In this 1973 talk, Ayn Rand illustrates the role of philosphy in politics and law by analyzing the ideas that led to the Supreme Court’s decisions that year in five “obscenity” cases. Arguing that those decisions “establish[ed] the legal and intellectual base of censorship” in America, Rand warns that the philosophic ideas underlying the decisions are leading to increased government control over every aspect of people’s lives.
Rand contends that the fundamental issue at stake in these cases was “not one’s view of sex” but “freedom of speech and of the press—i.e., the right to hold any view and to express it.” Rand analyzes arguments made in both the majority and minority opinions in these cases, drawing out the underlying philosophical premises—such as non-objectivity, altruism, and statism—contained in the opinions. She argues that the acceptance of these underlying ideas is leading both conservatives and liberals to tolerate greater government control over individual citizens.
In this lecture you will also hear Rand discuss:
Why an “average” person’s opinion as to whether a work has “serious” literary, artistic, political, or scientific value is an “unserious standard” for the Supreme Court to adopt in defining “obscenity”;
The “crack in the Constitution’s foundation …which permitted the gradual establishment of the welfare state”;
How antitrust laws have led to censorship, and
The “paradox” that distinguishes conservatives from liberals.
This lecture was delivered at Boston’s Ford Hall Forum, America’s oldest (founded in 1908) continuously operating free public lecture series. Over the years, such luminaries as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, and Henry Kissinger have appeared on its podium.
An edited version of this talk is available in Philosophy: Who Needs It, a collection of essays by Rand. (1973)
(Free MP3 download; 87 min., with Q & A, 62.78 MB)
The description of this product was written and/or edited by ARI staff.