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The name is appalling. Let's not be encouraging stupidity.

Objectivism would have enormous benefits for dummies. Historically, the poor have done better under capitalism (even though it has never been fully implemented) than under any other system. The false and pernicious notion that Objectivism is "just for Supermen" needs to be dispelled.

However, there is probably no reason to fear that a real book like this will ever exist. The "For Dummies" series is trademarked by its publisher. Not just anyone can put out a "For Dummies" book.

For similar reasons, you will probably not see "Objectivism in a Nutshell" with an extinct animal on the cover. At least not officially.

(Edit: added parenthetical)

Edited by necrovore
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You mean Ayn Rand For Beginners.

I never heard of it's illustrator before, might be worth Google-ing him.

It was! Check out Owen Brozman's site, it's got a few illustrations from said book on there, it's in his portfolio

According to Random House site's description of the upcoming book, I think it's partially relevent to the thread topic (bold my emphasis):

ABOUT THIS BOOK

Ayn Rand, author of the best-selling novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, is beloved by millions of readers, and equally hated. Her novels and her revolutionary philosophy of Objectivism have acquired a world-wide following. They have also created a world-wide legion of frustrated readers who find it difficult to permeate her lengthy tomes. However, Ayn Rand is undeniably a solid step in the literary canon as well as in the progression of philosophy.

Until now, there has been no simple, easy-to-read introduction to her books and ideas. Ayn Rand For Beginners sheds a new light on Ms. Rand’s otherwise seemingly impenetrable words and philosophy. In clear, down-to-earth language, it explains Ayn Rand’s books and ideas to a new generation of readers.

Edited by intellectualammo
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Since reading Rand, I've held the "X For Dummies" series in disdain, because even if they are very well-done and logical introductions to topics, the necessary first step in reading one is self-deprecation. It contradicts her philosophy, and Objectivists already have a bad enough reputation for belittling those who disagree with them. Imagine a self-righteous opponent of Rand being told to read the book!

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  • 5 months later...
Since reading Rand, I've held the "X For Dummies" series in disdain, because even if they are very well-done and logical introductions to topics, the necessary first step in reading one is self-deprecation. It contradicts her philosophy, and Objectivists already have a bad enough reputation for belittling those who disagree with them. Imagine a self-righteous opponent of Rand being told to read the book!

As a huge supporter of Rand I don't see how admitting to a lack of knowledge on a particular topic and seeking to gain that knowledge is a form of self-depreciation in any way. In reality, I would argue that to continue on in life with the perspective that you are all knowing is more detrimental to one's self than reading a book to further one's knowledge, regardless of a book's title. I don't imagine any self respecting person would call themselves dumb, however, reading a book for personal gain is never going to hurt you. I also find it hard to imagine a self-righteous person being an opponent of Rand.

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As a huge supporter of Rand I don't see how admitting to a lack of knowledge on a particular topic and seeking to gain that knowledge is a form of self-depreciation in any way.
So you are arguing that there should be a book like "Introduction to Objectivism", and that a book "Objectivism for Idiots", "Objectivism for Morons" or "Objectivism for Dummies" would be a horrible idea, right? How about a book entitled "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand"?
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I've read exactly one "for dummies" book, it was on digital photography back when digital cameras were sold s having VGA or SVGA definition (somehow it doesn't seem that long ago). It was ok, but really not more than I'd have learned by 1) reading the camera's manual (which I did anyway), 2) reading any book on the basics of photography (I'd taken a course in highschool long before that), and 3) reading up on the workings of digital cameras in general.

On the upside it was all well presented in one tome. But I wasn't impressed with the book series.

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When I was looking to buy a house, I picked up "Home Buying for Dummies" and "Mortgages for Dummies". Both were very helpful. They provided clear, structured explanations of a rather complex process. Could I have found equivalent information in other books? Of course. But the point isn't that the "For Dummies" books are the best-in-class of their particular topics; rather, they just need to be consistently 'good enough'. And in my experience they are.

People have been making the "Yes, X is for dummies" joke ever since the first book in the series came out. I haven't noticed it harming any of the targets. A well-written layperson's introduction to Objectivism published under the "Dummies" banner would be a good thing, IMHO; it would probably lead to a lot of curious but otherwise unphilosophical people being exposed to Rand's actual ideas.

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A well-written layperson's introduction to Objectivism published under the "Dummies" banner would be a good thing, IMHO; it would probably lead to a lot of curious but otherwise unphilosophical people being exposed to Rand's actual ideas.
Sure, and so could a popularly-packaged version of Galt's speech in a movie starring Brangelina. The text goes like this:

For twelve years, you have been asking: Who is John Galt? So like, this is John Galt speaking. I am, ya know, the man who loves his life. All the men who have vanished, the men you hated, yet dreaded to lose, it is I who have taken them away from you. Do not attempt to find us. We are on strike. I have removed your means of survival-your victims. We, the men of the mind, are now on strike against you in the name of a single axiom, that existence exists. So my morality, the morality of reason, is contained in a single axiom: existence exists-and in a single choice: to live. And like, if you renounce all personal desire and dedicate your life to those you love, you do not achieve full virtue. I, who do not accept the unearned, neither in values nor in guilt, am here to ask the questions you evaded. Anyhow, there have always been men of intelligence who went on strike, in protest and despair, but they did not know the meaning of their action. LOL! Unless you learn the answers to these questions, you will not stay much longer on this earth. Uh, accept the fact that the achievement of your happiness is the only moral purpose of your life. Look past the range of the moment. ROTFLMAO! You will win when you are ready to pronounce the oath I have taken at the start of my battle, or whatever. Fo shizzle, I swear-by my life and my love of it-that I will never live for the sake of another person, in the gender-neutral sense, nor ask another human being (can't say 'man') to live for mine. Unless it supports the greater common good. Thank you ladies and gentlemen, you've been a wonderful audience. I owe everything to my fans. I am nothing without you.

Let's start with the most obvious question: what do you find wrong with OPAR? What do you find wrong with Atlas Shrugged?

Edited by DavidOdden
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Sure, and so could a popularly-packaged version of Galt's speech in a movie starring Brangelina. The text goes like this...

You will note that I explicitly said "well-written". Your hypothetical counter-example clearly was not and is thus not on-point.

Let's start with the most obvious question: what do you find wrong with OPAR? What do you find wrong with Atlas Shrugged?

OPAR is not suitable as an introduction to Rand's ideas. Peikoff himself has said so explicitly. So if you're looking for a book to introduce Rand's ideas to a curious but otherwise unphilosophical person OPAR is not in the running.

The main problem with Atlas Shrugged as an introduction is that it is extremely long. People can be curious, but not curious enough to commit to reading something that lengthy.

Let me ask you a counter-question: Do you find something wrong with Andrew Bernstein's Objectivism in One Lesson? More generally, do you have a problem with the idea of an introductory-level explication of a topic when there is already a longer, more comprehensive version available?

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Let me ask you a counter-question: Do you find something wrong with Andrew Bernstein's Objectivism in One Lesson?
I am actually not familiar with it. Based on the author's other works, I would assume that it is not actually written for stupid people, and that it does accurately represent Objectivism, although without reading it I can't really be sure of that.

My point was that the desideratum already exists; your counter-proposal seems to be that I misidentified which work that is. I accept that.

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The name is appalling. Let's not be encouraging stupidity.

Jesus, David, you're way too serious sometimes. Rather, you're serious when the context calls for levity.

From another post:

Let's start with the most obvious question: what do you find wrong with OPAR? What do you find wrong with Atlas Shrugged?

Good question, and at the risk of echoing other answers, here's mine: OPAR is not a good introductory text because it is far too advanced, more appropriate for a graduate-level course. Atlas Shrugged is not a good introductory text because it is a novel, and its function is to tell a story, not introduce a philosophy. It happens to do the latter, but that's not its primary function. Nor is Atlas ideal for such a purpose. If I wanted to introduce a college student to WWII history, I wouldn't tell him to begin by watching The Bridge on the River Kwai. I'd give him an non-fiction, introductory WWII history text, created for the specific purpose of introducing beginners to this sphere of study. As far as I know, up until Objectivism in One Lesson, there was no formal introductory text to Objectivism as a whole. Further, one such book is not enough. We need to bring the capitalistic system to bear on Objectivist education. I'd like to see lots of books for the beginner Objectivist competing to be the best-seller. Hopefully, some day soon there will be.

--Dan

Edited by dan_edge
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As far as I know, up until Objectivism in One Lesson, there was no formal introductory text to Objectivism as a whole. Further, one such book is not enough. We need to bring the capitalistic system to bear on Objectivist education. I'd like to see lots of books for the beginner Objectivist competing to be the best-seller. Hopefully, some day soon there will be.

There are actually a number of 'introductory' level books of various kinds. Off the top of my head I can think of Objectivism in One Lesson and Ayn Rand for Beginners, both by Andrew Bernstein; Loving Life, by Craig Biddle; On Ayn Rand by Allan Gotthelf; and The Ayn Rand Reader, edited by Gary Hull. These books have different emphases, but all are reasonable introductions to significant and unique elements of Ayn Rand's thought aimed at a beginner level. The Bernstein books both provide overviews, as does the Gotthelf. Biddle's book focuses specifically on the ethics. The Reader is a collection of excerpts from Rand's own writings, intended to cover a representative sample of her views in a somewhat orderly way. So it isn't like there's only one introductory book -- there are several already. What I'd like to see are some more works on applying the Objectivist ethics in everyday life -- concrete primers on how one lives a happy life as a rational egoist. In effect, we need a Miss Manners and/or a Dr. Laura.

Edited by khaight
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What I'd like to see are some more works on applying the Objectivist ethics in everyday life -- concrete primers on how one lives a happy life as a rational egoist. In effect, we need a Miss Manners and/or a Dr. Laura.

Some of the Oist blogs do a good job with that. Like me for example :D

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What I'd like to see are some more works on applying the Objectivist ethics in everyday life -- concrete primers on how one lives a happy life as a rational egoist. In effect, we need a Miss Manners and/or a Dr. Laura.
Yes, perhaps a book titled "Objectivism by Example". A book like that would be useful to someone who has already got an introduction to Objectivism, and who has read the fictionalized characters. People will often post some questions like that on a forum. These days Dr. Peikoff will reply to such questions on his podcasts. Ayn Rand has answered such questions many times herself. The "question of scholarships" is one example that was published.

Very often the questions are variations on a theme. If one were to classify them, there might be 25-30 "top" questions. Each reply would be slightly abstracted, because it would be based on multiple real-life questions and would thus have to answer the variations. Of course, this would not be an introductory book.

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Yes, perhaps a book titled "Objectivism by Example". A book like that would be useful to someone who has already got an introduction to Objectivism, and who has read the fictionalized characters. People will often post some questions like that on a forum. These days Dr. Peikoff will reply to such questions on his podcasts. Ayn Rand has answered such questions many times herself. The "question of scholarships" is one example that was published.

Very often the questions are variations on a theme. If one were to classify them, there might be 25-30 "top" questions. Each reply would be slightly abstracted, because it would be based on multiple real-life questions and would thus have to answer the variations. Of course, this would not be an introductory book.

I'd envision such a book as having a brief introduction to some of the key principles of Objectivist social ethics, particularly the trader principle and the harmony of interests principle. Then you address various concrete questions, as applications of the principles. This demonstrates two things. First, that Objectivism provides real, useful answers to how to solve problems in everyday life. Second, it models how to move between concretes and abstractions, thus providing examples of proper thinking methods. Because of our horrible educational system, many decent people today simply don't know how to take an abstract idea and apply it to concrete circumstances -- it's a skill they were never taught, and never learned.

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Good thoughts, all. Sounds like new thread material. Folks could propose common Q's for review, and other folks could offer an A. Wise moderators could pick the best answers and start a database of Objecti-sound practical advice. Feel free to implement this idea -- I won't even demand a percentage of the copyright when OO Q+A is published. ;)

--Dan Edge

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