Posts tagged with: ethics

Zwolinski vs. Hicks on Rand's ethics and politics

Recently the Institute for Humane Studies' "Learn Liberty" site featured a debate between Matt Zwolinski (University of San Diego) and Stephen Hicks (Rockford University), both of whom have been participants in past sessions of the Ayn Rand Society. Notably, past ARS contributor Harry Binswanger (the Ayn Rand Institute) has also weighed into the debate in the comments section. Zwolinski leads off the debate by raising critical points about Rand's ethical egoism, the consistency of her egoism with her theory of rights, and her view of property and value-creation. Zwolinski advanced several of these criticisms during his panel on Rand's theory…

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Another Critic Who Doesn't Care What Rand Thought or Why She Thought It, Only That She's Wrong

One function of this blog is to address comments made by academics and public intellectuals on Rand's philosophy. Several weeks ago, research psychologist Denise Cummins wrote a piece on a PBS blog about what happens when people attempt to put Rand's ideas into practice. Her aim there was not to engage with Rand's ideas per se, but to discuss what happens when certain ideas are put into practice, and then to explain why these ideas lead to these results. That's a reasonable project to take up with respect to an influential author's views, and since one cannot be a universal…

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Teaching Philosophy with Atlas Shrugged: Aristotle and Francisco on Ultimate Ends

I am very privileged to be teaching a course this semester called "Philosophical Themes in Ayn Rand." I've been teaching philosophy in one capacity or another since 2002, but this is the first time I've ever proposed or taught a course focused on Ayn Rand's ideas. The main text of the course is Atlas Shrugged, but I've also assigned a series of secondary readings from classical philosophers whose ideas can be compared or contrasted with Rand's. The purpose of the course is to bring philosophical ideas alive through the reading of a philosophical drama, and to bring Rand's ideas into…

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Updates to Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Entry on Ayn Rand

I was pleased to see the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy feature an updated entry on Ayn Rand earlier this week. The piece is authored by past ARS presenter Neera Badhwar (University of Oklahoma) and Roderick Long (Auburn). The entry was originally published in the summer of 2010, and its first major revision was in the fall of 2012. (You can review earlier versions here.) I was happy in 2010 to see this entry finally contributed to the SEP. Fair and accurate encyclopedia entries on Rand for philosophers have been few and far between. The entry in the Routledge Encyclopedia of…

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An example of withdrawing the sanction of the victim

I learned of an interesting and inspiring historical episode last week, when reading Brent Staples' New York Times review of Ethan Michaeli's book The Defender (about the Baltimore newspaper of the same name, which was one the most prominent of the black newspapers in the mid-20th Century). As Staples tells the story, John Sengstacke, who was The Defender's publisher and the president of the Negro Newspaper Publishers Association, had a meeting in 1942 with Francis Biddle, Franklin Roosevelt's Attorney General. The black papers had been extremely critical of Roosevelt's embrace of segregation in the military, which (as Staples puts it)…

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A Thought on Consequentialism

In a comment on Ben Bayer's recent post about the NDPR review of Sanford's Before Virtue, an anonymous person asks about the distinction between the consequentialist and teleological ethics. In Ben's response, he mentions how I differentiated Rand's ethics from consequentialism in Ch. 6 of A Companion to Ayn Rand. I thought I'd take this opportunity to quote from that discussion: Under the heading of “egoistic consequentialists,” I include Epicurus, Hobbes, and Chernyshevsky. Hobbes identified an individual’s interest with the satisfaction of her desires; the other two identified it with her pleasure. On either view, the individual’s interest…

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