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What order to read Rand non-fiction?

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I want read some of Rand's non-fiction, and was curious as to which book I should start with. I've heard that Virtue of Selfishness might be a good place to begin, but was extremely interested in Rand's discussion on how rights are derived in the first place, and thought that maybe Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology might be a better choice.

Any thoughts would be appreciated.

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I want read some of Rand's non-fiction, and was curious as to which book I should start with. I've heard that Virtue of Selfishness might be a good place to begin, but was extremely interested in Rand's discussion on how rights are derived in the first place, and thought that maybe Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology might be a better choice.

Which book to start with depends on your current knowledge and interests. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology is Rand's most technical work, discussing her theory of concepts. It's very abstract and can be difficult to relate to one's own life and concerns, especially if one is relatively new to the philosophy. Rand's core discussion of the nature of individual rights is in her essay "Man's Rights" which is collected in The Virtue of Selfishness. It is also much easier for most people to grasp the connection between ethics and their own lives, insofar as the question "what should I do now?" is present in everyone's life at every waking moment. So given your stated interest I'd say VOS would be an excellent starting point. The lead essay "The Objectivist Ethics" is, along with Galt's speech in Atlas Shrugged, one of the best overviews of her philosophy.

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If you want a very systematic and extremely detailed overview of the philosophy, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (a/k/a OPAR), by Leonard Peikoff, would be difficult to beat, and it's a one-stop shop. It starts with the metaphysics and builds its way up through the other branches in a hierarchical way and as such I found it quite satisfying; I could (once it came out--yes I was around then) finally see how the whole thing tied together. (Galt's Speech tends to jump around a bit and touch on the same topics three times because what it is trying to accomplish is different--it is actually an integral part of the plot of AS and that has an effect on its content and organization.) OPAR's sheer size and depth can make it overwhelming however. (And you might also prefer something actually by Ayn Rand, though I've seen no sign that Dr. Peikoff has made any mistakes in OPAR.)

If you don't mind multiple books, Virtue of Selfishness, Capitalism the Unknown Ideal, Romantic Manifesto, and Intro to Objectivist Epistemology together make a fairly good survey, and you can pick what order you want to read them in. (As pointed out above, ITOE is much more technical, but it's what we have.) Her other essay collections will add more to what these books have said; I don't believe any of them cover totally new ground in any way (though if someone can show me wrong I'd love to see it!)

I don't know if anyone reading this is under the impression that since Ayn Rand is the best explainer of Objectivism, it's pointless to read anyone else's take on it, but if so, I'll take this opportunity to disagree. Sometimes someone else phrases a point differently in a way that happens to make it "click" more easily than Ayn Rand did--that's not a criticism of Ayn Rand, just observing that every writer has a unique style and some other style might work better with you. With that in mind there's an overview out there: Objectivism in One Lesson by Andrew Bernstein. It is a brief overview though, and though I find it valuable in some contexts (I might hand it to someone who is curious enough to read a short book), I doubt it would satisfy the OP. (BTW my recollection is that it starts with the ethics and works its way outwards.)

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I started with ITOE and think that's a good place to start because it will teach how to think properly. I usually recommend VoS to most though because it is much less technical reading and presents the Objectivist ethics perfectly. Another good place to start is with OPAR, because it covers basically everything.

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I want read some of Rand's non-fiction, and was curious as to which book I should start with. I've heard that Virtue of Selfishness might be a good place to begin, but was extremely interested in Rand's discussion on how rights are derived in the first place, and thought that maybe Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology might be a better choice.

You should first identify what you feel you are weak in understanding. If for instance you read all of Rand's fiction, I think it'd be safe to say you have a decent understanding of Objectivist ethics, in which case you could read Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal first to better grasp the relation between ethics and individual rights. Your order of reading material should really should focus on your interests, since that would better reflect and take advantage of the knowledge that you do have. Personally I like aesthetics a lot, so the first Objectivist nonfiction I read was Romantic Manifesto. I read Virtue of Selfishness second. If you think you understand ethics well with a decent understanding of rights in general, you could read ITOE first even. Personally I don't think starting with OPAR is a great idea, because I think of it more as a tool of integration and elaboration of all the nonfiction works of Rand rather than primarily understanding.

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It's easy to bounce off OPAR. I don't think I managed to read the whole thing until last year, almost two decades after it was published, and I own an autographed first edition copy of the damn thing! Bernstein's Objectivism in One Lesson is a much easier overview. It's a bit light on the politics, but if you combine it with his other recent book Capitalism Unbound you'll get that too. Starting with the ethics is often useful because ethics is where the philosophical rubber meets the road in individual people's lives. It's the cash value of the system.

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My opinion doesn't mean as much since I'm new but I'm glad Virtue of Selfishness was what I started with. It is very straightforward and not hard to understand at all.

Yet the vast majority of questions and struggles from newcomers to Oism are in the realm of ethics. Maybe youre a natural born Oist. Tara Smiths works are also a huge help if you want to get to the heart of Rands brand of rational egoism. "Viable Values" is a meta-ethical study (as in, why does man need a code of morality at all) and "Ayn Rands Normative Ethics" concretizes the fact that rational egoisms value stems from its practicality. Morality is no longer the bane of mans existence, rather, living with virtue is the path to a "flourishing" life.

j..

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I think that one's current interests and what has maybe brought them to Ayn Rand's work should be the starting point. For example, "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal" and "Return of the Primitive" were some of the first Rand books that I read because of my interests at the time. A more systematic method is what others have outlined here already, starting with OPAR or The Virtue of Selfishness. However, the systematic approach isn't for everyone: some people may not become interested in a a more in-depth understanding of Any Rand's ideas until after their interests have been piqued, so recommending that they sit down and read OPAR isn't going to work out very well.

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However, the systematic approach isn't for everyone: some people may not become interested in a a more in-depth understanding of Any Rand's ideas until after their interests have been piqued, so recommending that they sit down and read OPAR isn't going to work out very well.

Agreed. It may just lead to resentment at the thought of reading more at all.
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If it helps at all, I've started with Philosophy: Who Needs It.

That, actually, is the best one to start with - then you go to The Virtue of Selfishness,then Capitalism the Unknown Ideal... the rest essentially are fillers, for those more interested in particular details [and OPAR is not Rand non-fiction, nor, for all the good they really are, are Tara Smith's books - these are Rand derived, but not Rand]...

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