About the Course
Dr. Gordon remarks:
Ayn Rand polarizes people. To her enemies, she was a vicious person who taught a gospel of unconcern for others. One of her critics says that she was “eerily ignorant of all the interesting problems of ontology, epistemology, or logic.”
Her followers, by contrast, rank her as one of the foremost philosophers of all time. Her system of Objectivism developed and extended the insights of Aristotle and represents the highest level of reason yet attained.
Is either view correct, or is Rand best looked at from some other perspective? In this course, we examine some of her distinctive doctrines. What does she mean by the primacy of existence over consciousness? Are the far reaching conclusions she draws from the Law of Identity about causality and the nature of necessity correct? Is she right that the Law of Identity mandates atheism? Her views about sense perception and how we acquire concepts also receives attention.
In ethics, she is of course most famous for her defense of egoism; two lectures examine her arguments on this topic. Criticisms of her views advanced by other philosophers, including Robert Nozick and Michael Huemer, are considered. I compare her approach to ethics with those of Mises and Hayek as well.
Rand was one of the most famous twentieth-century defenders of a free society, and her ideas about government are covered. Her reasons for rejecting anarchism and her defense of intellectual property are addressed. I compare her views on anarchism with Murray Rothbard’s. Also, I look at Objectivist work on foreign policy and the morality of war.
I am not an Objectivist; but I’m not attempting in the course to advocate a competing philosophical theory of my own, though it is hardly a secret that my own political views are Rothbardian. Rather, I wish to evaluate the arguments that she presented. The course is primarily designed for those who would like to learn the essentials of Rand’s thought; but I encourage Objectivists and others who already have strong opinions about Rand to enroll in the course too.
The course consists of six lectures. A brief outline follows:
Lecture 1: Metaphysics and Epistemology
Lecture 2: Metaphysics and Epistemology, continued
Lecture 3: Ethics
Lecture 4: Ethics, continued
Lecture 5: Political Philosophy: Rights and the State
Lecture 6: Political Philosophy: Intellectual Property, Foreign Policy, and the Morality of War
All readings for this course are free, available online, and provided to students in a fully-hyperlinked syllabus.
Independent study courses are courses that were presented live in the past. These courses are now offered at a discount to anyone who wants to study independently. All courses include lecture recordings, slides, a complete hyper-linked syllabus, automatically-graded quizzes, and a discussion forum. Professors are not available for academic support for these independent study courses.