“On July 16, 1969, one million people, from all over the country, converged on Cape Kennedy, Florida, to witness the launching of Apollo 11 that carried astronauts to the moon. On August 15, 300,000 people, from all over the country, converged on Bethel, New York, near the town of Woodstock, to witness a rock music festival. These two events were news, not philosophical theory. . . . But if one cares to understand the meaning of these two events—to grasp their roots and their consequences—one will understand the power of philosophy . . . .”
Thus begins Ayn Rand’s 1969 Ford Hall Forum lecture analyzing the cultural significance of the Apollo 11 moon mission and the Woodstock rock festival—two newsworthy events from that summer.
Using the Greek gods Apollo and Dionysus as symbols of two complex philosophical issues—reason and irrational emotion—Rand argues that Apollo 11 and Woodstock are “perfect, fiction-like dramatizations of these abstract symbols.” Analyzing the mindsets of participants, commentators and spectators based on news stories, interviews, commentary and eye-witness accounts of the two events (Rand was present at the Apollo 11 launch as an invited guest of NASA), she explains the events’ meaning by reference to the deep philosophic principles at work, along with their consequences.
The Q & A that follows the lecture expands on its subject matter and also includes the following topics:
- Legalization of marijuana and other drugs
- Rand’s devotion to social commentary
- The “space race” and reasons for going to the moon
- The morality of the Vietnam War and of the war protesters
- Rand’s view of her purpose in life
- Government controls on pollution
Boston’s Ford Hall Forum is 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.
A print version of this talk is available in Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution. (1969)
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Apollo and Dionysus
(Free MP3 download; 2 hrs., w/ Q & A, 86.48 MB)
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