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Recommendations for Studying Objectivism

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I recently posted the following personal recommendations on philosophical lectures from the Ayn Rand Bookstore and on studying Objectivism NoodleFood. I thought it might be of interest to OO readers too.

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For the third time this week (!), I've been asked for my recommendations regarding particularly worthwhile material available from the Ayn Rand Bookstore. Since the most recent request was public (in the comments on a random post), let me make some public recommendations. (Note that links are to CDs rather than tapes where possible. If you want tapes, just search for the title and/or author.)

In perusing my recommendations, please keep in mind that my interests tend toward more academic philosophy. I have little interest in work that is primarily "inspirational" or "practical" in nature; I don't tend to buy or listen to it. (I regard good technical philosophy as supremely inspirational and eminently practical!) Also, I'm going to focus on lecture courses here, although I'll mention books as they become relevant. Then I'll have some more general personal recommendations on studying Objectivism toward the end.

All of Leonard Peikoff's big lecture courses are consistently interesting and excellent, but the three which strike me as of greatest general significance are Understanding Objectivism, The Art of Thinking, and Unity in Epistemology and Ethics.

Eventually, anyone with a serious interest in studying Objectivism ought to listen to all of Peikoff's major lecture courses. Those who don't are necessarily limited to an unnecessarily incomplete and inadequate understanding of Objectivism. I've listened to almost all of them in the past year and a half -- and it's been quite an education, to say the least.

The urgency and order of listening to Peikoff's other lectures will depend upon a person's particular interests. I was particularly entranced by Philosophy of Education. (For those interested in the topic, Lisa VanDamme's various lectures provide a very interesting set of real-life appendices.) The History of Philosophy series is excellent; it is particularly critical for anyone in or near a philosophy department. I also very much enjoyed and benefited from Introduction to Logic and Objective Communication. (I've only heard part of Induction in Physics and Philosophy, none of Objectivism Through Induction, and none of The DIM Hypothesis.)

This year, I've also been slowly and carefully re-reading Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (OPAR). Hearing Peikoff's various lectures related to the book has been enormously helpful in fully understanding that work. I've listened to The Philosophy of Objectivism (the original lectures upon which OPAR is based), Objectivism: The State of the Art (great stuff on hierarchy), and Moral Virtue. I'm currently listening to his Advanced Seminars on Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, a fascinating series of observations about and answers to questions on the Galley Proofs of OPAR. Although I still have a a few personal complaints and confusions about the book, my appreciation for the clarity and depth of the book has grown enormously through the course of these studies. The work really is a tremendous and important achievement.

Clearly, Leonard Peikoff is The Man. But thankfully, he's not The Only Man. In no particular order:

Those interested in ancient philosophy will certainly profit from the work of both Robert Mayhew and Greg Salmieri. I learned more in Mayhew's uber-clear and essentialized course on Aristotle's Metaphysics than in two unhappy semesters of Aristotle classes at Boulder. (He has other courses on Aristotle, but I haven't heard those yet. Paul and I both enjoyed his course Ayn Rand on Humor, which we listened to while running.) Salmieri's courses are excellent, although Platonism doesn't seem to be available yet. Also, I should mention that Mayhew's anthology, Essays on Ayn Rand's We the Living, is a fine example of what Objectivist scholarship might and ought to be. I'm very much looking forward to his forthcoming anthologies on Ayn Rand's later novels.

Tara Smith has a substantial collection of always-good lectures on ethics available. Her ability to thoughtfully integrate the theoretical with the practical is particularly valuable to both academic and regular folks. (Really, it's no wonder that she was a huge hit at FROST this past weekend!) Given my longstanding interest in moral development, I particularly enjoyed her lectures on Perfection and Pride. Her recent lecture on Kindness, Generosity, and Charity was a noteworthy contrast to Kelley's elevation of benevolence to a major virtue in his Barely-Objectivish-Philosophy. I'd also very much recommend Smith's second book, Viable Values, as well as the multitude of journal articles that she's written over the years. (The topics of those articles will be of greater or lesser interest to particular people depending upon their degree of interest in technical philosophy. I haven't read them all, but those that I have are interesting, thoughtful, and clear.)

Harry Binswanger has a host of lectures available on a variety of technical and fascinating topics, such as psycho-epistemology, consciousness, and the emotions. I don't always agree with his arguments and conclusions, but I do generally enjoy his ground-breaking explorations.

The depth, substance, and detail of Darryl Wright's course Advanced Topics in Ethics was a particular delight for me. As I was listening to it, I was desperate to listen to it again immediately so as to take copious notes. (To my great frustration, I haven't been able to do that yet due to time constraints.) His course on Reason and Freedom was also very interesting. I'm glad to see that he has various lectures that I haven't heard yet.

Onkar Ghate's characteristic thoughtfulness, thoroughness, and thorough knowledge of Objectivism is quite apparent in his lecture course analyzing Galt's Speech. (I'm not alone in being a huge Onkar fan.)

Also, I should mention a few Objectivist intellectuals that generally lecture outside my limited sphere of philosophic interest, but whom I've very much enjoyed: John Lewis, Eric Daniels, and Yaron Brook.

Before I move on, I should make a few qualifying remarks. First, I've omitted some ARI speakers for totally innocuous reasons, either because I haven't heard them lecture or because I'm not so interested in their topics. However, I do actively avoid a few for various reasons related to both style and substance. In any case, please don't jump to conclusions just because I didn't mention someone. Second, my evaluations of lectures often change upon a second hearing, when I have time to more fully absorb and evaluate the material. So don't treat my comments here as set in stone.

Now let me offer a bit of advice about studying Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism. People relatively new to the philosophy might want to check out ARI's suggested reading list. For those of you interested in seriously studying Objectivism again, perhaps after a few years of inactivity, here's what I've found useful.

First, reacquaint yourself with Ayn Rand's writings. Re-read her novels. Re-read her major anthologies. You might want to jot down some interesting ideas here and there, but don't impose the burden of taking copious notes upon yourself. The goal is simply to help you get your bearings again. You don't want to make the process so hard that you don't do it at all.

Next, explore the more promising up-until-now or for-a-long-time neglected Objectivist work. Listen to the lecture courses of most interest to you offered by the Ayn Rand Bookstore, particularly The Big Ones by Leonard Peikoff. Read Ayn Rand's Letters and Journals. Read the Art of Fiction and The Art of Non-Fiction. Read Viable Values and Essays on Ayn Rand's We the Living. You will be delighted by the unexpected philosophic gems you find in these works. Again, I wouldn't recommend burdening yourself with the chore of copious notes. You can't possibly absorb it all at once anyway, so you may as well plan to spiral back upon the better material later.

Meanwhile, re-read OPAR, carefully and actively, perhaps with those related lectures mentioned above. In this case, I would recommend taking two particular kinds of notes. First, within the structure of the chapters and sections, condense each paragraph into a single essentialized sentence. Also, write down any questions on the text that you have, whether concerning confusions, interesting leads, or whatnot. (It's very easy to structure those notes that in MS Word's outline mode.) Also, I'd recommend reading a chapter once straight through before reading again to condense and question. (I got the general idea of condensing from Harry Binswanger's lecture How to Study Ayn Rand's Writings.)

I started this general process about a year and a half ago (i.e. the summer of 2003). I'm presently in the "next" and the "meanwhile" stages. I'm not in any great hurry, but I am working steadily within the constraints on my time imposed by graduate school. (Given my long commutes, I have lots of time for lectures, but little time for books.) As I move through the material, I do two helpful things. First, I keep track of what I read when, both by marking the date on the material itself somewhere and by noting the date in a darn big spreadsheet. Given the scope of my project, it's important to know if and when I last read some book or heard some lecture. (I also note the "importance" and "value" of each source in the spreadsheet, to help me decide when and whether to review it.) Also, it's a lovely feeling of accomplishment to peruse the ever-growing list on occasion. Second, I make a point of talking with Paul about the more noteworthy issues raised in my sources, as that greatly helps me integrate and retain the material. (Paul says that he's only available for intra-spousal conversations. Sorry!) I've also benefited enormously from various other sources of discussion and conversation.

I have some general ideas about what I'd like to do next, after I'm (mostly) done with those two phases. I'd like to listen to the better lecture courses again, taking notes if possible. (If I can't afford the sit-down time to take notes, I'll listen to them in my car, pausing to take notes on my digital voice recorder as necessary.) I'd like to read and condense all of the writings in the bound volumes of The Objectivist Newsletter, The Objectivist, and The Ayn Rand Letter. I'd like to work through the methods described in Understanding Objectivism and elsewhere for critical issues and concepts in Objectivism. I'd like to read the bound volume of The Objectivist Forum. I'd like to make a careful study of Ayn Rand's novels.

As I move forward, I expect that those plans will shift and change in various ways. Despite my Platonic tendency for Excessive Planning, I've given up all hope of Rationalistically Plotting a Course of Study That I Must Follow No Matter What Because It Is the Only Right Way to Do It. I also try not to focus too much on all that I have left to do, as it quickly becomes overwhelming. Every once in a while though, I do allow myself the luxury of amazement at all that I have learned in the past year and a half on all fronts: content, method, theory, practice. Those are nice moments, I have to say.

***

Comments on this post can be found here.

Diana Hsieh

NoodleFood

Edited by softwareNerd

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Well, what do you know. I was just plotting to touch those novels I've left behind for the past 3 years, plotting how to get back in touch with all the knowledge that's been sitting on my shelves, that I should be re-reading. Thanks for the post, it really made me realize how much work there is yet to be done and gave me inspiration to begin. (Being a fan of Excel, I love the spreadsheet idea...) ThankS!

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[Mod's note: Merged with earlier thread. - sN]

I've been looking through the Ayn Rand Bookstore to look for further Objectivist materials to buy and read... So far I've read Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, The Virtue of Selfishness, and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal by Ayn Rand, as well as The Capitalist Manifesto by Andrew Bernstein (I've also read most of the Sword of Truth series and I was very happy to hear that there are others who had heard of it, let alone read and enjoyed it). What books/courses should I buy? I'm trying to get as thorough a grounding as possible in Objectivism, especially in areas such as induction.

Edited by softwareNerd

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Well, there aren't any Objectivist books that deal much with induction, and I would leave induction alone until you have a good grounding in the other areas. That being said, the lectures series "Objectivism Through Induction" and "Induction in Physics and Philosophy" (both by Leonard Peikoff) are excellent.

If I were to recommend a reading/listening order to comprehend Objectivism, it would be this:

1) The Fountainhead

2) Atlas Shrugged

3) Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (the extra material included in the second edition is very helpful as well)

4) Objectivism: the Philosophy of Ayn Rand (by Leonard Peikoff)

5) The Virtue of Selfishness

6) Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal

7) The Romantic Manifesto

8) Philosophy: Who Needs it

9) Objectivism Through Induction (lecture series by Leonard Peikoff)

10) Induction in Physics and Philosophy (lecture series by Leonard Peikoff)

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What books/courses should I buy? I'm trying to get as thorough a grounding as possible in Objectivism, especially in areas such as induction.

I think that the most important thing to buy is Ayn Rand's Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (ITOE). In my judgment, this is the most essential single book to read for understanding Objectivism, along with Atlas Shrugged. But, luckily, there are volumes of fascinating courses and books available, on just about any subject.

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This is an off angle veiw judging by what others have said but I would recommend The Journals of Ayn Rand. It does a good job showing the historic evolution of Rand's beliefs as well as Objectivism generally. You'll find the earlier vague hero worship and Nietzchean tendencies maturing and moving toward a more rational view as well as here theories of psychology and archetypes growing over time as well.

Its been a while since I read it but it is the best book on Objectivism I've seen.

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Interesting view there Shol'Va...

I have had the chance to skim through parts of tghe Journals of Ayn Rand, and it did seem quite interesting, and arguably a good insight into the life changing effects of developing further such a philosophy, and the great thinngs possible if one correctly applies it.

However I would say that its a good compliment to reading her other books such as ITOE, and Atlas Shrugged, FH (after these two I would say to go for OPAR, and then Virtue of Selfishness, Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal etc). I think it is more important to read about her great philosophy, and less about the person, at least in the early days. While she was unquestionably a wonderful person, it is her philosophy that should be ones primary focus of the two. If you want to stop and try and see concrete examples of how she applied it, this is where the Journals might be useful.

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First start with my website. use the link in my sig and select RANDISM.

This will orient you and give you a leg up. It is from the perspective of a real person who came to stay some 40 years ago. This is a "jump start" and by no means complete. In fact, it is very shallow and pertains only to the philosophy. You will still have a lot ahead of you and I don't want to spoil a good time.

Now as to studying the matter. I want to get you up and running ASAP:

1) The Virtue of Selfishness

2) Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal

3) The Romantic Manifesto

4) The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution

5) Philsophy: Who Needs It?

This is the order in which they were written and in which I read them. You might want to do it in this order

1) Philsophy: Who Needs It

2) Virtue of Selfishenss

3) Captialism: The Unknown Ideal

4) The New Left. The Anti-Industrial Revolution

5) The Romantic Manifesto

I aslo recommend but only for the brave. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology

Auxiliary Material:

Ayn Rand: The Voce of Reason by Leonard Peikofff

The Personal Notes of Ayn Rand (only for the strong of mind. This girl could boogie)

Atheism; The Case Against God by George O Smith

NOw get the bound volumes of The Objectivist Newletter and later Rand Publications. These contain other valuable work lik "Altruism Vs. Benevolence". I have them all except a few of the pamphlets

Then come back to the control console and select Editorials and see the philosophy in action.

Edited by Space Patroller

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I aslo recommend but only for the brave. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology

Pragmatism, skepticism, religious faith, "words are social conventions" relativism, the "problem of universals", all fall apart only after Rand's reconstruction of epistemology. Anyone who fails to wrestle with this work will only ever grasp a series a doctrines but not the method of thinking. I would recommend everyone put ITOE early on their reading list because it makes the other works more meaningful.

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Pragmatism, skepticism, religious faith, "words are social conventions" relativism, the "problem of universals", all fall apart only after Rand's reconstruction of epistemology. Anyone who fails to wrestle with this work will only ever grasp a series a doctrines but not the method of thinking. I would recommend everyone put ITOE early on their reading list because it makes the other works more meaningful.

To be sure, but remember, I said that this is only to jump start or get in the game. I was speaking in the context of a newbie, not mid-level or advanced. I did not touch it until my second year. It is very technical and I'm still not sure I have it all down right. I don't want to scare people off. If the majority of persons that I know tried that as an early read, they'd be lost quicker than a cub cadet zonked out on sapce gas with a busted Space-O-Compass and that would be the last we'd see of them.

I did also recommend the whole panoply of Objectivist publications. Just not to start off with. If you want to go where the work load gets scary, try the Notes. If anyone reads those and says that Rand lacked depth. I've got a bridge to sell them on Mercury. I was hard put by it. Great stuff!

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I did also recommend the whole panoply of Objectivist publications. Just not to start off with. If you want to go where the work load gets scary, try the Notes. If anyone reads those and says that Rand lacked depth. I've got a bridge to sell them on Mercury. I was hard put by it. Great stuff!

By the Notes, do you mean the Journals of Ayn Rand ?

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By the Notes, do you mean the Journals of Ayn Rand ?

I could not find a date: What I read came out in the '80's but what I read didn't seem to have that title. I recall specifically two things:

1) her description of how Hollywood covered up for the Soviets and that apparently the Roosevelt was friendly to the Soviets rather than just running an arm's length alliance

2) Her contention that Epsitemology is the most important branch of philosophy.

If this is something new, it's a pity that it is not available in some easy read format, my eyesight is deteriorating from no known cause.

I took a second look, If that copyright date is correct, then no, unless it's a redo like RETURN OF THE PRIMITIVE is a redo of THE NEW LEFT: THE ANTI-INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

Edited by Space Patroller

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This is an old post, there are more books out there now.

Ethics: Tara Smith wrote two excellent books, Craig Biddle wrote one(Loving Life)and is working on another.

Peikoff just published The DIM Hypothesis, there is also Understanding Objectivism book

Yaron Brook and Don Watkins Free Market Revolution

Andrew Berstein wrote a few, like The Capitalist Manifesto

And new estore:

https://estore.aynrand.org/

Edited by intellectualammo

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