Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World

In this talk on the role of philosophy in history, Ayn Rand argues that Western culture is torn by a basic contradiction between reason and the morality of altruism. She identifies the philosophical connections between faith, altruism and rule by force — and between reason, self-interest and freedom. She relates the decline of the West since the nineteenth century to the rejection by the culture’s intellectuals of reason in favor of the mysticism of altruism. The solution she offers — from the perspective of her philosophy, Objectivism — is not a political but a moral revolution.

In the ensuing Q&A, Rand discusses various topics including her recommendations for books on capitalism, the value of productiveness for one whose wealth is already assured, why the use of force is not in a rational man’s interests, the difference between breaking with society versus breaking with the culture, and the psychology of Dominique Francon in The Fountainhead.

These recordings were made in April 1961 at a presentation to the Purdue University Young Republicans. The talk had been previously delivered at Yale University on February 17, 1960; at Brooklyn College on April 4, 1960; and at Columbia University on May 5, 1960. It was later anthologized in Philosophy: Who Needs It (1982).

The lecture lasts 57 minutes, followed by a 53-minute Q&A.


About the Author

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Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand created and defined her philosophy, Objectivism, in the pages of her best-selling novels, particularly The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and in a series of nonfiction books that address a wide range of fundamental issues in philosophy. Born Alisa Rosenbaum in Tsarist St. Petersburg in 1905, Rand witnessed the Russian Revolution as a teenager and promptly condemned communism as immoral for sacrificing the individual to the collective. In 1926, shortly after graduating from the University of Leningrad, she fled to America, adopting the pen name Ayn Rand to shield her family from possible persecution once her anti-communism became well known. In Hollywood, she wrote scenarios for famous director Cecil B. DeMille and met her future husband on a movie set, but the couple struggled financially for years. Then came a string of writing successes: a Broadway play, followed by her first novel, We the Living (1936), then a novella called Anthem (1938), and later her first best seller, the story of a fiercely independent architect named Howard Roark in The Fountainhead (1943). All these works of fiction feature gripping stories and exalted, egoistic, this-worldly heroes. In writing Atlas Shrugged (1957) — the story of a man who said he would stop the motor of the world, and did — Rand had to define fully her new philosophy of reason, rational self-interest, and laissez-faire capitalism. Thereafter, and until her death in 1982, Rand amplified and explicated her “philosophy for living on earth” in a stream of books whose theoretical essays and cultural commentaries cover important topics across the five major branches of philosophy: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics and esthetics.