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I just started my spring semester today, and my philosophy class will not be discussing Ayn Rand. The professor was kind, but he said he doesn't consider Ayn Rand a philosopher, but merely a novelist with controversial ideas. However, we will be discussing, quite extensively, Kant. This just goes to show the bias in the educational system, and how teachers indoctrinate students. What should I do? Should I participate in class and debate with the professor at the risk of getting an F for my beliefs, or should I "sell out" and listen to everything he says, just to get a good grade?

I won't lie. The professor was a nice man. I told him (and this is the truth) that Ayn Rand's ideas saved me, in a metaphorical sense. She gave me a direction in life. But still, we're not covering her. I honestly believe that if we discussed her alongside Kant, it would certainly begin an interesting semester for me to enjoy.

asked Jan 23 '12 at 14:45

Collin1's gravatar image


edited Jan 23 '12 at 16:14

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

If getting good grades does not require you to sacrifice your own judgment (e.g., "Say that you agree with Kant"), then I don't see what the problem is. There is no harm in understanding the ideas of another philosopher. In fact, it will do you good to confirm if what Ayn Rand say about Kant is accurate or not. There are people out there who will tell you that Rand did not read Kant. This will help you defend against those arguments.

answered Jan 23 '12 at 15:07

Humbug's gravatar image


As Mark Twain once said "Don't let schooling interfere with your education."

answered Jan 23 '12 at 16:12

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Jason Gibson ♦

Ayn Rand herself was faced with the same situation as a college student in Russia. Her professor was a famous Platonist who was hostile to Aristotle. Rand already understood Plato's errors, and she defended Aristotle. Sometimes the student is wiser than the professor. You are under no moral obligation to debate your professor, and you should never sell out. But when professors or others make statements that you know to be false, simply and calmly say, "I disagree." That then can lead to a collegial conversation. You might get an A or you might get an F, but either way you will have earned a good grade.

I used this strategy in a graduate class in Economics with a professor who taught that there is no objective standard of value. I wrote a term paper refuting his position and defending the Objectivist theory of value. He graded me down for my views, but we came to respect each other and kept in touch. Years later we met for dinner. He told me that he had kept a copy of my paper and re-read it. And then he said, "You know, Tim, I was wrong and you were right."

That was one of the most rewarding moments of my life. And my paper, "The Roots of Economic Analysis", was later published in the Objectivist philosophy journal "Atlantis" alongside articles by John Ridpath and Michael Hurd --- both of whom I greatly admire.

So hang in there, and great things will happen for you! There is a wing of the U.S. Air Force whose motto is "Fortune favors the brave".

answered Jan 24 '12 at 14:41

Tim%20Scharff's gravatar image

Tim Scharff ♦

edited Jan 25 '12 at 01:09

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

There's nothing wrong with participating in a philosophy class that doesn't include Ayn Rand. If the professor is anti-Rand and pro-Kant, that gives you some important information right off the bat, as you've already noticed.

Regarding debate and discussion in the class, it's worth noting that there's a big difference between talking about what Kant said, or the way he affected other people, as opposed to actually agreeing with him. That's as true for the instructor as for yourself. If the instructor starts preaching agreement, that's something that would be worth challenging.

Personally, I could imagine having some fun in such a class, by asking questions that highlight the absurdity and contradictions inherent in Kant's approach. Things like "doesn't Kant's argument to reject reason require reasoning"? You could also use Objectivist ideas in papers you write--not to convince the instructor, but as a tool to help increase your own understanding. Since the professor seems to be anti-Rand, just keep her name and the word Objectivism out of it, and come at the issues from a more fundamental perspective.

answered Jan 23 '12 at 18:08

Rick's gravatar image

Rick ♦

edited Jan 23 '12 at 18:13

I totally agree with Rick that it could be a lot of fun to approach Kant in the classroom from an Objectivist perspective--this will end up helping you and everyone else understand his views (and their flaws) better. It also sounds to me like you have a strong intellectual need (and good for you!) to discuss Rand vs. what you're learning at college. You might want to search and see whether there's an Objectivist club at your school or in town--that would give you a great venue to expand your knowledge of Objectivism without having to worry about Kant and his many fans :).

(Jan 23 '12 at 18:54) Rational Mom Rational%20Mom's gravatar image

If this is a two-semester course and the questioner is now starting the second semester, I hope the first semester covered Aristotle. Some of the high points that I would look for in such a course would be:

  • How Aristotle compares and contrasts with Plato.
  • How Descartes and Hume led up to Kant, and were similar to Plato and different from Aristotle.
  • How Aquinas re-introduced Aristotle to the Western world, through Aquinas' fundamental honesty toward Aristotle even as he sought to build an Aristotelian foundation for church dogma.
  • How Nietzsche advocated a seemingly emotionally enthusiastic pseudo-individualism fundamentally devoid of reason, and how that compares and contrasts with Kant.

    In short, there is much to learn in philosophy independently of Objectivism, and it can provide an illuminating background for what Ayn Rand did philosophically.

  • answered Jan 24 '12 at 01:19

    Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

    Ideas for Life ♦

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    Asked: Jan 23 '12 at 14:45

    Seen: 1,619 times

    Last updated: Jan 25 '12 at 01:10