Thursday, May 29, 2008

Wrapping Up the OAC, Year 2

When I first looked at the syllabus for the Sophomore year at the Objectivist Academic Center, I thought "No sweat!" The source material for SARPO (Seminar on Ayn Rand's Philosophy of Objectivism) includes OPAR, ITOE, Philosophy: Who Needs It, The Virtue of Selfishness, and a few others -- all books I've read at least twice, and in some cases many times. I already have a BA in Philosophy, and I've been studying Objectivism for twelve years. This Undergraduate course would be a cinch. "I won't even have to study," I thought.

Wrong!

SARPO was among the most challenging courses I've ever taken. Our instructor Onkar Ghate set the pace in the first class. He stressed that Ayn Rand did not arrive at her philosophy deductively. Objectivism was the result of massive inductions by a brilliant mind over the course of decades. He warned against taking a rationalistic approach and said that, in SARPO, we would be trying to emulate her approach in grasping Objectivism. This meant many examples, many questions, and many extensive discussions. Ghate would keep questioning us on each key point until we had fully grounded it to reality. Partial or halfway understanding was not sufficient.

Sometimes I would question why Ghate spent so much time on a certain point. I would opine, "I see what you're saying, Dr. Ghate, I just don't think it's that important. Why focus on X instead of Y?" On a few points, I openly disagreed with his approach, whether it was his use of certain terms (like "metaphysical" certainty, a concept I reject), the application of virtue (I argued that parenting is a productive activity), or whether it was possible to make the professor laugh out loud during class (I thought yes, but he proved a difficult target). He would patiently dissect his own reasoning for stressing particular principles and formulations. I wasn't always satisfied, and follow-up questions were always welcome. Sometimes I still didn't agree with him after a few rounds of back and forth. Ghate would continue the discussion until time constraints forced us to move on, but one was struck by the degree of respect with which he treated every question or objection. There are truly no stupid questions in Ghate's class. (Contrary to the myth propagated by some, no one is ever berated or chastised in class.)

SARPO challenged me to fully integrate each key principle of Objectivism. Thanks to this class, I have a much more thorough understand of the philosophy as an integrated system. I feel like my understanding has been taken to a whole new level. My own studies in Objectivism have taken me far, but there is simply no substitute for guided learning from someone who knows more about the subject matter. I'm a proud man, but I must admit that Ghate knows a little bit more about Objectivism than I do (at least for now -- give me a few more years).

It goes without saying that I highly recommend the OAC to anyone, at any level of study. But especially students. The writing classes from the first year alone will take you to another level of intellectual achievement. And if you survive till the end of year 2, you will have a fully grounded platform of knowledge from which to spring into any specialized field of study you choose. The instructors are professional and knowledgeable, the assistants are friendly and helpful, and your classmates will likely be the cream of the crop. From what I hear, the admissions requirements are getting more and more stringent each year, so you best get in now while the gettin's good. The application form can be found here. I would be happy to answer any questions about my experience from prospective students. Ask in the comments section of this post or email me at i.am.dan.edge(at)gmail.com

I will be taking a hiatus from the OAC next year to work on The Undercurrent student newspaper. But I will miss my classmates, I will miss Dr. Ghate, and I will miss being immersed in knowledge every Wednesday from 7 pm - 10 pm. Fortunately, I have developed friendships with several of my classmates who live in the New York area, so they can keep me current on the OAC front. But for now: so long, OAC! We'll see you again in the fall of 2009. I know you will miss me, but be strong. When next we meet, the Benevolent Universe will shine through sparks and flying dragons!

--Dan Edge

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Good News For Gays

The California Supreme Court has overturned the immoral ban on gay marriage in their state. Further, the Governator said he would not support an amendment to the state constitution that would overrule the Court's decision. With religious conservatism on this rise in American politics, this decision couldn't have come at a better time. The persecution of gays has become one of the litmus test issues for the religious right.

My wife Kelly and I are particularly pleased at this ruling because two of our best friends are a gay couple. It's a perverse moral injustice that two people who love one another be forbidden to marry. Hopefully, the California ruling is the first step in a trend toward legalizing gay marriage nationwide.

To Love!

--Dan Edge

Friday, May 9, 2008

Lebanese Governmnet Surrendering to Hezbollah

According to CNN, the Lebanese government has effectively surrendered to Hezbollah militants. I do not exaggerate. Over the past few days, Hezbollah has initiated a military coup, moving to take over airports and pro-government television stations. The Lebanese army is not fighting back, their leaders say, because so many soldiers are pro-Hezbollah, and ordering them to attack would throw the army into disarray. Instead, political and military leaders have negotiated the surrender of western Beirut. Pro-government gunmen are being persuaded to lay down arms without a fight.

With Hezbollah in control of Lebanon, and with the backing of Iran and it's puppet, Syria, we can be sure that Lebanon will again become the primary staging point for attacks on Israel. If any positive slant can be taken on recent events, it is that Israel now clearly has the right to wage a full scale war against Lebanon and Syria. I seriously doubt that will happen, but as soon as attacks against Israeli civilians begin to mount, they will demand military action. Of course, militants will continue to use the Lebanese civilian population as cover, and Israel will be condemned the first time it destroys a Hezbollah rocket position that happens to be on top of a hospital.

If you want my opinion of what Israel needs to do to defend itself, read my article Israel Must Respond to Militant Islam With Overwhelming Force. This article was a response to Israel's military actions against Hezbollah following the kidnapping of IDF soldiers in 2006, but the same principle still applies: that a nation has the moral right to do anything it must to defend its citizens against an enemy aggressor. If only Israel (or better yet, America) heeded this advice, we would live in a much safer world.

--Dan Edge