Welcome to Check Your Premises, the blog of the Ayn Rand Society. I am Ben Bayer and I’m honored that the ARS board has given me the opportunity to serve as blog editor. “Editor” is a misleading title. I’ll not be actively editing any posts other than my own, but I will manage the blog, solicit posts from ARS members, and review submissions from non-members. To give readers an idea of how I will handle this job, let me say just a few words about my background and my objectives for the blog.
I am currently a visiting assistant professor of philosophy at Loyola University New Orleans. I work mostly on questions in epistemology and in philosophy of action related to free will and determinism (you can read more about my research agenda here). I’ve also been studying Rand’s philosophy for over 20 years and her ideas have influenced a great deal of my research.
In my time both as a grad student and as a professor, I benefitted significantly from online and other long-distance collaboration with friends and colleagues who are also members of the ARS. Much of this collaboration has given me insight into ways Rand’s ideas bear on debates in contemporary philosophy. I’d like to see more such cross-pollination, so I’ve pushed for more of this collaboration to happen out in the open for all to see.
To this end, I will work to allow the contributors to this blog—all professional philosophers or aspiring professional philosophers—to share their own scholarship on Rand and their observations about the relevance of her ideas to contemporary philosophical debates. Some of these philosophers have already contributed to the rising tide of secondary literature on Rand in the last decade; others of us aspire to contribute in the future.
In either case, we are especially eager to raise awareness among philosophers about the actual content of Rand’s ideas. All too often, both philosophical and popular sources misrepresent and caricature Rand’s views. We seek to combat these inaccuracies whenever they appear in venues of note. At the same time, this blog will not shy away from considering fair-minded criticisms of Rand's ideas.
The name of this blog traces back to the words of Francisco d’Anconia in Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged: “Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think that you are facing a contradiction, check your premises.” “Check your premises” would eventually become Rand’s motto as a cultural and political critic. In the 1960s, she ran a regular column in her periodicals by the same name.
Rand's motto expressed her conviction that our actions are motivated, ultimately, by the implicit or explicit philosophical principles she thought we all hold. In her view, whether we form these premises on our own or accept them uncritically from others, it is the task of philosophy to check the truth of these premises and integrate them into a comprehensive view of reality. Rand thought everyone needs such a comprehensive view to flourish.
I presume that all who post to this blog, whether they agree with Rand or not, will share this overall attitude toward philosophy.