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Episode 73: Greg Salmieri discusses Ayn Rand’s moral philosophy

This month, we discuss Ayn Rand’s moral philosophy with Greg Salmieri, who teaches at Rutgers University and Stevens Institute of Technology and is co-secretary of the American Philosophical Association’s Ayn Rand Society. Click here to listen to our conversation.

Greg SalmieriBut wait: Ayn Rand is most famous for her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Where does she fit into mainstream, professional philosophy? Does she fit in at all? Salmieri encourages us to consider Rand with the perspective we afford others who have proven pivotal in philosophy: say, Descartes and Locke. In their own day, Descartes and Locke both did much else besides philosophy; but their larger critiques involved philosophy, and were deepened all the more so because they did not restrict themselves to their day’s philosophy. Those critiques have gone on to shape philosophy profoundly, so much so that today we can take their once-unique approaches for granted – and so we can take their being philosophers for granted. Perhaps we do not yet appreciate the impact Ayn Rand can ultimately have on philosophy?

Regardless of her present or future recognition as a philosopher, Salmieri unearths for us a wealth of ideas from Rand’s work. Rand did above all strive to be a novelist, especially in the romantic tradition of Victor Hugo. But as a novelist, she wrote of epic moral conflicts motivated by people passionately committed to particular values – particular moral philosophies. This broached her probing of what makes a value at once right and objective, but not impersonal or imposed. And it related to her more explicitly controversial perspectives, exemplified not least in her book titled The Virtue of Selfishness.

Join us as Greg Salmieri helps us further make sense of this and other ideas in Ayn Rand’s moral philosophy.

Dominic Surya

Posted in Podcast.


4 Responses

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  1. Eric M. says

    Great interview!

    Matt and Dunnan (I think that’s his name, it was difficult to make out.) did a great job in asking pertinent questions, and Greg Salmieri gave excellent answers. This episode is absolutely packed with great, clarifying points on Ayn Rand’s philosophy.

    I have spent years studying (and blogging about) Ayn Rand’s philosophy, which is much deeper and richer than many people give her credit for. While her advocacy of ethical/rational egoism is well known, the actual arguments behind her ethics (meta-ethics) is much less known, and not studied by most.

    In fact, most mentions of her ethical views don’t even acknowledge many of her normative ethical points. Namely, that she advocated certain definite virtues as constituting rationality in the pursuit of genuine self-interest (survival par excellence, which is flourishing or happiness.) She advocated the virtues of: honesty, integrity, productiveness, justice, independence, and pride.

    This interview does a good job at fulfilling the title of the podcast: it elucidates Ayn Rand’s ethics, to the extent possible in such a short time.

    Another thing worth mentioning is that Ayn Rand’s ethics depends in key ways on her epistemological views, especially her theory of concepts, which she presents in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. For Rand, ethical knowledge and concepts are subsets of knowledge and concepts, more generally. They don’t have any kind of unique status that fundamentally separates them from other areas of knowledge. So, as Dr. Salmieri indicates, a critical part of her case for her ethics is an analysis of the proper meaning of concepts like “life” and “value.”

    Thanks again for the great podcast,
    Eric M. (a.k.a. Sword of Apollo)

    • Matt Teichman says

      Thanks for listening, Eric! I’m really glad you enjoyed it. My co-host on this episode was the amazing Dhananjay Jagannathan, who also co-hosted this episode, and wrote an interesting follow-up to our previous interview with Greg Salmieri. You can listen to that episode here.

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Worth a Look — The New Clarion linked to this post on July 17, 2015

    […] Greg Salmieri Discusses Ayn Rand’s Moral Philosophy: great introduction of her philosophy by a practicing philosopher. Even better than the actual content (with which many of us are already quite familiar) is Salmieri’s approach to answering the interviewer’s questions. […]

  2. Salmieri in Action linked to this post on July 18, 2015

    […] Greg Salmieri Discusses Ayn Rand’s Moral Philosophy: great introduction of her philosophy by a practicing philosopher. Even better than the actual content (with which many of us are already quite familiar) is Salmieri’s approach to answering the interviewer’s questions. […]



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