11 July 2009

OCON Update - July 7 through 9, 2009

Lisa Van Damme concluded her course “Ibsen the Iconoclast” with an analysis of The Wild Duck.  While preparing the material for the course, Miss Van Damme had a dramatic transformation in her own thinking of the work - and indeed, of Ibsen’s work more generally - but I’m not going to reveal the nature of that transformation.  To find out, you’ll just have to purchase the recording, which will be available at some point at Ayn Rand Bookstore!

Yaron Brook finished with his course on “The Financial Crisis: What Happened And Why,”  He did an exceptionally good job of encapsulating and reducing to essentials an enormous amount of material in just over four hours of lecture time.  Similarly, Elan Journo has the challenge of condensing a complex succession of events in his course “Understanding the Arab-Israeli Conflict,” which began on Wednesday.  And last but not least, LB and I are together taking John Lewis’ course, “The History of Ancient Greece: The Archaic Period,” in which Dr. Lewis will establish the historical context for the Classical Period in Greece.  The depth of his knowledge is impressive and his enthusiasm infectious; he is clearly thrilled to be teaching a positive topic for a change, considering how he has lately been concentrating on the Islamist war on America.

LB and I have also attended all the general lectures.  Tara Smith gave her second lecture at the conference, entitled, “Humanity’s Darkest Evil: The Lethal Destructiveness of Non-Objective Law.”  In this, she demonstrates that for the very reason that the purpose of government sets the standard for objective law, a government that adopts or gradually accepts non-objective law becomes an unparalleled menace to human life.

Harry Binswanger’s lecture, “The Objective vs. the Intrinsic and the Subjective,” contained many profound ideas about objectivity in general.  One point in particular was something of a new perspective for me: that objectivity consists of the self-conscious, deliberate use of logic.  Note that both the self-conscious and deliberate components are required, something that I had not quite fully identified before.  It is not enough to use logic, but one must also know one is using logic in order to be truly objective.  Dr. Binswanger made another point that I regard as profound: he speculated that one of the troubles with the culture today is that people hold moral premises (ones that they have invariably absorbed uncritically from various sources) as if they were metaphysically-given percepts.  I think this is a brilliant insight, and it explains much of the overwhelming passivity - the non-thinking - exhibited by America and the West.

Greg Salmieri presented a lecture called “Atlas Shrugged on the Role of the Mind in Man’s Existence.”  In this he explored the theme of Atlas Shrugged from a philosophical perspective, including Ayn Rand’s unique position on reason, consciousness, and the false dichotomy of the soul and body.

Finally, John Allison, the heroic former CEO of BB&T, made a very inspiring speech called “Principled Leadership.”

On Thursday night, LB And I had a great time going out to dinner with many OBloggers whom we had never met before.  Of course, we already knew C. August from Titanic Deck Chairs, but we also got to meet Diana and Paul Hsieh from NoodleFood, Gus Van Horn from Gus Van Horn, Kendall J from The Crucible, Jason from The Rational Egoist, Shea Levy from Cogito’s Thoughts, Craig Biddle from The Objective Standard, Mark from Randex, and special guest Trey from Flibbertigibbet!   

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