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Objectivism is the philosophy created by the Russian-American philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand (1905–1982).[1] Objectivism holds that reality exists independent of consciousness; that individual persons are in direct contact with reality through sensory perception; that human beings can gain objective knowledge from perception through the process of concept formation and inductive and deductive logic; that the proper moral purpose of one's life is the pursuit of one's own happiness or rational self-interest; that the only social system consistent with this morality is full respect for individual rights, embodied in pure laissez faire capitalism; and that the role of art in human life is to transform man's widest metaphysical ideas, by selective reproduction of reality, into a physical form—a work of art—that he can comprehend and to which he can respond emotionally.

Rand originally expressed her philosophical ideas in her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and other works. She further elaborated on them in her magazines The Objectivist Newsletter, The Objectivist, and The Ayn Rand Letter, and in non-fiction books such as Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology and The Virtue of Selfishness.[2]

The name "Objectivism" derives from the principle that human knowledge and values are objective: they are not created by the thoughts one has, but are determined by the nature of reality, to be discovered by man's mind.[3] Rand chose the name because her preferred term for a philosophy based on the primacy of existence, existentialism, had already been taken.[4]



Ayn Rand characterized Objectivism as "a philosophy for living on earth", grounded in reality, and aimed at defining man's nature and the nature of the world in which he lives.[2]

My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.

—Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged[5]


Metaphysics: objective reality

Rand's philosophy begins with three axioms: existence, identity, and consciousness.[6] Rand defined an axiom as "a statement that identifies the base of knowledge and of any further statement pertaining to that knowledge, a statement necessarily contained in all others whether any particular speaker chooses to identify it or not. An axiom is a proposition that defeats its opponents by the fact that they have to accept it and use it in the process of any attempt to deny it."[7] As Leonard Peikoff noted, Rand's argument "is not a proof that the axioms of existence, consciousness, and identity are true. It is proof that they are axioms, that they are at the base of knowledge and thus inescapable."[8]

Objectivism states that "Existence exists" and "Existence is Identity." To be is to be "an entity of a specific nature made of specific attributes." That which has no attributes does not and cannot exist. Hence, the axiom of identity: a thing is what it is. Whereas "existence exists" pertains to existence itself (whether something exists or not), the law of identity pertains to the nature of an object as being necessarily distinct from other objects (whether something exists as this or that). As Rand wrote, "A leaf ... cannot be all red and green at the same time, it cannot freeze and burn at the same time. A is A."[9]

Rand held that since one is able to perceive something that exists, one's consciousness must exist, "consciousness being the faculty of perceiving that which exists."[10] Objectivism maintains that what exists simply exists, regardless of anyone's awareness, knowledge or opinion. This idea is derived from Rand's theory which she called "the primacy of existence"[11], in opposition to the theory of "the primacy of consciousness."[12]

For Rand, consciousness is an inherently relational phenomenon. As she puts it, "to be conscious is to be conscious of something," so that an objective reality independent of consciousness must exist for consciousness to be possible, and that there is no possibility of a consciousness conscious only of itself. Thus consciousness cannot be the only thing that exists. "It cannot be aware only of itself — there is no 'itself' until it is aware of something."[13] Objectivism holds that the mind cannot create reality, but rather, it is a means of discovering reality.[14]

Objectivist philosophy derives its explanations of action and causation from the axiom of identity, calling causation "the law of identity applied to action."[15] According to Rand, it is entities that act, and every action is the action of an entity. The way entities act is caused by the specific nature (or "identity") of those entities; if they were different they would act differently.[16]

Objectivism rejects belief in "every 'spiritual' dimension, force, Form, Idea, entity, power, or whatnot alleged to transcend existence."[17]

Epistemology: reason

Objectivist epistemology begins with the principle that "Consciousness is Identification." This is understood to be a direct consequence of the metaphysical principle that "Existence is Identity."[18] Rand defined "reason" as "the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses."[19]

Objectivist epistemology maintains that all knowledge is ultimately based on perception. "Percepts, not sensations, are the given, the self-evident."[20] Rand considered the validity of the senses to be axiomatic, and claimed that purported arguments to the contrary all commit the fallacy of the "stolen concept"[21] by presupposing the validity of concepts that, in turn, presuppose the validity of the senses.[22] She thought that perception, being physiologically determined, is incapable of error. So optical illusions, for example, are errors in the conceptual identification of what is seen, not errors in sight itself.[23]

The Objectivist theory of perception distinguishes between the form and object. The form in which an organism perceives is determined by the physiology of its sensory systems. Whatever form the organism perceives it in, what it perceives—the object of perception—is reality.[24] Rand consequently rejected the Kantian dichotomy between "things as we perceive them" and "things as they are in themselves". The epistemologies of representationalism and indirect realism that accept a "veil of perception," as put forward by Descartes or John Locke, are inconsistent with Objectivism. Rand rejected epistemological skepticism as the skeptics claim knowledge "undistorted" by the form or the means of perception is impossible.[25]

According to Rand, attaining knowledge beyond what is given in perception requires both volition (or the exercise of free will) and adherence to a specific method of validation through observation, concept-formation, and the application of inductive and deductive logic. A belief in, say, dragons, however sincere, does not oblige reality to contain any dragons. For anything that cannot be directly observed, a process of "proof" identifying the basis in reality of the claimed item of knowledge is necessary in order to establish its truth.[26]

Objectivism rejects both faith and "feeling" as sources of knowledge. Rand acknowledged the importance of emotion in human beings, but she maintained that emotions are a consequence of the conscious or subconscious ideas that a person already accepts, not a means of achieving awareness of reality. "Emotions are not tools of cognition."[27] Peikoff uses "emotionalism"[28] as a synonym for irrationality.

Rand rejected all forms of faith or mysticism, terms that she used synonymously. She defined faith as "the acceptance of allegations without evidence or proof, either apart from or against the evidence of one's senses and reason. ... Mysticism is the claim to some non-sensory, non-rational, non-definable, non-identifiable means of knowledge, such as 'instinct,' 'intuition,' 'revelation,' or any form of 'just knowing.'"[29] Reliance on revelation is like reliance on a Ouija board; it bypasses the need to show how it connects its results to reality. Faith, for Rand, is not a "short-cut" to knowledge, but a "short-circuit" destroying it.[30]

According to Rand, consciousness possesses a specific, finite identity, just like everything else that exists; therefore, it must operate by a specific method of validation. An item of knowledge cannot be "disqualified" by being arrived at by a specific process in a particular form.

The attack on man's consciousness and particularly on his conceptual faculty has rested on the unchallenged premise that any knowledge acquired by a process of consciousness is necessarily subjective and cannot correspond to the facts of reality, since it is "processed knowledge... . [But] All knowledge is processed knowledge — whether on the sensory, perceptual or conceptual level. An "unprocessed" knowledge would be a knowledge acquired without means of cognition.[31]

Immanuel Kant's contrary arguments, according to Rand, amount to saying: "man is limited to a consciousness of a specific nature, which perceives by specific means and no others; therefore, his consciousness is not valid; man is blind because he has eyes—deaf because he has ears—deluded because he has a mind—and the things he perceives do not exist because he perceives them."[32]

The aspect of epistemology given the most elaboration by Rand is the theory of concept-formation, which she presented in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. She claimed that concepts are formed by a process of measurement omission. Peikoff described her view as follows:

To form a concept, one mentally isolates a group of concretes (of distinct perceptual units), on the basis of observed similarities which distinguish them from all other known concretes (similarity is 'the relationship between two or more existents which possess the same characteristic(s), but in different measure or degree'); then, by a process of omitting the particular measurements of these concretes, one integrates them into a single new mental unit: the concept, which subsumes all concretes of this kind (a potentially unlimited number). The integration is completed and retained by the selection of a perceptual symbol (a word) to designate it. 'A concept is a mental integration of two or more units possessing the same distinguishing characteristic(s), with their particular measurements omitted.'"[33]

According to Rand, "[T]he term 'measurements omitted' does not mean, in this context, that measurements are regarded as non-existent; it means that measurements exist, but are not specified. That measurements must exist is an essential part of the process. The principle is: the relevant measurements must exist in some quantity, but may exist in any quantity."[34]

Rand gave prominence to the idea that concepts are hierarchically organized. Concepts such as 'dog', which bring together "concretes" available in perception, can be differentiated (into the concepts of 'dachshund', 'poodle', etc.) or integrated (along with 'cat', etc., into the concept of 'animal'). Abstract concepts such as 'animal' can be further integrated, via "abstraction from abstractions," into such concepts as 'living thing'. Concepts are formed in the context of knowledge available. A young child differentiates dogs from cats and chickens, but need not explicitly differentiate them from deep-sea tube worms, or from other types of animals not yet known to him, in order to form a 'dog' concept.[35]

Because of its view of concepts as "open-ended" classifications that go well beyond the characteristics included in their past or current definitions, Objectivist epistemology rejects the analytic-synthetic distinction as a false dichotomy[36] and denies the possibility of a priori knowledge.[37]

Objectivist epistemology is consistent with the facts that human beings have limited knowledge, are vulnerable to error, and do not instantly understand all of the implications of their knowledge.[38] According to Peikoff, one can be certain of a proposition if all of the available evidence supports it; one is certain within the context of the evidence.[39]

Objectivist epistemology attributes a special status to propositions put forward without any supporting evidence, calling them "arbitrary assertions," which can be legitimately treated as though "nothing has been said."[40] A stronger version of this doctrine maintains that arbitrary assertions are neither true nor false, that cognition played no role in producing them, and that they have no more meaning than the squawks of a parrot.[41] Branden and Peikoff have both maintained that positive claims about God or other supernatural powers must be rejected because they are arbitrarily asserted.

Ethics: rational self-interest

Rand defines morality as "a code of values to guide man's choices and actions—the choices and actions that determine the purpose and the course of his life."[42] Rand maintained that the first question isn't what should the code of values be, the first question is "Does man need values at all—and why?"

According to Rand, "it is only the concept of 'Life' that makes the concept of 'Value' possible," and, "the fact that a living entity is, determines what it ought to do."[43] She writes: "there is only one fundamental alternative in the universe: existence or non-existence—and it pertains to a single class of entities: to living organisms. The existence of inanimate matter is unconditional, the existence of life is not: it depends on a specific course of action... It is only a living organism that faces a constant alternative: the issue of life or death..." The survival of the organism is the ultimate value to which all of the organism's activities are aimed, the end served by all of its lesser values.

Integrating with this is Rand's view that the primary locus of man's free will is in the choice: to think or not to think. "Thinking is not an automatic function. In any hour and issue of his life, man is free to think or to evade that effort. Thinking requires a state of full, focused awareness. The act of focusing one's consciousness is volitional. Man can focus his mind to a full, active, purposefully directed awareness of reality—or he can unfocus it and let himself drift in a semiconscious daze, merely reacting to any chance stimulus of the immediate moment, at the mercy of his undirected sensory-perceptual mechanism and of any random, associational connections it might happen to make."[44] According to Rand, therefore, possessing free will, human beings must choose their values: one does not automatically hold his own life as his ultimate value. Whether in fact a person's actions promote and fulfill his own life or not is a question of fact, as it is with all other organisms, but whether a person will act in order to promote his well-being is up to him, not hard-wired into his physiology. "Man has the power to act as his own destroyer—and that is the way he has acted through most of his history."[45]

As with any other organism, human survival cannot be achieved randomly. The requirements of man's life first must be discovered and then consciously adhered to by means of principles. This is why human beings require a science of ethics. The purpose of a moral code, Rand held, is to provide the principles by reference to which man can achieve the values his survival requires.[46] Rand summarizes:

If [man] chooses to live, a rational ethics will tell him what principles of action are required to implement his choice. If he does not choose to live, nature will take its course. Reality confronts a man with a great many 'must's', but all of them are conditional: the formula of realistic necessity is: 'you must, if -' and the if stands for man's choice: 'if you want to achieve a certain goal'.[47]

Rand's explanation of values presents the view that an individual's primary moral obligation is to achieve his own well-being - it is for his life, and his self-interest in it that an individual ought to adhere to a moral code.[48] Egoism is a corollary of setting man's life as the moral standard.[49] A corollary to Rand's endorsement of self-interest is her rejection of the ethical doctrine of altruism—which she defined in the sense of Auguste Comte's altruism (he coined the term), as a moral obligation to live for the sake of others. Rand did not use the term "selfishness" with the negative connotations that it usually has, but to refer to a form of rational egoism:

To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason, Purpose, Self-esteem.

Since reason is man's means of knowledge, it is also his greatest value, and its exercise his greatest virtue. "Man's mind is his basic tool of survival. Life is given to him, survival is not. His body is given to him, its sustenance is not. His mind is given to him, its content is not. To remain alive he must act and before he can act he must know the nature and purpose of his action. He cannot obtain his food without knowledge of food and of the way to obtain it. He cannot dig a ditch––or build a cyclotron––without a knowledge of his aim and the means to achieve it. To remain alive, he must think."[50] In her novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, she also emphasizes the central importance of productive work, romantic love and art to human happiness, and dramatizes the ethical character of their pursuit. The primary virtue in Objectivist ethics is rationality, as Rand meant it "the recognition and acceptance of reason as one's only source of knowledge, one's only judge of values and one's only guide to action."[51]

Rand's egoism rejects subjectivism. There is a difference between rational self-interest as pursuit of one's own life and happiness in reality, and whim-worship or "hedonism." A whim-worshiper or "hedonist," according to Rand, is not motivated by a desire to live his own human life, but by a wish to live on a sub-human level. Instead of using "that which promotes my (human) life" as his standard of value, he mistakes "that which I (mindlessly happen to) value" for a standard of value, in contradiction of the fact that, existentially, he is a human and therefore rational organism. The "I value" in whim-worship or hedonism can be replaced with "we value," "he values," "they value," or "God values," and still it would remain dissociated from reality. Rand repudiated the equation of rational selfishness with hedonistic or whim-worshiping "selfishness-without-a-self." She held that the former is good, and the latter evil, and that there is a fundamental difference between them.[52]

For Rand, all of the principal virtues are applications of the role of reason as man's basic tool of survival: rationality, honesty, justice, independence, integrity, productiveness, and pride—each of which she explains in some detail in "The Objectivist Ethics."[53] The essence of Objectivist ethics is summarized by the oath her Atlas Shrugged character John Galt adhered to:

I swear — by my life and my love of it — that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.

Politics: individual rights and capitalism

Objectivism's politics derives immediately from its ethics, which provides the principles for "how man should treat other men." These principles of ethics provide the foundation for "the principles of a proper social system."[54] Objectivists think that laissez-faire capitalism is "the only moral social system."[55]

Rand's defense of individual liberty integrates elements from her entire philosophy.[56] Since reason is the means of human knowledge, it is therefore each person's most fundamental means of survival and is necessary to the achievement of values.[57] The use or threat of force neutralizes the practical effect of an individual's reason, whether the force originates from the state or from a criminal. According to Rand, "man's mind will not function at the point of a gun."[58] Therefore, the only type of organized human behavior consistent with the operation of reason is that of voluntary cooperation. Persuasion is the method of reason. By its nature, the overtly irrational cannot rely on the use of persuasion and must ultimately resort to force in order to prevail.[59] Thus, Rand saw reason and freedom as correlates, just as she saw mysticism and force as correlates.[60] Based on this understanding of the role of reason, Objectivists hold that the initiation of physical force against the will of another is immoral,[61] as are indirect initiations of force through threats,[62] fraud,[63] or breach of contract.[64] The use of defensive or retaliatory force, on the other hand, is appropriate.[65]

Objectivism holds that because the opportunity to use reason without the initiation of force is necessary to achieve moral values, each individual has an inalienable moral right to act as his own judgment directs and to keep the product of his effort. The fundamental right is the right to life, with other rights following from it, including rights to "liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness."[66] "A 'right' is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context."[67] These rights are specifically understood to be rights to action, not to specific results or objects, and the obligations created by rights are negative in nature: each individual must refrain from violating the rights of others.[68] Objectivists reject alternative notions of rights, such as positive rights[69] or rights belonging to anything other than an individual human being, such as collective rights or animal rights.[70]

Objectivism views government as legitimate, but only "a government of a definite kind."[71] Rand understood government as the institution with a monopoly on the use of physical force in a given geographical area, so the issue is whether that force is used to protect or to violate individual rights. The government should use force only to protect individual rights.[72] Therefore, the "proper functions of a government" are "the police, to protect men from criminals—the armed services, to protect men from foreign invaders—the law courts, to settle disputes among men according to objectively defined laws."[73] In protecting individual rights, the government is acting as an agent of its citizens and "has no rights except the rights delegated to it by the citizens."[74] It is also important that the government act in an impartial manner according to specific, objectively defined laws.[75]

Objectivism holds that the only social system which fully recognizes individual rights is capitalism,[76] specifically what Rand described as "full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism."[77] Rand includes socialism,[78] fascism, communism,[79] Nazism,[80] and the welfare state (which she often referred to as the "mixed economy"),[81] as systems under which individual rights are not protected. Far from regarding capitalism as a dog-eat-dog pattern of social organization, Objectivism regards it as a beneficent system in which the innovations of the most creative benefit everyone else in the society. However, unlike some other defenses of capitalism, Objectivism does not treat material benefits, such as economic growth, as the primary defense or moral justification of capitalism.[82] Rather, because capitalism is a moral system that allows individuals to practice virtues such as rationality and productivity, they are able to create material benefits as a result.[83]

Based on their political philosophy, Objectivists do not consistently follow typical "conservative" and "liberal" political positions. Rand advocated the right to legal abortion.[84] She opposed involuntary military conscription (the "draft")[85] and any form of censorship, including legal restrictions on pornography.[86] Rand opposed racism, and any legal application of racism, and she considered affirmative action to be an example of legal racism.[87] More recent Objectivists have argued that religion is incompatible with American ideals, and the Christian right poses a threat to individual rights.[88] Objectivists have argued against faith-based initiatives,[89] displaying religious symbols in government facilities,[90] and the teaching of "intelligent design" in public schools[91]. Objectivists have opposed the environmentalist movement as being hostile to technology and, therefore, to humanity itself.[92] Objectivists have also opposed a number of government activities commonly supported by both liberals and conservatives, including antitrust laws,[93] public education,[94] and child labor laws.[95]

Aesthetics: metaphysical value-judgments

The Objectivist theory of art flows from its epistemology, by way of "psycho-epistemology" (Rand's term for an individual's characteristic mode of functioning in acquiring knowledge). Art, according to Objectivism, serves a human cognitive need: it allows human beings to grasp concepts as though they were percepts. Objectivism defines "art" as a "selective re-creation of reality according to an artist's metaphysical value-judgments"—that is, according to what the artist believes to be ultimately true and important about the nature of reality and humanity. In this respect Objectivism regards art as a way of presenting abstractions concretely, in perceptual form.

The human need for art, on this view, stems from the need for cognitive economy. A concept is already a sort of mental shorthand standing for a large number of concretes, allowing a human being to think indirectly or implicitly of many more such concretes than can be held explicitly in mind. But a human being cannot hold indefinitely many concepts explicitly in mind either—and yet, on the Objectivist view, needs a comprehensive conceptual framework in order to provide guidance in life. Art offers a way out of this dilemma by providing a perceptual, easily grasped means of communicating and thinking about a wide range of abstractions, including one's metaphysical value-judgments. Objectivism regards art as an effective way to communicate a moral or ethical ideal.

Objectivism does not, however, regard art as propagandistic: even though art involves moral values and ideals, its purpose is not to educate, only to show or project. Moreover, art need not be, and usually is not, the outcome of a full-blown, explicit philosophy. Usually it stems from an artist's sense of life (which is preconceptual and largely emotional).

Rand held that Romanticism was the highest school of literary art, noting that Romanticism was "based on the recognition of the principle that man possesses the faculty of volition," absent which, Rand believed, literature is robbed of dramatic power.

What the Romanticists brought to art was the primacy of values… Values are the source of emotions: a great deal of emotional intensity was projected in the work of the Romanticists and in the reactions of their audiences, as well as a great deal of color, imagination, originality, excitement, and all the other consequences of a value-oriented view of life.[96]

The term "romanticism", however, is often affiliated with emotionalism, to which Objectivism is completely opposed. Historically, many romantic artists were philosophically subjectivist. Most Objectivists who are also artists subscribe to what they call romantic realism, which is how Ayn Rand labeled her own work.[97]

Intellectual impact

According to Rick Karlin, academic philosophers have generally dismissed Rand's ideas and have marginalized her philosophy.[98] Online U.S. News and World Report columnist Sara Dabney Tisdale states that academic philosophers dismiss Atlas Shrugged as "sophomoric," "preachy," and "unoriginal."[99] Because of Rand's criticism of contemporary intellectuals,[100] Objectivism has been called "fiercely anti-academic."[101] David Sidorsky, a professor of moral and political philosophy at Columbia University, says Rand's work is "outside the mainstream" and is more of an ideological movement than a well-grounded philosophy.[102]

In recent years Rand's works are more likely to be encountered in the classroom.[101] The Ayn Rand Society, dedicated to fostering the scholarly study of Objectivism, is affiliated with the American Philosophical Association's Eastern Division.[103] Since 1999, several monographs were published and a refereed Journal of Ayn Rand Studies began.[104] In 2006 the University of Pittsburgh held a conference focusing on Objectivism.[105] In addition, two Objectivist philosophers (Tara Smith and James Lennox) hold tenured positions at two of the fifteen leading American philosophy departments.[106] Objectivist programs and fellowships have been supported at the University of Pittsburgh[107] University of Texas at Austin[108] and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.[109]

Rand is not found in the comprehensive academic reference texts The Oxford Companion to Philosophy or The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. A lengthy article on Rand appears in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy;[110] she has an entry in the Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers and one forthcoming in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,[111][112] as well as a brief entry in the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy which features the following passage:

The influence of Rand’s ideas was strongest among college students in the USA but attracted little attention from academic philosophers. … Rand’s political theory is of little interest. Its unremitting hostility towards the state and taxation sits inconsistently with a rejection of anarchism, and her attempts to resolve the difficulty are ill-thought out and unsystematic.

Noted Aristotle scholar Allan Gotthelf (chairman of the Ayn Rand Society)[113] responded unfavorably to this entry and came to her defense.[114] He and other scholars have argued for more academic study of Objectivism, viewing Rand's philosophy as a unique and intellectually interesting defense of classical liberalism that is worth debating.[115]


Rand's philosophy has been the object of criticism by prominent intellectuals. In the essay "On the Randian Argument,"[116] philosopher Robert Nozick is sympathetic to Rand's political conclusions, but does not think her arguments justify them. In particular, his essay criticizes her foundational argument in ethics, which states that one's own life is, for each individual, the ultimate value because it makes all other values possible. He argues that to make her argument sound, one needs to explain why someone could not rationally prefer dying and having no values. Thus, her attempt to defend the morality of selfishness is, in his view, essentially an instance of begging the question. Nozick also argues that Rand's solution to David Hume's famous is-ought problem is unsatisfactory; an academic debate has developed around this issue, with scholars coming down on both sides.[117][118]

William F. Buckley, Jr. called her philosophy "stillborn."[119] Psychologist Albert Ellis has argued that adherence to Objectivism can result in hazardous psychological effects.[120] After his expulsion from Rand's circle, Nathaniel Branden accused Rand and her followers of "destructive moralism," something he reports having engaged in himself when he was associated with Rand, but which he now claims "subtly encourages repression, self-alienation, and guilt."[121]

Commentators have noted that the Objectivist epistemology is incomplete.[122] According to Robert L. Campbell, the notion of proof for propositions remains sketchy.[123] Rand did not work out a philosophy of science, as she herself acknowledged.[124] The relationship between Objectivist epistemology and cognitive science remains unclear; Rand, Peikoff, and Kelley have all made extensive claims about human cognition and its development which appear to belong to psychology, yet Rand asserted that philosophy is logically prior to psychology and in no way dependent on it.[125][126]

Post-Rand development

Since Rand's death, others have attempted to restate and apply her ideas in their own work. In 1991, prominent Objectivist Leonard Peikoff published Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, a comprehensive restatement of Rand's philosophy. Chris Matthew Sciabarra discusses Rand's ideas and theorizes about their intellectual origins in Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical (1995). Surveys such as On Ayn Rand by Allan Gotthelf (1999), Ayn Rand by Tibor R. Machan (2000), and Objectivism in One Lesson by Andrew Bernstein (2009) provide briefer introductions to Rand's ideas.

Some scholars have focused on applying Objectivism in more specific areas. David Kelley has expanded on Rand's epistemological ideas in works such as The Evidence of the Senses (1986) and A Theory of Abstraction (2001). In the field of ethics, Kelley has argued in works such as Unrugged Individualism (1996) and The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand (2000) that Objectivists should pay more attention to the virtue of benevolence and place less emphasis on issues of moral sanction. Kelley's views have been controversial, with critics arguing that he contradicts important principles of Objectivism.[127] Another author who focuses on Rand's ethics, Tara Smith, stays closer to Rand's original ideas in such works as Moral Rights and Political Freedom (1995), Viable Values (2000), and Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics (2006).[128]

The political aspects of Rand's philosophy are discussed by Andrew Bernstein in The Capitalist Manifesto (2005). The comprehensive Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics by George Reisman (1996) attempts to integrate Objectivist methodology and insights with both Classical and Austrian economics. Other writers have explored the application of Objectivism to fields ranging from art (What Art Is by Louis Torres and Michelle Marder Kamhi, 2000) to teleology (The Biological Basis of Teleological Concepts by Harry Binswanger, 1990).

See also


  1. ^ So identified by sources including:
    • Heyl, Jenny A. (1995). "Ayn Rand (1905–1982)". in Waithe, Mary Ellen. Contemporary Women Philosophers, 1900-Today. A History of Women Philosophers, Volume IV. Boston: Kluwer Academic. ISBN 0-7923-2807-8. "Perhaps because she so eschewed academic philosophy, and because her works are rightly considered to be works of literature, Objectivist philosophy is regularly omitted from academic philosophy. Yet throughout literary academia, Ayn Rand is considered a philosopher. Her works merit consideration as works of philosophy in their own right." 
    • Hicks, Stephen (2006). "Ayn Rand (1905-1982)". The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 2009-08-09. 
    • Rand, Ayn (1989). "Introducing Objectivism". The Voice of Reason. Edited by Leonard Peikoff. New York: New American Library. p. 3. ISBN 0-453-00634-5. 
    • Smith, Tara (March 2001). "Review of On Ayn Rand". The Review of Metaphysics 54 (3): 654–655. 
    • Encyclopædia Britannica (2006), Rand, Ayn. Retrieved June 22, 2006, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
  2. ^ a b Rubin, Harriet (2007-09-15). "Ayn Rand’s Literature of Capitalism". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-09-18. 
  3. ^ Rand, Ayn. "What Is Capitalism?". Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. p. 23. 
  4. ^ Peikoff 1991, p. 36
  5. ^ "About the Author" in Rand 1992, pp. 1170-1171
  6. ^ Peikoff 1991, pp. 4-11
  7. ^ Rand 1992, p. 1040.
  8. ^ Peikoff 1991, p. 11
  9. ^ Rand 1992, p. 1016.
  10. ^ Peikoff 1991, p. 5
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^
  13. ^ Gotthelf, Allan (2000). On Ayn Rand. Wadsworth. 
  14. ^ Rand 1990
  15. ^ Rand 1992, p. 1037.
  16. ^ Peikoff 1991, p. 14
  17. ^ Peikoff 1991, pp. 31-33
  18. ^ Rand 1961, p. 124
  19. ^ Rand 1964, p. 22.
  20. ^ Rand 1990, p. 5
  21. ^ Branden, Nathaniel (January 1963). "The Stolen Concept". The Objectivist Newsletter 2 (1): 2, 4. 
  22. ^ Rand 1990, p. 3.
  23. ^ Kelley 1986.
  24. ^ Kelley (1986); Peikoff 1991, pp. 44-48.
  25. ^ Kelley 1986.
  26. ^ Peikoff 1991, pp. 116-121.
  27. ^ Rand 1961, p. 64.
  28. ^ Peikoff 1991, pp. 160-163.
  29. ^ Rand 1982, pp. 62-63.
  30. ^ Rand 1961, p. 223; Peikoff 1991, pp. 182-185.
  31. ^ Rand 1990, p. 81.
  32. ^ Rand 1961, p. 31.
  33. ^ Peikoff, Leonard. “The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy.” in Rand 1990, pp. 97-98. The quotes within this passage are of Rand's material elsewhere in the same book.
  34. ^ Rand 1990, p. 12; for more on Rand's theory of concepts see also Kelley, David "A Theory of Abstraction" and "The Psychology of Abstraction," Cognition and Brain Theory vol. vii, no. 3 and 4 (Summer/Fall 1984), and Rasmussen, Douglas B., “Quine and Aristotelian Essentialism,” The New Scholasticism 58 (Summer, 1984)
  35. ^ Rand 1990, pp. 15-28.
  36. ^ Peikoff, Leonard. "The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy." in Rand 1990, p. 94.
  37. ^ Peikoff, Leonard. "The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy." in Rand 1990, pp. 116-118.
  38. ^ Lecture by Leonard Peikoff, cited in Sciabarra 1995.
  39. ^ Peikoff 1991, pp. 171-181.
  40. ^ Branden, Nathaniel (April 1963). "Intellectual Ammunition Department: What Is the Objectivist View of Agnosticism?". The Objectivist Newsletter 2 (4): 15. 
  41. ^ Peikoff 1991, pp. 163-171.
  42. ^ Rand 1964, p. 13.
  43. ^ Rand 1964, p. 18; for more on Rand's metaethics see Binswanger, Harry (1990). The Biological Basis of Teleological Concepts. Los Angeles: Ayn Rand Institute Press. pp. 58–66. ISBN 0-9625336-0-2. , and Smith, Tara (2000). Viable Values. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 0-8476-9760-6. 
  44. ^ Rand 1964, p. 22; for more on Rand's theory of volition, see Binswanger, Harry (December 1991). "Volition as Cognitive Self-Regulation". Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 50 (2): 154–178. ; Branden, Nathaniel (1969). "Man: A Being of Volitional Consciousness". The Psychology of Self-Esteem. Los Angeles: Nash Publishing. ISBN 0-8402-1109-0. ; and Peikoff 1991, pp. 55-72.
  45. ^ Rand 1992, p. 1013.
  46. ^ Peikoff, Leonard (February 27, 1989). "Why Should One Act on Principle?". The Intellectual Activist 4 (20). 
  47. ^ Rand, "Causality Versus Duty," p. 118-119
  48. ^ Smith, Tara (2006). Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist. New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 23–24. ISBN 0-521-86050-4. 
  49. ^ Peikoff 1991, p. 230
  50. ^ Rand 1992, p. 1012.
  51. ^ Rand 1964, p. 25.
  52. ^ Rand 1964, p. 18.
  53. ^ See also Smith, Tara, The Virtuous Egoist: Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics Cambridge University Press, 2006 ISBN 978-0521860505.
  54. ^ Rand 1982, p. 4.
  55. ^ Peikoff 1991, p. 380.
  56. ^ Peikoff 1991, p. 354; Sciabarra 1995, p. 274.
  57. ^ Bernstein, Andrew (2009). Objectivism in One Lesson: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Ayn Rand. Lanham, Maryland: Hamilton Books. pp. 25–31. ISBN 0-7618-4359-0. 
  58. ^ Rand 1967, p. 141.
  59. ^ Peikoff 1991, pp. 310-313.
  60. ^ Rand 1982, p. 66.
  61. ^ Rand 1964, p. 36; Peikoff 1991, p. 310; Smith 1997, pp. 143-147.
  62. ^ Smith 1997, pp. 150-155.
  63. ^ Peikoff 1991, pp. 319.
  64. ^ Rand 1964, pp. 129-130.
  65. ^ Rand 1964, p. 126; Peikoff 1991, p. 320.
  66. ^ Peikoff 1991, pp. 351-352. The Objectivist understanding of rights is explored at length in Smith 1997.
  67. ^ Rand 1964, p. 110.
  68. ^ Peikoff 1991, p. 355.
  69. ^ Smith 1997, pp. 165-182; cf. Touchstone, Kathleen (2006). Then Athena Said: Unilateral Transfers and the Transformation of Objectivist Ethics. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America. p. 108. ISBN 0-7618-3519-9. 
  70. ^ Peikoff 1991, pp. 356-358; Rand 1964, pp. 120.
  71. ^ Peikoff 1991, p. 364.
  72. ^ Rand 1964, pp. 125-128.
  73. ^ Rand 1964, p. 131.
  74. ^ Rand 1964, p. 129.
  75. ^ Rand 1964, p. 128; Peikoff 1991, pp. 364-365.
  76. ^ Rand 1967, p. 19.
  77. ^ Rand 1964, p. 37.
  78. ^ Rand 1964, p. 106. "When you consider socialism, do not fool yourself about its nature. Remember that there is no such dichotomy as 'human rights' versus 'property rights.' No human rights can exist without property rights."
  79. ^ Rand 1967, p. 180. "It is obvious what the fraudulent issue of fascism versus communism accomplishes: it sets up, as opposites, two variants of the same political system; ... it switches the choice of 'Freedom or dictatorship?' into 'Which kind of dictatorship?'"
  80. ^ Peikoff, Leonard (1982). The Ominous Parallels: The End of Freedom in America. New York: Stein & Day. ISBN 0-8128-2850-X. 
  81. ^ Rand 1967, pp. 206-207, 211.
  82. ^ Peikoff 1991, pp. 392-395; Sciabarra 1995, p. 284.
  83. ^ Sciabarra 1995, p. 292; Bernstein, Andrew (2005). The Capitalist Manifesto. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America. p. 223. ISBN 0-7618-3220-3. ; Reisman, George (1996). Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics. Ottawa, Illinois: Jameson Books. p. 19. ISBN 0-915463-73-3. 
  84. ^ Rand, Ayn (1989). "Of Living Death". The Voice of Reason. Edited by Leonard Peikoff. New York: New American Library. ISBN 0-453-00634-5. 
  85. ^ Rand 1967, pp. 226-228.
  86. ^ Rand 1982, pp. 173-184.
  87. ^ Rand 1964, pp. 173-184; cf. Wortham, Anne (1981). The Other Side of Racism. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press. ISBN 0-8142-0318-3. 
  88. ^ Peikoff, Leonard (June 1986). "Religion Versus America". The Objectivist Forum 7 (3). 
  89. ^ Epstein, Alex (February 4, 2003). "Faith-Based Initiatives Are an Assault on Secular Government". Ayn Rand Institute. Retrieved 2009-06-19. 
  90. ^ Binswanger, Harry (March 3, 2005). "The Ten Commandments vs. America". Ayn Rand Institute. Retrieved 2009-06-19. 
  91. ^ Lockitch, Keith (December 11, 2005). "'Intelligent Design' Is about Religion versus Reason". Orange County Register. 
  92. ^ Rand, Ayn (1999). "The Anti-Industrial Revolution". Return of the Primitive. Edited by Peter Schwartz. New York: Meridian. pp. 270–290. ISBN 0-452-01184-1. ; Berliner, Michael S (April 18, 2008). "The Danger of Environmentalism". Ayn Rand Institute. Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  93. ^ Greenspan, Alan. "Antitrust" in Rand 1967, pp. 63-71.
  94. ^ Branden, Nathaniel. "Common Fallacies about Capitalism" in Rand 1967, pp. 89-92.
  95. ^ Hessen, Robert. "The Effects of the Industrial Revolution on Women and Children" in Rand 1967, pp. 110-113.
  96. ^ Rand, Ayn, "What is Romanticism?," The Romantic Manifesto
  97. ^ See also, Thomas, William, edit., The Literary Art of Ayn Rand, The Objectivist Center, 2005. ISBN 1-57724-070-7, Holzer, Erika, Ayn Rand: My Fiction Writing Teacher, Madison Press, 2005, and Torres, Louis, and Kamhi, Michelle Marder, What Art Is: the Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand, Open Court, 2000.
  98. ^ Karlin, Rick (August 26, 1994), "Ayn Rand Followers Push on Objectivists Reflect the Philosophy Found in 'The Fountainhead'", The Times Union (Albany, NY): C1 
  99. ^ Tisdale, Sara Dabney (August 13, 2007), "A Celebration of Self", U.S. News & World Report: 72, .
  100. ^ For Rand's severe critique of the 20th century's "intellectual bankruptcy," and what she believed led to it, see Rand, Ayn, For the Intellectual, title essay, Random House, 1961; however, Rand did give qualified endorsement of the work of certain contemporary thinkers, e.g., Aristotle, by John Herman Randall and Reason and Analysis by Brand Blanshard.
  101. ^ a b McLemee, Scott (September 1999). "The Heirs Of Ayn Rand: Has Objectivism Gone Subjective?". Retrieved 2007-07-20. 
  102. ^ Harvey, Benjamin (2005-05-15). "Ayn Rand at 100: An 'ism' struts its stuff". Rutland Herald. Retrieved 2007-07-20. 
  103. ^ "Proceedings and Addresses of The American Philosophical Association – Eastern Division Program" (PDF). 2006. Retrieved 2007-07-25. 
  104. ^ Sharlet, Jeff (1999-04-09). "Ayn Rand has finally caught the attention of scholars: New books and research projects involve philosophy, political theory, literary criticism, and feminism". The Chronicle of Higher Education 45 (31): 17–18. 
  105. ^ "Concepts and Objectivity: Knowledge, Science, and Values" (PDF). Retrieved 2007-07-20. 
  106. ^ Philosophy departments of the United States, ranked by the Philosophical Gourmet Report,
  107. ^ Fricke, Erika (Summer 2004). "Follow Reason: An Objectivist viewpoint". Pitt Magazine. University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  108. ^ New fellowship for study of Objectivism established at The University of Texas at Austin | The University of Texas at Austin
  109. ^ Carolina Development, UNC-Chapel Hill
  110. ^ "Ayn Rand at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy". 2006. Retrieved 2007-07-20. 
  111. ^ Salmieri, Gregory; Allan Gotthelf (2005). "Ayn Rand". in John Shook. The Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers. London: Thoemmes Continuum. ISBN 1843710374. 
  112. ^ "Table of Contents". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 2008-06-15. 
  113. ^ Ayn Rand Society
  114. ^ "The Entry on Ayn Rand in the new Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy". Retrieved 2007-07-20. , Archive copy at the Internet Archive
  115. ^ Uyl, Douglas J. Den (1998). "On Rand as philosopher" (PDF). Reason Papers 23: 70–71. Retrieved 2007-07-20. 
  116. ^ Nozick, Robert (Spring 1971). "On the Randian Argument". The Personalist 52: 282–304.  Reprinted in Nozick, Socratic Puzzles, 1997, ISBN 0-674-81653-6.
  117. ^ O'Neil, Patrick M. (Spring 1983). "Ayn Rand and the Is-Ought Problem" (PDF). Journal of Libertarian Studies 7 (1): 81–99. 
  118. ^ Den Uyl, Douglas; Rasmussen, Douglas (April 1978). "Nozick On the Randian Argument". The Personalist 59: 184–205.  Reprinted along with Nozick's article in Reading Nozick, J. Paul, ed., 1981, Rowman & Littlefield.
  119. ^ Buckley, William (April 2, 1982). National Review. 
  120. ^ Ellis, Albert (1968). Is Objectivism A Religion?. New York: Lyle Stuart. 
  121. ^ Branden, Nathaniel (1984). "The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand". Journal of Humanistic Psychology 24 (4): 39–64. Retrieved 2008-04-08. 
  122. ^ e.g., Machan, Tibor R. (1999). Ayn Rand. New York: Peter Lang, pp. 134-151.
  123. ^ Campbell, Robert L. (2008, Fall). The Peikovian Doctrine of the Arbitrary Assertion. Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, 10(1), 85-170.
  124. ^ Rand 1990, pp. 303-304
  125. ^ Rand 1990, p. 289
  126. ^ Campbell, R. L. (1999, Fall). Ayn Rand and the Cognitive Revolution in Psychology. Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, 1(1), 107-134.
  127. ^ Peikoff, Leonard (May 18, 1989). "Fact and Value". The Intellectual Activist 5 (1). ; Schwartz, Peter (May 18, 1989). "On Moral Sanctions". The Intellectual Activist 5 (1). 
  128. ^ Khawaja, Irfan (December 2000). "Comments on Tara Smith's Viable Values". Retrieved 2009-05-29. "[The book] lays out the essential features of Ayn Rand's Objectivist Ethics in a clear and persuasive way..." ; Hsieh, Diana (Spring 2007). "Egoism Explained: A Review of Tara Smith's Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist". The Objective Standard 2 (1). "[Smith provides] a full and accurate understanding of Rand’s revolutionary moral code.". 


  • Kelley, David (1986). The Evidence of the Senses: A Realist Theory of Perception. Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 0-8071-1268-2. 
  • Peikoff, Leonard (1991). Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. New York: Dutton. ISBN 0-452-01101-9. 
  • Rand, Ayn (1992) [1957]. Atlas Shrugged (35th anniversary ed.). New York: Dutton. ISBN 0-525-94892-9. 
  • Rand, Ayn (1961). For the New Intellectual. New York: Random House. 
  • Rand, Ayn (1964). The Virtue of Selfishness (paperback ed.). New York: Signet. ISBN 0-451-16393-1. 
  • Rand, Ayn (1967) [1966]. Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (paperback 2nd ed.). New York: Signet. 
  • Rand, Ayn (1982). Peikoff, Leonard. ed. Philosophy: Who Needs It (paperback ed.). New York: Signet. ISBN 0-451-13249-1. 
  • Rand, Ayn (1990). Binswanger, Harry & Peikoff, Leonard. eds. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (second ed.). New York: Meridian. ISBN 0-452-01030-6. 
  • Sciabarra, Chris Matthew (1995). Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 0-271-01440-7. 
  • Smith, Tara (1997). Moral Rights and Political Freedom. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 0-8476-8026-6. 

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