I’m super-excited to announce that I’ll be giving a lecture for CU Boulder’s Think! philosophy lecture series on March 6th. The lecture will be held in the theater of Old Main, from 7:30 to 9:00 pm. The title of my lecture is: “Should You Try to Be Morally Perfect?” Here’s the abstract and my bio:
Most people dismiss any ideal of moral perfection as beyond their reach. “I’m only human,” they say. That view is a legacy of Christianity, which teaches that moral perfection is possible to God alone and that any attempt at moral perfection is the sin of pride. In sharp contrast, Ayn Rand argues that moral perfection is not only possible to ordinary people, but also necessary for anyone who wants to live a virtuous and happy life. Hence, pride, understood as moral ambitiousness, is one of her seven major virtues — as seen in the heroes of her novels “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged.”
This talk will explore Ayn Rand’s views of moral perfection, ambition, and pride. What does she think that morality demands? How can people achieve that? How should people respond to their own moral wrongs and errors? We will compare Rand’s answers to these questions to those of Aristotle. We will find that, despite some differences in each philosopher’s conception of virtue, they share the compelling view that seeking moral perfection is crucially important to a person’s life and happiness.
Diana Hsieh received her Ph.D in philosophy from the CU Boulder in 2009. Her dissertation argued that Thomas Nagel’s “problem of moral luck” can be solved by an Aristotelian theory of moral responsibility. She is the author of the Explore Atlas Shrugged series of podcasts and discussion questions. Every Sunday morning, she answers questions on practical ethics in her live Philosophy in Action Webcast.
These questions about moral perfection have long been of interest to me, and I’m really enthused to explore them in greater depth — particularly because I think that the comparison between Ayn Rand and Aristotle will be really quite illuminating.
If you’re a local, please attend in person! Bring a friend! Spread the word! If you can’t attend, I might be able to post a recording of the lecture afterwards.