A Mostly Bibliographic Note on the Objectivist View of the Arbitrary

In his recent post on epistemic possibility, Ben Bayer attributed to Rand the view that "it is evidence that gives claims their cognitive content, such that without it, there is no claim to be assessed: such 'arbitrary' claims are neither true nor false." This is an idea that often raises a lot of questions and putative counter-examples, some of which have come up in the comments on Ben's post. If there's interest I may address these questions in a future post, but my aim here is different. Since this is an interesting idea that has often (and I think correctly)…

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What's wrong with the concept "libertarian"?

The rejection of the label "libertarian" by Rand and subsequent Objectivists is often met with incredulity. "Of course you're libertarians, whether you admit it or not," we're told; "a libertarian is someone who believes that the government should do nothing but protect people against aggression, if there should even be a government at all, and Objectivism holds that the government's only proper function is protecting rights, which amounts to the same thing as protecting against aggression, so by definition all Objectivists are libertarians (even though, of course, not all libertarians are Objectivists)." To see what's wrong with this line of…

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Recent Work on Epistemic Possibility and the Burden of Proof

It's been a while since I've posted on epistemology. Because I recently came across a paper that touches on a current project of mine in epistemology—one that is also inspired by an idea from Rand—I thought now was a good opportunity to post again about this field. First, the connection to Rand. In the following passage from Atlas Shrugged, Eddie Willers, assistant to Dagny Taggart, breaks the news that a government scientific agency has issued a warning about the safety of a metal that Dagny is using to build an important railroad line: “They . . . You’d…

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Notes on Academic Cordiality

My post in response to Denise Cummins' critique of Rand at PBS appears to have put our new blog on many people's radar screen. In the first few days after the post we experienced something like a 30-fold increase in the level of traffic to the site. The increase in attention to the site has also brought a flood of comments. I'd like to take a moment to explain to commenters how we will handle comments in the future, because this blog is unique compared to other online forums where Rand's ideas are discussed. In response to some commenters on…

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Response to Cummins on Rand at PBS

When we launched this blog, I promised that one of its functions would be to combat misrepresentations of Ayn Rand's ideas when they appeared in noteworthy places in the media. Our first opportunity to do this has come up just today. Writing at PBS, respected research psychologist Denise Cummins expresses her fascination with the growing popularity of Rand's ideas among young people. (Incidentally, I've probably met Dr. Cummins before, since I completed my Ph.D. at the University of Illinois, where her husband Robert used to be the chair of the department.) Cummins directly implies that if young people continue…

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Sunlight filtering through green leaves

This is more of a literary post than a philosophical one, but I think it may interest some readers and it gives me an occasion to explain why we chose the cover image we did for this blog. The image of sunlight filtering through green leaves figures in a number of significant passages from Rand's novels. I'm going to survey them, and make a few comments at the end on what I take to be the significance of this image to Rand. The clearest instances are in The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, but let me consider first some examples from…

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