Tag Archives | Antiquity

Frodo Shrugged

[cross-posted at facebook]

September 2nd is the day that Atlas Shrugged begins. (We’re shown Eddie Willers seeing the date on a gigantic calendar in the first chapter. Several other important events in the novel happen on that date as well.)

September 22nd is the day that Lord of the Rings “officially” begins. (In fact we’re shown a few scenes from the days of preparation leading up to Bilbo’s birthday party, but it’s become customary to say that LOTR begins on that date.)

LOTR and Atlas are similar in their subversion of expectations. [SPOILER ALERT for both books.] LOTR is about a quest concerning a magical object that brings the wearer great power; but the goal of the quest is not to obtain the object but to destroy it. The climax of Atlas involves the villains torturing their hero; but their goal is not to get him to submit to them, but rather to get him to agree to become their dictator.

In short, both books are about the refusal of power.

Both books also arguably owe a debt to Platos Republic. In both LOTR and the Republic, a ring that grants its wearer invisibility but tends to corrupt its wearer is used as a metaphor for political power. But Plato’s and Tolkien’s solutions are different; in Plato we’re told that only the wise, the philosopher-kings, can be trusted with the ring; but in Tolkien we’re told that no one can be trusted with it and that the best course is to destroy it – a much more anarchistic moral (appropriately enough for an author who wrote “My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy …. the most improper job of any man, even saints … is bossing other men”). Moreover, for Tolkien, if someone has to be trusted with the ring temporarily, it is safer in the hands of hobbits (corresponding to the craftsmen, the lowest and least trusted class in the Republic) rather than in those of wizards or kings.

As for the connection between Atlas and Plato’s Republic, I’ve written about that in Ed Younkins’ anthology Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged: A Philosophical and Literary Companion. Here’s the piece.

The Long Arm of the Law Merchant

[cross-posted at POT and facebook]

In my latest Agoric Café video, I chat with economist Bruce L. Benson about polycentric mercantile law in medieval Europe and among the Plains Indians; whether private law can work outside of small homogeneous communities; causation vs. correlation in the gun control debate; the perils of scissors-and-paste history; the abolition of criminal law; the incentival perversities of the reservation system; the inevitability of the state; and what intellectual debt he owes to the u.s. military.

Ragnarok Lobster

[cross-posted at POT and Facebook]

What do Good Morning America, the Australian Outback, Mary Poppins, David Friedman, Lawrence of Arabia, and a balloon voyage to a lost colony of Vikings at the North Pole have in common? Get the answers in this video, as I take you on a journey BEYOND YOUR IMAGINATION!!!

Eternal Return!

Continuing the San Diego bookstore series (yet also transcending it), I chat with Jeff Mezzocchi, proprietor of the Eternal Return Antiquarian Bookshop, devoted to rare editions of philosophical classics. The conversation centers heavily on Nietzsche, but also ranges over the conflict between Cartesian caution and Spinozistic radicalism, Russian nihilism, Shakespeare in performance, dogmatic vs. skeptical readings of Plato, the perils of translation, teaching philosophy in the age of Zoom, the agonising tension between book collecting and bookselling, and the lakeside rock in Switzerland where Nietzsche and Jeff each experienced life-changing events.

Like my earlier interview with Sean Christopher of LHOOQ Books, this interview should appeal to anyone with an interest in bookstores, philosophy, art, literature, etc., even if they have no specific interest in San Diego or its bookstore scene.

The Saga of David Friedman

Here’s a New Year’s Day (well, as things turned out, a day-after-New-Year’s-Day) treat for you Agoric Fanatics: a fascinating interview with economist and legal scholar David Friedman.

Topics covered include: free-market anarchism; the Society for Creative Anachronism; tectonic geology; the quasi-anarchic legal systems of medieval Iceland and 18th-century England; being converted to anarchism by Robert Heinlein; how getting a Ph.D. in physics led to being an economist at a law school; the joys of fomenting war and exploiting one’s students; how he repeatedly achieved promotion through violence against his predecessors; how to make medieval armor both for humans and for turnips; how innovations in fireplace design facilitated adultery; and the perils of central planning for wizards.

I also experimented with a new (for me) audiovisual thingie starting around 5:45 – check it out!

Part 2: Who Is Sheldon Richman, and Why Does He Love Jihadis, French Communism, Godless Atheism, and Weird-Ass Epistemology?

In Part 2 of this 2-part interview, I chat with Sheldon Richman about the Israeli occupation of Palestine; u.s. intervention in the Middle East; the meaning of Jewish identity; the relation between libertarian individualism and social cooperation; the communistic theories of Frédéric Bastiat; the theologico-political merits of Spinoza; Nathaniel Branden and George H. Smith on atheism; Thomas Paine and Lysander Spooner on deism; the philosophical failings of the New Atheists; rehabilitating the cost-of-production theory of value; the uses of coherentist epistemology for both theists and atheists; reading Wittgenstein for relaxation; the advantages and disadvantages of Randian approaches to knowledge and concepts; the sordid truth behind the special effects in my videos (and in particular, what the deal is with my hair); Sheldon’s case against open Borders; and the shocking misuse of libertarian think tank resources to photocopy body parts (but who did it, Sheldon or myself? and which body parts? watch and learn!).

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