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Objectivism Q&A with Ben Bayer and Dan Schwartz

In this episode of New Ideal Live, Ben Bayer, Dan Schwartz and Agustina Vergara Cid address questions on Objectivism submitted by the podcast’s audience about the meaning of the term “objectivity,” the difference between evasion and selective focus, and the strongest objections to Objectivism.

Among the topics covered:

  • If objectivity designates a certain relationship between consciousness and existence, how can reality itself be objective?
    • The two meanings of “objectivity”: one epistemological, one metaphysical;
    • Whether Objectivism’s use of the term “objective” to refer to a relationship between mind and reality is idiosyncratic;
    • Can you reach a false conclusion while being objective?
  • Is it evasion to narrow your focus to the good or positive things within a certain context?
    • When and how it’s appropriate to focus on the benefits rather than the downsides of a particular situation;
    • Focus as paying attention to something versus the specifically Objectivist meaning of focus as a state of “purposeful alertness;”
    • How to prioritize one’s attention in light of Objectivism’s view that one should be motivated primarily by values rather than fear.
  • What are the strongest objections to Objectivism?
    • The difference between plausible objections and those that are common or valid;
    • The objection that Ayn Rand’s argument for her ethics justifies maintaining physical survival, but does not justify fulfilling and enjoying one’s life;
    • What this objection misses about the distinctive nature of life as a human being, such as the importance of mental well-being;
    • Whether survival and flourishing are separate goals in cases like choosing to live a longer but less enjoyable life by adopting a healthier diet;
    • The objection raised by many scientifically minded people that Objectivism is wrong to think human beings have free will;
    • The failure of free-will skeptics to take seriously the introspective evidence for free will or to fully recognize the implications of determinism;
    • The objection that claims Rand is a materialist.

Mentioned in this podcast are Leonard Peikoff’s book Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, the Ayn Rand Lexicon entry on “Objectivity,” Bayer’s blog post “The History of Objectivity in Light of Rand’s Epistemology and Ethics,” Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged, Lecture 2 of Peikoff’s course Understanding Objectivism, and Harry Binswanger’s course Free Will.

The podcast was recorded on July 27, 2022. Listen to the discussion below. Listen and subscribe from your mobile device on Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts, Spotify or Stitcher. Watch archived podcasts here.

Podcast audio:

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Sam Weaver

Sam Weaver, BA in English, is a junior education fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute.

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