Ayn Rand 101

, Malcolm A. Kline, 12 Comments

She’s still a best-selling author off-campus, where people are not forced to buy her books. On campus, where everything is mandatory, Ayn Rand’s novels and essays are hard to find.

Although she wrote novels that are still widely read, she is rarely taught in English courses. Similarly, although the philosophy she developed—objectivism—has many more adherents than the more esoteric modes of thought represented in colleges courses, it too, is rarely explored academically.

David Kelly, who founded the Atlas Society largely to promote Rand’s works, posits in an interview with the American Journalism Center’s Leonard Robinson that academe remains hostile territory for Randians because the lady was a strong supporter of free enterprise, which has few advocates in the faculty lounge.

Yet and still, he may have hit on another reason in this interview. Rand, he avers, was fiercely dedicated to reason and rationality—two qualities which are in shorter and shorter supply in colleges and universities with every passing year.

If you want an introduction to Rand and her work, this interview might give you one. Conversely, if you are a lifelong Randian, you might find it illuminating too.

Check it out:


12 Responses

  1. Keith Roberts

    July 6, 2017 3:50 pm

    Rand wrote a couple of good books and had some good insights. But like a bad architect, she built her philosophy on a faulty foundation, and the more people observe reality and use their reason the more they see it. Unlike Rand’s official followers, the Atlas Society seems to recognize that Rand was not infallible. But too often they make excuses for her and her philosophy instead of holding firm to principles, rejecting her errors and correcting them. But then they would have to throw out the whole flawed system. So no. Not buying that universities are hostile to reason/freedom and that’s why they reject Rand.

  2. Jim

    July 7, 2017 1:57 pm

    It’s good advice to carefully read Ayn Rand, because she is an innovator in philosophic thought, and it takes some effort to understand what she is saying.

    For example, Keith Roberts writes that , “She was also careful to say that she lived her philosophy and didn’t endorse personal “whim worshiping,” so she was the final authority for her philosophy. But instead of getting to the root of the matter, the Atlas Society makes excuses.”

    Rand definitely did not hold that she is the final authority on philosophy. She even wrote an essay entitled, “Who is the final authority in Ethics?”

    Also, it’s not “making excuses” to point out that Rand’s views on homosexuality are not part of philosophy and do not effect her philosophic system. It is not whim-worship to apply philosophic principles to specific issues, that are not part of one’s philosophy. Rand wrote extensively on the nature of Philosophy and what it does and does not entail.

  3. David Ashton

    July 7, 2017 4:08 pm

    I once tried to write a digest of Rand’s philosophy and its (unchecked) premises for the English “conservative” Salisbury Review some years ago, but its editing made a mess of the article and my protest led to all further contact from me being automatically and permanently junked as spam. I mention this only because I had read all her novels and non-fiction books, innumerable articles, three biographical studies, plus critiques from varied viewpoints in print and online. Murray Rothbard’s little satirical drama on her meetings is worth revisiting.

    I have not yet read Gladstein’s “companion” or other such books, because my main political interest has shifted to the demographic threat to western “rational patriotism” from Africa and the Muslim world. She was a great asset during in fighting the “revolting students” of the 1960s-1970s. Her great appeal was the vigor of her personality and prose, and the relentless “rationalism” her philosophy, albeit with an unfortunate totalist reach that e.g. ranked Spillane above Shakespeare. The deep attraction was in her endorsement of free speech and of the importance of “heroism” in an increasingly technological age.

    Her main “successors” have been neo-conned like other so-called “right-wing” groups: explicit enthusiasm for Israel, global usury and open-door immigration are not vote-winners everywhere. But so what if she found promiscuous buggery and felching between men disgusting, or Russian chocolates especially delicious? How sadly typical of a society dominated by the “race-gender-class” ideology of the New Left that criticism should focus on her personal revulsion, rather than attempt to refute her arguments.

    If there were an eternal afterlife, which neither Rand nor I believe, I think she would pass the conversational time in a most interesting manner, up there with Jesus, Aristotle, Marx and Nietszche.

  4. Keith Roberts

    July 9, 2017 3:15 pm

    Jim: If you go back and read what I wrote, you’ll see that I said “was the final authority for “her” philosophy.” Not “philosophy.”

    And if you go to the Ayn Rand Institute’s faq page, you will read this:

    No. Objectivism is the name of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, which is presented in the material she wrote or endorsed.

    That’s also why Rand insisted her followers call themselves “students of Objectivism” and why she periodically purged people from her movement.

  5. Greg Kaiser

    July 10, 2017 8:05 am

    For an interesting perspective on one of Rand’s works, “Atlas Shrugged”, one might take a few minutes to read Whitaker Chambers 1957 critique of same here; http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/2705853/posts.
    One might argue, as do academics apparently, Rand’s disdain for religion is trumped (pre-2016 definition of trump) by her pro-free enterprise stance. Enjoy.

  6. Jim

    July 10, 2017 11:53 am

    Keith: It’s true that Ayn Rand is the only one who can speak on behalf of Objective — i.e., to articulate what Objectivism says — because she is the author and creator of her philosophy. If that’s all you mean, then fine. But this is different than saying she is “the final authority” on the truth of Objectivism. Philosophy is not accepted on authority, it must be accepted by each individual.

    The main point of my post is that Rand’s views on homosexuality are not philsosphic viewpoints and not part of her philosophy.

  7. Keith Roberts

    July 10, 2017 3:14 pm

    Jim, Rand’s views on sex, sexuality and romance were very much a part of her philosophy, and she insisted hers was an integrated philosophy, even going so far as to say if you tried to pick and choose which parts to follow it would destroy you.

    But if you’re free to toss out her views on homosexuality, I’ll toss out her views on civil right activists, native Americans, Western Civilization, militarism, environmentalists, libertarianism, smoking, rape, and women who want to be president.

    See what happened there?

  8. Jim

    July 10, 2017 3:58 pm

    Keith, none of the things you listed are part of her philosophy. They are applications of her philosophy. E.g., there is no philosophic principle of smoking or women presidents. Any views on these issues are informed by one’s philosophy, one’s view of psychology, one’s assecessment of the science evidence, and other factors.

    It’s true that one can’t pick and choose which parts of a philosophic system to adopt, as long as they are actually part of philosophy. Philosophy studies the fundamental nature of existence and man’s relation to existence; it does not dictate every detail.

    Not every issue in life is part of philosophy. Whether one likes chocolate cake, for example, is not part of a philosophy, even though Rand has a view on this. She was asked, for example, what philosophy has to say about sex, and she said, simply, “it’s good.” Meaning, philosophy doesn’t have much to say about sex because sex is not part of philosophy. Yet, like everyone, Rand has definite views on sex and romantic relationships. These are informed by her philosophy but also informed by her personal preferences and other non-philosophical views.

    The choice is not “toss out her views” or label them as Objectivist doctrine, but to evaluate her personal views based on the reasons she gives and see if you agree or disagree with her reasoning.

  9. Keith Roberts

    July 10, 2017 4:29 pm

    Jim, I’ve rejected her philosophy. I think you have too. Good luck.

  10. Jim

    July 10, 2017 5:26 pm

    Keith: On the contrary. I fully agree with, and live by, her philosophy. It has changed my life.

  11. Keith Roberts

    July 10, 2017 7:19 pm

    Jim, take me through your thought process, if you will. When you learn that Rand said native Americans have no rights and condoned their genocide how do you respond? Do you share her belief? Do you think she was just having a bad day and didn’t really mean it even though she never disavowed it? Do you say that’s an application and has nothing to do with her philosophy? I’m trying to understand. Because to me, that’s revolting and alone is disqualifying.

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