Campus Media Response: The Roots of the Objectivist Campus Revival

Objectivists Expand Presence
The Stanford Review, January 8, 2010

Dear editors,

Jordan Carr claims that a revival of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism at Stanford does not result from any “attitudinal shift” among students. Instead, he thinks, a philosophy that upholds reason, egoism and capitalism is appealing to college students merely because they have “minimal responsibilities to others.”

Does Carr really believe that students such as Dakin Sloss are interested in Rand’s philosophy only because it appears to rationalize breaking free from obligations to others? Why assume so blithely that these students neither have nor recognize such obligations? And why assume that the interests of others cannot be important components of one’s own self-interest?

Indeed, why would Dakin Sloss, the egoist, spend so much time spreading Rand’s ideas of egoism, unless he thought that by helping others to pursue their own happiness, he would be making the world better for himself?

Carr’s greatest injustice is to neglect the possibility that students like Sloss are serious about the possibility that Rand’s ideas are actually true. Ayn Rand herself speculated about the appeal of her ideas among the young. Carr would do well to betray less cynicism about his fellow students, and consider her explanation:

“It is not in the nature of man—nor of any living entity—to start out by giving up, by spitting in one’s own face and damning existence; that requires a process of corruption, whose rapidity differs from man to man. . . . Yet a few hold on and move on, knowing that that fire is not to be betrayed, learning how to give it shape, purpose and reality. But whatever their future, at the dawn of their lives, men seek a noble vision of man’s nature and of life’s potential”
(Introduction to The Fountainhead, 1968, pg. 6).

Valery Publius

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Valery Publius is the pen name of a teacher living in the American South.