The Romantic Manifesto is a rich and philosophically penetrating book. It is, Rand states in her introduction, a “declaration of my personal objectives or motives” as an artist and “of the theoretical grounds that entitle me to these objectives and motives.” We explore some of the insights into Objectivism we get from her manifesto and some lessons to take—or not to take—from the book to increase one’s enjoyment of art and of life.
A central message of The Romantic Manifesto is the value of enriching your life with great art. But how? Dr. Brook has long pursued a passion for bringing Romantic art to Objectivists and other buyers and seeking out great art around the world. Join him for a discussion of the difference between great art and art you like; how to define your personal favorites; and how, over time, to elevate your taste in art.
One essential condition of fulfillment and happiness is the philosophic conviction that your life belongs to you. But it is only a condition. A truly fulfilled and happy life requires a sense of meaning. How to achieve that meaning is a question for which we have few tried-and-true, culturally established answers. Thankfully, one resource we do have for answering that question, or even knowing how to go about considering it, is great art. This talk explores how classic literature can contribute to the vital quest for meaning.
Morality is widely seen as a counterweight to self-interest, and it is often thought that adherence to esthetic principles constrains the artist’s ability to express himself and an audience’s ability to respond in a genuinely personal way. On this common view, principles are opposed to personal values. In this talk, Dr. Salmieri explores Rand’s contrary view that principles identify what makes personal values possible and that adhering to them enables an individual to value on a grand scale.
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?
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”?
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?
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?
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?
At the turn of the millennium, two different polls were held. The question was: What’s the best English-language novel of the twentieth century? One poll questioned literary experts—they picked Ulysses by James Joyce. The second poll questioned internet users—their choice was Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.
Is there any objective way to settle who is right? And is art (painting, sculpture, music, architecture) objective or subjective? Is beauty in the eye of the beholder?
Join Harry Binswanger as he presents Rand’s revolutionary answer to the question: What is art and what are the standards for judging art?
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?
There’s a new campaign slogan among Democratic politicians: “Abolish Billionaires.” Nobody can honestly deserve a billion dollars, they claim, so they want to impose radical new taxes on the super-wealthy. Indeed, people are arguing that the very existence of billionaires is some kind of moral outrage.
Wealthy people are being blamed today for all the world’s problems. Yet all of those problems are actually the result of the very ideas being preached by the same leaders and intellectuals who want to “abolish” the billionaires.
But instead of vilifying and hating billionaires, we should be thanking them for improving all of our lives on a massive scale with the products they offer for voluntary trade on a free market.
As Ayn Rand argued in her novel Atlas Shrugged, if anyone deserves thanks on Thanksgiving, it’s those productive Atlases who carry the whole world on their shoulders.
Join Keith Lockitch as he argues that the real moral travesty is the campaign to abolish billionaires.
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?
We live in an age in which fabricated stories pulse through social media, fashionable startup companies are founded on swindles and, of course, politicians of all stripes routinely lie. Whatever happened to the idea that honesty is the best policy? Most people would recognize honesty as an obvious example of a moral virtue, but the idea of being honest on principle strikes many people as a burdensome duty they owe to other people, which is sometimes too impractical to stick to consistently.
Is honesty really just a duty we owe to others? What does it mean to be honest and why should we bother being honest at all?
Join Ben Bayer to explore one of life’s big questions: Why be honest?
Independence is the theme of Ayn Rand’s great novel The Fountainhead. Howard Roark, the novel’s hero, is the epitome of independence. He speaks of the need to have a self-sufficient ego and says nothing else is as important. What is a “self-sufficient ego”? What is independence and how does one preserve one’s independence in a society like ours when much of the weight of the media and the intellectual establishment is on the side of dependence and is pushing collectivism: the opposite of independence?
Join special guest Harry Binswanger as he asks another one of life’s big questions: How can one be fully independent in today’s society?
Have you ever wondered what Ayn Rand’s philosophy—which she called Objectivism—is all about? Why is she such a controversial figure with millions of fans who love The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged but also with many, many critics who call her books and ideas evil?
Onkar Ghate, a senior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute, discusses Objectivism exploring especially Rand’s moral and religious views, which are at the heart of her radicalness. Ghate also considers why she championed self-interest and her new conception of a moral hero.
The question of whether there is or is not a God is certainly one of life’s big questions, and it’s one that almost all of us have had to grapple with at some point in our lives. Many of us were raised in a religious environment but have come to have doubts or questions about whether God exists. For those of us who were raised in a nonreligious atmosphere, sometimes we come to wonder whether the religious have it right about God’s existence. But how do you answer the question? How do you approach the question if what you are aiming at, what you are trying to reach, is knowledge, genuine knowledge of what’s actually true. What methods do you use to answer the question, “Is there a God?”
Join Aaron Smith as he asks one of life’s big questions: Is there a God?
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.
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?
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?
Register for the next live webinar: http://courses.aynrand.org/webinars/register
Is free will an illusion? Today, most people would answer yes. It might seem like you make choices and face genuine alternatives in life, it might seem like you have the power to decide what road you will travel, but this is all an illusion, it’s claimed. Your course in life is determined by antecedent factors. Some combination of nature or nurture, it’s usually said, determines who you are and what you do in life. But against this deterministic viewpoint that has swept the 20th and 21st centuries, one of the most radical thinkers of the 20th century, philosopher Ayn Rand, takes a very different position. She argues that the fact of choice is real and it’s vital to understand the actual power and control that free will gives you over your own mind, and so your own life. Far from being an illusion, free will is a fundamental fact about you as a human being. The real illusion, she argues, is that determinism, the denial of free will, is a logical, coherent, scientific position. It isn’t.
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.
Join special guest Harry Binswanger for this entry in the series of Ayn Rand Institute webinars on Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism and its application to current issues. His topic is the one principle on which our very lives depend: the principle of Individual Rights. This concept—which the United States of America was based upon—has now vanished from the public understanding with tragic results. In his discussion, Binswanger will present the Objectivist theory of what rights are (their metaphysical status), how we know them (their epistemological status) and what they mean in political practice.
Harry Binswanger explores another one of life’s big questions: What Are Rights and Where Do They Come from?
Human beings desperately need guidance in life, but where should we seek this guidance? Should we seek it in what we can observe with our own five senses and what we can logically infer from that data? Or should we seek it from some higher authority, just because we feel what it tells us is true? This week on Philosophy for Living on Earth, ARI’s Ben Bayer explores another one of life’s big questions: Should I go by reason or by faith?
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?
All of us have experienced clashes between our thinking and our feelings—between our “head” and our “heart.” The question we seem to face, in any given clash, is: Which one to follow—“head” or “heart”? On this Philosophy for Living on Earth webinar, ARI’s Aaron Smith discusses Ayn Rand’s perspective on this issue.
Recorded live as part of ARI’s Philosophy of Living on Earth webinar series on August 17, 2019 Sign up up to attend the next webinar live at http://courses.aynrand.org/webinars/register
What makes you who you are? Is it nature or nurture—or a bit of both?
Or does that very way of framing the question leave out something very important, namely—you? Can you take credit for who you are? If so, how?
We can’t and we don’t create ourselves out of nothing. Some people are born with advantages that other people don’t have. So, how can we take credit for our achievements? How can we be blamed for our crimes?
Join Ben Bayer to explore one of life’s big questions: Can you take credit for who you are?
Recorded live as part of ARI’s Philosophy of Living on Earth webinar series on August 10, 2019
Sign up up to attend the next webinar live at http://courses.aynrand.org/webinars/register
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
Conflicts among priorities and values, big or small, come up in relationships all the time. Figuring out how to navigate them is critical to making the relationship work.
If you look to any self-help or psychology website for advice on this topic, you’ll see articles with titles like: “7 things you should sacrifice for a relationship.” Many such articles seek to draw a boundary between what should and what shouldn’t be sacrificed—but it’s taken for granted that there has to be some willingness to sacrifice.
In this webinar, we’ll challenge that idea.
We’ll put the concept of “sacrifice” under the microscope and untangle common confusions about the intersection of self-interest and romantic love. We’ll describe what a healthy, non-sacrificial relationship would look like—and how to achieve it.
Recorded live as part of ARI’s Philosophy of Living on Earth webinar series on July 20, 2019
Sign up up to attend the next webinar live at http://courses.aynrand.org/webinars/register
One key pillar of individualism is free will—the idea that you are not the deterministic product of your race or genes or tribal collective but have a basic form of control over your thoughts and actions. What is Ayn Rand’s theory of free will and how does it support her individualist philosophy?
This video was recorded at AynRandCon in Atlanta, Georgia, on November 4, 2018.
One area of life where it can be hard to think about what it means to be an individual is in relation to your family. Growing up and gaining your independence is a natural process, but it can sometimes be a struggle—and is harder if one holds a mistaken view about family relationships. How would an individualist think about family?
Recorded live at Ayn Rand Student Conference 2018 on November 3rd, 2018.
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.
Popular discussions of economics—with their focus on macroeconomic factors such as GDP, total unemployment, total jobs numbers, etc.—often reflect a collectivist mindset. This contributes to the America-versus-the-world tribalism inherent in today’s calls for tariffs and immigration restrictions. By contrast, the individualist approach embraces economic freedom and global trade.
This video was recorded at AynRandCon in Atlanta, Georgia, on November 3, 2018.
Unfortunately, all three branches of our government are contributing to the tribalization of our legal system. As a result, the substance of our laws along with the laws’ administration authority are increasingly determined by power shifts among rival groups rather than by the sovereignty of individual rights.
This audio was recorded at AynRandCon in Atlanta, Georgia, on November 3, 2018.
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.
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.
College used to be grounded in the inviolate principle that each of us should confront new ideas, speak our minds, and learn. Has that time passed? This year (2017) alone we have seen a riot at U.C. Berkeley and violence at Middlebury College over controversial speakers. Instead of “express yourself,” a new view seems to be taking hold: “Suppress yourself—or I’ll do it for you.” What is happening to free speech on campus?
In this panel discussion (sponsored by the Ayn Rand Institute and the University of Southern California Political Student Assembly and Young Americans for Liberty), three leading voices in this field address current threats to freedom of speech on college campuses: Dave Rubin, Creator and Host of “The Rubin Report”; Colin Moriarty, Creator and Host of “Colin’s Last Stand,” and Steve Simpson, Director of Legal Studies, Ayn Rand Institute, and editor of “Defending Free Speech.”
This panel was recorded live at the Seeley G. Mudd Building, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, on Thursday, April 13, 2017.
Discussing Objectivism: Ayn Rand’s Philosophy for Living on Earth (Part 2). Recorded at Objectivist Summer Conference 2018. This session explores the basic contours of Ayn Rand’s overall philosophy by discussing highlights from Galt’s speech in Atlas Shrugged. (We try to avoid Atlas plot spoilers.)
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.