Leonard Peikoff at the Ford Hall Forum

In 1961, Ayn Rand received a speaking invitation from the Ford Hall Forum, a group that sponsors free public lectures on social and political issues. She spoke there almost every year until her death.

From 1982 to 2003 philosopher Leonard Peikoff continued that tradition. Over this period, Peikoff gave several talks in which he applied Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism on a wide range of topics such as education, medicine, the religious right, the fall of communism, art, crime and America’s response to 9/11.

Explore Leonard Peikoff’s twenty years at the Ford Hall Forum.

Ayn Rand at the Ford Hall Forum

In 1961 Ayn Rand was invited to speak at the Ford Hall Forum in Boston, America’s oldest continuously operating free public lecture series. This marked the beginning of Rand’s relationship with the Forum.

Over the years, Rand gave several talks in which she applied her philosophy of Objectivism on a wide range of topics such as art, censorship, capitalism, antitrust, abortion, the moon landing, the military draft, egalitarianism, inflation, Ronald Reagan and the religious right.

Now you can now relive Rand’s twenty years at the Ford Hall Forum.

Being Selfish, Being Happy

The idea that a person ought to be selfish is so alien to our culture that when people learn that Ayn Rand upheld a morality of selfishness they are left scratching their heads. What could Rand possibly mean? In this course, given at Objectivist Summer Conference 2016 (OCON), Dr. Tara Smith discusses the crucial features of Rand’s morality of selfishness — what she called “rational egoism” — explaining what it is, what it is not, and why it is an individual’s only means of achieving sustainable happiness.

The course addresses such questions as:

  • Why does Rand think that egoism requires moral virtues?
  • Is living selfishly easy or hard?
  • Is happiness a subjective or an objective matter?
  • How does one identify what is in one’s rational self-interest?

A handout, provided to attendees when the course was originally given, is available here: Being Selfish Being Happy Handout. It includes a useful course outline, several quotations from Ayn Rand’s works and a brief list of recommended additional readings.

 

Understanding Objectivism

This course, originally given by Leonard Peikoff in 1983, is addressed to those who are sympathetic to Ayn Rand’s philosophy, but who experience difficulty in completely digesting it and integrating its principles into their lives. Peikoff argues that to properly understand Objectivism, and philosophy more generally, one needs the right method for understanding philosophical ideas and keeping them tied to reality.

Using a combination of theory, demonstrations and exercises, Peikoff explains the essentials of a proper method, including: the need for concretization; the value (and misuse) of definitions; the importance of reducing abstract ideas to the perceptual level; the need to establish an idea’s context and understand the logical hierarchy of ideas. These processes are used to help reach a deeper and more grounded understanding of several key ideas in Objectivism, including: life as the standard of value, the virtue of honesty, the validation of individual rights, and the evil of the initiation of physical force.

For decades, students of Objectivism have found this course to be particularly helpful in improving their own thinking methodology and their understanding of Objectivism. The course includes periodic homework assignments. In order to get the most out of the course, complete each assignment before progressing to the next lesson.

Disclaimer: Although Dr. Peikoff granted permission for the creation of this course in a new format, he has not reviewed or approved any of its content.

History of Philosophy

This course was adapted from a series of lectures on the history of Western philosophy, given by Leonard Peikoff to fans of Ayn Rand in the early 1970s. Peikoff holds that a knowledge of the history of philosophy is “a precondition to understanding, and therefore to changing, the nature and present course of the civilization.” The purpose of the course, therefore, is to present and analyze the central philosophical arguments and developments spanning Ancient Greece to the Enlightenment in order to show the steps by which the ideas and trends of today have come to be accepted, as well as the context in which they must be understood and, if necessary, corrected.

The course provides an excellent introduction to the subject of philosophy as well as a demonstration of the power of ideas to shape the intellectual climate of a culture. The course is intended for a general audience and presupposes no prior knowledge of philosophy.

Note: Since the lectures from which this course was adapted were originally given by Dr. Peikoff in the 1970s, a few of Dr. Peikoff’s cultural references may be obscure to those unfamiliar with the cultural atmosphere of the late 1960s and early 1970s. This will not, however, hinder one’s understanding or appreciation of the course content. Also note that not all of the material from Dr. Peikoff’s original lecture series is included in the ARI Campus version of this course. The audio of Dr. Peikoff’s complete lecture course is available for purchase at ARI’s e-store.

Disclaimer: Although Dr. Peikoff granted permission for the creation of this course in a new format, he has not reviewed or approved any of its content. The videos are accompanied by supplementary materials that were not part of the original course.

The Fountainhead

What motivates a creative thinker? Is it a selfless desire to benefit mankind? A hunger for fame, fortune and accolades? The need to prove superiority? . . . Or is it a self-sufficient drive to pursue a creative vision, independent of others’ needs or opinions? Ayn Rand’s answer can be found in her portrayal of Howard Roark, an innovative architect who, as she puts it, “struggles for the integrity of his creative work against every form of social opposition.” The Fountainhead is Rand’s tribute to the independent American spirit of individualism.

This video lecture course is an introduction to this classic novel that includes background material on Rand and the era in which she wrote, an overview of the story, an analysis of the principal characters and detailed discussion of the main themes. Among the questions answered in this course:

  • By what principles does the hero of the story, Howard Roark, live?
  • Is Peter Keating selfish — or selfless?
  • What is Ellsworth Toohey really after in his relationships with the other characters?
  • Why does Dominique Francon oppose Roark’s career even though she loves him?
  • Why is Gail Wynand’s pursuit of power doomed to fail?

 

High school students studying the novel will find this course especially valuable, but the material is designed to interest viewers on all levels. You may take the whole course in sequence or choose lessons of particular interest, since each lesson is a self-contained module. Teachers who wish to use the course for classroom instruction are encouraged to select lessons most relevant to their instructional goals.

Spoiler alert: This course assumes that students have read The Fountainhead.

The Philosophy of Objectivism

In this course, Leonard Peikoff presents the essentials of Ayn Rand’s philosophy and stresses their practical significance for each individual’s life.

Recorded live before New York City audiences in 1976, this course was endorsed by Rand in print as “the only authorized presentation of the entire theoretical structure of Objectivism, i.e., the only one that I know of my own knowledge to be fully accurate.” Rand attended the entire course and participated in eight of the twelve question-and-answer sessions.

In 1991, Peikoff reworked this course into his book Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. Because this book’s formulations and logical structure are “immeasurably superior,” Peikoff regards his book (rather than his course) as “the definitive statement of Objectivism.”

Despite having been superseded, the course has continuing value because it offers us (1) a recorded statement of the essentials of Objectivism, (2) an opportunity to discover the differences between the course and the book and (3) the chance to hear Rand answer questions from the New York audiences.

Topics covered in the course include:

  • Metaphysics and man’s metaphysical nature
  • The foundations of epistemology
  • The nature and function of concepts
  • Rationality
  • The foundations of ethics
  • Virtue, practicality and happiness
  • The principles of politics and the nature of capitalism
  • Esthetics
  • Objectivism’s relation to the past and the future

 

Disclaimer: Although Leonard Peikoff granted permission for the creation of this course in a new format, he has not reviewed or approved any of its content.

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?