Objectivism in life and thought

ATLAS UNIVERSITY | Online courses in Objectivism

ATLAS UNIVERSITY | Online courses in Objectivism

By The Atlas Society

Atlas University offers courses on Objectivism, the philosophy Ayn Rand founded, presented by scholars who are experts in the philosophy. Atlas University is a project of the Atlas Society, which promotes Objectivism in life and thought.

Short Courses: 

 Economic Power versus Political Power

Economic power is the ability to buy and sell, the ability to make contracts. It's power exerted in the marketplace, in the context of trade. Political power is the power of government and power obtained through the political process, such as by getting laws passed favoring the your purposes. Both economic power and political power are instances of control over others. Social power generally is the ability to induce other people to do things you want. But as we will see, each exercises control in a radically distinct way. Political power is rooted in an ability to harm others. By contrast economic power is rooted in the ability to offer others benefits. Will Thomas leads the viewer to understand the difference by explaining how each kind of power works.  Watch now >


 What are Rights?

Political controversies and protests are often dominated by the theme of rights or individual rights. We hear about a "right to health care," a "right to education," even a "right to high-speed Internet." In California, one man has even claimed a "right to longboard" on city sidewalks. Others claim there is no "right to health care" because such a right entails forcing others to pay for one's health care--and coercion they say is a violation of individual rights. How can we make sense of competing claims to rights? How can we gain a solid understanding of what rights are? In this video Will Thomas shares footage from recent rights protests and gives us a fascinating "tool" to use to evaluate claims of "rights." To show what a right is, he shows what the traditional basic rights of the U.S. Constitution have in common, and argues for individual rights to life, liberty, and property. He contrasts real, individual rights to freedom with pseudo-rights that are used to destroy freedom.  Watch now >

Reason : a 10-part course

"I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not
primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason…." 

 Ayn Rand
This 10-part video lecture series by David Kelley and William R Thomas presents the essentials of the Objectivist view of knowledge. It explains why reason is an absolute; why emotions are not tools of cognition, despite their psychological importance; and why mysticism is a cognitive dead-end. It presents Ayn Rand’s innovative theory of concepts and objectivity, including the role of sense-perception, logic, and axioms, as well as the nature of certainty.  The course shows why a rational approach to life is a vital human need.
While the lectures form a natural sequence as a whole, they are sufficiently independent that you can profitably view individual lectures as you choose.

1. What is reason? 

David Kelley begins the course by discussing the nature of reason as a cognitive faculty distinct from the perceptual abilities humans share with other animals. Looking back through history, he illustrates the extraordinary power of reason in human life, as well as the issues philosophers have raised about the validity of

2. What is reason? The conceptual faculty

William R Thomas explains why the capacity to form concepts is the essential feature of reason. He shows how concepts make possible our use
of language, how concepts are formed, and they depend on our direct, sensory awareness of reality. He discusses the Objectivist answer to the philosophical problem of abstraction. And he argues that failure to appreciate the nature of concepts contributes to a common human failing, on that Ayn Rand called "the anti-conceptual mentality." 

Atlas University Conversations | #3 --The importance of definitions


3. The volitional nature of reason

As against the claims of determinism, William R Thomas explains that volition, or free will, is an inescapable fact of  human nature and an integral part of our rational faculty. He discusses three aspects of human volition: self-awareness, perceptual attention, and conceptual focus. Objectivism holds that the root of volition is the choice to think or not. Thomas explains how this choice allows us control over our thoughts, lives, and actions; and  why the failure to think, the evasion of the facts, lies at the root of human dysfunction and evil. 

Atlas University Conversations | Free will and determinism

Atlas University Conversations | The essence of mental focus

4. Objective Reality

What is the relationship between our minds and reality? What does the "primacy of existence" mean? Philosopher David Kelley takes viewers on an intriguing journey tackling these fascinating questions. This video is the fourth installment in the Atlas University"Reason" course.  Watch now >


Lecture 5: Script nearing completion


6. Emotions and Reason

In this video presentation, William R Thomas covers the traditional view of the conflict between reason and emotion, the Objectivist view of the nature of emotions, Ayn Rand's view that emotions are not tools of cognition, and what emotions are tools of.


Lectures 7-10: Scripts are being written

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