Registration is now open for a new round of reading groups that will kick off on March 26, focusing on Ayn Rand’s nonfiction works The Virtue of Selfishness, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, The Romantic Manifesto and Philosophy: Who Needs It.
For the past year and a half, ARU has been offering reading groups to young adults who wish to explore Ayn Rand’s ideas through her nonfiction. The groups were launched in October of 2021, and have attracted two hundred participants from dozens of countries — including Australia, Hong Kong, Iran, Syria, Kenya, Spain, Argentina, and many others. The groups give those who have read Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead, but who are otherwise new to Rand’s philosophy, a venue in which to explore and discuss her radically pro-individual, pro-reason ideas.
Participants in previous reading groups have gone on to make up a significant share of new entrants to Ayn Rand University (one in three students admitted last fall were former reading-group attendees). This makes the groups a perfect entry point into Rand’s ideas and a potential path to the deeper study of Objectivism.
This spring, participants from around the world will again enjoy the opportunity to share their reactions, motivate one another to maintain a reading schedule, and call on each other for help in understanding and evaluating Rand’s constant challenges to conventional wisdom.
ARU will host five groups:
- Introduction to Ayn Rand’s Essays: A beginner’s course for young participants who have read Rand’s novel The Fountainhead. This course begins by revisiting the protagonist’s courtroom speech and then introduces the group to a selection of Rand’s most important nonfiction essays, collated from among the below-mentioned books.
- The Virtue of Selfishness: Rand’s collection of essays focusing on moral issues and containing two of her most important essays: “The Objectivist Ethics,” which is Rand’s lengthiest and most philosophical explication of her overall moral theory, and
“Man’s Rights,” which presents her theory of individual rights and her moral defense of capitalism. Rejecting the morality of altruism, Rand argues that one’s moral goal should be one’s own happiness, and that this requires careful, principled thought and action.
- Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal: A collection of politically focused essays (including the seminal “What Is Capitalism?”) notable for its constant connecting of politics to deeper philosophical issues of morality and reason, and for its insistence that no proper defense of capitalism can rest on economic or political arguments divorced from these more fundamental issues.
- The Romantic Manifesto: This book presents Rand’s theory of art: she argues that we can explain both what art is and why it produces in us the emotional reactions it does. Rand details her theory of literature, distinguishing her Romantic style from the Naturalist style, according to philosophical differences in an artist’s view of human nature, free will, and of what is important in life.
- Philosophy: Who Needs It: A collection of essays on philosophy, philosophers, and the cultural battle of ideas. In the title essay, Rand argues that philosophy moves the world, shaping both individual lives and whole civilizations; that philosophy is therefore a practical discipline that we all need; and that if we don’t do the job of consciously forming a rational view, we will be subconsciously influenced by whatever grab-bag of ideas are prevalent in our culture. The rest of the book provides evidence for her thesis about the unavoidable power of philosophy.
ARU’s reading groups are led by our junior faculty members, each bringing their own insights and enthusiasm for Rand’s ideas. Our junior fellows provide a guiding voice to maintain a flowing, constructive and intellectually stimulating conversation, pointing to the deeper insights contained in Rand’s theoretical essays, and helping navigate Rand’s often densely philosophical cultural analysis. In the final session of each group, participants benefit from an expert Q&A with one of ARU’s senior philosophers, to whom they can raise any tricky issues or confusions and with whom they can delve more deeply into Rand’s philosophy.
Beginning March 26, groups will meet once per week for approximately 10 weeks, with discussions lasting 1 hour and 45 minutes. Learn more and sign up at https://university.aynrand.org/reading-groups/.