Episode 41

Celebrating Ayn Rand

Published on: 2nd February, 2022

Today we kick off "Rand's Day" with our "resident Philosopher" James Valliant. We discuss Miss Rand's legacy and artistic value as both a novelist and a philosopher.

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Show notes with links to articles, blog posts, products and services:

Episode 41 (51 minutes) was recorded at 10 PM CET, on January 13, 2022, with Ringr app.. Editing and post-production was done with the podcast maker, AlituTranscript is provided by Veed.io.

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Transcript
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Good afternoon and welcome to another

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edition of the Secular Foxhole Podcast.

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Today we have a returning guest, one

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of our favorites, James Valliant, visiting the

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Foxhole to discuss Ayn Rand today.

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James, how are you?

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I'm quite well.

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How are you, sir?

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I'm doing very good.

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Pleasure to be back with you. Thank you.

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It's nice to have you back.

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I battled the cold for two weeks,

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and I finally about 99% better.

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I hope it wasn't Omicron.

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We checked all those things out and made sure of that.

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But it's my annual what I call crud,

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sinus and sore throat kind of thing.

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Winter has come. That's right.

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Winter has come to spring the second of February.

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That's true. Yes.

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Ayn Rand's birthday again, today's topic is Ayn Rand.

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And James, who was Ayn Rand.

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And in my view, why is she

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so important to the human race?

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Well, Ayn Rand was, of course,

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the famous novelist and philosopher.

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She was born in Russia in.

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But she came to America after witnessing and

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enduring the Bolshevik Revolution and its aftermath.

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She was skilled and fortunate enough to

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escape the Soviet Union and come to

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America, where she became an extremely popular

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novelist, playwright, screenwriter in the United States.

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And she wasn't just an amazingly

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powerful and popular writer of fiction.

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She was, in my view, the most important philosopher of

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our time as well, ranking with the great philosophers.

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And so there's two ways to evaluate her importance.

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And I'm going to start with philosophy

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because I think that is the most

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important philosophy, according to Ayn Rand.

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And I agree with her.

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Here is the most important topic that there is.

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It is an inescapable topic for humanity.

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This is one of the reasons why

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humans, religion persists and why religion is

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so ubiquitous in more primitive cultures is

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because people need a comprehensive worldview.

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It is not something that we can dispense with.

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Our answers to fundamental questions

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will shape our psychology.

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We'll determine whether or not we're happy.

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And since it's so important and formative on the

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individual level, it is the single most important factor

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in human history, in development of human culture.

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In my view, we are still

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overcoming the negative impacts of religion.

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In my view, Western civilization is still, in

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effect, breaking the chains of the Dark Ages.

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We can hope.

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But I'll tell you, Ayn Rand represents the

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most powerful destruction of those chains. True.

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That occurred in the last millennia.

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She gave great credit to Thomas Aquinas back

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in the 1200s and reintroducing Aristotelian logic and

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Greek observational science into the Western thought, which

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did lead to humanism Renaissance, the Age of

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science, the Enlightenment dates, in effect, natural revolution.

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But we are still the Industrial

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Revolution, the Scientific revolution, my gosh.

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But we are still especially in the area of

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ethics and therefore in its related areas, all the

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normative humanities, for example, politics and so forth.

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We're still laboring under ideas and philosophy that

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we haven't caught up as she points out

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to the extraordinary developments that humanity has made

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in the physical Sciences and technology.

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And so I think that her importance on a personal

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level is that she can autobiographical note about myself.

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She was instrumental in making me a happier, more confident

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person, in helping to organize my life in a rational

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way, to make it a more productive one, to make

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my relationships more honest and serious, and to make me

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a happier person in general, to get rid of the

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remnants of the ideas of previous philosophies and religious ideas

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that lingered were lingering in my mind in psychology.

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And I think that she has the

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capacity to change history, to change history.

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If you look at the world that she grew

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up and lived in through the 20th century and

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the great crisis of that time was totalitarianism.

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She lived through the age of Hitler and Stalin

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and Mao and the horrific effects of that on

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humanity, and she could see that those were the

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results of philosophy, the remnants of this ancient primordial

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philosophy of altruism and mysticism and collectivism that she

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was the most articulate critic of, I think, in

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the history of ideas.

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And Ayn Rand wrote several important novels that people

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declared to be life changing for them personally.

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She went on in the 1960s and 1970s to

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write a series of nonfiction essays that were anthologized

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into important books of philosophy, very popular books of

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philosophy, which I think lay the foundation for a

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whole new approach to philosophy, a Copernican revolution, only

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more radical than Copernicus himself. Yeah.

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Again, you touched briefly she grew up in,

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if I remember right, the Czarus to Russia,

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and then the Bolshevik Revolution came.

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So what was her childhood like?

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As she reached her teenage years, I

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think she knew she had to escape.

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So how did that occur?

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But what was her childhood like

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and how did she get out?

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Well, her father was sort of a self

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made, which is an extraordinary thing, if you

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think about Eastern European's bizarre Russia.

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He was sort of a selfmade man altogether.

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He actually got a University degree now.

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There were quotas in European universities at the time.

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There were quotas as to the number

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of Jews who could be admitted.

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And he could only get a position as

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a student at University in the chemistry Department.

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And so he became a pharmacist, and

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he actually became a very successful and

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relatively prominent pharmacist in St.

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Petersburg, Russia, the cultural heart of Russia.

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And he owned a pharmacy, and the

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family lived in apartments above his pharmacy.

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It was on one of the main squares in St. Petersburg.

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So Ayn Rand grew up in the heart of

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the most culturally rich city in Russia, St.

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Petersburg.

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Nonetheless, she grew up.

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They were a family of non observant Jews.

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Her mother gave an official nod to Judaism,

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but the parents didn't really push religious parents

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were mostly Liberal minded people of the time.

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And so she grew up getting a really good education.

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Her parents made sure that their daughters she was

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the eldest of three girls, got really fine education.

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By the time that Ayn Rand was 19, she had gone to

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one of the finest girls schools in Russia at the time.

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And she had a degree from what was

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then because it was after the revolution, the

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University of Petrograd changed from St.

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Petersburg to Petrograd.

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It became Lenning Grad University.

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Now, of course, it's changed back to St. Petersburg.

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But when she graduated from University at 19

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with a degree in history and the pedagogy

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of history, she really had an amazing education.

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Now, during that period, of course, in 1917, when she

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was just twelve years old, she was about to turn

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13 when the Bolshevik October Revolution happened and her father

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lost her business was stolen from him.

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The family initially fled to the Crimea.

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When things settled out, they returned, in effect,

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to Petrograd, where they nearly starved to death

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and expected to officially starve to death.

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They could live for a while on accumulated assets, but

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his business and their home was stolen from them.

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And her mother taught foreign languages,

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but they barely scraped by.

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And there were times where they nearly starved to death

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in Rand knew she had to get out of Russia.

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And in 1926, at the age of

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21, that's exactly what she did.

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She kind of had to lie to the Soviet

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officials telling them that, oh, she was just going

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there to investigate the American movie industry and bring

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back ideas from the latest thing, the latest movies

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from Hollywood, and I'll come back and help the

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develop Russian cinema business.

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So she lied, saying she would come back,

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but she got out with that lie.

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There were cousins of hers, were living in Chicago, and

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she lived with them for a little time in the

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summer of 1926, before she came to Hollywood, where she

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actually met she came to Hollywood and by September of

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1926, actually met Cecilby DeMille himself.

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And she became extra on the movie he was

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making at the time, King of Kings, the story

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of Jesus, the silent version of King of Kings,

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where she met her husband, Frank O'Connor.

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She tripped him on the bus.

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He was an actor on the set, tripped him on the bus,

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met him, and he became her husband for the next 50 years.

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Right now, her first novel, We the Living, is quote,

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as close to an autobiography as I'll ever write.

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What did she want to show with that

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novel to the people and Blair and James

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that you said before about the movies?

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It turned into a movie also, so

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please add a comment on that also.

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And the power of ideas. We the living.

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Yeah, We the Living.

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There was a party, a going away party that was thrown

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for Ayn Rand as she was heading off to America, and

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one old gentleman stopped her at the party and this left

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obviously a very deep impression on Ayn Rand.

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He said, tell them in America, tell them

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in America that Russia is a giant Cemetery

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and that we're all slowly dying.

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And that's exactly what Ayn Rand thought of Russia.

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She knew that she wouldn't have the intellectual

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or artistic freedom to do the work that

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she knew she needed to do.

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And she witnessed the misery and starvation,

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the typhus and the cholera and the

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economic misery, the bread lines. Exactly.

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Her family nearly starved to death, as I say.

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And so she brought a vivid

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personal experience to about totalitarianism.

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She became one of the very first

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Russians who developed an audience outside of

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Russia, being critical of the Communist revolution.

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Written in published in the mid 1930s by McMillan,

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it had only a modest success in mixed reviews.

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And if you look back on that period,

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of course, most intellectuals in America were Communists.

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Editor of the New York Times Book Review, Granville Heck

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said in The New York Times, one cannot be a

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proper author without first being a proper Communist.

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So the intellectual world was not even

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ready to hear anti Communist material in

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what Eugene Lions called the Red Decade.

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So a lot of the critics would say things like,

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too often the Communists wear the black hat and Ms.

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Rand account.

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But it was a devastating critique of

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not just Communism, but of all dictatorship,

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philosophically speaking, and enriched by Ayn Rand's

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personal experience, deeply influenced.

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And you can still see the impact of

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Victor Hugo on the style of her writing.

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She was still learning English, by the

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way, in Russia, she had become fluent

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in Russian, of course, and French.

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She could read and write German, but English

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was sort of a whole new language.

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And to become a novelist and to

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be able to write a novel.

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Now, mind you, the great US American

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literary critic HL Menken, admired we the

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Living and believed it should be published.

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And I think with some help in getting her

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having that published, as Martin pointed out, even though

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face to some hostile critics and some mixed success,

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it was turned into a film. Now get this.

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It was turned into a film

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in Mussolini's Fascist Italy, right.

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They stole it from Ayn Rand.

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They didn't tell Rand or the

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publisher that they were stealing it.

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And so with a huge, big fat Copyright violation.

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But the people who made the film were anti fascists.

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Alessandrini and the actors and the others who

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were working on the film were well known

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for being antifascist and anti Mussolini.

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And it's funny, they did actually two films

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out of the one book, and they used

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the book itself rather than some screenplay.

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And so it turned into just this beautiful, magnificent film,

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by the way, big success until Mussolini realized that it

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was anti dictatorship and he had it pulled.

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People were lining up around the block to

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see the movies, but it was only out

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for a short time until the Italian government

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pulled it and all the copies were destroyed.

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It was only the director, Alessandrini, who

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basically buried it, buried a copy of

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the negative that even saved the film.

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It later came to Ayn Rand's

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attention that it had been made.

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There was an international lawsuit after World War

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II which got Ayn Rand royalties for the

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Copyright theft that they'd engaged in.

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But later on, her lawyer had discovered the negative,

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and I'm Rand actually supervised the editing process and

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the subtitling process of reediting the two films into

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a single film, which was rereleased in the 1980s.

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I was at the premiere at the Screen Actors Guild

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and Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood when it was premiered.

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Leonard Peikoff gave introduction to it,

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told the history of it.

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What a beautiful film.

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I highly recommend that anyone interested in Iran's life

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or work, check out the film We the Living.

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It's a black and white film made in

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Italian, but an extremely beautiful film and extremely

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faithful to Ayn Rand's original novel.

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Right now with her other novels, Excuse

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Me, Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, she later

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called herself a romantic realist.

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What is that genre, and why is it all but unknown?

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Well, there are certain literature.

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American literature, especially in the last century, has been

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characterized by a school that Ayn Rand called naturalism,

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and it attempts to provide an image of life

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as it is, the way things are.

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And, of course, the way things are for most

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naturalist writers is pretty darn miserable and horrific.

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Some really good writer like John Steinbeck, the writer

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of Grapes of Wrath, or a brilliant stylist like

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William Faulkner Sound in The Fury, or the great

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American playwright Tennessee Williams Streetcar Named Desire.

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They're naturalistic, but they all have a very grim

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view of the world and humanity, don't they?

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Naturalism by doing, einrand identified the real difference

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between naturalism and romanticism is a belief in

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human free will, that human beings can make

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choices, can think, can to some extent take

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control of their lives and direct it.

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And it's the logical consequences of

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people's choices that give any literature

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any moral, inspirational point to them.

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And so Iran was much more akin to the romantic

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writers of the 19th century, whom she very much admired.

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Men like Victor Hugo and Fyodor

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Dostoevsky, Edmond Rostand, for example.

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Authors like that, even the lesser Romantics, she thought,

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were much better because they believed in heroes and

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villains, they had moral values because they believed that

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human beings had free will, that they made choices,

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and those choices mattered to their personalities, actions and

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the consequences of those actions.

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And she wanted to create her own goal in writing

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The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, as she said, was to

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create characters and stories that would interest her.

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And so to her, the goal of her

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literature was the fictional presentation of the ideal

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man, the ideal human being you see, morally,

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psychologically, and from her personal perspective, a man.

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Right, right.

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The goal of her writing was

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this projection of this moral ideal.

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And so the hero of The Fountainhead, Howard

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Rourke, is unlike any hero you will ever

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run across in any other kind of literature.

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Because Ayn Rand, in having to do this, realized

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that because she was in disagreement with all of

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the previous moral philosophy, pleased before most of the

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great romantics that she liked from the 19th century,

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for example, were Christians, a Christian socialist like you

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Go, or a Christian conservative like Dostoevsky.

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They were Christians.

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So she realized she had to develop a whole

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new philosophy, a whole new approach to ideas, simply

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in order to project this new ideal.

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And so her heroes are unlike any heroes

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you will ever confront in other literature.

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Yes, exactly.

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I'm speaking for myself with a gracious tip of

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the hat to The Fountainhead, I think at The

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Shrug is the greatest novel written in human history.

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I have to agree with you.

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Of all the novels that I've ever

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read, and I've read some great novels.

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It's not just the great French romantics.

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Even some of these American

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naturalists were great novelists.

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And going back, I like Nathaniel Hawthorne.

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I like great epic writers from the past, sure.

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But there's just no question in my mind.

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Atlas Shrugged is the greatest knowledge, the

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greatest epic ever composed by human writer

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so far in human history.

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Yes, it was an inspirational, life changing event for me,

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but so was my earlier reading of The Fountain.

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But I have to tell you, I fell in

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love with Jackie Taggart in a way that I've

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never fallen in love with a character in literature.

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I know I was a young man, and I

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know Ayn Rand's work is sort of flattering to

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the ego of young men in certain ways.

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But I fell in love with Tag. Me, Taggart.

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I identified with her.

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I think I identify with her more than

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any other character in all of world literature.

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I mean, in some ways I identify

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with Serena to Bergerac or something.

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I was about to mention sir.

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No, it was one of my all time favorites. Yeah.

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But I still think that I'm more spiritually akin

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to Dagny Tagger than I am to any other

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character in the whole of Western literature.

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Well, I think you can see herself

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in Dagny in a lot of ways.

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The way she describes the heroines of The

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Fountainhead and Alice Rugby are very interesting.

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Dominique, she said, is me in a bad mood. That's right.

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And Dagney she described in her early notes as

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me with any possible flaws removed, entirely removed.

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She's going to clean up herself and make herself

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idealized as Dagny psychologically, and then convey herself in

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more negative, bad mood when the world was getting

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to her through the character of Dominique.

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But one thing that she always could do

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with her female characters is to convince you

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of their love their passionate love for the

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hero or their passionate love for their values.

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Dominique loves architecture, and that explains why she regards

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Howard works work as sacred, which explains why she

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acts the way she does or getting tagged Taggart

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the way she loves her railroad, or the way

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she loves John Golf or Francisco or Hang.

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The way they value is a reflection

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of Iran's passionate love of this Earth. Really?

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Now, again, we touched on it a moment

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ago, but she had to create her own

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philosophic system, and that system is again, in

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my personal view, an epoch creating philosophy.

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Talking about, let's have a second Renaissance.

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What is the significance of this for her ideas?

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If they ever gain a foothold in America

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or in the world, what do you see?

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The world looking like?

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Yeah, me too.

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The liberation of the human mind, the veneration of

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reason and its capacity to improve human life on

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Earth, the freedom to liberate the human mind, to

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let it do so, were it not for government

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interventions, were it not for government attempts very often

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to help people, at least that's their excuse.

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What they end up doing is shackling the

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mind and inhibiting creativity, which is all that

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coercive government regulation can really end up doing.

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Ayn Rand demonstrates that it is

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the creative, independent mind that is

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the Fountainhead for all human progress.

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And she demonstrates further that the

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primary social condition for the operation

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of the creative mind is freedom. Freedom.

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The freedom to disagree, the freedom to buck

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the trend, to go against the current all

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real creative thinkers, philosophers, scientists, artists, think of

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Galileo, think of Beethoven or Victor Hugo.

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They all have these same struggles.

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If they weren't being burnt at the stake

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for their innovative ideas, they were being denounced.

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Man was meant to fly denounced and imprisoned.

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Yeah, exactly.

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And look at the fate of artists in the

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Soviet Union, for example, which surely would have been

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on Ram States in some gulag or psychiatric hospital.

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So, coming to America and looking at the

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spectacular success of comparative freedom in the west,

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she drew the inductive conclusion that freedom, the

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liberation of the human mind, was the key

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to human prosperity and progress.

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And when that's understood in a principled fashion,

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the future would be a future of unlimited

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possibilities, endless discoveries of the mind both in

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science and in the humanities, and understanding of

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humans themselves, and a consequent revolution in both

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culture and technology.

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More than that, guilt free love of life on Earth,

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the end of all of this Christian misery, of being

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slaves to one another and the lowest among us.

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No, no, no.

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Iran was opposed to the idea of unearned guilt,

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opposed to the idea of people having to sacrifice

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their happiness for the Socalled greater good.

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Just a religious concept of mystical concept in our

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view, because the common good is no different than

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the good of each and every individual.

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And so what would the world look like?

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The world would be a world in which we

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would respect one another's rational selfinterest, a world in

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which we would share our values enthusiastically, a world

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in which people in an uninhibited, guilt free way,

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would be enjoying and pursuing their long term happiness.

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So barely scratched.

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All I can do is the most vague ways

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tell you that comparative paradise to anything that humans

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have known is waiting for the world.

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Should it embrace the basic ideas of owning

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Rand now, actually, I'll throw this in even

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though it's not related to Ms. Rand.

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One of the positive effects of this covet

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debacle led by government interference is the collapse

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of the government education and the burgeoning home

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school movement or private school movement.

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Lots of parents have pulled their kids out of

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public schools over the last two years, haven't they?

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Yes. Amazing.

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And to me, that's getting very critical out there

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and getting very critical of the whole system.

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The seed for the second Renaissance right there. Yeah.

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Well, I absolutely think that's true.

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I think people are growing skeptical of the

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value of a University education and the humanities.

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I think they can see it in

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the technical areas, science and engineering.

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I think it's still Aristotelian based somewhat.

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There is some rationality there.

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But when it comes to philosophy and history and

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economics and psychology, just garbage, people come out with

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degrees that they may not be able to use

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at all or that have absolutely corrupted any correct

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understanding and prevented them from seeing the truth.

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So I got an undergraduate degree in philosophy

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only because I knew I was going to

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go on to be an attorney, for example.

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But if that characterized my education, but that is to

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say a University education in the 20th century in philosophy,

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I would be one messed up individual with probably no

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marketable job skills except at Harvard or Yale.

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Even if you go to Harvard, Yale,

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some of those people are complaining.

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Some of those people who want the government

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to cancel because the government gives these guaranteed

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loans, these low interest loans to students, even

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if they don't qualify for scholarships, their politicians

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want to cancel all those College debt.

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But the fact is they undertook all that College debt.

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Now they have what is even from the

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prestigious private universities become a useless degree.

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We're recording this for release on her birthday

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February 2 next month, and I generally celebrate

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her birthday with some quiet reflection.

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Maybe I'll pick up actually, what I like to

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do is I'll grab her nonfiction work for The

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New Intellectual, and I'll peek that I'll peek into

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the excerpts from the novels and just get reinspired.

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Yeah.

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Can I ask what you normally do?

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If anything, that's a good one, because the book

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for the New Intellectual was her first book.

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Collecting sort of excerpts included a big

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nonfiction essay Intellectual, which had a powerful

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effect on me, helped shape the course

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of my life and my career decisions.

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It's that big an influence on me.

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Just that essay for the New Intellectual I

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think we discussed before the faith and force

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between faith and force, and for the New

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Intellectual to avoid Rand's early nonfiction essays after

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publishing Atlas Shrugged, those two had formative impact

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on my thinking about everything and even my

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interests, intellectually and my career direction.

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So, yeah, and that book is I highly recommend

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the book because it's got Ein Rand, the most

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philosophical excerpts from her novels, with a living Anthem

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Fountainhead atmosphere and really an excellent place for people

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who want to know Einran's ideas, a good place

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for them to start.

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It's in that book that she named her philosophy

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in a Public way Objectivism for the first time.

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But her other books, The Virtue of Selfishness,

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which came shortly thereafter, a revolution in ethics.

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Yes, I'm Rand was controversial because, of course,

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she advocated selfishness, and by that she didn't

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mean what most people mean when you concretize

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what selfishness means in specific concrete actions.

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For most people, they mean criminals and

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drug addicts and thieves and people who

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are on a course of self destruction.

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I was a prosecutor for many years, and people,

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some of my more conservative colleagues would say, oh,

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yeah, look at all those selfish people in jail.

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And I would always make the point, well, even if we

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didn't manage to put them in jail, we're looking at some

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of the most self destructive people in our society.

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These people are not developing productive skills.

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These people, whether or not we catch them

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or not, these people are, in effect, ruining

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themselves, their characters and their own psychologists.

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Some of them are destroying

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themselves with drugs and alcohol.

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The folks in that jail, whether they were

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in jail or not, would be among the

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most self destructive human beings in our country.

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They were always taken aback by that.

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But what I ran meant by selfishness was your long

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term actual self interest, something that very few people even

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take the time to identify, much less consider in a

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principled way as Ian Randy and putting it on that

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ground, making human life the objective needs of human life

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is the standard of moral values.

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As she did, she was able to provide us

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with an objective grounding for ethics for the first

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time, giving us a real motive to be good,

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that is to say, our long term self interest.

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When I contemplate being dishonest.

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No, not all lies are dishonest.

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If you were hiding Jews from the Nazis, of

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course I ran to say, go ahead and lie,

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but the reason why I'm honest with people is

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the same reason why I'm honest with myself.

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And if I try to gain a value by

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lying to somebody, it feels like I would be

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standing on concrete into railroad tracks with a locomotive

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headed at me at 100 miles an hour.

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I regard being ethical as the

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most selfish thing I can do.

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And Ayn Rand, therefore had a

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radically different perspective on selfishness.

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But because she was an egoist figures from

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both the left and the right and everywhere

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in between as selfish, because in their minds,

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selfishness is associated with the ideas of philosophers

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like Thomas Hobbes or Friedrich Nietzsche, and very

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much disagreed with their approaches and their assumptions

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about what selfishness implied and entailed.

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And that's another reason why her

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philosophy is such a revolution.

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And in this respect, she could give a moral defense

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to capitalism, to the free market that no one had

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ever done before, until, unless we can defend a person's

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right to live for his or her own sake, defend

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the profit motive on an ethical basis, capitalism will always

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be struggling uphill against the Socialists and collectivists who claim

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to be working for the common good.

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But as I say, I'm Rand saw

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no conflict of interest between rational individuals.

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So long as I respect your rights and we get

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on peacefully, so long as reason is what we put

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first among our values, Einran saw no reason for there

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to be any conflict or any real conflict of interest

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between rational people in a free society.

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So in other words, being an egoist doesn't mean walking

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past drowning children with your nose stuck up in it.

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Oh, quite the opposite.

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You know something?

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My love for humanity in general is simply an

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emanation from my love of my own life.

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I assume that the value I place on

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my life, it's not true of everyone.

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Some people are monsters and suicidal whether they

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know it or not, but I assume I

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give the benefit of the doubt to humanity.

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I assume that they love their life like I do.

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I assume that they too appreciate this.

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So therefore I'm going to respect their selfishness.

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I can only gain from their selfishness, and it is

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in my self interest to help other people when appropriate.

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It's not an atomistic individualism that Iran

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advocated, but one which acknowledges the huge

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potential value that other people can be.

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I mean, I'm much better off in society than on a

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desert island in some ways, but I'd rather be as Iran

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points out, I'd rather be on a desert island alone than

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be a slave or in some Nazi concentration camp.

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Yeah, go ahead, Mark.

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Yeah, it will do as an ending, maybe to get you

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back again, James, because this could be a follow up.

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We could go on and on for hours.

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I think we'll wrap up, but I will give you

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some things that you could ponder on and give you,

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like the cliffhanger version and we'll come back.

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Is your book High Range Critics? Yeah.

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And also that you talk about this egotist

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and the development of Rans view about Nietzsche

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and others that have written about that, and

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also the anecdote about the businessman that approached

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Random wanted to change her philosophy.

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These are like hard things.

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But if you could give it like a teaser to

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the listeners, and then you will come back soon again.

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Okay.

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Well, Frederick Nietzsche was a big influence on

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Ayn Rand early on in her life.

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As a teenager, she was

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already developing ideas about egoism.

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I think a cousin of hers came up to

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her and said, AHA, I've discovered a German philosopher

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who beat you to all your ideas. She said, oh, really?

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And so she read Thus Begsarathustra, and she was

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favorably impressed by his poetry and some of his

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expressions of the heroic sense of life.

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But as she studied his ideas further, read

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The Birth of Tragedy, Beyond Good and Evil,

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stuff like that, she realized that he was

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a defender of subjectivism, irrationalism determinism.

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He had a view of emotions that was

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instinctive, the blue, the blood, not cognition.

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I'm granted, our emotions were the result

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of our evaluations and so forth.

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She was also thought that he was

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equivocal on the issue of force.

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She thought that an egoist would neither want

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to rule nor permit himself to be ruled.

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He would neither sacrifice others to

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himself nor sacrifice himself to others.

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And so she made this very

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important clarification, in my view, explicitly

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indicating where Nietzsche had gone wrong.

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He discovered this rather early on, still writing, Mind

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you, in her first philosophical notes in 1934.

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She's still in her 20s.

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She is coming out against Nietzsche's view of emotions,

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his view of determinism, his view of subjectivism.

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She thinks, we don't need a

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genealogy or history of ethics.

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We need only a logical system of ethics.

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She was clearly coming down on Aristotle side.

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She was clearly coming down on the side of

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voluntary interaction between people, as opposed to some Ubermens,

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like you say, stepping over dead bodies.

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Let me jump in here really quick.

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In her published journals, at least speaking for

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myself, I could see her growth from Nietzsche

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to Objectivist, if you will, right?

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As I say, even in her 20s, she

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rejected the basic, the most fundamental philosophical ideas.

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In his system, jar subjectivism, radical subjectivism

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determinism, radical determinism, and a certain approach

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to emotions, an attack on principled ethics,

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logical ethics beyond good and evil.

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We need the transvaluation of values.

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But he didn't provide a positive system of values.

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So in my book, The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics, the

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way I put it is Nietzsche was a philosophical bulldozer.

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Heinrand was an architect.

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She built a system of principled ethics based.

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I mean, one of the big problems with the new atheists,

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in my view, is that they don't have a good answer

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to the religious people to say where the ethics come from.

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Ayn Rand has the answer, another

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important revolution that Iron provides.

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But she still admired Nietzsche to the point that she

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was going to include a quote from Frederick Nietzsche.

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The Noble Soul has referenced for itself.

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The introduction is the dedication to the Fountainhead.

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But even by that point, she had

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grown so disenchanted with Nietzsche, she excluded

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even putting that quote there.

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She just mentioned it in the introduction she

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wrote to the 25th anniversary edition in 1968.

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Now, my book, The Passion of Ayn Rand's critics,

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former associates of Iron Rand, who had, in my

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view, terribly exploited her financially, lied to her.

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They came out with biographies shortly after Iran's

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death when Iran could not respond to them.

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And that struck me as somewhat unfair.

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And so around the turn of the 21st century, around

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2000 2001, I published a series of critiques of Barbara

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Brandon's biography, Anne Leonard Picoff and the Estate of Iron

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Ran contacted me, and I wasn't the one who contacted

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them even to let them know I'd done this. But Dr.

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Pecoff liked what I had written and offered me

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Iran's personal notes on the break she had with

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the Brandon and asked if I could use them.

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I went and looked at those notes and found that they

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very much in fact, they provided a lot more information than

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I ever thought was there to critique the brand and what

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they'd left out and what they'd lied about.

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And so in 2005, I published

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The Passion of Iran's Critics.

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It's very distressing to me that so many of

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Iran's critics are focused on ad hominem personal issues.

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And every single time I cannot think of

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a major personal attack on her that is

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even accurate, actually accurate, as if attacking her

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personally could refute her philosophy, which it cannot.

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Of course, that's just ad hominem.

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But more than that, as if we should simply

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dismiss her because, you see, she's this rotten, selfish

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psychopath and all of that is lies.

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But that whole personal attack has its roots in

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the Brandons and their biographies, and I had hoped

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to give Ain Rand side of that dispute.

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The fact is that the brand, and as I say, lied not

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only to Iran for many years, but lied to the public about

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their break with Iron Rand in I had to bring all that

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to the attention, I think, of people so that they could understand

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the credibility and bias issues of the brand.

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And apart from several factual issues,

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they get wrong about Iron Random.

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James, this has been great, but I want to do

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a couple of things for our audience who may not

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be as philosophically knowledgeable as the three of us.

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Can you just give a quick

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definition of subjectivism and determinism? Okay.

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The idea of subjectivism is

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that we cannot know reality.

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Some subjectivist say, oh, yeah,

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sure, there's a reality.

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We can never transcend our own perspective on it.

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All we have is our angle, our perspective,

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and our biases, and our attempt to escape

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that is always going to be impossible.

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And that's what Frederick Nietzsche believed.

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Friedrich Nietzsche was not a solipsist, someone who believes

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that only his consciousness exists and that everyone else

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is just really an image of his consciousness.

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But he was a Subjectivist.

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He believed that each of us had our

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own wholly unique little worlds of perspective.

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Therefore, that objective truth is illusory as

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such, particularly in philosophical and moral matters.

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But subjectivism is the belief that your consciousness,

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in effect, is all that you can know.

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You can't know reality.

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Or as Kant, an arch subjectivist, said,

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we can never know things in themselves.

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Or earlier subjectivist would say, reality is inaccessible to

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our consciousness, and all we have are the effects

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of reality at best on our consciousness.

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Now, determinism is a belief that everything is,

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in effect, predetermined, that everything has already been

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set by atoms of the physical world, which

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are, in effect, playing out with each other

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in a billiard ball fashion, that's the scientific

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version, Spinoza, was a logical determinist.

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He thought that logic itself implied that human beings had

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no choice, you see, and that whatever choice we think

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is, we all know that thinking takes effort.

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We all experience from the inside making choices,

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and those choices seem to make a difference. Right.

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So determinism is the denial that human beings have any

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kind of free will and that it's all predetermined.

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Ian Rand had a very specific view of free will.

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She didn't think it was magic.

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She didn't think it was limitless in its power.

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It was very specific, and it had a specific role.

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And we could bring control to our lives to

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a certain degree through the use of thinking.

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And look at how humans can do that.

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Look at the range of human creativity.

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We can play golf on the moon.

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We can compose, we split atoms, right.

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We genetically alter molecules to

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create new life species.

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Our power over the world is astonishing, but because of

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our creative ability to think, and that's what Iran identified

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as our free will, our ability to think or not.

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And to that extent, we can change the

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world and bring control to our lives.

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So she actively argued against determinism, whether

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of the religious or scientific variety. One more thing.

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I want to give you a quote of hers, and

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then you can expand on that for a little bit.

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Quote, the alleged shortcut to knowledge, which is

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faith, is only a shortcut, destroying the mind. Unquote.

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That's a gem, isn't it?

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It's a gem.

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Ainrand believed.

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So this is a technical point in philosophy,

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but Iran was really the first philosopher to

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come to grips with the fact that consciousness

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possesses a specific identity and nature.

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Previous philosophers had thought, and

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I include Aristotle in this.

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Who is the philosopher that had the

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biggest influence of all on iron?

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She regarded herself, in effect,

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as in the Aristotelian tradition.

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And even Aristotle said that if

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consciousness were anything in particular, that

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that would be a distorting element.

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And that really did get modern

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philosophy off to a bad start.

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Based on Lock, I believed in this causal

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theory of knowledge, this veil of perception.

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All we know is the effects of reality on

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our senses in mind, not reality in itself.

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Iran rejected all of that.

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It climaxed with cons.

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Of course, we said we can't

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ever know things in themselves.

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All we know are the

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categories of our own consciousness.

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Space and time are just the way

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we have of looking at the world.

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It's not nothing about the world itself.

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Logic, logic itself is only a feature.

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It wouldn't be nice if it was an

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automatic feature of you and my oh, boy.

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God said that it was built in.

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We have to be logical only, right?

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Iran rejected all of that.

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She said, all of that is, in effect, arguing that

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we are blind because we have eyes, deaf, because we

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have ears, diluted because we have a mind.

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But it's not only a reputation of any of

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the serious arguments of the skeptics, it's also a

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reputation, the identity of consciousness, of the mystic.

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The mystic is person who rejects reason for on

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behalf of some other non rational means of knowing.

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But of course, the senses connect me with reality.

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Logic keeps me connected to reality.

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I know how those work.

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Those have a causal mechanism to keep me in

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contact with reality and to connect me with reality.

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Whereas mysticism, what do they have?

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They have Crystal balls, tea leaves, horoscopes,

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mystic, revelation, ancient texts, you name it.

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There are these pseudo abracadabra, pseudo

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methods of knowing Ouija boards.

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It goes on and on and on, right.

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And these are all pseudo means,

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non causal means of knowledge.

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And mysticism, religion always amounts to that.

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It's not a shortcut to knowledge.

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It actually shortcircuits knowledge by

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evading the method required.

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If an idea pops into my head

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like ghost or God or unicorn.

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It doesn't oblige reality to

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contain those things, does it?

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I've got to connect the idea in my

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head to reality by a process of logical

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demonstration that reduces it to the evidence of

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observation, HAPS into respect for the nature of

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consciousness and the causal identity that consciousness is

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the process that consciousness has to go through.

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You're not even having a proper how. So?

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Iran rejected both radical skepticism and

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radical mysticism on this same basis.

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It violates the primary requirement of consciousness, which

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must have an identity in order to operate.

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It's not the disqualifying feature of

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consciousness, it's the means of consciousness.

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But it is the indispensable means of consciousness that

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can have no shortcut and no short circuit.

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How did she answer the critics, then, that said,

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well, if you're just logical, you mean deny emotions?

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Oh, quite the opposite.

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Ayn Rand was a passionate person.

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She didn't think that there had to be

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a conflict at all between reason and emotion,

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insofar as people do run it.

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And there's a reasonably common phenomenon where

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people believe one thing, but their emotions

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are leading them in another direction.

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Well, Ian Rand says that's ultimately a

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conflict between your ideas, a subconscious idea.

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You may not have recognized that you came

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to maybe in childhood, maybe subconsciously, but in

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effect, it's an evaluation you reached at some

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point that informed your emotions.

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Now, heinrand was way ahead of the curve on this.

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In recent decades, the cognitive behavioral school

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of psychology has largely taken over the

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therapeutic world and to a large extent,

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even made inroads in the academic world.

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And so Ayn Rand was decades ahead of her time.

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She was one of the pioneers

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of the cognitive view of psychology.

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And so to Ayn ran thinking, sure, there may be

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issues that you can never overcome, even with dedicated psychotherapy

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and that you just have to live with.

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But she said, man is a being, a self made soul.

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We can shape our own characters, personality, our

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own emotions through the values that we inculcate

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in ourselves, that we really integrate into our

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thinking and that we act on.

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And that pretty soon that becomes who

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we are, that becomes our emotional reaction.

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And boy, I can confirm this

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from my own personal experience.

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My own values, as I've learned them, as they

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have sophisticated over the years, have had a direct

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impact on my native automatic emotional reactions to things,

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so that there's less and less conflict in my

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consciousness between my emotions and my logic.

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No, a properly functioning consciousness

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has them in harmony.

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Has them in harmony.

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One objective is writer.

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Put it this way, think clearly so you

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can feel deeply and feel deeply so you

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can think clearly to the Objectivist.

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There is no built in

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conflict between reason and emotion.

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Reason is our tool of knowing.

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Emotions are our tool for both enjoying

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life and helping me understand my values.

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Who was that author, if I may ask?

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Nevada.

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Okay to give credit where credit is due, I guess.

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All right.

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Well, I was going to say his first three books,

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I think were probably written when he was with Ms. Rand.

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That's why I called him an objective, is because

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that's back when he was still an Objectivist psychology

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of self esteem and who is iron.

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And even most of the material you'll find in

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the psychology of romantic love was material he had

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developed when he was with Iron Rant.

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He went off the deep end.

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He went off the deep end, in my view.

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His later work becomes less and

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less important, in my view.

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And some of it is actually darn right, as

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I say, his memoir about Aang Ran, his life

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with Iran Rand, and some of his psychology implications

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about what Ayn Rand was saying.

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We're just outright misleading.

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It was Aaron Rand telling him

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not to be a rationalist repressor.

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And then he writes, break free.

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I had to stop being a rationalist oppressor,

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which is what Iran was making me do.

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No, if you read her notes, she was telling him

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she was diagnosing in him the need to be himself

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and stop trying to martyr yourself to try and be

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in a quote, your view of an Objectivist hero.

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That's what she was telling him.

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But I did have to.

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That's such a beautiful quote, though.

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Even though it's raining, I

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don't dismiss everything from Brandon.

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Again, I stand by.

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I think his first three books

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are well worth trying to find.

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But after those, it's garbage. Yeah.

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Anyway, James Martin, do you have anything to add?

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Oh, I didn't get to the Texas oil man store.

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Martin mentioned that earlier, and that

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popped back in my head.

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Iran was a woman of enormous integrity,

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and she was like Howard work.

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She wouldn't give an inch on her ideas.

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She would state them plainly forthrightly,

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even if it offended the audience.

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They were scandalized sometimes by her

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defenses of aviation or selfishness or

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radical complete free market capitalism.

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She didn't care.

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She was going to defend the truth as she saw it.

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And there was one after Atlas Shrugged came out,

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I guess there was a multimillionaire Texas oilman, a

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conservative, apparently a Republican, who said, Ms.

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Ryan, I'll give you up to a

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million dollars to help spread your ideas.

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If only you add a religious element

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or make them friendly to religion.

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Or don't be so hostile to Mystics and religion.

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She, of course, threw the offer

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into the waste paper basket.

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As the way Leonard Peacock describes it, what good would that

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money do me if I had to compromise my ideas?

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It would undermine everything that I stand

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for all of my life's work.

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I may as well just rip up every copy of Atlas Shrugged.

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I wouldn't do that.

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And so for Ayn Rand, there was no

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any more than there was a reason.

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Emotion, dichotomy.

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There was no theory, practice dichotomy.

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It would have been the height of impracticality for her

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to have compromised on a significant point, even if someone

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was going to give her a million dollars to help

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spread the rest of her ideas and work.

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Martin, anything else for you? No. All right.

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Looking forward to commemorate

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and celebrate Rand's Day.

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Yes, Gran's Day, RAN's birthday.

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It's a wonderful holiday because it's the holiday

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where we should do something for ourselves.

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It's the holiday where we should.

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Iran was asked whether indulgence and pleasure, but

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I think Playboy Magazine 64 interviewing her.

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Should we indulge her?

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She doesn't regard pleasure as an indulgence. No.

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If you are being rational and principled,

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then it is a human need.

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Do something nice for yourself.

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Do something important for yourself.

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On RAN's Day, Rand would have really

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liked that way of celebrating her birthday.

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And on that note, we've been talking

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to James Valiant, author of The Passion

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of Iron Ranch Critics and Creating Christ.

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All the Romans invented Christianity.

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I think that is correct. Yes.

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And we wanted to talk about Ayn Rand today

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to publish this on her birthday next month.

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James, once again, thanks for

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Manning the foxhole with us.

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Oh, always my pleasure.

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You guys always happy to come

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back you guys are great, James. And you will be back.

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About the Podcast

The Secular Foxhole
Separation of Religion and State
As a freethinker, are you looking through binoculars out at the world in the safety of a foxhole? Get fuel for your soul and intellectual ammunition by listening to The Secular Foxhole podcast, in order to fight for the separation of religion and state.
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About your hosts

Blair Schofield

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I'm a 'lapsed' blogger who turned his blog into a podcast. Now the task is to keep both up to date! My co-host Martin Lindeskog and I have already celebrated our one year anniversary, with the podcast.

Martin Lindeskog

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Creator, ✍🏻 Tea Book Sketches. Indie Biz Philosopher ⚛️ & New Media 📲 Advisor, TeaParty.Media. Blogger since 2002 and podcaster🎙since 2006. First podcast: EGO NetCast. Latest podcast: High Five for Hemp. Support 💲My Work and 🗽 Freedom of Expression: https://bio.link/lyceum