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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Spring 2009

T C 302 • Values in the Philosophy and Fiction of Ayn Rand-W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
42765 TTh
3:30 PM-5:00 PM
CBA 4.340

Course Description

This course will examine Ayn Rand's work in two of the "value" branches of philosophy, ethics and aesthetics. We will read Rands major work of fiction as well as several essays of her non-fiction in order to understand the arguments beneath her controversial positions and to assess their strengths and weaknesses. To distinguish the precise sort of moral theory that she espouses - rational selfishness  we will also study two other philosophers associated with somewhat different brands of egoism, Aristotle and Friedrich Nietzsche.

While the course spans the study of literature and philosophy, its primary orientation will be philosophical, thus students will be introduced to the methods of philosophical analysis as well as to some of philosophys fundamental questions. In ethics, for instance: what makes certain actions morally right and other actions wrong? What does the whole idea of some things being valuable rest upon? How tenable is the brand of egoism that Rand commends? What virtues, if any, does it require? What are its implications for charity, or benevolence, or friendship, or love? In aesthetics: What is art? How can we distinguish good art from bad art? How can we distinguish art from non-art? How crucial are an artists intentions to the meaning of his work? What role does an individuals subjective psychology play in his response to works of art? (While we will not devote extended attention to Rands political thought, we may outline the most basic implications of Rands moral theory for her view of the nature and purpose of government.)

We will also consider Rand as a novelist. What features make her fiction so compelling for some readers and so over the top for others? How important is the fiction to her presentation of her philosophical views? Is it propaganda? Is it realistic? In what sense should fiction be realistic? How does Rands fiction reflect her views about aesthetics? And how does it relate to the aesthetic views of Aristotle and Nietzsche?

Overall, the course is designed not only to offer students an in-depth examination of this particular authors work, but to introduce certain perennial philosophical issues and to begin training students in the methods that can be most fruitful for addressing them. To that end, we will be critically alert, throughout the term, to aspects of Rands method that seem more and less constructive.

Grading Policy

Paper 15% (3-4 pages)
Paper 20% (5-6 pages)
Paper 30% (6-8 pages)
In-class drafts of papers
Final exam (all essay) 20%
Attendance, participation, oral presentations 15%


Aristotle: Nicomachaen Ethics
Nietzsche: The Genealogy of Morals
Ayn Rand: Atlas Shrugged (Note: because the novel is quite long, students are required to read it before the beginning of the semester. Students should expect a test on it during the first week of class.)
Ayn Rand: The Virtue of Selfishness
Ayn Rand: The Romantic Manifesto
Leonard Peikoff, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand
Packet of assorted essays.
Recommended but not required: Tara Smith: Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist

About the Professor
Professor Smith's main interests are in moral, political, and legal philosophy. Recent work has focused on the foundations of value and the content of virtues. She is currently investigating proper methodology in judicial interpretation. Smith is author of Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics - The Virtuous Egoist (2006), Viable Values  A Study of Life as the Root and Reward of Morality (2000), and Moral Rights and Political Freedom (1995) as well as a number of articles in such venues as The Journal of Philosophy, American Philosophical Quarterly, Law and Philosophy, and Social Philosophy and Policy. She currently holds the Anthem Foundation Fellowship for the Study of Objectivism and serves on the Editorial Board of The Philosophers Index.


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