How should philosophy professors approach Ayn Rand?

Skye Cleary (with whom I've had a few brief and pleasant interactions in her capacity as the editor of the APA's blog) recently wrote a piece at Aeon encouraging philosophers who are disturbed by what they take to be the "pernicious" effects of Rand's ideas to "treat the Ayn Rand phenomenon seriously," because "ignoring it won't make it go away." Vilifying Rand without reading the detail, or demonising her without taking the trouble to refute her, is clearly the wrong approach. I couldn't agree more. In my introduction to A Companion to Ayn Rand, I wrote that The scholarly study…

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New Article by Carrie-Ann Biondi in IAI News on the Enduring Value of Ayn Rand's Philosophy

The members of the ARS's Steering Committee serve three year terms, and 2017 marked the end of Darryl Wright (Harvey Mudd) and Jason Rheins' (Loyola, Chicago) terms on the Committee. To replace them, Robert Mayhew (Seton Hall)and Carrie-Ann Biondi (Marymount Manhatten) have joined the Committee. Professor Mayhew has been a member of the Committee in the past, has frequently served on ARS panels, and he is well-known those interested in the study of Ayn Rand as (among other things) the editor of several posthumously published works by Rand (most recently The Unconquered), and of collections of Essays on each…

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Report on Author Meets Critics session on Tara Smith's Judicial Review in an Objective Legal System

Two weeks ago at the American Philosophical Association's Eastern Division Meeting, the Ayn Rand Society held an "Author Meets Critics" session on Tara Smith's 2015 book Judicial Review in an Objective Legal System. Dr. Smith's critics were Timothy Sandefur (of the Goldwater Institute), Onkar Ghate (of the Ayn Rand Institute), and Mark Graber (of the University of Maryland's School of Law). Mr. Sandefur's comments took the form of a paper that raises a number of interesting questions about the nature of law and its relation to the language in which laws are expressed, and about how an ideally objective judge…

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Discussion of Kant at Cato Unbound

Creative commons-licensed image courtesy of Wikimedia. I've been invited to take part in a discussion at Cato Unbound on Kant's relation to classical liberalism. My post, which went up there today, is a response to a post by Mark D. White (College of Staten Island/CUNY) in which he argues that Kant provided "the ideal statement of classical liberalism." One of the reasons Kant is underappreciated as a classical liberal, in White's opinion, is an unflattering caricature of Kant's ethics for which he holds Ayn Rand largely responsible. Here are a few excerpts from my response: Kant coopted some of…

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Another Critic Who Doesn't Care What Rand Thought or Why She Thought It, Only That She's Wrong

One function of this blog is to address comments made by academics and public intellectuals on Rand's philosophy. Several weeks ago, research psychologist Denise Cummins wrote a piece on a PBS blog about what happens when people attempt to put Rand's ideas into practice. Her aim there was not to engage with Rand's ideas per se, but to discuss what happens when certain ideas are put into practice, and then to explain why these ideas lead to these results. That's a reasonable project to take up with respect to an influential author's views, and since one cannot be a universal…

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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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