Question for the Academic Experts

 Posted by on 29 February 2008 at 12:02 am  Objectivism
Feb 292008

I have been checking around a little and haven’t found solid answer, so I’m curious if any of our resident scholars of Aristotle and Rand (and Western philosophy in general) can clue me in on a couple of things:

1. Is it fair to say that Aristotle originated the idea of causality as identity applied to action (“entity-causation” — things act the way they do because of what they are), though he wasn’t absolutist on it (they do so “always or for the most part”) — and that Rand developed his lead into the clean, absolute formulation we enjoy slinging around today? Any other big players?

2. Was it Rand alone who came up with “existence is identity”, clearly articulating how existence and identity are metaphysically inseparable, two different perspectives on the same basic fact? Or did she develop it from some earlier lead?

Any hints would be most appreciated!


OActivists Subscriptions

 Posted by on 28 February 2008 at 8:34 am  Activism, Objectivism
Feb 282008

The new OActivists mailing list has been up and running — with a lovely flurry of posts — since Tuesday. If you tried to subscribe but you’ve not gotten any messages, that’s probably because a spam filter ate the confirmation e-mail from the list software. In that case, please send an e-mail to [email protected] requesting that I subscribe you. I’ll do so manually. The list has 130 members, but I want more!


As some of you might know, the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism in South Carolina sponsors a three-day summer conference for undergraduates on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and the Moral Foundations of Capitalism. This summer’s conference will run from June 5th to 9th at Clemson University.

It is an excellent conference, so I highly recommend it. (I was the graduate assistant last year.) The description on the web site is exactly accurate:

[The conference] brings together students from around the country and around the world to learn about capitalism with top professors in the field. Students attend lectures, participate in small group discussions, and have free time to discuss and debate the ideas presented in the formal sessions. Throughout the three days of sessions, students have ample opportunity to speak one-on-one with faculty and ask them questions in a more informal setting.

The faculty this year will be Drs. Yaron Brook, Onkar Ghate, Eric Daniels, C. Bradley Thompson, and Andrew Bernstein. Full scholarships will be granted to qualified undergraduate students. Send completed applications to [email protected]. (Please e-mail that address with any questions too.) More details including the application form, a full description of the event, a video from last year, and a FAQ are available on the web site.

Here’s the most critical bit of information: The deadline for applications is March 5. So if you’re thinking that you might like to attend, don’t delay!

A Quick Letter on Abortion

 Posted by on 27 February 2008 at 8:49 am  Activism, Politics
Feb 272008

Here’s a quick letter to my state representatives that I wrote in early February on a proposed bill to restrict abortion by requiring ultrasounds:

From: Diana Hsieh
Date: Fri, 08 Feb 2008 13:59:56 -0700
Subject: SB 95

Dear Senators,

It is my understanding that SB 95 will be heard in the Senate State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee on Monday. The bill would require “a physician to provide information regarding an ultrasound to a woman prior to the woman’s decision whether to have an abortion.”

I urge you to oppose this bill. Colorado ought not impose any such restrictions on abortion.

The purpose of the bill is not to require genuine informed consent. Every woman who chooses to have an abortion knows that she is destroying a potential (but not actual) human being — not a shoe, plant, or a hippo. She violates no rights in doing so. She ought not be forced to look at pictures.

So the sole purpose of the bill is be to make abortion more costly. It is part of an attempt by foes of abortion to regulate it out of existence, since they cannot ban it out right. All such attempts [are] morally wrong. They ought to be opposed.

Diana Hsieh
Ph.D Candidate, Philosophy
University of Colorado, Boulder

Ari Armstrong has more details in this blog post.

Some News from ARI

 Posted by on 26 February 2008 at 10:36 am  Announcements, Objectivism
Feb 262008

Some news from ARI:

  • Mary Ann and Charles Sures’ memoir of Ayn Rand, The Facets of Ayn Rand is now available on the web at
  • On Thursday, March 13, 2008, at 7:30 PM, Dr. Keith Lockitch will be speaking on “Darwin and the Discovery of Evolution” at the Hilton Costa Mesa (3050 Bristol Street, Costa Mesa, CA 92626). The lecture is free. More information is here.

    I’m delighted by the topic, because in the process of grading student papers on the argument from design, I’ve realized that gross misunderstandings of evolutionary theory are quite common. It’s definitely a topic that I’d like to study more, not just because it’s relevant to the refutation of William Paley’s argument for design, but also because I find it intrinsically interesting. Biology has always been — by a long shot — the most interesting of the sciences to me.

  • Brad Thompson published a great op-ed a while back entitled “An Open Letter to America’s Students–Will Atlas Shrugged Change Your Life Forever?” If you haven’t read it yet, you’ll find it here.

Are You Having a Bad Monday?

 Posted by on 25 February 2008 at 3:15 pm  Health Care
Feb 252008

See, your day could be worse. (Just scanned a few minutes ago at our practice).

The Undercurrent

 Posted by on 24 February 2008 at 12:20 pm  Activism, Objectivism, The Undercurrent
Feb 242008

The Undercurrent now has a regularly updated blog. I’ve added it to my blogroll; it looks like it will be worth checking regularly. (Unfortunately, it doesn’t show the full post on the main page. I find that annoying, as it’s almost always easier to scroll past a long post that’s not of interest than to click through to posts that are of interest. But oh well.)

For those of you unfamiliar with The Undercurrent, here’s how they describe themselves:

The Undercurrent is a student-run newsletter. Its content is written primarily by (and for) college students across the country, with additional articles from the Ayn Rand Institute op-ed program and other writers.

We aim to release a print edition once a semester. The Undercurrent is distributed to college campuses nationally. If you’re interested in distributing on your campus (or anywhere else), more information can be found here.

The Undercurrent’s cultural commentary is based on the philosophy of Ayn Rand, a philosophy she named “Objectivism.” Objectivism animates Ayn Rand’s fiction, but it is first and foremost a systematic and comprehensive philosophy of life.

It holds that the universe is orderly, comprehensible, and conducive to human flourishing. It affirms that human beings are not only capable, but worthy of living on earth. The individual’s own life and happiness comprise his own highest moral purpose. Man flourishes only in a society that values science, technology, freedom and capitalism. And beauty, too.

In these pages we hope to defend these values where they are under attack in our culture. To learn more about the ideas behind these values, you can begin by reading Ayn Rand’s books, such as The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, or by visiting the web site of the Ayn Rand Institute.

Just FYI, any regular blogger for The Undercurrent is more than welcome to join my OBloggers mailing list.

OActivists: An Easy Deal

 Posted by on 23 February 2008 at 8:00 am  Activism, Objectivism
Feb 232008

The new OActivists list — my informal private mailing list for Objectivists committed to fostering positive cultural change by effective advocacy of Objectivist ideas — will open for business on Tuesday. It already has over 80 subscribers, but I want to offer an easy deal for anyone interested in subscribing yet hesitant to make a commitment to engage in activism.

As you might recall from my original post, the list requires that subscribers meet two conditions.

First, subscribers must be Objectivists, meaning that they agree with and live by the principles of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. Subscribers should also support the mission and activities of the Ayn Rand Institute.

Second, subscribers must be committed to engaging in intellectual activism to promote Objectivist ideas in online or print forums on a semi-regular basis.

The first criterion is pretty straightforward. But what does satisfying the second require? I’m willing make that very, very easy. Basically, at least once every six months while you’re on the list, you must post at least one comment advocating the Objectivist view on some news article, op-ed, or non-Objectivist blog. That comment doesn’t have to be long: just a few sentences will do. You could even just link to or quote from an essay by Ayn Rand or an op-ed from ARI. You’ll be alerted to plenty of opportunities to engage in that kind of minimal activism via the OActivists list itself.

In fact, you could even get started by posting a friendly comment on this positive review of The Fountainhead by a blogger.

Of course, I will encourage subscribers to do more than just the minimum: they can write letters to the editor, publish op-eds, speak to local groups, write to their representatives, and so on. In fact, I hope that a person’s experience with a wee bit of activism will embolden more. However, that wee bit — just one comment in a public forum every six months — is all that’s required to subscribe to the OActivists list. Basically, that’s five minutes of time every six months. That’s not asking much in exchange for the value of subscribing to the list, I don’t think.

If that sounds like a fair deal to you, you are more than welcome to subscribe to OActivists via its web interface.

NY Times on British Health System

 Posted by on 22 February 2008 at 8:30 am  Health Care
Feb 222008

The February 21, 2008 New York Times has published an article suprisingly critical of the British socialized National Health Service (or NHS). Here are some excerpts:

Paying Patients Test British Health Care System

…One such case was Debbie Hirst’s. Her breast cancer had metastasized, and the health service would not provide her with Avastin, a drug that is widely used in the United States and Europe to keep such cancers at bay. So, with her oncologist’s support, she decided last year to try to pay the $120,000 cost herself, while continuing with the rest of her publicly financed treatment.

By December, she had raised $20,000 and was preparing to sell her house to raise more. But then the government, which had tacitly allowed such arrangements before, put its foot down. Mrs. Hirst heard the news from her doctor.

“He looked at me and said: ‘I’m so sorry, Debbie. I’ve had my wrists slapped from the people upstairs, and I can no longer offer you that service,’ ” Mrs. Hirst said in an interview.

“I said, ‘Where does that leave me?’ He said, ‘If you pay for Avastin, you’ll have to pay for everything’” — in other words, for all her cancer treatment, far more than she could afford.

Officials said that allowing Mrs. Hirst and others like her to pay for extra drugs to supplement government care would violate the philosophy of the health service by giving richer patients an unfair advantage over poorer ones.

…But in a final irony, Mrs. Hirst was told early this month that her cancer had spread and that her condition had deteriorated so much that she could have the Avastin after all — paid for by the health service. In other words, a system that forbade her to buy the medicine earlier was now saying that she was so sick she could have it at public expense.

I blogged about this issue last month (“Better Equal Than Good“). Now that this issue has gotten the attention of the New York Times, perhaps patients like Debbie Hirst and Collette Mills will finally get some justice (and medical care) from the NHS.

Note the central moral issue: Being allowed to spend one’s own honestly-earned money on something that will benefit one’s own life is considered “unfair” by the British government.

When a government uses force to stop people from acting in their rational self-interest, it is no surprise that the results are misery and death.

(Via Amit Ghate, who has a good post on this topic as well.)

Deliver Us From Evil

 Posted by on 21 February 2008 at 8:04 am  Film, Religion
Feb 212008

We just finished watching Deliver Us From Evil, an excellent 2006 documentary. Ugh, I haven’t felt so nauseated in quite some time. I need a shower.

You need to rent it.

I didn’t really know what it was about, other than that it was a documentary having to do with religion that Tammy had put in our Netflix queue. It started simply enough, circling around the mid-70′s activities of one Oliver O’Grady, a Catholic priest in California. “I want to promise myself this is going to be the most honest confession of my life.” Confession? The interwoven interview snippets began turning south as the potential for some “inappropriate contact” with a child was turning up in the discussions. With every chapter of the film, it only got worse.

Not one, or even a few, but dozens and dozens and perhaps hundreds of children. Both females and males. Sex with parents to get to kids. And he didn’t have sex with just young teens, but adolescents, and children… down to five years old, two years old, nine months old! Chapter after chapter showing his eluding prosecution by way of upper-management promises to victims and government officials to get this dirtbag out of the priesthood and away from kids — only to be quietly moved to another priesthood with more victims another city or two over. Decades of honing and using his predatory skills with the knowledge of the Church. More chapters with the focus shifting out to the patterns of buck-passing, indifference and coverup in the Church leadership as it struggles to deal with similar “issues” across the US, with culpability all the way up to the current Pope who (just prior to becoming Pope) was accused of conspiracy to cover up rampant sexual abuse in the US. He was granted immunity against prosecution for that by President Bush.

The film closes with where-are-they-now summary screens and various factoids: “Since 1950, sexual abuse has cost the Church over one billion dollars in legal settlements & expenses.” “Over 100,000 victims of clergy sexual abuse have come forward in the United States alone.” “Experts say more than 80% of sexual abuse victims never report their abuse.”

I was struck by how O’Grady’s “most honest confession” was nonetheless incredibly evasive; how his ongoing efforts at (ostensively) trying to make himself and his victims better were manipulative and oriented toward excusing and limiting the mind-bending scale of his atrocities. It was particularly chilling to watch him deploy some of the same disgusting manipulations he used on his young victims right before our eyes — and sadly, we get to watch some of them continue to let him manipulate them.

Many of these victims still see the Church in a good light. Just one fellow, the father of a girl of five who was being raped by this monster, was shown feeling such outrage and betrayal that he wouldn’t step foot in another church and had dropped his faith. Meanwhile, his daughter is shown smiling toward the Vatican buildings on a present-day trip by victims to address the Church (rebuffed). Near the end of the film we see her kneeling in prayer in some cathedral.

This is what faith and submission to authority wreak.

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha