Is evil ubiquitous in the world, or is it a rare and mysteriously potent force? We hear one or the other view today expressed to explain the persistence of racism, the appeal of socialism, or the shock of mass shootings and terrorist attacks.
In one of the highlights of last summer’s Objectivist summer conference, Gregory Salmieri challenged both of these popular views of evil and explored Ayn Rand’s view as a third alternative. Evil, in her view, isn’t something inherent in human nature, but it is something we’re all capable of.
Drawing both from Rand’s nonfiction and from her fictional characterization of evil (especially in Atlas Shrugged), Salmieri portrays the psychology of irrationality as Rand saw it. On her view, evil is essentially the rejection of reality and of life in favor of some wish, an anti-value nihilism that pits our motivational mechanism against its normal function.
In the main talk, Salmieri grapples with puzzles that often arise about this view. How can irrational ideas count as evil? What about irrational feelings that are beyond our control? And how can human psychologies possibly be set in reverse in the manner Rand suggests? Even more challenging questions are tackled in the Q&A.
This provocative talk is representative of the quality, in-depth exploration of Ayn Rand’s ideas you can expect at ARI’s summer Objectivist conference, OCON. If you’re not attending this summer’s Washington, DC, conference in person, you can still sign up for a virtual pass. We look forward to seeing you in person — or virtually!