By Tara Smith
This lecture examines a virtue that is essential to leading a rationally self-interested life: independence. It first probes the virtue’s exact meaning, with an emphasis on understanding independence as “a primary orientation to reality” (Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand by Leonard Peikoff) rather than to other men. The lecture further explains the value of independence as well as the practical demands that it places on us. It also evaluates the conventional wisdom that man is a “social animal” and that we are inescapably “interdependent.”
This lecture examines one of the virtues that Ayn Rand considered essential to leading a rationally self-interested life: independence. In an era when we are continually told that no man is an island and when the good of the group is taken as self-evidently superior to that of the individual, personal independence is not only on the defensive; it is poorly understood.
This lecture first clarifies the exact meaning of independence, with an emphasis on understanding Dr. Peikoff’s description of independence as “a primary orientation to reality” rather than to other men. It further makes plain the value of independencewhy it is vitalas well as the sorts of actions and policies, both intellectual and material, that independence demands of a person, in practice. Along the way, the lecture points out numerous different forms of the second-handedness that is inimical to genuine independence. It also tackles today’s conventional wisdom that man is “a social animal” and disposes of the myth that we are all, inescapably, “interdependent.”
This lecture was recorded at the 2006 Objectivist Summer Conference in Boston, MA.
(MP3 download; 86 min., with Q & A, 61.87 MB)