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Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism have been mentioned in thousands of news articles and broadcasts around the world since the economic meltdown. Her novels and ideas are among the most talked about topics in America today. Sales of Atlas Shrugged show no sign of slowing down. Yet misunderstandings and distortions of Rand's thought abound. How well do you understand Ayn Rand's basic ideas and the philosophy of Objectivism? With our free learning tools, you can gain a basic grasp of Objectivist principles, and obtain new insights into the ideological "clockwork" behind current events. Equip yourself to understand and explain one of the defining trends in contemporary America: the rising interest in the controversial Ayn Rand and the philosophy she founded.
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OVERVIEW OF OBJECTIVISM
Objectivism: A Rational Philosophy for the Hero in Your Soul
A five-part introduction to Objectivism presented by Alexander R. Cohen
Ayn Rand’s philosophical insights offer you freedom—not just political freedom someday, but spiritual freedom now: a life where everything you do is your own choice, guided by your own rational judgment in the pursuit of your own happiness. This introductory survey will highlight key aspects of Objectivism across five major areas of philosophy: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics, and aesthetics.
To know what the best of any kind of thing is—be it the best knife, the best life, or the best philosophy—one needs to identify the purpose of that kind of thing. This interactive webinar will consider the purpose of a system of ethics and what you should look for in choosing one. It will explore what it means to value something, and in particular, what it means to regard your own life as your ultimate value.
In order to survive, flourish, and be happy in the world, we need to know what kinds of things we are dealing with and what they might do, so that we can choose our actions accordingly. That means we need entities to have fixed natures and predictable behaviors. But do they? And even if they do, can we know them? This lecture will explore the fundamental nature of reality and of human knowledge.
Because a human being has a specific nature, there are certain values every one of us needs to pursue, and certain ways of pursuing them—the virtues—we all need to use. Some of these virtues are exercised primarily within oneself; some pertain essentially to one’s relationships with others. This webinar will explore the nature of virtue and introduce the major Objectivist virtues. It will indicate how virtues relate to survival, flourishing, and happiness. It will show that Objectivism’s brand of egoism calls for offering others benefits rather than harms, and that it is a very demanding moral code.
Because of Objectivism’s profound commitment to the individual, it has to approach political philosophy with radical questions: What makes living in a society valuable to an individual human being? And what foundational principles make for a society best suited to a good human life? This live, interactive webinar will explore these questions and the principles with which Objectivism responds to them: the principles of individual rights. It will discuss the related issues of the need for government and for objective law.
- Session 5, "Spiritual Fuel"
Some of the most important values are spiritual: they relate primarily to the needs of a person’s mind and emotions. Among these are art and friendship. This webinar will consider why a person focused on achieving his values in reality needs art, and why a person committed to self-interest has an interest in having friends.
METAPHYSICS AND EPISTEMOLOGY
Ayn Rand versus Friedrich Hayek (June 3, 2013)
Friedrich Hayek was one of the greatest advocates of liberty in the 20th century. Ayn Rand was another. Hayek won his fame as an economist, but his thought was based in philosophy. Rand won her fame as a novelist and social commentator, but developed her thought into the systematic philosophy of Objectivism.
In this webinar, David Kelley, the founder of The Atlas Society, provides overview of the essential differences in Rand's and Hayek's views of knowledge, human nature, and ethics. He explains why these differences matter, and why Rand was right on the fundamentals.
Emotions and Awareness (September 7, 2012)
What role do emotions play in a rational life? Is reason the slave of the passions? In this interactive webinar recorded on September 7, 2012, William R Thomas discusses Ayn Rand's views that “emotions are not tools of cognition” and Rand's view that emotions are how we experience values “psychologically.” In what sense are emotions a form of awareness? To shed light on these questions, Thomas considers the distinction between cognitive and affective states and assesses whether reason and emotion must conflict. The webinar recording is 87 minutes, total. The first 30 minutes is audio lecture with slide show, which is ollowed by a 57-minute question-and-answer session.
Possible Certainty: Or, the Skeptics are Being Impossible (April 30, 2012)
Certainty is possible, but it is a possible kind of certainty: We must form our concept of certainty based on the real needs and abilities of real human minds.
In this recorded webinar, presented on April 30, 2012, Alexander R. Cohen shows what certainty is and how we can attain it. Drawing on the Objectivist theory of concepts, he discusses justification and standards of proof. He explains the differences between possibilities and non-possibilities, and between each of these and impossibilities. Format: 54-minute slide show with audio. 24 minutes lecture plus 30 minutes recorded question-and-answer.
The Conceptual Faculty (April 16, 2012)
Man is the rational animal. Reason is our means of survival. And the essence of our ability to reason is our conceptual faculty.
In this webinar, William R Thomas discusses the Objectivist understanding of concepts and language. We see how our concepts relate to our direct, sensory awareness of reality. We consider how concepts make possible our use of words and language. Is language primarily for communication or for thinking? We consider the hierarchical nature of conceptual knowledge. And we diagnose a common human failing: the anti-conceptual mentality. Format: Audio with slide show. 32 minutes lecture followed by 31 minutes of audio and text interactive question-and-answer discussion. 63 minutes total.
For millennia, philosophers have puzzled over the problem of universals: How does our knowledge come to have its abstract character? Our knowledge derives from objective reality outside of us, some have answered. So knowledge reflects an intrinsic fact of nature. Our knowledge is created by us, some have replied. Because it is based on us, it is subjective.
Atlas Society Director of Programs William R Thomas discusses the problem of universals and the traditional dichotomy between intrinsicism and subjectivism. He discusses Ayn Rand's concept of the objective, showing how Rand's relational concept resolves the apparent contradiction. Viewers will see that the idea of the objective is crucial for understanding how to approach issues of meaning and truth. Format: 84 minutes total. 37 minute audio lecture with slide show, followed by 47 minutes of text and audio interactive question-and-answer.
POLITICS AND CULTURE
Human Nature, Atheism, and the Declaration of Independence (July 3, 2013)
The famous assertion of individual rights in the Declaration of Independence says rights are an endowment from our Creator; religious conservatives sometimes invoke this against secular politics. But tracing the history of the Declaration's philosophy shows that it derives rights from human nature, not divine revelation, and Ayn Rand shows how we can liberate rights principles from God altogether. Presenter: Alexander R. Cohen
Economic Power Versus Political Power (April 15, 2013)
In this interactive webinar, recorded April 15, 2013, William R Thomas explains the Objectivist view that economic power and political power are of two radically distinct kinds. But this is not to deny that there is no such thing as "market power' (tell that to Microsoft). It is not to deny that financial incentives and economic decisions by others can influence human life quite seriously. If one's livelihood and other important values can be threatened in the market, what makes economic power different from political power?
Galt's Gulch Now! (April 1, 2013)
In reaction to the negative global trends for economic freedom and personal freedom, a number of new communities are being created using the "Galt’s Gulch" moniker from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. In this interactive presentation, Atlas Society CEO Aaron Day reviews the state of economic and personal freedom, discuss and define "Galt’s Gulch," and then analyze some of the larger initiatives (such as Glenn Beck’s Independence Park and The Free State Project) to see if they meet the essential definition of a "Galt’s Gulch."
Republicans, Libertarians, and What is Really Possible in Politics (March 25, 2013)
The Republican defeat in the 2012 elections was in part due to the GOP’s failure to offer consistent pro-freedom policies. But that party is a coalition of libertarian-minded constitutionalists, social conservatives, and status-quo oriented neo-conservatives. These factions are locked in a civil war over fundamental issues: Should the party focus on rolling back the welfare state or simply makie it operate more effectively? Should they push a social agenda that limits liberty? And what, exactly, is possible in politics anyway? Can the GOP be reformed? Does the Libertarian Party offer a viable alternative? And do the Democrats offer any hope? Ed Hudgins analyzes these issues and takes questions.
Politics and Regulation in Atlas Shrugged and Today (October 29, 2012)
Some critics describe the politics in the movie Atlas Shrugged Part II as unrealistic, more reminiscent of Soviet Russia than the contemporary U.S. How realistic is the world of pull and the regulations like Directive 10-289 in thecontext of today's mixed economy and democratic electioneering?
In this recorded webinar, Atlas Society Director of Programs William R Thomas discusses the essential character of the regulatory state, the corrupting effect of economic regulation on democratic politics, and the ways in which Ayn Rand's Russian outlook does, and does not, translate to America. Format: Audio with slide show. 78 minutes total. 32 minutes lecture followed by an open-ended audio and text interactive question-and-answer discussion.
An Objectivist Guide to Evaluating Candidates (February 27, 2012)
Every election year Objectivists and friends of freedom must decide: “For whom should I vote, if anyone?” “To whom should I contribute?” “For whom should I campaign?” The strength of candidates' declared adherence to principles of liberty is an important criteria but not the only one. Hear The Atlas Society's Ed Hudgins offer a guide for making these choices. Hear Hudgins’s criteria and his evaluation of the 2012 crop of presidential candidates, including Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum.
Progressives: Are They for Progress? (December 19, 2011)
Today the term “Progressive” is represented by the Occupy Wall Street/occupy anywhere movement and by the left wing of the Democratic Party. In this recorded webinar, William R Thomas examines the history and values of the Progressive movement. He considers what “progress” means and how the idea of progress relates to the secular, statist, environmentalist, egalitarian, and pro-happiness aspects of today's Progressivism.
Conservatism and Elections: Untangling the Philosophy (December 12, 2011)
Conservatives for decades have dominated the Republican Party. Yet American political conservatism has consisted of an uneasy and often conflicting coalition concerned with economic, social, and foreign policy. This reflects internal problems within the conservative philosophy itself. Ed Hudgins gives an overview of the evolution and tenets of conservatism. He goes on to discuss the political and social challenges that it has sought to address and the state of conservatism today in light of the upcoming 2012 elections.
Justice in War: Foreign Policy 2 (November 17, 2011)
William R Thomas discusses justice in the context of war-fighting. Should there be restrictions on weapons or tactics? Is there a workable distinction between combatants and non-combatants? To answer these questions we need to ask what the goals of war-fighting are and how justice in wartime differs from justice in the normal context of life.Sixty-four minutes.
Free World Order: Objectivist Foreign Policy 1 (November 9, 2011)
Explore the basic structure and goals of foreign policy on Objectivist premises in this webinar. With the Iraq war winding down and NATO victorious in Libya, how should we be looking at foreign policy in the 21st century? Is there a free world as opposed to an unfree world? Does it matter that even the most free countries have mixed political/economic systems that restrict freedom? Should a free country even have a government diplomatic corps? How can free countries best deal with each other and how can they best deal with tyrannical or oppressive foreign governments? Fifty-two minutes.
VIRTUES AND VALUES
Family Relations: An Individualist View (January 9, 2012)
Each of us is an individual, yet each of is born of parents and shares the genes and customs of our family. Family ties are the model of duty and community in traditional thought. Yet while rational family ties can be a unique and highly valuable social connection, there are no unchosen duties and no one is bound by their clan or tribe. William R Thomas presents.
Friendship for Egoists (November 28, 2011)
Objectivism is an egoist philosophy. It holds that you should put yourself first. In that context, what does it mean to be a friend? In this webinar, William R Thomas discusses what friendship is, what Objectivism can teach us about it, and what kinds of errors Objectivists are prone to make in friendship.
Independence in an Interconnected World (November 14, 2011)
Is it possible to live independently in an interdependent society? Do we have any knowledge we can really call our own?
If we depend on businesses and experts to bring us information, products, and truth, in what sense can we really be independent? William R Thomas explains the Objectivist virtue of independence in this webinar. Fifty-one minutes total.
Pride: Living as a Self-Made Soul (June 29, 2011)
In this webinar William R Thomas discusses pride as "the first and last of the virtues." Pride connects directly with the radical egoism of the Objectivist ethics. And it sums up the ethics, too, being a commitment to moral excellence. The webinar considers in what sense a proud person is “arrogant.” Is pride competitive? It also looks at why self-esteem requires competence and moral rectitude. One hour and nine minutes in total.
Benevolence, Goodwill, and Trust (March 25, 2011)
In this webinar, presented on March 25th, 2011, William R Thomas presents his view that goodwill and trust are Objectivist social values. He goes on to discuss the virtues of honesty and integrity as means of earning trust, and presents David Kelley's concept of benevolence, arguing that it is the key virtue for winning goodwill.
Justice: Treating Others Objectively (March 4, 2011)
Judge others, and prepare to be judged. We live in society, but how can we deal with others in a way that promotes rational, productive actions and denies support to the irrational and evil? What is needed is objective moral judgment and a commitment to treating others as a they deserve. TAS Director of Programs William R Thomas explains and discusses the Objectivist virtue of justice in this interactive webinar
Integrity: Living as a Whole Person (November 12, 2010)
Are you true to your values and your world-view? Integrity is the virtue of acting consistently for the sake of long-range values. William R Thomas discussed the nature of integrity and aspects of this virtue such as emotional integrity, courage, confidence, and sincerity. This webinar is part of series on the virtues of Objectivism.
The Virtue of Rationality (October 21, 2010)
Are you rational? Or do you yield often to vices such as emotionalism, bias, and dogmatism? William R Thomas leads this interactive webinar discussing the elements of the Objectivist virtue of rationality and the importance of this virtue in living a successful life.
Honesty: An Objectivist View (Oct. 1, 2010)
Can courtesy be dishonest? When is lying compatible with honesty? William R Thomas presents this interactive webinar on the virtue of honesty from an Objectivist perspective.
Productiveness: Responsibility for Values (Feb. 4, 2011)
An individualist life and a harmonious society are only possible because we can apply reason to the production of the values we need. As individuals, the crucial skill on which our lives depend is our ability to do productive work and be responsible for fulfilling our needs. In this interactive webinar, William R Thomas explains and discusses the Objectivist virtue of productiveness.
Atlas Shrugged Part 1: Hank Rearden (May 11, 2011)
In this recorded webinar, William R Thomas fills in the back story of Hank Rearden, the heroic steel titan of the movie Atlas Shrugged Part 1. Drawing on Ayn Rand's novel, Thomas discusses the deep conflicts that run through Rearden's inner life and his social dealings, conflicts that are not fully brought out in the film alone. Rearden's errors include a willingness to bear others' burdens without limit, a moral relativism, and an acceptance of a radical dichotomy between mind and body.
Atlas Shrugged Part 1: Dagny Taggart(May 4, 2011)
Atlas Shrugged Part 1: The Ideas Behind the Movie (April 27, 2001)
In this interactive webinar, William R Thomas discusses the fundamental ideas represented in the movie Atlas Shrugged Part 1. He discusses the objectivity of Dagny Taggart versus her brother James, the idea that profit-seeking is noble and right that Hank Rearden struggles to defend, the power-seeking of Wesley Mouch, and the principle of non-coercion that underlies all of Dagny's dealings.