The spring 2023 issue of Ayn Rand Today, which has been mailed to ARI supporters, features the article “The Foundations of the Future: ARU’s New Courses In-Depth.” The article highlights courses by Onkar Ghate and Keith Lockitch, who are senior editors of New Ideal. We are pleased to reprint a version of that article below.
At Ayn Rand University, our mission is to educate our students about Objectivism and how to use the philosophy to flourish in their own lives. So, we are pleased to give you an inside look at two of the most loved courses of the first semester, Objectivism Through Ayn Rand’s Fiction and Foundations of Physical Science. These courses led not only newcomers but also long-time students of Objectivism to deepen their understanding of the philosophy and hone their thinking methods.
Ayn Rand University is currently ARI’s biggest initiative. Building on our longstanding advanced training program, the Objectivist Academic Center, ARU provides students and auditors alike with a well-rounded, thorough education in Objectivist thought. Ayn Rand University has kept the core content and structure of the OAC and expanded them to include a wide range of courses on topics as diverse as literature, science and law.
In expanding its subject areas, ARU aims to appeal to a wider range of students — and to give these students more direction in applying Objectivism to their own lives. We are endeavoring to make Ayn Rand University a meaningful, potentially life-changing experience for our students, and at the same time, we’re building the foundations that will educate and support future generations of Objectivist intellectuals.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Onkar Ghate’s Objectivism Through Ayn Rand’s Fiction had the highest number of registrants (including both students and auditors). For most people, the inspiring idealism of Rand’s fiction is their first exposure to Objectivism, and Ghate’s clear, concise delivery and extensive understanding of Objectivism make the course a natural fit for early learners.
In this course, Ghate and his co-instructors draw on all four of Rand’s novels, with an eye toward getting a better understanding of her philosophy. The course is organized by topic, not by novel, so participants can see where she grapples with similar issues across her different works. One skill the course focuses on is learning how to see the difference between details that are included for the sake of characterization versus traits of character that Rand views as universally applicable. For example, one needn’t dye one’s hair orange in order to “be like” The Fountainhead’s Howard Roark in any meaningful sense. But one cannot “be like” Roark without practicing the virtues of honesty or integrity, as a matter of principle.
And what about less obvious examples? Ghate comments on a scene from The Fountainhead in which it doesn’t occur to Roark to ask Austen Heller, another character, how he sees him. Does independence require being utterly indifferent to how other people see you? Or is this a trait that’s important for Roark’s characterization, but which does not signify a broader principle, applicable to everyone? These are more challenging questions to answer, and it requires the ability to distinguish between characterization and philosophy in the context of the novels. Though it isn’t easy, as Ghate says in the first class, it is a worthwhile skill to learn and practice, and it leads to a greater understanding of Objectivism.
One of Ghate’s students, Orie Johnson-Young, explains what he got from this class:
There is a massive difference between being able to state Rand’s view of a concept and truly being able to see for yourself the existence of this concept in concrete cases. As someone who is highly motivated to have my philosophical knowledge connected to reality and not just held as floating abstractions, this course has been of immense value to me.
The second most popular course of the school year’s first quarter was Keith Lockitch’s Foundations of Physical Science, a new course created for ARU.
Lockitch’s core purpose in this course is to give his students (and auditors) a firsthand understanding of physical science. Unlike a typical course at any other university, which would present the final, developed form of a physical principle (such as Newton’s laws of motion) with no discussion of how those principles were discovered historically or how they relate to reality, Lockitch instead shows his students the steps needed to understand those discoveries, beginning from perceptual-level observations.
For example, what are the observed facts that first gave rise to the concept of “planet”? Lockitch explains that this originally referred to a set of objects in the night sky that look like stars, but which have a different form of motion than the other “fixed” stars: they “wander” through the sky (and the ancient Greek word for “wanderer” is “planetes”). Lockitch builds from perceptual observation, always tying concepts back to the observed facts on which they rest. In doing so, he models the methodology of tracing concepts back to the perceptual level, an important skill in understanding Objectivism and applying it to students’ own lives.
Arkadiusz Synowczyk, a student in Lockitch’s course, expressed his gratitude:
There are two things I immensely enjoy about the course. Firstly, as a philosophy student, I love the connections that Dr. Lockitch makes between the taught material and epistemology — the theory of knowledge. I particularly enjoyed his account of how scientific concepts of time are developed directly from observation and his pointing out that scientific inductive reasoning, even though logical, is messy in practice. Secondly, as a thinking being, I incredibly appreciate the homework Dr. Lockitch assigns. It is always simple, but requires focus, thought, and gives a lot of joy when one finds the correct answer.
Ayn Rand University’s ability to expand its course selection depends on external faculty, professionals with a deep passion for their own field who’ve partnered with ARU to teach a course and share their knowledge with our students.
Shoshana Milgram, an associate professor at Virginia Tech, is an expert in nineteenth-century fiction and in Rand’s life and writings. A beloved speaker at ARI’s Objectivist summer conferences, Dr. Milgram brings her love of literature to ARU. This spring, she is teaching a course on Dostoevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment.
Yaron Brook, chairman of ARI’s board of directors and host of the popular The Yaron Brook Show, brings his expertise and enthusiasm to ARU’s summer semester with his course Oral Communication: The Basics. The course, which starts in July 2023, will focus on the principles and practice of effective oral communication from an Objectivist perspective.
As former CEO of the Institute, Brook has a deep understanding of ARI’s mission. His course focuses on teaching students how to express the ideas of Objectivism in a thoughtful, compelling way to a world that can be frustrating and hostile or simply uncomprehending, thereby furthering awareness and acceptance.
Our external faculty also includes Robert Mayhew and Adam Mossoff, who are teaching courses in the second quarter, and Harry Binswanger, who is teaching an advanced course for ARI junior fellows and two courses for ARU students: Objectivist Logic and ITOE, a systematic study of Ayn Rand’s Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology.
With the expansion of courses offered, we’ve also instituted rolling admission — students can enroll in courses that begin in any given quarter without having to wait for a whole new school year to start. We’ve also implemented a coaching program to help students make the most of their ARU experience and to set goals for themselves that involve the application of Objectivism to their own lives and values.
Though still in the early stages, Ayn Rand University has the solid foundation of the Objectivist Academic Center to build on, and we’re excited about what we’ve already achieved. We’re able to reach more students and auditors than ever before. Learners at all levels have the chance to “chew,” as Ayn Rand would say, Objectivist ideas from many different angles and at the deepest, most fundamental level.
If you missed the first quarter of courses, you could still register for those coming up in ARU’s fourth quarter (July through September), which includes Yaron Brook’s Oral Communication: The Basics and Dr. Binswanger’s courses on Rand’s development of Aristotelian logic and on reading Rand’s Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. Apply now as a student or sign up as an auditor and experience firsthand the kind of education that can help change the culture and the world.