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Ayn Rand Conference in Amsterdam Inspires New Intellectuals

Our student conference in Amsterdam was a showcase of intellectual passion, with talks and breakout sessions modeling the Ayn Rand University experience.

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The Ayn Rand Institute’s student-focused conference, AynRandCon, has been held in various European cities in recent years, including Athens, London, Prague and Warsaw. This year’s venue, Amsterdam — the birthplace of philosopher Baruch Spinoza, a hub of 18th-century capitalism, and a traditional safe haven for Enlightenment thinking — suited the event’s theme on the crucial role of intellectuals.

Situated amid the city’s art museums, pancake houses, and famed canals, the conference sought to highlight the central role intellectuals play in shaping our world, and to stress the need for much larger numbers of Objectivist intellectuals. To that end, Onkar Ghate opened the event with his keynote, “Why We Need More Objectivists and Objectivist Intellectuals.”

Underscoring both the ambitiousness of ARI’s mission and the magnitude of the task ahead, Ghate told his audience: “We need more Objectivist intellectuals. I don’t mean we need five more, or we need ten more, or even a hundred more. We need tens of thousands.” Other talks sounding the same theme included Nikos Sotirakopoulos’s “Lessons from the Intellectual Success of Marxism” and Yaron Brook’s “The Battle for the Future.” Each day included a panel and a Q&A, offering attendees a chance to ask their most pressing questions on any aspect of Rand’s philosophy.

The event showcased Ayn Rand University (ARU), the Institute’s educational program. A standout feature was the breakout reading groups, giving students a firsthand taste of the ARU experience. Attendees had the opportunity to study essays by Rand related to the event’s theme, submit pre-conference homework assignments, and have their work discussed by experts during the sessions. Having received feedback from our faculty and gained a unique insight into what ARU can offer, many attendees seized the opportunity to enroll in ARU on the spot and are now taking classes with us.

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Nikos Sotirakopoulos, an attendee of AynRandCon Europe since its inception and a speaker at this year’s event, remarked, “What impressed me about the Amsterdam conference was the intellectual focus of the attendees. It was an atmosphere of learning — and not only during the talks, nor only during the Q&As. Every break and every social event was like an informal Q&A, as the discussions on philosophy and ideas never ended.”

Attendees were overwhelmingly positive about the event. Speaking about the conference, one attendee remarked, “I came to this conference to apply Objectivism to my life, and I wanted to understand just how valuable . . . Rand’s ideas are. Throughout the conference, I’ve not only gained a lot of knowledge, but I’ve met interesting people from all over the world. Some of them have become friends already.” Such comments were typical.

The theme of the conference in Amsterdam was the crucial role of intellectuals and specifically the need for Objectivist intellectuals. The purpose of the conference was to play a part in meeting that need. By bringing together some of the brightest and most enthusiastic student-aged Ayn Rand fans from around the world, giving them contact with prominent Objectivist experts, and fostering a spirit of shared optimism and mission, AynRandCon in Amsterdam constituted a clear step in the right direction. It also provided more evidence (to echo Ayn Rand’s words) that “anyone who fights for the future, lives in it today.”

Image credit: Sam Tanno/Shutterstock.com.


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Ibis Slade

Ibis Slade is a junior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute and a content creator. He focuses on American intellectual and moral history.

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