Good Objectivist Sources

“Justin” asks:


Could you point me to a good source for answers regarding the length versus strength, etc., in regards to life being a standard of value? I get asked this question a lot when I try to defend my position, and I don’t think my retorts are satisfactory.

If you know of good discussions of this issue, other than Dr. Piekoff’s Understanding Objectivism, please let me know. ( I am going to borrow that series from a friend, but I am currently away on an internship and don’t have access to it).

The name of the course by Darryl Wright (that I couldn’t remember before) is “Advanced Topics in Ethics.” (Diana Hsieh reminded me of this, and she also recommends the lecture.) Unfortunately, I’m not sure it’s available for sale.

I’m working my way through three sets of Leonard Peikoff’s lectures: “Understanding Objectivism,” “Objectivism Through Induction,” and “Advanced Seminars on Objectivism.” I’m in the middle of the middle course, and I’ve found the material to be extremely illuminating. Not only did Peikoff make me aware of the problem of rationalism, he made me aware of some of the specific ways that I had become a rationalist. More importantly, he offers excellent guidance for how to overcome rationalism with an inductive, reality-based approach. Of course, the basic text to accompany these lectures is Peikoff’s Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. The book is easy to get and to afford; the lectures are not. But, again, those who have trouble with the cost of the lectures can look for a loaner copy or buy a copy to share.

Since the work of Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff, the best work on ethics is that of Tara Smith. Her book Viable Values covers the foundations of ethics; her follow-up book Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics reviews the main arguments of the first book before launching into a detailed treatment of the virtues. Smith also helped me to understand the significance of life as the standard of value. And her latest book is invaluable for reaching a better understanding of why we need the specific virtues, what they entail, and how they should be lived. If I had read her book at a young age, and taken the trouble to understand and apply it, I would have saved myself a great deal of trouble and achieved my values with greater ability.

So, if you read one book over the next few months, make it Tara Smith’s Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics. It is a wonderful, clearly written, and amazingly useful book.

One thought on “Good Objectivist Sources”

  1. Though it doesn’t address the length/strength confusion direclty, Wright’s “Ayn Rand and the History of Ethics” is a fantastic (and affordable!) discussion of the inductive basis of Rand’s derivation of value from life. It is a must have.


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