Introduction to Objectivism

In this video, philosopher Leonard Peikoff presents the essentials of Ayn Rand’s philosophy to a group of students, then answers their questions. Peikoff, who was Rand’s friend and associate for three decades, is the author of Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand and is the preeminent authority on her ideas. This presentation, recorded in San Francisco in 1995 by the Ayn Rand Institute, features a 42-minute lecture followed by a 33-minute Q&A session.

The Anti-Industrial Revolution

In this 1970 lecture, Ayn Rand analyzes the arguments and underlying motivation of the emerging “ecology” movement, the forerunner of today’s environmentalism. Separating legitimate concerns about pollution from the movement’s deeper animus toward industrial civilization and technological progress, Rand explains her view of the proper relationship between human beings and their environment. Rand addresses such questions as:

  • How did the technological progress that accompanied the Industrial Revolution affect the quality and length of human life?
  • What results can we expect from attempting to “restrict” technology?
  • What are the political implications of the ecology movement?
  • What valid issues are raised by instances of industrial pollution?
  • What are the underlying motives of the environmental crusaders?

Although aspects of the environmentalist movement have changed since the early 1970s, its ideological essence — its fundamental philosophical perspective on man’s relationship to nature — has not changed, leaving Rand’s analysis and critique as pertinent today as it was then.

Note: After this lecture was recorded in 1970, Rand expanded on her initial speech in an essay by the same name. This valuable addition appears near the end of the lecture in a new recording by a voiceover artist.

Philosophy: Who Needs It

What is philosophy — and how is it relevant to my life? Ayn Rand answered these questions in her address to the senior class of the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1974.

Rand challenges the idea that philosophy belongs only in the ivory tower. Instead she argues that, whether we realize it or not, we all hold and act on philosophic ideas — and philosophy is a crucial, practical need of human life.

This illustrated audio lecture is a great starting point for those new to philosophy or to Rand’s ideas. The talk became the lead essay in Rand’s book Philosophy: Who Needs It.

Ayn Rand: A Writer’s Life

Who was Ayn Rand? What kind of person did it take to create the fictional heroes of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead and to develop a new philosophy of reason? This documentary-style course traces Rand’s life (1905 – 1982) from the perspective of her goal of becoming a writer. Photographs, film clips and audio of Rand’s own personal recollections enliven this narrative of her prolific career. Among the questions answered in this course:

  • What motivated Rand’s decision at age nine to become a writer?
  • Why did she think it necessary to flee Soviet Russia?
  • How did she get her start in Hollywood?
  • How did she support herself while working on her unpublished fiction projects?
  • How did she get the idea for the story of The Fountainhead?
  • Why was Anthem first published in England and not the United States?
  • Why did publishers who had turned down Rand’s earlier novels want to publish Atlas Shrugged?
  • Why did Rand turn to nonfiction writing after publishing Atlas Shrugged in 1957?

What Is Capitalism?

This 1967 lecture is Ayn Rand’s flagship talk on capitalism. In it she explains in depth what capitalism is, why it is often misunderstood and why it is the only social system consonant with man’s nature. She discusses the philosophical and ethical roots of capitalism, and contrasts them with the moral-philosophic doctrines that lead to rule by force. She then discusses progress under capitalism and how it is fundamentally different from the so-called progress of a statist society. Along the way, Rand takes up such questions as:

  • What is the essence of man’s nature?
  • What is the fundamental basis for the concept of individual rights?
  • How is capitalism consonant with man’s nature? Why are other social systems not consonant with it?
  • Why is serving “the common good” not a sound principle for governing a free society?
  • What are the different perspectives on “the good,” and how do they inform people’s views on what constitutes a proper social system?
  • What has been the ethical basis of all tyrannies in history?
  • Who prospers on a free market?
  • How does a free market unleash man’s creative abilities?
  • What is so often misunderstood about progress under capitalism?

 

This talk is excerpted from Rand’s substantially longer and more comprehensive essay of the same name. Students interested in mastering Rand’s views on capitalism are encouraged to study the full essay, available here, in addition to enjoying this course.

Introducing Objectivism

In 1962, Ayn Rand was invited to write a weekly column for the Los Angeles Times. Her first column was a brief introduction to her philosophy, Objectivism. In this short course, based on a recording of Rand reading her column, you will hear her summarize her positions on the nature of reality, the efficacy of human reason, the nature of man, and the ideal political system.

Here are some of the questions this course addresses:

  • What are the basic tenets of Objectivism?
  • What is the nature of reason?
  • What is man’s moral purpose in life?
  • Why is capitalism the ideal politico-economic system for man?
  • What is destroying capitalism?

To get the most from this course, it is recommended that you first complete the short Philosophy: Who Needs It course.