Picture of Panel Discussion on Expanded Edition of Essays on Ayn Rand’s “We the Living” (MP3 download)

Panel Discussion on Expanded Edition of Essays on Ayn Rand’s “We the Living” (MP3 download)

By Shoshana Milgram, Onkar Ghate and Robert Mayhew


Shoshana Milgram, Robert Mayhew and Onkar Ghate discuss the chapters they have written for the forthcoming expanded edition of Essays on Ayn Rand’s “We the Living, edited by Dr. Mayhew.


Dr. Milgram considers Ayn Rand’s studies in philosophy and her references, in We the Living and her later writing, to her courses and textbooks. Dr. Milgram presents a contrast between what Ayn Rand was taught at college, and what she chose to learn. The key evidence is drawn from new information about the textbooks used in two of her courses. Her textbook in “historical materialism” provides a background for her repudiation of the Marxist view of history (which this textbook attempted to “teach” her). Her textbook in ancient philosophy suggests why she considered Aristotle a potential intellectual ally, worth investigating in depth. In college, and throughout her life, she did not surrender passively to “influences”; actively and independently, she pursued her own purposes in her education.

Dr. Mayhew discusses the novel’s theme from the perspective of its formulation in Ayn Rand’s preface to the 1959 edition: “Its basic theme is the sanctity of human life—using the word ‘sanctity’ not in a mystical sense, but in the sense of ‘supreme value.’” He examines the use of religious language in descriptions of Kira’s values, and in so doing connects this formulation of the theme to Ayn Rand’s endeavor to break religion’s monopoly on ethics.

Dr. Ghate discusses the plight of Leo Kovalensky. He compares Leo to other characters in the novel and argues that the various ways in which these other characters try to cope with their inhuman living conditions are not ways that are open to Leo. This issue is important to judging Leo’s actions through the course of the story and the strength or lack of strength of his character. A wide-ranging Q&A follows.

This panel was recorded at the 2011 Objectivist Summer Conference in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

(MP3 download; 1 hr., 26 min., 62.24 MB)