Regular Contributor Neil Parille reaches out to Objectivists whose Rand sycophancy is not at the meter busting level
If you’ve taken ARCHNblog’s “Are You A Rand Cultist?” test and are in the 1-6 range, there might be a chance that with some good reading material that you can get a better perspective on Rand. If you are in the 7-12 range some intensive deprogramming is necessary. I would never recommend kidnapping Randroids and locking them in rooms while deprogrammers try some reverse mind control, but as a public service I’ll provide links to books and on-line material that might help unclog the minds of otherwise rational Objectivists.*
For basic critiques of Objectivism, check out this blog's eponymous Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature. Nyquist subjects Objectivism’s central claims to empirical enquiry. Many of Rand’s assertions about society and human nature don’t measure up. For a different take on Objectivism, check out Scott Ryan’s Objectivism and the Corruption of Rationality, a work that critiques Rand’s epistemology from a more traditional philosophic perspective.
For Rand’s theory of concept formation, see Bryan Register’s discussion of various problems in his 2000 Journal of Rand Studies essay. For a critique of essentialism, check out Karl Popper’s “Two Kinds of Definitions.” For a defense of essentialism, read David Oderberg’s Real Essentialism.
On religion, check out Nyquist’s series on Objectivism and religion. I exposed a few common Objectivist fallacies on religion. Stephen Parrish wrote a solid critique of Objectivism’s claim that A is A means God doesn’t exist. If you think the effect of religion on science has been entirely negative, check out Ronald Number’s Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths About Science and Religion. For a book that show that Middle Ages weren’t so dark, read Jean Gimpel’s Medieval Machine.
On aesthetics, see Nyquist’s on-going series.
On Rand’s theory of human nature and human psychology, read Nyquist’s series “Rand and Empirical Responsibility.”
On epistemology, I’d recommend William Alston’s The Reliability of Sense Perception. While Alston doesn’t discuss Objectivism, this book shows that this philosophical question is a bit more complicated than Rand thought.
On Rand’s philosophy of history, check out David Gordon’s withering critique of Peikoff’s The Ominous Parallels. David Ramsay Steele also has an excellent discussion of David Kelley’s less heated claims about Kant. I did a two-part critique of the Objectivist view of history here and here.
On ethics, perhaps the best work is Erick Mack’s brilliant discussion of Rand’s ethics in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. Stephen Parrish wrote an informative review of Tara Smith’s Viable Values in JARS. Michael Huemer is excellent as well.
If you believe Kant is the most evil person in history, you might start with Kant’s Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, an accessible (by Kantian standards) work on ethics which surprisingly omits, among other things, blue prints for the gas chambers at Auschwitz. If you think Kant wanted to save traditional religion, you should consider reading (or pondering the title) of his classic Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone. Another interesting book by Kant is his Theory of the Heavens. If Kant was out to destroy the human mind, why did have an interest in science? Vallicella wrote blog post on Rand’s misunderstanding of Kant.
The one book I’d recommend by Rand is her Marginalia (comments she wrote in the books she read). Do her comments show a mind trying to understand ideas or refract them through an Objectivist prism? Michael Prescott wrote an excellent critique of Rand’s jottings on C. S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man. If you think Rand was a brilliant social critic, read my discussion of Rand and the streaker at the Academy Awards. For the creepy side of Rand, see Prescott’s essay on Rand and child killer William Hickman.
For background to the ongoing war (as Rand’s followers see it) over the accuracy of the Branden accounts, see my critique of James Valliant’s The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics.
If you think the Ayn Rand Institute has done anything but harm Rand’s legacy, read the “Essay on Sources” in Jennifer Burns’ Goddess of the Market.
*I thank Michael Prescott for his suggestions.