Objectivist Conferences™

Conferences for the rational mind™

General Sessions

All of our General Session options are available with one convenient registration.

Lecture Presenter
The Moral and the Practical Onkar Ghate
Academic Panel Debi Ghate, et al
Objectivism Is Radical (and Applying It Can Be Hard) Yaron Brook
Chicago Reach for the Stars Jonathan Hoenig, Shoshana Milgram and Stephen Siek
The Stylized Soul in Romantic Literature Tore Boeckmann
Heroes and Hero Worship Andrew Bernstein
Man’s Life as the Standard of Value in the Ethics of Ayn Rand and Aristotle Gregory Salmieri
State of the Culture Harry Binswanger and Yaron Brook
The Politics of Pretend—and Its Impact on the Legal System Tara Smith


All General Sessions, except for the Academic Panel are available on livestream. Those signing up to attend General Sessions in person will get the livestream option with no additional cost.

Livestreaming is done in real-time, and recordings will be accessible until August 15, 2013. To register, go to http://www.objectivistconferences.com/ocon2013/register.html. If you wish to see the events in real-time, please register early. There will be no refunds after May 31, 2013 (an exception to the Cancellation/Refund Policy).

Peter Schwartz in a general session The Moral and the Practical

Onkar Ghate
Saturday, July 6 • 11 AM–12:30 PM

A crucial error in ethics is to pit the moral against the practical. What are some of the sources of this error? What are some of its existential manifestations? What are some of its effects on thinking, including subtle ones? What, properly, is the relation of the moral to the practical? What is the place of this issue in ethics and in life? These are some of the topics this lecture will explore.

Academic Panel

Panelists: Ben Bayer, Debi Ghate, Gena Gorlin, Daniel Schwartz
Saturday, July 6 • 5:10 PM–6:40 PM

What’s the future look like for Objectivism in academia? During this free General Session, three members of ARI’s Objectivist Academic Center—Ben Bayer, Gena Gorlin, and Daniel Schwartz—will join Debi Ghate, ARI VP of Education and Research, for a discussion about present opportunities and future prospects. We expect to share prerecorded statements from two other OAC alumni about very positive recent news concerning their academic careers.

Objectivism Is Radical (and Applying It Can Be Hard)

Yaron Brook
Sunday, July 7 • 11 AM–12:30 PM

Chicago Reach for the Stars

A session featuring Jonathan Hoenig, Shoshana Milgram and Stephen Siek
Sunday, July 7 • 5:10 PM–6:40 PM

Chicago was Ayn Rand’s first home in the United States. After her initial stay in 1926, she returned to the city several times. In this general session talk, Shoshana Milgram discusses Ayn Rand’s visit with her American family, her systematic viewing of and evaluating of films and film stars, and the fruit of these experiences in her later life and brilliant work. Stephen Siek explores Chicago’s prominent architecture, skyscrapers and Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in particular. He also prepares us for a Chicago-area tour of Frank Lloyd Wright homes that will take place on Friday, July 12. Jonathan Hoenig introduces us to one of the most important industries in our host town, commodities trading. He covers the history and present day of Chicago futures markets and shows why an ambitious trader is, in Ayn Rand’s words, “a man of justice.” A general Q&A session follows.

The Stylized Soul in Romantic Literature

Tore Boeckmann
Monday, July 8 • 11 AM–12:30 PM

“[E]very human soul has a style of its own,” says Ellsworth Toohey in The Fountainhead. “You’ll see it reflected in every thought, every act, every wish of that person.” Toohey is only half right: while a soul can have its own style, this is not common but a rare achievement. It presupposes a process of stylization.

A “stylized” object is one whose characteristics concretize philosophical values and optional, individualizing, internally congruous values. Focusing on Ayn Rand’s novels, Mr. Boeckmann shows how a Romantic writer expresses her unique, individual soul by stylizing every aspect of her stories; and, secondarily, how she conveys the individuality of her respective characters by similar means.

To describe the same topic more concretely, this lecture answers the question, How do Howard Roark and John Galt come to be uniquely “Ayn Rand heroes” and, at the same time, uniquely themselves?

Heroes and Hero Worship

Andrew Bernstein
Tuesday, July 9 • 11 AM–12:30 PM

This lecture analyzes the nature of heroism and its vital role in human life. It defines “hero” and ”heroism,” not in accordance with conventional usage or dictionary definitions, but by application of rational philosophic principles—thereby identifying the essential characteristics of these concepts. Then, with no attempt at an exhaustive analysis, this lecture asks and partially answers the question: By rational standards, who are among the greatest heroes of mankind’s history? Further, the talk explains the philosophic fundamentals that make heroism both possible and necessary. Polemically, it identifies the philosophic foundations of contemporary anti-heroism—the tenets of modern philosophy that give rise to the modernist war on heroes, both in real life and in art. Finally, the talk shows how, and why, an attitude of unabashed hero worship—far from being a negative—provides inspiration vital to an individual’s self-actualization.

Man’s Life as the Standard of Value in the Ethics of Ayn Rand and Aristotle

Gregory Salmieri
Wednesday, July 10 • 11 AM–12:30 PM

“Man’s life,” wrote Ayn Rand, “is the standard of morality.” It is Aristotle more than any other philosopher who stressed our need to look to identify and look to a standard in selecting our goals. And Aristotle was the first to identify the proper standard as the distinctly human form of life—a life of developing and exercising our rational faculties to their fullest. Despite agreeing on these fundamental points, Rand and Aristotle have importantly different views of what the human form of life is. In particular, they differ about how reason relates to the faculties and on the needs that human beings share with other living things. This talk explores this difference and its causes and consequences. Topics to be addressed include: why Aristotle endorsed slavery and Rand, freedom; why Aristotle demeaned material production and Rand lauded it; and what it means to establish a standard of value objectively.

State of the Culture

Panel discussion featuring Harry Binswanger and Yaron Brook
Wednesday, July 10 • 5:10 PM–6:40 PM

Yaron Brook, executive director of ARI, and Harry Binswanger, ARI board member, will respond to questions about the state of our culture and offer their views on what the future may hold.

Tara Smith speaking The Politics of Pretend—and Its Impact on the Legal System

Tara Smith
Thursday, July 11 • 11 AM–12:30 PM

This lecture explains the way in which contemporary political culture undermines the pillars of an objective legal system. It demonstrates how, in addition to misguided premises and ideals, certain prevalent thinking habits are steadily eroding individual freedom.

After clarifying the fundamental requirements of an objective legal system, Dr. Smith canvases examples of an increasingly dishonest political culture that obscures, distorts and evades these basic standards. She then analyzes the premises that are responsible for these evasions and their perilous consequences for the rule of law. Finally, the lecture considers the best means of battling those methods and assumptions that distort our legal culture and gnaw away at individual rights.

By clarifying our grasp of the essentials of objective law and the stakes of chronically misguided political debates, we can gain a better understanding of how to engage in these debates most effectively.