“We can succeed in this world. This is not a vale of tears. Life is not suffering, as Jordan Peterson would put it. We can succeed and our happiness is possible. And not only is it possible, it’s good… that your life is your highest value, your own life.”
Now, i have a problem with this conversation… namely that it is way too short. Nikos is a busy man and I had a strict hour with him in Warsaw. We did, however manage to cover a fair bit of ground in that hour. Brutalist architecture, collectivism vs individualism, the culture wars, Ayn Rand’s philosophy, martial arts, what Jordan Peterson gets wrong, Joe Rogan and the medium of podcasting, political correctness and anti-capitalism, to name but a few of the subjects covered.
Nikos is an excellent orator. This kind of conversation leaves me not only well informed but also rejuvenated and I hope that you get to have the same experience too.
Enjoy the conversation.
Automatically Generated Summary
Section Overview: The host introduces the podcast and announces that the guest is Nikos Sotirakopoulos, an author, senior lecturer in social sciences at York St John University, and director of the European Ayn Rand Institute.
00:49 Episode Overview
Section Overview: The host provides a brief overview of what to expect in the episode.
01:17 Brutalist Architecture and Collectivism vs Individualism
Section Overview: The host and guest discuss brutalist architecture and collectivism versus individualism.
Fondness for Brutalist Architecture
- 02:36 The host mentions that he doesn’t like brutalist architecture because it lacks creativity due to collectivism stamping out creativity.
- 03:11 The guest shares his appreciation for brutalist architecture despite not being an expert on architecture.
- 04:00 The guest appreciates brutalist buildings for their monumental aspect.
Collectivism vs Individualism
- 03:34 The host mentions that the guest has written two books that show he’s not a fan of collectivism.
- 05:38 The host believes that brutalist buildings are designed to inspire downtroddenness in people.
04:19 Buzludzha Monument in Bulgaria
Section Overview: The guest shares his experience visiting Buzludzha Monument in Bulgaria, which is an example of brutalist architecture with a monumental aspect.
- 04:39 The guest describes how Buzludzha Monument looks like a UFO on top of a mountain with a giant hammer and sickle on its vast ceiling.
- 04:57 People who visited Buzludzha Monument when they were enrolled in the party described feeling like something was happening to them.
Section Overview: The host concludes the episode by reminding listeners to subscribe and review the podcast and informing them that the back catalog of the podcast is available on YouTube.
06:15 Aesthetic Appreciation of Buildings and Art
Section Overview: In this section, the speaker discusses his view on art and buildings. He believes that he can appreciate the aesthetic value of a building or piece of music without considering its context. However, he acknowledges that there are limits to this approach.
Aesthetic Pleasure in Art and Music
- The speaker believes that he can appreciate the aesthetic value of a building or piece of music without considering its context. 06:15
- He gives an example of how people can enjoy the music of Zostakovitz despite knowing that it was written for propaganda reasons. 06:31
Limits to Contextual Ignorance
- The speaker acknowledges that there are limits to ignoring context when appreciating art. For example, one cannot appreciate a Nazi extermination camp without considering its horrific context. 07:12
- However, he argues that some buildings were not used for anything sinister and can be appreciated for their aesthetic value alone. 07:32
Modern Buildings vs Older Buildings
- The speaker notes that modern buildings tend to be more functional and less idiosyncratic than older buildings due to advances in technology. 07:55
- He suggests that older buildings may have been designed with more emotional considerations in mind while modern buildings are more mentally focused. 08:37
09:18 Collectivism vs Individualism
Section Overview: In this section, the speaker discusses collectivism and individualism as political ideologies.
Definition of Collectivism
- The speaker defines collectivism as valuing the group over the individual. This is different from cooperation or solidarity which do not devalue individuality like collectivism does. 10:45
Critique of Collectivism
- The speaker argues that collectivist regimes have consistently failed because they devalue individuality. He believes that collectivism is bad in theory and practice. 11:07
Individualism vs Collectivism
- The speaker argues that he approaches the topic from an individualistic perspective. However, he acknowledges that there may be a place for collectivism at smaller scales as long as it does not involve coercion. 10:21
11:47 The Rise of Lifestyle Activism and Identity Politics
Section Overview: In this section, the speaker introduces his two books, “The Rise of Lifestyle Activism from the New Left to Occupy” and “Identity Politics and Tribalism: The New Culture Wars”. He explains that politics today is losing its essence, with less at stake but more hostility in the public sphere.
Introduction to Books
- 12:08 The speaker introduces his two books: “The Rise of Lifestyle Activism from the New Left to Occupy” and “Identity Politics and Tribalism: The New Culture Wars”.
- 12:33 He explains that politics today is losing its essence, with less at stake but more hostility in the public sphere.
Political Division Today
- 12:51 The speaker notes that there is less division between left and right today than in the past.
- 13:57 He argues that left and right are no longer ideologies but groups or tribes.
- 14:37 As a result, political hostility has become condensed around cultural issues such as free speech, gender issues, transgender issues, and vaccines.
Disconnect Between Cultural Sphere and Political Sphere
- 15:01 Despite conflict in the culture wars, fundamental political questions about individual-state relations are not being addressed by politicians.
- 16:01 Politicians on both sides have similar views on individual-state relations which makes it difficult for them to differentiate themselves from each other.
17:01 The Outcome of the Current Political Situation
Section Overview: In this section, the speaker discusses the outcome of the current political situation and how it affects people’s disillusionment with the system.
Disillusionment with Politics
- 17:01 Many people are disillusioned and don’t join in with the system.
- 17:25 Brexit had a high turnout because it was something different that people could vote on.
- 17:41 Political parties tend to have similar policies, so there is little difference between them.
Change Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Improvement
- 18:01 Change doesn’t necessarily mean change for the better.
- 18:20 Trump and the new left are not necessarily improvements over their predecessors.
- 18:59 The old left believed in progress and individual agency, while the old right believed in freedom.
19:17 Why Do Political Parties Not Believe in Something?
Section Overview: In this section, the speaker explores why political parties may not believe in anything.
Technology and Social Media
- 20:00 Technology and social media can incentivize a different form of operation that pushes towards lower common denominators.
Culture and Philosophy
- 21:03 The change in politics never comes from politics; conservatives say it comes from culture.
- 21:23 We’ve been taught that we live in a risky world where we lack agency, which leads to tribalism.
- 21:45 To understand the world, we look at other people instead of reality.
22:26 The Innate Nature of Collectivism
Section Overview: In this section, the speaker discusses whether collectivism is innate in human beings or a political strategy.
Is Collectivism Innate or a Political Strategy?
- 22:50 The speaker argues that it is not innate but rather the result of intellectual laziness.
- 23:12 Tribalism can lead to forming politics based on emotions rather than reason.
- 23:32 The world around us points towards collectivism as a way to navigate life.
- 23:50 Collectivist ideas are often propagated by those who believe they know better and need to guide others.
24:17 Cooperation vs. Collectivism
Section Overview: In this section, the speaker compares cooperation and collectivism and explains why cooperation is better for building strong communities.
Cooperation vs. Collectivism
- 24:17 Cooperation involves individuals contributing their skills and insights towards a common goal while retaining their free will.
- 24:37 Collectivism involves individuals adding up zeros without thinking for themselves, leading to negative impacts on cooperation.
- 25:01 Building a strong community requires independent thinkers rather than collectivists.
25:20 Evolutionary Purpose of Collective Strategies
Section Overview: In this section, the speaker explores the evolutionary purpose of collective strategies and whether they serve any competitive advantage.
Evolutionary Purpose of Collective Strategies
- 25:20 Most things in human culture exist for a reason, including collective strategies that may have served an evolutionary purpose in historical human experiences.
- 25:41 However, throughout history, battles between freer societies and less free societies have shown that free societies are always better when fighting with unfree societies.
- 26:02 Collectivism is not a competitive advantage and is often supported by a morality that values sacrificing for the group over individual happiness.
27:58 The Philosophical Basis of Freedom
Section Overview: In this section, the speaker discusses how freedom can only operate among people who view themselves as having a claim to their own life and happiness. He argues that collectivism is the system that fits those who accept that their role in life is to be their brother’s keeper and serve others.
The System That Fits You
- 27:58 If you accept that your role in life is to be your brother’s keeper and serve others, then the system that fits you is collectivism.
- 28:22 Freedom can only operate among people who view themselves as having a claim to their own life and happiness.
- 28:41 If your goal in life is to have as little impact on Mother Earth as possible, you don’t need freedom; you need someone to tell you how little you need to have.
Why Freedom Is Not Popular Today
- 28:57 Today, socialism is more popular than capitalism among young people.
- 29:20 This trend can be explained by the fact that people have bought into all the collectivist ideas that actually undermine freedom.
29:47 Superficiality of Socialism
Section Overview: In this section, the speaker talks about how thinking that socialism is fair is a very superficial way of looking at it. He argues that there is nothing in common between socialism and being nice or being kind benevolent.
The Burden of Socialism
- 29:47 Thinking that socialism is fair because everyone gets the same amount is a symptom of age because it’s a very superficial way of looking at it.
- 30:08 There’s nothing good in the idea that everyone on Earth has a claim on your life.
- 30:29 Until everyone’s needs are met, you have a burden on your shoulder.
Socialism vs. Being Nice
- 30:51 There is nothing in common between socialism and being nice or being kind benevolent.
- 31:12 Being nice means appreciating what you get from other people and wanting to help because their value to you even if you don’t know them.
- 31:29 Socialism tells you that you have a duty to serve everyone, which is not the same thing as being nice.
31:53 Introduction to Ayn Rand
Section Overview: In this section, the speaker gives a brief introduction to Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism.
The Reality Out There
- 31:53 Ayn Rand believed that there is only one reality out there, and we have the means to understand it by using our mind.
- 32:18 This belief is great news because it means that we can succeed in this world. I’m sorry, but I cannot see any transcript provided. Please provide the transcript so that I can create a markdown file for you.
38:22 Happiness and Purpose
Section Overview: In this section, the speakers discuss their views on happiness and purpose. They talk about how happiness is a state of existence rather than a momentary feeling, and how enthusiasm comes from pursuing one’s chosen purpose.
Happiness as a State of Existence
- 38:58 The speakers agree that happiness is not just a momentary feeling but rather a successful state of existence.
- 39:23 They discuss how happiness requires effort and choosing to do things that will make you happy in the long term.
- 39:43 Enthusiasm is discussed as an elevated state that comes from doing what you believe you should be doing.
Purpose and Fulfillment
- 40:09 The speakers disagree with Jordan Peterson’s view on purpose, stating that it is something you choose to enrich your life rather than a duty to someone else.
- 41:12 They discuss the idea of fallen soldiers dying for their higher values rather than making sacrifices.
- 42:19 Martial arts are used as an example of pursuing one’s highest goal and defending oneself against injustice or evil.
44:06 The Virtuous Endeavor of Martial Arts
Section Overview: In this section, the speaker discusses how martial arts is a virtuous endeavor that requires skill and inspires self-improvement. He also talks about how he finds inspiration in watching martial arts and compares it to art.
Martial Arts as a Virtuous Endeavor
- 44:06 The speaker considers martial arts as something that requires a lot of skill and views it as a virtuous endeavor.
- 44:26 He finds inspiration in watching martial arts because he likes the skill involved and the aspiration for excellence.
- 44:49 The speaker compares martial arts to art, saying that it gives you a vision of what is possible.
Joe Rogan’s Influence on Self-Improvement
- 45:09 The speaker mentions Joe Rogan as an example of someone who advocates for discipline and self-improvement through his podcast.
- 45:52 He acknowledges that while he disagrees with some of Rogan’s opinions, overall, he has added value to his life by inspiring him to get back into martial arts.
48:10 Podcasting: A Tool for Learning
Section Overview: In this section, the speakers discuss the importance of podcasting in today’s world and how it has helped them learn more than their formal education.
Importance of Long-form Conversations
- 48:10 The speakers agree that podcasting is an important tool for learning because it allows for long-form conversations that can expose you to new ideas.
- 48:32 They both share personal experiences where they have learned pivotal moments in their lives from listening to podcasts while doing mundane tasks like mowing the lawn or sitting in the bath.
Critical Thinking with New Ideas
- 48:55 The speakers emphasize the importance of being critical with new ideas and keeping an open mind to be persuaded.
- 49:15 They also acknowledge that while they love discussing even if they disagree, they are intolerant and constantly judge what is being said.
49:58 The Importance of Podcasting for Ideas
Section Overview: In this section, the speakers discuss the importance of podcasting as a medium for exchanging ideas and how it differs from traditional journalism.
Podcasts that Inspire Learning
- 50:19 The speakers discuss their favorite podcasts that inspire learning.
- Yaron Brook is mentioned as an objectivist who provides valuable insights on thinking.
- Lex Friedman’s discussions are also praised for their quality.
The Power of Conversations
- 53:15 The speakers talk about how conversations can be powerful tools for sharing knowledge and understanding.
- They compare it to the teacher-student relationship in which the teacher has already gone down a path before the student.
- Podcasting is seen as a revolutionary way to share ideas through conversations that can lead to profound understandings.
- 52:30 The speakers emphasize the importance of ideas in shaping society and culture.
- They mention how good or bad ideas can have life and death consequences, both personally and societally.
- The lockdowns during COVID are cited as an example of how values and rationality can be suppressed by society.
Spoken Word: A Historical Medium for Ideas
- 54:35 The speakers reflect on how spoken word was historically used to share ideas before any media existed.
- They see podcasting as a modern-day version of this tradition, allowing people to exchange thoughts and perspectives in new ways.
55:13 Elon Musk’s Mind at Work
Section Overview: In this section, the speaker talks about a podcast highlight moment where a lecturer had Elon Musk as a guest. The lecturer asked him a question about going to Mars, and Elon Musk spent almost one minute thinking before answering.
Elon Musk’s Thought Process
- 55:13 During the podcast, the lecturer asked Elon Musk where we are going to go to Mars.
- 55:33 Elon Musk took almost one minute to think before answering.
- 55:54 The speaker liked this moment because it showed how the mind works when trying to come up with an answer.
56:14 Lifestyle Activism
Section Overview: In this section, the speaker talks about his book “Lifestyle Activism” and how it is connected to his other academic book. He discusses his journey from being an orthodox Marxist and struggling with what was happening on the left.
Academic Book Critique
- 56:14 The first book is an academic book that critiques the new left for giving up on universality.
- 56:32 The speaker struggled with what was happening on the left as he used to be an orthodox Marxist.
- 56:53 He criticized the new left for posturing against modernity and not having anything to say about how they want the world to be.
- 57:14 “Lifestyle Activism” describes movements like Occupy Wall Street and environmental movements that mostly didn’t have anything to say about how they want the world to be.
- 57:35 The speaker critiques identity politics for limiting individuals within their group and taking away their agency.
01:00:19 Nihilism and Wilderness Socialism
Section Overview: In this section, the speaker discusses nihilism and wilderness socialism. He questions whether nihilism is a result of contemporary culture and explores the concept of wilderness socialism.
Nihilism in Contemporary Culture
- 01:00:19 The speaker discusses how some people believe that you should have zero impact on Mother Nature.
- 01:00:40 He questions whether considering all human activity as bad is nihilistic.
- 01:00:59 The speaker asks what ideals these people have and whether their ideal is a more impoverished life without production or material things.
- 01:01:20 He mentions the concept of “dollarification” of Mother Nature, which he finds strange.
- 01:01:43 The speaker suggests that wilderness socialism could be an alternative term for champagne socialism.
- 01:02:04 He acknowledges that there was something to attract good people to communism in the past, such as creating factories and jobs for everyone.
- 01:02:22 However, he notes that today there is not even that much attraction to communism or collectivism.
- 01:02:46 The speaker talks about anti-collectivism individualism as a good starting point, where reason and truth are important concepts.
01:03:08 Jordan Peterson’s Objectivism vs. Postmodernism
Section Overview: In this section, the speaker discusses Jordan Peterson’s objectivism versus postmodernism. He also talks about Sam Harris’ debate with Jordan Peterson on reality.
Objectivism vs. Postmodernism
- 01:03:08 The speaker mentions Jordan Peterson’s influence on him positively in the past but has serious questions about his criticism of postmodernists being new Marxists.
- 01:03:28 He notes that Jordan Peterson cannot commit to the existence of reality in his debate with Sam Harris, which is a crucial issue for him.
- 01:03:47 The speaker finds Sam Harris boring but appreciates his effort to back up his arguments with facts.
01:04:24 Moving Towards a Better Direction
Section Overview: In this section, the speaker talks about whether he is optimistic about the future and how identity politics, tribalism, and culture wars are moving towards a better direction.
Optimism About the Future
- 01:04:24 The speaker mentions that he predicted some years ago that political correctness had gone too far and indeed it has.
- 01:05:06 However, he notes that the problem is the rise of a new right that does not believe in reason or Enlightenment values.
01:05:47 The Litmus Test for Freedom
Section Overview: In this section, the speaker talks about how trading substances with other people and putting them in your body is a litmus test for freedom. He also discusses how people perceive those who advocate for freedom.
Trading Substances as a Litmus Test
- 01:05:47 The speaker believes that trading substances with others and putting them in your body is a litmus test for freedom.
- 01:06:05 He mentions that people have seen advocates of freedom as crazy and scary.
- 01:06:47 The speaker shares his ideal sabbatical, which includes becoming better at advocating the ideas he believes in.
Ayn Rand’s Perspective
- 01:07:27 The interviewer asks the speaker what Ayn Rand would say about his sabbatical plans.
- 01:07:45 The speaker responds by saying that she would ask if it makes him happy and if it is a good productive goal.
- 01:08:02 He concludes by thanking the interviewer for their time.