The BB&T Chair for the Study of Objectivism was created in 2008 to support research and teaching related to the philosophy of Ayn Rand.
The chairholder is Tara Smith, who has been teaching in the Philosophy Department at UT since the fall of 1989.
The Chair sponsors a variety of activities involving students, faculty, and other researchers from various institutions, as well as the wider community. It sponsors essay contests, lectures, symposia, conferences, workshops, and its new series of panel discussions dedicated to exploring the contentious aspects of free speech, Free Speech Dialogues.
Ayn Rand & Objectivism
Ayn Rand was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1905. She emigrated to the US at age 21 and went on to become a best-selling novelist (We the Living, 1936; Anthem, 1938; The Fountainhead, 1943; and Atlas Shrugged, 1957). While her philosophical views are most known for their political and moral dimensions, Rand regarded these as derivative implications from more foundational issues in metaphysics and epistemology. She published Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology in 1967 and called her philosophy “Objectivism” to reflect the central role of objectivity in man’s thinking.
Rand championed the practical importance of philosophy to everyday life:
“In order to live, man must act; in order to act, he must make choices; in order to make choices, he must define a code of values; in order to define a code of values, he must know what he is and where he is—i.e., he must know his own nature (including his means of knowledge) and the nature of the universe in which he acts—i.e., he needs metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, which means: philosophy. He cannot escape from this need; his only alternative is whether the philosophy guiding him is to be chosen by his mind or by chance.” (“Philosophy & Sense of Life,” The Romantic Manifesto)
When once asked to state the essence of her philosophy while standing on one foot, she replied:
- Metaphysics – Objective Reality
- Epistemology – Reason
- Ethics – Self-interest
- Politics – Capitalism
Extensive elaboration can be found in her numerous non-fiction books, which include:
- Philosophy: Who Needs It
- The Virtue of Selfishness
- Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal
- Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology
- For the New Intellectual
The definitive comprehensive statement of her thought is Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, by Leonard Peikoff, 1991.