Objectivists agree that an individual's ultimate moral value is his own life, that is, his own long-range survival. They agree that the only way an individual man can hope to achieve that individual purpose is by grasping in conceptual form the types of values that an entity of his sort needs and the types of actions that an entity of his sort must take in order to obtain those types of values. Objectivists summarize this truth by saying that the proper standard of value for a man pursuing his own survival is Man's Life. For it is by examining certain facts about human nature generally that one demonstrates why the individual needs certain types of values and must take certain types of actions to obtain them. By the very nature of the process, however, these values and virtues (courses of action) are universal and fundamental, while action must be particular and personal. But what shall we say about the process by which we make our universal and fundamental values and virtues particular and personal? That is a source of disagreement. Calculative Egoism One type of egoist, let us call him "the calculative egoist," says: Look, faced with our moral purpose (our own survival), we turn to a conceptual standard of action in order to separate out those actions that are most likely to propel us into the future as efficacious human beings. This is the moral standard of Man's Life. And it does, in fact, give us those universal and fundamental principles that separate out courses of action...
The year just past was a landmark for Ayn Rand and her philosophy. Pennsylvania State University Press published Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand on February 2, the ninety-fourth anniversary of Rand's birth. The Chronicle of Higher Education, academia's most prestigious newspaper, proclaimed that "Ayn Rand has finally caught the attention of scholars." Academia's most prestigious news magazine, Lingua Franca, followed that with a respectful eleven-page article about the Objectivist movement. And then, in autumn, came the biggest shock of all: the launching of an academic semi-annual periodical called the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. Common to each of these events was the presence, at the event's very center, of Chris Matthew Sciabarra, a visiting scholar in the department of politics at New York University. When it comes to introducing Objectivism to the academy, he is far and away the philosophy's leading matchmaker. Yet many Objectivists, though they know his work to varying degrees, know little of his story. The Early Years Sciabarra born in Brooklyn in 1960 to a "close-knit extended family, in the Greek and Sicilian traditions," has lived in Brooklyn all his life. "I spent the better part of my youth steeped in education," he tells Navigator, "and was encouraged especially by my mother and sister. I had good friends, and a very supportive family, but I was a very sickly kid, and this had its effects on my abilities to do all the...
Nineteen nintey-nine was a breakthrough year for the public visibility of Ayn Rand and Objectivism, especially in intellectual circles. One signal of this was the publication of Mimi Reisel Gladstein's The New Ayn Rand Companion, an important reference work that is revised and updated from its previous, long-out-of-print, first edition. Gladstein is a professor of English at the University of Texas at El Paso, and among her other writings, she is coeditor of the recently published Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999). In her New Companion she once again provides scholars with her unique synthesis of information, and references to information, about Rand's life and work. Fans of Rand, too, will likely enjoy its thorough and workmanlike survey of Rand's plots and characters, if, like this reviewer, they take pleasure simply in contemplating a fresh summation of Rand's work. "The New Ayn Rand Companion introduces readers to the writings—fiction and nonfiction—of Ayn Rand" announces the introduction. And so it does, with charm and affection for its subject, with reminders to its audience of the richness of Rand's thought and art, with the fruit of wide-reaching research. The book is expanded from Gladstein's original Ayn Rand Companion of 1984 and reflects the increase in studies of Rand over the past fifteen years. Gladstein has preserved much of the text of the earlier edition, however, including...
Navigator: The story is that you came to Objectivism later in life than most people do and that you came to it more through a process of thought than through the emotional impact of reading one of Rand's novels. Kossmann: The answer is yes to both of those. Navigator: To put your journey to Objectivism in perspective, then, perhaps we could proceed chronologically with your upbringing, education, and early career. Kossmann: My undergraduate education was in engineering. I decided to switch into medicine during my senior year in college, because medicine seemed a lot more specific, and as far as I was concerned they were both applied sciences. With a lot of luck, I was able to make the transition. Medical school, of course, meant four more years of intense study with little time for other things. After medical school I had a decade-long period of specialty training, first in internal medicine, followed by neurology, and finally neuro-ophthalmology. My intention was a career in academic medicine, but this plan needed radical modification when, somehow, four children were born in less than three years. Accordingly, I opted to practice medicine privately full-time, and pursued this over three decades. Navigator: Where was this? Kossmann: Mostly in the New York metropolitan area. My undergraduate medical training was at Cornell Medical College in New York City; residency training in internal medicine was taken at the New York Hospital (Cornell's university...
Objectivists too often reduce the life and achievement of James J. Hill to a single debating point: He built a transcontinental railroad without government subsidies, and it was the only transcontinental railroad that did not go bankrupt. It is a statement that completely fails to capture the magnitude of Hill's efficacy and the complexity of his career. To give an accurate picture of those, one must look far more closely at his life, and, for that reason, this column will examine only Hill's first great success: the Manitoba. Early Years James Hill was born in 1838, near Guelph, Ontario. At 17, he left Canada and moved to the head of navigation on the Mississippi River: the bustling city of St. Paul, Minnesota. Says one biographer: "He took with him all the tools he would need to succeed in America: a quick intelligence, self-sufficiency, genuine courage, an engaging personality, a fierce ambition, and a remarkable work ethic" (Michael P. Malone, James J. Hill: Empire Builder of the Northwest, 10). In his adopted city, Hill worked for a succession of employers, the last one being the wholesaling firm of Borup and Champlain, where he labored during the Civil War. "He came to be regarded locally as the prime reason for Borup and Champlain's reputation for efficiency" (Malone, 14). It was a reputation dearly bought. "He worked incredibly hard, sometimes laboring late into the night, falling asleep at the desk, then getting up for a swim in the river and a cup of black...