T C 301 • Values in the Philosophy and Fiction of Ayn Rand-W
3:30 PM-5:00 PM
The name Ayn Rand typically provokes either passionate admiration or scathing ridiculebut rarely indifference. While Rands novels continue to sell hundreds of thousands of copies decades after their initial publication, her philosophy is often dismissed as simplistic or sophomoric. In the last several years, however, scholars have begun taking a closer look at Rands work. This course will examine Ayn Rands work primarily from the perspective of philosophy. It will focus on the value dimensions of her thoughther ideas in ethics, politics, and aestheticsas we read some of Rands fiction, non-fiction, and critics in order to understand the arguments beneath her controversial positions and to assess their strengths and weaknesses. Insofar as our investigation is philosophical, students will be introduced to the methods of philosophical analysis as well as to some of philosophys basic questions. E.g., in ethics, 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 would it require? What are its implications for charity, or benevolence, or friendship, or love? In politics: What is the proper function of government? What rights do individuals possess? And what are the implications of such rights for equality and justice? 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? We will also consider Rand as a novelist, however. What features of her fiction make her work 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 her fiction realistic? In what sense should fiction be realistic? How does Rands fiction reflect her views about aesthetics? Is it propaganda? Overall, the course is designed not only to offer students an in-depth examination of this particular authors work, but to introduce 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.
About the Professor: Tara Smith is an Associate Professor of Philosophy specializing in moral and political philosophy. She has published two books, Moral Rights & Political Freedom, and Viable Values: A Study of Life as the Root and Reward of Morality, as well as articles on such topics as personal justice, forgiveness, love, and pride. She is currently working on a book on the major moral virtues. Outside the classroom, she enjoys playing tennis, following football, listening to fine music (no pretensions of knowledge here, just the pursuit of joy), and reading. Especially people who can write.
Attendance, participation, oral presentations 15% Midterm exam 15% Paper 10% (3-4 pages) Paper 20% (4-5 pages) Paper 20% (6-7 pages) Final exam 20% In-class drafts of papers
The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand, ed. Douglas Den Uyl & Douglas Rasmussen By Ayn Rand: Atlas Shrugged (students must read 2/3 of this long novel before the beginning of the semester) The Virtue of Selfishness Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal The Romantic Manifesto A few pieces by others explaining and/or criticizing aspects of Rands philosophy (e.g., Lou Torres on issues in aesthetics, Leonard Peikoff, Craig Biddle, David Kelley on issues in ethics and politics)