Editor's note: The author of this essay, Robert James Bidinotto, is also the author of numerous articles and several books, including:Freed to Kill, Hunter: A Thriller, andBad Deeds: A Dylan Hunter Justice Thriller.
On March 25, 1997, officials of the Florida Department of Corrections strapped condemned killer Pedro Medina into the electric chair at Florida State Prison. Like thirty-eight other infamous murderers since 1976, including serial killer Ted Bundy, Medina would meet his end in the embrace of "Old Sparky."
This time, however, the seventy-four-year-old oak electric chair more than lived up to its grisly nickname. After the black leather mask was lowered over Pedro Medina's face, the first of three surges of two thousand volts of electricity jolted his body. He lurched back in the chair. Suddenly, flames shot up from the mask and burned for perhaps ten seconds. The death chamber filled with smoke.
A Killer Becomes a Cause
Death penalty opponents immediately cited the gruesome nature of Medina's death to call once again for an end to capital punishment. "It was brutal, terrible," declared witness Michael Minerva. "It was a...
Read Article : The Moral Argument for the Death Penalty
Objectivists agree that an individual's ultimate moral value is his own life, that is, his own long-range survival. They agree that the only way an individual man can hope to achieve that individual purpose is by grasping in conceptual form the types of values that an entity of his sort needs and the types of actions that an entity of his sort must take in order to obtain those types of values. Objectivists summarize this truth by saying that the proper standard of value for a man pursuing his own survival is Man's Life. For it is by examining certain facts about human nature generally that one demonstrates why the individual needs certain types of values and must take certain types of actions to obtain them. By the very nature of the process, however, these values and virtues (courses of action) are universal and fundamental, while action must be particular and personal.
But what shall we say about the process by which we make our universal and fundamental values and virtues particular and personal? That is a source of disagreement.
One type of egoist, let us call him "the calculative egoist," says:
Look, faced with our moral purpose (our own survival), we turn to a conceptual standard of action in order to separate out those actions that are most likely to propel us into the future as efficacious human beings. This is the moral standard of Man's Life. And it does, in fact, give us those universal and fundamental principles that separate out courses of action...
Read Article : Egoism: Sense and Sensibility
The year just past was a landmark for Ayn Rand and her philosophy. Pennsylvania State University Press published Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand on February 2, the ninety-fourth anniversary of Rand's birth. The Chronicle of Higher Education, academia's most prestigious newspaper, proclaimed that "Ayn Rand has finally caught the attention of scholars." Academia's most prestigious news magazine, Lingua Franca, followed that with a respectful eleven-page article about the Objectivist movement. And then, in autumn, came the biggest shock of all: the launching of an academic semi-annual periodical called the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies.
Common to each of these events was the presence, at the event's very center, of Chris Matthew Sciabarra, a visiting scholar in the department of politics at New York University. When it comes to introducing Objectivism to the academy, he is far and away the philosophy's leading matchmaker. Yet many Objectivists, though they know his work to varying degrees, know little of his story.
The Early Years
Sciabarra born in Brooklyn in 1960 to a "close-knit extended family, in the Greek and Sicilian traditions," has lived in Brooklyn all his life. "I spent the better part of my youth steeped in education," he tells Navigator, "and was encouraged especially by my mother and sister. I had good friends, and a very supportive family, but I was a very sickly kid, and this had its effects on my abilities to do all the...
Read Article : Chris Sciabarra: Objectivism's Matchmaker
Nineteen nintey-nine was a breakthrough year for the public visibility of Ayn Rand and Objectivism, especially in intellectual circles. One signal of this was the publication of Mimi Reisel Gladstein's The New Ayn Rand Companion, an important reference work that is revised and updated from its previous, long-out-of-print, first edition.
Gladstein is a professor of English at the University of Texas at El Paso, and among her other writings, she is coeditor of the recently published Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999). In her New Companion she once again provides scholars with her unique synthesis of information, and references to information, about Rand's life and work. Fans of Rand, too, will likely enjoy its thorough and workmanlike survey of Rand's plots and characters, if, like this reviewer, they take pleasure simply in contemplating a fresh summation of Rand's work.
"The New Ayn Rand Companion introduces readers to the writings—fiction and nonfiction—of Ayn Rand" announces the introduction. And so it does, with charm and affection for its subject, with reminders to its audience of the richness of Rand's thought and art, with the fruit of wide-reaching research. The book is expanded from Gladstein's original Ayn Rand Companion of 1984 and reflects the increase in studies of Rand over the past fifteen years. Gladstein has preserved much of the text of the earlier edition, however, including...
Read Article : Gladstein's New Companion is a Charming Resource
Navigator: The story is that you came to Objectivism later in life than most people do and that you came to it more through a process of thought than through the emotional impact of reading one of Rand's novels.
Kossmann: The answer is yes to both of those.
Navigator: To put your journey to Objectivism in perspective, then, perhaps we could proceed chronologically with your upbringing, education, and early career.
Kossmann: My undergraduate education was in engineering. I decided to switch into medicine during my senior year in college, because medicine seemed a lot more specific, and as far as I was concerned they were both applied sciences. With a lot of luck, I was able to make the transition.
Medical school, of course, meant four more years of intense study with little time for other things. After medical school I had a decade-long period of specialty training, first in internal medicine, followed by neurology, and finally neuro-ophthalmology. My intention was a career in academic medicine, but this plan needed radical modification when, somehow, four children were born in less than three years. Accordingly, I opted to practice medicine privately full-time, and pursued this over three decades.
Navigator: Where was this?
Kossmann: Mostly in the New York metropolitan area. My undergraduate medical training was at Cornell Medical College in New York City; residency training in internal medicine was taken at the New York Hospital (Cornell's university...
Read Article : The Education of Richard Kossmann