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How Ayn Rand Challenges Conventional Wisdom

In life should you be a thinker or a doer? An idealist or a realist? Are you determined by your genes or environment; or do you control your own path in life through some inexplicable power of free will? Is there such a thing as a supernatural soul or are we all, in the end, just matter in motion?

These perspectives on life’s big questions, Ayn Rand argues, are false alternatives. In each of these cases, and many others, the conventional options we’re offered are wrong, misconceived, destructive. Against the received wisdom of 2,000-plus years, Ayn Rand pushes back. Instead, her philosophy of Objectivism prompts us to think deeply about these issues and offers new, better answers for how to guide one’s life.

Against the received wisdom of 2,000-plus years, Ayn Rand pushes back.

A distinctive feature of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, explains Onkar Ghate, is that she puts forward views you’ve never heard before, encourages you to look at the world in different ways and to rethink your values. Ghate illustrates that point in an episode of Philosophy for Living on Earth, our weekly web series. He explores several conventional alternatives, illustrates how Rand challenges them, and then indicates her new, contrasting perspective.

For example: To be moral, many of us have been taught, is to be selfless and to serve others. The alternative is to exploit other people. But this, Rand argues, is a false alternative, and it has caused havoc. Instead, Rand offers a new moral outlook. She argues that the individual’s own happiness should be his or her own highest moral aim, an aim to be achieved without sacrificing anyone — neither yourself to others, nor others to yourself.

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If you’re new to Rand’s ideas, this episode is an excellent introduction; and if you’ve read some of her works, Onkar indicates some fascinating connections that I expect you’ll find illuminating.

Watch the whole thing or download the episode on the ARI Live! podcast (on Stitcher or Apple Podcasts). And remember to subscribe to the web series if you would like to attend the weekly livestream.

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Elan Journo

Elan Journo is a senior fellow and vice president of content at the Ayn Rand Institute. His books include Illuminating Ayn Rand (2022), Failing to Confront Islamic Totalitarianism: What Went Wrong After 9/11 (2021) and What Justice Demands: America and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (2018). Elan is a senior editor of New Ideal.

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