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Objectivism: Group Discussion Guide

Planning Time

1 week

Group Size

Any

Staff #

1

Event Date

Anytime


If you are just starting your freethought campus group, you might be in need of some fresh ideas to kick off the quarter. Even if you are an established group, oftentimes it can be difficult to come up with new topics every week for the duration of the academic calendar. These meeting topic activity packets should provide you with some materials and discussion questions that you can use to spur dialogue and conversation at your meetings. Attached is also a PowerPoint which you could use to introduce the group to this fascinating topic.

 Objectivism:

Have you ever caught yourself thinking about how vastly more important your own existence and desires are in relation to the betterment of the human species and your fellow man? If so, then Objectivism is the moral philosophy for you! Founded by Russian-American Philosopher Ayn Rand, Objectivism holds that reality exists as an absolute, independent of man's desires, wishes, and emotions. Reason alone should be the only guiding principal behind man's perception of reality. According to Rand, there is no higher purpose in life than to pursue one's self interest. Objectivists see capitalism as the purest and most preferable manifestation of economic activity. They advocate for the same separation between the state and the economy as has been instituted between the church and state.

Objectivism is often criticized for being cruel and dogmatic in its assertions. Critics also point to the inherent crises present in the capitalist cycle that are caused by the over accumulation of goods, surplus of labor, and devalorization of capital in the built environment as a weakness of Objectivist ideology. Many Objectivists counter that in a free market guided by minimal regulation and laissez faire capitalist ideals, corruptions and failures of the system would cease to exist.

Objectivism as a philosophy was popularized by Ayn Rand and group of her followers known as "The Collective". Rand published the book Atlas Shrugged in the year 1957 as a fictional narrative that illustrates the many foundational beliefs of the Objectivist philosophy. The Objectivist movement gained steam throughout the 1960's, and Rand toured the country lecturing and writing newsletters supporting her work. Most Academics have dismissed Rand's philosophies and the Objectivist movement as cultish due to its devotion to Ayn Rand and her fictional characters as heroes of reason and the standard bearers for absolute morality. While Objectivism has struggled to gain traction in the mainstream of formal academic studies of philosophy, it has enjoyed significant popularity among student groups at universities around the world.

Teaser Question:

  1. Is Objectivism a cult, or the only just moral philosophy?
  2. What does it mean to be an Objectivist?
  3. Who was Ayn Rand, and what does she have to do with Objectivism?
  4. Does the free market need to be regulated by the state?

Discussion Questions:

  1. Does Objectivism provide at least some valuable insights to those in the secular movement, or is it an "all-or-nothing" proposition?
  2. Did Alan Greenspan's (former Chairman of the Federal Reserve) adherence to Objectivist principles lead to the lack of regulation that would eventually cause the collapse of the U.S. Housing Market in 2007 and in turn the recent recession?
  3. Does Ayn Rand's work deserve more attention in academic circles or does it deserve to be ignored due to its radically selfish prescriptions for how to live one's life?

Videos and Links:

Objecting to Objectivism: The Atheist Experience Blog - This blog includes some great links to some criticisms of Objectivism. The Atheist Experience video blog also discusses this topic in detail. The Atheist Experience is a weekly live call-in television show sponsored by the Atheist Community of Austin. This independently-run blog features contributions from current and former hosts and co-hosts of the show.

The Ayn Rand Institute - ARI seeks to spearhead a cultural renaissance that will reverse the anti-reason, anti-individualism, anti-freedom, anti-capitalist trends in today's culture. The major battleground in this fight for reason and capitalism is the educational institutions-high schools and, above all, the universities, where students learn the ideas that shape their lives.

The Goddess of the Market: The Meaning of Ayn Rand - Jennifer Burns, a professor of history at the University of Virginia, looks at the development of Rand's ideas and her alliances -- and clashes -- with other intellectual and political figures. New York writer Anne Heller draws on original research in Russia, dozens of interviews with Rand's relatives and acquaintances, and previously unexamined archives to develop the first complete and independent biography.

Objectivism PowerPoint Primer :

Who is Ayn Rand? What is Objectivism? How did the Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged help inspire Objectivist thought? What effect has Objectivism had on our society? What are some critiques of Objectivism? These are the Questions....Click Here for the answers.

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