Ayn Rand’s Thought: Living and Dead

For those interested in Randian scholarship, the most recent issue of Cato Unbound presents a critical discussion of Rand’s moral and political ideas between four philosophers with different views of her work and its significance. Of particular interest from a critical perspective is Roderick Long’s response essay.

5 thoughts on “Ayn Rand’s Thought: Living and Dead

  1. It’s a good series of essays. I personally think this is incorrect:


    But I also think that she would not be any more in the news than Mises, Hayek, or Bastiat if she had not expressed these ideas in fiction, especially Atlas Shrugged. Her fiction shows us moral, political, and economic principles at work in the lives of individuals and societies in the context of intricate and exciting plots.

    I personally believe that Rand’s ideas exceed her fiction – even though I’ve personally never read any of it!

    Also I don’t think Prof Badhwar’s semi-repudiation of the objectivist ehtical basis of survival man-qua-man is particularly solid, but she doesn’t draw any disagreeable conclusions.

  2. I define Rand’s beliefs as shown in Howard Roark’s jury summation, then I add to that John C Calhouns discourse on government, and I have much of what I need to define America and how it grew so prosperous, as cited in The Changing Face of Democrats on Amazon and claysamerica.com. Too bad so many in America today rely on Old World philosophers like Rousseau, Robespierre and Obama. claysamerica.com

  3. As people around here would know, I’m a big Ayn Rand fan. I have never met any other Objectivist in my entire life. I simply investigated her books after hearing about her via libertarians on the web and discovered that I really admire her writing. Her ability to identify essentials was genius IMO.
    I think the best way to judge Ayn Rand is to read her stuff yourself. In my experience, there really are a lot of smear jobs out there from both neo-conservatives and lefties who generally misrepresent her positions and who are unable to put different philosophical ideas into context. (Aristotle: “It is the mark of an educated man to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it”). Also, many criticisms are downright nasty but that’s fine because those who insult instead of actually constructing a logical argument will only convince fools.

    The Cato discussions have been out for a while – the only post I read was actually Long’s as recommended by Ben. From memory, I think his post was quite good although there were a few problems. He also misinterperets Rand’s ideas eg/ his Dilbert comments in part III on capitalism.

    Lately there have been two more biographies of Ayn Rand published that focus on her life and her as a person, which is fine, but again I would recommend going straight to the source for the relevent and interesting stuff – Ayn Rand’s own writings.
    I just read an interesting discussion between James Valiant and Jennifer Burns at SOLO – both Ayn Rand biographers (neither of whom I have read or really care to read to be honest). http://www.solopassion.com/node/7293

    I have enjoyed both her fiction and her non-fiction. To really understand her philosophical ideas you need to read her non-fiction. But personally I think reading her fiction is more valuable for most people and was certinaly highly enjoyable for me. (see the Objectivst idea of sense of life).

    If you are interested in getting a taste on her writings, the ayn rand lexicon, http://aynrandlexicon.com/ is a good resource.

    Also I would recommend Peikoff’s “Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand”.

  4. The trouble is that many of Peikoff’s statements now appear out-of-date. For instance, the ridiculing of something from nothing may have been standard in the Steady-state days, but Quantum mechanics and the Big Bang both rely on it today.
    Also, some of Rand’s characters, in ‘Atlas Shrugged’, contradict themselves. Hank Rearden despises altruism, but at the last meeting between his family and himself, he says he would have forgiven them if they had acted altruistically, by urging him to run and think only of himself. He doesn’t use the word altruism, but that is the action he wanted from them.
    Also keep in mind that Objectivism fails in the real world. I saw a documentary about two American Steel companies. One broke away from the other in the Great Depression. The break-away company was a one-boss business, and was routinely in violation of many safety laws, and regularly hired men just released from prison, because they were more willing to put up with bad working conditions.
    The other one was called the Bethlehem Steel Company, and was run on collective principles, much like the motor company in the book, from which Galt escaped. This company has a great safety record, and long waiting lists of people willing to join it.
    That is not how Rand imagined companies could be run.

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