Recently I did an interview about Free Objectivist Books on the podcast “Philosophy in Action.” We covered how the program works, why people should participate, and how it’s going (we’ve granted over 1,000 books!) Throughout the interview I quoted some of my favorite testimonials from both students and donors. Listen to the recording here.
It’s September 2, Atlas Shrugged Day. What better way to celebrate than by giving a copy to a student who wants to read it?
Right now on Free Objectivist Books, there are over 120 students looking for donors to send them copies of Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, and other Objectivist books. A few minutes and a few dollars can put a copy in their hands.
Here are a few examples of students who want Atlas Shrugged:
Liam Connelly, studying political science at the University of Southern Maine: “I hear references to Rand’s work all the time now, especially Atlas Shrugged. Cliffs Notes summaries and Wikipedia entries can never approach the knowledge gleaned from reading the text myself.”
Kelsey Baker at Southwestern University in Georgetown, TX: ”I’m a student starting a Students for Liberty club at my university and I wanted to do some background reading/have books available for other people.”
Steven Sunding at Francis Lewis High School: “I have been a victim of leftist indoctrination by our public school system, my relatives, and the culture in general…. Considering the political bias that’s rampant among the teachers in my particular school, I’m afraid the only books I’ll be exposed to in English class are anti-capitalist novels such as The Grapes of Wrath…. Also, despite becoming more politically conservative, I’ve been quite disturbed by religious conservatives, whom I feel don’t truly care for freedom outside the realm of economics.”
In case you haven’t heard of Free Objectivist Books, it’s a website for the purpose of giving away copies of Objectivist books to students who want to read them. Students sign up with their name and school, and say what book they want to read and why. Donors choose which students they want to sponsor, and then send them the books directly. As a donor, you’ll get a personal thank-you from the student, and when they finish reading the book, you’ll get to hear their reaction. It’s a simple, easy, direct form of activism that is unusually motivating and rewarding.
Sign up to donate today at freeobjectivistbooks.org.
For more about the project, check out the slides from my info session at OCON.
Someone recently asked me ”what do you think of the amount of ridicule being heaped on Rand’s works” on the question-and-answer site Quora? He added: “I was wondering how one could create a meaningful debate.” Here are my thoughts:
The ridicule heaped on Rand and Objectivism is nothing new. All great new ideas are first ignored, then ridiculed, then attacked before they are finally accepted. Rand was ignored for a long time. When her enemies could no longer ignore her, they began to ridicule her. In the past ~10 years some of them are starting to realize that they must take her seriously and are beginning to attack her. We’re still halfway between the “ridicule” and “attack” phases. But every major publicity event, like the Paul Ryan VP pick, moves us closer to being taken seriously by everyone.
How to create a meaningful debate on a Q&A forum? Mostly, just participate the same way you normally would. Write good, thoughtful, well-written answers, when you have something to say. (Don’t worry about being a spokesman for Objectivism or representing it somehow; just write as yourself, in your own words.) Comment occasionally, when you have something to add and when you think someone might hear you. Vote up good answers, and, occasionally, vote down ones that are poorly written, don’t address the question, or are demonstrably, factually false.
Above all, don’t feed the trolls. Don’t argue for the sake of arguing. If you write, keep your audience in mind. Don’t write for the Rand haters; you won’t get through to them. Write for the intelligent, thoughtful person who hasn’t made up his mind, the person who is sitting on the sidelines and watching the debate.
When you write, hold yourself to a high standard. People will pay attention not only to what you say, but how you say it. Be intelligent, clear, thoughtful, and polite.
Most of the above goes for any online forum, and for intellectual activism in general.
I’ve posted the slides from the info session on Free Objectivist Books I gave at OCON:
If you haven’t signed up yet, do it today!
Free Objectivist Books has now signed up almost 500 students and over 100 donors. In all, 461 books have been sponsored for students.
There are still over 100 students waiting to find sponsors! You can sign up to donate books here: http://freeobjectivistbooks.org/signup/donate
For instance, Joseph Paul, studying political science at Pennsylvania State University, wants to read Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand: “I am new to Objectivism and would like to expand my knowledge of the subject…. I have been studying various aspects of libertarianism for years: from Mises, Hayek, and Rothbard, to Jefferson, Madison and Ron Paul. Recently, I stumbled upon Atlas Shrugged. It seems that I have missed a whole new way of thinking and I just don’t know it yet.”
Charley Sabel, a student at the College of Law in London, wants to read Atlas Shrugged: “I have been told so many times to read Rand and that I would love her, and now finally finished my exams and have plenty of time to read what I want to! I have a general interest in politics and philosophy. but for me every day is a school day and continued learning is what makes a good, erudite and well rounded human being.”
When a student you sponsor finishes their book, they’ll be prompted to let you know what they thought of it. Arda Akcicek, studying political science at Hacettepe University in Turkey, read Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand and said: “I just discovered that how much we need the idea of ‘I’ to free the world.”
Or there’s Carlos Buitrago, who studied economic global affairs at George Mason University, and read Atlas Shrugged: “A truly inspirational book, and more relevant than ever. Freedom is what allowed the world to flourish, not central planning and plunder. No one has the right to take from one person to give it to the next.”
Help change the world, one mind at a time: http://freeobjectivistbooks.org
Attention young photogenic Ayn Rand fans:
Want to help promote Free Objectivist Books? I need pictures for the website and promotional materials. It’s as simple as this: Send me a picture of yourself (or a friend) reading an Ayn Rand book.
- Use a well-known book like Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, The Virtue of Selfishness, or Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.
- Make sure the book is in good condition.
- Make sure the title is clearly visible.
- Look at the camera and smile, or look at the book and appear interested/absorbed.
- Make sure you have good lighting, for a high-quality image.
- The subject must appear young enough to pass for a high school or college student, late teens or early 20s.
- Send me the picture at full resolution, not scaled down.
Take as many pictures as you like, with as many different people, books, poses, and settings. I can use lots of photos. Send them to me at: email@example.com. I need them by Thursday, June 14.
(Terms: Anything you send me for this purpose becomes my property, and you are allowing me to use it to promote the Free Objectivist Books project in any way, including without limitation on the Web, on posters and flyers, and on business cards.)
The Free Objectivist Books website is going strong. So far 238 books have been requested, and 165 of those have found donors.
However, that leaves 73 requests unfulfilled! You can help by signing up to donate and pledging 5 books.
Here’s how it works: Students sign up on the site, choose a book they want to read, and say why they want to read it. Donors read these personal appeals, choose which ones they want to sponsor, and send the books directly to the students. As a donor, you’ll get a personal thank-you note from the student, and you’ll hear when they finish reading the book, as well as what they thought of it.
For instance, Justin Walters, studying business at Sterling High School in Somerdale, NJ, says: “Ayn Rand comes up a lot in intelligent conversation, and I want to read at least one thing so I know what people are talking about. In the process, I’ll read a potentially life-changing book.”
Savannah Steele, studying Studio Art in Minneapolis, MN, wants to read Atlas Shrugged “to learn more about how to live. I am interested in Rand’s ideas about ideal behavior and I want to understand why she thinks individuals should work towards their own happiness, not for the success of a group.”
Again, to be clear, donors don’t give cash donations; they give books directly. It’s up to you whether you want to buy the book online and ship it directly to the student, find it in a used bookstore, or mail a copy that is already sitting on your shelf. Sponsoring one student typically costs around $7.
Also, please let me know if you have suggestions for how to reach more students who might be interested in taking advantage of this program.
Harry Binswanger has created a new holiday, Randsday. It is celebrated on Ayn Rand’s birthday, Feb 2. Dr. Binswanger explains:
To celebrate Randsday, you do something not done on any other holiday: you give *yourself* a present…. Randsday is for reminding ourselves that pleasure is an actual need, a psychological requirement for a human consciousness.
Read all about it and spread the word!
Someone asked on Quora, “Why do Objectivists think religion can not exist in the sphere of their philosophy?” and added “I consider myself an Objectivist, but also consider myself religious…. In fact I would go so far as to say that Jesus taught Objectivism at some level.” Here is my answer:
Objectivism is broader than the ideas of individualism and selfishness. It is an entire philosophy that includes metaphysics and epistemology.
In metaphysics, Objectivism says there is only one reality, that which we all perceive. It “denies any supernatural dimension presented as a contradiction of nature, of existence. This applies not only to God, but also to every variant of the supernatural ever advocated or to be advocated. In other words, we accept reality, and that’s all.” (Ayn Rand Lexicon, “Atheism”) Also: “‘God’ as traditionally defined is a systematic contradiction of every valid metaphysical principle.” (The Philosophy of Objectivism lecture series)
In epistemology, it says that man can know the world, and that reason is his onlymeans of knowledge. Faith is “only a short-circuit destroying the mind.” (Galt’s speech, Atlas Shrugged)
So Objectivism is explicitly atheist, denying not only the Christian religion, but religion as such.
Moreover: Christianity, from the teachings of Jesus to the modern Church, is anti-individualism and anti-selfishness. The ideal of Christianity is subordinating the individual to God. It says you should sacrifice your worldly desires and values to God.
Christianity is anti-money (“It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven”); Objectivism is pro-money. Christianity is against sexual pleasure; Objectivism is for it. Christianity regards charity to the poor as a moral duty; Objectivism regards it as at best an optional, personal choice, not morally required. Christianity is anti-abortion and anti–birth control; Objectivism supports both abortion rights and birth control.
The sharp contrast and deep conflict between Rand and Jesus has been in the news lately, as Republicans try to embrace both. A search for “rand vs jesus” turns up a lot of relevant articles; one by Andrew Sullivan is short and to the point.
Last July I announced an offer to send a free copy of any Objectivist book to any student who pledged to read it. I got dozens of requests, more than I could fulfill on my own, and several generous donors helped me fulfill them all. Many students wrote nice thank-you notes in response.
In order to open this offer up on an ongoing basis, and to reach many more readers, I am launching a dedicated website for this project: http://freeobjectivistbooks.org
Sign up today to get a free book, or to donate books to eager readers! And feel free to pass this on to a friend, forward it to a mailing list, or post it on a relevant board or group.