1. Someone asked Yaron Brook when an authorized biography of Rand (presumably the long-awaited one by Shoshana Milgram Knapp) will be published. He said it was completed two years ago and will be coming out eventually but didn’t give a date other than it won’t take ten years. Milgram was on the New Ideal podcast September 1 with Harry Binswanger to discuss Romantic Art. The host introduced her and said she has written about Rand but no mention of a biography, authorized or otherwise. (I listened to most of the podcast and it didn’t come up.) One can only speculate on the reason for the delay. Peikoff is up there in years and it’s hard to imagine him getting too interested in a biography at this stage in his life. On the other hand, Ayn Rand Institute members such as Yaron Brook, Harry Binswanger and Robert “Rewrite” Mayhew have said the Branden accounts and the 2009 biographies by Anne Heller and Jennifer Burns are dishonest. Any competent biographer will have to admit that the Branden accounts and the 2009 biographies pretty much got things right.2. Yaron Brook will be debating Bryan Caplan on whether anarcho-capitalism would be a disaster. The debate should be interesting. Not too long ago the official ARI view of anarcho-capitalism was that it is nihilistic. One wonders if those who ridiculed the idea of debating Open Objectivism will be similarly outraged.
Monday, July 31, 2023
1. In the early 1970’s, Leonard Peikoff gave two lecture series on the history of philosophy. (These are available on the ARI’s site for free [as are many of the other older Peikoff lecture courses, such as "The Philosophy of Objectivism" and "Objective Communication," both of which feature Rand herself during Q&A sessions.] Now the second of these has been edited and published as Founders of Western Philosophy: Thales to Hume. Greg and I reviewed it on Amazon. I pointed out Peikoff’s misunderstanding of certain aspects of Christianity and Greg pointed out Peikoff’s eccentric views of various philosophers. (Shortly thereafter several brief five star reviews appeared.) Let’s just say that this book’s importance is limited to historians of Objectivism. I haven’t read any recent histories of Western philosophy, but for those who are interested in video lecture courses, Wondrium (The Great Courses) has many for a reasonable price.
2. The Ayn Rand Institute will soon be publishing select essays from Robert (“Rewrite”) Mayhew’s edited volumes on Ayn Rand’s four novels. I’ve read many of these essays. While not particularly critical, they are worth reading. The essays by Shoshana Milgram on the writing of Rand’s novels fill in some details about Rand’s life. (While I have no reason to distrust these essays, the ARI doesn’t have a good track record matters related to Rand’s life.)
3. Someone asked Yaron Brook if Leonard Peikoff is morally perfect. Brook was not amused.
Thursday, June 29, 2023
1. James Valliant was on the History Valley podcast recently to discuss The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics. While much of it was what you’d expect from Valliant (for example Rand wasn’t jealous contrary to the notes in Valliant’s book), I learned a few things. First, Rand was not just a great philosopher, but also a great psychologist as well -- she pioneered cognitive behavioral therapy. Second, Rand was morally perfect. She made mistakes but never acted contrary to her principles. I’d say that she largely lived up to her values, but for example denouncing Nathaniel Branden in 1968 as a thief without evidence was quite wrong. Michael Prescott reminded me of Rand’s praise for murderer and kidnapper William Hickman.3. Ayn Rand Institute COB Yaron Brook and ARI Chief Philosophy Officer Onkar Ghate critiqued the recent Craig Biddle/Steven Hicks debate on Open versus Closed Objectivism. It’s two hours long, so I’ll summarize it: (1) Hicks is bad; (2) David Kelley is evil; (3) Biddle is a compromiser; and (4) Leonard Peikoff always gets things right.
Monday, May 29, 2023
1. The debate on Open versus Closed Objectivism between Biddle and Hicks was posted. I analyzed it in the post below. There hasn’t been any discussion of this from the ARI side, but considering that James Valliant likened debating Open Objectivism to debating Holocaust denial or slavery, to discuss this debate would be even worse, I suppose.
2. Objectivist Conference 2023 will be held next month. Shoshana Milgram will present a three-part “biographical mini-course” on Rand which utilizes new sources. According to the program, she’s working on a life of Rand up to 1957. No word on whether it will be authorized, when it will be published, and whether there will be a part two. It looks like she is working at a pace of 2.5 years of Rand’s life for every one year spent writing the book.3. Following Rand’s death, the Ayn Rand Institute began publishing a number of books using material in Rand’s archives. As long-time readers of this blog know, Jennifer Burns first revealed in 2009 what many suspected: much of this material has been so heavily edited as to be essentially worthless. Burns named two books “edited” by Robert Mayhew among them: Ayn Rand Answers and The Art of NonFiction. Mayhew also edited Ayn Rand’s Marginalia (jottings she wrote in the margins of books she read). While Burns doesn’t discuss this book, one has to wonder whether the book has been “Mayhewized.” In any event, this book doesn’t make Rand look good. She seems intent on misunderstanding what the authors say and her rantings (“God damn bastard,” “cheap driveling non-entity,” etc.) aren’t particularly edifying. Michael Prescott also notes that Mayhew’s summary of C. S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man is suspect. In light of the problems in the book, I was somewhat surprised to see the ARI’s publication The New Ideal praising the book recently. Fortunately, the article links to the Amazon page where one can read the critical reviews of Neil Parille, Greg Nyquist and others.
Saturday, May 20, 2023
The debate between Craig Biddle and Stephen Hicks concerning Open versus Close Objectivism took place last month in Belgrade, Serbia. Biddle took the Closed position and Hicks the Open position. I enjoyed the debate and thought each side presented his position well. There wasn’t the rancor that one might expect for what has often been a contentious issue. For background on the Open versus Closed controversy see here.
Biddle took a reasonable approach. Ayn Rand died in 1982 and the positions she set forth in her books and essays constitutes Objectivism. He conceded that there are philosophical topics that Rand didn’t discuss – such as propositions and the problem of induction – but what she did discuss constitutes Objectivism. Any extension of Objectivism outside of this is not part of Objectivism no matter how consistent it might be with Objectivism. He also said that if Objectivism were open, then one would never know what precisely Objectivism is. Is it Rand’s Objectivism plus Peikoff’s extensions or Objectivism plus Hicks’ extensions?
Sunday, April 30, 2023
2. Ayn Rand Institute Objectivists are glad that Tucker Carlson was fired by FOX. See here (James Valliant) and here (Yaron Brook). Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but I find it curios that the ARI seems to have an odd dislike of right-wing populists such as Trump and Carlson. They don’t get so worked up over the main stream left wing media.
Monday, April 10, 2023
Ayn Rand, during one of her Q&A’s, made the following remark about Joseph Conrad, the Polish born English novelist:
Joseph Conrad also called himself a Romantic Realist. I don’t like him, but I think he is correct in so labeling himself. He treats his novels realistically, but not naturalistically. So even though my values are quite different from his, I agree with that designation. He expressed his values, and in that sense he was a romantic—only his settings and character are much more realistic than I’d ever select. But he was not a naturalist. [NFW 69]
As far as I know, this is the only recorded instance of Rand mentioning Conrad. She says nothing about him in the Romantic Manifesto and she made no reference to him, as far as anyone knows, in her long interview with Barbara Branden. Now given the fact that (1) Rand regarded herself as a “romantic realist,” and (2) that Conrad the is one of the few authors she also regarded as a “romantic realist,”—why then did Rand make no mention of Conrad when she introduced her theory of Romanticism in the Romantic Manifesto? She mentions other important romantic authors, such as Victor Hugo, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Friedrich Schiller, and Edmond Rostand. Didn’t Conrad at least deserve a mention as well? But no, she ignores him entirely. How do we account for this curious anomaly?