Ayn Rand declared, “What we need today are ‘new intellectuals’,” which she said includes “any man or woman who is willing to think, meaning: any man or woman who knows that man’s life must be guided by reason, by the intellect, not by feelings, wishes, whims, or mystic revelations. Any man or woman who values his life and does not want to give in to today’s cult of despair, cynicism, and impotence….”
In connection with this, Rand advised businessmen to support “the advocates of reason, individualism, and capitalism” who “are a very small… valiant minority of authentic fighters struggling against overwhelming odds” at today’s colleges and universities. I agree with Rand’s recommendation, all the more so today.
“Money is a great power,” she wrote elsewhere; “it is a frozen form of productive energy. And, therefore, the spending of money is a grave responsibility.” I have frozen energy and I will provide it to fund scholarships and grants for the academic advancement of new intellectuals.
I’m doing this already for intellectuals at Duke University, the University of Maryland, Clemson University, and other colleges and universities around the world, which receive funding from me personally or from the Prometheus Foundation. But what I have in mind here is much larger.
The purpose of this post is to raise questions and begin a discussion toward the establishment of an Ayn Rand Scholarship Foundation. This could be separate from the Prometheus Foundation and dedicated to scholarships and academic grants.
One of the most successful and well-known scholarship programs in the world is the Rhodes Scholarship, which is an international post-graduate program for top students to study at the University of Oxford in England. It’s a highly competitive scholarship with an acceptance rate of about 1%. Roughly 90 scholarships are given annually. The Rhodes Scholarship covers tuition and all other expenses, including flights to and from the U.K., for at least two years at Oxford. Students can use the funds toward a second bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, or a doctoral degree in a variety of subjects.
My proposed Rand Scholarship Foundation would aspire to (eventually) become as well-known and as large as the Rhodes Scholarship Trust. This would take many years; however, I think it would be one of the most effective, long-range ways to advance Objectivism. To begin with, it could offer a dozen or more scholarships each year and build up to many dozens or scores of scholarships annually—even hundreds! 😊
Each scholarship could range from approximately $25,000 to $75,000 per year. It could include tuition, fees, and living expenses. The students would commit to studying Ayn Rand’s works, starting with Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, The Virtue of Selfishness, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, The Romantic Manifesto, and A Companion to Ayn Rand. And they would take Leonard Peikoff’s courses, such as “Foundations of Western Philosophy: Thales to Hume,” “Modern Philosophy, Kant to the Present,” “Introduction to Logic,” “Objective Communication,” “The Philosophy of Objectivism,” “Understanding Objectivism,” and “Objectivism Through Induction.” Students would also study his books with an emphasis on OPAR.
The Rand Scholarship Foundation would be international. Initially, the scholarships might be limited to students of philosophy, or it could also be open to students in psychology, political science, business, and economics who have demonstrated rationality, purposefulness, and productiveness. An Awards Committee would receive and vet applications using SAT/GRE scores, an essay of intent/purpose, transcripts, resumes, and/or references.
As the number of students receiving scholarships grows, the Foundation could foster relationships with study partners, mentors, and tutors, thus creating a worldwide cooperative intellectual community. This is already occurring to some degree through the Prometheus Network in Europe and America. But the Rand Scholarship would expand upon it.
If you’re interested in being part of this program, whether by contributing specialized knowledge or skills, participating in the staffing of the scholarship program, or simply by offering ideas, I’d love to hear from you—feel free to comment below.
These are some of the questions to be answered:
- Should the program be for PhDs, Masters students, undergrads, or everyone?
- Should it include a MacArthur Grant-type program for academics?
- Should it include joint grants that pair a student with a professor or mentor?
- What should be the qualifying criteria for scholarships and academic grants?
- Which knowledgeable firm or individual could help to establish the foundation?
- Is there someone in our community who would want to lead the establishment of it and/or run it? Or participate as a trustee or director?
- How much funding would it initially need? I would fund it with $10 million to start with. Later, it could be open to funding from others.
- What are the best ways to publicize scholarships to students and academics worldwide?
- What should be the criteria for accepting a host university? My thought is that, unlike the Rhodes Scholarship which is limited to Oxford, the Rand Scholarship would be applicable toward education at a variety of universities worldwide.
There are many more questions as well, but these should begin a discussion.
I welcome your thoughts and ideas regarding this program.
4 thoughts on “An Ayn Rand Scholarship Foundation”
Phil Coates, excellent observations and good ideas!
Way more people should be willing to put their money where their mouth is like Carl is doing!
Having said this, however, my view is that continuing the current basic approaches but with more ‘numbers’ — more Objectivist intellectuals, more funding, more philosophy degrees, and more articles of the same type won’t work.
Objectivism is still not grasped and therefore it hasn’t made a dent in the culture in recent decades. And that is largely because it too often comes across as a floating abstraction … or series of them. Which is deadly for something which is already counterintuitive and contrary to what one has been taught.
What can be done in the face of this? Would a scholarship program help?
1. More people grounded in and students of History, would be far better than more philosophy phds:
To fully understand something, to fully explain it, you need to dig down to its roots. Where it came from
How it developed . How it went from simple to complex. And that’s what the discipline of History focuses you on. There are a large number of wonderful history textbooks out there, particularly in -world- history. (I’m constantly running into examples from that field which would be the basis of a wonderful article leading to, supporting, illustrating Objectivist conclusions.)
2. History versus philosophy:
Philosophy departments are producing people who are ingrained in the wrong ~method~, primarily rationalism or floating abstractions. Leonard Peikoff spent 30 years with Ayn Rand having to unlearn what his philosophy graduate school entrenched. But there’s also a problem with ~content~, the kinds of issues that the philosophy grad students are called to devote their attention to. An argument could actually be made that going through the thinking process required to graduate from a current philosophy program/get a passing grade/get a dissertation past a doctoral committee is actually ~harmful~. (Even if you already were grounded in Objectivism like Leonard was and had a genius as a direct mentor.)
History majors or heavy readers (given proper books or a proper program) by contrast are immersed in concrete events and details, forcing them to a degree to have a fundamentally empirical and factual orientation. And that can be a base for ramping up inductively to the abstract patterns and causes which connect and explain history.
3. The current ppoi (post peikoff objectivist intellectuals) at ARI especially are dominated by people who got their phds in one field alone, philosophy. And that’s who they keep looking for to teach at the Objectivist Academic Center. And when they write for new ideal or hold a webinar, they characteristically string together abstraction after abstraction after abstraction in an almost ‘top-heavy’ manner. Someone who is a novice is likely to require more time and examples than that on each abstract principle. Abstract principles are difficult and sweeping. They need to be arrived at more inductively, and be more grounded in concrete cases and evidence. And that is what the discipline of history is particularly rich in. And properly taught teaches you to think in terms of. (Similarly, if the intellectual has a PHD in another humanities or liberal arts discipline –those can be other disciplines which force you to connect philosophy to real world cases in another domain.)
4. The “three to one” rule” (my own idea and approximate number):
Intellectual presentations aimed at reaching and persuading those who are not already committed to your philosophy need to have three times as many concretes as they have abstractions in terms of length or number of sentences. You can’t ram abstractions too hurriedly down people’s throat like pate down the neck of a goose. It takes time to grasp them since they are so broad and since people quite often aren’t used to thinking in really high level abstractions, especially in philosophy. That kind of better balance between the concrete and the abstract allows you to bring your readers or audience or students along one step at a time and more inductively. (And it’s what they’re used to — from, you know, the real world.)
5. How Objectivist intellectuals are comfortable operating:
a. A heavily concrete-driven and concrete grounded approach is seldom the approach taken by the current ppoi: they have an ingrained method – When I tune into a webinar or sit in on a sample OAC class, it is usually very akin to a graduate seminar in philosophy. Nothing that they say is false to an Objectivist, but the abstraction followed by abstraction followed by abstraction structure is way over the heads of those not already well along the way in Objectivism. (Aside: it’s actually much harder to do that “three to one” ratio, or any heavily concrete-based presentation then to just string together a bunch of abstractions and call it a day.)
b. A good cross-fertilization would be achieved If instead of four philosophy phds teaching at the OAC, you had one historian, one economist, one person from the fine arts or literature, one psychologist. Each would learn from the others and be able to bring examples from their disciplines into the discussions.
All this applies to the wider movement, not just ARI: Graduate/support/employ/publish more people with broader knowledge and professional exposure in the liberal arts and the humanities. Don’t treat non-philosophers as though they were less intelligent or less knowledgeable or less useful or less likely to make an impact. (Going along with this, cite and reference and footnote thinkers from outside of Objectivism.)
“Broaden yourself. Broaden yourself. Broaden yourself.”
PS, I would put literature, psychology, law, economics majors perhaps one step behind history as disciplines that we need more Objectivists thoroughly steeped in — and philosophy majors dead last for reasons like the above (also because (1) we’ve already got enough of them, (2) you need a second big arrow in your quiver – strong knowledge in another field – to provide the concrete details to buttress the philosophical abstractions) – in terms of potential impact in spreading Objectivism. But that’s another discussion.
I am deeply interested in all the ideas you mentioned in your comment and am eager to know more. As to my background, I am a classically-trained musician and historical musicologist with a strong desire to understand general political and cultural history. I have just embarked on the formidable task of reading Will Durant’s “The Story of Civilization,” which I expect will take me at least the rest of the year. My commitment to Objectivist philosophy began about two decades ago: I have read all of Ayn Rand’s books and am working my way chronologically through all of Leonard Peikoff’s ARI courses. Can you please contact me at [email protected] so that we can discuss in greater detail your reading and study recommendations for “broader knowledge . . . in the liberal arts and humanities.”
That’s a generous and ambitious program. Thanks for pursuing it. I wish I could participate, but I’m too old for that now.
I would think that you’d eventually get the best positive result (spreading Objectivism) for the investment if the recipients complete their Leonord Peikoff courses and become university teachers in the humanities, political science, psychology, economics, business, orlaw. That would imply PhD. or JD level education.
You might consider making the program a lending program with a 10-year payback, but with each year of the loan payback being forgiven for each year that the recipient serves as a university or law school teaching professor. This might also include conducting online university level degree programs. Complicates administration but would motivate recipients to follow through on the objective of spreading the gospel. For those who don’t teach, you still end up with Objectivists who repay their loans and may still be serving in influential careers.
You might also consider requiring some level of prior commitment to Objectivism as a requirement to even apply for the loan/scholarship. For example, you might arrange for OSI to administer a comprehensive examination of Objectivist knowledge, based on reading Ayn Rand’s books and /or taking an optional OSI course on the same subject (e.g. “Introduction to the Philosophy of Ayn Rand”). The exam would require at least an intermediate level of understanding of Objectivism. The standard for acceptance could be modest at the outset and increase as competition for the funds increase. If OSI can arrange to get college credit for the preparatory course(s), that would help attract applicants as well.
If you are supporting graduate education of individuals who have passed the “entrance exam”, then you probably don’t need to be too restrictive as to where they obtain their graduate degree. Such individuals can probably be trusted to choose a program that is reasonably prestigious and at least not hostile to Objectivist values. But, the scholarship/loan fund could retain the right to approve of the institution that is proposed in the application.
Best of luck in launching this program.