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An Orientation to Objectivism

Onkar Ghate, Elan Journo, Gregory Salmieri, Steve Simpson, Aaron Smith

Presented at: OCON 2016

Date: Jul 01, 2016

This course provides an orientation to Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism. Each session addresses an important aspect or application of her philosophy. Beginning with a session on Rand as both novelist and philosopher, the course will explore the relation between Objectivism and religion, the implications of selfishness for our relations with others, the proper role of government and the nature of a rational foreign policy. The course is sure to provoke a variety of questions, which is why the final session of the course will be a general question-and-answer period, hosted by Onkar Ghate and Gregory Salmieri.

Ayn Rand: Novelist-Philosopher
Rand was often asked whether she regarded herself primarily as a novelist or a philosopher. In response to one such questioner, Rand answered: “I am primarily both.” What did she mean by that? And why do you have to pay attention to both Rand’s fiction and nonfiction to learn Objectivism? In this session, Onkar Ghate explores the relationship between Rand’s philosophy and her literary goals.

Objectivism and Religion

What is the Objectivist position with regard to the concept of God? Is Objectivism compatible with religion? Why is Objectivism opposed to faith? In this session Aaron Smith addresses these questions from the perspective of Ayn Rand’s view of the nature of reason and the means by which we acquire knowledge about reality.

Selfishness and Other People

It is common to associate benevolence and goodwill toward others with unselfishness and morality, while associating selfishness with immorality and a lack of concern for other people. Rand rejects this approach. In this session Aaron Smith discusses how a truly selfish person should view other people.

Why Laissez-Faire?

Ayn Rand was a champion of capitalism—not of today’s mixture of freedom and government controls, but of “full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism.” Why does Rand think that it’s so important to uphold such a radical position (a position that even many libertarians do not take)? In this session Steve Simpson situates Rand’s view of a proper political-economic system within the broader context of her moral philosophy, explaining the fundamental principles that account for Rand’s uncompromising position.

The Virtue of Selfishness in Foreign Policy
In debates over US foreign policy, no side says that it plans to sacrifice America’s interests. Yet this is what our foreign policy continuously does, no matter who is in charge. Why? By reference to developments in the Middle East, Elan Journo contrasts a proper, Objectivist conceptualization of America’s self-interest from prominent views in the debate.

Objectivism Q&A

Chances are, previous sessions of this course and your experience at OCON, in general, have sparked a lot of thinking and raised many questions. Now is your chance to ask away. In this final session of the course, Onkar Ghate and Gregory Salmieri answer audience questions about Ayn Rand and Objectivism.


Parts: 6

Handout: none


  • e-Store, 2017 (En) - Part 4 "Why Laissez-faire?" by Steve Simpson
  • e-Store, 2017 (En) - Part 1 "Ayn Rand: Novelist-Philosopher", by Onkar Ghate