Rand begins this 1966 lecture by describing how experiments have shown the detrimental effects of sensory deprivation. Rand then asks, if sensory deprivation has such negative effects, what happens to a man when he is deprived of values?
To answer this question, Rand argues that we need not look beyond current American culture. Where in today’s culture, Rand asks, can a man find any values or any meaningful pleasure. Rand leads her listeners through a brief tour of contemporary American culture. Along the way, she discusses attitudes and ideas from modern philosophers, religious leaders, journalists, and politicians, as well as works from contemporary novelists and artists. At every stop, Rand identifies cynicism, nihilism, pretentiousness, purposelessness, bordem, hopelessness, and despair.
What are the consequences of a culture devoid of values? Rand points to several ominious trends, including the rise in drug addiction and adolescent suicides.
What is particularly alarming about these cultural trends, Rand argues, is that the exponents of modern cultural movements are more interested in destroying people’s values rather than promoting any values of their own.
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.