The Troubadour Podcast

Egoism Without Permission: Tara Smith on Ayn Rand’s Ethics

May 17, 2024 Kirk j Barbera
Egoism Without Permission: Tara Smith on Ayn Rand’s Ethics
The Troubadour Podcast
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The Troubadour Podcast
Egoism Without Permission: Tara Smith on Ayn Rand’s Ethics
May 17, 2024
Kirk j Barbera

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Buy Egoism Without Permission: The Moral Psychology of Ayn Rand's Ethics (Ayn Rand Society Philosophical Studies)

Venture into the world of self-determination with Professor Tara Smith as she illuminates the path to living egoism authentically, free from the shackles of societal approval. Her new book, "Egoism Without Permission: The Moral Psychology of Ayn Rand's Ethics," serves as the compass for our journey, guiding us through the moral and psychological landscape of Ayn Rand's philosophy. Discover how to align your deepest desires with rational self-interest, and challenge the subconscious barriers that may be sabotaging your pursuit of happiness.

Embark on a quest to understand the intricacies of self-interest and how it shapes our every decision. Professor Smith's insights reveal the delicate balance between our desires, the virtues we strive to practice, and the courage required to pursue personal fulfillment. As we dissect the phenomena of human moral psychology, we open the door to a conversation about the essence of egoism and the role of self-esteem in carving out a life that's not just successful, but truly satisfying.

Grapple with the concept of selfishness and its misunderstood place in society, as we dismantle the misconceptions that often blur the line between egoism and sheer self-indulgence. This episode promises to offer a fresh perspective on what it means to be selfish in a morally upright way, advocating for a life rich in both personal joy and value to others. Join us and Professor Tara Smith for a stimulating exploration that dares to redefine the pursuit of self-interest and the commendable life it can yield.

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Send us a Text Message.

Buy Egoism Without Permission: The Moral Psychology of Ayn Rand's Ethics (Ayn Rand Society Philosophical Studies)

Venture into the world of self-determination with Professor Tara Smith as she illuminates the path to living egoism authentically, free from the shackles of societal approval. Her new book, "Egoism Without Permission: The Moral Psychology of Ayn Rand's Ethics," serves as the compass for our journey, guiding us through the moral and psychological landscape of Ayn Rand's philosophy. Discover how to align your deepest desires with rational self-interest, and challenge the subconscious barriers that may be sabotaging your pursuit of happiness.

Embark on a quest to understand the intricacies of self-interest and how it shapes our every decision. Professor Smith's insights reveal the delicate balance between our desires, the virtues we strive to practice, and the courage required to pursue personal fulfillment. As we dissect the phenomena of human moral psychology, we open the door to a conversation about the essence of egoism and the role of self-esteem in carving out a life that's not just successful, but truly satisfying.

Grapple with the concept of selfishness and its misunderstood place in society, as we dismantle the misconceptions that often blur the line between egoism and sheer self-indulgence. This episode promises to offer a fresh perspective on what it means to be selfish in a morally upright way, advocating for a life rich in both personal joy and value to others. Join us and Professor Tara Smith for a stimulating exploration that dares to redefine the pursuit of self-interest and the commendable life it can yield.

Speaker 1:

Okay, so we are going to get started with a discussion with Professor Tara Smith, and before I talk about the new book, I wanted to mention a personal anecdote that I think will be relevant to all of us. So when I was starting college 2008, I had been reading Rand, I'd read some things, but I'd never read anything outside of Ayn Rand, and I went to a front range objectivism group in Colorado and they had a book club going on in 2008 and the book they were covering so it's the first book I ever read outside of Ayn Rand, I think, even before Leonard Peikoff was Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics, the Virtuous Egoist by Tara Smith. So it feels very special for me to be able to interview on this new book. I'm going to go ahead and show this out, this one that will be coming out, I think, next week, right, so Tuesday. So Egoism Without Permission, permission, the moral psychology of Ayn Rand's ethics. So that's what we're going to talk about today.

Speaker 1:

I will say and I'll try and plug this more and more, but I cannot stress it enough Pre-ordering is really, really valuable. So if you've already pre-ordered, pre-order it again for somebody else, right? It really helps with getting more of these out there promoting it and everything like that. Okay, so, while I'm getting some stuff set up, I know so, by the way, there's a really good interview with you on your own book show. There may be some overlap, but the first thing I wanted to ask you about is a little bit about just if you could go into the title a little bit. I don't want to go into it too deeply, but why without permission? Why without permission?

Speaker 2:

okay, and first, thank you so much for having me. Kirk, seriously, thank you, I mean, and you're great, though I just want to put in a plug for kirk. I mean, he, he brings this together all the time, thank you, and thank you for having me and promoting the book. I'll thank you all for coming, given the rain and everything else so stormy by Austin standards. Um, so you asked me about the title ego.

Speaker 2:

So with this book is largely about is a person's most fundamental motivation for being an egoist. Now, in a certain sense, that sounds like why am I an egoist? Because I'm. I want my interest right. It seems like the most natural, obvious thing in the world. Part of what it is to be an egoist is I'm interested in my well-being, my flourishing, my happiness.

Speaker 2:

But what I came to think over a long time was that sometimes, even a subscribed egoist, somebody oh, I agree with Ayn Rand, I'm practicing all the virtues and you are can still find themselves motivationally and this can be subconscious, kind of torn and still having some non-egoistic motivations as their reasons for doing things. And that just got you know. Thinking about that got me to try to examine more. What is it fundamentally that you're doing and why are you trying to be a good egoist? Are you trying to be a good egoist because you're trying to be a good person and that's really the highest kind of God up there?

Speaker 2:

Well, I'll be an egoist because that's the way I could be morally good, or I'll be an egoist because that's what's good for me and that's all the kind of sanction that I need. So it's egoism without permission, it's not excuse me for living, or I'll be an egoist after I satisfy you know some God in the clouds or mommy, or Ayn Rand or anybody else. I'll be an egoist. For me, I don't need sanction. So I quote, at the very beginning of the book, one of Ayn Rand's characters, equality, from Anthem I need no warrant, I am my own warrant. So that's something about what the title comes from.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I know in the introduction you use the term living egoism and I like that. I might try and use that more often myself. It seems to, and I haven't read the book yet, so I only read the introduction and the titles of the chapters. So I'm looking forward to getting my copy next week. But this idea is something you meant.

Speaker 1:

I think you actually talk a little bit about in all of your work, maybe of normative ethics and, looks like in this book as well, of the two part nature of things in terms of, you know, with the ethics themselves is there's the internal and then there's the external component. And I was wondering, because it seemed like what you were talking about and please just correct me is we can have these conscious convictions. We can read Ayn Rand, I can read Tara's book on normative ethics, I can read the virtue of selfishness, but then I'm going about my life and I'm not at all really actually flourishing. Things aren't going the way that I want, I'm not pursuing things the way I should, things are getting in the way, and so it seems like that is that kind of what we're getting at.

Speaker 2:

Okay, so I don't particularly use this and so it seems like that is that kind of what we're getting at us good guidance there in the form of talking about justice and honesty and productiveness and the other virtues. She's telling us sort of this is how to live egoism. But then this new book is sort of at another layer. It's as if I came to think that even beyond the virtues, there are things, particularly psychological, often subconscious ideas that we have, that we've absorbed, that could be affecting the way we're practicing honesty or justice or whatever it might be. So in that sense this book is very much on living egoism which I think the last one was as well but sort of trying to unearth some of the other elements that can affect how well I am, you know, being just consistently and so on.

Speaker 2:

So I think, even if I mean I think and I hope it can be useful to be thinking about some of these, again often subconscious factors that influence the way we understand what it means to be honest or to be productive and the way we apply the objectivist ethic. So it needn't even be, I mean you could be basically doing a pretty good job. It's not like, well, if you're, you know, you're gee, I'm a good egoist, but I'm I'm not happy. You could be basically happy. I want you to be happy, you know, as bloody happy as you can like, cause that's what I want. It's like you know.

Speaker 1:

I'm going to check out someday. I want to have the best damn life I can have, so if I can get more out of it by better understanding more of the elements that mess me up sometimes, that's what I we see with our friends, people we care about, um, and you know.

Speaker 2:

so that seems to be the fundamental problem, and even knowing that that's a problem, if you've accepted egoism or anything like that, like how you cannot realize, I think that you've still got this baggage from living in the kind of culture we do, and it's not all, I think, philosophical baggage necessarily.

Speaker 2:

So I mean, another thing is simply, apart from maybe the altruism or the religion or whatever that you might've gotten from your family and your upbringing, there's just sometimes that personal baggage that you as an individual have, because you made some misidentifications when you're a little kid because of the way your parents spoke of you, or maybe they're always comparing you to somebody else and you know you can sometimes just absorb things in an innocent but misguided way that actually, like, can linger over the years, even after you're an adult and you're rational and you're reading philosophy, and you're reading good philosophy and you're absorbing and practicing good philosophy, but I still have these insecurities because I identified when mommy told me that I thought that meant this about me.

Speaker 2:

So you have this a certain sense self-identity that might inhibit you in some ways and keep you from doing so. I think there's so much to unearth that again it can really affect the way you live egoism, and if we can unearth more of those and bring them to light and go to good therapists, we can, you know, work this out so it's.

Speaker 1:

Can we go into some examples of what that might look like? And I know and um, I was listening to for the second time you're asking a very personal question. Yeah, I was gonna say, well, so we can go into what's in that question in the week. I could definitely go into that question. I don't they might feel uncomfortable, but I've definitely talked about this on many occasions. I basically created this whole group so I could have conversations about my own foibles that's why I write books.

Speaker 2:

It's all autobiography, it's all like a session absolutely the confessions of yeah, and that's so.

Speaker 1:

You know what's in the book, not necessarily what's not in the book, but on your own show. You mentioned that there was some autobiography where you're oh, and in a joking way, but yeah, that there's some things that are probably relevant. So I thought it'd be helpful to think of, think through or talk about one particular example, about you know an issue that can come up in this manner where you're, you know you're, you've agreed with Ayn Rand, you've read because we have a room full of objectivists here, right, or people who've?

Speaker 1:

read Ayn Rand of some sort, I would say. And so you have that kind of issue of like. Okay, I'm trying to pursue something. Something's getting in my way. I don't know what it is.

Speaker 2:

Well, I think, okay, let's go back to one of the kind of society that we do. We're just trained to think put others first, service, right? So even if you oh no, I reject all that, I'm going to be a good, rational egoist. Sometimes you still have kind of knots in your system that you don't even realize. But that's antithetical to really being selfish.

Speaker 2:

For instance, well, I've got to be at Aunt Mary's for the holidays and that you just treat as like that has nothing to do with ethics, that has nothing to do. I mean, in your mind and the way you've absorbed that, it's just like one of these fixtures of the universe. I have this obligation. I've got to be, no matter what, whether or not it's good for me this year, whether or not it's good for me this year, you know, whether or not I enjoy these people, or even if I do enjoy these people, it just might not be good for me this year for various other reasons. But God damn it, I've got.

Speaker 2:

You know, there are these things you just have to do. Oh well, of course I'll give something to the charity campaign at the office, you know, because, well, that's what a good person does. And again, I think there's ways in which we just absorb certain of these ideas and don't even question them that you want to notice more of. Oh wait a minute, that's not on the egoistic track, and it can be embarrassing to realize how long you've gone along with, let's say, the objectivist ethics and still have certain of these little things popping up and getting in the way.

Speaker 1:

Objectivist ethics and still have certain of these little things popping up and getting in the way. No-transcript. Enjoy life, but I have to be as productive as possible, to work seven days a week and it's a no, absolutely.

Speaker 2:

And again, yeah, so it's. I mean, in a way it's just a further version of really chewing on the virtues and figuring out what they, what they do and don't ask of you, but bringing into the equation and all the factors that you consider more of your own, again, psychological interior, to try to discover what some of that is, whether it be in the form of philosophical beliefs that you've absorbed from the culture, again these personal beliefs about yourself that can get in the way. And I mean I think we see, for instance, just a different kind of example. I'm sure you've sometimes had the experience of you know you're getting to know a person.

Speaker 2:

It might be a person at work, it might be a person in your social life or whatever and you start realizing you know she's got a lot of insecurities or she's really insecure about this or really sensitive about that.

Speaker 2:

And if you get to know a person well, over time and it's true that, yeah, you know she is pretty insecure about that or whatever it might be you can start seeing ways in which that insecurity gets in her way of maybe not trying for certain things that she should, because oh, I'll never get that anyway, so I'm not going to throw my hat in the ring, you know, or I'm not going to audition for that role in the play because you know I'll never make it. And so, um, I mean that may not be the most dramatic example although dramatic example in the world, um, but I mean, if you have this experience like we often will comment on people's, you know we'll pick up vibes that again, you have to get to know a person a fair amount before that's a fair evaluation. But I mean that's one of the ways in which I think this can manifest that can be really important to you know, missing out on opportunities that you should and not you know whether it be.

Speaker 1:

Like getting out of your own way is how it's often talked about, right, it's like she's getting in her own own way is why that's how it's often used. She's getting in her own way, yeah, she just doesn't believe.

Speaker 2:

But I mean have you ever seen people get in their own way? I certainly have you know, and there are ways in which, once in a while, it's like Tara, you're getting in your own way, that like you're doing this too much yeah.

Speaker 1:

I mean sure. So, by the way, I have several more questions. I'm going to keep going with questions. I want you to start thinking about questions you'd like to ask and just raise your hand when you have one, and then we'll just you know, call on you and go from there, but I'm going to keep going with the ideas tonight.

Speaker 2:

We're going to kind of keep some, you know, take some questions from you and we'll keep talking and riffing, maybe, on some of what you raise.

Speaker 1:

So yeah, so please feel free, I am interested in discussing. You know, maybe we'll get into the table of contents like the breakdown of the book a little bit, just to give a general overview of what's going on. But I really thought, you know, you have this. You call them the four phenomenon of human moral psychology. I think that's something like that Paraphrasing. I don't want to quote, I didn't have a quote here.

Speaker 2:

Poor guy I'm making these ugly faces, so he knows he's got it back.

Speaker 1:

Well, that's something. Maybe I'm getting in my own way with stuff. As someone who's often interfacing with people, I constantly think about what they're thinking about, but maybe too much Not ego. It's not enough about me. So there's a personal tidbit, okay, but I think the four phenomenon are a person's most basic motivations, including what he believes those motivations should be Right. That's one, the role of desires in objective self-interest, which is what I want to talk the most about, and then exertion of independence and a person's possession of self-esteem. So in the introduction you say that this is kind of the framework you're going to be exploring this, Like it's not everything, but is there. So what am I missing?

Speaker 2:

OK, so I I wouldn't say these are the four phenomena of what it is to be an objective egoist. These are four major things that I talk about in this book. Right Again, the heart of the book is about what is your fundamental reason for living, for pursuing your happiness, for being an egoist, like what is your fundamental motivation? It's very much a book about what is my warrant? Do I need an external warrant? Do I have to earn my place at the table? No, you don't. You don't have to live on this. Excuse me for living. Premise you want to have a good life. That's all the sanction you need. That's all the justification. That's really the heart of the book. To explore that, I explore these three other things. So there's the fundamental. What's your fundamental reason, even for being an egoist? Egoism tells us not just how to pursue our interests, but it says you've got to be an egoist all the way down, like your only reason for caring about morality is your own self-interest. Then I talk about these three other things Desire I talk well, chapter on desire. That's what the lecture at Ocon in a few weeks is going to be on All about. So, on desire, I think there's a tendency to think that, because she emphasizes rational egoism, rand must be wary of desires, desires, emotions. They're dangerous, they're going to get in the way of your reason. I mean, there are a lot of people, especially in their early rounds, let's say, of learning objectivism, who take it that way. And so I very much defend the importance, the fundamental importance, of desire. We can come back to that if you want, we can talk more about that. But then I also so that's one of the sort of three levers you might say that's really important to have a healthy understanding of the important role of desire.

Speaker 2:

And then I also have chapters on independence and self-esteem. Independence, one of the virtues according to Rand, self-esteem, one of the central values. So in those chapters I explore how, in order to have the kind of commitment necessary to I don't need any external permission, I don't need to earn my place at the table of life in order to really have the wherewithal to be able to exert that not just as a conscious thing, you say, but you're living that every day, like with everybody around you. It's going to take a lot of independence, it's going to take a really strong self-esteem. So that's why I go into those. So that's really the whole first part of the book and then the second part of the book, so I'm now giving you the table of contents, in effect.

Speaker 2:

Then the later chapters are on what do we really mean by self-interest? What is this kind of happiness or flourishing that she's talking about? What distinguishes her view from so many others? And then what's the egoism, the pursuit of self-interest, the selfishness that she's endorsing? So that's in some ways more familiar material to, I think, many objectivists. But those first four chapters are the ones on the fundamental. What's your fundamental warrant and desire is where it all starts. I want to have a good life. Yeah, want, yeah, yeah, want.

Speaker 1:

All starts, I want to have a good life yeah one, yeah, yeah one, um, yeah, I mean I, I like that of the, like the, the idea of. I want that is the sanction, in a sense of at least the beginning. But you emphasize objective, because just because you want it doesn't mean it's good for you, right? All right, one of the things I'm curious about maybe we could dig into desires, because I'm a big advocate of that passion and trying to figure out some sometimes that is so.

Speaker 2:

I mean that's so. That's part of what I like about her. No, but in all seriousness, like right and that. No, but it's so good to try to be in touch with your desires and like, yeah, these are good things, this is the fun and and so here's, here's.

Speaker 1:

The flip side, though, is there does seem to be a side of the pursuit of a desire, like saying I want that, I want that person.

Speaker 2:

Right, whatever. Now we're getting to your personal problems.

Speaker 1:

This happens every time. So the idea of I want that and then part of it is you have to then figure out if it's good. And part of the sure figure out if it's good is the pursuit. Which means this is my question, and I've always struggled with this is there could be a gray area moment when it's actually not in your good, but you still have to find out that it's not good for you. Right, and that's a you know, is this make sense? What I'm saying is there's saying there's an area like I want this thing, I want a job, but how do I know that this is actually a good job that I want? I have to actually do it.

Speaker 2:

I mean, well, there are conditions, okay, okay, I mean sometimes we have a lot more evidence for conclusions than other times, like sometimes you have enough to know if you're honest with yourself, you have enough to reach a good, fair, honest, rational conclusion. Sometimes you don't. Sometimes part of how you find out is by experimenting or trying Right. Sometimes you get more information before you try. So I think that's just going to vary depending on what it is that you're after, the exact circumstances and all. But let me just come back to one or two other aspects of what you raised. Yeah, I mean I said I think because Rand stresses rational egoism. People sometimes think she's dissing desires. She's not dissing desires, but I mean she very much is against emotionalism or desirism. The sheer fact that you want something doesn't mean it's good for you. That doesn't mean it's actually going to be in your interest. So of course you have to subject desires and emotions to. Is this one I should act on or what you know? What do I need to know to figure out? Should I act on it at all? So it's not. I don't want to put desires in the driver's seat by any stretch. But you have to realize that they're not in the driver's seat. They are why you're driving anywhere, right drivers. They are why you're driving anywhere.

Speaker 2:

Right, because I want things. I mean, even if you think about some of you who are familiar with this essay of hers Causality Versus Duty where she quotes you know someone who said the only thing I got to do is die. Everything else I got to do. If I want this, if I want it's all, if it's all conditional on if I want that's the word that Rand keeps using. That's what gets everything off the ground. But if I really want it, then I have to figure out well two things, as you said. Should I want that thing, is that really going to be good for me, all things considered, big picture, full range, long-term, sure? Is that really going to be a value, a plus in my life? And then, if so, okay, how can I get that? I have to respect reality. I have to be rational in order to get that which I want. So it all works together.

Speaker 1:

Does that make sense, which I want, so it all works together. Does that make sense? Yes, part of what I'm trying to get in for maybe my personal reasons, is figuring out. You know someone who's going after desire, and this is the sanction is my own desire is there does seem to be some problems that that can accrue from, and even if you're rationally doing your best to get right but it's not like on a case-by-case base.

Speaker 2:

Oh, I desire this, I desire this ice cream. I desire this woman, I desire you know that. Well, that's all you need. That's where it all start, right, I mean, you don't want to take it on too piecemeal a level about desire, my yeah, all right.

Speaker 1:

So okay, let's first off, I'm going to read a quote and then you don get you. This is on the You're quoting me or you're quoting you? Oh, okay, if you guys have questions, just raise your hand. Should I quote myself? Is that I don't know, so like it depends, I'll tell you, okay, before I read the quote. I appreciate that.

Speaker 2:

Well, it's related to what we just talked about. Well, if it's related to what we just talked about, then maybe you want to. Okay, let me. I'm sorry I shouldn't try to tell you how to run the interview. That's not nice, Derek. No, it's all good.

Speaker 1:

Part of my desire to do this interview is to learn how to become a better interviewer and do more than that, so it's a good thing to do. So thank you for the opportunity. So there's a couple of quotes in the intro that I really liked. I mean, the whole thing was great but related to what you're saying is, part of your goal is a correlative aim is to rescue desire from the shadowy sidelines in which it learns, and that's what I was trying to kind of get at a little bit is.

Speaker 1:

I have known many people who this is quote. I have known many people who sincerely subscribe to egoism but who do not entirely practice it and thus do not fully benefit from it, and that's the thing about the desire part that I do see in a lot of people is that even people who are claiming to be egoists myself included is the yeah, this is what I want. I want to pursue my values. I don't want to go after that. It's a little nerve-wracking, I don't know if I can get that or something's getting in the way, so I just didn't know if you had anything to expand on that.

Speaker 2:

I don't think much more than what I said a little bit little while ago about the.

Speaker 2:

You know, there are these things that can get in the way, but there are two different issues, I think, kind of personal hangups that might get in the way of my going after things that I know I really do want and I don't think there's anything wrong with my wanting them.

Speaker 2:

And then there's a different kind of phenomenon, which is the oh, it's not even good for me to go like desires that shouldn't be driving your life. I just got to follow this code, or I just have to follow, you know, taking the objectivist ethics in a somewhat intrinsicist way, as these are just the commands OK, these are the commands of Ayn Rand. But you know again, and it's not that you consciously think, oh, these are the command. You're not that stupid, of course, not right. But again, the way this is all digested, the way it's all kind of metabolized in your being, makes a big difference to how you're actually going to be making those decisions about do I go along with what everybody else in the office is doing, or do I go along with the family plans for the holidays or what have you.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and I have it in my inbox. I hope my uncle doesn't see this. I have an invitation to a 50th anniversary that I don't want to go to. This is perfectly relevant. Sorry, hunk. Okay, so Ginger. And then it was Zach, right? So Ginger. Okay, zach. Okay, go ahead. You want to keep going, but there are codes. Yeah, exactly yeah.

Speaker 2:

So he's not going with permission from Tara.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I'm getting permission from this, exactly the point of the book. Okay, all right, I'll give you permission.

Speaker 2:

I'll be the new permission giving. Yeah, exactly, okay.

Speaker 5:

Seek your egoism with permission.

Speaker 2:

With permission from Tara Right On a fee basis.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, a fee basis. I like that. All right, it's sacrifice.

Speaker 2:

You got to be selfish. Yeah, yeah, great, that's another good one. Philosopher for hire.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, way to go, way to go. I like it.

Speaker 5:

Now, zach, I had a question I'm hearing some of what you were saying earlier. It reminded me comes along and tells me the only thing that makes a difference whether I have a good life or a bad life how much pleasure is in my life, how much pain is it like? Oh, what a great idea. I should just now go seek as much pleasure as I can. So I, like you know, flushed out the epic sex parties, like shoot up the heroin, and all of a sudden I find out actually my life is pretty terrible.

Speaker 5:

It might be that hedonism is correct as a theory of well-being, but then in terms of like, what motivates you? You pretty much just ignore it. You like put other people before yourself, you like do things, you care about people, and then it just turns out that makes you happy and does create a greater balance pleasure of the pain. So I'm wondering why couldn't there be a similar response? Like I learned, objectivism is the correct normative ethical theory, but if I actually want to act in line with it, I should sort of ignore it and just focus on other people. That's what's going to further my interest.

Speaker 2:

So I get. But okay, from what you described though it sounds like why couldn't this, it's not like I think I might be missing something in the question because it sounds like why couldn't this? I think I might be missing something in the question because it sounds like why couldn't this arbitrary possibility, that objective, like an egoistic ethics, doesn't really work. Why might it not be the case that it doesn't really work and therefore I should do something else? I mean I would want to know the specific reasons why one thinks this doesn't work. Because it's not hedonism. I mean she very much is like she's's not hedonism. I mean she very much is like she's not advocating hedonism, like pleasure is not the way to go as your standard.

Speaker 5:

I'm not pointing this in pride to further your interest Right With that being the reasons for which you act. I'm going to act for the reason it's going to further my interest. You may be more likely to frustrate your interests, so I got.

Speaker 2:

That's good okay, but I'd want to know again, like, what's behind that possibility that you could conceive of? That doesn't give me good reason to think, yep, that's, that's probably gonna happen. That doesn't give me a reason to think, yeah, more likely than not, that's gonna. So it seems like why don't you hedge against this thing that I could dream might have? Like I would want to know more of what's underneath the. Now, I mean, there can be experience, and sometimes we do have these experiences of I don't know I'm not going to put this clearly.

Speaker 2:

There is such a phenomenon as trying too hard at something and that being a way of getting in your own way or something and like needing to relax and it's like. So there are some things there, I think, to be explored and worth talking about. But because we know from personal experience, it's like I was trying too hard or I was trying in the wrong way to do this kind of thing and that actually prevented me from achieving the relaxed state I wanted on this vacation or whatever it might be. But I'd want to think more about some of those specifics, I think.

Speaker 1:

Okay, jen, jen, and we'll try to repeat the question.

Speaker 2:

Oh good idea Sorry.

Speaker 1:

So people could hear it later.

Speaker 4:

So earlier you were talking about desire isn't where. You have this one, but you don't want to. Piecemeal Is the way to decide if it's good or not, or if you need to have a big picture in order to say if it's a good pie or not. And if so, how would you create that big picture?

Speaker 1:

Want to repeat the question. So, if I understood it, it it's something how do you create a big picture in your life in order to pursue the desires correctly? Is that to know which ones are the right, like hierarchical? Okay?

Speaker 2:

yeah. So a couple of things in saying that. Okay, you picked up on the word I used, piecemeal, in response to something that Kirk had said. The point I was trying to make there is that what I'm in the chapter in the discussion of desire, it's desire as such, as a category, as a kind of thing, is not the nemesis in a rational, egoistic code. Okay, desire as such that doesn't mean that every desire is a good thing to pursue and it's not that on a piecemeal level, and I'd want to be a little bit more careful about the way I put this. But it's not that.

Speaker 2:

Oh, you should embrace desire, but no particular desires. Of course, to embrace desire means like that's only going to have flesh and meaning in the form of this desire for this kind of relationship or that woman or this career or this way of spending my Saturday afternoon. I mean to liberate desires or embrace desires means, yeah, actual, specific desires. But now then, coming back to, in a way, the bigger question how do you figure out, kind of the big picture and where it all fits together or all your values? There are so many aspects that go into that, but it's got to be on an ongoing basis, really being honest with yourself, in part by asking those kind of early on questions of oh yeah, I really want that. Would that be okay? Like, can I see any problems with my doing that? Can I? Yeah, I'd really like to take on this new opportunity, but would that conflict with these other things I'm doing or these other commitments that I've made, and how much do I really care about those? And so you've got to. But again, I will stress self-honesty and on an ongoing basis, because the evidence can change. You can become aware of things that you weren't aware of either because of your own just limited experience in the past, or again, the actual situation may change and to be optimizing your well-being, you need to realize, you know, I'm not enjoying this as much as I did three years ago. I used to love this. For the longest time, I loved this, and now maybe I'm not so happy in the classroom or I'm not so happy doing this kind of thing. I always didn't. So you've like be willing to update and be thinking, being, you know, not compartmentalizing like, okay, but I love this, but okay, but how is this all fitting together and is this taking a toll on some other things that you really value and so on. So I don't, like, I don't have a formula for how to do that, but you do.

Speaker 2:

You have to think about the worthiness of the ends that you're adopting. Is now really the time to adopt them? Is it ever the time to adopt them? Worthiness by this whole overall composition that you're trying to build of a good life. But it requires a lot of thinking right Rationally, like you've got to really be thinking about is this worthwhile for? And sometimes you don't know the full answer until you do some trying. And you know, let me see, I want to. I want to try to learn the violin. Let's see how that goes.

Speaker 1:

Didn't go well, well, um, I start simple. I want to try to learn harmonica as soon as landing is here but I won't tell you about my tap dancing.

Speaker 2:

Well, okay, at least you tried something. You went after. I still have those shoes, I'm not giving up yet, yeah, uh, okay, so this may be.

Speaker 1:

Since we're on um desire and tyler, I'll you add your hand up right one second, um, so I was. I don't know if this fits in. I'm curious at all of the role of repression, right? Is this part of the book of uncovering? I mean, obviously I don't know if this fits in. I'm curious at all of the role of repression, right? Is this part of the book of uncovering? I mean, obviously I don't think you would give tips, or you're giving tips on how to not repress, or you know, it's not a psychology book per se, but that seems to be a big part of like the idea of getting desires, if you have desires pushed down because of your childhood, your religious parents, whatever. So how do you know?

Speaker 2:

definitely, I mean I don't talk about repression in the book per se. I don't think I'll use the word and I'm certainly not a psychologist, nothing that I mean. I'm not a psychologist, okay, but I'm just trying to figure out and and I'm figure, trying to figure out all the more and all the more detail how to live a good, happy, truly selfish, flourishing, and a lot of my evidence comes from my own introspection as well as a lot of thinking about the people I know well, well enough to know something about what's going on for them psychologically and so on. But no, I think you're quite right in applying this to repression For various reasons.

Speaker 2:

We sometimes repress certain things, not just desires. We can repress memories or experiences we don't want to think about too much and doing that rather than bringing things to the full light of day and examining them, though that is sometimes not pleasant at all and sometimes not flattering At all and sometimes not flattering Right, sometimes like, oh, that wasn't too good, tara, you know like, okay, but you got to face that stuff to figure out. Why was I doing that? Was that a mistake? How is it affecting what I'm doing now? So you do want to be open to the repressor in you? Yeah, okay, yeah, I mean, if they're, and I'm I'm not saying everybody, I also I don't mean to convey we're all so messed up. You know, my god, we're just, you know, we're just the walking wounded psychologically and emotionally and how we ever get from here to there.

Speaker 1:

Well, that's yeah, I understand that, but it seems like you know, so this is something that you would say no, no, I understand what you're saying, but I'm saying I'm just trying to pull out that there's a reality to living in the world we live in and so, yes, I think maybe in a better culture, uh, we might have less need to have a book like this, where you would not, you know, you wouldn't be requiring something about.

Speaker 2:

Hey, you don't need sanction outside of yourself, everybody would know that we do need that on some level and again, I think even some egoists need that.

Speaker 1:

I needed that, like I needed to work that out well, it seems like your book is for objectivists, and it is largely for objectivists yeah, because I'm very interested in.

Speaker 1:

I said I would get to each other. Yeah, because I'm very interested in, and I said I would get to each other. Well, I promise I'm very interested in. You know, I've met so many I don't know how to frame this. I meet so many very successful people who are like city shapers, people, and so, in my view, as an objectivist, they are or my understanding of it they are egoistic in so many ways. They're producing good quality products, they're doing good things and they're living for themselves, and they're doing it for themselves in many ways.

Speaker 2:

Well, okay, if you know enough about them to know that they're doing it. I mean that's a big thing that somebody is, to all outside observation, really successful. It's another big leap to say he's he's egoistic. I mean he might be showing some of the fee. I mean maybe he's done a hell of a lot of good productive work. That doesn't mean he's egoistic. That's like a an act. It could be a completely accidental. He's got something in common with some ego. Right, he does some good work, but why he's doing it? I mean, if you're an egoist, you're doing it because you want like I want, to benefit from this. This is going to enrich my life. That doesn't mean it might not enrich other people's lives, and I love that fact about it that it does that as well.

Speaker 1:

Anyway, yeah, so I can't talk about every single person, I'm just thinking. I'm not thinking about some one particular person in my mind right now who has expressed. It was very successful as expressed but he's conflicted, he's surrounded by christians and all of his work and but he's really good at this stuff and I just think, like a book like this, even though he has never been raised and he's still kind of new to this type of thing, which is effective for him even though he's not.

Speaker 2:

I hope so because, again, I do think, you know, living in the society that we're in, it's so easy to be burdened by, to have absorbed, you know, without even fully realizing it, guilt, just, you know, and don't I owe other people, and isn't it just privilege that I'm, you know, well off, and so on. Um, yeah, so I do think we need liberation from that kind of thing and different ways of giving.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, exactly Okay, tyler. Thank you for your patience.

Speaker 3:

I was curious about your infinite audience. Come on, because what seems, though, most people are already concerned with their self-help. It's a popular genre that people talk about when they talk about ethics, they talk about the importance of serving other people, because it's already thought that self-interest is coming. So I'm curious who you're hoping to reach.

Speaker 2:

Okay, so there are a couple of different questions in there. So, in terms of who I'm hoping to reach, I mean this came up very, very quickly just a minute ago it is largely for people who subscribe to objectivist ethics, um, but who I think, might want to go to the next level of trying to understand what that really cashes out, as in living the egoism. Right now you raise the other very interesting point that a lot of just people would say gee, everybody's selfish, who needs selfishness? But really, like, really People are selfish. I wish, I wish, and I mean even with halfway I don't know half intelligent people. If they were truly selfish, they'd be so much better off than they are.

Speaker 2:

Like hell, I mean, do we live in a selfish society? So I mean the images, the ideas of what it is to be selfish that are wrapped up in that view and I'm not getting mad at you, I'm not saying this is your view, right, but are so shallow and so far from the idea of a howard rourke, you know. Just, a rich life, not necessarily in the financial, not necessarily in the financial sense, not necessarily in the financial sense, right, but a truly flourishing human life, is that what most people are going for? I don't think so. I'm almost struck dumb by the. I mean, nor do they think they should be. Yeah, they'll buy their self-help books a little bit apologetically, because, well, you know, you got to be practical too, you got to be a little selfish too. But but we all know the but. It's not like go for, like self-care.

Speaker 2:

We heard a lot about self-care during COVID. All of a sudden it was like, ooh, all of a sudden it was okay to say self-care, well, yeah. Sudden it was okay to say self-care, well, yeah. Because reality does bite back and people realize they do have to put their food on the table and they do have to put their psychologies. You know they can't be completely nuts and subservient, right, but it's not like, um, oh, the ascendance of, yes, you should do what's good for you. Listen to the goddamn commencement addresses this time of year are they saying you go, you go, you 22 years, go out there and you make the best goddamn life for yourself. I wish Serve something bigger. Think about something bigger than yourself. You know, serve.

Speaker 4:

Sorry.

Speaker 1:

Here's what's interesting. So the commencement speech like I just saw Don Watkins do a talk on effective egoism, and same kind of idea of this commencement speech, which is the standard advice that almost every commencement speech is Give back to society, give back to society. And yet there are two prominent ones, one that just came out and this is what's interesting about I think there's a desire for this kind of ecoism. No one's really articulating it well, except for ayn rand, but if anybody saw the jerry seinfeld come at duke commencement, he is. He is talking about what you know love the things that you're like, actually love it for yourself. I. He's like, I love the way this cr know love the things that you're like, actually love it for yourself. He's like I love the way this crinkles, I love the shoes Good, it's just, and you should do it for yourself. Like he has that kind of language in it.

Speaker 1:

Good, I'll have to listen to that you know, Steve Jobs has a little bit of both in it.

Speaker 2:

No, it's not like you, never or anything like that. But is that the norm? That is the rare exception. That's wonderful. I'm glad I'm there and actually I think I was overhearing and listening to Jerry Seinfeld. The other like I think it might have been this I think that's the one it's at.

Speaker 1:

Duke. Good, I'm very, very glad to hear that. I think part of my point is that. You know I agree with you 100% like 99%.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's like it's viable and it's also right, it's honest. Yeah, because part of you knows, yeah, this is the way for people to be happy, not just me. Like, think about what you wish. When you go to a wedding, typically right, or you go to a graduation and you're happy for the graduate, I mean, when you wish them all the happiness in the world, are you wishing them the most damn sacrificial light? Like I hope you're the biggest martyr. I hope you're right. Like I want you to be happy. I hope you and your new bride are like oh, Unless you don't like them.

Speaker 1:

Like you were saying. You said this on the oh, if you go to your uncle's, yeah exactly Poor guy.

Speaker 2:

He's not a good guy. I don't want to say there's a reason I don't want to go. There is a reason why I like to edit tapes too.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, exactly, I don't think they watch me, so it's okay. Okay, so, thank you. I'd like if you have any other questions. I have a few other things as we kind of wrap up on egoism. Yeah, so we have Christy back. Yes, please.

Speaker 3:

So it sounds like you're tight, like I'm sick but you are, and a little bit chilling. You know, this is it sounds like I say about her you know, some so first so with sight, see first priest no, they are.

Speaker 4:

But but you sort of said technically oh yeah, I'm gonna repeat the question yeah, so if I just it's what do you?

Speaker 1:

how does this the traditionally? Or the person who steamrolls somebody? How does that fit into that conception of selfishness?

Speaker 2:

okay, fit into this book also, I think, the beginning of the question christy was asking about um, it seems like I'm contrasting or I'm worried about the person who is heavily influenced by Christianity and on that I would say, but not exclusively by any means, and Christianity doesn't have a monopoly on the altruism.

Speaker 2:

That's a big problem. But again, I don't think, you know. Again, there are these personal issues that also, that are less philosophical. They're not always philosophical, but these personal kinds of hang ups, ways we identified ourselves as little kids and so on, that can get in the way and they're a big part of what I think I want to be battling against you. But that said, let's come back to the issue of and your question is related, I think, to what Tyler was asking about, you know, the more conventional images of, well, the selfish person. Just he says to hell with other people, I'm just going to do whatever the hell I want. Other people be damned, anything else be damned, I'll walk all over people. So again, there's a much longer story to tell here, but I have a long chapter in the book on what really is in your self-interest. And here again, if you just stop and think about it a little bit, what a silly idea that I'm serving my self-interest by, in effect, screwing all of you. Is my life the richer when I'm home alone, doing nothing, figuring everything out for myself, not getting to have a you know a laugh with Kirk or watch a game with Chad, or do the? It's like, am I really better off just at other people? Like, have you ever gotten a value from another person? Have you ever just had fun with another person? Have you ever thought he's really cute, that guy? And I'm like, am I just like looking at him or whatever it might? I mean that's just to give the feel. I mean it is such a again. And I get so angry when I start thinking about this. I'm not getting mad at you, but it's so.

Speaker 2:

Ayn Rand has a very rich idea of what it is to be truly selfish, thoughtfully selfish because you want to be. It's like, yeah, some people are bad news, some people you want to steer clear of, and so on, but people by and large, good thing, tremendous potential value for your experience, your enrichment. So the end I mean this is just so belied by everything that she actually says in print about respecting the rights of others. Each man is an end in himself.

Speaker 2:

Okay, about the virtue of justice and judging people objectively and treating them accordingly, about the joys of romantic love with another person, about the bonds of friendship that we see in the fiction. Some of those relationships, and even short of friendship think about somebody like Dagny and the Tramp on the Train or Cheryl and I mean so it's a very so if one comes in with the conventional images of the egoist, then I would, then I'm very glad I've got those final two chapters where I really go into what she does mean by self-interest and doesn't mean, and similarly egoism, what it is to be selfish. So thanks for raising that because, yeah, it's the the other part of the book that's still, we need to break down some of these ideas.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. So I think, as we wrap up, one of the things I brought up Ayn Rand's normative ethics that I read when I was in college, getting started, and a lot of the literature. So my question is about how this fits into Ayn Rand literature as it's expanding. It really seems in a really exciting way to me to be expanding, and this book again, I haven't read it yet, but it seems like it's not just about here are the guiding principles here to understand them, but it's like the actual how to do this, how to work through things. I wish I would have had this in college because I pursued things I probably shouldn't have because I thought, oh, it's my passion, right, and I just go after it, and I didn't think about it objectively and I didn't have like what roadblocks are in the way. So I feel like a book like this would have been useful to me.

Speaker 2:

Thank you, I hope so. I think, though, you might be flattering the book more than it deserves. In this there's so much, my God. You just study a few of the key essays that Ayn Rand wrote on the ethics. There's so much there, but one needs to study them and reread them and return to them such that it's not like, oh, ayn Rand needs the supplement that Tara is supplying, and that's how you really get how to live, and I don't mean that you're implying it, but I just I want to be very clear about that.

Speaker 2:

Right, this is me trying to work out some more of the the how to given issues that I see in my own personal experience and that of some other people, and I hope it can be helpful to some others, but there was something I wanted to say in there In terms of how it fits in with objectivists, other objectivist scholarship. There's so much good stuff chewing different aspects of just the ethics, right, but there are so many good essays by Daryl Wright and Ann Cargate and Greg Salmieri and others. They'll focus on a different set of aspects of how to put together that life of you know, how to compose a life of a lot of values that really fit together. I mean, I think Greg has done some really good work on that and it just repays reading some of these things and really thinking and thinking about how they apply in your own experience, so that we can be trying to live it more fully.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and start some book clubs, because that's how it all started. For me is a book club, so reading it by yourself. One of the values of other people is bouncing off ideas and like, oh, that was a foolish idea, kirk, and you get so much more off.

Speaker 2:

I mean, if you can get some good minds together, you can get a lot more out of ideas by talking about the ideas. In terms of how this fits into the objectivist literature, even though I have stressed it's largely for objectivists, it's not exclusively for objectivists, that is, I'm trying to clear up common misconceptions of what Rand's ethics is all about. For the academic and the intelligent layman who's no objectivist, okay, as well as addressing something. So yeah, it's largely for objectivists, but by no means exclusively, and I think it can be valuable for other people. And it's brought out by an academic press who also thinks, yeah, academics who are interested in trying to understand what she's really saying can have that cleared up somewhat by this.

Speaker 1:

Okay, so this is just. So. Maybe this will be the last and if anybody has the last questions no-transcript self-help sort of practical advice I mean he's talking about.

Speaker 2:

If I recall it was, I think, last summer that I read the book, you know, like sort of motivating yourself to go for jobs At any rate, it's a much more.

Speaker 1:

It fits more in self-help and this maybe fits more for academics. I mean, this is more a philosophy book.

Speaker 2:

I mean a true philosophy book. Now he's obviously very directly drawing on the philosophy, but to answer a different kind of question, I think, than I am. That's how I was struck. Well, actually, again for those of you who will be at Ocon or want to pay later to view some of it, there will be a panel at Ocon. Don Watkins, I believe, is going to be asking questions of myself and Gina Gorlin and Tal Tasfani, because we're all working in closely allied areas of psychology and philosophy and coaching, life development issues, and Don's own work is in that category. So I would imagine there people could ask Don questions too, even though he's going to be the moderator, I think. Yeah.

Speaker 1:

Okay. So thank you everybody. I will just say real quick if you guys know podcasts you like I don't know if you're open to going from your own home being on a podcast If there's podcasts you like, I don't know if you're open to going from your own home If there's podcasts you like, just send them a link to the book as a listener. Just tell them there's this new academic book or don't call it a philosophical book. Just let them know. I mean, people do this for your own all the time and I think it's a powerful way to get people on shows so that we can get more of these and order two books, one for yourself, one for a friend as a way to get things good, okay, last question Amazon easiest place to get it pre-order? It'll get there, I think, on the 21st, something like that, when it comes out. Alright, well, thank you so much, tara.

Speaker 1:

This was a lot of fun. Thank you guys for questioning. See you next time.

Egoism Without Permission
Navigating Self-Interest and Desire
Navigating Desire and Egoism
Navigating Desires and Self-Honesty
Exploring Selfishness and Egoism