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Objectivism in Academia

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  • 6 months later...

On Thursday evening January 6, 2022, at 7pm, there will be a session of the Ayn Rand Society. That will be at the Eastern Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association. Lester Hunt will deliver a paper on Rand’s comments on film in her essay “Art and Cognition”. This session will be in person, not via Zoom. The Meeting this year is being held at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel. The commentator on Prof. Hunt’s paper will be Prof. Andrew Kania.

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  • 1 month later...

The Ayn Rand Society session for Eastern 2022 was one of many sessions that opted in late December 2021 to not assemble in person, but virtually. The date was shifted to 18 January, at 2:00 pm. The paper to be read by Prof. Lester Hunt addresses, in view of some brief remarks by Rand on film, two related, long-standing questions in film theory and criticism. Comments on the paper, as noted earlier, will be from Prof. Andrew Kania.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'd like to welcome to Objectivism Online the poster Laws of Biology, who writes in his/her About Me the following:



I was surprised and pleased to recently discover that Ayn Rand was a real and serious philosopher, who was well-versed in the whole history of Western Philosophy, and in all the important eras, movements, issues, and technical terms of Western Philosophy.

Previously I had gotten the impression (from representations in the mass media, both pro and con) that Ayn Rand was more of a shallow, irrational, emotionalist, imbalanced, activist ideologue and provocateur, along the lines of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Tucker Carlson, Ben Shapiro, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Laura Ingraham, Rachel Maddow, Anderson Cooper, etc. 

But no, I have come to see that Ayn Rand was a real philosopher in the tradition of Western Philosophy, and the philosophy of Objectivism that she delineated is a real, systematic, comprehensive philosophy that deserves to be taken seriously.

Objectivism should be closely studied by anyone interested in the path of Western Philosophy as a means to gaining the clearest possible understanding of reality and as a means to living the best possible human life. 

Rather than being viewed as being comparable to the aforementioned shallow and often incoherent pundits, provocateurs, and activists, Ayn Rand deserves to be regarded as being in the company of the likes of Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Cicero, Lucretius, Marcus Aurelius, Epicurus, Aquinas, Hume, Hobbes, Locke, Kant, Burke, Nietzsche, Herbert Spencer, Marx, Bertrand Russell, Karl Popper, Hannah Arendt, and Wittgenstein (not that Ayn Rand agreed with all or most the doctrines of the aforementioned persons, but that, like them, she was a serious, knowledgeable, systematic, sincere, determined, forceful, and rational thinker in the tradition of Western Philosophy). 

Objectivism seems, to me, to very different from many other movements and "-isms" in that Objectivism claims to use the classical methods of Western Philosophy to firmly and undeniably establish and prove its system of ethics and its political philosophy.  The proponents of other "-isms," such as Conservatism, Libertarianism, Socialism, and Progressivism, generally do not seem make any such claim. 

Based on what I now know, Objectivism claims to be the apex, pinnacle, climax, culmination, fulfillment, and completion of Western Philosophy. 

In essence, as I understand things at the present, Objectivism claims to be the final philosophy, with Ayn Rand as the final philosopher.

I am interested in investigating all these claims fairly and thoroughly.

My objective is not to debunk, nitpick, or find fault, but to dive deep into the essence of what Western Philosophy is. 

Objectivism is also profoundly different from the philosophy that is taught in philosophy courses at all or nearly all universities and colleges in the USA. These courses seem to generally teach epistemological skepticism and moral relativism. I recently read an online essay by a university-based philosopher that was titled: "Philosophy cannot resolve the question ‘How should we live?’" I think that is typical of university-based philosophy. Of course, most of many people would think that a philosophy that cannot guide people on how they should live is a philosophy that is worthless. But Dave Ellis, the university-based philosopher who was the author of that essay, was confident that his work had value even though it could not resolve the basic question of "How should we live." 



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  • 4 months later...
  • 2 months later...

Rand "is the cold, stony advocate of self-interest, the poet of the sociopath." That quotation is from the book AYN RAND AND THE RUSSIAN INTELLIGENTSIA (2022) by Derek Offord. He goes straight to Rand's various representations and condemnations of altruism and collectivism and to her holding high ethical egoism and attendant inversions of traditional virtues, such as the displacement of humility with pride. He sees the audacity of Rand's vision of a guilt-free human life.

The author sticks to the clashes between Rand’s ethics and the traditional, altruistic ones, secular or religious. He takes no notice of continuities of the old and the new and ways in which the latter took up the old with redefinition and placement in an orderly account of value per se. By sticking to only the stark clashes and by ignoring facets of the psychology of Rand’s protagonists—indeed conjecturing that such things as empathy and concern for others are entirely absent in those characters (and in their creator)— Offord makes it easy on himself to slide from Rand being the poet for personalities asocial, to antisocial, to sociopathical. Even the asocial is in full truth not fitting of Rand’s protagonists.

This book is another distortion and smear of Rand’s philosophy. It is a smart one, by someone who actually has read Rand’s novels and The Virtue of Selfishness. He is of independent mind, not one repeating old critical reviews by others.

From page at the University of Bristol:



Derek Offord is a specialist in pre-revolutionary Russian history, thought and literature and in language usage and language attitudes in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Russia. He has published books on the revolutionary movement in its Populist phase, on the debates in the nineteenth-century intelligentsia (especially between its radical wing and its liberal and romantic conservative wings) and on the ways in which Russian writers travelling in the West used their travels to shape notions of national identity as Russia entered the European world. Together with William Leatherbarrow, he co-edited a documentary history of Russian thought in 1987 and a new History of Russian Thought published by Cambridge University Press in 2010.

From 2011 to 2015 he led a multidisciplinary project funded by the AHRC on the history of the French language in Russia from the mid-eighteenth century to the early twentieth century. The project yielded three co-edited volumes, two clusters of articles, and a 700-page monograph co-authored with Vladislav Rjeoutski and Gesine Argent and published by Amsterdam University Press in 2018. This monograph, The French Language in Russia: A Social, Political, Cultural, and Literary History, was awarded the Marc Raeff Book Prize for 2019 by the Eighteenth-Century Russian Studies Association, an affiliate of the American Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies, and (as Joint winner) the 2019 R. Gapper Book Prize awarded by the Society for French Studies. It has been translated into Russian and is due to be published by Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie in Moscow in 2022. The website of the AHRC project, which includes twelve documents or sets of documents from primary sources accompanied in each case by an explanatory article, is at http://www.bristol.ac.uk/arts/research/french-in-russia.

Derek's latest book-length publication is on Ayn Rand and the Russian intelligentsia (published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2022 in their Russian Shorts series; details at https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/ayn-rand-and-the-russian-intelligentsia-9781350283947/).

Derek is also the author of two widely used books on the modern Russian language, Modern Russian: An Advanced Grammar Course (1993) and Using Russian: A Guide to Contemporary Usage (1996), which was republished in a revised and augmented edition co-authored witn Natalia Gogolitsyna (2005).

He is currently beginning work on a survey of contemporary Russian nationalistic thought.




Edited by Boydstun
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  • 3 weeks later...

Well Done!

Ken Danagger asks Dagny Taggart:



“And if you met those great men in heaven, . .  what would you want to say to them?”

“Just . . . just ‘hello’, I guess.”

“That’s not all,” said Danagger. “There’s something you’d want to hear from them . . . you’d want them to look at you and say, ‘Well done.’”


Dr. Chris Sciabarra is ending his long labor of love The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. He produced the journal for 22 years, which means a total of 44 issues of the journal. I list here some tidbit teasers from the first 10 years of the journal.



“But something changes. At the end of the book, Roark is no longer a seemingly isolated young man, alone with his thoughts in the depths of the countryside. He is just as individual as he was at the beginning, but now he stands at the heart of his country’s economic life, building its most conspicuous symbol, with the glad permission of his fellow citizens. Of the many inversions of perspective and expectation that are suggested by Roark’s dive into the sky, this is one of the most remarkable.”

–Stephen Cox



“Although both Andrei and Wynand are men guilty of their own tragedy, Rand presents their falls more as the logical outcome of their mistakes than as the just desert of their sins. As in the Aristotelian tradition of tragic ‘hamorita’, theirs is a type of transgression that must be distinguished from pure evil, making their fatal ends deserving of respectful pity rather than righteous condemnation.”

–Kirsti Minsaas



“You can live any way you choose within a regime of well-drawn non-conflictng individual rights. But again, to know what those rights are, to better be able to shape them coordinately, to limit all but procedural distinctions, we require minarchy.”

–Murray Franck



“The character may be embroiled in highly implausible situations, but he must still ‘live and breathe before us’ as an actual human being, with motivations we find at least intellibible, else we cannot empathize with the character or imaginatively share his fate. There is much more to it than this, and I am greatly condensing the account. But when I presented it once to Rand she agreed with it, and was pleased by my Aristotelianism on this issue.”

–John Hospers



“The data the sensations provide us with must come from somewhere, and this somewhere cannot be, as on the Cartesian account, from the physical objects. On pain of rendering incomprehensible why we all largely agree in our empirical beliefs, something that the formal agreement in geometrical belief cannot suffice to explain, there must be some common data source. Given the Kantian account of the physical world, this data source must be supra-physical.”

–R. Kevin Hill



“It isn’t just Rand who stumbled over the implicit. It gets under psychologists, feet, too.”

–Robert L. Campbell



“Indeed, I would argue that we can see Rand’s epistemology as an updating of the project that Abelard pursued over 800 years ago.”

–Peter Saint-Andre



“There is the marked disparity between her popularity as a novelist and the number of articles of literary criticism written about her work, though this too is not without precedent. It took some time for John Steinbeck to achieve recognition by certain sectors of the critical establishment. His work was disdained for its popularity, sentimentality, and the fact that it is accessible even to high school students.”

–Mimi Reisel Gladstein



“Considerations of self-esteem and self-esteem-based happiness THEMSELVES do not provide an agent with a reason that makes the difference in how he should act.”

–Eric Mack



“Rand’s measurement-omission analysis of concepts could be correct even if her account of their genesis were incorrect.”

–Stephen Boydstun



“Dr. Stadler’s complaint that he almost froze to death and numerous references to city-dwellers exposed to the elements for the first time in their lives [also] describe the first winters of Communist rule.”

--Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal



“I find it tempting to believe that we can gain knowledge through the faculty of reason both in an a priori way and from experience. . . . These two ways could work together.”

--Richard C. B. Johnsson



“Rand’s trader principle does not suffer from the problems of [Adam] Smith’s invisible hand principle because she explicitly grounds her defense of trade in an individual’s right to exist for his or her own sake. . . . I do not sacrifice my interests for your sake, and you do not sacrifice your interests for my sake.”

--Robert White



“If you want a deconstructionist, go to the English Department. Philosophy departments in Anglophone countries are still predominantly homes for linguistic and logical analysis, the whole tone and tenor of which are very much in opposition to subjectivist nihilism. In fact, analytic philosophy of all styles began in self-conscious opposition to such German gobbledlygook.”

--Max Hocutt



“That worry is precisely the worry that being unmarried ISN’T a necessary property of anything, prior to and apart from the convention in question. . . . It’s only qua bachelors that those entities are necessarily unmarried, and the worry is that what it is to be something qua bachelor is an artifact of the convention, not a fact about the world. / I believe this worry can be met, but that the way to meet it is to show that it can arise only from OUTSIDE the linguistic practice in question, and cannot coherently be raised from within it. No one who assents to the proposition that bachelors are necessarily unmarried (thereby participating in the practice) can consistently add “oh, but that’s not a fact about the world.”

--Roderick T. Long



“To be fair, Objectivists do not deny the existence and importance of ‘spiritual’ qualities. Objectivists argue strongly against any sort of reductive materialism such as behaviorism or eliminativism. But, for Objectivists, material entities are the ultimate reality and conscious beings somehow supervene upon this underlying reality. Thus, the existence of any sort of supernatural entity, such as God, is ruled out.”

--Stephen E. Parrish



“A human being is a coherent unity of mind and body, yet this way of stating the fact still leaves ‘mind’ and ‘body’ conceptually separate. The concept ORGANISM conceptually integrates these two facets of human nature in a graceful and unit-economical way.”

--Andrew Schwartz



“Both see rationality as our distinctive means of avoiding threats and securing our survival, given our animal vulnerabilities. However, where MacIntyre diverges from Rand is in relation to the implications of this in respect of our ongoing dependence on others.”

--Ron Beadle



“We do not believe there are untethered and dispositionless will acts made in complete freedom of antecedent conditions. . . . We endeavored to use notions of self-direction in ‘common-sense’ ways not packed with a lot of philosophical baggage, because we believed that ordinary usage (say, ordinary common law usage of choice and intent) were sufficient to complete the political argument.”

--Douglas J. Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen



“He [Nietzsche] insists, as she does, that it is absurd to live for the sake of the collective (i.e., what he calls ‘’the majority’), but the reason he gives is not the one that she would give. Her reason would be that it is absurd to live FOR ANYONE [who is not oneself]. The answer he gives is the aristocratic one, that one should live for the best and the rarest. Even here, though, his position still overlaps with hers IN A WAY: for what he is saying here can be captured by a phrase that Rand sometimes applies to herself, namely, hero-worship. Nietzsche’s aristocratic hero-worship I think is the key to understanding the collectivist-sounding language in . . . .”

--Lester Hunt


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