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Objectivism 101 14th Annual Summer Seminar of The Objectivist Center Diana Mertz Hsieh Lecture One: Ayn Rand and Philosophy Sunday, June 29, 2003.

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Presentation on theme: "Objectivism 101 14th Annual Summer Seminar of The Objectivist Center Diana Mertz Hsieh Lecture One: Ayn Rand and Philosophy Sunday, June 29, 2003."— Presentation transcript:

1 Objectivism 101 14th Annual Summer Seminar of The Objectivist Center Diana Mertz Hsieh Lecture One: Ayn Rand and Philosophy Sunday, June 29, 2003

2 2 Objectivism 101 Schedule 1.SundayAyn Rand and Philosophy 2.MondayReality and Reason 3.TuesdayLife and Happiness 4.WednesdayThe Virtues 5.ThursdayIndividual Rights and Capitalism 6.FridayArt as Spiritual Fuel

3 3 Childhood in Russia Born in St. Petersburg in 1905 Decided to become a writer at age 9 Witnessed the Communist Revolution first-hand Studied history and philosophy at U of Petrograd Escaped Russia for Chicago in 1926

4 4 Struggling in Hollywood Moved to Hollywood to work as a screenwriter Chance meeting with Cecil de Mille; intermittent work Met and married Frank O’Connor The Early Ayn Rand We The Living (1936) Anthem (1938 UK, 1945 US)

5 5 The Fountainhead Writing begins in 1938; published in 1943 Five lives: Peter Keating, Dominique Françon, Gail Wynand, Ellsworth Toohey, and Howard Roark The Fountainhead is “a confirmation of the spirit of youth, proclaiming man's glory, showing how much is possible.” — Ayn Rand, “Introduction,” The Fountainhead

6 6 Atlas Shrugged Began in 1945; published in 1957 Moved to NYC in 1951 Epic mystery: Who is draining the world of men of ability? Who is John Galt? The heroism of production and creation made real in the characters of Dagny, Hank, Francisco, and John.

7 7 From Fiction to Philosophy “The motive and purpose of my writing [is] the projection of an ideal man… Since my purpose is the presentation of an ideal man, I had to define and present the conditions which make him possible and which his existence requires…” — Ayn Rand, “The Goal of My Writing”

8 8 Essence of Objectivism “My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” — Ayn Rand, “About the Author,” Atlas Shrugged

9 9 Philosophy in New York Friendship and collaboration with Nathaniel Branden Late night discussions of “The Collective” Nathaniel Branden Institute Writing and lecturing on philosophy The Objectivist Newsletter and The Objectivist

10 10 Books on Philosophy For the New Intellectual (1961) The Virtue of Selfishness (1964) Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1966) Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (1967) The Romantic Manifesto (1969) The New Left / Return of the Primitive (1971) Philosophy: Who Needs It (1982) The Voice of Reason (1989)

11 11 Insight, Intensity, Principles “From the moment we started talking, she was vibrant, alert, alive. She listened intently to my words, she extracted every drop of meaning and of confusion, and then she answered. She spoke at length, first considering the question as I phrased it, then the deeper implications she saw in it. At each step, she explained what were the facts supporting her viewpoint, what kinds of objections might occur to me later if I pursued the topic, and what was the logical reply to them…” — Leonard Peikoff, “My Thirty Years With Ayn Rand”

12 12 An American Life Ayn Rand died in 1982 in New York City “I chose to be an American” An extraordinary life as an immigrant, screenwriter, novelist, and philosopher

13 13 The Importance of Philosophy Who needs philosophy? The common view: No one, really. Ayn Rand’s view: Everyone! “Philosophy: Who Needs It” concerns: What philosophy is and what it studies Why philosophy is so important to life How philosophy should be studied

14 14 The Fictional Astronaut An astronaut crash lands on an unknown planet His first three questions: Where am I? How can I discover it? What should I do? Images from Tharsis Gallery (

15 15 The Branches of Philosophy Where am I? Metaphysics studies the basic nature of reality How can I discover it? Epistemology studies the nature and means of knowledge What should I do? Ethics defines the values and virtues that guide action How should I interact with others in society? Politics defines the principles of a proper social system What is the role of art in human life? Aesthetics studies the nature and purpose of art Also: What is my nature as a human being?

16 16 Definition of Philosophy “Philosophy studies the fundamental nature of existence, of man, and of man's relationship to existence.” — Ayn Rand, “Philosophy: Who Needs It” More simply: Philosophy is our most basic view of the world and our place in it Philosophy is a deeply influential – even inescapable – force in human life

17 17 The Influence of Philosophy Philosophy has a deep impact on our thinking, choices, and actions Philosophy influences institutions, science, economies, cultures, history, art, technology, and more! Religion is the most common form of philosophy; it gives supernatural answers to the questions of philosophy

18 18 Philosophy as Inescapable Everyone has a philosophy, whether they know it or not Any attempt to avoid philosophy endorses certain philosophical ideas We cannot choose whether to have a philosophy… So what are our options in philosophy?

19 19 Choice in Philosophy “As a human being, you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation—or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears, thrown together by chance, but integrated by your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single, solid weight: self-doubt, like a ball and chain in the place where your mind's wings should have grown. — Ayn Rand, “Philosophy: Who Needs It”

20 20 Passive or Active Approach? Passive Approach: Philosophical ideas are subconsciously absorbed from family, friends, religion, fiction, and culture Bad ideas are absorbed with the good Vulnerable to manipulation by others Active Approach: Philosophical ideas are consciously investigated, adopted, and integrated Bad ideas are more easily identified and corrected Concern for meaning in life

21 21 The Difficulty of Philosophy “You might say, as many people do, that it is not easy always to act on abstract principles. No, it is not easy. But how much harder is it, to have to act on them without knowing what they are?” — Ayn Rand, “Philosophy: Who Needs It”

22 22 The Philosophical Detective “The best way to study philosophy is to approach it as one approaches a detective story: follow every trail, clue, and implication, in order to discover who is a murderer and who is a hero. The criterion of detection is two questions: Why? And How? If a given tenet seems to be true—why? If a tenet seems to be false—why? And how is it being put over? You will not find all the answers immediately, but you will acquire an invaluable characteristic: the ability to think in terms of essentials.” — Ayn Rand, “Philosophy: Who Needs It”

23 23 Today’s Topics Ayn Rand’s life and writings The essence of Objectivism The questions and issues of philosophy Philosophy as influential and inescapable Passive versus active approaches to philosophy How to be a philosophical detective

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