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Ayn Rand Vs. Dr. Leonard Peikoff

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I was wondering what others people thought about the difference in thier non-fiction writting. I personally have found Ayn Rand's explinations of her philosophy MUCH MUCH simpler to comprehend than Dr. Peikoff's were in OPAR compared to ITOC. Now I know that the scope of OPAR is much larger but as far as explinations go I find Ayn Rand's much easier to comprehend. Has this been the case for anyone else?

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What else have you read by Dr. Peikoff? Have you listened to any of his speeches or read the ones reprinted in The Voice of Reason?

OPAR is a rather dense and focused work compared to most of Ayn Rand's nonfiction, which was mostly short articles collected into books. Read the Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology alongside OPAR and see whether you think one of the other of them is that much more understandable. :lol: I didn't read IOE until after I'd read OPAR twice and I still found it heavy going, but I'm not that bright.

Hence why I re-read everything six, seven times.

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What else have you read by Dr. Peikoff? Have you listened to any of his speeches or read the ones reprinted in The Voice of Reason?

OPAR is a rather dense and focused work compared to most of Ayn Rand's nonfiction, which was mostly short articles collected into books. Read the Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology alongside OPAR and see whether you think one of the other of them is that much more understandable. :lol: I didn't read IOE until after I'd read OPAR twice and I still found it heavy going, but I'm not that bright.

Hence why I re-read everything six, seven times.

Mostly I was comparing the writting style of OPAR with ITOE. I do acknowledge thier difference in scope however Rand once stated that (something to this effect, though I don't have a proper quote) a person would need an IQ of 150 to understand ITEO. By that standard I think you would probably need to be Einstein to understand OPAR.

It took me more than 9 months of reading and rereading the middle chapters of OPAR before I had a good understanding of what Peikoff was talking about. I honestly believe that a lot of that fact just comes down to Peikoffs writting style, which I personally find to be confusing. I do respect if others do not see it that way, I am just curious if as to the actual style of concept explination anyone found much of a difference.

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Six or seven times? That's a great way to learn, Megan. I applaud you for that sort of effort. I should probably do that with ITOE myself. I've read it through once, and studied it, but it's the kind of book that needs to be gone over multiple times. :lol:

Mostly I was comparing the writting style of OPAR with ITOE. I do acknowledge thier difference in scope however Rand once stated that (something to this effect, though I don't have a proper quote) a person would need an IQ of 150 to understand ITEO. By that standard I think you would probably need to be Einstein to understand OPAR.

I question your quote. I just don't think she said that. Do you have a source?

Anway, I agree with your basic assessment. Ayn Rand has always been much clearer to me than Peikoff or anyone else, for that matter, who explains the philosophy. My theory is that she understands it far more deeply, and when you understand something deeply you will be able to explain it better. Furthermore, she was a supremely skilled writer, which added to the power of her explanations.

It's also possible that your difficulty with OPAR was caused by the newness of the ideas to you. Objectivism is quite foreign from anything else out there and I'm sure that can make it difficult to grasp some of the ideas.

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I question your quote. I just don't think she said that. Do you have a source?

What I read of it comes from the brand new book "Ayn Rand Answers". However the orginal quote comes from "The Wreckage of the Consensus" which (though I don't have it) come from The Capitalist Manifesto as I understand.

It's also possible that your difficulty with OPAR was caused by the newness of the ideas to you. Objectivism is quite foreign from anything else out there and I'm sure that can make it difficult to grasp some of the ideas.

This is without a doubt the truth. Regardless of who was teaching it I would have had to go over it a few times. However I think Ayn Rand had more of an ability to explain complicated issues without much confusion.

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I was wondering what others people thought about the difference in thier non-fiction writting. I personally have found Ayn Rand's explinations of her philosophy MUCH MUCH simpler to comprehend than Dr. Peikoff's were in OPAR compared to ITOC. Now I know that the scope of OPAR is much larger but as far as explinations go I find Ayn Rand's much easier to comprehend. Has this been the case for anyone else?

:dough:

I do not know about Dr. Peikoff's fiction--I can't get into any of his works--but when it comes to their non-fiction I agree with you.

I think the problem stems from the fact that (I believe) Mr. Peikoff has been educated in an American university, wherein he was taught to write in the same manner as a lawyer writes up contractual agreements--which most people never completely understand at the best of times.

In Dr. Peifoff's definition of Atheism in the Ayn Rand Lexicon, one is left with the impression that objectivism is atheistic. The problem is Ms. Rand was not an atheist, nor is the philosophy--unless you want it to be for yourself. Her definition of God is stated by Kira Argounova in "We the Living". [i have added that quote to the SOLO quote page]. Theism is defind simply as a "belief in god". IT DOES NOT DEFINE "GOD". In fact there are three basic theisms, 'pantheism', 'polytheism', and 'monotheism', which represent uncountable interpretations of god--all of which have as much validity as the one envisioned by Christians and Jews alike.

:lol::confused::confused:

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In Dr. Peifoff's definition of Atheism in the Ayn Rand Lexicon, one is left with the impression that objectivism is atheistic. The problem is Ms. Rand was not an atheist, nor is the philosophy--unless you want it to be for yourself. Her definition of God is stated by Kira Argounova in "We the Living". [i have added that quote to the SOLO quote page].
Atheism means disbelief in supernatural beings. Ayn Rand did not believe in the existence of supernatural beings.
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The problem is Ms. Rand was not an atheist, nor is the philosophy--

Actually, you are quite in error on both counts.

Here is a quote from Ayn Rand in the Introduction to "The Fountainhead";

This could be misinterpreted to mean an endorsement of religion or religious ideas. I remember hesitating over that sentence, when I wrote it, and deciding that Roark's and my atheism, as well as the overall spirit of the book, were so clearly established that no one would misunderstand it, particularly since I said that religious abstractions are the product of man's mind, not of supernatural revelation.
Also, from "The Letters of Ayn Rand";

The word heroic does not quite express what I mean. You see, I am an atheist and I have only one religion: the sublime in human nature. There is nothing to approach the sanctity of the highest type of man possible and there is nothing that gives me the same reverent feeling, the feeling when one's spirit wants to kneel, bareheaded. Do not call it hero-worship, because it is more than that. It is a kind of strange and improbable white heat where admiration becomes religion, and religion becomes philosophy, and philosophy—the whole of one's life.

Now, your confusion may lie in the fact that Ayn Rand usually didn't refer to herself as an atheist, she referred to herself as an Objectivist, which subsumes Atheism;

(Also from "The Letters of Ayn Rand")

I do not call myself an "Atheist" as an identification of my metaphysical position; I call myself an "Objectivist." But I do use the term "Atheist" in the appropriate context, such as, for instance, in answer to the queries of religionists or of those who spread verbal confusion by claiming that "a belief in natural laws is a belief in God," etc.

Moderator Mode: ON

Now, that said, there is already a God Thread and any further talk on that issue should be taken to that thread.

Moderator Mode: OFF

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What I read of it comes from the brand new book "Ayn Rand Answers". However the orginal quote comes from "The Wreckage of the Consensus" which (though I don't have it) come from The Capitalist Manifesto as I understand.

I am baffled by your statement. Three questions arise:

1. Where in Ayn Rand Answers did she make the comment about reading ITOE requiring an IQ of 150? Please cite the page number.

2. What original quote are you talking about? Where in the essay "The Wreckage of the Consensus" does the quote appear? (What page number?)

3. Are you saying that "The Wreckage of the Consensus" comes from Andy Bernstein's recently published book, The Capitalist Manifesto?

I hope that you will be precise in naming sources. That helps achieve the purpose of this forum, which is trade among Objectivists.

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....I personally have found Ayn Rand's explinations of her philosophy MUCH MUCH simpler to comprehend than Dr. Peikoff's were in OPAR compared to ITOC.... Has this been the case for anyone else?

You're not alone. OPAR was very heavy sledding for me. A real chore. I think it's just clunky and poorly written. Maybe Leonard was intimidated by the topic with its importance and "officialness." This is interesting too because Peikoff's other book (Ominous Parallels) was rather wonderful, stylistically. And his Ford Hall Forum lectures are similarly easy to follow and pellucid (look it up, guys! :lol:).

Rand's ITOE is also hard to follow...but maybe that's just the complexity and subtlety of the material? Usually you can get it if you just go over it a few times, but with OPAR maybe not.

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You're not alone. OPAR was very heavy sledding for me. A real chore. I think it's just clunky and poorly written. Maybe Leonard was intimidated by the topic with its importance and "officialness." This is interesting too because Peikoff's other book (Ominous Parallels) was rather wonderful, stylistically. And his Ford Hall Forum lectures are similarly easy to follow and pellucid (look it up, guys! :lol:).

This makes an important point. If you're going to draw conclusions about the clarify of Peikoff's non-fiction work, you *must* examine more than one of his works. Otherwise you have no way to distinguish between characteristics specific to a single work and characteristics general to the author. That said, I do think that OPAR is a much tougher read than The Ominous Parallels. (In fact, I have yet to read the last three chapters of OPAR, whereas I've read OP at least ten times.)

One possible difference between the two books that hasn't been mentioned yet: Ayn Rand read and doubtless provided feedback on The Ominous Parallels, something she obviously never had a chance to do with OPAR.

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What I read of it comes from the brand new book "Ayn Rand Answers". However the orginal quote comes from "The Wreckage of the Consensus" which (though I don't have it) come from The Capitalist Manifesto as I understand.

I know that you mean "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal". I'll have to look through the article.

This is without a doubt the truth. Regardless of who was teaching it I would have had to go over it a few times. However I think Ayn Rand had more of an ability to explain complicated issues without much confusion.

To be sure, I did enjoy reading OPAR. I didn't really have trouble with it myself, probably because I'd already studied Objectivism quite a bit prior to reading it.

Ayn Rand not only could explain complex issues clearly, she'd almost always have somethng original to say. There was no pretense with her, either. A mind like that is a rare gem and a real treat! :thumbsup:

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I do not know about Dr. Peikoff's fiction--I can't get into any of his works--but when it comes to their non-fiction I agree with you.

I wasn't aware that Dr. Peikoff had written any fiction of any kind whatsoever. It doesn't seem like his "thing".

Six or seven times? That's a great way to learn, Megan. I applaud you for that sort of effort. I should probably do that with ITOE myself. I've read it through once, and studied it, but it's the kind of book that needs to be gone over multiple times. :thumbsup:

Eh, I read almost every book I get my hands on more than once. You miss stuff the first time through.

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Eh, I read almost every book I get my hands on more than once. You miss stuff the first time through.

No doubt, but keep in mind that six or seven times is quite a lot more than once. :thumbsup:

Btw, this is the approach Newton used on Descartes' Geometric Algebra. He read it through multiple times while at university. Clearly he mastered it and then some.

...John

Edited by Thales
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I thought OPAR was rather easy and interesting reading although not quite as exciting as reading most of Miss Rands writing. But that is to be expected being that she is the professional writer first and the philosophy's creator, while Peikoff is a philosopher first and a writer second.

The one exception I've found to that general statement is ITOE however, which is the hardest read in Objectivism, (thank g..whatever [damn figures of speech :D ] that it is short and to the point, purposely). And that's the work that I originally started with. Obviously, it didn't discourage me too much and my lowly I.Q. of 130 found a way to eventually work through it. :thumbsup:

Edited by EC
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I'm actually rather surprised by most of the opinions here; I personally find Peikoff's writing to be superb, and, quite honestly, better than Rand's (at least in non-fiction). This is most apparent to me when the two are read side by side, such as in The Voice of Reason. Rand's essays, while good, do not seem to convey as much information as succinctly as do Peikoff's.

As for Rand's having a greater understanding of her philosophy, I think in many cases this actually gives Peikoff an advantage, since he was at one point struggling to grasp Objectivism just as his readers are, so he knows where things can be unclear or confusing. I have encountered numerous cases where Rand simply glossed over a point which she no doubt thought obvious, but which I, as a student of Objectivism, couldn't wrap my head around. When I turned to OPAR, however, I more often than not found a discussion of the topic that was more in-depth, easier to understand, and all around more enlightening.

Obviously one should read both Peikoff's and Rand's writings to gain the best possible understanding of the philosophy, but if I had a choice between OPAR and Rand's collective non-fiction writings, I would choose OPAR.

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I don't think that ITOE or OPAR are particularly difficult to read. I find them to be clearly written, but they are "deep" in the sense that they contain a lot of detail that's not obvious the first time through. I tend to read things very quickly, seeing a big picture, and on further re-reading I get more detail every time. For example, I have read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged at least a dozen times each in the past 15 years, and every single time I read them, I pick up on something new.

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I was wondering what others people thought about the difference in thier non-fiction writting. I personally have found Ayn Rand's explinations of her philosophy MUCH MUCH simpler to comprehend than Dr. Peikoff's were in OPAR compared to ITOC.

This is funny. I found ITOE more difficult (I had to slow down and think) and actually had an easy time of OPAR. In fact, I thought OPAR was written for the layman. ^_^

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This is funny. I found ITOE more difficult (I had to slow down and think) and actually had an easy time of OPAR. In fact, I thought OPAR was written for the layman. :dough:

This is true, but this is because ITOE takes on a more difficult subject matter than OPAR does. I realize there is overlap, but ITOE goes into much more depth in epistemology. When I say that I believe Ayn Rand was better at explaining, I'm referring to dealing with comparable subject matter. When they take on the same or equivalent subjects, I consider Ayn Rand much better at explaining.

Having said that, I thought OPAR was clear and readable, and certainly enlightening. I loved reading it. B)

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  • 4 weeks later...

I don't think I've ever found anything I've read by either Rand or Peikoff to be hard to grasp. But then again I do have an I.Q. approaching 150 and most of the tenets of Objectivism correspond with my implicit sense of life, so maybe it was just more natural for me to grasp the process and derivations. I also had my first exposure to Rand (although I didn't know it, because I had no idea about her until about a year ago (I had heard of Atlas Shrugged, but only passingly)) through Atheism: The case against God by George Smith when I was 15 or so. That book was written for the layman, and I think it probably is a nice introduction to rational thought. Personally, I believe that being atheist is a definite must in order to smoothly accept Objectivism. Imagine how hard it must be for someone who has to wrestle with giving up the notion of god when they actually believe in it. I'm glad the belief in god was never that important to me and that I was able to shake it off almost as easily as belief in Santa Claus.

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I didn't struggle with either of them, but I am a painfully slow reader. I take enough time to make sure I understand everything, and if I don't, I get a dictionary and re-read.

I think appeals to IQ are dangerous, and not because intelligence is unquantifiable. My experience with one IQ test (the WAIS-II) was that it was weighted for linguistic skills - that is, your verbal intelligence was much more of a factor in determining the final score. Whether or not this even approaches objectivity, I don't know. But I would guess that if someone took the same test and had a full scale score that was around 150 due to a phenomenal performance score and a lackluster verbal score, they would have a harder time with texts like OPAR and ITOE when compared to someone who's 150 IQ was based on a higher than average verbal score.

Edited by FeatherFall
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I find Dr. Peikoff's writing to be incredibly lucid. In fact, I find all Objectivist writers write with such clarity. I'm not sure if this is the writing style that Ayn Rand originated and Peikoff has only improved upon and/or used his own style.

Referring to "The Art of Nonfiction", Ayn Rand makes it pretty clear that the primary focus of nonfiction is to write with clarity and objectivity and the style will follow. All one has to do is pick up other philosophy books only to realize how truly excruciating some of them are to read.

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Andrew, your point about other philosophers is well taken. Some of the stuff is simply impenetrable. One of the attributes of Objectivism that appeals to me is its clarity.

As far as Rand v. Peikoff, I don't see much of a difference in terms of understandability. If I had to pick though, Rand would get my vote.

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