Open Thread #296

Aug 312011

Biblis by Bougereau

For anyone wishing to ask a question, make a observation, or share a link with other 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 feature creative commons photographs from Flickr that I find interesting. I hope that you enjoy them!

My Hip Injury

Aug 302011

As many of you know, I sustained a fluke hip fracture yesterday. Basically, I was crossing the street to my office when I tripped on something in the intersection. I’m not sure if it was a rock or a crack in the asphalt or what. I landed hard on my left hip and had a classic, “I’ve fallen and can’t get up”. My left hip was twisted in an unnatural position and I couldn’t put any weight on my left leg.

To get out of the road, I had to crawl out of the intersection to the traffic island. A passer-by alerted 911, and the paramedics took me to Swedish Medical Center, which is top-tier level 1 trauma hospital that my radiology practice helps staff.

The emergency team there was superb, including all the docs, nurses, EKG techs, radiology techs, etc.

My initial x-ray showed a dislocated left hip:

The “ball” of the femur is out of place, no longer sitting within the “cup” or acetabulum socket.

Here I am looking at my x-ray on the ER physician’s laptop:

The ER team then arranged for a “closed reduction” (relocation) of the hip. For this, they had to heavily but briefly sedate me, both so I wouldn’t experience the pain and to help relax my muscle spasm. I don’t remember much of this portion, but I do recall the IV sedation was very rapid acting. Then a lot of blurriness, then a resumption to groggy-consicousness with the ER doc telling me the hip was now back in place.

So that first step was went okay!

(Note from Diana: I was in the room for the reduction, and it wasn’t easy! Paul required three doses of the sedative to keep him under. His ER doc wasn’t able to do the reduction himself, despite a valiant effort, so he called another very muscular ER doc who was able to do it in short order. The whole procedure was a bit hard to watch, but I was glad to be there.)

The next step was a CT scan to see how much damage there was to the ball and/or socket. Unfortunately, I do have fractures of both portions, as you can see below:

Presumably, the force of the dislocation also caused the fractures.

Yesterday evening, while still in the hospital, the orthopedic surgeon reviewed the images, discussed various options, and recommended surgery. He decided that I was sufficiently stable to be able to go home on crutches, and surgery is planned for tomorrow.

One of my partner radiologists — who is also an orthopedic trauma radiologist like myself — has already filed my images in his list of “interested cases”. Basically, you never want to be someone else’s “interesting case”!

Ayn Rand on Dictatorship and Aristotle on Tyranny

Aug 302011

Note: I wrote this for Modern Paleo last week, but I thought it might be of interest here.

In her 1964 Playboy interview, Ayn Rand identifies the four core qualities of a dictatorship as follows.

PLAYBOY: What is the dividing line, by your definition, between a mixed economy and a dictatorship?

RAND: A dictatorship has four characteristics: one-party rule, executions without trial for political offenses, expropriation or nationalization of private property, and censorship. Above all, this last. So long as men can speak and write freely, so long as there is no censorship, they still have a chance to reform their society or to put it on a better road. When censorship is imposed, that is the sign that men should go on strike intellectually, by which I mean, should not cooperate with the social system in any way whatever.

In Book 5, Chapter 11 of his Politics, Aristotle discusses the means by which the worst kind of tyrant maintains his power. Aristotle’s comments delve into the psychology of tyranny, as opposed to its outer forms. On reading them again, I’m amazed to see how well his observations apply to modern tyrannies. (I’ve added extra paragraph breaks to make the text more readable.)

There are firstly the prescriptions mentioned some distance back, for the preservation of a tyranny, in so far as this is possible; viz., that the tyrant should lop off those who are too high; he must put to death men of spirit; he must not allow common meals, clubs, education, and the like; he must be upon his guard against anything which is likely to inspire either courage or confidence among his subjects; he must prohibit literary assemblies or other meetings for discussion, and he must take every means to prevent people from knowing one another (for acquaintance begets mutual confidence). Further, he must compel all persons staying in the city to appear in public and live at his gates; then he will know what they are doing: if they are always kept under, they will learn to be humble. In short, he should practice these and the like Persian and barbaric arts, which all have the same object.

A tyrant should also endeavor to know what each of his subjects says or does, and should employ spies, like the ‘female detectives’ at Syracuse, and the eavesdroppers whom Hiero was in the habit of sending to any place of resort or meeting; for the fear of informers prevents people from speaking their minds, and if they do, they are more easily found out.

Another art of the tyrant is to sow quarrels among the citizens; friends should be embroiled with friends, the people with the notables, and the rich with one another. Also he should impoverish his subjects; he thus provides against the maintenance of a guard by the citizen and the people, having to keep hard at work, are prevented from conspiring. The Pyramids of Egypt afford an example of this policy; also the offerings of the family of Cypselus, and the building of the temple of Olympian Zeus by the Peisistratidae, and the great Polycratean monuments at Samos; all these works were alike intended to occupy the people and keep them poor.

Another practice of tyrants is to multiply taxes, after the manner of Dionysius at Syracuse, who contrived that within five years his subjects should bring into the treasury their whole property. The tyrant is also fond of making war in order that his subjects may have something to do and be always in want of a leader. And whereas the power of a king is preserved by his friends, the characteristic of a tyrant is to distrust his friends, because he knows that all men want to overthrow him, and they above all have the power.

… the tyrant also has those who associate with him in a humble spirit, which is a work of flattery. Hence tyrants are always fond of bad men, because they love to be flattered, but no man who has the spirit of a freeman in him will lower himself by flattery; good men love others, or at any rate do not flatter them. Moreover, the bad are useful for bad purposes; ‘nail knocks out nail,’ as the proverb says. It is characteristic of a tyrant to dislike every one who has dignity or independence; he wants to be alone in his glory, but any one who claims a like dignity or asserts his independence encroaches upon his prerogative, and is hated by him as an enemy to his power. Another mark of a tyrant is that he likes foreigners better than citizens, and lives with them and invites them to his table; for the one are enemies, but the others enter into no rivalry with him.

Such are the notes of the tyrant and the arts by which he preserves his power; there is no wickedness too great for him. All that we have said may be summed up under three heads, which answer to the three aims of the tyrant. These are, (1) the humiliation of his subjects; he knows that a mean-spirited man will not conspire against anybody; (2) the creation of mistrust among them; for a tyrant is not overthrown until men begin to have confidence in one another; and this is the reason why tyrants are at war with the good; they are under the idea that their power is endangered by them, not only because they would not be ruled despotically but also because they are loyal to one another, and to other men, and do not inform against one another or against other men; (3) the tyrant desires that his subjects shall be incapable of action, for no one attempts what is impossible, and they will not attempt to overthrow a tyranny, if they are powerless.

Under these three heads the whole policy of a tyrant may be summed up, and to one or other of them all his ideas may be referred: (1) he sows distrust among his subjects; (2) he takes away their power; (3) he humbles them.

How much of these qualities do we see in America today? More than I’d like — particularly in light of the ever-increasing meddling by the government with almost every facet of our lives. (Yes, that includes our food supply and our health!) Still, we have quite a ways to go before we’re faced with the prospect of dictatorship. So what must we do to protect freedom in America? Talk, while we still can! Here’s Ayn Rand again:

PLAYBOY: Short of such a strike [of refusing to "cooperate with the social system in any way whatever"] , what do you believe ought to be done to bring about the societal changes you deem desirable?

RAND: It is ideas that determine social trends, that create or destroy social systems. Therefore, the right ideas, the right philosophy, should be advocated and spread. The disasters of the modern world, including the destruction of capitalism, were caused by the altruist-collectivist philosophy. It is altruism that men should reject.

PLAYBOY: And how would you define altruism?

RAND: It is a moral system which holds that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the sole justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, value and virtue. This is the moral base of collectivism, of all dictatorships. In order to seek freedom and capitalism, men need a nonmystical, nonaltruistic, rational code of ethics — a morality which holds that man is not a sacrificial animal, that he has the right to exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others, nor others to himself. In other words, what is desperately needed today is the ethics of Objectivism.

Ayn Rand’s essay on the foundations of her ethics is The Objectivist Ethics. That and other essays on her ethics can be found in The Virtue of Selfishness.

I just can’t resist quoting this last segment:

PLAYBOY: Do you believe that Objectivism as a philosophy will eventually sweep the world?

RAND: Nobody can answer a question of that kind. Men have free will. There is no guarantee that they will choose to be rational, at any one time or in any one generation. Nor is it necessary for a philosophy to “sweep the world.” If you ask the question in a somewhat different form, if you say, do I think that Objectivism will be the philosophy of the future, I would say yes, but with this qualification: If men turn to reason, if they are not destroyed by dictatorship and precipitated into another Dark Ages, if men remain free long enough to have time to think, then Objectivism is the philosophy they will accept.


RAND: In any historical period when men were free, it has always been the most rational philosophy that won. It is from this perspective that I would say, yes, Objectivism will win. But there is no guarantee, no predetermined necessity about it.

PLAYBOY: You are sharply critical of the world as you see it today, and your books offer radical proposals for changing not merely the shape of society, but the very way in which most men work, think and love. Are you optimistic about man’s future?

RAND: Yes, I am optimistic. Collectivism, as an intellectual power and a moral ideal, is dead. But freedom and individualism, and their political expression, capitalism, have not yet been discovered. I think men will have time to discover them. It is significant that the dying collectivist philosophy of today has produced nothing but a cult of depravity, impotence and despair. Look at modern art and literature with their image of man as a helpless, mindless creature doomed to failure, frustration and destruction. This may be the collectivists’ psychological confession, but it is not an image of man. If it were, we would never have risen from the cave. But we did. Look around you and look at history. You will see the achievements of man’s mind. You will see man’s unlimited potentiality for greatness, and the faculty that makes it possible. You will see that man is not a helpless monster by nature, but he becomes one when he discards that faculty: his mind. And if you ask me, what is greatness? — I will answer, it is the capacity to live by the three fundamental values of John Galt: reason, purpose, self esteem.

Help Me Rename Rationally Selfish

Aug 292011

For the past few months, I’ve been working on the rebranding of the Rationally Selfish Webcast. Due to other commitments, the work has been slow, but I’ve made some good progress in the programming of the new web site. The goal is to roll it out at the end of October, which will be the one-year anniversary of the webcast.

However, I’m re-thinking a choice that I made fairly early, namely the choice of the name. I don’t want to continue using “Rationally Selfish,” because too few people are familiar with the Objectivist understanding of “selfish” and because that’s too narrowly focused on ethics. I’d originally chosen “Philosophy in Action,” and while that’s not offensive, it’s also B-O-R-I-N-G. Since I’m already unhappy with it, I’d better change it now, before the launch!

Here’s my basic thinking on the matter:

  • The name should not be aimed at Objectivists. Objectivism is my philosophic framework, of course, but I’ll be working hard to attract a substantially non-Objectivist audience after the re-branding. So the name needs to be comprehensible and compelling to those people.
  • The name should refer to or suggest my core focus and expertise, namely philosophy. However, the name should not suggest academic philosophy, e.g. by using technical terms from Aristotle. If anything, the name should suggest a concern for the workings of philosophy in daily life.
  • The name should convey the sense of lively enthusiasm that I bring to the webcast. (Right now, I’m thinking that’s hugely important.)
  • The name must be available as a .com domain name.

A while back, I registered the domains “” and “,” on a lark, thinking that I might use them. I still like that name, including its suggestion that I’m not humble or reverent toward authority — because I’m not respectful of our culture’s traditions of mysticism, altruism, and statism! However, Paul is lukewarm on the name, because “saucy” does have some negative connotations. Hence, you can help me out by taking this poll:

Here are the definitions that my dictionary gives:

  1. impudent; flippant : a saucy remark.
  2. bold and lively; smart-looking : a hat with a saucy brim.
  3. sexually suggestive, typically in a way intended to be lighthearted : saucy songs.

Obviously, I’m looking to evoke the second, but I’m fine with a suggestion of the first. And hey, I talk about sex too!

If “saucy” won’t do, some other adjective might. Here are some possible alternatives along the same lines, plus some others. I like some of these names better than others, but again, I’m interested in your view. (You can vote for more than one.)

If you have any other suggestions — or thoughts — please post them in the comments.

NoodleCast #93: Live Rationally Selfish Webcast

Aug 292011

On Sunday, I hosted another episode of my live Rationally Selfish Webcast, where I answered questions from viewers on practical ethics and the principles of living well. The live webcasts are held every Sunday at 8 am PT / 9 am MT / 10 am CT / 11 am ET. The webcast consists of me broadcasting on video, Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers on audio, and the audience in a text chat.

As usual, an audio recording of Sunday’s live webcast is now available as a NoodleCast podcast. To get these podcasts automatically, you can subscribe to the feed in iTunes — just choose either the enhanced M4A format or the standard MP3 format. They’re the same content, but the M4A format breaks each question into its own “chapter.”

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Whether you contribute or not, please do submit and vote on questions on the widget on the page for the Rationally Selfish Webcast — or via Idea Informer.

The Video

The full video for the webcast is only available to live attendees. Now, you can listen and/or download the audio podcast. However, I’ll post my favorite segment or two of video to my YouTube channel later this week.

The Podcast

Listen Now

Duration: 1:03:09

Download the Episode

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In This Episode

The following segments are marked as chapters in the M4A version of the podcast. Thanks to Tammy Perkins for helping compile the show notes!

Introduction (0:00)

Current Projects:

This week, I spoke at the Colorado Springs SkeptiCamp, and next week, I’ll be speaking on Family, Rational and Otherwise at the Chicago Objectivist Society’s Weekend Conference.

Question 1: The Validity of Introversion and Extroversion (4:15)

Are “introversion” and “extroversion” valid as psychological types? Sometimes people classify themselves and others as “introverts” and “extroverts.” What does that mean? Is the distinction valid and useful? Why or why not?

My Answer, In Brief: Know thyself! A person should know his base personality traits, so that he can manage himself and his life better.


Question 2: Circumcision and Religious Freedom (29:30)

Should circumcision be banned? Residents of San Francisco were supposed to vote on a ballot measure that would have banned circumcision, except in cases of medical necessity. (It was struck from the ballot by a judge due to conflicts with state law.) Since circumcision is an millennia-old religious rite for Jews and regarded as essential to their covenant with God, would a ban on circumcision violate the principle of freedom of religion?

My Answer, In Brief: Routine circumcision of baby boys is a violation of rights, and a religious motivation does not change that.


Question 3: Lobbying as a Career (37:27)

Can lobbying be a proper career choice? Lobbying involves asking for various kind of favors from the government. Is that a profession that someone who values free markets should avoid like the plague?

My Answer, In Brief: A person can lobby for free markets and individual rights with integrity — and to do so is good!

Question 4: Working for a Statist Company (45:01)

Is it immoral to work for a company that uses government to eliminate or hamper the competition? For example, if a company has brought antitrust lawsuits against its competitors, should you refuse to work for them?

My Answer, In Brief: In most cases, ordinary employees are not responsible for the political activities of companies that they work for. Sanction and responsibility requires a closer connection to the actions in question.

Rapid Fire Questions (51:28)

In this segment, I answered a variety of questions off-the-cuff. The questions were:

  • Do we need an Objectivist K-Street team?
  • Is it wrong to work for Halliburton or another company dependent on government?
  • Do you know how or if “right-brained/left-brained” tendencies fit in with personality theory?
  • When it comes to personality traits, doesn’t the attitude of ‘nature to be commanded must be obeyed’ contradict the principle that ‘man is a being of self-made soul’?
  • Should the government mandate vaccination of children?

Conclusion (1:02:09)

Comments or questions? Contact us!

If you enjoyed this episode, please don’t forget to contribute to our tip jar! Also, remember to submit and vote on questions in the the ongoing question queue!

Activism Recap

Aug 282011

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 #295

Aug 282011


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 feature creative commons photographs from Flickr that I find interesting. I hope that you enjoy them!

Objectivist Roundup

Aug 262011

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

Erosophia 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 @

Also, here are the ten most recent additions to the question queue for the Rationally Selfish Webcast. Please vote for the questions that you’re most interested in hearing me answer!

Join us for the live webcast at on Sundays at 8 am PT / 9 am MT / 10 am CT / 11 am ET.

Video: Moral Standards for Public Figures

Aug 262011

In Sunday’s Rationally Selfish Webcast, I discussed applying moral standards to and making moral judgments of public figures. Here’s the 13-minute video, now posted to YouTube:

Also, here’s the video of the webcast segment on joining politically active professional groups.

Videos: Friendships Despite Philosophic Disagreements

Aug 262011

In Sunday’s Rationally Selfish Webcast, I discussed two questions on maintaining friendships despite philosophic disagreements.

The first question was:

How can I maintain my integrity in friendships with people of opposite philosophic views? I struggle to keep good relations with family and friends who support our current political system in which some people are helped at the expense of others, which I regard as slavery. They support ObamaCare, EPA restrictions, and welfare programs. Through years of caring discussions, I realize that they do not hold the individual as sacred but instead focus on what’s best for “the group.” At this point, I often feel more pain than pleasure being with them, even though we have many other values in common, yet I hate to cut them off. How can I maintain good relationships with them — or should I stop trying?

Here’s the 9-minute video, now posted to YouTube:

The second question was:

Should I terminate friendships with people who steal music and other intellectual property from the internet? I don’t know a single person who doesn’t steal something off the internet. I used to do this myself, but stopped when I realized it was wrong and why. Normally, I would cut off contact with anyone who violates rights, because that’s worse than just holding wrong ideas, but the activity is so prevalent now that doing so would end my social life. Even now, my clear moral position strains my friendships. So what should I do?

Here’s the 7-minute video, now posted to YouTube:

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