Interview on Edwin Newman’s Speaking Freely
In this wide-ranging 1972 interview, NBC’s Edwin Newman interviews Ayn Rand about the connections between philosophy and contemporary culture. Singling out the influence of 18th-century philosopher Immanuel Kant, Rand explains why we live in “the age of envy,” characterized by hostility to man’s rational faculty and independent judgment. She also identifies connections between Kant’s thinking and the nascent ecology movement.
Rand answers questions on a variety of other issues including the proper role of government, pollution control laws, the validity of maximum-hours labor laws, the relation between labor legislation and unemployment, the historical record of capitalism, the philosophical ideas that destroyed capitalism, the scientific method, her conception of utopia, mysticism throughout mankind’s history, the one word she would want engraved on her tombstone, the importance of separating church and state, the incompatibility of faith and reason, how Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign displayed the “bankruptcy of conservatism,” how the Women’s Liberation movement instituted a “sex war” in America and how the modern drug culture is a symptom of a greater cultural problem.
About the Author
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.