Summary: What are some common confusions about Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism? In this talk, I briefly survey Ayn Rand's basic principles, then explore six common but false views about her, namely: (1) Ayn Rand was primarily concerned with politics. (2) Ayn Rand was an elitist: she despised everyone except super-high achievers. (3) Ayn Rand's ethics tells people to do whatever the heck they feel like doing. (4) Ayn Rand supported charity: she just thought it should be voluntary. (5) Ayn Rand's advocacy of reason and logic excludes any concern for emotions. (6) Ayn Rand's ideas are compatible with belief in God and Christianity. This talk was given to the Free Minds Film Festival on 8 October 2011.
Question: Isn't everyone selfish? If you dig deep enough, everyone seems to act in their own interests. I work because that's easier than being a welfare queen. But a college student might cave to his parents about his choice of career because that's easier than standing up for himself. Even the nun who seems to sacrifice everything is doing what she enjoys most and thinks best by her own religious standards. So isn't true altruism impossible? Isn't everyone selfish?
Question: Is mental illness nothing more than a myth? It seems that many members of the free-market movement are enthused about the theory, promulgated by the likes of Thomas Szasz and Jeffrey A. Schaler, that there is no such thing as mental illness. They say that if one cannot pinpoint a direct physiological cause for behavior considered "mentally ill," there are no grounds for referring to that behavior as a symptom of some "illness." Furthermore, they argue that the concept of "mental illness" is simply a term that the social establishment uses to stigmatize nonconformist behavior of which it does not approve. Is there anything to these claims? If not, what's the proper understanding of the basic nature of mental illness?