Please go to this link to read this article in Portuguese.
Many have asked me to listen to an example of a Great Connections seminar discussion. Here is a recording of a discussion about Ayn Rand’s article “Altruism As Appeasement.“
Una discusión colaborativa guiada
Empieza “con una pregunta, los participantes deben tener el texto asignado en sus mentes y en la mesa en frente de ellos, las alocuciones deben ser educadas y receptivas, todos deben participar y respaldar sus opiniones razonadamente. El resto se desarrolla como conversaciones vivas”. Paráfrasis de Michael Strong de la descripción de un seminario de Eva Brann, tutora famosa de St. John’s College.
El objetivo de la discusión es que razonemos juntos sobre el material, con el fin de que llegues a tus juicios independientes propios. Que pensemos juntos claramente para que pensemos independientemente. El instructor es un guía/moderador de la discusión, no el profesor con las respuestas. Tú determinarás tus propias respuestas por ti mismo y con los otros participantes.
- Lee el texto antes del seminario y busca preguntas que tengas sobre su significado; trae esas preguntas contigo a la discusión.
- Durante la discusión, haz tus preguntas sobre el texto, buscando involucrar el razonamiento de los otros participantes sobre tus preguntas, y hazles preguntas a los participantes.
- Cita el texto para dar evidencia para tus ideas e interpretaciones.
- Trata de hacer conexiones entre las ideas en el texto y lo que otros participantes dicen, y tu vida.
- En nuestra discusión, la razón es la única autoridad. Esto significa que ninguna persona es la autoridad respecto al texto, sino cada uno debe usar la lógica y los hechos para respaldar su opinión.
- Nadie necesita levantar las manos para hablar; en vez, presta atención a si otros quieren hablar, y anima a participantes callados para escuchar sus ideas; trata a los otros participantes respetuosamente.
- Referencias a material fuera del texto deben estar lógicamente relacionadas al texto y a la discusión presente, y explicadas en principios generales, comprensibles a razonamiento general. Las referencias que dependen en conocimiento que no está disponible a todos los participantes son consideradas fuera del contexto de la discusión porque las demás personas no lo pueden verificar.
- Se conciso; tenemos tiempo limitado y material difícil.
- Cada persona debe asumir responsabilidad por su propio aprendizaje y por la calidad de la conversación; si quieres cambiar la dirección de una discusión, por favor siéntete en la libertad de preguntarle a otros participantes si están de acuerdo con eso; y si están de acuerdo, procede.
- Al final de la conversación, tendremos una conversación de retroalimentación autorreflexiva, es decir, discutiremos sobre si seguimos los principios dados, cómo interactuamos entre cada uno, y cómo podemos mejorar nuestra discusión en la próxima sesión.
Lee el texto.
Cita el texto.
Conecta a la discusión.
La única autoridad es la razón.
Busca ser conciso.
No demasiadas referencias externas.
Sobre seminarios socráticos
Este tipo de discusión es a menudo llamado un “Seminario socrático”. Sin embargo, ese término es usado de muchas formas. La gente a menudo piensa que es una discusión en la que el profesor hace una pregunta difícil, y espera para arrinconar con interrogaciones a la primera persona que se atreve a responder. Tú puedes ver este tipo de comportamiento en la vieja serie de televisión “The Paper Chase” sobre estudios de derecho.
Espero que puedas ver, a partir de nuestros principios, que a lo que nos referimos es muy diferente a eso. Más bien, nuestro objetivo es crear un ambiente de conversación en el que todos se sienten cómodos participando, en el que fomentamos el razonamiento cuidadoso y solícito, y la soberanía de cada mente es respetada. El profesor, en un marco así, es el moderador de la discusión, y un estudiante experto que modela cómo entendemos el material e interactuamos con los demás participantes.
Diez preguntas esenciales para que te preguntes cuando estás leyendo un texto o evaluando una obra:
- ¿Cuáles son las cuestiones y las conclusiones?
- ¿Cuáles son las razones que el autor provee para sus cuestiones o conclusiones?
- ¿Qué preguntas o frases son ambiguas?
- ¿Qué asume el autor que conoces a partir de las descripciones que presenta?
- ¿Qué valores asume el autor que son buenos/verdaderos?
- ¿Hay falacias en el razonamiento presentado?
- ¿Cuál es la evidencia y cuán buena es?
- ¿Presenta el autor, o puedes pensar sobre otras causas que explican lo expuesto diferentes a las que se presentan?
- ¿Son las estadísticas confusas? ¿Cómo determinamos eso?
- ¿Qué información importante se omite?
- ¿Qué conclusiones razonables son posibles?
Adaptado de Asking the Right Questions de M. Neil Browne y Stuart M. Keeley
Sugerencias de Ayn Rand, “Detección filosófica”, Filosofía: ¿Quién la necesita?
“Debes darle a las palabras significados claros y específicos; o sea, debes ser capaz de identificar sus referentes en la realidad…. Todas las estafas filosóficas cuentan con que tú uses palabras como vagas aproximaciones”.
No debes tomar un aforismo – ni ninguna afirmación abstracta – como si fuese aproximada. Tómala literalmente…acéptalo; momentáneamente. Plantéate a ti mismo: “Si yo aceptase esto como siendo verdad, ¿qué seguiría después?”. Tomarse las ideas en serio significa que estás dispuesto a vivir por cualquier idea que aceptes como verdadera, que estás dispuesto a practicarla. Pregúntate a ti mismo: ¿estarías dispuesto y serías capaz de actuar diaria y consistentemente basado en esa idea?”
“Extrospección de la realidad: “¿Qué sé?” y “¿Cómo lo sé?”
“Introspección: “¿Qué siento?” y “¿Por qué lo siento?” (Nota: ¡Esta es la parte difícil!).
“Debes tener una devoción despiadadamente honesta a la introspección – a la identificación conceptual de tus estados internos”.
Nota: A veces toma tiempo y observación cuidadosa de uno mismo, de lo que hay en la mente de uno cuando uno tiene una emoción, identificar la emoción y sus causas. Y a veces, el subconsciente de uno ha integrado algunas identificaciones importantes que resultan en una sensación antes de que uno es capaza de explicar conscientemente las conclusiones; ¡esa es a menudo la historia del pensamiento creativo!
Autora del documento original: Marsha Familaro Enright (The Great Connections, Chicago, IL)
Traducción al español: Nixon Sucuc
Principles of Discussion
A Collaborative, Guided Discussion
Begin “with a question, participants must have the assigned text in their minds and on the table in front of them, address is polite and responsive, all should participate and support their opinions with argument. The rest develops as living conversations.” paraphrase by Michael Strong of a seminar description by Eva Brann, renowned tutor from St. John’s College.
The goal of the discussion is to reason together about the material, in order to arrive at your own, independent judgment. Think clearly together to think independently. The instructor is a guide/moderator of the discussion, not the teacher with the answers. You will determine your own answers by yourself and with the other discussants.
- Read the text before the seminar and search for questions you have about its meaning; bring these questions with you to the discussion.
- During the discussion, ask your questions of the text, seeking to engage the other discussants’ reasoning about your questions, and ask questions of each other.
- Cite the text to give evidence for your ideas and interpretations.
- Try to make connections between the ideas in the text and what other participants say, and your life.
- In our discussion, reason is the only authority. This means no person is the authority on the text, but each must use logic and facts to support his or her opinion.
- No one need raise hands to talk; instead, pay attention to whether others wish to talk, and encourage quiet participants to hear their thoughts; Treat the other participants respectfully.
- References to material outside of the text must be cogently linked to the text and discussion at hand, and explained in general principle, comprehensible to general reasoning. References dependent on knowledge not available to every participant are not considered cogent to the discussion because the other people can’t verify it.
- Be concise; we have limited time and difficult material.
- Each person takes responsibility for his or her own learning and for the quality of the conversation; if you would like to change the direction of a discussion, please feel free to ask the other participants if they are okay with that; then if they are, proceed.
- At the end of the discussion, we will have a short self-reflective feedback conversation i.e. discuss whether we followed the above principles, how we interacted with each other, and how we can improve our discussion next session.
Read the text.
Cite the text.
Connect to the discussion
Only authority is reason.
Not too many outside references.
Do take responsibility.
(Yes, we know there’s an extra C!)
On Socratic Seminars
This kind of discussion is often called a “Socratic Seminar.” However, that term is used in several ways. People often think it means a discussion in which the teacher asks a difficult question and then waits to pounce on the person who dares to answer. You can see this kind of behaviour on the old TV series “The Paper Chase” about law school.
I hope you can see from our principles that our meaning is far from that. Rather, we aim to create an environment of conversation in which all feel comfortable participating, in which careful, thoughtful reasoning is encouraged, and the sovereignty of each mind is respected. The teacher, in such a setting, is a moderator of the discussion, and an expert learner who models how to understand the material and interact with the other participants.
Essential questions to ask yourself when reading a text or evaluating work:
- What are the issues and the conclusions?
- What are the reasons the author gives for his/her questions or conclusions?
- What words or phrases are ambiguous?
- What does the author assume you know by his descriptions?
- What values does the author assume are true/right?
- Are there any fallacies in the reasoning?
- What is the evidence and how good is it?
- Does the author present, or can you think of other causes than the ones are claimed?
- Are the statistics deceptive; how do we determine that?
- What significant information is omitted?
- What reasonable conclusions are possible?”
Adapted from Asking the Right Questions, M. Neil Browne & Stuart M. Keeley
Austrian economist Bob Murphy talked to Marsha Familaro Enright about the reasons for her opposition to school vouchers, even though she founded, and ran the private Council Oak Montessori School for 27 years. Enright warns that they will ruin the independence of private schools.
Enright also describes her work towards creating optimal higher education using the Montessori philosophy, through The Great Connections Seminars. Listen to the discussion on Murphy’s podcast, The Bob Murphy Show here.
This piece was originally published by Real Clear Markets on May 15, 2019.
For decades, leftists have championed socialism while ignoring its mountains of skulls, from
Russia to Venezuela. They dismiss The Black Book of Communism, a careful tally of the 60-plus
million deaths resulting from the deliberate actions of socialist regimes.
Some socialist-leaning people seem to be sincerely concerned about the welfare of others, and
ignorant of its egregious body count. Socialist-friendly intellectuals should know better. Their
job is to identify broad truths and their impact on human life. The most culpable are those who
know socialism’s deadly impact and continue to advocate for it.
The million-life question is: why?
Some of socialism’s apologists claim capitalism has killed more—but their tally includes
millions of deaths from wars and slavery. Are war and slavery caused by capitalism? Only clear
definitions can answer that question.
Socialism is the socio-economic system under which the community owns all property. Since all
the people living together can’t be in control at the same time, in practice, the leaders control the
use of property. The result: those with the power of the state control and direct economic
activity. Hence, horrors such as the deaths of 6 to 8 million under Stalin’s state-directed seizure
and disposal of farm produce in the Soviet Union alone.
Capitalism results from the system in which property is owned by private individuals,
government is sharply limited, and individual rights are protected, such as free speech and trial
by jury. Since Britain and the U.S. first implemented this system in the 18th century, creative
individuals have been able to well-deploy capital, resulting in profuse economic activity. Despite
the disruptions and truly serious problems along the way, capitalism has brought the highest
increase in wealth and relief from poverty to the greatest number of people than any other system
However, socialists confuse the public by equating capitalism with mercantilism, a system in
which government officials ladle out economic favors to cronies. Yet “crony capitalism” is a
canard: cronies have been around in every state.
More precisely, the problem is crony statism. Highly limited government and the rule of law in
which individual rights are protected delimits the favors officials can distribute to cronies,
equalizes opportunity, and results in the peaceful and productive pursuit of self-interest—and
increased living standards for all.
Wealth is not static—it is created. How else did we get from caves to skyscrapers? But a rich
person can live well anywhere—it’s the poor who especially need free choice made possible by
private property and individual rights if they are to create wealth and follow their own dreams.
And yet the mystery: leftists claim to care about the “poor and oppressed,” but the hockey stick
of GDP since industrial capitalism’s establishment fails to persuade them that capitalism is a
And they don’t just criticize capitalism—they revile it. Why?
Because socialists are collectivists and capitalism is individualistic. Socialists believe that the
ultimate good is “society,” the group, not the individual. This group may be the nation, the
family, the ethnic tribe, the similarly-gendered—you name it.
Caring for and helping others is their highest value, their moral duty and they claim to believe
that socialism achieves it. And that point is the intersection of the moral and the practical
because, if capitalism is dominant, people care for themselves. It is the individual’s
independence which scares these socialists, because, if everyone is independent, no one needs
Under capitalism each person can choose his or her own path of highest potential—not someone
else’s idea of how to live. The result is that individuals all over the world are lifted out of poverty
by following their own creativity to produce.
But living under capitalism demands an attitude towards others which is missing from the
collectivist picture. For example, many teachers are socialists because people who go into
teaching tend to want to help others, as do nurses and doctors. And there’s plenty of good in
helping others. I’m a teacher myself, but I don’t do it out of a moral duty. I do it as an exercise of
my highest powers of understanding and skill and I enjoy seeing the young flourish.
I strive to help them reach the point where they don’t need me. As renowned Italian educator
Maria Montessori said: “The greatest sign of success for a teacher…is to be able to say, “The
children are now working as if I did not exist… ”
Those who are collectivist in their core want something far different—they want power over
others. They infantilize to keep others dependent, like mothers who reward and enable children
to stay at home forever.
The collectivist focus on control reveals this motive. They dissemble by presenting a false
alternative: which group are you going to let control you? Are you going to be a “wage slave”
and let some rich guy tell you what to do, with his business and jobs, or are you going to have a
say by voting for the politicians and party that will control the economy? Nowhere do they offer
the choice of independence in which you control your own life.
To stop the scourge of collectivist guilt-induced government programs, capitalists need to
counter their ethic with a different moral model and assert capitalism’s spiritual as well as
material good. It’s good because it gives each individual the opportunity to exercise his or
her highest human virtues, such as self-reliance, productivity, and reasonableness, while, at
the same time, enabling individuals to make a good living.
A few years ago, Lenore Skenazy, of the book and blog Free Range Kids, dug up a 1905
newspaper article about two boys, 13 years old and 5 years old, who were celebrated for
traveling by themselves to Washington, D.C., and then San Francisco. Their adventure reflected
the self-reliance venerated in that era—and shot through Horatio Alger’s hugely popular novels,
such as Ragged Dick, in which a young boy radically improves his own life. That moral outlook
was celebrated in late nineteenth and early twentieth century America.
We need a return to that spirit! Challenging the collectivists’ moral presuppositions is critical.
Let’s trumpet the valor and superiority of capitalism and wipe socialism and its destructive
power from the face of the earth.
Marsha Enright is head of The Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute. It sponsors The Great
Connections Seminars and Leap Year Program, which radically increases reasoning power,
knowledge, self- confidence, and independence. She’s also the founder of Council Oak
Montessori School, for ages 3 to 15.
I have loved the sculpture of the ancient Greeks since I first saw it in a book, at the age of 12. That’s when I read the Greek myths and knew I had found my religion. The worship of Man.
On Friday, June 30, 2018 with delightful friends in tow, I made a pilgrimage to the Museo Nazionale della Magna Grecia de Reggio Calabria to see the Riace Bronzes.
Not Polykleito’s Spear-Bearer, not Alexandros of Antioch’s Venus de Milo, not the Discobolus of Myron nor Michelangelo’s David—not any of these magnificent depictions of human beauty and greatness convey the same power as the Riaces.
Nor can any photos capture their full breathtaking beauty and glory. These are not the gods: these are men as gods.
Unlike the later classical period, they are not a severe, generalized ideal, calmly reposed.
Even the Discobolus has a quietness in his stance and expression in comparison to these warriors. These are men with an energy radiating from their bodies, an energy and form embodying human excellence. And there is no taint of that humility which touches many of the greatest statues of the Renaissance. These have beautiful, but not simply idealized faces; they are individuals, which I adore because they are the embodiment of individual excellence as an ideal for us all.
Ironically, they are known only as Statue A and Statue B. There are many questions surrounding them: these rare bronzes were found off the Calabrian coast of Italy, near Riace. No sunken ship was found near them, and they were in a location that once could have been land, so there is much doubt as to how they arrived in the sea.
And what a find! We have almost no bronze statues of the Greeks, but mostly Roman copies in marble, perhaps to insure they, too, wouldn’t be melted down for other uses. The bronze shows details of hair, veins, skin, eyes, mouth, lashes and expression which I have not seen before.
Phidias, or his student Alcamenes, or Myron, or Polykleitos are the artist-candidates. Statue A was probably created during the early years of classical Greek sculpture, between the years 460 and 450 BC, and Statue B between 430 and 420 BC. I haven’t been able to discover how the historians figured that out.
Statue A: this is a man who doesn’t hesitate to assert himself. Who doesn’t question whether his achievements might be that of a god. His shield held firmly in his left arm, his shoulders gracefully erect, he is tensed for action. His hand’s position indicates a javelin was held lightly in the right. His calcite eyes are on his target in the distance, almost fierce, with his mouth open slightly, not in a snarl, but ready for battle.
The other, Statue B, is slightly slimmer, more relaxed. He gazes a bit more softly and dreamily. Only one of the original eyes is still intact. His stance is firm, but not as energetic as A. I think A looks in his early ‘30’s, B in his twenties, but experts think their ages are reversed. B is as handsome as A, with high cheek bones, well-set eyes, full mouth and luxurious hair and beard – although not quite as full, curly, and long as A. B is equally beautiful in body, but somewhat slimmer, with less callipygian form.
I wondered if A were Agamemnon or Odysseus, and B Paris. Wikipedia entries argue they are warriors from the Aeschylus story, Seven Against Thebes. No matter, they are clearly Heroic age and they convey the confidence, the assuredness of Man’s rightful place on earth which the Homeric works convey.
In Homer and in their legends and plays, the Greeks warned of hubris, they told of misfortune, they dramatized the tragedy of fate, even for the greatest. But their sculpture captured their deepest belief in the power and achievement possible to human beings.
Today, men and women, implementing the genius of Greek philosophy and its child, science, have created the most remarkable technological and politico-economic progress ever – to reach the stars, the ocean bottom, the tops of mountains; to make the blind see again and the maimed walk; to lift millions out of poverty and enable the most peace and trade humankind has ever seen.
The Renaissance that triggered these achievements began with the art and the heroic vision of the ancients. But today, what do we have in art? Stories, not of tragedy, but utter dissoluteness. Not just sculptures of deformed or alienated humans but things called “sculpture” which are of complete meaninglessness.
The place you see heroic figures most frequently today are super hero movies and in video games. No wonder young men love them.
How I long for a Renaissance of real heroes, a dramatization of real men and women achieving great feats. Don’t the astounding achievements of our high-tech civilization deserve inspiring depictions of what humans have achieved? Wouldn’t you like to see movies and sculpture, novels and paintings celebrating that spirit? How magnificent it would be to have such art lining our streets, like our monumental architecture.
For a Renaissance of the human spirit, we need more than videogames: we need the unabashed and highest artistic renderings of a grand heroic vision to inspire us and remind us of what’s possible in the spirit and the body together. In our day and age, that should be the lionizing of the great scientists, inventors, and producers rather than just the warriors, athletes, and actors.
But to get that we need to reject the skepticism, dogmatism, and nihilism which created the current artistic culture. We need a resurgence of individualism and a recognition of the moral greatness in individual freedom, embodied in the capitalism which deserve awe. And to get
that, we need a renaissance of heroic philosophy which validates the power of the human mind to comprehend, create, and produce. A philosophy that validates rather than cast aspersions on human reasoning power, human ability and courage, and the great works made possible by these qualities.
Let’s recover that unabashed assertiveness of our ancient forebears. Not a false arrogance, tainted by unearned doubt, but a clear-minded knowledge that truth and right are hard to achieve, but we can do it and then great feats are possible.
Marsha Enright is head of The Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute. It sponsors The Great Connections Seminars and Leap Year Program, which radically increases reasoning power, knowledge, self- confidence, and independence. She’s also the founder of Council Oak Montessori School, for ages 3 to 15.
Orignally published in Real Clear Markets
Scott Hambrick, founder of Online Great Books, discusses education, meeting Ayn Rand, and a new course to help participants read more easily in the Online Great Books courses with Marsha in his podcast here.
In this 2007 interview by Sara Pentz in The New Individualist (link above), Ms. Enright explains fundamentals of excellent education, the ingenious ways the Montessori Method gives students what they need, how we arrived at the dismal state of education we have today, the dire effects of Post Modernist influence on education, and how she is bringing the Montessori approach to higher education.
by Marsha Familaro Enright
Ayn Rand argued that “selfish” is the correct designation for a person living according to the Objectivist Ethics, that selfishness is a virtue.
The accuracy of this claim is examined along with the meaning of “selfish,” the wider implications for the Objectivist Ethics, and ethics in general. Alternatives to the term are suggested.
Originally published in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, Volume 14, No. 1 (July 2014), pp. 38-54, this paper is available on Academia.edu at