The Atlas Society Asks Carrie-Ann Biondi

October 07, 2021 01:01:02
The Atlas Society Asks Carrie-Ann Biondi
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The Atlas Society Asks Carrie-Ann Biondi
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Dr. Carrie-Ann Biondi was a professor of philosophy for over 25 years, most recently at Marymount Manhattan College. She is the Book Review Editor for the journal Reason Papers and an advisor to The Great Connections.

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:00 Everyone and welcome to the 73rd episode of the Atlas society asks. My name is Richard Saltzman. I'm a senior scholar for the Atlas society and we're the leading nonprofit organization. Introducing young people to the ideas of buying ran in creative ways that does through animated videos and graphic novels. Now, today I was so delighted. I'm so pleased cause we're joined by Dr. Kerrianne beyond it. And before I introduce her though, I want to remind those of you. Some of you are watching us on zoom, some on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, uh, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and you can use the comments section to type in comments and questions. And as we proceed through the interview, I will get to as many of those as we can. So I'm viewing those as well as our wonderful guests so quickly, Dr. Carrie M beyond me, I was a professor of philosophy for 25 years. Most recently at Marymount Manhattan college. And she's the book review editor. She used to be the entire editor of the journal, reason papers, academic journal, a prestigious academic journal. It's also an advisor to the great connections, um, which is, uh, dedicated to education designed to strengthen students' reasoning skills and independent judgment. And there's going to be some aspects to that pedagogy that she loves that are going to come up today. So officially welcome, Dr. <inaudible> so glad to have you with us. Speaker 1 00:01:32 Thanks, Richard. It's great to be here talking with you. Speaker 0 00:01:35 Well, we ha I have many questions and I, as you know, I've known you for quite a while, but also read your material more closely, especially in recent weeks, but have followed it over the, I have to tell you one of the more interesting juxtapositions I've seen in, in what you've said over the years. One time you said something like there's something about university students I've learned over the years that they're not quite prepared to come to college and they don't really know what studying means and they don't not the test take all that kind of thing. And yet at the same time, you said you at age five said I want to be a teacher. And so just the contrast between the two, like you knew what you wanted to do at five at 18, they're still not sure what they want to do, but talk about the talk about when you were five and how did you know that? How did you know that then that you wanted to be a teacher? Speaker 1 00:02:27 Uh, well, the story is, uh, I remember quite vividly going to school. I actually had already learned how to read, uh, not through any direct teaching by my mother. Uh, although she did read books to me, I remembered watching a lecture company and it must have been phonetics because I remember like songs that had sounds, and I figured out how to read before I got to kindergarten. So when I get there, they have all these cool books and we didn't have many books at home. So I would play with build things. I would read books and just be so excited about learning things, especially through these books, things I never heard of or seen before and people around me hadn't talked about. So I would run home and my little brother who was a year younger than me, uh, I would make, I would talk to him about what I was learning. Speaker 1 00:03:19 I would show him things and try to teach him what I was learning because I was so excited to learn about new things. And it was just had this burning curiosity. Uh, and, uh, when he did like get excited by what I was bringing home to him and I would do this every year. And when I got old enough to create like workbooks and things, I would make them for him. I would design these special, uh, uh, right things and create math workbooks and have him do them and give him feedback. And if he asked me things, I didn't understand, I would go to the library in school and read up on it. So I could talk to him about what he was interested in. I just loved that process so much. I knew that I always wanted to keep doing that. And I found out that to do that yet to be a teacher. So that was it. It sold me. That's that process, that transformation, the illumination is what sold me. Speaker 0 00:04:14 That's fascinating. I think one of the interesting things about the answer is sometimes you hear people will say I'll particular teacher, Mrs. Smith, or Mr. Jones. I think your answer is so very interesting because it isn't specific to a person. You call it a burning curiosity. There, it was something about the whole process to you. It wasn't just a one-off right. A one off a one-off teacher one-off class. Cause that might've been a femoral, but this was more lasting. Uh, obviously, uh, obviously much more at the time. Was it hard to make friends because other girls and guys weren't nerd or nerdy, like you, I'm not saying you were nerdy, but they didn't like you, they wanted to be a fireman or a policeman or something. Speaker 1 00:04:55 Uh, well, that's, that's interesting you bring that up because I actually had very few friends growing up. Uh, I, I was viewed as unusual and course weird and I was okay with that because if they didn't, weren't interested in what I was interested in. I'd just go climb up in a tree and read a book or draw pictures and just do my own thing. So I actually had very few friends because of my peculiar interest. Speaker 0 00:05:21 Now the, uh, decision, I know, I think in the beginning, your interest was American studies, not really philosophy at American studies, but somewhere along the way, did you think to yourself, you know, I like American studies, but it really isn't bad. It goes deeper. Is that the way you would put it that it's deeper? What is American studies versus I think I know what it is, but you've been telling me what is American studies versus going into philosophy sites? Speaker 1 00:05:49 Well, American studies, I was intrigued by because I was interested in literature and history, political science and the intersection ideas. So if I want them to study, say Liberty or individuality, how did that get reflected in literature of different time periods? How is it the ideas understood in embody in political documents? Uh, what, uh, and so, uh, or manifested through political institutions. Uh, and how did people art, you know, what were different views about that? How of they get embodied in those different, uh, aspects of human experience? So I was really interested in intellectual history, the history of ideas at the intersection of disciplines, but that only took me so far. I kept asking questions about, okay, well, uh, is this conception of it true? Uh, is this the right one? Uh, is this system of government really good? And they're like, well, we don't deal with those questions in these disciplines. And I was finally recommending grad school to go take a philosophy course. And I did, and I changed my major in graduate school because I was interested in issues of how to justify your beliefs to figure out what's true. And what's really good. So, cause I wanted to know what was real and to live really well. Speaker 0 00:07:09 Now the American study sounded interdisciplinary. When you went into philosophy, did you ever partway through think, oh my gosh, this is too specialized. It's not the interdisciplinary thing I expected or no you're saying no, Speaker 1 00:07:24 Because the graduate program, I went to a bowling green state university. It was actually at the time, the only graduate program in philosophy is called the PhD and applied philosophy Speaker 0 00:07:35 Apply. Okay. Speaker 1 00:07:36 Apply. And so it was highly, uh, even though I had a lot of philosophy to get under my belt. I had a lot to learn in terms of the different fields. Uh, all the professors, uh, who I took courses with, uh, were very well studied. For example, in economics political theory, they encouraged me to keep reading literature so that my writing didn't become boring and dull and hyper analytic without traction in the human experience. And we were required to take a certain number of courses outside of philosophy. When we figured out our focus for our dissertations. And I did mine in, um, political science as my, uh, my secondary area of study, uh, in order to inform my dissertation topic on, uh, express consent theories and the implications for citizenship. Speaker 0 00:08:27 And certainly was it called socially, it's called social philosophy and policy. The journal itself is very, that comes out of bowling green and Fred Miller. And those a really prestigious, interdisciplinary journal though. Very interdisciplinary, sometimes whole issues would be devoted to one practical topic. And, but from all different angles, Speaker 1 00:08:47 Yes, because the, uh, even though the, the social philosophy and policy center, which, uh, my dissertation chair, Fred Miller, he was the executive director of a wallet was housed at bowling green for decades. Right. Uh, the, they would have, uh, professors from all different disciplines, uh, common present on a particular topic say natural law theory. And they were economists philosophers, political theorists lawyers, uh, occasionally people from literature, if it, if it, uh, worked well. So it was a, it was a wide variety of people from different. Yeah. So they, they made, they made sure that, uh, it was highly interdisciplinary in terms of who presented and the kind that really upped the ante on really wonderful questions. People would ask connections. People would make, I found it to be one, a wonderful graduate, uh, educational experience. Speaker 0 00:09:42 That is that also where you picked up early editing skills, where you helping edit the journal, like what you do with reason what you've done it, a reason papers, many years that were, that began. Speaker 1 00:09:52 Absolutely because a starting in the early to mid 1990s when I was working, when I was working my graduate degrees at bowling green, uh, I was invited to, uh, to do part of my graduate assistantship. And then I worked, I was employed part-time after the assistantship was up, uh, at the, uh, social philosophy and policy center as a copy editing assistant on their journal. So I really learned my, my editing chops there. Speaker 0 00:10:22 I saw you gave a lecture really fabulous lecture, and you named three favorites, uh, among, uh, philosophers over the centuries, Aristotle Locke, Rand. My question is why those three. And which one did you come to first and how do they relate to each other? Are they overlapping or are they saying different things? Same things. I'm curious why those three and, uh, how you came to the, Speaker 1 00:10:52 Okay, great question. Uh, they overlap in some ways, but not, uh, so Aristotle and Rand overlap in some ways and lock and brand overlap in different ways. And each of them are significantly different from round and important regards, uh, Aristotle. Uh, what I really came to appreciate about Aristotle, not only his system of formal logic he developed and the fact that he has such a systematic and kind of like developed the early scientific, uh, if not, uh, you know, the scientific method, the way that they say bacon and, and another set in the early modern period developed, uh, rooting in experience, he had a prodo scientific method and he looked to the natural world to understand it and, uh, the natures of things to understand causality. And it was such a powerful account. And he systematically integrated those insights into the natural realm from studying animals, plants to the nature of human beings too. Speaker 1 00:11:56 And he did it with a direct realism theory of perception, uh, that he would, he incorporated as the grounding for understanding human nature to inform human ethics, politics, aesthetics. Um, while I don't agree with everything he had argued about economics and law, uh, this is where lock come enters the picture lock really revolutionized political, uh, philosophy. Yeah. And so what I appreciated about Locke was his, uh, not only critiquing Robert Filmer's divine, right of Kainos theory and Monarch and Mara anarchism and such, but that he made individual rights front and center in the political domain and that the individuals, the starting point get a methodological individualism, uh, and, uh, discuss the rights as something that's rooted in nature and not convention another, it's not handed down by divine command king and his economic theory about you need to produce. And, and so every person labors and has to create well, and then you trade that and economies develop was an amazing insight for his time period. Speaker 0 00:13:17 That first amazing argument for private property, probably the first time anyone even thought of how do you justify private property, that's labor and all that. Yeah. Rent, Rand different from the other two. How Rand, Speaker 1 00:13:31 Uh, well, well, she's also justice. Systematic is Aristotle and lock in terms of going to fundamentals of metaphysics and epistemology. See how that spins out to the different domains. What she added for me, uh, well, first, most powerfully cause the first thing first I ever read when I was 19, uh, was the Fountainhead. I fell in love with it right away. I read, I stayed awake for two and a half days to read it and I couldn't put it that I loved it. I fell in love with the character of powered work is independent, his fierce independence. Uh, it was like the ultimate hero's journey, but one that's not based in fantasy and science fiction. This to me was, wow. He made a lot of choices and sent things that resonated with me because there were many ways in which I thought, um, I've kind of similar and in standing up for what I believe in. Speaker 1 00:14:28 And if that means I'm not going to make a lot of money right now, because I'm pursuing, what's a value to me and I'm creating something meaningful. And, uh, then so be it, I'm not going to compromise on my standards because other people want to pressure me into it. And so, so the gripping fictional example of somebody who was striving a grand moral achievement, right? It's a heroic story and fiction, but one that also is very real. It's possible. I can make choices every single day of my life to work, to achieve that in my own way, in the things that I have, I find meaningful and purpose of. So that's it. So the literature really grabbed me. So it's a joyful and benevolent spirit of it. I think I just had never read and I wrote, read voraciously, all kinds of literature. And this was, this literature was like, nothing I'd ever read before. And the ideas I just thought were marvelous. Speaker 0 00:15:30 Yeah. And the virtue of independence really runs through the fountain ed so much. It's not like it doesn't have the other virtues. Of course it does product productiveness then, and that rationality, but independence. Yes. And I know you've said, and I know you believe pedagogically, you, you promote that in your students. I mean, you really want them to be independent thinkers and say a little bit about that, that you learn independence through ran, but then you're also saying, you know, this has to be instilled with in my students too, if I can. Speaker 1 00:15:58 Absolutely. And before I speak to that particular point, there's one last piece of my, what drew me to Rand. I'd like to say, cause it was so different even from lock lock went so far, but brand provided a moral justification for, for work in a way that also she avoided all kinds of false dichotomies that, that crop up in all kinds of other people's work. So she doesn't fall into the mind-body dichotomy, the self other dichotomy. There's so many dichotomies she avoided. And because of that, the fact that you are the ultimate work of your life, your character, who you are as a self, she had the most integrated view of a human self I had ever encountered and have ever encountered. And, and that's at the root of her trader principle, like creating that volume of you as a person and, uh, and freely, uh, trading what you a value with others. Speaker 1 00:16:59 If they're willing to train with you and if they don't see value in what you create, then that's okay. Uh, then and so she, she gave this marvelous, uh, moral grounding of, of capitalism and, uh, of this, this harmonious, uh, way of individuals coming to one another with the best of themselves. Uh, and so that, that to me was also a big draw. And part of the best of you is, and to create things of value is this independence aspect, because when you create things that really are not, they don't emerge from you. And I think this is as true of artistic works as anything else, uh, any kind of material, product or service or, or whatnot, that when you create something that is authentic and stands, people can, that reflects who you are. Like, it's not an end. Other people see it's the value of conserve some of their needs. Speaker 1 00:17:59 They see value in it. There's also that something extra special that independence achieves. You're not trying to imitate somebody else. You see something that you would like to bring into the world and you can help create a niche that is very unique. And that comes about through independence apart and independence, um, has to be cultivated from the inside out. There's no other way nobody can give it to you. It's all of the virtues are achieved by you. Knowledge is achieved by an individual. Mind. Independence is achieved by looking at the world and try to figure out what's true. And it doesn't mean you don't, you don't seek conversation from others or critiques from others, but that feeds into you reflecting on whether something's warranted, uh, to be believed. And I would, when my students would pressure me to say, oh, what do you think about this topic or this issue I would refuse to answer and say, the only thing you're going to know that I believe is that it's important for you to think for yourself about anything you ever study, the intellectual independence on evidence-based crowns, evidence of reasoning and argumentation in the larger context of understanding how this holds up against competing views. Speaker 1 00:19:21 But ultimately you have to come to your own conclusions. If you don't choose to think and act by your own lights, the loss of other people who do it for you, what kind of life will that be? Is that a life worth living? Where is your meaning and purpose in your life? If you are not there, if you have not independently achieved that. So, uh, they, they heard that loud and clear. And, uh, when they inhabited the space for students who are willing to take the courageous steps to work on those skills, uh, they thank me later for letting them learn how to know their own minds, because it made them less afraid to talk to other people. Speaker 0 00:20:08 That's fabulous. You know, these three thinkers, it strikes me also Dr. Biondi, that is Aristotle Locke, Rand. They were not rational lists. They were empiricists. If you want to use that word, they were in, into an, into induction, basing their philosophies on reality, the facts of reality and philosophy professors tend to get the reputation for being detached from reality, for dealing in abstractions that are unrelated to the real world. So I think that the fact that these are your three favorites that must be known to students, they must see this. And then plus you're saying, by the way, these, the best, the best part of philosophy is improving your life and flourishing. Uh, that must strike them as, wow. This is real practical, practical benefit, by the way, at some point you must've also realized, oh my gosh, I actually love a philosophy that's in the minority. So your own independence was necessary just to, you know, fend off the idea of what I am not in the majority here in regards to Rand LOC aerosol, right? Generally in professional philosophy, those are not the three, the three top ones among your colleagues, so to speak Speaker 1 00:21:17 Well, that's true. At the time when I was absorbed in encountering and studying them, it never occurred to me that they were outsiders to the academy because it didn't matter to me what other people thought really didn't matter to me. Speaker 0 00:21:34 Okay. That's what I love about you. I mean, that's, yes, that's the book. And there has been a revival in Aristotle scholarship though. Wouldn't you say over the last 25 years, it's a lot more respectable than it was in the sixties and seventies. Speaker 1 00:21:47 Yes. And, uh, virtue ethics as if people in moral philosophy. There's a really great, uh, essay by, uh, Ms. Anscombe, um, modern, moral philosophy and, uh, people like her full of a foot, uh, Rosalind Hurst house. Uh, many others really got swept up in the resurgence of virtue, ethics as alternative to utilitarianism and down tology. And I think that was a big part of the push Speaker 0 00:22:19 Now let's if we could, cause I think it's a good segue and we're getting great questions by the way. So those of you who have those of you who have asked questions, I do have my eye on the questions and I will turn to some of the questions I'm trying to think out of that, the linear, but let, let me, let me get a few more things, uh, out of professor, beyond the, I think it's a good swag segue when you talk about students and, uh, the, your expectations for them and promoting their independent thinking and stuff. I think this might be a good time for, for tell the audience a bit about your view of pedagogy or teaching methods or teaching systems. And specifically, I know you are very big on the Socratic approach and I saw you in one presentation, distinguish it from, well, obviously from the lecture approach, but also what you call the discussion approach was it, which isn't really the same thing as Socratic, you know, this discussion idea of, you know, throw an idea out there and it becomes a bowl session. Could you talk a little bit about why you're so big on the Socratic method, what it is, why you're a believer in it? Is it applicable to all sorts of students, just small seminars, I'm curious, just your view of that pedagogy. Speaker 1 00:23:32 Okay. Well, I kind of backed my way into it because I knew that there was a lot lacking in my own education. I spend a lot of my time growing up, it's reading books in the library and, you know, went through curriculum and, and they weren't allowed to give me stuff from the next year's curriculum. So it was like, okay, well give me a pass to the library so I can at least read some more. So I, and or I would get A's on papers and I wouldn't know why. So I was like, well, I don't want to be like that. And to be lectured, I knew that there was a lot, I didn't understand. So when I started teaching in early on in graduate school, I was, uh, I started teaching my own independent philosophy courses. I was groping for a different way of engaging with students. Speaker 1 00:24:18 One that I, I would have appreciated had I been know their age and, uh, I wanted to do better. And so I was backing my way into, okay, here's this reading? So Socratic, what's central to Socratic. What makes it different from just a, open-ended like not anchored to anything discussion that can turn into a BS session, uh, that, that what anchor Socratic is you have a shared object of study. So there's something real out there outside of your mind in the world that holds you and your conversation, partners are countable. And you're trying to understand what this is together, but you also have to really carefully read it, read it, and it may not be a reading. It could be a work of art. It could be a scientific experiment. It could be, you know, studying architecture, whatever it happens to be the object of study in the world. Speaker 1 00:25:10 It is the thing to which you are accountable when you make claims. So you have to have evidence-based reasoning in a Socratic, and then based on what you're observing, what can you conclude from that? So there are so Socratics anchored in the shared objective study, and it's very rigorous and you have to learn, uh, norms of conversation with people. So one person doesn't dominate, uh, you draw on your conversation partners because you can get really awesome questions and insights from people, uh, that would never have occurred to you perhaps by yourself, that provoke a new chain of reasoning for you to help enrich your, your thought process and provoke it farther. So I found that, so I kind of backed my way into it. And that's where 19 96 97, I came across a book in the library. The first one I'd ever seen on the Socratic method written by Michael Strong, who I was not going to meet in real life until like 20 years later. Speaker 1 00:26:07 And now he's a friend of mine, the habit of thoughts, that's the habit of thought one splendid book on the nature of Socratic seminars and Socratic practice and how to help students achieve being ready for that type of rigorous conversation. I think it could be done across all kinds of subject matters. People like, oh, you can't do that in math and science. Yes, you can. And I think the key to understanding that is how I ultimately got interested in Montessori learning Montessori learning has you work with materials in the world and you're actually building up a very precise mathematical understanding and going from particulars to basic concepts, to higher levels of abstraction. And you, uh, you can work with somebody who's, um, not kind of a specialist in a field and other, other peers who are also interested in that particular area of study and you discuss it, like, how do we tackle this problem? Uh what's what's the, what's the next logical step. What's your evidence for that? And you kind of apprentice your way into learning. Speaker 0 00:27:19 It's interesting that the Montessori approach traditionally went up, I think to the 11th, uh, or the sixth grade, which be an 11 year old and the, but the Socratic shares possibly with the Socratic method, this idea of you respect the independence of the student, but you're also giving them a kind of a structured environment with which within which they can grow. And so the Socratic method, basically the idea there is material that all are referring to, but you're asking them questions and you're probing and they're not leading questions. They're not loaded questions, but you're trying to invite from them and interpretation of it. Isn't part of it is that they interact with each other. The students start debating and discussing among each other. And I met, I was fascinated. One time you send, especially if they're older, like if they're seniors in college, you said something really fascinating. He said, you know, they get the idea of conveying ideas where they may disagree. So they get just used to disagreeing with each other, but disagreeing, disagree obli. But then also they get used to what they'll eventually do. And in the workplace, they're going to be working with other people and deferring on things. It could be business could be the arts. So that helps too in that transition. Right. You're preparing them for the transition. Speaker 1 00:28:26 Yeah, absolutely. And that, those are the kinds of, I don't know, people call this soft skills or whatever kind of skill you want to call it. These are transferable skills to any kind of workplace, any, any field of study and to be able to be open to the world and other human beings are part of the world and they, and, uh, they can be part of your ongoing conversation of learning the world better and helping you see things that you might have missed. Otherwise we're pushing you to understand your own views better. If people challenge you, can you rise to the challenge or do they have good counter evidence that you must take into account? Yeah. Speaker 0 00:29:11 Speaking of Socratic dialogues, what's your favorite Play-Doh do you have a favorite? I know you love the dialogues. You're not a Platonist, you know, you're an Aristotelian, but I've read them too. And they're just adorable. I mean, they're so fun to read a lot more fun to read, maybe the narrow stuff. What's your, do you have a favorite? Speaker 1 00:29:29 Uh, out of all the dialogues, my favorite to teach and the one that I think provoked me to think about a wide variety of issues, more than any other, my of prize is a relatively brief dialogue. The cryto Speaker 0 00:29:44 Gosh, I w I didn't want to tell you what my favorite was. I was just hoping you would say the credo. Speaker 1 00:29:51 I had no idea that was yours too, but Speaker 0 00:29:53 I teach it. I teach it at duke, but tell us a bit about, I mean, this is, this is the hemlock and the whole thing. This is okay. Speaker 1 00:30:03 He doesn't Speaker 0 00:30:04 Know, Speaker 1 00:30:06 He doesn't drink the hemlock to libido. Speaker 0 00:30:08 This is after his trial. Right. And Socrates has been condemned that he's in prison and he's got his, he's coming to him saying, Hey, we can spring you and okay. Tell me why you like it. Speaker 1 00:30:18 Uh, in addition to being relatively brief, so that students have the time to read it a few times, it immediately brings to the surface issues that are important to students. And they, if they're in a time in their life where they're deeply meaningful to them. So here's credo, begging Socrates to get sprung out of prison. He's raised money. He says, Socrates, you're my friend. I don't want to see you die. We don't want to lose the most amazing person we've ever met. So friendship is on the table. What would you do for a friend? Right. And Socrates is trying to persuade his friends that if he really values what Socrates values as a friend, um, he would, he needs to understand why Socrates is doing this as a matter of personal integrity. He needs to let Socrates be himself. Now, I don't agree with all of the things that Socrates says, but his example of living and dying with integrity, extremely powerful, the conversation about what friends should or shouldn't do is very powerful. And the issue of civil disobedience. Yes. Uh, that's it, students love discussing. We could discuss the credo dialogue for a month and not run out of things to discuss about it, how it, you know, how that sparks students to think about, well, what's the justification for a medians to laws. Is there one, what is it? What would you be willing to do if you thought a law was unjust? Right. Speaker 0 00:31:48 And even, and everyone in the credo, Socrates himself was a victim and they all believe he's on been unjustly convicted and yet, and yet properties is saying, okay, but I'm not going to go against the rule. If we don't have the rule of law and civility, I don't like how this came out against me, but it's so powerful. Yeah. Speaker 1 00:32:09 He said, look, the, I have chosen to live under these laws for 70 years. And I knew that the deal was persuade people to change the law or evade them. I tried to persuade them. I'm not willing to stop practicing philosophy. So he's, he's, he knows what he's doing is against the laws. He can't persuade them to change them or to, or to let him off the hook. So he's going obey them. Speaker 0 00:32:42 Ooh. Ooh. Is, um, oh, I'm, I'm, uh, amazed that you cite that. Yeah. But you probably know the dialogues better than I do, but I love that. Well, okay. Speaker 1 00:32:50 Translate this one out of the ancient Greek. So I know it pretty well. Speaker 0 00:32:56 Who's better on friendship, Aristotle or Rand on the, just on the issue, the virtue. It's not really a virtue, but how would you characterize Aristotle's view of friendship? Is it similar to rans? Does he have more to say about it than she I'm just curious friendship, Aristotle ran. What do you think? I know you've thought a lot about this and written about it. Friendship. Speaker 1 00:33:20 I haven't actually, I'm writing, I'm working on a new project. I'm going to present at a conference next month on Aristotle and nine ran on friendship. So I'm actually in the middle of fleshing out. Uh, I think Aristotle's views about character friendship, uh, cause he he's ethically an egoist and provides a really wonderful justification for the value that what he calls, it's kind of a virtue. He doesn't call it a straight out or trees. Like he says, it's like a virtue of friendship, the value of character friends, and the role that, that plays in achieving a good life. He has, he spends 20% of the Nick Maki and ethics books, eight and nine, just on friendship with a marvelous account. He gives a lot of philosophical space to it while rent doesn't and her non-fiction work. She doesn't have extensive discussions about friendships, certainly nothing near as well as what uh, Aristotle had written about. Speaker 1 00:34:22 But what she does is she exemplifies it in her novels. Yeah. So work starts out with the only person who used cuase I friends with and I wouldn't call him a character friend is Peter Keating. Otherwise we don't see him having friends. And so he develops deeply meaning, uh, meaningful what I think Aristotle will call character friendships, right? People attracted by one, another's seeking to live up to the best within them being, uh, moved, uh, to live good lives and being willing to be dedicated to the truth and to pushing one another toward that best within them. And she shows how work develops these, these very close friendships with my Donagen and even Mallory and, and, you know, we see him a collective, very small cohort of deeply meaningful friendships in the course of the narrative. And John Galt has two friends from college age, who they had been through thick and thin together. So I think brand shows in her novels, what is really in many ways resonant with Aristotle's character friendship. Speaker 0 00:35:40 I imagine you see two friends have a falling out and one of them says, I'm a, I'm not loyal to a person I'm loyal to principles. What, what does that, how does that sound to you? Is that sound okay Speaker 1 00:35:56 In a way? Yes. And in a way, no, sorry. That's a very Chilean response understood in some way. Yes. And in a qualified way. No. Um, I actually, my first published article, uh, was on the possibility of possibility of liberal patriotism, like click and classical liberalism, defend patriotism that is loved lovable and country. And, uh, I actually made parallels between that argument that was running that yes, you can love your country, uh, a necessary condition is that it embodies and seeks to live up to even if it in perfectly done. So, uh, the principles you think are writing good. Right? And, uh, and, but that's not a sufficient condition for how we're selecting this particular state. And I thought, there's this interesting parallel between that phenomenon and friends. So, uh, there are certain things that are in terms of underlying values or principles that are deal breakers for me. Speaker 1 00:36:59 Like I might be able to civilly get along with, with a wide variety of people up to a point, but yeah, people are going to become my character friends that there are certain principles or values that would need to be present as a necessary condition. And, but not everybody who holds those principles or seeks those values, do I end up becoming friends with it? Just doesn't gel rant has this wonderful phrase about the style of a person's soul. Like everybody's so amazingly unique and they have different ways about them that may attract you. And in other individuals, the way that those ideas are held or embodied, it just doesn't quite sit the same way. So to the extent that the necessary and sufficient conditions are present the principles of air and there's the <inaudible> in particular embodiment of that in a person, uh, if somebody is sincerely in good faith, striving to live up to those principles, I think that the distinction like I'm loyal to principles and not persons per se, it's like, well, it's not like there's this disembodied value in the idea of hopping around, out there outside of a body I'm loyal to that. Speaker 1 00:38:17 That that makes no sense that that's a distraction. Speaker 0 00:38:23 Yeah. So friends may disappoint us and then we have to make the judgment of, is that an out of the ordinary thing? Is that, is that them, or is that a repeat offense or something like that? That's a good distinction. I'm going to go to some, these comments and questions and I have to start with this one. You will love this. Uh, I don't know. You have a fan out there. It says she would do well with her own talk show. She is the kind of person you would definitely invite into your living room. Okay. That's not, that's not really a question, but I love that comment. Uh, thank you. So you have someone who will sign up for a living room chat with you. Okay. Some other ones. Uh, well your favorite book by Rand, I assume it's the fountain. The favorite book is Speaker 1 00:39:04 Fiction book is the Fountainhead favorite Speaker 0 00:39:07 Character, Howard Roark Rourke. I thought you'd say that. Um, thought, okay, here's one. Uh, you and I actually talked off stage about this. What do you think of Mike Rowe? Who is he and what do you think of them? Oh, Speaker 1 00:39:19 Micro is awesome. Uh, Mike Rowe is a TV, a host, a narrative narrative voice who does voiceovers for different shows. But the, the thing that really put them on the map that drew my attention was the show dirty jobs, which he actually didn't like that title. And I'm glad because he explains in a book he wrote later called profoundly disconnected, that he thinks that there's no such thing as dirty work, clean work yet you might get dirty doing certain types of work like physically, but it's not good work, bad work blue, but white collar work. There's honest work done well or poorly. That's your choice. Speaker 0 00:40:03 Right. I love that. Speaker 1 00:40:05 And Mike Rowe said that Montessori said that a hundred years ago, Montessori said that a hundred years ago, Speaker 0 00:40:11 And in the opening pages of that list, I'll never forget you. Then the description is a bus expertly, steered of bus expertly steered. And I'm thinking even bus drivers can do their job well or badly. Yeah, Speaker 1 00:40:24 Absolutely. So he, uh, and so that, that attracted my attention. Well, here's somebody who wants to put a focus on the noble nature of doing honest work, seeking to do it well and creating value in the world and making a living. You don't necessarily have to go to college for that. He's not somebody who says you should never go to college, but that should be a very conscious choice. And if you need to work and save up or work while you're in school, which is what I had done to pay for it, I didn't go into student debt. I very carefully. And I, and this, I found this appealing micros focus on this is if you want something of value, you work for it. And, uh, and, but for a lot of students who are shifting into taking on like crippling student debt, uh, and, and for what purpose, not necessarily even getting something of value for it. Speaker 1 00:41:21 And, uh, and when they could have done done something else, it's not that they or defer going to college until you save up enough or seek a lower cost alternative to maybe achieve the same or superior type of knowledge for something that, uh, will help you live a flourishing life. So he, so he has, what's called the Mike Rowe works foundation where he, he raises money for scholarships, for people who want to go into the trains, whether they're young or whether they're they're shifting jobs mid career. So I really deeply respect that as opening up the alternatives of what not everybody should feel compelled to go to college or take on crippling student debt. There's nothing to be ashamed of if you want to be a welder. Yeah. If you love doing that, like Mike Donagen is described in the fountain head, he loves his work as an electrician. He's amazing at it. And he, and I would want to be friends with Mike Donny. Speaker 0 00:42:24 Um, so I'm not going to combine three different questions. I think they're related. Uh, one of them is, well, one of them was, um, how does she apply ethics to her own life? Now, before you answer that, that's a huge question, right? I'm going to combine it with something you recently did in your life, which is leave academia. But let me back that up with, which was one of the questions also, why did you leave? But then there's this other question which I'll throw in as well. They're all related. Do you quote, you think there's something that attracts charlatans to academia? Do you think there's a way to get people with honesty and integrity into academia? Can we fix the colleges or should we just bulldoze them? Well? So I think they're related. So they're at your view of the universities. Maybe why you left, but that's gotta be an application of ethics to your life. So thoughts on that? Speaker 1 00:43:20 Okay. Well, those are a series of very large though, not unrelated questions. Uh, for the, I, I, there's a published recently published interview where I give an, an extensive accounting of why I chose to leave academia after 25 years of, uh, teaching in it, uh, working all my life to, uh, be a teacher in it. So, uh, there's a much longer council. I'll give a much briefer version here. Speaker 0 00:43:49 Is that, is that the interview when the objective standard? Yes, it is. Okay. So let's plug that. There is, I, I, yes, there's an excellent, just released right interview with Dr. Beyond day. So look for this on, at the objective standard. Yes. I read that and there is a good account in there of that. Okay, great. Speaker 1 00:44:08 Okay. Yes. So that's still, that's the longer version? Uh, just to recap very briefly here. Uh, there are really two parts. One was epistemological. Uh, there was wall. I, I relish the challenge for a certain amount of time. Uh, I was spending about 50% of my time addressing, uh, I call them epistemological issues with students not knowing how to learn or they thought they were great students. I had worked with a lot of honor students and some of them truly were honors quality. Like really stand out people, the end thinkers. But a lot of them, they, they thought that they were good students because they memorize things and had gotten A's and reward. They had, um, got high sat scores, high GPA is from their high schools. And when I asked them to just give a brief analysis of a passage in a work like the credo, or what, what do you think, do you think this is true or false? Speaker 1 00:45:07 What are your reasons? Why or why not? They would completely either blank out on the ladder skill, like have no idea whether it's something's true or false or how to even provide a reason for it. And with the form or skill, like they would pick out a couple of words and say, that's what this is about. I was like, well, you identified a a night kind of an idea or point in it, but what does that mean? Unpack and explain it. And they struggled to do it. If you can't do those minimal skills, that's not, that's not really passing quality of work in an introductory philosophy course in the first year of college. And they're like, well, I never had an F before, but you just did. Let's find out why we, you can grow from that. Don't be afraid to fail. Speaker 0 00:45:54 Is it being in, in, in it for so many years? Is this a decline you saw over time or was this more recent? Speaker 1 00:46:01 Uh, no. I've, I've noticed this trend for a long time, but I think I was not quite, uh, I wasn't, uh, as self-aware of the patterns until the last maybe decade of teaching, like I just don't like, this is where the students are at. Let me help them develop the skills so we can get to really awesome classroom discussions and maybe they'll have breakthroughs in their writing. And after a while, I was like, why is this happening? And so I started investigating more deeply. Why are students come into college in the Sufism? Illogically Grocon way to a very large extent. Um, so that was one big issue. And I wanted to help address that. Like, how can I be part of the solution for increasing numbers of students not coming to the age of 18 and being in that position? How can I help be part of the solution instead of complaining about how unprepared they are, let me be part of the solution and not complaining about the problem. Speaker 1 00:47:02 So that was part of it. The other is just an escalating, uh, politicized nation of the university and academia. And that's a much bigger topic that I don't think we have time to really delve into. It's a whole separate perhaps discussion of its own about the, in the perverse institutional structures of academia, right? There's lots of well-meaning people go into it. Um, and they, they are seeking, uh, many of them too. They want to educate students. They want to help them achieve lives of meaning and purpose. Uh, but many people in graduate school whenever equipped to do that, we never took courses in how to teach in graduate school, unless you proactively, like you were just thrown into a teaching assistantship position and rarely were you, uh, where did you engage in discussions with your fellow graduate students or your faculty about how, how to create a syllabus, why to create it this way? Speaker 1 00:48:04 What are the driving questions? How do you assess work? How do you get feedback? Uh, what do you do when you encounter plagiarism? I was lucky at bowling green. We actually did have something called the graduate pro seminar where we did hash out these issues. It was to me, a drop in the bucket of what really good preparation for being a professor could be, but it was better than most other places. So a lot of people, they just replicate the bad models from what went before they go in and lecture at their students. They don't know how to grade papers. So they, they grade in flake because they don't want flack from their students because they want to get tenure. So there are a lot of perverse and sentence that if people don't willingly step back and thoughtfully figure out how to do this well, it's very easy for people to be sucked into that. And those are the well-meaning people. Speaker 0 00:48:54 Yeah. So I recommend that Stu uh, recommend that, uh, listeners go read that interview of Dr. Biondi. One of the things she mentioned on the politization is, uh, dickering with syllabuses, uh, you syllabus is usually off limits. The administration is not supposed to tell you what to put on the syllabus and how to teach it. And when they start penetrating that it's a pretty bad, there were other political aspects of it, but that's when you said that I knew exactly what that meant. That is, that is precious ground with it should not be invaded. And apparently they, they were starting to invade it. Oh, I have a question now here from just shifts a little bit. I think the rest of these questions, doctor beyond the switch more to during the general category, uh, what do you think of the objective is movement? How's it going? What's the best way, but, but specifically, um, the Atlas society, CEO, Jennifer Grossman asks, are you surprised that objectivism hasn't gained more currency in our culture? And do you have any ideas on how to more effectively spread Rand's ideas? So just, just, just the position of what's the state of the movement. Maybe there's no movement, the variety and the movement, the lack thereof. What do you think of just generally objectivism and it's accepted acceptance or not in the general culture? Speaker 1 00:50:09 Uh, this is, uh, this is also another large question. I will try to take a stab at this Speaker 0 00:50:16 Whole hour on this Speaker 1 00:50:18 Easily. Uh, I, there are people who were seeking to foster an objectivist movement. I actually have never counted myself among that. Yeah, I, I have, by and large in my life pursued things of value to me. And, uh, as someone who is drawn toward and agrees with a lot of brands work and the basic principles of objectivism, I have sought to live up to highest moral and epistemological standards of that in my own life, in my own ways. And that's when I, I came across, there's something that ran herself, wrote about the objectivist by and possibility of objectivist movement. Uh, first in a 1968, uh, article in her newsletter. And she said, well, that's a movement is not the way to go about it. So, so there are individuals pursuing lives of value living according to principle. And when a lot of times a movement is like people, uh, typically see it as a, a co a cause to carry, which can lead to undermine your ability to pursue your values in some way. Speaker 1 00:51:42 And when you have a movement, I think people start getting a little tribal, uh, in terms of, uh, this is what the movement stands for. And, uh, and this is what I'm fighting for and it's us against them and sudden, and now we have to, uh, uh, how are we going to change the culture and brand has a great essay. What can one do like that? And I agree with her, this is not the way to tackle, uh, approaching anything about change. The only thing you can directly change is yourself. Take ownership over the choices in your own life, every single day of your life, you're faced with a bajillion choices and, uh, in good faith as frontally and directly, and honestly as possible, make the best choice possible every single day. And that kind of modeling living like that is a very powerful thing for other people to see. Speaker 1 00:52:43 And, uh, and so that's an important, so I resist the whole idea of movement stuff. That's not how I I've ever lived. It's not how I think I know some people do. And when people do that, it can, I think, distort their own particular personal objectives in some cases, uh, the other part of the question was why, or at least an aspect of the question was why are our not a lot of people embracing Rand's ideas in the culture at large brands, ideas came on the scene less than a hundred years ago. So they're really been in the culture. And, uh, since the 1940s with the publication that the Fountainhead and these ideas are revolutionary, they threatened a lot of sacred cows. She points out a whole series of false dichotomies and the history of human thought and philosophy. And for people too, there's so many as sides of the false dichotomy that people buy into that it's so firmly fixed to their identities, that they, um, it's, uh, it's a lot of work, one person at a time for people to be persuaded the change their mind, and ultimately they're the ones who have to change their onlines. Speaker 1 00:54:01 Uh, and, and so going out to seek people to convert or to change their minds, it's like, I don't do that either. I don't proselytize for objectivism. I'm just myself. And if people want to discuss ideas, I do, they want to know my reasons. I offer them and we have debates or arguments if they wish. And sometimes they change their minds. And a lot of times they don't and that's, um, I, I'm not sure that's the most satisfactory and some people might not be satisfied with my response to that, but I think that that's true. Speaker 0 00:54:34 That's a great answer. Now, this is an interesting comment that someone said, this is more out of chagrin than anything, but I know you do write about this field. Uh, Chris baker, I wish Chris baker says, I wish the objective is movement. Oh, there's that movement again, had encouraged more people in creative work. We need more actors, musicians, singers, movie directors, authors, songwriters, cartoonists, now to put in a plug for Atlas society. We do promote cartoonists and various other visual medium and stuff. So, but that's a good point. I mean, the thought is maybe, uh, I don't, it's not really a question, but do you have any comments on that? Because I know part of your work, which is so fascinating is applying philosophy to popular culture, like Harry Potter books, like Jane Eyre and you like doing movie analysis and stuff. So any thoughts on why aren't there more objectivist or objective is leaning. People call it in the arts and entertainment and maybe even sports or maybe, Speaker 1 00:55:36 Okay. So I do have some thoughts on this. Uh, I don't think there are more or less individuals who are Objectivists in those fields than in any others. There were Objectivists or are relatively small fraction of a percent in any field. So I don't think the arts are an exception. Also don't fully agree that we need more. It's like, who am I to place demands on what other people should be creating? And also sometimes people pursue work in the arts, not because it organically and authentically emerges from them as their passion, like Howard work wants to be an architect since he was 10. Yeah. You know, nobody plays that demand on where he was drawn toward it. That's what he wanted. I wanted to be a teacher and nobody told me that. Right. So there's, and when people say I should create objectivist art, that often ends up being the worst art I've ever seen. Just no, really, because people like, can this think I'm going to impose objectivist principles on this medium. I would not recommend doing it that way. People might wish to be writers or sculptors or painters, and they might also be objective best, but you need to be an artist first and pursue the vision that you love. And it will be authentically you and organically emerged as the beautiful object and work that you've created. And if it does, or doesn't obviously reflect the objectivist principles, that's secondary, that's secondary to being yourself always. Speaker 0 00:57:08 Uh, here's a compliment, Dr. Biana. You are the first person who has articulated the way I taught my inner city middle school students. Thank you so much for validating my, uh, something about my, but never answering my question or something like that. I think that's a compliment. Um, okay. We are coming to the end. So, uh, any final thoughts where we can go to get more of your work? Do you have any, a place we might go or is there a central location to learn more about, uh, what you're doing? Speaker 1 00:57:44 Uh, most of my work is uploaded to academia.edu. Okay. Not all of it, but, but the basketball it is there. Uh, and there, there are some other works that are more popular than not academic and orientation. That if you just Google me, I have published in some more popular outlets, especially when I'm doing pop culture and philosophy or, or movie or play critiques. Speaker 0 00:58:12 Yes. I have found the same thing. I mean, I knew most of much of your work, but in Googling and the last couple of weeks or so. Yes, very much available on the internet. Very much great interviews, great talks and things like that. Speaker 1 00:58:23 Academia.edu, I do maintain updated CV that people can look at and everything I've done. Uh, it's kept fairly current. Everything I've done is on there. And external links to pop culture stuff is, will take you outside of that website. Speaker 0 00:58:39 And one of the things we didn't talk about today, but actually you did for the Atlas society. I think back in 2014, also available on the, uh, uh, uh, YouTube, uh, enemies of capitalism, a two-part lecture at the Atlas summit. I think it was up in New Hampshire, right? 2014. And she discusses marks MacIntyre and Rawls on McEntire was a conservative actually. So, so criticism of capitalism coming from the socialists, the conservatives, and then the welfare status, who was a role. So check those out as well. Those are very good. And that was done for the Atlas society. That was for, that was fun. We have to wrap up now, but I also wanted to plug in about five minutes, Jennifer, Grossman's going to be talking with Stephen X, Dr. Biondi. I know, you know, Stephen X. So you're a big fan there you're fans of each other and clubhouse, and they're going to end the topic is, is capitalism good or bad for women? Speaker 0 00:59:33 That's a great topic. Clubhouse is, uh, if you know, a special app where you go in and it's not visual, it's audio auditory only, but it's like, you're on a conference call and you get to join the conversation and listen to the conversation. So it's very cool. Clubhouse just go to Atlas society, looking for clubhouse, Dr. Biondi. We are out of time, which I am as too bad, too bad. We're out of time, we've got to speak spoken for three hours, write about some of these things. So I want to thank you. Thank you so much for, uh, joining us. I hope, uh, I hope you enjoyed it as well. Um, you're very, very welcome. And please come back. Let me close this by saying, uh, that I thank all of you, not just to professor, beyond the, all of you for joining us today. Speaker 0 01:00:20 And, uh, again, I'm Richard Salzman, a senior scholar at the Atlas society. Uh, if you enjoyed this, if you enjoyed the video and it will be available later, uh, or any of our other materials, uh, just consider making a tax deductible contribution to TAs. And then also, uh, another Atlas asks coming up. Remember, this is the 73rd episodes. So you can look at 72 prior ones that are very cool, but next week, the interviewee will be Blake Harris. Lake Harris will be the guests for the next episode of, uh, Atlas society, Dr. Beyond. Great to see you. I will see you again. Thank you all for joining and I'll sign off now. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. Great to see you.

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