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Organised self-study, that is the ability to think and communicate in a structured manner, is an important part of almost all professions. Successful action requires thought that efficiently organizes facts, infers conclusions based on valid principles, and facilitates implementable guidelines for success. By regularly participating in study-groups, people can develop discipline it takes to excel in life.

In past two centuries Western thought has witnessed greatest intellectual decline in the history of mankind. The ideas that led to science of Newton, technology of Edison, and politics that ended centuries of feudalism have been discredited. The decline has impacted education, government, corporate and medical institutions, news media, movies, and mental well-being of mankind in general.

The ideas of Ayn Rand promise not just resurrection of ideas that make good things possible, but also build them further. And this study group will introduce you to ideas of Ayn Rand in most  concise way possible. Whether its her life, her fiction works, non-fiction, or her activism; everything will be available for you to grasp. So to improve your thought process, please check the link that gives details of study-group.

The study can involve writing summary, writing outline, detailed analysis or synthesis of select section(informally referred as chewing), or answering few / some / all of the questions I will post in the forum. Depending on the type of study, individual needs to spend 10 minutes to 1 hour per day. He can also complete his study in advance, and post on corresponding week.

The study-group will be from "chapter 8" on "Ayn Rand" in the book "The Power and The Glory" by Burgess Laughlin. It starts on 29th June, 2015. Please note that participation is not possible without the membership of objectvismonline.com forum.

August 29 last year Burgess passed away. 4th July, 2015 marks his 71st birthday. Burgess, as some of you might know was the non-fiction writer. He specialized in "History of Intellectuals", writing selective biographies of various intellectuals. Emphasis being on the development and dissemination of their ideas. He was also passionate about study-groups, and dedicated to the cause. Leaving behind treasure of various targetted discussions. Of course, he was an Objectivist, an activist for reason using rational discourse.
Therefore, the study-group starts on birthweek of Burgess.

In this thread, please post your intent to participate after objectivismonline.com sign up.

The final study group will take place in a separate thread. Only those who volunteer here by posting intent will be allowed to post there. Posting the intent can be as simple as writing "I will participate". But from the perspective of overall objective of study-groups, which involves trading of ideas, I think it would be good if the volunteers post their motivations and personal objectives of joining. Further, it would be better if the volunteer gives his intellectual, academic and professional history.

Here is a link to the forum where final study group will take place.


Looking forward to an engaging study-group where we improve our thinking, understanding and knowledge.
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I will participate.

I am a senior at Vassar College.  I study cognitive science, and I am planning on pursuing a career in robotics and/or AI.  I've thouroughly enjoyed Mr. Laughlin's blog, and have wanted to read some of his bigger projects.  Eventually I want to read the entire book, but out of this study group: I want to learn how Ayn Rand's ideas were receieved when they first came out, discuss current reception of those ideas, and relate those receptions to potentially effective activism.

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  • 2 months later...

As mentioned in schedule, the actual study group starts on Monday 29th June, 2015. Till then I will post some preparatory material in this thread.


Since the chapter is organized in the form of biography, so I think writing timeline of Ayn Rand's life can help in the study. So here it goes :-




Ayn Rand’s Biographical Timeline


1869 : Father, Zinovy Zakarovich Rosenbaum, born in Breslitovsk, Russia (November 18)


1880 : Mother, Anna Borisovna Kaplan, born in St. Petersburg (October 15)  


1904 : Parents married (May 3)


1905 : Born in St. Petersburg (February 2; or, January 20 on the Julian calendar)  


1911 : Teaches self to read


1912 : Family moves to an apartment on Nevsky Prospekt at Znamenskaya Square


1913 : Attends first motion picture exhibition in St. Petersburg


1914 : Reads first romantic fiction, The Mysterious Valley; decides to become a writer


1917 : Witnesses first shots of February revolution


1918 : Discovers writings of Victor Hugo
To escape civil war, family moves to Ukraine (fall) and then Yevpatoria, Crimea (spring)  

1920 : Discovers Aristotle’s works in high school


1921 : Graduates from Yevpatoria High School #4 (June 30)
Family returns to Petrograd
Enrolls in Petrograd State University (circa August 24)
Discovers the works of Nietzsche (1921–22)


1924 : Discovers Viennese operettas
Graduates from Leningrad State University (October 13)
Enrolls in State Technicum for Screen Arts (October 15)


1925 : “Pola Negri” pamphlet published in Moscow and Leningrad
Receives permission to leave USSR (October 29)

[ "Pola Negri" pamphlet was anonymously published by Ayn Rand. It was tribute to Polish actress Pola Negri for her passionate ambition and colorful unconventionality. ]


1926 : “Hollywood: American Movie City” pamphlet published in Moscow and Leningrad
Departs Leningrad (January 17)
Sails from Le Havre, France, for America on the De Grasse
(February 10)
Arrives in Manhattan (February 19)
Resides in Chicago with relatives (February–August)
Arrives in Hollywood (September 3)
Hired as movie extra by Cecil B. DeMille (September)
Meets Frank O’Connor on set of The King of Kings (September)


1927 : Hired by DeMille as junior screen writer (circa June 11)


1929 : Marries Frank O’Connor (April 15)
Hired by RKO wardrobe department  


1931 : Becomes U.S. citizen (March 13)


1932 : Sells “Red Pawn” to Universal Pictures (September 2)


1934 : Makes first entry in philosophic journal (April 9)
Writes Ideal
First play, Woman on Trial, opens in Hollywood (October 2)
Moves to New York City (November)


1935 : Night of January 16th (formerly, Woman on Trial) opens on Broadway (September 16)
Makes first notes for The Fountainhead (December 4)


1936 : We the Living published (April 18)


1938 : Anthem published in England (circa May 7)


1939 : Receives last communication from parents in USSR (circa January)  


1940 : Works for the Wendell Willkie presidential campaign
The Unconquered (We the Living adaptation) opens on Broadway (February 13)


1942 : Delivers The Fountainhead manuscript to Bobbs-Merrill (December 31)


1943 : The Fountainhead published (May 8)
Begins writing “The Moral Basis of Individualism” (August 18)
Moves to California to write The Fountainhead screenplay (November 25)


1944 : Moves into Von Sternberg house designed by Richard Neutra (July)
Writes screenplay for Love Letters (September)


1945 : Makes first notes for Atlas Shrugged (January 1)
Guest of Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin East (February 3–4)
The Fountainhead reaches #6 on New York Times best-seller list (August 26)
First installment of “illustrated” Fountainhead begins in Hearst newspapers nationwide (December 24)


1946 : First U.S. edition of Anthem published (circa July)


1949 : The Fountainhead film opens (June 23)  


1951 : Moves back to New York City (October 23)


1955 : Finishes writing “Galt’s Speech” (October 13)


1957 : Finishes writing Atlas Shrugged (March 20)
Atlas Shrugged published (October 10)


1958 : Begins teaching fiction writing class (January 18)
Presents first campus talk, at Queens College (March 6)  


1960 : Delivers first major campus talk, “Faith and Force: Destroyers of the Modern World,” at Yale University (February 17)


1961 : For the New Intellectual published (March 24)
Presents first Ford Hall Forum talk, “The Intellectual Bankruptcy of Our Age” (March 26)


1962 : First issue of The Objectivist Newsletter published (January)
Nathaniel Branden Institute opens (January)
Weekly column begins in the Los Angeles Times (June 17)


1963 : Receives honorary doctorate from Lewis and Clark University (October 2)


1964 : The Virtue of Selfishness published (December)


1966 : First installment of “Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology” published in The Objectivist (July)


1967 : Makes first appearance on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (August 16)


1968 : Nathaniel Branden Institute closes (May)


1969 : Begins teaching nonfiction writing course (March 8)
Witnesses launch of Apollo 11 (July 16)
Presents first epistemology workshop (October 11)  


1974 : Presents “Philosophy: Who Needs It” talk at West Point (March 6)
Nora Drobysheva (Ayn Rand’s sister) arrives for visit from USSR (April 14)
Attends White House dinner for Alan Greenspan swearing-in (September 4)


1976 : Publishes last article in The Ayn Rand Letter (January–February)
Attends White House dinner honoring Malcolm Fraser (July 27)


1977 : Ford Hall Forum holds luncheon in her honor (April 10)
Outlines screenplay for Atlas Shrugged television miniseries (September)


1979 : Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology published by New American Library (April)
Frank O’Connor dies (November 9)  


1981 : Delivers last Ford Hall Forum lecture, “The Age of Mediocrity” (April 26)
Delivers last public lecture, “The Sanction of the Victims,” in New Orleans (November 21)


1982 :

Writes her last page of “Atlas Shrugged” teleplay (January 1)
Dies in New York City (March 6)




Reference : http://aynrandlexicon.com/about-ayn-rand/timeline.html

Edited by RohinGupta
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Today I will post questions from the book introduction, which will be answered later this week.




(PART 1)





Q1. Which non-fiction category book belongs to? What is it about?

( Just give key terms and their importance. Further details can be deferred to A4. on scope )


Q2. Who are the intended audience, and what can they expect in this book?


Q3. What is the purpose of this book?


Q4. What is the scope of this book?


Q5. What was the procedure employed by the writer to write this book?


Q6. What is the theme of this book?

Edited by RohinGupta
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(PART 1)


Q1. Which non-fiction category book belongs to? What is it about?

( Just give key terms and their importance. Further details can be deferred to A4. on scope )


Ans: Book belongs to the category of history. History here referring to individual actions in past, considered together.


It is about fundamental ideas, “reason” and “faith” in this case. These ideas have long, wide, and deep effect. Affecting actions of individuals and societies across time. Being fundamental, they belong to the category of epistemology. However, even within the context of history, there can be many different forms presentation of these ideas can take. Which form this book took will be discussed in A4.


Q2. Who are the intended audience, and what can they expect in this book?


Ans: The book is for individuals who are already exclusively pro-reason and want to support reason's role in society. One deterrent these individual advocates can face is that they might not know what to expect while debating, or supporting those who debate. So defining “reason”, “faith”, or describing “nature of debate”, and “social circumstances of these debaters” can help these individuals.


Q3. What is the purpose of this book?


Ans: The book gives examples of past advocates of both reason and faith, and how they disseminated their ideas. From these examples few generalizations are drawn which readers can apply to their individual situations. Writer hopes to inspire readers to debate through this presentation.


Q4. What is the scope of this book?


Ans: From emphasis on terms like "reason" and "faith", this book may seem like it is on “History of ideas”, like “The DIM hypothesis” and “The Ominous Parallels”. But the subject is actually biographical. Specifically it gives important phases in professional, intellectual, and social lives of select individuals. As the timelines and location of these individuals is varied, writer has taken samples of historical debate. And after presenting the samples, there is commentary delimited to that sample of debate.

(The debate here referring not just to face-to-face structured argument. But also debates using lectures, articles, books. In general it refers to taking position on an idea by various means.)


While indicative, the sample may not necessarily represent the lifelong and all subject position of the advocate. For e.g. Newton, a scientist who advanced reason through science, considered Space and Time as eyes and ears of Gods.


Q5. What was the procedure employed by the writer to write this book?


Ans: While writing the drafts of this book, fifteen major individuals in various times and places were researched. Research also included their position towards reason and faith. The biographical outline of each was developed, and eight individuals selected from that. Separate chapter is devoted to each of these individuals. In each chapter one or two lesser figures of the era are also presented as contrasts and complements(to emphasize the position of the main individual advocate). Sometimes nameless crowd is also presented as opponent. This will illustrate wide range of philosophical positions to the pro-reason activists. Like completely pro-reason position of Ayn Rand, partially pro-reason positions of Locke and Aquinas, or pro faith positions of Augustine and Kant(but in very different ways).


Apart from philosophical positions, the book also shows professional paths and social positions for disseminating ideas. Various media used for disseminating ideas are also presented. The media ranges from personal letter(by Porphyry), recorded lecture(by Ayn Rand), narrow technical treatise(by Augustine), Magnum Opus(by Kant), and other works. As mentioned in scope, samples rather than the complete body of works is studied, in order to present full spectrum of positions, actions, associations, and media involving debates.


Q6. What is the theme of this book?


Ans: The theme is to understand how success is achieved in dissemination of ideas. That is through commitment to develop the position on ideas, and through persistent effort to advance these ideas. That is, the power of debaters is in understanding the ideas, and glory lies in disseminating these ideas.

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Today I will post second set of questions from the book introduction. These also will be answered later this week.




(PART 2)






Q7. In current context, why does the writer think its necessary to define key terms like reason?


Q8. Briefly explain reason, as it is described here?


Q9. Briefly explain faith, as it is described here?


Q10. How does structure of philosophy help writer and reader?


Q11. Summarize each branch of philosophy with brief description?


Q12. How can studying references at later point of time be useful? What is the nature of these references?

Edited by RohinGupta
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(PART 2)



Q7. In current context, why does the writer think its necessary to define key terms like reason?


Ans: The term like reason refers to idea. However, if we look at the history of that idea, we see that its terms have changed from logos, to ratio, to raison etc. And more importantly, the debater's interpretation of the idea varies. However, there has to be one meaning in reality that should be used as a standard. Then the position of debaters can be compared against this standard. This method of comparison thus offers continuity across debaters of same idea. And thus the definition acts as a standard, making it easier to abstract relevant elements in position.


Q8. Briefly explain reason, as it is described here?


Ans: Reason has following characteristics.

  1. Its the ability of mind to integrate ideas – concepts, principles, and theories – starting from many sense perceptibles in reality.

  2. The faculty that double checks these ideas to ensure that they are formed logically. That is to ensure that these are consistent with the facts of reality.

  3. After forming ideas and then double checking them, apply these ideas to understand and solve problems of life. Problems ranging from narrow technical ones to universal ethical issues.


To summarize, reason is the faculty to understand facts and then form values from them.


Further, the text gives example of a person(most likely this is autobiographical example by Burgess) who uses reason to understand his disease and then cure it.


Q9. Briefly explain faith, as it is described here?


Ans: Faith is the acceptance of belief, even if the belief does not have any evidence in sense perception. Or many a times even if belief is contradicted by sense perception. As a substitute(or pseudo substitute) for sense perception, faith uses the following

  1. Some inner voices, usually God's.

  2. Outer sources like the following

    a.) God directly speaking to the believer like Moses.

    b.) Holy scripture like Quran.

    c.) Transmission of revelation through oral or written tradition.

    d.) Divinely inspired authority like a priest.


Trinity in Christianity is used as an example of faith based ideas.


Burgess also clarified that he is an advocate of reason alone. But to minimize redundancy and distraction, he is not using scare words like “so called” or “supposed” before God etc.


Q10. How does structure of philosophy help writer and reader?


Ans: The views on reason and faith are complex. And apart from definition, proper knowledge of hierarchy of thought is needed to understand the elements of reason, and elements of faith in a particular philosophical position. That is whether the position is for action(Ethics), association(politics), knowing(epistemology), or overall view of reality(metaphysics).


Q11. Summarize each branch of philosophy with brief description?




  1. Metaphysics : Metaphysics asks and answers, What is the basic nature of the world? For e.g. is it a single world which is visible to our senses(Aristotle)? Or two worlds, one visible and another distant(Plato)?

  2. Epistemology : Epistemology asks and answers, How can I know about the world and myself? It follows from, is caused by, and is therefore explained by metaphysics. It is the branch that most directly applies to reason/faith debate.

  3. Ethics : Ethics asks and answers the following. Once I am given the nature of the world(by metaphysics), and how I might know it(by Epistemology), what should I do? That is, what should we do in life. And this is the main focus in every philosophy and religion.

  4. Politics : Politics asks and answers, How can we apply ethics to our relations with other individuals in society? In particular, organize society and define the relationship of government to individuals living under it.

  5. Aesthetics : It asks and answers, what is the relationship of art to the individual and the world. Principles that underlie creation of art works and explain their role in life.


Further, main concern in the book is with metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. But occasionally all five levels will be connected for most philosophers. ( I think all five levels are discussed for Ayn Rand ).


Q12. How can studying references be useful? What is the nature of these references?


Ans: The book does not provide complete biographies, in-depth philosophical analysis, or proofs of statements. These topics can be leads to further information, and can be accessed through references.


Some references are for students and general readers, and others are technical, intended for scholars. Philosophical and historical encyclopedias can be followed up by beginners.

Edited by RohinGupta
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The main study-group is just 1 week away....


Here are questions from Acknowledgements section








Q1. What information does “Acknowledgments” here give about the nature of book?


Q2. What role did various other individuals play in this book?


Q3. Who reviewed the Ayn Rand chapter?

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START WEEK - Monday, 29th June, 2015.
END WEEK - Monday, 2nd August, 2015.

Week 1



Monday, 29th June -  Sunday, 5th July

- Russia in Turmoil
- Philosophical Studies
(Pg 217-222)

Week 2



Monday, 6th July - Sunday, 12th July


- America – Free to write
- An ideal man, a man of reason
(Pg 222-228)

Week 3



Monday, 13th July - Sunday, 19th July


- (Contd..) An ideal man, a man of reason
- The final novel
(Pg 228-233)

Week 4

(Works other than Epistemology)


Monday, 20th July - Sunday, 26th July


- Changing vehicles
- A Philosopher's provisional summary
- Opening and Closing channels
- Branch Books
(Pg 233-241)

Week 5

(Mainly work related to Epistemology)


Monday, 27th July - Sunday, 2nd August

- A Definition of Reason
- Shifting Gears
- Reason as Integration
(Pg 241-245)

Week 6



Monday, 29th June, 2015.

I have framed 48 Questions which I will split across 5 weeks. Participants can answer all or some of those questions. Of course, participants are free to study by summarizing, outlining, or chewing sections of their choice from the text under study for that week.

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You can also buy kindle version of book(even if you don't own the device). The book can then be read on browser using amazon kindle cloud reader.


It costs $8.21, roughly 550 rupees or less. The value you get is priceless..!!



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So here comes the final post of preparatory section.


Answers to questions I posted on Tuesday, June 22 from acknowledgment section.


Q1. What information does “Acknowledgments” give about the nature of book?


Ans: In the Acknowledgments section, Burgess begins by mentioning that the book is like a report of student. And that this report is derived from the works of various scholars, who identified and interpreted facts about various debates. Debates that have been further presented and analyzed in this book. Burgess used his study of the [reason-faith] debate, and also observations in current time, to structure the content of this book.


Q2. What role did various other individuals play in this book?


Ans: Burgess worked directly with some individuals for the book. The individuals studied drafts of respective chapters and reviewed it. Burgess worked with separate individual for each chapter. The portions where there was disagreement, it actually made things clearer. By their very nature(hugely abstract), the disagreement in philosophical passages is often.


Q3. Who reviewed the Ayn Rand chapter?


Ans: Burgess worked with Michael Berliner for the chapter on Ayn Rand. Michael has reviewed the first draft of the chapter. Michael Berliner is PhD, and is also the co-chair of the board of directors of the Ayn Rand Institute.

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