“Ayn Rand’s heroic vision of man as a rational, noble, productive being has inspired millions of people. It can be difficult, though, to grasp just how her ideas, universal and abstract as they are, can serve as a practical and specific guide to everyday life.
“Keeping It Real: Bringing Ideas Down to Earth offers invaluable advice on how to apply broad philosophical principles to the real-world decisions we have to make every day. In this book, Leonard Peikoff, Ayn Rand’s longtime friend and heir, provides a wealth of practical counsel on personal relationships, child-rearing, career problems, politics, sex, and many other topics. His answers to hundreds of questions—taken from the first five years of his former podcast—highlight the importance of ensuring that the principles we claim to live by do not float in our minds as useless wordplay, but rather guide us in action toward our personal, selfish happiness here on earth.
“Keeping It Real also contains numerous anecdotes and insights pertaining to Ayn Rand herself, making it invaluable for those who want to learn more about her from today’s most knowledgeable source.”
Enlightenment Now is just what the world needs right now. It is a defense of the ideas and values that have created the modern world, and a defense of that world itself. I don’t agree with every word of it, but I agree with its theme and essence. The weakest aspect of the book, to me, is its morality. “Humanism” is a great start, because it sets the right standard: human life and everything that helps people thrive and prosper. But Pinker largely ignores issues of individualism vs. collectivism, and egoism vs. altruism, that I see as core to the ideological struggles of the modern world. And closely related, Pinker falls short of painting a truly inspiring, motivating picture, a heroic ideal to strive for. He himself indicates this in the final pages of the book, when he writes: “The case for Enlightenment Now is not just a matter of debunking fallacies or disseminating data. It may be cast as a stirring narrative, and I hope that people with more artistic flair and rhetorical power than I can tell it better and spread it farther.” I hope they do, as well. But overall, this is a great book, full of profound truths, meticulously researched, lucidly argued, and entertainingly written. Everyone who cares about the big issues of human life, society, politics and culture should read it. [Enlightenment Now: A summary]
Another problem with Pinker’s book, according to energy expert Alex Epstein — author of the Moral Case For Fossil Fuels, is his analysis of climate and energy. Writes Epstein:
According to Dr. Locke, “Determinism is the doctrine that everything we think, feel, believe, and do is caused by factors outside our control—that we have no choice regarding our character, our thoughts, our actions, our lives. There have been many forms of determinism but the one that is most popular today is based on neuroscience, with the enthusiastic support of many psychologists, philosophers, and physical scientists (e.g., physicists). This version argues that we are controlled by our physical brains with the brain being which are set in motion by environmental factors. The debate continues because many people disagree with determinism and assert that they have, in some form, free will. Determinists insist that such a belief represents “folk psychology,” an illusion held by people who are ignorant of what science has allegedly proved.”
“Determinists typically believe that:
Consciousness is the same thing as brain activity (as opposed to requiring a brain)
The conscious mind, though real, plays no significant role in human life
The human mind is not significantly different from that of the lower animals such as chimpanzees
All causes are material (or mechanical)
Goal-directed action applies equally to people and machines
The concept of a self or the self as a causal agent has no intelligible meaning
Key neuroscience experiments have proven that the intention to act appears after the brain has already decided what to do
Determinism is not only compatible with objective knowledge but is also the only guarantee of objective knowledge, because it is based on scientific truth
Determinism has to be either proved or disproved based on philosophical and/or scientific arguments
Free will, at best, is a necessary illusion
“On the other side of the coin, various free will advocates typically believe that:
Elementary particles which make up our brain act at random, thus refuting causal necessity
A Dearth of Eagles is a fast-paced fictional work tells the story of Bulgarian freedom fighters during Communism’s final years, of their valiant attempts to smuggle dissidents to freedom in the West, and of their desperate battles with the Durjavna Sigurnost, the Bulgarian secret police who seek to kill them. It tells also of a parallel conflict, of one of the freedom fighters—a member of the tiny band, an émigré, a writer living in New York City—who engages in the story’s fiercest struggle, seeking to publish serious stories about these dauntless men in a Western literary culture that rejects heroism for anti-heroism.