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Ayn Rand and Objectivism

May 11, 2011

Tags EducationOther Schools of Thought

"Few activities are as much fun as philosophical arguments."

Ayn Rand polarizes people. To her enemies, she was a vicious person who taught a gospel of unconcern for others. One of her critics says that she was "eerily ignorant of all the interesting problems of ontology, epistemology, or logic."

Her followers, by contrast, rank her as one of the foremost philosophers of all time. Her system of Objectivism developed and extended the insights of Aristotle and represents the highest level of reason yet attained.

Is either view correct, or is Rand best looked at from some other perspective? In this course, I propose to examine some of her distinctive doctrines. What does she mean by the primacy of existence over consciousness? Are the far-reaching conclusions she draws from the law of identity about causality and the nature of necessity correct? Is she right that the law of identity mandates atheism? Her views about sense perception and how we acquire concepts will also receive attention.

In ethics, she is of course most famous for her defense of egoism; and two lectures will examine her arguments on this topic. Criticisms of her views advanced by other philosophers, including Robert Nozick and Michael Huemer, will also be considered. I will compare her approach to ethics with those of Mises and Hayek.

Rand was one of the most famous 20th-century defenders of a free society, and her ideas about government will be discussed. Her reasons for rejecting anarchism and her defense of intellectual property will be addressed. I will compare her views on anarchism with Murray Rothbard's. Also, I will look at Objectivist work on foreign policy and the morality of war.

I am not an Objectivist; but I'm not attempting in the course to advocate a competing philosophical theory of my own — though it is hardly a secret that my own political views are Rothbardian. Rather, I wish to evaluate the arguments that she presented. The course is primarily designed for those who would like to learn the essentials of Rand's thought; but I encourage Objectivists and others who already have strong opinions about Rand to enroll in the course and debate the issues with me. Few activities are as much fun as philosophical arguments.

The course consists of six weekly lectures beginning June 16:

  1. Metaphysics and Epistemology

  2. Metaphysics and Epistemology

  3. Ethics

  4. Ethics

  5. Political Philosophy: Rights and the State

  6. Political Philosophy: Intellectual Property, Foreign Policy, and the Morality of War.

There will be weekly quizzes and a question forum for each lecture.


Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.

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