“I am often asked whether I am primarily a novelist or a philosopher. The answer is: both. In a certain sense, every novelist is a philosopher, because one cannot present a picture of human existence without a philosophical framework,” said Ayn Rand in her “Preface” to For the New Intellectual. This implies that by studying and analyzing The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged one gains an indispensable insight into Rand’s philosophy, that is, her view of man and existence.
An upcoming course at Ayn Rand University, Objectivism Through Ayn Rand’s Fiction, will offer an in-depth analysis of Rand’s philosophy through the lens of her fiction. The course is taught by Onkar Ghate and other ARU faculty members.
The course is intended for those who have just started their journey with Rand’s ideas or who want to deepen their understanding of her novels. As Ghate explains: “To begin to understand Rand’s distinctive worldview and to learn her new philosophy, Objectivism, there is no better place to start with the study of these works. Her novels are self-consciously philosophical works, containing abstract themes, characters driven by opposing moral principles, and conflicts rooted in clashing worldviews.”
The list of topics discussed during the course include:
- The moral and the practical
- Selfishness and selflessness
- Collectivism and individualism
- The benevolent universe premise
- The mind-body dichotomy
- The nature of evil and the sanction of the victim
Participants in the course will analyze how these themes are dramatized in the plot and characterization in Rand’s four novels: Anthem, We the Living, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.
The first iteration of the course gathered over thirty students and auditors from fifteen different countries across five continents. One of the participants, Francis Elcaron, shares his thoughts on the course:
This course is a perfect bridge from Ayn Rand’s novels to the philosophy they embody, and one gains by the end a fuller understanding of and a new appreciation for both. Even though I had read the novels a few times each, practically every class had some new insight to offer me. Having to condense my thoughts into 400-word assignments was a valuable weekly exercise in identifying essentials, and though the grading standards were demanding, that made it all the more rewarding. Overall, doing the assignments improved my ability to shuttle between the concretes of a story and the unifying abstractions. I would happily have taken this course for another two quarters.
Emily Meer, another ARU student, describes how she benefited from the course:
The course is very good and insightful. By the end of the course, I gained a much better understanding of the motivations and essences of the main characters, but I was especially satisfied with finally understanding characters such as Andrei, Dominique, Gail Wynand, and Robert Stadler. I also gained a better understanding of Rand’s philosophy, such as her ideas on evil and the sanction of the victim. Learning these concepts through her fiction really helped fill in some gaps, and I left the class with a stronger appreciation for both the books and the philosophy. I can apply the philosophy more in my life, and I am especially pleased by that.
The second iteration of the course, Objectivism Through Ayn Rand’s Fiction, will start in October 2023. You can sign up as a graded student or an auditor here.