The Writing Process
Many people dread the process of formal writing, finding it frustrating, and even agonizing. Most of their difficulties, however, are self-imposed—a result of mistaken ideas about the nature of writing. These two lectures on the science and the mechanics of writing help undo those errors. They delineate each of the steps of the writing process—from "thinking out loud" to making "laundry lists" to constructing outlines to final editing. Topics include:
1. The essential characteristic of good writing.
2. Understanding an idea vs communicating it.
3. The crucial integrating function of the theme.
4. Context—the reader's vs the writer's.
5. The writer's division of labor between his conscious mind and his subconscious.
Clarity in Conceptualization: The Art of Identifying “Package-Deals”
Conceptual thinking entails the classification of things according to essential similarities and essential differences. One of the most insidious techniques for undercutting such thinking is "package-dealing"—the attempt to integrate opposites by blurring their essential differences. It is a device that allows its purveyors to put over disastrously erroneous ideas. Ranging from the misuse of the concept "environment" to the false arguments made against America's employment of military force, the package-deal is a pervasive phenomenon in today's culture. These two lectures discuss the various forms in which package-deals come, the cognitive distortions they create—and the means by which we can avoid being taken in by them.
Barriers to Cognition
Errors of knowledge do not pose barriers to a proper cognitive process. If one is pursuing the truth, mistakes are in principle discoverable, and correctable. Only irrationality—the refusal to know—makes cognition impossible. Yet certain types of premises we hold appear resistant to change, even though we have rationally identified them as false. They (with their attendant emotions) seem to persist, obstructing cognition—and inducing guilt—despite conscientious efforts to replace them with true premises. Why? These lectures discuss the nature of such resistance and examine the difficulties in changing certain types of subconsciously ingrained premises.
The Epistemology of Altruism
The demand for self-sacrifice does not merely lead to, but essentially consists of, the surrender of reason. This talk shows why altruism is at root a product of mysticism, and how it gains widespread acceptance only by distorting, rather than defending, its true nature.
Capitalism and Selfishness
This brief presentation of Ayn Rand's ethics and politics discusses the three revolutionary elements in her code of values and indicates how that code follows from the premise of man as a rational being.
The “Diversity” Delusion
Across a limitless range of human attributes—from race to literacy, from gender to intelligence, from age to physical handicap—it is now widely accepted that the attainment of "diversity" is a value. What does this doctrine actually mean, and how has it gained such cultural acceptance? This lecture demonstrates how the "diversity" movement represents the culmination of egalitarianism. That is, even though the egalitarian rejects differences while the proponent of "diversity" seemingly wallows in them, the two ideologies preach the same message. And the essence of this message is a repudiation of all rational discriminations, which means: of all moral, and epistemological, standards.
These talks are available for purchase in audio format at the Ayn Rand Institute eStore
The two talks below are available in video format at no cost; click on the image to begin viewing.
The Virtue of Selfishness: Why Achieving Your Happiness Is Your Highest Moral Purpose (video)
Contrary to the widely accepted view, genuine selfishness consists not in indulging one's mindless whims, but in living by the guidance of reason. This talk demonstrates why, under a proper ethics, the moral and the practical are in harmony. It shows the destructiveness of self-sacrifice and the impossibility of peaceful cooperation among men under the code of altruism. Finally, it discusses why political freedom can ultimately be upheld only if selfishness is recognized as a virtue.
America’s Foreign Policy: Self-Interest vs. Self-Sacrifice (video)
The United States is the world’s preeminent military power. Why then are its foreign-policy efforts so regularly frustrated? From Vietnam to Lebanon to Somalia to Iraq, why has America been so incapable of decisively defeating its enemies—enemies that are militarily far inferior? Because success in foreign policy, including success in waging war, depends ultimately on the strength, not of a nation’s weapons, but of its moral philosophy. And in that area, our country has been tragically deficient.
This lecture argues that the fundamental reason we have been failing to defend America’s interests is that our intellectual and political leaders embrace the premise that the pursuit of self-interest—whether on the part of an individual or on the part of a nation—is morally wrong. And unless we uphold the view that self-interest is morally good, we will not be able to protect America’s freedom against foreign threats.