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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Teaching Philosophy with Atlas Shrugged: Aristotle and Francisco on Ultimate Ends

I am very privileged to be teaching a course this semester called "Philosophical Themes in Ayn Rand." I've been teaching philosophy in one capacity or another since 2002, but this is the first time I've ever proposed or taught a course focused on Ayn Rand's ideas. The main text of the course is Atlas Shrugged, but I've also assigned a series of secondary readings from classical philosophers whose ideas can be compared or contrasted with Rand's. The purpose of the course is to bring philosophical ideas alive through the reading of a philosophical drama, and to bring Rand's ideas into…

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On Taking A Philosopher Seriously

ARS co-secretary Gregory Salmieri has been interviewed by the student publication The Undercurrent about the forthcoming Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Ayn Rand (which is now available as an E-Book). In the first of a two-part series, Salmieri first summarizes a theme he touches on in the introductory chapter to the volume, which is why and how academia ought to take Rand seriously as a philosopher: The Undercurrent: Early in your new book, A Companion to Ayn Rand, you lament the fact that two generations of academics didn’t take Rand’s work seriously. You frame the book, at least in part,…

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A New Find: Harry Binswanger's 1977 Response to Robert Nozick

One issue I did not mention last week in my review of the revised SEP entry on Ayn Rand was its discussion of one of the most prominent academic critics of Ayn Rand, Robert Nozick. Nozick's 1971 article "On the Randian Argument," originally appeared in The Personalist (the house journal at USC which later became Pacific Philosophical Quarterly) and was subsequently reprinted in his collection Socratic Puzzles. It initiated a series of other articles, including contributions by past ARS presenters, Tibor Machan, Douglas Den Uyl and Douglas Rasmussen. While Nozick's article surveys a number of objections to "the Randian argument,…

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