Wednesday, July 07, 2010

OCON Update #2

It’s Wednesday morning and Session 2 has started at OCON. I’ve got a few minutes before the General Session starts and I thought I’d dash off an update.

Session 2 finished strong. It seems that one or two of the lectures in each class for me contain the “ah-ha” points, and the lecturers are so good at essentializing their analysis that when those moments of discovery come, they are very forceful. You’ll many times exit a class, talk amongst the participants afterward and they all agree that a particular lecture was very impactful.  The energy around those lectures is palpable.

David Lewis finished off his course on Ancient Athens in 5 B.C. by looking at the intellectual factions within Athens, and the aggressive nature of the Athenian democracy which ultimately led to its downfall. Lewis is a marvelous lecturer with his dry wit, and a real excitement and passion for the power of history to inform us.

Eric Daniels finished off his course on the Morality of Trade with another such lecture, comparing modern consequentialists theorists with Rand ethical basis, showing how a consequentialist view (trade is good because it results in the greatest good, or more efficient outcomes) necessarily leads to statism because it is unable to defend itself against any empirical argument. He then delved into Rand’s theory of trade, rooted in her objective theory of value, and ultimately man’s rational nature. Rand’s approach to a moral defense of capitalism is unique in that it focuses on the requirements of the process of trade, rather than attempting to justify trade based upon its outcomes. Yes it is true that capitalism may be the system that works the best, but that is not the fundamental basis to defend it.

Leonard Peikoff continues with his series of Lectures on his DIM Hypothesis, that the fundamental trends in Western history can be looked at and determined by the way in which each culture viewed the nature of human knowledge. After two lectures completing his survey of ancient cultures, his last lecture launched into a fascinating discussion of the factors by which cultures shift from one mode of action to another. This lecture was incredibly dense and action packed as he attempted to survey all six major historical eras and review the change both coming into and out of each one. I was typing furiously the whole time. He’ll continue in his last lectures by looking at our society today and teasing out issues and factors that one needs to consider based upon this hypothesis.

Beyond that, the conference has been full of social activities, catching up with old friends, and making new ones. I also had great conversations with Lin Zinser and Keith Lockitch. Lin helped me understand some of her plans for the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, and also differentiated ARC from ARI’s activities. Keith and I discussed our common interest in environmentalism, and in addition to helping me with some writing I’m working on, he also put me in touch with a few conference attendees who also have an interest in chemistry, the chemical industry and environmentalism. Hopefully those networks turn into a small nucleus of expertise in these areas.

After a spa day at the pool yesterday which included some decadent lounging and a massage, I am ready for Session 2!

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