Introduction by Professor Gordon
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, I propose to 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 will also receive attention.
In ethics, she is of course most famous for her defense of egoism; and two lectures will examine her arguments on this topic. Criticisms of her views advanced by other philosophers, including Robert Nozick and Michael Huemer, will also be considered. I will compare her approach to ethics with those of Mises and Hayek
Rand was one of the most famous twentieth-century defenders of a free society, and her ideas about government will be discussed. Her reasons for rejecting anarchism and her defense of intellectual property will be addressed. I will compare her views on anarchism with Murray Rothbard’s. Also, I will 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 and debate the issues with me. Few activities are as much fun as philosophical arguments.
The course consists of six weekly lectures beginning June 16.
A tentative schedule of the lectures follows:
Lecture 1: Metaphysics and Epistemology
Lecture 2: Metaphysics and Epistemology
Lecture 3: Ethics
Lecture 4: Ethics
Lecture 5: Political Philosophy: Rights and the State
Lecture 6: Political Philosophy: Intellectual Property, Foreign Policy, and the Morality of War.
The video lectures are online. Lectures will be Thursday evenings, 7:00-8:30 pm EDT. They will be recorded and made available for enrolled students to download.
All readings for the course will be free and available online.
Grades and Certificates
The final grade will depend on quizzes. Taking the course for a grade is optional. The Mises Academy is currently not accredited, but this course is worth 3 credits in our own internal system. Feel free to ask your school to accept Mises Academy credits. You will receive a digital Certificate of Completion for this course if you take it for a grade, and a Certificate of Participation if you take it on a paid-audit basis.
If you drop the course during its first week (7 calendar days), you will receive a full refund, minus a $25 processing fee. If you drop the course during its second week, you will receive a half refund. No refunds will be granted following the second week.