Recommendation from Craig Biddle

 Posted by on 30 September 2009 at 1:00 pm  NoodleFood
Sep 302009

Craig Biddle, who I recently interviewed for Rationally Selfish Radio was kind enough to post a recommendation of my podcast on Principles in Practice.

Go see what he has to say — and then check out the podcast for yourself, if you’ve not done so already!

Wednesday Open Thread #99

 Posted by on 30 September 2009 at 11:00 am  Open Thread
Sep 302009

Here’s yet another Open Thread for your thoughts:

For anyone in the fiery grip of a random question, comment, joke, or link they’d like to share with NoodleFood readers, I hereby open up the comments on this post to any respectable topic. (Please refrain from posting personal attacks, pornographic material, and commercial solicitations.)

Sep 302009

The Objectivism Seminar is working through Dr. Leonard Peikoff’s all-too-topical book, The Ominous Parallels. In it, he explores what gave rise to to the fascist, totalitarian regime of Nazi Germany — and analyzes whether and how a fascist, totalitarian regime could emerge here in America.

Our focus this week was Chapter 4, “The Ethics of Evil” — a reference to the implications for peoples’ lives that flow from the ideas they accept about values. Topics we discussed included:
  • How Obama matches and doesn’t match fascists in history — an important distinction to observe.
  • The two fundamentally opposed approaches to morality.
  • How Kant carried Christianity’s ethics to its climax — and how Christianity “prepared the ground” for modern totalitarianism by entrenching three fundamental ideas in the Western mind.
  • Christianity’s non-sacrificial ethical nod to Pagan egoism — and how Kant expunged this.
  • How Kant felt he wasn’t an innovator in the realm of morality, but yet he was an innovator in in an important respect: actually divorcing morality from values, with moral perfection being uninterested action devoid of any love or desire.
  • What evil consists in, for Kant: not self-love per-se, but giving self-love priority over morality in one’s heart. Kant’s version of Original Sin.
  • How for Kant, “It is the lot of the moral man to burn with desire and then, on principle — the principle of duty — to thwart it. The hallmark of the moral man is to suffer. … It is sacrifice — sacrifice as against apathy or indifference, sacrifice continual and searing — which is the essence of Kant’s moral counsel to living men.” [p.80]
  • How Kant did not preach Nazism (he likely would have frowned on the Nazis) — yet he established a necessary precondition for their development.
  • The rise of the formal doctrine of Altruism, giving a target to sacrifice… Then Hegel’s development bringing ‘social relativism’ to ethics — and how the Nazis’ pragmatism dovetails with it to strengthen their sacrificial, collectivist program.
  • Why physical coercion and persuasion are the only two methods for people to deal with one another — and how altruism gives the use of force a moral sanction, making it not just a practical recourse, but a positive virtue (in both secular and religious forms).
  • How the many “mindless activists and nonideological brawlers” were nonetheless in the grip of a particular philosophy, morphing and rewriting their program, yet never altering the three fundamental ideas that their program rested on from start to end.
  • That the world has not learned its lesson from history, with these three fundamental ideas still spreading throughout the Western world and increasing in their potency (and damage).
  • And a lot more…
If this sounds interesting, you can listen in on the podcast (just download the session’s MP3 directly, or listen to it with the little player on the right, or subscribe to the podcast series over on the Seminar’s TalkShoe page). And if you have something to ask or add, please do pick up the book and join the discussion! We meet at 8:00pm Mountain on Mondays, for about an hour.

Podcast #10: The Rules of Property Owners

 Posted by on 29 September 2009 at 1:00 pm  Podcasts
Sep 292009

For Tuesday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I posted a podcast on “The Rules of Property Owners.” That podcast is now available for streaming or downloading.

Remember, you can automatically download podcasts of Philosophy in Action Radio by subscribing to Philosophy in Action’s Podcast RSS Feed:

Podcast: 29 September 2009

I answer two questions on whether people are obliged to respect the rules of property owners to the letter.

Listen or Download:


  • The context
  • Question 1: Is it wrong to sneak food into a venue that prohibits outside food?
  • My answer: Yes
  • Question 2: Was the guard wrong to allow an obvious violation of the rules?
  • My answer: That depends on his reasons

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Ethics In Wartime

 Posted by on 29 September 2009 at 4:00 am  Ethics, Military
Sep 292009

I don’t necessarily endorse this review of two particular philosophy books, but I did find this particular passage interesting:

…Take the old classroom chestnut about the runaway trolley: should you allow it to kill five workers on the track, or divert it onto another track where it would kill only one person? There is something comfortably abstract about this problem — it invites leisurely debate, since we know that it couldn’t actually happen to us.

But then Sandel turns to a real incident that took place in 2005. A Navy SEAL operating behind enemy lines in Afghanistan came across some unarmed goatherds: should he kill them, though they hadn’t done anything hostile, or let them go, and take the risk that they would warn the Taliban?

In a Hollywood movie, we know what the hero would do: he would be merciful and let the men live. And in fact, Sandel shows, Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell did let the goatherds go; then they alerted the Taliban, his unit was ambushed, and 19 American soldiers were killed.

It makes a pretty convincing case for killing innocent civilians, and Luttrell himself now regrets his impulse to do what seemed like justice: “It was the stupidest, most southern-fried, lamebrained decision I ever made in my life.”

If a war is morally justified, then the resulting deaths of any civilians of the opposing country are the moral responsibility of that country’s government.

For more on this topic, see:

Q & A with Ayn Rand on the Death of Innocents in War
and “Innocents In War?

Foxes on Trampoline

 Posted by on 28 September 2009 at 1:00 pm  Animals
Sep 282009

I thought that I’d blogged this before, but I can’t seem to find it in my archives. Even if I have though, it’s still worth watching again!

Reality, Not Authority

 Posted by on 28 September 2009 at 4:00 am  Education, Parenting
Sep 282009

In response to my story from my third podcast about a father teaching his child to evade by demanding obedience from her, Rational Jenn posted some fascinating comments on how parents often substitute their authority for that of reality. Here’s a bit from her post:

Please don’t misunderstand me–this is not to say that I don’t exercise my parental authority. I do have it–you sort of get it automatically when the kids are very small. As they are utterly dependent upon the adults in their lives, they of course learn to rely on them for the things they need, including guidance, and they do view parents as authority figures.

But what I try to do is to never ever make my authority the sole basis for discipline. I explain my reasons–sometimes those explanations need to be provided to the child after the fact (there’s that rushing out into the street example again). I try to show or tell them something about the reality of the situation and guide them through what needs to happen. And if they can’t or won’t do what they need to (like not biting a sibling), then I will exercise my authority and help them stop.

Parenting by Authority does encourage kids to evade. They can learn to squash their feelings, to pretend events didn’t happen, and to learn how to game the system. They learn that what Dad decides is more important than what actually occurred. And they lose the ability and the chance to use their minds independently.

She then discusses some the consequences of Parenting by Authority, but for that, you’ll have to read the post. (Later, Jenn posted a fascinating story on catching her son trying to evade.)

Then the discussion continued: Amy Mossoff posted on the dangers of authority-based education. In her view, “Montessori is the only widely available educational system that does not Educate by Authority.” Here’s an example:

The Montessori method recognizes that external reward systems such as grades are not necessary, and even harmful. Children naturally want to learn. Anyone who has observed small children can see this. The reward for good work is in the work itself, and in the accomplishment. Montessori materials are self-correcting – the children know whether they have done the work correctly without relying on a teacher’s stamp of approval. The blocks of diminishing size must be stacked up from biggest to smallest or the tower will not stand. The cylinders of diminishing size must be placed in the proper holes, or they will not all fit in the puzzle.

I love that!

I’m delighted that my podcast sparked this bit of discussion. Here’s my follow-up question: In dealing with other adults at work or elsewhere, do you always deal with them by reason to the greatest extent possible? Or do you sometimes lapse into mere authoritarian demands? It’s easy to say “I deal with people by reason, of course!” That’s the answer we want to give. However, I suspect that the intrinsicism pervasive in our culture has affected most of us to some degree or other.

Personally, I’m going to make a conscious effort to interact with other people scrupulously in “mind of reason mode” rather than “muscles of authority mode.” It’s not an error that I make often, but I’m pretty sure that I’ve slipped into it from time to time with people open to rational persuasion — particularly when tired, frustrated, or hurried. Clearly, that’s a mistake. So if I do that, I hope that someone will point that out to me — preferably without gloating!

Recap #60

 Posted by on 27 September 2009 at 1:00 pm  Activism Recap
Sep 272009

This week on We Stand FIRM, the blog of FIRM: Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine:

Sunday Open Thread #98

 Posted by on 26 September 2009 at 11:00 pm  Open Thread
Sep 262009

Here’s yet another Open Thread for your thoughts:

For anyone in the fiery grip of a random question, comment, joke, or link they’d like to share with NoodleFood readers, I hereby open up the comments on this post to any respectable topic. (Please refrain from posting personal attacks, pornographic material, and commercial solicitations.)

The Big Egg

 Posted by on 26 September 2009 at 3:00 pm  Cool, Food
Sep 262009

This “big egg” video is either a wonderful spoof or a freak of nature:

(Via Faye.)

Update: Four of the six farm eggs that I cracked this morning for breakfast were double-yolkers! (Click for the full-sized image.)

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha