Thursday, February 21, 2002

Oh, and this is a general resource site on Objectivism. It's where I found the critical essay linked in the previous post.
Oh and one final goodie.. an article arguing that Rand is guilty of unlawful derivation of an "ought" from an "is." That'll be $500, ma'am, and don't let me catch you again...
TOPICS for Objectivist study groups...

Do you exist? Prove it!


Sexual ethics

Capitalism: The Workers' Paradise

Does induction exist? (Even in order to know which examples should prove which theory, you need an enormous edifice of prior theory--in other words, deduction.)

Is Rand a secret Kantian? (more on this later, maybe)

Sweatshops: Good/Bad?



"On a Woman President"

Artificial intelligence


Why does bad philosophy happen to good people? If Aristotle's/Aquinas's/Rand's ideas were so beneficial and rational, why did so many people reject them in favor of Plato/Nietzsche/relativism/etc.?

Dionysos v. Apollo

The good death

Do you have the right to sell yourself into slavery? Why/why not? (How is military service any different?)

How do her views on women and gender roles (cf. Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, "On a Woman President") relate to her general view of rationality?

Rand argues that we must use reason because if we don't, we won't survive. But then she actually asks us to seek, not mere survival, but rational survival--survival only when it is rational. When rationality and survival conflict, which should "trump"?

Can rationality and self-interest ever conflict? For example, what if I find that I am happiest when on LSD, performing sadistic acts, or in contemplative prayer? (If you tell me, "But you'd be so much happier doing something else!", how can I figure that out? What evidence can you produce that I should trust you?)

Is anything worth dying for? (What if you're certain you'll die--it's not just a risk?) Were Harriet Tubman and Harry Wu rational? (Tubman kept returning to the South to secretly smuggle other slaves to freedom; Wu returned to China undercover several times to document the horrors of the Chinese gulag system.)

Is man by nature good? If so... uh, where is there any evidence for this? If not, why should he pursue his own self-interest?

When property rights conflict with the right to life, which should "trump"? (The usual example: An enemy buys up all the land around Shamed's house and prohibits him from leaving his land to get food or medical care. Is it rational for Shamed to trespass? If yes... is universal health care in emergencies rational? [it is OK to force someone to use his property in a way he does not wish in order to save a life.])

When is suicide justified? Rand suggests that suicide is justified, or at least not worthy of condemnation, when one's beloved is dead or will die (cf. Atlas Shrugged) or when you are beyond your capacity to bear pain. She claims that the world will then hold no value, or negative value, for you. Yet in other cases, when someone judges that the world has no value for him (e.g. the depressed teen), she would counsel: "You're not trying hard enough!" You're not allowed to just say, "Life sucks, I give up"--unless life really sucks. Why can she not say that the would-be suicide should recognize that there are still things in the world to value and to give him happiness?

The Fountainhead basically suggests that people, on the whole, stink; yet the world is a good place. In the movie "Seven," Morgan Freeman's character says, "Ernest Hemingway once wrote that the world is a good place, and worth fighting for. I agree with the second part." Is this an Objectivist stance?

Can good causes ever lose? If so, should we stay on the losing side, thus risking our own well-being, freedom, or even lives?

When were you happiest? Was it when you were exercising the Objectivist virtues? Was it with your family? Was it painful?

Are there conflicts between what Rand writes in her fiction and what she writes in her non-fiction? (For example, in the novels she essentially writes characters off when they get too bad--Peter Keating, Gail Wynand, Robert Stadler. Should this be done in real life? Are some people simply the walking damned?)

Why is Victor Hugo better than Shakespeare?

Should anyone ever bother getting married? Why? (Is marriage rational?)

Children! Is childbearing rational? Child-rearing? Why don't children take the oath in Galt's Gulch? Why does Rand assume that children are good unless catastrophe (society) intervenes? (Does that accord with your own experience?) Should you only have children if you can expect that the toil-to-happiness ratio will work out right?

Why should Objectivists care about preserving the world for future generations? If they don't, why not simply "drink up all the water and eat up all the soap"--using up natural resources, etc.?

One does not reason that one should use reason; one wills to use reason. Should Rand be an existentialist? What can she say, if anything, to people who do not care if they survive?

Should we ever forgive anyone, or do we just do it to smooth things over?

Should an Objectivist minimize the amount of time she spends with non-Objectivists?

OK, so no one will force you to care for orphans, retarded people, or others in need of help, and no one will stop you if you want to. What if not enough people want to? Should we? Do we have an ethical obligation to charity even if it doesn't make us happy? Is helping a mentally ill homeless woman rational?
WELCOME. This site is intended as a resource for anyone who wants to explore the ideas of Ayn Rand in detail. Note: I am not and never have been a Randian. I'm Catholic. I wanted to put this site together in order to point others toward interesting questions and problems in Objectivism. Specifically, this site is for people interested in wide-ranging discussion groups like OSGAY, the Objectivist Study Group at Yale, which provided me with food, folks and fun while I was in college. If you're a Yale undergraduate, you should check it out. OSGAY, like this site, seeks not to champion Rand's thought but to understand and explore it.

Today I'll post a list of questions OSGAY came up with in 2000, and a list of topics from our meetings. Later, when I get time and caffeine, I'll post some more in-depth questions (and responses) on subjects like the Prudent Predator Problem (aka "What if I am a genius and can plunder the world undetected?") and how we form our definition of reason. Feel free to suggest a question or topic! I can be reached at I can't guarantee how often I'll be working on this site, but I will post a notice that there's new material here over on my weblog,


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