Writer and philosopher, Ayn Rand was
born Alissa Rosenbaum in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1905. At the
age of nine, she decided to become a fiction writer. During high
school, she was an eyewitness to both the Kerensky Revolution
and the Bolshevik (Communist) Revolution. When the communists
took over Russia, her father's pharmacy was confiscated and her
family was reduced to severe poverty.
Rand graduated from the University of
Petrograd in 1924, where she studied philosophy and history. Because
of her love of movies, she studied screen writing at the State
Institute for Cinema Arts following graduation. Near the end of
1925, Rand received permission to visit her relatives in the United
States. Once in the U.S., she was determined to stay, eventually
making her way to Hollywood to pursue screenwriting.
In Hollywood, Rand met Cecil B. DeMille,
who gave her a job at his studio. She worked for several years
doing odd jobs at the studio before she sold her first screenplay,
"Red Pawn," in 1932. Her first novel, We the Living,
was published in 1936. While writing her novels, she realized
that to create heroic fictional characters, she had to learn what
made these characters possible. She developed "a philosophy
for living on earth," which became the basis for her philosophy
called Objectivism. "My philosophy, in essence is the concept
of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral
purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest
activity, and reason as his absolute."
Objectivism states that a person's purpose
should be achieving happiness, but finding happiness means that
one live by objective, rational principals, including moral integrity,
"My morality, the morality of reason, is contained in a single
axiom: existence exists Ð and in a single choice: to live,"
and respect for the rights of others, "The recognition of
individual rights entails the banishment of physical force from
human relationships: basically, rights can be violated only by
means of force." The heroic person will build, invent, and create,
depending on their own talents and trading with other independent
people. They will not initiate force to achieve their goals. Objectivism
believes that all people have the ability within themselves to
live rich, fulfilling, and independent lives and that there is
no limit to human achievement and happiness.
Classroom Discussion Questions:
If Ayn Rand, were alive today, how would she answer the question, "Which is more powerful, love or hate? "
In a historical context, what would Ayn Rand think was the greatest
challenge facing humankind during her lifetime?
Who in history might Ayn Rand have considered
to be a heroic character? Are there any heroic characters alive
Would Ayn Rand and the objectivists have
said that human nature was good or evil? Why?
Friedrich Nietzsche believed that there
are supermen, or higher beings, who are the key to the future.
How are Rand's heroes similar to Nietzsche's supermen? How are
Would Rand have agreed with the philosophy
of Martin Luther King, Jr.? Why or why not?
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