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Books that explain Objectivism

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softwareNerd
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*** Mod's note: Split from another topic - sn ***

What I want to raise is a worrying trend that I see from this example: Half-baked Objectivists do more harm to Objectivism than do non-Objectivists.

In the battle of ideas, it will be a good idea to refute these kinds of articles. I would think that, since these are so many people who could hold these wrong views, it would be extremely difficult to target each of them and to intellectually persuade them. One would need to identify and target the 'prime movers'.

One would need to attack the issue very systematically - and in accordance with Objectivist principles.

One of the big gaps I see is that there is no book that explains Objectivism in a Lucid manner, and also that attacks these wrong notions about Objectivism comprehensively. OPAR has room for improvement as well (can elaborate if asked).

My objective is to plant a seed through this post...

Though I haven't read them, I've heard that Craig Biddle's book and Andrew Bernstein's two books are very accessible to people who would be put off by abstract philosophy.

However, the best lecture for someone who is dogmatic about Objectivism is "Understanding Objectivism (UO)" by Leonard Peikoff. I understand that a book version may be planned. I think the ideal book for someone who is dogmatic would be a two-part book. The first part would address rationalism as is done by the UO lectures. The second part would cover a range of typical rationalistic misconceptions about Objectivism, and demonstrate why they are wrong. Finally, such a book would be by some respected Objectivist or have his/her blessing, because that would help make a dogmatic person pick it up rather than write it off.

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Though I haven't read them, I've heard that Craig Biddle's book and Andrew Bernstein's two books are very accessible to people who would be put off by abstract philosophy.

However, the best lecture for someone who is dogmatic about Objectivism is "Understanding Objectivism (UO)" by Leonard Peikoff. I understand that a book version may be planned. I think the ideal book for someone who is dogmatic would be a two-part book. The first part would address rationalism as is done by the UO lectures. The second part would cover a range of typical rationalistic misconceptions about Objectivism, and demonstrate why they are wrong. Finally, such a book would be by some respected Objectivist or have his/her blessing, because that would help make a dogmatic person pick it up rather than write it off.

Thanks SN - I will go over these books and change my view if appropriate.

The issue that I now see is: Why is this book not being read by Objectivists? If they are not reading it, how will others read it? But, I myself would come back to this issue after reading the books...

One solution could be that experienced Objectivists can publish a list of essential books that explain the Philosophy well. I don't want to hijack this thread, so would post this in a separate thread (after checking is such as thread already exists or not).

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The issue that I now see is: Why is this book not being read by Objectivists? If they are not reading it, how will others read it? But, I myself would come back to this issue after reading the books...
I would guess that a lot of Objectivists read those books. Every individual decides whether a book will be of value to him. it is perfectly fine not to read a beginner's book, if one thinks one already has a grasp of its contents. Similarly, it is perfectly fine not to read a book like OPAR (or Tara Smith's excellent books) if one judges that they offer more details about philosophy then one needs for one's own purposes. There is only so much time, and for many people other books might be a better way to spend their time.

One solution could be that experienced Objectivists can publish a list of essential books that explain the Philosophy well. I don't want to hijack this thread, so would post this in a separate thread (after checking is such as thread already exists or not).
Other than the 5 listed, I'm sure there are some others I've missed. I'm not sure if ARI or ARB have a page with book suggestions on various topics, but that's where I'd start to look if I were you.
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  • 3 weeks later...

I think that one market not yet addressed by a book is the person who has read most Rand fiction, some of her non-fiction, but still has a lot of questions and (unknown to him) misconceptions about Objectivism. This is the audience that looks for answers on the net. Some type of Objectivist "FAQ" might address this. As I noted in the first post, there might be a market for a book that covers a range of typical rationalistic misconceptions about Objectivism demonstrating why they are wrong. In addition, it could have a few clarification essays that help readers chew on some of the key points that Rand makes in her essays.

I think there is another way to address the same market: by annotating Rand's non-fiction. Quite some time has passed since those essays were first published, and over the years people have raised all sorts of questions, and asked for all sorts of clarifications about those essays. These questions have been asked at conferences, in forums, and so on. There are now enough Objectivists qualified to take up the task of annotating Rand's non-fiction essays with a series of notes that make some points clearer, provide cross-references to other material, and address common misconceptions. If such notes are meaty enough, it might generate demand for some of these books from second-time buyers: Objectivists who already own a non-annotated version. This could make it a profitable venture.

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I think that one market not yet addressed by a book is the person who has read most Rand fiction, some of her non-fiction, but still has a lot of questions and (unknown to him) misconceptions about Objectivism.

I wonder if the (long in development) Ayn Rand: A Companion To Her Works And Thought essay collection that Allan Gotthelf is working on might help fill this gap.

I think there is another way to address the same market: by annotating Rand's non-fiction. Quite some time has passed since those essays were first published, and over the years people have raised all sorts of questions, and asked for all sorts of clarifications about those essays. These questions have been asked at conferences, in forums, and so on. There are now enough Objectivists qualified to take up the task of annotating Rand's non-fiction essays with a series of notes that make some points clearer, provide cross-references to other material, and address common misconceptions.

I will take this opportunity to note that the current focus of Greg Perkins' "Objectivism Seminar", in which I am a regular participant, is going through and discussing various essays by Rand. All the seminars we've done are available as podcasts. You might check them out and see if you find them a useful resource. (And if you don't feel free to drop in and help us improve things -- we welcome new participants.)

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I wonder if the (long in development) Ayn Rand: A Companion To Her Works And Thought essay collection that Allan Gotthelf is working on might help fill this gap.
From the title, it does seem to fit the bill. One thing I like about annotating the originals is that someone reading (say) VoS for the first time can resolve some key questions right then and there, without going any further. For instance, after reading the first essay, he might read a note that at least hints at some clarifying ideas on "Life as the Standard" . Of course, to really chew on them he'll need something more than a footnote.

I will take this opportunity to note that the current focus of Greg Perkins' "Objectivism Seminar", in which I am a regular participant, is going through and discussing various essays by Rand. All the seminars we've done are available as podcasts. You might check them out and see if you find them a useful resource. (And if you don't feel free to drop in and help us improve things -- we welcome new participants.)
Interesting. Are these also targeted at people who have read (say) just one non-fiction book?
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Interesting. Are these also targeted at people who have read (say) just one non-fiction book?

They're intended to be 'chewing' of the works under discussion. Before we went into the essays we were working our way through entire books. We did Tara Smith's Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics, Peikoff's Objectivism and The Ominous Parallels and Rand's Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. I expect that when Peikoff's The DIM Hypothesis comes out we'll do that as well.

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I think there is another way to address the same market: by annotating Rand's non-fiction. Quite some time has passed since those essays were first published, and over the years people have raised all sorts of questions, and asked for all sorts of clarifications about those essays. These questions have been asked at conferences, in forums, and so on. There are now enough Objectivists qualified to take up the task of annotating Rand's non-fiction essays with a series of notes that make some points clearer, provide cross-references to other material, and address common misconceptions. If such notes are meaty enough, it might generate demand for some of these books from second-time buyers: Objectivists who already own a non-annotated version. This could make it a profitable venture.

And while one is about it, number the paragraphs!!

I can't tell you how much time is wasted in our reading groups trying to figure out that the paragraph in the middle of page 300 in one print edition is at the top of page 285 in the older edition (with smaller print).

But certainly "A question of grants" and any essay having to deal with competing governments or the idea that government is a contract needs heavy annotating; those are the ones I see most often confusing people.

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I have listened to the UO lectures, they are very good, but I would recommend reading OPAR a few times first so you don't go in cold. Also, don't be afraid to simply ask questions of the Big Guns. I have had both Leonard Peikoff and Harry Binswanger answer my questions in the past and I am nobody. Just be polite and make sure you've tried to find the answer in the literature yourself before asking.

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