If your first exposure to Ayn Rand's writings led you to feel as if the scales of mysticism had fallen from your eyes, you are not alone. Ayn Rand's monumental discovery and development of Objectivism has offered an electrifying and liberating philosophy for many thousands of readers across the globe. Today, local groups for the discussion and application of this empowering worldview have sprung up around the country. Here in central Florida, our organization seeks persons who possess an intense interest in learning Ayn Rand's ideas and applying them to everyday living. Interactions with others who share a respect and admiration for these principles can serve as an emotional fuel, helping you to overcome life's hurdles as you practice rational self-interest daily.
Our list of discussion topics integrates the Toastmasters International Leadership Excellence Series with the Ayn Rand Institute's recommended reading list to form a powerful, synergistic presentation program for our Club.
I. Fall Semester
A. The Visionary Leader
This school year's inaugural meeting of the Objectivist Club at University of Central Florida will energize both novice and veteran students of Ayn Rand's philosophy! Prepare to 'Design Your Life Blueprint' as we set the stage for each participant to visualize and achieve his or her Authentic Self. Learn to become 'The Visionary Leader' of self and others as we identify and crystallize a 'Dreams List' at the individual and club level.
1. The Fountainhead
Achieving one's own Authentic Self requires identifying and validating the ideals one wishes to embody. This exacting vision of self demands larger-than-life role models of integrity for inspiration. Ayn Rand's great novel The Fountainhead centers on such a role model--the visionary architect Howard Roark. Join us as we discuss the most admirable qualities he manifested as he remained true to his love for his life, his work and his woman.
2. Atlas Shrugged
Ideals that challenge individuals to grow to new heights of character have literally changed history. Today, the most worthy and challenging ideal in our global culture is rational egoism. The greatest artistic role model of that ideal is John Galt, the hero of Ayn Rand's epic novel Atlas Shrugged. Who is John Galt? Come to learn of John Galt's core values of Self-Esteem, Reason and Purpose and how you can make them part of your Authentic Self.
B. Developing a Mission
Part of 'Designing Your Life Blueprint' includes a unifying direction in life. Achieving your Authentic Self means discoverying and manifesting that direction in the form of a life mission. What is your mission in life? Join us as we discuss methods for examining your Dreams List to look for common themes that can empower you to identify a central theme that can become your mission in life.
3. "Philosophy: Who Needs It" (title essay in book of same name)
Do ideas matter? Do a person's ideas affect his thoughts, his feelings, his actions, his results? How does philosophy -- the study of existence and our relationship to it -- shape history? In this discussion, Ayn Rand's title essay from her book Philosophy: Who Needs It provides paths to a New Enlightenment. Prepare to embark on a journey that could change your life for the better in ways you never imagined. Learn how philosophy can help you to define and then achieve your Authentic Self.
4. "Philosophy and Sense of Life" in The Romantic Manifesto
What is philosophy? What purpose does it serve? Is there such a thing as objectively 'good' philosophy and 'bad' philosophy? How can philosophy be grounded to reality? Ayn Rand's artistic treatise The Romantic Manifesto answers these and many other questions. Join the discussion prepared to breathe the refreshing air of life-affirming romanticism. The principles of romantic realism dispel the suffocating vapors of postmodernism. Objective art can serve as the emotional fuel you need in your quest to achieve your Authentic Self.
C. Values and Leadership
The best leaders inspire people with rational, life-affirming values that have wide appeal. The Objectivist values of Self-Esteem, Reason and Purpose have strong roots in the history of the United States. Learn how to employ values in your leadership style to motivate your team members to actualize their highest potentials. This discussion will center on the Toastmasters Leadership Excellence Series presentation 'Values and Leadership'.
5. "For the New Intellectual" (title essay in book of same name)
Who is 'The New Intellectual'? What kind of person would a 'New Intellectual' be? This discussion of Ayn Rand's title essay from her book For the New Intellectual explores the mind-body unity such a man or woman would manifest. Join and learn how to integrate your spirit, emotions, mind and body into a powerful and non-contradictory whole. Become the effective person you have always wanted to be.
6. "Introduction" and "The Objectivist Ethics" in The Virtue of Selfishness
What are ethics? Must ethics rely on religion or social groups to be validated? In this discussion, learn how Ayn Rand's book The Virtue of Selfishness lays out in plain English why individual human life must necessarily be the root of any valid moral code. Join this great conversation and learn how 'social planners' of the cultural left and 'religious leaders' of the cultural right have attempted to rob you of your precious life with their 'big lies' regarding the roots of morality. Learn to demolish these obstacles to achievement of your Authentic Self.
D. Goal Setting and Planning
7. "The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made" in Philosophy: Who Needs It
As you set goals to achieve your Authentic Self, it is important to have a firm grasp of reality. What do we mean by 'reality'? Is it true that 'you can't fight city hall' the same way that 'you can't fight the law of gravity'? This discussion centers on Ayn Rand's essay 'The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made' in Philosophy: Who Needs It. Join us and learn how to make the critical, life-affirming distinctions between what you can affect and what you must accept as a law of nature.
8. "Causality Versus Duty" in Philosophy: Who Needs It
Some people will attempt to halt your quest for your Ideal Self with calls to 'duty'. What is duty? What is rational self-interest? How do these contrast? What are their roots in reality? How does the myth of 'duty to a Higher Cause' rob you of your happiness? How do you defend yourself intellectually from the thugs in philosophers' clothing? This group discussion will find answers to these profound questions as we address Ayn Rand's essay 'Causality Versus Duty' in Philosophy: Who Needs It.
II. Spring Semester
E. Resolving Conflict
As you gain momentum toward defining and achieving your Authentic Self, you will inevitably encounter conflicts with others who disagree with your vision. Some conflicts can be resolved through valid negotiations, while others can only be resolved through a parting of company. How do you resolve conflicts objectively? Tonight's discussion provides concepts that will help the presenter and the participants learn conflict resolution skills.
9. "The Ethics of Emergencies" in The Virtue of Selfishness
Introductory philosophy courses frequently couch treatises on ethics in terms of highly unusual, emergency circumstances. Is this really the proper approach to creating a moral code? This group discussion will consider the normal daily life of a normal human being as the proper foundation for a moral code, then explore how to employ that code in emergency situations. Ayn Rand's essay 'The Ethics of Emergencies' in The Virtue of Selfishness serves as the launching point for this talk. Learn when helping others serves your journey to your Authentic Self and when it obstructs it.
10. "The 'Conflicts' of Men's Interests" in The Virtue of Selfishness
How can a society function freely when the interests of each individual clearly conflict with others' and with society's? This age-old collectivist question has formed a justification for murderous totalitarian dictatorships ranging from Nazi Germany to Soviet Russia. Ayn Rand roundly trounces these arguments in her essay 'The 'Conflicts' of Men's Interests' in The Virtue of Selfishness. Join this talk to comprehend the many fallacies of overbearing social planners and how to defend yourself from their manipulations. Learn to synergize the goals of your Authentic Self with those of others.
11. "Doesn't Life Require Compromise?" in The Virtue of Selfishness
Wherever you look these days, it seems that political pundits advocate compromise -- compromise with terrorists, compromise with murderous dictators, compromise with statists of all stripes. What constitutes a valid or invalid compromise? Are there some principles that cannot be compromised under any circumstances? How do you find common ground with others without losing your integrity and placing achievement of your Authentic Self in jeopardy? Ayn Rand's essay 'Doesn't Life Require Compromise?' in The Virtue of Selfishness supplies answers to these questions. Join us! Sharpen your thinking!
F. Giving Effective Feedback
Achieving your Authentic Self in any situation other than living as a lone castaway on a deserted island demands interaction with others, often as a team. Part of that interaction with those others includes justice--the encouraging of their good qualities through praise and rewards, and the discouraging of their bad qualities through a broad spectrum of tools ranging from constructive criticism to outright condemnation. This discussion provides suggestions for offering feedback to others on their performance and character.
12. "How Does One Lead a Rational Life in an Irrational Society?" in The Virtue of Selfishness
Despite the tremendous advances of the human species toward a rational world view, much work remains to be done. Religious zeal has steadily risen in the United States and the Middle East, and postmodern philosophy has overtaken much of today's academia. How can you defend your most precious asset -- your mind -- from this onslaught? Join us as we search for answers in Ayn Rand's essay 'How Does One Lead a Rational Life in an Irrational Society?' in The Virtue of Selfishness. Learn to use moral judgment as yet another tool in your Objectivist toolbox for achieving your Authentic Self.
13. "The Cult of Moral Grayness" in The Virtue of Selfishness
In rebellion against the dogmatic religious Right, the postmodern Left has not offered an adequate secular moral code in its place. Instead, it has argued for the abandonment of moral concepts altogether, contending that there is some good and some bad in everyone. Tonight's chat discusses this theme in Ayn Rand's essay 'The Cult of Moral Grayness' in The Virtue of Selfishness. Learn to dispel this fog and view the world clearly using the piercing lighthouse of rational justice. Clear the way for your voyage to achieving your Authentic Self.
G. Delegate To Empower
Members of a free society delegate defense of individual rights to the government to enforce objective laws and prevent destructive anarchy. Within that society, people may freely cooperate and form teams to accomplish common goals. Achieving your Authentic Self will most likely require teamwork and delegation of tasks to trustworthy others. How do you delegate these tasks in a mutually beneficial way? Tonight's discussion addresses this question.
14. "Man's Rights" in The Virtue of Selfishness
What are rights? Do they require a Divine Creator to validate? Do animals have rights? Are rights an attribute of individuals or collectives? Tonight's chat addresses these questions by examining 'Man's Rights' in The Virtue of Selfishness. Learn to define concretely the abstract concept 'rights' as you pursue the achievement of your Authentic Self.
15. "The Nature of Government" in The Virtue of Selfishness
What is government? What is its proper role? Is its function to protect individual rights? Can a society refer to any timeless principles upon which to build and sustain a limited government? Tonight's chat discusses how you can achieve your Authentic Self by understanding 'The Nature of Government' in The Virtue of Selfishness.
H. The Leader as Coach
The most effective leaders train, educate and motivate their people to realize their full potential. This approach as a coach rather than as a commander has paid handsome dividends to many leaders. Great achievers have often credited their selected mentors or coaches with their own success. Even Howard Roark and John Galt had mentors to coach them. Tonight's discussion centers on how a leader can coach the best out the people he leads. Your achievement of your own Authentic Self will no doubt come much easier with good coaching.
16. "The Cashing-In: The Student 'Rebellion'" in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal
The ideas of skepticism, duty and irrationality planted in the universities over the preceding centuries grew like runaway weeds to be harvested by university students in the twentieth century. This ideological 'cashing-in' manifested itself in the form of mindless student 'rebellions' in the 1960s. Ayn Rand traces the roots of these pointless, nihilistic rebellions to anti-Enlightenment philosophers in her essay 'The Cashing-In: The Student 'Rebellion'' in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. Learn to train your Authentic Self to think with independence and confidence.
17. "The Anti-Industrial Revolution" in Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution struck joy in the hearts of some and fear in others. Concurrently, traditional Christianity declined in its political and cultural influence while alternative religions rose. In the twentieth century, these two trends merged to become the modern environmentalist movement. Ayn Rand examines these trends in 'The Anti-Industrial Revolution' in Return of the Primitive. Learn to defend your Authentic Self from the attacks of radical environmentalism.
III. Summer Semester
I. Service and Leadership
Political and religious leaders of past ages ruled with the force of an Attila and the fraud of a Witch Doctor. The rise of individual rights led to the concept of the 'servant leader', that is, a person who earned his right to lead by serving those he led with right reason. Tonight's chat explores the concept of the servant leader in detail. This session will help you to clarify what aspects of your Authentic Self will need to master these dual skills of service and leadership.
- "The Roots of War" in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal
What causes armed conflicts among nations? Why do negotiation attempts between armed nations often fail despite the efforts of 'peacekeeping' organizations like the United Nations? Ayn Rand examines this question in her essay 'The Roots of War' in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. Understanding these fundamental, global causal relationships can help you to shape your Authentic Self into the image of rational values.
- "Conservatism: An Obituary" in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal
The twentieth century saw conservatism drift from a staunch defense of individual rights and minimalist government toward simply attacking 'modern liberalism' without adequate intellectual defense. Ayn Rand deplored this failure and explained the cause of her disappointment in her essay 'Conservatism: An Obituary' in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. Understanding concepts often sloppily treated in the mass media, such as 'conservatism' and 'liberalism', can lead you toward clearer thinking as you seek to achieve your Authentic Self.
- "Racism" in The Virtue of Selfishness
Of all the forms of modern tribalism, racism remains its ugliest. Sadly, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 actually contained some of its own inverted forms of racism as well as a fascistic trampling of private property rights. Ayn Rand denounced all forms of racism and fascism in her essay 'Racism' in The Virtue of Selfishness. Mastery of objective, color-blind thinking can serve you well as you climb the philosophical mountain toward the achievement of your Authentic Self.
J. Building a Team
A free nation will never compel its citizens into involuntary servitude. How do citizens ever accomplish any significant achievements voluntarily? They do this through teamwork motivated by mutual self-interest of the many team players. Learning to be a team builder can serve you well as you achieve your Authentic Self. Tonight's chat focuses on strategies to build teams.
- "What Is Capitalism?" in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal
Since the breakdown of the old feudal structure and the rise of modern rights to private property, capitalism has endured relentless attacks. Religionists contend that it promotes 'sinful greed' while postmodernists cry that it 'exploits workers'. What exactly is capitalism, and how does it contrast with the so-called 'capitalism' practiced today? Tonight's chat searches for these answers in Ayn Rand's essay 'What Is Capitalism?' in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. Learn to defend your Authentic Self from irrationalists of both the Left and Right.
- "'Extremism' or The Art of Smearing" in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal
When someone calls a man of conviction of 'extremist', exactly what is he saying? Is it wrong to be 'extremely accurate' or 'extremely truthful'? Tonight's chat discusses Ayn Rand's essay ''Extremism' or The Art of Smearing' in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. This chat examines these questions that will prove key to defining clearly your Authentic Self.
- Motivating People
Large-scale achievements require the cooperation of many motivated people working synergistically as a team. To motivate those people, the leader must discover their core values as individuals and then appeal to those values. This rational, individualistic, values-centered approach to leadership serves as the discussion topic tonight. Becoming your Authentic Self and achieving your dreams will likely require learning these skills of rapport.
23. "The Psycho-Epistemology of Art" in The Romantic Manifesto
Ayn Rand contended that good art serves as an emotional fuel for the people who contemplate it. In her view, the ideal form of art is 'Romantic Realism', which involves selectivity of subject, clarity and integration. The integration of reason and emotion that good art embodies reflects an integration of psychology and epistemology, or what Ayn Rand called 'psycho-epistemology'. Tonight's chat discusses her essay 'The Psycho-Epistemology of Art' in The Romantic Manifesto. Learning to appreciate good art will supply the emotional fuel that your Authentic Self needs.
24. "Art and Sense of Life" in The Romantic Manifesto
Unlike written philosophical treatises, which convey explicitly the author's sense of life, art conveys the artist's sense of life implicitly. Whether the artist conceives of the universe as life-affirming and knowable or life-denying and unknowable, benevolent or malevolent, his sense of life will betray itself in his artwork. Tonight's chat focuses on this theme in Ayn Rand's essay 'Art and Sense of Life' in The Romantic Manifesto. Learning to select only life-affirming art will nourish your soul with energy to keep you motivated toward your Authentic Self.
25. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand by Leonard Peikoff
This final session of the year-long series of 'Love Your Life' chats will review the entire philosophy by discussing Leonard Peikoff's monumental book Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. Reality, Reason, Rational Egoism, Rights and Romantic Realism will all serve as topics. Each participant can ask final questions before embarking on that great hero's journey toward achieving his own Authentic Self.
As a general reference: The Ayn Rand Lexicon: Objectivism from A to Z, edited by Harry Binswanger