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Ayn Rand: A product of her Enviornmentuprbringing?

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Hello there,

My name is Adam and I am currently a high school student in Ontario, Canada.

I am currently enrolled in a World History class where we have been assigned an Independant Study Unit. In this assignment, we are asked to pick a significant person in history and explain how they are a product of their environment.

For this essay, I would like to pick Ayn Rand and explain how she formed the philosophy and doctrine of Obejctivsm as a reaction to her upbringing during the Russian era of comunism/the Russian Revolution.

Therfore, my thesis would read something like the following

"Ayn Rand developed her doctrine of Objectivism as a result of her upbringing during the Communist reign in Russia and the Russian Revolution"

The essay asks us for three main points in which we can defend our thesis, and this is where I am confused. As this is a history essay, I need to focus more on the Russian Revolution and Comunist reign and explain what these things were like, and how they affected Rand. I would also like to make one of my points somethign that briefly explains objectivism- but I am not sure how I could phrase that.

As well, the assignment asks us for three sources- a website (Wikipeida is forbidden), a periodical, and a published references (encyclopedias are forbidden). I was thinking of using http://aynrand.org for my website, perhaps one of Ms.Rand's books or a book about her for my published reference, and possibly an interview which she has done for my periodical reference?

I would like to also mention that I have never written an essay of this genre before, and that unlike many of you, my knowledge of Ayn Rand's upbringing, and of Objectivsm in general, is very juvenile. I would very much appreciate any pointers or constructive criticism in both of these regards!

I thank you for your knowledge and for your help in advance!

Thanks,

Adam

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Explain how they are a product of their environment.
Ick.

If you take this essays as a matter of how Rand chose to act during this period of time, it sounds a bit better.

The essay asks us for three main points in which we can defend our thesis, and this is where I am confused.
One part about communism sounds good. I'd make another point about the state of America back in those days (maybe going back to the Industrial Revolution and Big Business/anti-monopoly era), and a third point about Objectivism/Rand's vision of society.

So you have

  • the ugly story of communism
  • the better story of booming capitalism being held back
  • and the best idea of Rand's laissez-faire idea

or something like that.

When you say Wiki is forbidden, do you mean you can use it at all, or you can't list it as a source? If you merely can't list it as a source, I'd start with Wiki, and find some sources you can put on paper later. Otherwise, googling any of these subjects should give you a lot of info.

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...we are asked to pick a significant person in history and explain how they are a product of their environment.
What does that mean: to be a "product of one's environment"? And, what kind of facts would one look for to find out if a person was a "product of their environment"? Would one look for average compliance with that environment (as in the average comrade); or, mastery of the man-made rules of the environment without questioning it (becoming party boss); or going radically against it (as in Ayn Rand's case)? Or, would one look for some other type of facts?
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What does that mean: to be a "product of one's environment"? And, what kind of facts would one look for to find out if a person was a "product of their environment"? Would one look for average compliance with that environment (as in the average comrade); or, mastery of the man-made rules of the environment without questioning it (becoming party boss); or going radically against it (as in Ayn Rand's case)? Or, would one look for some other type of facts?

Wow, thanks for the quick responses!

Well, I think the assignment is asking us to prove how someones environment may have influenced them to become the people they became and act the ways in which they did.

As for the points, those sound excellent! In fancier words...how does this sound? How could I phrase them?

- The communist regime in Russia was oppresive to the Russian people, and many wished to fight it. (then explain the awful communism and corruption, etc)

- The momentum of the industrial revolution was building worldwide and challenging Communist regimes, such as the found in Russia. (explain the situation---which I dont know about, I'll need to research it)

- Ayn Rand chose to rebel against the regime which oppressed her, and challenge authority and previously conceived ideas about society and life with her doctrine of Objectivism (and explain the concept of Objectivism in short)

Any more suggestions? Input? In regards to Wikipedia, it is forbidden in the sense we would not be allowed to list it as a source, although I could research information on the website, as long as the information was not used in the body of my essay itself...

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The idea of being the "product of your environment" suggests that man is fated to be how he is due to factors beyond his control. What can be pointed out is that the environment in which she grew up presented concrete examples of the consequences of slavery. She chose to recognise those concretes and she chose to think about what caused that oppressive dictatorship.

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I am currently enrolled in a World History class where we have been assigned an Independant Study Unit. In this assignment, we are asked to pick a significant person in history and explain how they are a product of their environment.

I'm afraid that Ayn Rand is probably the worst (i.e., most difficult) person you could pick for this assignment. If anyone is a refutation of the idea that people are "only" products of their environments, it would be her. Her environment produced millions of people who did nothing, or perished in communist slavery, or escaped and did various things--but only one her. There is nothing specific to her environment, as far as I know, that would help to explain why this happened. It was all her own choices, which were a product of her ego (or "soul" if you'd rather--I mean, her identity; her self, not anything supernatural), not her environment, that made her who she was.

If you want someone easy and interesting.. Pick someone like.. Hm, Jesus would be pretty easy. All he had to do was live up to a bunch of myths and legends and "prophesies," prevalent in his culture at the time, and he was deified. But.. in any case you examine, it seems to me that the most interesting aspects of it are those in which they were the exception.. i.e., "X was a product of his environment in repsects A, B, and C.. but he was able to originate idea Y all on his own, which made him unique and different from others in his environment." Someone who is truly a product of his environment and nothing more would probably not end up being important or successful or noticed at all--at least, in a free or semi-free country.

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"Ayn Rand developed her doctrine of Objectivism as a result of her upbringing during the Communist reign in Russia and the Russian Revolution"

But if you're interested in reading a very bad, poorly argued, generally fallacious book that actually has a similar theme to what you're describing, there is a book called Ayn Rand: the Russian Radical, by Chris Matthew Sciabarra. It's hardly intelligible, but from the bits I've read, he does seem to be trying to argue that Ayn Rand was in some respects a product of her environment. I wouldn't spend money on it, but if you have a big library near you; they might have it, which might or might not help you on your paper (all of the biographical material from the Ayn Rand bookstore is much better, but maybe less specifically consistent with your thesis).

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Hello there,

My name is Adam and I am currently a high school student in Ontario, Canada.

I am currently enrolled in a World History class where we have been assigned an Independant Study Unit. In this assignment, we are asked to pick a significant person in history and explain how they are a product of their environment.

Miss Rand would be the first to tell you that the premise, the idea that we are a "product" of our environment, is false. This doesn't mean that you can't use her, just that it would probably take more work than you have time for to do a proper job.

For this essay, I would like to pick Ayn Rand and explain how she formed the philosophy and doctrine of Obejctivsm as a reaction to her upbringing during the Russian era of comunism/the Russian Revolution.
I am curious why you chose Miss Rand in the first place. Where did you learn about her?

Therfore, my thesis would read something like the following

"Ayn Rand developed her doctrine of Objectivism as a result of her upbringing during the Communist reign in Russia and the Russian Revolution"

The essay asks us for three main points in which we can defend our thesis, and this is where I am confused. As this is a history essay, I need to focus more on the Russian Revolution and Comunist reign and explain what these things were like, and how they affected Rand. I would also like to make one of my points somethign that briefly explains objectivism- but I am not sure how I could phrase that.

As well, the assignment asks us for three sources- a website (Wikipeida is forbidden), a periodical, and a published references (encyclopedias are forbidden). I was thinking of using http://aynrand.org for my website, perhaps one of Ms.Rand's books or a book about her for my published reference, and possibly an interview which she has done for my periodical reference?

I would like to also mention that I have never written an essay of this genre before, and that unlike many of you, my knowledge of Ayn Rand's upbringing, and of Objectivsm in general, is very juvenile. I would very much appreciate any pointers or constructive criticism in both of these regards!

If you still would like to use Miss Rand as your subject, may I suggest that you look up the Ayn Rand Institute. They have information specifically for students that you may find interesting. They are really the best resource and may be able to direct you to the information you need for the rest of your references and the work you need to do.

I want to address the responses you received so that you don't get the wrong idea. There is a lot of material about Miss Rand that isn't just wrong, but is vicious in its motivation and presentation. Rand did something that has only been done a few times in the history of philosophy: she offered a complete philosophic system. She is the heir of Aristotle, and an advocate of rational egoism. She made original contributions in Epistemology (how do we know what we know), and gave the first ethical basis for Capitalism. As such, she was the enemy of collectivism and the ethics of altruism that underpins the evil of collectivism. This made her an enemy of communism, of course, and all variations of collectivist philosophy, which meant that she has been pilloried by the intellectuals who champion these philosophies. That covers most of today's intellectuals.

She experienced the consequences of collectivism first hand as she grew up in Russia. To that extent, she was influenced by her upbringing. It is the philosophy of collectivism, however, that gives rise to the idea that we are molded by our environment. This is why she would loathe the premise of your essay. You can't help the school work you are given to do, however. You can only try to do it in as honest a manner allowed.

I wish you luck with the project and I hope you will come back and let us know what you've decided and how you've made out.

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Hello everyone!

Thanks again for all your insight, advice and critique. Tonight I managed to put together a very rough copy of my topic proposal, here it is. let me know what you think.

----

Phase One: Topic Proposal

TOPIC:

World History – Historic figures as products of their upbringing/environment.

THESIS:

Ayn Rand developed her philosophy of Objectivism out of resent towards the Communist reign in Russia under which she was raised; and out of awe towards American society, to which she escaped.

3 MAIN POINTS OF DISCUSSION:

● The philosophy of Objectivism explained in brief

Background:

Ultimately, in order to understand how the Soviet rule in Russia affected Rand, and how the values and freedom of America gave her hope and inspiration, one must understand what Rand’s ideas were and what her philosophy of Objectivism is. Simply put, Objectivism states that:

○ Man is an ends to himself (an individual’s own happiness and achievement is the object of his life)

○ Reality is an objective absolute (facts are facts, regardless of human emotions or hopes)

○ Reason is man's only means of perceiving reality (an individual can only understand reality as they know it)

○ The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism (the state and economic affairs should be completely separate)

To be discussed:

In this section, I will speak about some of Rand’s most influential works and how they were based on or inspired by her life experiences. I will also elaborate upon the philosophy of Objectivism itself and explain how each of its principles were expressed in Rand’s works and how these principles are present in our current world.

● The negative conditions imposed upon Russians under rule of the Soviet under Bolshevik rule.

Background:

In 1917, the time of the Russian Revolution, Ayn Rand (born Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum) was twelve years old. Under the rise of the Soviet led by the Bolshevik party, Rand’s family was shaken. Rand’s father, a pharmacist, had his pharmacy confiscated. Although her family fled to (a republic of the Ukraine), in 1921, however, this region fell to the Bolshevik party; and the Soviet once again ruled over Rand’s life; just as it had in her native Saint Petersburg.

To be discussed:

In this section, I plan to elaborate upon the ideas and political viewpoints held by the Bolshevik party and how these ideas, though the Soviet’s actions, affected the lives of those living in the region, such as Rand during her childhood.

● The inspiration which America had upon Rand.

Background:

In her final year of high school, Ayn Rand took an American History course. Immediately, Rand was inspired and awed by the ideals held by America- namely the concept of democracy and the power of the individual in society. Ultimately, in 1925, Rand made the decision to flee Soviet Russia for the freedom of the United States. Although she told the Soviet her visit would be a short stay with relatives, she was determined to never return to Russian soil. She later obtained a visa and became a screenwriter in Hollywood.

To be discussed:

In this section, I plan to contrast the values and ideals held by the Soviet under the Bolshevik party with those held by America, a free and democratic nation. I will also elaborate upon Rand’s experiences in America and how these experiences helped shape her works and her philosophy.

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Man is born with no innate knowledge. He can only gain knowledge through interaction with reality, the environment around him, and the his use of reason to makes choices based on what he is presented. Would he not end up in effect being a "product" of his environment because of this? Do you think Rand would have sat down and written her philosophy if she had been born and raised in the American mid-west? Just a curiousity question.

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