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Objective Communication

This course teaches you how to present ideas effectively. It identifies certain principles of intellectual communication, and applies them to three areas: writing, speaking and arguing. It is concerned, not with style, but with substance, i.e., with the basic methods necessary to achieve a clear, absorbing presentation of your viewpoint.

Dr. Peikoff draws on principles from such diverse fields as epistemology, drama, education and polemics. If you want to be able to convey your thoughts objectively — whether you are preparing a report for work, a paper for school or a book for a publisher — this course will dramatically enhance your skills. Throughout the sessions, volunteers were given an opportunity to make brief presentations. Since the subjects of these exercises (included as a booklet with the taped course) are limited to aspects of Objectivism, the exercises may also expand or refresh your knowledge of this philosophy.

The ten sessions, which are themselves masterful examples of objective communication, consist of the following:

Basic Principles and Methods (opening lecture)
The nature and problems of intellectual communication. The role of epistemology: the “crow epistemology” and the Law of Identity; knowledge as contextual. Motivating the audience. Delimiting the subject. Logical organization of material. Balancing abstractions and concretes.

Writing (4 lectures)
Written presentation. Similarities and differences between writing and speaking. Making a piece of writing self-contained. How to judge a formulation’s objectivity. Exercises in editing philosophic statements to achieve precision of thought. Analysis of samples of student writing.

Speaking (3 lectures)
Oral presentation. The nature and problems of extemporaneous delivery. The problem of overloading the listener’s mind. Transitions, pace and emphasis. Monitoring the audience’s response. How not to bore the listener. Analysis of short talks by students.

Arguing (2 lectures)
When — and when not — to argue. The art of philosophical detection. Selecting the essential points to answer in a discussion. The major pitfall of polemics: conceding the opponent’s premises. Arguing politics, and how to deal with spurious “facts.” Training oneself in philosophic argumentation. Analysis of mock arguments, with students (or the instructor) serving as “devil’s advocate.”

Ayn Rand answers questions from the audience at the end of Lecture 1, ranging from esthetics to politics. Of particular value is her discussion of the fiction writers whose works best illustrate the craft of writing.


All of Leonard Peikoff’s lectures may be ordered from the Ayn Rand Bookstore via their website, or by calling them at 1-800-729-6149 (U.S. or Canada), or 1-949-222-6557 (International).