ethics

“Ayn Rand & the Revival of the Enlightenment” Q&A w/ Conference Speakers

Q&A with Onkar Ghate, Robert Mayhew, Gregory Salmieri, Tara Smith, and Yaron Brook.

The world today stands at a crossroads. We continue to reap the benefits of more than two centuries of progress. Yet there seems to be growing cultural strife and political conflict threatening to tear our civilization apart.

A number of thinkers—especially Steven Pinker in his best-selling book Enlightenment Now—are looking to the Age of Enlightenment for solutions, and this is the right direction to look. To the extent the world has moved forward in the last two centuries, it has done so by implementing the best of the Enlightenment’s philosophical principles: reason, science, individualism and government limited by the principle of individual rights.

So what is needed to bring about a lasting revival of Enlightenment ideals?

Ayn Rand, the writer and philosopher famous for her bestselling novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, addressed this question head-on. She identified weaknesses at the base of Enlightenment philosophy and viewed her original philosophy, Objectivism, as putting Enlightenment ideals for the first time on a durable foundation.

The Consequences of Enlightenment with Yaron Brook

The Enlightenment enshrined in Western culture a deeply held respect for reason, science and individualism. The result was an explosion of progress unprecedented in human history. In this talk, Yaron Brook discusses the consequences of the Enlightenment, and the future progress that’s possible if Enlightenment ideals can be reestablished on the more secure foundation provided by Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism.

Reason, Faith and the Road to “Alternative Facts” with Tara Smith

Respect for reason has suffered a notable decline in recent decades. This lecture examines one of the central contributors: the attempt to evade the fundamental alternative between reason and faith. It surveys numerous ways in which people disparage reason (sometimes unwittingly) and explains why the prevalent tendency to fudge the reason/faith alternative cannot succeed—and has actually hastened reason’s decline.

Extracting Force from Society with Gregory Salmieri

People often speak as though freedom is a default state from which human societies have strayed. This talk argues that the opposite is true. In a state of nature, human beings are unfree because we are under constant threat of force from one another. Extracting this force from human society is a tremendous achievement that has only ever been partially and fitfully reached. The greatest single step in the liberation of humanity was the founding of the United States of America based on Enlightenment ideals. But these ideals were never adequately defended or consistently applied, and our history is one of progressing toward freedom in some respects while backsliding in others. Those of us who value freedom must appreciate the achievements of the past and work to complete them in the future. The alternative is a descent into barbarism.

Ayn Rand and Enlightenment Attitudes Toward Religion with Robert Mayhew

The rebirth of reason in the Renaissance made possible, in the Enlightenment period that followed, was a reassessment of religion. In this lecture Dr. Mayhew sketches the main trends in a number of Enlightenment figures’ attitudes toward religion—with a focus on faith and Christian ethics—and then describes to what extent Ayn Rand’s criticism of religion represents a continuation of the Enlightenment approach to religion, and in what way she goes beyond it.

Selfishness Starts Here: Self-Esteem as the Gateway to Successful Egoism with Tara Smith

Alongside purpose and reason, self-esteem is one of the foundational values of the Objectivist ethics. By exploring select facets of self-esteem (such as the sense of one’s worth and of one’s ability that it turns on), this lecture seeks to illuminate the way in which self-esteem is indispensable to a fully selfish and happy life. It should help to sharpen our understanding of exactly what self-esteem is, how it is built, and the value that self-esteem uniquely provides.

Recorded on May 16, 2020 as part of OCON Live! 2020

Inequality: Should We Care? A debate with Dr. Yaron Brook and Dr. James Galbraith

A debate with Dr. Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute and Dr. James Galbraith of University of Texas at Austin’s Inequality Project.

Productive Achievement: Man’s “Noblest Activity” by Onkar Ghate

Most thinkers throughout history have held a negative or, at best, neutral view of productive work. If not scorned outright, production has usually been viewed as having no moral significance. But Ayn Rand had a unique view of the human potential, central to which is the importance she accords to the act of production. Productive achievement, in her philosophy, is man’s “noblest activity.” This talk explores what Objectivism means by the virtue of productiveness and discusses aspects of our culture’s positive and negative attitudes toward producers and productive activity.

Onkar Ghate is senior fellow and chief content officer at the Ayn Rand Institute. Tara Smith, who participates in the question period, is professor of philosophy and BB&T Chair for the Study of Objectivism at the University of Texas at Austin. This talk was delivered at Objectivist Summer Conference 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, June 10, 2017.

Ayn Rand’s Ideas: An Introduction

Tens of millions have read Ayn Rand’s novels, including The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and half a million copies of her works now sell each year, but far fewer people know of the radical system of ideas underlying the stories she created. This lecture by Onkar Ghate introduces some of the main ideas of this controversial thinker — and their vital importance today. Recorded June 2, 2003

The Virtue of Selfishness by Elan Journo

Recorded live at Ayn Rand Conference Europe 2020

Free Speech, Free Minds, Free Markets by Tara Smith

Many people believe that while freedom of speech is a vital human liberty, economic freedom is entirely separate, merely a distant and inferior relation. This lecture exposes their error by examining the underappreciated implications of free speech on free markets. After isolating the First Amendment’s core concern as intellectual freedom, Smith demonstrates how the mind is the bridge between speech and property—between intellectual activity, on the other hand, and its manifold material rewards, on the other.

Recorded Live in Cleveland on Thursday June 27th, 2019.

Q&A Panel: Yaron Brook, Onkar Ghate, Keith Lockitch and Gregory Salmieri



The COVID-19 pandemic and the response to it at all levels of government have disrupted all of our lives. As we begin to contemplate the challenge of reopening and rebuilding the economy in the face on the ongoing spread of the virus, it’s critical to employ the right philosophical framework for thinking about these issues, and to not be misled by false alternatives, wishful thinking, tribalistic finger-pointing and other forms of distorted thinking.

This Q&A is the final talk recorded on April 18, 2020, as part of AynRandCon-LIVE, a free online event offering a framework for thinking about the COVID-19 crisis from the perspective of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism.



Thinking Objectively in Times of Crisis by Gregory Salmieri

The COVID-19 pandemic and the response to it at all levels of government have disrupted all of our lives. As we begin to contemplate the challenge of reopening and rebuilding the economy in the face on the ongoing spread of the virus, it’s critical to employ the right philosophical framework for thinking about these issues, and to not be misled by false alternatives, wishful thinking, tribalistic finger-pointing and other forms of distorted thinking.

This is the third of four talks recorded on April 18, 2020, as part of AynRandCon-LIVE, a free online event offering a framework for thinking about the COVID-19 crisis from the perspective of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism.



Objectivity in Government in Times of Crisis by Yaron Brook

The COVID-19 pandemic and the response to it at all levels of government have disrupted all of our lives. As we begin to contemplate the challenge of reopening and rebuilding the economy in the face on the ongoing spread of the virus, it’s critical to employ the right philosophical framework for thinking about these issues, and to not be misled by false alternatives, wishful thinking, tribalistic finger-pointing and other forms of distorted thinking.

This is the second of four talks recorded on April 18, 2020, as part of AynRandCon-LIVE, a free online event offering a framework for thinking about the COVID-19 crisis from the perspective of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism.

Infectious Disease Under the American Form of Government by Onkar Ghate

The COVID-19 pandemic and the response to it at all levels of government have disrupted all of our lives. As we begin to contemplate the challenge of reopening and rebuilding the economy in the face on the ongoing spread of the virus, it’s critical to employ the right philosophical framework for thinking about these issues, and to not be misled by false alternatives, wishful thinking, tribalistic finger-pointing and other forms of distorted thinking.

This is the first of four talks recorded live on April 18, 2020, as part of AynRandCon-LIVE, a free online event offering a framework for thinking about the COVID-19 crisis from the perspective of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism.

Aristotle and the Romantic Manifesto by Robert Mayhew

In the Romantic Manifesto, Ayn Rand reports that before she heard the name “Aristotle,” she had accepted his principle “that fiction is of greater philosophical importance than history, because history represents things only as they are, while fiction represents them ‘as they might be and ought to be.’” The aim of this talk is to explain the role of this principle in Aristotle’s esthetics and Ayn Rand’s, and to note other parallels between the Poetics and Romantic Manifesto.

Recorded live on June 27, 2019 in Cleveland, OH.

The New Moral Case for Fossil Fuels by Alex Epstein

For the last five years, Alex Epstein’s 2014 New York Times bestseller, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, has been one of the most important books in the world of energy policy, influencing leading politicians, executives, commentators and court cases. In early 2020, Penguin will release the revised and expanded The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels 2.0. In this talk, Mr. Epstein relates new developments in his thinking, research, and persuasion methodology, which he hopes will change the energy debate in 2020.

Recorded live at in Cleveland, OH on June 23, 2019.

Why Should I care About Israel? with Elan Journo

Israel is talked about often in the media, but many Americans don’t understand why we are so preoccupied with this country.

Often Israel is spoken of in a negative context: boycotts at universities, condemnations by the United Nations, and so on. What makes Israel worse than other countries? On the flip side, good defenses of Israel are scant. Is Israel important to U.S. foreign policy? If so, why?

Join David Birnbaum as he interviews foreign policy expert Elan Journo on the question: Why should I care about Israel?

What’s Wrong with “Virtue Signaling”? by Ben Bayer

Think about celebrities who tweet about their politics all the time, or think about companies who want you to buy their products because they’re supposedly eco-friendly. Some say that these are symptoms of an epidemic that’s coursing it’s way through social media and through our political discourse generally, an epidemic they call “virtue signalling”.

Ben Bayer, a fellow at The Ayn Rand Institute, has some questions about this. You’re said to be a virtue signaller when you promote some cause or criticize some figure people love to hate in a way that doesn’t involve much cost, but which draws attention to your own right way of thinking.

What, if anything, is wrong with this kind of behavior? Is there a kind of behavior here at all or do the critics of virtue signalling lump together lots of different things? Is speaking out ineffective only because it’s speaking? Does profiting from the judgment of others make you insincere? 

Join Ben Bayer and explore the question: What’s wrong with “virtue signalling”?

Who Decides What’s Right or Wrong? by Elan Journo

In ethics, the question “Who ultimately decides what is morally right or wrong?” is commonly asked. Notice that in other areas of life there’s no issue of “who decides” what’s right or wrong. For example, if your car won’t start, you call a mechanic to inspect it. After he replaces the battery, the car works again. We have a clear-cut answer—no one “decides.” So, why do we treat moral issues differently? Why is there an issue of final authority in ethics? And how should we think about this issue?

Join Elan Journo as he presents Ayn Rand’s revolutionary answer to the question: Who decides what’s morally right or wrong?

Why Are New Years Resolutions So Hard To Keep? by Keith Lockitch

Every year droves of people make New Year’s resolutions, but polls suggest that four out of five people fail to keep them. One report even found that most resolutions last less than two weeks. So why are New Year’s resolutions so hard to keep? Are they just a joke and a waste of time? Are people just deluding themselves into thinking that real change is possible? Resolving to make changes that will positively impact your life is not a joke nor an exercise in self-delusion. In fact, to be truly selfishly committed to your own rational well-being and happiness is a demanding moral challenge. But the widespread failure to keep New Year’s resolutions does highlight just how difficult it is to define and maintain goals.

Join Keith Lockitch as he answers the question: Why are New Year’s resolutions hard to keep?

Do People’s Interests Have to Conflict? by Gregory Salmieri

People are at odds with one another all the time (we have wars, personal animosities, etc.) and it is generally assumed that people’s interests conflict. We are often told that the only way to have any kind of peace is to compromise—to give up our interests in deference to other people.

Ayn Rand rejects this idea. Her view is that the interests of rational people don’t conflict, in fact, they harmonize. But what does it mean to form a rational view of what’s in your own interest?

Join Greg Salmieri as he presents Rand’s answer to the question: Do people’s interests have to conflict?

Should You Judge Other People? by Elan Journo

If you want to be considered a caring person, you are expected to offer a “no-judgement-zone.” And you are supposed to believe that it’s an insult to be called “judgmental.” It’s recommended that you live by the biblical advice “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” but can this actually guide us in our daily life and thinking?

There are people who lie, cheat, steal, rape, murder and worse—and, clearly, they deserve to be morally condemned.

On the other hand, there are honest, thoughtful, productive, and truly heroic people. To form a positive evaluation of them, some kind of moral judgement is needed.

Join Elan Journo as he explores another one of life’s big questions: Should you judge other people?

Do I Need a Philosophy? by Aaron Smith

Many people have at least heard of a few of history’s great philosophers. Names like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle—they ring a bell and maybe some of us have even taken a philosophy course in college or perhaps encountered books or podcasts that are espousing or offering some kind of philosophy of life—a philosophy for living.

But what exactly is a philosophy? What does it mean to have a philosophy and, more importantly, do you need a philosophy? 

Join Aaron Smith to explore one of life’s big questions: Do I need a philosophy?

Why Are Principles Important in Life? by Keith Lockitch

When we describe someone as a person of principle, it’s often meant as a compliment. We mean that the person has a solid moral compass and that his actions are grounded in time-honored rules of conduct. On the other hand, though, we sometimes view principles as being rigid and constraining, a bunch of rules that stifle spontaneity. From that point of view we sometimes view the man of principles as being somewhat dogmatic, maybe even a bit of a zealot.

So is it good to be a principled person or is it a problem? What exactly are principles anyway and what do they do for us? Do we even need them in life? These are questions that Keith Lockitch will be exploring in this episode of Philosophy for Living on Earth.

Is Altruism Good? by Ben Bayer

Maybe you’ve heard of something called “effective altruism”? It’s a recent movement that encourages people to do research to figure out the best way to give away as much of their own money as possible, allegedly in order to help out as many people as possible. Now one wonders if calling it “effective altruism” implies that altruism up until very recently hasn’t been effective. 

In any case, what is altruism really, what’s it all about, and what motivates it? Is it simply an expression of generosity and good will among men? Or is it motivated perhaps by something else? These are the questions that we need to ask and think about it if we’re going to evaluate altruism, an idea that most people simply equate with the very idea of morality. Are they right to equate it? And if not, why would anyone challenge that equation?  

Join Ben Bayer as he asks one of life’s big questions: Is altruism good?

Does Success in Life Require Compromise? by Elan Journo

Compromise is widely seen as essential to success in life. To have healthy, meaningful relationships, we’re advised to find a middle-ground. In the workplace, we hear, it’s vital that we compromise. And in the words of one long-time politician, in Washington “if you want to get along, you have to go along.” At the same time, however, it’s clear that not every compromise leads to a win-win outcomes. Sometimes, a compromise is toxic to a relationship. Or, it can sink your business. And, in politics, some compromises can be truly disastrous. Sometimes you need to say no — and stand your ground. But when? How can you figure out which compromises lead to healthy, win-win outcomes, and which ones don’t? The philosopher Ayn Rand offers a powerfully clarifying analysis of compromise, which can guide us in navigating our relationships, work, and life.

Join Elan Journo as he explores another one of life’s big questions: Does success in life require compromise?

Isn’t Everybody Selfish? by Gregory Salmieri

The question “Isn’t Everybody Selfish?” is often asked cynically by people who think selfishness is a bad thing and that it’s impossible to avoid. Sometimes it is said by economists who think that selfishness helps to explain human action, and sometimes the question is posed skeptically to people, e.g., Ayn Rand, who say that everyone ought to be selfish. If everyone is selfish all the time, what point is there in saying that people ought to be? In this talk, Salmieri discusses what selfishness really means, what it is to act selfishly and how often that really happens.

Is Selfishness the Root of All Evil? by Keith Lockitch

If there is one thing that almost everyone agrees on today, it’s that selfishness is bad. From day one, we’ve been told, “don’t be selfish” or “selfishness is the root of all evil.”
 
But what if the way we think about selfishness is completely wrong?
 
What if our conventional understanding of what it means to be selfish is totally confused—and it’s not just that we’re mistaken, but we’re mistaken in a way that actually makes it harder for us to achieve a happy, fulfilling life and a better world?
 
Throughout history, various thinkers have challenged us to rethink conventional wisdom. Copernicus and Galileo challenged our view of a motionless earth. Darwin challenged our understanding of how all of life’s species developed.

Ayn Rand, the writer and philosopher famous for her bestselling novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, was a thinker who challenged our conventional wisdom about morality.
 
She was a moral revolutionary in the same way that Galileo and Darwin were scientific revolutionaries.

Join Keith Lockitch and explore Ayn Rand’s moral revolution. He’ll be addressing one of life’s big questions: Is selfishness the root of all evil?

What Is Self-Esteem? How Do I Get It? by Elan Journo

Is having self-esteem a good thing?

Most people will say it’s part of living a good life. And we all know someone who lives with gnawing self-doubt, someone with little or no self-esteem at all. It really holds them back.

But is self-esteem something anyone can attain, or is it just for the lucky few? And who can give it to you?

Elan Journo explores these questions.

Recorded live as part of ARI’s Philosophy of Living on Earth webinar series on August 03, 2019
Sign up up to attend the next webinar live at http://courses.aynrand.org/webinars/register

Can There Be Good Without God? by Onkar Ghate

Whether it’s the legality of abortion, the desirability of free speech, the power of social media companies, or the appropriateness of a president’s tweets, we seem to be increasingly divided by issues of value, by what we consider right and wrong,good and evil.

But whichever side we take on these and other controversies, if we’re asked to explain where our very ideas of good and evil and of right and wrong come from, and what exactly they mean, we’re often at a loss.

In the face of such puzzlement, one of the most common responses is to say that God is the source of morality and that if “God is dead, everything is permitted.”

In this webinar, we’ll challenge the idea that morality rests on an authority figure. We’ll discuss how authoritarianism plagues both our religious and secular thinking about ethics. And we’ll sketch an alternative approach to good and evil, one that treats morality as a this-worldly, ordinary, understandable form of knowledge.

Recorded live as part of ARI’s Philosophy of Living on Earth webinar series on July 27, 2019
Sign up up to attend the next webinar live at http://courses.aynrand.org/webinars/register

Individualism in an Age of Tribalism by Onkar Ghate

Perhaps the two areas of life which generate the most conflict and in which it is most important to think for oneself—and most rare are religion and morality. We’ll discuss why it’s so easy to follow the crowd here and why it’s vital to not do so.

This video was recorded at AynRandCon in Atlanta, Georgia, on November 3, 2018.

The Sacred and the Profane: Objectivism and Religion by Aaron Smith

Why was Ayn Rand opposed to religion? What does Rand make of the notions of the sacred, of reverence, of worship, of the exalted? What is the difference between the ideals common to religions and the ideals projected in Rand’s fiction? Why does she think that man is a proper object of reverence? In this session, we discuss these questions from the perspective of Ayn Rand’s view of reason, of man, and of the world in which he lives.

This talk was recorded at Objectivist Summer Conference 2018.

The “Virtue of Selfishness”? Ayn Rand’s Ethics of Egoism in Your Own Life by Elan Journo

Ayn Rand held that an individual’s pursuit of “his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.” Fifty years ago, Rand published The Virtue of Selfishness, a groundbreaking book laying out her ethics of rational egoism. What does it look like to be selfish in your own life? In this introductory talk, Elan Journo discusses Rand’s conception of morality and sketches what it looks like in practice.

Recorded May 7, 2014

Making Sense of Today’s Political Culture with Greg Salmieri and Dave Rubin

This is the twelfth and final episode in a series looking at Objectivism’s approach to Happiness. Philosopher Gregory Salmieri joins Dave Rubin to discuss the state of today’s political culture.

The Psychology of Happiness with Gregory Salmieri, Gena Gorlin and Dave Rubin

This is the tenth episode in a series looking at Objectivism’s approach to Happiness. Philosopher Gregory Salmieri and psychologist Gena Gorlin join Dave Rubin to discuss the psychological requirements of happiness.

Why Ayn Rand Matters with Yaron Brook and Dave Rubin

This is the ninth episode in a series looking at Objectivism’s approach to Happiness. Yaron Brook joins Dave Rubin to discuss why Ayn Rand matters.

Taking Your Happiness Seriously with Tara Smith and Dave Rubin

This is the sixth episode in a series looking at Objectivism’s approach to Happiness. Philosopher Tara Smith joins Dave Rubin to discuss what it means to take one’s happiness seriously.

Grounding Morality in Facts with Harry Binswanger, Gregory Salmieri and Dave Rubin

This is the fifth episode in a series looking at Objectivism’s approach to Happiness. Philosophers Gregory Salmieri and Harry Binswanger join Dave Rubin to discuss Objectivism’s view on the relationship between facts and values, why Ayn Rand’s ideas generate the strong reactions they do, and Harry’s experience knowing Ayn Rand personally.

Creating a Life Worth Living with Onkar Ghate, Gregory Salmieri and Dave Rubin

This is the fourth episode in a series looking at Objectivism’s approach to Happiness. Philosophers Gregory Salmieri and Onkar Ghate join Dave Rubin to discuss how to create a life worth living.

Why Selfishness is a Virtue with Onkar Ghate, Tara Smith and Dave Rubin

This is the first in a series looking at Objectivism’s approach to Happiness. Onkar Ghate and Tara Smith join Dave to discuss the virtue of selfishness.

Ayn Rand’s Philosophy for Living on Earth (Part 1) by Ben Bayer

This session explores the basic contours of Ayn Rand’s overall philosophy by discussing highlights from Galt’s speech in Atlas Shrugged. On Day 1, we discuss the following questions: Is our society and our world, like Galt’s, going through a moral crisis? Why does Galt think the solution to this crisis is to discover morality, rather than return to it? What is the morality for living on earth, and on what earthly facts is it based? (We try to avoid Atlas plot spoilers.)

Recorded at Objectivist Summer Conference 2018.

Objectivism is Radical (and Applying It Can be Hard) by Yaron Brook

FROM THE VAULT–classic content from the Ayn Rand Institute.

In this talk, Yaron Brook discusses how radical Objectivism is and the difficulties involved in applying it, especially in the current culture.

This lecture was recorded at Objectivist Summer Conference 2013 in Chicago.

What Might Be and Ought to Be: The Idealism of Objectivism by Aaron Smith

What Might Be and Ought to Be: The Idealism of Objectivism

Ayn Rand is often charged with advocating a kind of cynical amoralism; but the opposite is true. Rand was a moral idealist. In this session, we will discuss the nature and roots of that idealism, addressing such questions as: What does it mean to be an idealist? Why does Rand think that ideals are so important to have and to fight for? What is the connection between having ideals and having a self? Is idealism naïve and impractical?

This talk was recorded at Objectivist Summer Conference 2018.

Patrick Bet-David Interviews Yaron Brook

In this video, recorded at Objectivist Summer Conference 2018, Patrick Bet-David interviews Yaron Brook to discuss Objectivism and Capitalism. Brook responds to questions such as:  Is Objectivism a philosophy for elitists?  Is it sustainable to run a nation based on this philosophy?  How is world peace achieved?  Has religion done more good or bad for the world?  Was Ayn Rand’s move to America as a young woman a “leap of faith”?  What would the world look like if everyone accepted Objectivism?  Does the virtue of selfishness work in every aspect of life?  And more. . . .

Yaron Brook is chairman of the board of the Ayn Rand Institute and travels extensively as ARI’s spokesman.

Brook can be heard weekly on The Yaron Brook Show, which airs live on the BlogTalkRadio podcast. He is also a frequent guest on national radio and television programs. He is the coauthor, with Don Watkins, of the national best-seller Free Market Revolution; How Ayn Rand’s Ideas Can End Big Government and of Equal Is Unfair: America’s Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality.

Brook serves on the boards of the Ayn Rand Institute, the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism and CEHE (Center for Excellence in Higher Education), and he is a member of the Association of Private Enterprise Education and the Mont Pelerin Society.

Mr. Bet-David is passionate about shaping the next generation of leaders by teaching entrepreneurship and disrupting the traditional approach to a career. His popular YouTube videos “The Life of an Entrepreneur” and others are available on Valuetainment, a channel for entrepreneurs. He has hosted one-on-one interviews with NBA Hall of Famers James Worthy and Magic Johnson; author Robert Greene; entrepreneur and NBA team owner Mark Cuban; Indy-500 winner Al Unser Jr. and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.