Objectivist Roundup

 Posted by on 31 March 2011 at 1:30 pm  Objectivist Roundup
Mar 312011

The Objectivist Roundup is a weekly blog carnival for Objectivists. Contributors must be Objectivists, but posts on any topic are welcome.

3 Ring Binder hosted this week’s Objectivist Roundup. Go take a look!

You can submit your blog article to the next edition of The Objectivist Roundup using this submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found here. If you’re an Objectivist blogger, you can get weekly reminders to submit to the carnival by subscribing to OBloggers @ OList.com.

Also, Sunday morning’s Rationally Selfish Webcast will soon be upon us! Sometime tomorrow, I’ll select the six questions that I’ll answer. Please review and vote on the questions that you’d most like me to answer. Then join the live fun on Sunday at 8 am PT / 9 am MT / 10 am CT / 11 am ET.

Here are the ten most recent additions to the question queue for Rationally Selfish:

Mar 302011

On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I answered questions on immoral means to great values, optional values versus moral values, adoption versus abortion, the excuse of ‘I’m only human’, Objectivist conferences, laws and regulations, and more. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading.

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

Whole Podcast: 27 March 2011

Listen or Download:

Remember the Tip Jar!

The mission of Philosophy in Action is to spread rational principles for real life… far and wide. That’s why the vast majority of my work is available to anyone, free of charge. I love doing the radio show, but each episode requires an investment of time, effort, and money to produce. So if you enjoy and value that work of mine, please contribute to the tip jar. I suggest $5 per episode or $20 per month, but any amount is appreciated. In return, contributors can request that I answer questions from the queue pronto, and regular contributors enjoy free access to premium content and other goodies.

Podcast Segments: 27 March 2011

You can download or listen to my answers to individual questions from this episode below.


My News of the Week: Let’s get started!

Question 1: Immoral Means to Great Values

Question: Is it ever acceptable to act immorally if one is willing to accept the consequences? This question was sparked by a statement in the 9 January 2011 webcast that it would be wrong to deceive a partner in order to save a relationship. Are there ever cases where one cares so much about a particular value that it can be legitimate to act immorally (and thus, in all probability, hurt one’s own life) in order to gain or keep that value? For example, what if life were not worth living without that value?

My Answer, In Brief: To act viciously in pursuit of a value destroys the actual worth of that value – and degrades your own moral character.

Listen or Download:

To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Question 2: Optional Values Versus Moral Values

Question: Are “optional values” genuine values? Sometimes Objectivists distinguish between “moral values” and “optional values.” What does that mean? Is the distinction legitimate? How does it apply to real life?

My Answer, In Brief: Optional values genuinely promote a person’s life and happiness, but they are not universally necessary, but rather depend on a person’s particular circumstances.

Listen or Download:

To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Question 3: Adoption Versus Abortion

Question: Why do you think that giving a child up for adoption can be “problematic”? Why wouldn’t adoption be preferable to abortion in most cases? (This question is a follow-up to the discussion in the 23 January 2011 webcast about children as an optional value.)

My Answer, In Brief: Adoption is a wonderful option in many cases, but the differences between an embryo or early-stage fetus and born baby often make adoption far more emotionally and morally difficult.

Listen or Download:

To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Question 4: The Excuse of “I’m Only Human”

Question: What do you think of the oft-quoted bromide “I’m only human”? I have heard that phrase often, and it seems there are several uses to which it is applied, some legitimate and some seem nefarious and ugly.

My Answer, In Brief: The phrase has two distinct meanings – “don’t expect me to be good” and “hey, pay attention to my limits.” The former is a false excuse (and often vile), while the latter is a useful reminder. Due to these mixed meanings, the phrase is perhaps best avoided.

Listen or Download:

To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Question 5: Objectivist Conferences

Question: What are the benefits of attending Objectivist conferences in person? I know that there are several regional Objectivist conferences this year in addition to the Ayn Rand Institute’s OCON. What are the benefits of attending these in person, rather than just listening to the lectures via a webcast or buying the lectures afterwards?

My Answer, In Brief: Objectivist conferences offer huge benefits in the form of social interaction and networking, even apart from the lectures!

Listen or Download:


To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Question 6: Laws and Regulations

Question: Are regulations necessarily different from laws? Regulations do not violate the presumption of innocence – they are jurisprudential signals. A law against murder does not violate the presumption of innocence; rather, it is a signal that denotes a consequence that will be levied upon the violator of the law. This is the same standard that regulations follow. A law is a “regulation” on behavior in the way that legislative regulations are, in fact, “regulations” on business behavior. Is this a correct assessment of laws and regulations?

My Answer, In Brief: Legislation differs from regulations on two axes: the source of the laws and their objectivity.

Listen or Download:


To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.


Be sure to check out the topics scheduled for upcoming episodes! Don’t forget to submit and vote on questions for future episodes too!

  • Start Time: 57:13

About Philosophy in Action Radio

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Open Thread #255

 Posted by on 30 March 2011 at 11:00 am  Open Thread
Mar 302011

City Hall

For anyone wishing to ask a question, make a observation, or share a link with NoodleFood readers, I hereby open up the comments on this post to any respectable topic. As always, please refrain from posting inappropriate comments such as personal attacks, pornographic material, copyrighted material, and commercial solicitations.

NoodleFood’s Wednesday and Sunday Open Threads now feature creative commons photographs from Flickr that I find interesting. I hope that you enjoy them!

New OList: OPeople

 Posted by on 28 March 2011 at 11:30 am  Announcements, OList, Pledge Project
Mar 282011

Thanks to Earl Parson of Creatures of Prometheus, OList.com hosts regular online get-togethers, particularly twice-weekly OList Virtual Socials and every-other-week Movie Nights.

These events have been going fabulously well. I find that they’re a great way to connect with my many awesome OList friends, as well as a way to get to know new Objectivists. In fact, these social events were one of the many reasons why SnowCon 2011 was so much fun: many attendees were regular participants in the OList Virtual Socials!

The only problem with these events has been that we’ve not had any way to disseminate announcements and reminders of them just to the people interested in them. I really hate to send announcements to all the OLists, as I think that’s bothersome for many people. Until now, however, that’s been the only option.

Now the problem is solved… with OPeople! (I’d hoped for “OFriends,” but alas, that name was already in use on Google Groups.)

OPeople is the latest OList. The most basic function of OPeople will be to “disseminate announcements about OList events, such as Movie Night and Virtual Socials.” That’s starting immediately, so if you’d like to receive those announcements, please subscribe now.

The only criterion for subscription is that you be an Objectivist, meaning that you agree with and live by the principles of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism as best you understand them. You need not be subscribed to any other OList. Also, you can lurk, but for that, you must be a lurker on at least one other OList.

In addition, I would like to open the OPeople list to friendly, off-topic chatter, such as movie and art recommendations, discussions of work and hobbies, requests for information and advice, and more. Basically anything off-topic for the other OLists would be welcome on OPeople. It’s a kind of catch-all OList.

However, for that to happen, I’m asking that interested people pledge a few dollars, just as was done for OLeaders, OGeeks, and OCrafters. I want to make sure that sufficient people are interested in that option, and if so, I’d like a fair trade for the work required of the list manager (William Green) and me.

So if you want to pledge, please do so using this form:

Please note that your payment won’t be due until after $200 is pledged, when I open up the list to that off-topic chatter. I’ll send an invoice. And if you pledge, thank you — and don’t forget to subscribe!

Activism Recap

 Posted by on 27 March 2011 at 3:00 pm  Activism Recap
Mar 272011

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

This week on Politics without God, the blog of the Coalition for Secular Government:

This week on Mother of Exiles:

This week on the blog of Modern Paleo:

Open Thread #254

 Posted by on 27 March 2011 at 11:00 am  Open Thread
Mar 272011

For anyone wishing to ask a question, make a observation, or share a link with NoodleFood readers, I hereby open up the comments on this post to any respectable topic. As always, please refrain from posting inappropriate comments such as personal attacks, pornographic material, copyrighted material, and commercial solicitations.

Livestock Confinement: Fantasy and Reality

 Posted by on 26 March 2011 at 11:00 am  Animals, Food
Mar 262011

Melissa McEwen recently noted that “it’s a myth that letting animals do their own thing outside is always the best thing for them.” So true! Pastured pigs routinely crush their little piglets to death. Farrowing crates and other human contraptions, while sometimes not wholly pleasant for the pigs, prevent those deaths.

Of course, we don’t raise livestock for the good of the livestock. Farmers ought to be self-interested, and that means being primarily concerned with the profitability of their farm. However, I don’t think that brutalizing animals is good for the balance sheet — or one’s own moral character — and that’s why I’m in favor of the humane treatment of livestock. (There’s a question waiting in the queue for my Rationally Selfish Webcast on the humane treatment of animals… so go vote for it if you want me to address it!)

However, the humane treatment of animals doesn’t always mean that the animals must be pastured or free-range. Animals are dumb beasts — and they are driven by instincts or impulses that are often self-destructive. Here’s an example of that from my own experience that I posted in the comments on Melissa’s post:

On the supposed goodness of animals doing their own thing outside:

One of my horses, Tara, has a strong instinct to stand tail-to-wind (which wild horses would do) in nasty weather. So when it rains or snows, she’ll stand on the south side of the barn — to the point of endangering her life — rather than move inside the barn or even under the overhang. That behavior is a particular problem for her, as she’s never had a particularly thick coat, so if it’s raining or snowing, she’ll get chilled to the bone very quickly.

If I was not there to tend to her — whether to put a blanket on her (which she doesn’t mind so much) or lock her into the barn (which she hates) — she would have died years ago from exposure, despite totally adequate shelter.

Personally, I’m a strong believer and practitioner of allowing my horses to roam as they please. The horses are happier, and hence I’m happier. I don’t lock them in the barn unless I have some important reason for doing so — like dangerous weather outside.

Nonetheless, beasts are not rational decision-makers, and they’ll often act in ways that endanger their own lives — or the lives of their companions. They’ll do so repeatedly, even when better alternatives are obviously available. They usually can’t be trained out of such behavior. So we, their human owners, need to be on the lookout for such behaviors — and to protect them from the harm they would do — even if the animals are frustrated and unhappy as a result of not being able to do what “nature” dictates.

And if that means confining sows so that they don’t crush their piglets too, then so be it!

I hope to write more on this topic in the future, but that’s enough for now!

The Objectivist Roundup

 Posted by on 25 March 2011 at 2:20 pm  Objectivist Roundup
Mar 252011

The Objectivist Roundup is a weekly blog carnival for Objectivists. Contributors must be Objectivists, but posts on any topic are welcome.

Rational Jenn hosted this week’s Objectivist Roundup. Go take a look!

You can submit your blog article to the next edition of The Objectivist Roundup using this submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found here. If you’re an Objectivist blogger, you can get weekly reminders to submit to the carnival by subscribing to OBloggers @ OList.com.

Mar 252011

Yes, yes, I know that I’m rather late in writing up my report on the fabulous awesomeness that was SnowCon 2011 — Front Range Objectivism’s mini-conference in Breckenridge and then Denver. However, I’ve been very busy lately processing and posting all of audio and video recordings from SnowCon. (There’s more information on that below. You can purchase the whole package or just selected lectures for a discounted price before April 13th. On that date, I’ll be re-recording my own lecture on “Cultivating Moral Character” in a live webcast, and I do hope that you’ll join me for that!)

SnowCon took far, far more work for me to put together than I ever imagined when I announced it back in December. I didn’t have much time to plan, and the work of coordinating events, venues, speakers, registrations, attendees, materials, and everything else was overwhelming. I had to put aside almost all my other work in the few weeks leading up to SnowCon, but I kept a good handle on what needed to be done through my GTD methods in OmniFocus. Still, the stress was often overwhelming, to the point that I wondered whether the whole conference would turn into a disorganized disaster. Also, I wasn’t helped by the fact that I was hampered a cold in the ten days just before the start of SnowCon.

Despite those harrowing preparations — or rather, because of them — SnowCon was a fabulous success!

(This group picture was entirely the doing of Tom V., and I’m so glad to have it!)

About 19 people joined us for the play in the mountains in Breckenridge. Happily, we had great weather — first a bit of powder, then warm sunshine. The 6 to 8 skiers and snowboarders were able to meet up and stick together without much trouble, exploring runs together and then chatting on the lifts and at lunch. (Alas, we did have one serious knee injury on the first day.) Others in Breckenridge spent most of their time lounging about and chatting, although a few joined Paul for one of his days of snowshoeing.

In Denver, we had 50 people for SnowCon itself, then another 10 for just Kelly Elmore and Jenn Casey’s keynote supper talk on Saturday evening. Many attendees were from out-of-state — and while many of us knew each other from OCONs or elsewhere, some were meeting each other for the first time. (Hi Jenn! Hi Tom! Hi Chris!) That was awesome. The lectures and other events went very well — and some were quite stellar. People were friendly, easygoing, and darn fun, so we had lots of great conversations and laughs outside the formal schedule.

Undoubtedly, much of the success of SnowCon was due to the careful and detailed planning that I did beforehand. However, I had some stellar help too. Kelly Valenzuela and Sarah Jenevein did anything that needed doing in Denver, and I’m quite sure that I would have melted into a puddle of stress without their assistance. However, more than that, everyone seemed willing to pitch in with help as needed. That made a huge difference in my own ability to enjoy the conference — which I did, a whole lot!

Of course, we had a few hiccups — and a few things that I’ll do better next time. I scheduled too many events on Saturday, and by the afternoon, many of us were dragging. So I think we could have used an hour or two to recharge, whether alone or at a nearby coffee shop, to relax before the dinner and talk that evening. Also, it didn’t help that the restaurant that night was a bit noisy and hot. (The food was super-yummy though!) We were sadly lacking in bacon for Sunday’s brunch. (A crime, I know!)

However, the true “OMG WTF!” moment of SnowCon 2011 was the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Denver right where most of us ate lunch on Saturday. That seemed fine at first, although the restaurant was a bit more crowded than we expected. However, then the insanity came, in the form of deafeningly loud bagpipes and drums inside the restaurant. The music was well-played, but inside an enclosed space, just a few feet away? AAAAUUUUGGGGHHHH! Six songs later, I thought that my brain might just be oozing out my ears. But hey, it’s funny in retrospect! And maybe we’ll use that as a slogan for next year’s SnowCon: “Just as awesome as SnowCon 2011, but with fewer bagpipes and drums!”

Speaking of SnowCon 2012, I’ve decided to do something very similar in schedule — meaning three days of play in the mountains, then two days of lectures and events in Denver. However, to accommodate the schedules of students and academics, I’ve decided to hold it earlier in the year — from January 11th to the 15th. So mark your calendars! I’ve already talked to a few people about lectures, and I’m sure that we’ll have an awesome program, not to mention tons of fun!

Here are some of the photographic highlights of SnowCon 2011, including the bagpipers and drummers!

If you missed SnowCon — my condolences! However, we hope to see you next year. Also, you can capture a bit of its goodness via the recordings — audio and often video too — now available for sale.

Overall, the webcast of SnowCon worked somewhat better than I could have hoped for, yet we did have some pretty serious glitches. The room was too dark to record video for Kelly Elmore and Jenn Casey’s talk on Saturday night, so we were limited to audio. And due to an unexpected change in the interface of my webcasting console, none of the SnowCon lectures from Saturday morning were recorded. (AUGH!) Also, I had trouble managing the audio levels for Hannah Krening’s piano recital.

However… never fear!

Kelly and Jenn’s audio stands on its own. Hannah Krening generously re-played her recital and discussion of Beethoven for me to record, and that turned out fabulously well. (It was a real treat to hear her presentation again!) Paul re-recorded his lectures with the slides.

As for my own lecture on “Cultivating Moral Character”… That went really well at SnowCon, so I’m quite sad not to have a recording it it. I could record it again from the quiet of my office, but then I’d miss out on the audience participation built into the lecture, which definitely added value.

Hence, I’ve decided that I’ll re-record that lecture in a live webcast on the evening of April 13th at 6 pm PT / 7 pm MT / 8 pm CT / 9 pm ET. Here’s its abstract:

In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle speaks of cultivating virtues by repeatedly doing certain actions in certain ways. However, he never clearly explains the relationship between a person’s thoughts, emotions, actions, and character. So, we must ask: What is character? How is a person’s character formed? And what is the role of character in a person’s life? This webcast will draw on Diana Hsieh’s dissertation to answer these criticial practical questions of ethics. The live audience in the text chat will be invited to participate in the discussion, as well as a question period at the end.

This lecture on ethics will be part of the “SnowCon 2011 Webcast” package. To access this lecture — whether to participate in the live webcast, watch the recorded video later, or download the audio recording — you must register for the SnowCon 2011 Webcast. (SnowCon attendees get access to all the audio and video for free.) You can register for the whole webcast — or just part of it. Register before the April 13th webcast for a substantial discount!

(Note: Contributors to my Rationally Selfish Webcast will be able to attend this live webcast and/or watch it later for free. And they can get $10 off the whole SnowCon 2011 Webcast.)

Before the April 13th webcast by Diana Hsieh, the whole package of SnowCon 2011 lectures and workshops costs $50 ($20 for full-time students). Or you can order lectures à la carte for $15 each ($5 each for full-time students). After April 13th, those prices will double.

The full package of lectures and workshops recorded for the SnowCon 2011 Webcast includes:

  • Diana Hsieh: “Cultivating Moral Character” (webcast on April 13th)
  • Paul Hsieh: “Is It Right to Bear Arms?” (audio plus slides)
  • “Activism Panel” with Paul Hsieh and Ari Armstrong
  • Atlas Shrugged Reading Group Workshop” with Diana Hsieh and Jeremy Sheetz
  • Jenn Casey and Kelly Elmore: “Effective Communication: How Objectivists Can Use Positive Discipline Tools in Their Adult Relationships” (audio only)
  • Diana Hsieh: “Live Rationally Selfish Webcast” (video, with the audio freely available via NoodleCast)
  • Santiago Valenzuela: “Conservative Follies on Immigration”
  • Piano Recital and Lecture: Hannah Krening: Malevolence and Benevolence in Beethoven’s Piano Music

Unless otherwise noted, the recordings include streaming video and downloadable audio files. Further information on these lectures and workshops can be found on the web page for the SnowCon 2011 Webcast.

Please register for the SnowCon 2011 Webcast — in whole or in part — using the form below. Once you register, you will be e-mailed the url, login, and password for the recorded lectures and upcoming webcast. You will be sent an invoice for payment shortly after the April 13th webcast.

Again, for more information, visit SnowCon 2011 Webcast.

Mar 242011

Ari Armstrong speaking on the difference between individual rights and force at Liberty Toastmasters:

Ari does a great job of concretizing the meaning and importance of individual rights in this speech. I’m sorry to have missed the live performance!

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha