- I have finished reading Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, and I want to learn more about Objectivism; where should I begin?
- Where can I read Ayn Rand’s view on . . . ?
- What is the relationship between Ayn Rand and William F. Buckley’s National Review?
- What was Ayn Rand's view of the libertarian movement?
- Has ARI changed its view of libertarianism?
- What was Ayn Rand’s view on capital punishment?
- What was Ayn Rand’s view on abortion?
- Is Objectivism atheistic? What is the Objectivist attitude toward religion?
- What was Ayn Rand’s view on charity?
- Does Objectivism hold that all individuals have something valuable to contribute? What about people who lack creativity or ability? Would they fit into a pure capitalist society?
- What is the connection between an individual’s moral worth and his intelligence, in the Objectivist view?
- I am interested in attending lectures on Objectivism. How can I find out if there are any in my area?
- Who is Leonard Peikoff?
- I’m interested in studying Ayn Rand’s books and ideas in college. Are there any universities to which you recommend I apply? Are there any schools where I can study under Objectivist professors?
I have finished reading Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, and I want to learn more about Objectivism; where should I begin?
Here are some suggestions. Read the introductory articles on our Objectivism pages; you might also consider viewing the video lecture by Dr. Leonard Peikoff. In the same section of our site, you can find a suggested reading list of Objectivist works. You may also consider taking one of the university-level courses offered at ARI’s Objectivist Academic Center.
Where can I read Ayn Rand’s view on . . .?
Please consult The Ayn Rand Lexicon: Objectivism from A to Z, edited by Harry Binswanger. Now available both in print and on the Web, this book is a mini-encyclopedia of Objectivism, containing the key passages from the writings of Ayn Rand and her associates on 400 topics in philosophy and related fields. From the editor’s preface: “Material by authors other than Miss Rand is included only if she had given it explicit public endorsement—as with Leonard Peikoff’s book The Ominous Parallels and his lecture course ‘The Philosophy of Objectivism’ or if it was originally published under her editorship in The Objectivist Newsletter, The Objectivist or The Ayn Rand Letter. I have also made use of four Objectivist Forum articles that Miss Rand read and approved.”
For key passages of dialog as well as all of the speeches from Miss Rand’s novels, see For the New Intellectual.
What is the relationship between Ayn Rand and William F. Buckley’s National Review?
In her March 1964 interview for Playboy magazine, Ayn Rand was asked if the National Review “isn’t a powerful voice against all the things you regard as ‘statism’?” Her answer was unequivocal: “I consider National Review the worst and most dangerous magazine in America. The kind of defense that it offers to capitalism results in nothing except the discrediting and destruction of capitalism.” She had a similar response in 1972 when asked about the differences between herself and “conservatives like William Buckley?” She answered that “it would be simpler to ask what similarities there are: none.” (See Ayn Rand Answers, p. 45).
Summing up the National Review opposition to Ayn Rand, M. Stanton Evans, in his 1967 National Review article “The Gospel According to Ayn Rand,” lamented that she tried to justify capitalism without its (supposedly) necessary base, i.e. “the Christian culture which has given birth to all our freedoms.” That viewpoint centers the explanation Rand provided Playboy for her opposition to the National Review (and, by implication, Buckley):
Because it ties capitalism to religion. The ideological position of National Review amounts, in effect, to the following: In order to accept freedom and capitalism, one has to believe in God or in some form of religion, some form of supernatural mysticism. Which means that there are no rational grounds on which one can defend capitalism. Which amounts to the admission that reason is on the side of capitalism’s enemies, that a slave society or a dictatorship is a rational system, and that only on the ground of mystic faith can one believe in freedom. Nothing more derogatory to capitalism could ever be alleged, and the exact opposite is true.
Her most extensive commentary on National Review-type conservatives was contained in “Conservatism: An Obituary,” a talk first delivered at Princeton U. in 1960 and revised for publication in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal:
[Conservatives] are paralyzed by the profound conflict between capitalism and the moral code which dominates our culture: the morality of altruism. Altruism holds that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue, and value. Capitalism and altruism are incompatible; they are philosophical opposites; they cannot co-exist in the same man or in the same society. The conflict between capitalism and altruism has been undercutting America from her start and, today, has reached its climax.
Perhaps nothing epitomizes the gulf between Objectivism and the National Review better than Whittaker Chambers’ review of Atlas Shrugged, first published in that magazine in 1957 and proudly reprinted by it numerous times, most recently in 2007. Chambers spent a good part of his review sneering at the novel, which he characterized as “remarkably silly,” “bumptious” and “preposterous”—a book that no sensible adult could take seriously. His characterization of Ayn Rand’s ideas was so distorted (he accused her of being in favor of dictatorship, materialism, Nietzsche, and elitism) that it led Leonard Peikoff to state in a letter (unpublished) to the magazine: “Mr. Chambers is an ex-Communist. He has attacked Atlas Shrugged in the best tradition of the Communists—by lies, smears, and cowardly misrepresentations. Mr. Chambers may have changed a few of his political views; he has not changed the method of intellectual analysis and evaluation of the Party to which he belonged.” (The full letter is reprinted in Essays on Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”, ed. Robert Mayhew, Lexington Books, 2009.) In his review, Chambers revealed his (and, by implication, the National Review’s) philosophical opposition to Ayn Rand: he opposed moral absolutes, individualism, rational certainty, realism (as against supernaturalism), free will (as against original sin) and happiness on earth (as against tragic fate). For a rebuttal, see Michael S. Berliner’s critical analysis of Chambers’ review.
When Ayn Rand died in 1982, William F. Buckley began his obituary: “Ayn Rand is dead. So, incidentally, is the philosophy she sought to launch dead; it was in fact stillborn.” Buckley’s wishful thinking has fallen afoul of the facts: twenty-seven years later, Ayn Rand’s books are selling 800,000 copies per year, more than at any time in their history. It is clearly not Objectivism (“a philosophy for living on earth”) that is dead.
What was Ayn Rand's view of the libertarian movement?
Please see our Ayn Rand Q&A on libertarianism.
Has ARI changed its view of libertarianism?
Please see our ARI Q&A on libertarianism.
What was Ayn Rand’s view on capital punishment?
She thought it was morally just, but legally dangerous—because of the possibility of jury errors which could not be rectified after the death of the innocent man. She had no position on whether there should be a death penalty or not.
What was Ayn Rand’s view on abortion?
Excerpt from “Of Living Death” in The Objectivist, October 1968:
An embryo has no rights. Rights do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being. A child cannot acquire any rights until it is born. The living take precedence over the not-yet-living (or the unborn).
Abortion is a moral right—which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved; morally, nothing other than her wish in the matter is to be considered. Who can conceivably have the right to dictate to her what disposition she is to make of the functions of her own body?”
Is Objectivism atheistic? What is the Objectivist attitude toward religion?
They claim that they perceive a mode of being superior to your existence on this earth. The mystics of spirit call it “another dimension,” which consists of denying dimensions. The mystics of muscle call it “the future,” which consists of denying the present. To exist is to possess identity. What identity are they able to give to their superior realm? They keep telling you what it is not, but never tell you what it is. All their identifications consist of negating: God is that which no human mind can know, they say—and proceed to demand that you consider it knowledge—God is non-man, heaven is non-earth, soul is non-body, virtue is non-profit, A is non-A, perception is non-sensory, knowledge is non-reason. Their definitions are not acts of defining, but of wiping out.
From a 1964 interview in Playboy magazine:
Has no religion, in your estimation, ever offered anything of constructive value to human life?
Qua religion, no—in the sense of blind belief, belief unsupported by, or contrary to, the facts of reality and the conclusions of reason. Faith, as such, is extremely detrimental to human life: it is the negation of reason. But you must remember that religion is an early form of philosophy, that the first attempts to explain the universe, to give a coherent frame of reference to man’s life and a code of moral values, were made by religion, before men graduated or developed enough to have philosophy.
What was Ayn Rand’s view on charity?
My views on charity are very simple. I do not consider it a major virtue and, above all, I do not consider it a moral duty. There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them. I regard charity as a marginal issue. What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue.
[From “Playboy’s 1964 interview with Ayn Rand”]
Does Objectivism hold that all individuals have something valuable to contribute? What about people who lack creativity or ability? Would they fit into a pure capitalist society?
Intelligence is not an exclusive monopoly of genius; it is an attribute of all men, and the differences are only a matter of degree. If conditions of existence are destructive to genius, they are destructive to every man, each in proportion to his intelligence. If genius is penalized, so is the faculty of intelligence in every other man. There is only this difference: the average man does not possess the genius’s power of self-confident resistance, and will break much faster; he will give up his mind, in hopeless bewilderment, under the first touch of pressure.
Look past the range of the moment, you who cry that you fear to compete with men of superior intelligence, that their mind is a threat to your livelihood, that the strong leave no chance to the weak in a market of voluntary trade. What determines the material value of your work? Nothing but the productive effort of your mind—if you lived on a desert island. The less efficient the thinking of your brain, the less your physical labor would bring you—and you could spend your life on a single routine, collecting a precarious harvest or hunting with bow and arrows, unable to think any further. But when you live in a rational society, where men are free to trade, you receive an incalculable bonus: the material value of your work is determined not only by your effort, but by the effort of the best productive minds who exist in the world around you . . . .
Every man is free to rise as far as he’s able or willing, but it’s only the degree to which he thinks that determines the degree to which he’ll rise. Physical labor as such can extend no further than the range of the moment. The man who does no more than physical labor, consumes the material value-equivalent of his own contribution to the process of production, and leaves no further value, neither for himself nor others. But the man who produces an idea in any field of rational endeavor—the man who discovers new knowledge—is the permanent benefactor of humanity. Material products can’t be shared, they belong to some ultimate consumer; it is only the value of an idea that can be shared with unlimited numbers of men, making all sharers richer at no one’s sacrifice or loss, raising the productive capacity of whatever labor they perform. It is the value of his own time that the strong of the intellect transfers to the weak, letting them work on the jobs he discovered, while devoting his time to further discoveries. This is mutual trade to mutual advantage; the interests of the mind are one, no matter what the degree of intelligence, among men who desire to work and don’t seek or expect the unearned.
In proportion to the mental energy he spent, the man who creates a new invention receives but a small percentage of his value in terms of material payment, no matter what fortune he makes, no matter what millions he earns. But the man who works as a janitor in the factory producing that invention, receives an enormous payment in proportion to the mental effort that his job requires of him. And the same is true of all men between, on all levels of ambition and ability. The man at the top of the intellectual pyramid contributes the most to all those below him, but gets nothing except his material payment, receiving no intellectual bonus from others to add to the value of his time. The man at the bottom who, left to himself, would starve in his hopeless ineptitude, contributes nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus of all of their brains. Such is the nature of the “competition” between the strong and the weak of the intellect. Such is the pattern of “exploitation” for which you have damned the strong.
What is the connection between an individual’s moral worth and his intelligence, in the Objectivist view?
Man has a single basic choice: to think or not, and that is the gauge of his virtue. Moral perfection is an unbreached rationality—not the degree of your intelligence, but the full and relentless use of your mind, not the extent of your knowledge, but the acceptance of reason as an absolute.
Learn to distinguish the difference between errors of knowledge and breaches of morality. An error of knowledge is not a moral flaw, provided you are willing to correct it; only a mystic would judge human beings by the standard of an impossible, automatic omniscience. But a breach of morality is the conscious choice of an action you know to be evil, or a willful evasion of knowledge, a suspension of sight and of thought. That which you do not know, is not a moral charge against you; but that which you refuse to know, is an account of infamy growing in your soul.
I am interested in attending lectures on Objectivism. How can I find out if there are any in my area?
Please visit our Events page.
Who is Leonard Peikoff?
Dr. Leonard Peikoff is Ayn Rand’s legal and intellectual heir and the foremost authority on her philosophy. A short biographical essay is available on his website.
I’m interested in studying Ayn Rand’s books and ideas in college. Are there any universities to which you recommend I apply? Are there any schools where I can study under Objectivist professors?
While there are many ways to learn about Ayn Rand’s books and ideas in college, the most important consideration in choosing a school is how well the school will prepare you for your future career. In some cases, you will be able to find well-ranked programs in your field where you can work with Objectivist scholars. (Visit anthemfoundation.org for more information about where to find Objectivist academics.) But in many cases, the best programs will not have Objectivists teaching at them. Moreover, the fact that an Objectivist currently teaches at a school is no guarantee he will be there a year from now. For these reasons, we do not recommend choosing a school on the basis of your desire to study Ayn Rand. (An extensive discussion of how to choose a college can be found at aynrand.org/education_academic_intellectual_careers.)
Instead, if you are interested in studying Objectivism and in having regular contact with other Objectivist students and teachers, consider applying to ARI’s Objectivist Academic Center. This distance-learning program offers an in-depth, systematic study of Ayn Rand’s philosophy. Courses are taught by ARI fellows and outside Objectivist professors, and can be taken as an adjunct to your regular course work. More information can be found at objectivistacademiccenter.org.
Once on campus, you may wish to join or start a campus club dedicated to exploring the work of Ayn Rand. Campus clubs are a great way to find like-minded students, make friends and learn more about Ayn Rand’s ideas. You can find more information at aynrand.org/education_campus_index.
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