Exploring Objectivism:
The Philosophy of Ayn Rand

If you have ever wondered what philosophy is and how ideas shape human life, this course is for you. Join Gloria Álvarez as she interviews Ayn Rand Institute philosophers Harry Binswanger and Onkar Ghate on Ayn Rand’s revolutionary philosophy: Objectivism. This in-depth but accessible discussion series covers a broad range of topics, starting from the fundamentals of philosophy to ethics, politics and art.

Free Preview! The Objectivist Academic Center (OAC)

In this free preview course, you can sample the educational experience of being in the Objectivist Academic Center (OAC®), ARI’s premier intellectual training program featuring live courses taught by videoconference. Join at aynrand.org/OAC

The core of the OAC is a 3-year curriculum offering in-depth instruction in Objectivism and how to think about and communicate philosophical ideas.  This program can be taken as a graded student or audited. (Auditors are encouraged to take all 3 years of the OAC but there is no expectation that they do so.)

Both students and auditors engage with instructors in the live classroom, in the online class forums, and in 1:1 meetings during office hours, and have access to all class content and recordings. The OAC is tuition-based, but those accepted into the student program are eligible for scholarships.

OAC (Year 3): Philosophical Analysis and Communication

This is an ongoing live course taught in the Objectivist Academic Center (OAC), ARI’s premier intellectual training program featuring weekly classes conducted by videoconference. Visit aynrand.org/oac to learn how you can gain access to this exclusive content and begin participating in live classes!

In this course you will read, write and analyze intellectual work — from more academically oriented writing to more popular applied intellectual writing. The aim is to learn what it really means to engage with other thinkers’ positions and arguments and to learn to think through an issue or an argument from an Objectivist perspective. We will focus on books and articles by non-Objectivist thinkers in conjunction with essays by Ayn Rand (and other Objectivists) on related topics.

In each of the works you will read, the author relies on certain philosophical assumptions as well as explicit premises and arguments, and on that basis develops a position on contemporary cultural, philosophical or political issues. As a student, you will be asked to identify these assumptions, premises and arguments and to evaluate what you think is true and false in the position and what you think Objectivism has to contribute to an understanding of the issues in play. Special emphasis will be placed on taking other thinkers seriously and interpreting their work objectively, while maintaining an Objectivist perspective in one’s own thinking.

This course comprises 4 Units, each led by a different instructor:

For the communication component, you will complete and receive feedback on written and oral communication assignments. This year we will devote a significant amount of time (11 of our 27 classes) to such communication skills. In addition to the course’s regular faculty, Drs. Keith Lockitch and Gregory Salmieri will be providing feedback on some of the communication assignments.

OAC (Year 2): Philosophy – Fundamental Questions

This is an ongoing live course taught in the Objectivist Academic Center (OAC), ARI’s premier intellectual training program featuring weekly classes conducted by videoconference. Visit aynrand.org/oac to learn how you can gain access to this exclusive content and begin participating in live classes!

To learn Objectivism, which is the name of a particular philosophical system, Ayn Rand’s, you must see it as addressing the questions of philosophy, often in novel ways. To learn philosophy, you must understand the questions it asks and why they arise. Neither of these tasks is easy, in part because the questions philosophy raises are abstract and difficult, and because the answers offered to these questions are often intricate and subtle.

This course has two main aims: to give you a more first-handed understanding of (i) some important philosophical questions and issues, and (ii) Objectivism’s perspective on these questions and issues. The course comprises four units, each led by a different faculty member:

  • Unit 1: Perspectives from the History of Philosophy on Morality and Self-Interest (Gregory Salmieri / Mike Mazza)
  • Unit 2: Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (Onkar Ghate)
  • Unit 3: Central Themes in Plato’s Philosophy (Aaron Smith)
  • Unit 4: History of the Fact/Value Dichotomy (Ben Bayer)

Free Will

Ayn Rand is the first philosopher to recognize that the free will is at the root of not only ethics but also epistemology. By identifying that “Man is a being of volitional consciousness,” that one’s choice to think or not is an act of free will, she revolutionized our understanding of the relationship of consciousness to existence. In these lectures, given at 1999 Lyceum Conference, Dr. Binswanger presents and validates the Objectivist theory of free will, with emphasis on the relationship between volition and the reality-orientation.

Topics include:

  • mental focus: what exactly is “focus”? how do we know focus is volitional? focus vs concentration
  • drift, evasion, “meta-evasion” and self-monitoring”
  • the error in asking “what makes one man focus and another not?”
  • free will as the base of objectivity, and determinism as the premise of mysticism

OAC (Year 1): Seminar on Objectivism

This is an ongoing live course taught in the Objectivist Academic Center (OAC), ARI’s premier intellectual training program featuring weekly classes conducted by videoconference. Visit aynrand.org/oac to gain access to this exclusive content and begin participating in live classes!

The purpose of this course is to help you learn how to better understand various principles of Objectivism and philosophical issues more generally.

The course explores in some depth some of the key principles of Objectivism, especially in ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology. And it considers a bit of what Objectivism teaches about proper philosophical methodology.

The cash value of gaining a better understanding of the principles of Objectivism, including some of its advice about proper philosophical methodology, is that the philosophy can become more fully an aid to your own life, thinking, work and happiness.

The lectures in this course become accessible to enrolled students each week after 12:30 pm Pacific Time on Sunday. Discussion session recordings are available within 24 hours of the live class, and usually the same day.

Rationality and Objectivity

Though rationality and objectivity are central to Objectivism, Objectivists’ understanding of these concepts is often sketchy. In this course, Dr. Smith deepens your understanding of exactly what rationality and objectivity consist of. It identifies the errors in several popular interpretations of these terms. This course is both theoretical and practical. It clarifies your grasp of the nature of rationality and objectivity and it provides specific techniques—including how to avoid certain cognitive “traps”—to enhance rational and objective thinking.

The course handout can be found here: Tara_Smith-Rationality_and_Objectivity

Objective Thinking

If you are an honest person, you are not content to hold beliefs subjectively—because of accidental features of your psychology or circumstances. You aspire to be objective—to conform all of your thinking to the facts. To do this you must be able to identify the available evidence, to determine what conclusions it supports, to check the premises you have already formed, and to integrate your conclusions into a consistent sum. This course discusses these skills, how to develop them and how to apply them in thinking about specific issues.

Seize the Reins of Your Mind

Many educated people today dismiss free will as an illusion and instead view themselves and other people as determined by their environment and their genetics. Objectivism offers a very different view. It holds that the key to understanding yourself as a human being is that your mind functions by choice. This gives you a fundamental, delimited control over your own life and actions, which you can choose to exert or not. Further, a proper understanding of free will shapes a proper understanding of good and evil and of the nature and personal importance of justice.

Ayn Rand’s Life: Highlights and Sidelights

Ayn Rand embodied three extraordinary qualities: philosophic genius, heroic rationality and passionate man-worship. The result was the outstanding figure of the modern era—perhaps, of any era.

These two lectures portray the essence of a world-historical figure who lived life with the passionate intensity and full consciousness of her greatest fictional heroes. (A pdf chronology of Ayn Rand’s life is included.)