glorious accomplishments during the middle ages, wallowed, for roughly eight centuries, in a dark age? This talk answers these questions. (The material in this talk was originally published as an essay in The Objective Standard, Winter 2012.)
  3. The Inventive Period: It is a profound injustice that late-19th century America is called by historians “the Gilded Age.” In truth, America’s salient feature during this era (and continuing into the early 20th century) was innovative thinking, especially in—but not limited to—the related fields of applied science, technology, and industrialization. The achievements of John Roebling, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, the Wright brothers, George Washington Carver, Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and a host of others, are devalued and under-appreciated by Humanities intellectuals. This talk celebrates their achievements and the profound manner in which they advanced man’s earthly life. (The content of this talk was first published as an essay in FEE’s publication The Freeman [known as Ideas on Liberty in April, 2001, when “The Inventive Period” was published.] This material was subsequently included as a chapter in The Capitalist Manifesto.)
  4. The Heroes of Capitalism: Prior to the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain during the late-18th century, abysmal poverty—including widespread starvation—was prevalent the world over, including in Britain. With the Industrial Revolution, conditions began to dramatically improve, first in Britain, then in Western Europe, then in North America, then in the Asian Tigers. Who are the towering heroes responsible for so markedly improving human living conditions? Who, for example, were the great thinkers composing Britain’s “Lunar Society of Birmingham”—and what were their magnificent contributions to the Industrial Revolution? In The Capitalist Manifesto, I argued that late-19th century America—mistakenly dubbed “the Gilded Age” by historians—should properly be referred to as “the Inventive Period.” Why? What were the monumental advances made by brilliant minds during the freest period of mankind’s history? This talk answers these questions. (This talk is based on material in The Capitalist Manifesto.)

 

Self-Help

  1. How To Be An Impassioned Valuer: Ayn Rand has shown us that personally-cherished values—whether involving education, career, romantic love, family, friendship, and/or others—are the meaning of life. Are there techniques to enhance one’s capacity to value, and consequently bring into one’s life increased passion, meaning, purpose? How does one go about forming values? What is a method for prioritizing them? Are there tips that might improve one’s ability to pursue values? Taking an integrated approach that examines valuing at all levels of human life— thought, appraisal, emotion, and action—this talk answers these questions. (The content of this talk has been presented, as a full course, to numerous audiences—and forms the basis of a forthcoming self-help book, I Hero: How To Be the Hero of Your Own Life.)

 

 

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