In this 1962 lecture, Ayn Rand reconsiders ethics from the ground up. Instead of asking “Which moral code should one adopt?” Rand starts by asking why man needs a moral code in the first place. Her thought-provoking answer to that question launches an intellectual journey that culminates with Rand’s discovery and definition of a new code of morality, based in rational self-interest and aimed at each individual’s life and happiness.
Along the way, Rand discusses such issues as: the nature of values and the facts that give rise to them, why a code of morality is a requirement of survival for man, and how such a code can be derived and validated scientifically. She touches on such topics as free will, whether man has any “instincts,” and the relationship of reason to emotion. Not only does she present new conceptions of virtues such as honesty, justice, and integrity, she also explains why rationality, independence, productivity, and pride—character traits often dismissed as amoral or even immoral—deserve to be regarded as cardinal virtues. She also discusses how a moral individual deals with others, and what should be the guiding purpose of an individual’s entire life.
This lecture was given as a radio address on March 15, 1962, as a part of a weekly series called “Ayn Rand on Campus,” which was hosted by Columbia University’s WKCR radio station. The speech was originally delivered at the University of Wisconsin Symposium on “Ethics in Our Time” in Madison, Wisconsin, on February 9, 1961, and it was later published in Rand’s 1964 book, The Virtue of Selfishness—a collection of essays expanding on certain aspects of the Objectivist ethics.
After the lecture, Rand responds extemporaneously to such questions as:
Why should individual men be concerned with the continued existence of mankind?
Aren’t all men somewhat irrational? Won’t they always behave irrationally?
Is it rational to pursue one’s own happiness at the expense of others?
How can one make the transition from is to ought—from facts to values?
Isn’t art irrational? And if so, does Objectivism reject it?
(MP3 download; 92 min., with Q & A, 65.95 MB)
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