Objectivism Q&As is a new program by STRIVE that features experts in Objectivism answering questions by students interested in learning and understanding Ayn Rand’s philosophy. Students have the opportunity to ask their questions one-on-one with Objectivist intellectuals and are able to follow up on their questions for further clarity. The goal is that students around the country can have direct access to the scholars most qualified to improve their grasp of Objectivism.
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Last Monday, Dr. Gregory Salmieri answered questions from students as part of Objectivism Q&As. Dr. Salmieri is an Anthem Fellow and a lecturer in philosophy at Rutgers University. As part of his most recent project, he served as the co-editor of A Companion to Ayn Rand, which is the first volume to offer a comprehensive scholarly treatment of Rand’s entire corpus. The intellectuals featured in Objectivism Q&As, including Dr. Salmieri, are personally invested in making sure that students have a chance to expand their knowledge and walk away bringing something new to their own lives and to those with whom they interact.
During the Q&A, one student asked Salmieri about an event in Rand’s novel, The Fountainhead, where the protagonist Howard Roark, displeased with the state of his career, stopped working as an architect and found a job in a quarry. The student wondered if he would make the same choice if he could never return to the profession he loved.
“He doesn’t really know for sure whether he’ll be able to come back,” Salmieri explained, “but he’s very confident that he will… and he has reasons for thinking that it’s not worth continuing to work in the kinds of jobs that are immediately available to him.” Salmieri discussed the risk analysis Roark did before making the choice that he did and explained how knowing the direction of one’s life and career path can help in making such decisions.
Salmieri also answered a question about a curious statement by John Galt in Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged. When a friend was worried about John Galt, Galt replied, “Of course I’m alright, professor. I had to be. A is A.” The student was wondering if Galt believed that no accidental harm could come to him or that his well-being was somehow pre-determined.
Salmieri replied by saying, “It stands out to me as a little bit of an odd line.” He described some of the ways that Ayn Rand may have intended it to be read, such as a casual comment among friends. He also discussed the philosophical implications of the line, such as the role of luck in a person’s life, and how one should view accidental tragedies.
Ayn Rand’s novels weren’t the only topic of questions during this session. One other question was whether life is suffering as some philosophies argue, given the kind of struggles and hardships inherent in living, or whether it’s true that the universe is benevolent as Rand argues.
In his answer, Salmieri dismissed the religious ideal by saying that “the Garden of Eden is awful…that is not a good life, that is not a human life.” He explained that the kind of effortless, unproductive leisure found in such depictions of paradise is not a fitting way of life for humans. As Salmieri put it, “Life is about achievement, and achievement is an effortful thing, and often that effort is very pleasurable.”
In contrast to most religions, Rand’s view of life was that the pains and suffering that one encounters in life are incidental and do not define man’s life. Rather, the life of a rational being is one of purposeful struggle towards a noble goal, with one’s ultimate goal being the fulfillment of one’s life.
The Objectivism Q&A program will feature many more Objectivist intellectuals, including Dr. Harry Binswanger, who is the author of How We Know: Epistemology on an Objectivist Foundation, has been an instructor of philosophy at the Objectivist Academic Center since 1994, and was a personal friend to Ayn Rand during her later years.
We highly encourage you to tune in on Sunday, February 5th at 1 pm PT/ 4 pm ET and ask questions of Greg Salmieri and Harry Binswanger.