Thursday, December 15, 2022

Objectivist Roundup, December 2022

1. The big event last month was The Daily Wire’s purchasing the rights to Atlas Shrugged.  Greg Nyquist has the low down.  Here is the video where James Valliant expresses his terror.

2. In 2009, Jennifer Burns came out with her biography of Ayn Rand, Goddess of the Market.  I just came across this 2010 Amazon review by Jan Schulman, who knew Rand.  It is quite insightful about the nature of the movement in its heyday.  

AR [Ayn Rand] was a brilliant, angry, disturbed, troubled woman. i loved her and loathed her. most especially, i loathed 'the movement' and all that it represented. a great example: one time i had worked for NB [Nathaniel Branden] doing secretarial services for him (after the break) in l.a. i had typed up a letter he dictated, signed the letter (he was out of town) and mailed it. he came to our house the following saturday morning when my husband and i were having breakfast and still in our robes. he sat down, had coffee and then expressed his extreme displeasure with me. "You used an exclamation point in the letter!" he practically screamed at me. "What?" I responded, stunned and confused. "You used an exclamation point! Do you know what an exclamation point is?" "Well, it signifies an important statement, one that is strongly felt." "It's a scream!" he barked at me. "And that tells me something about YOUR psycho-epistomology."

I looked at him like he was crazy. (i actually thought he was.) "But you said you had never been so happy in your entire life. i thought it was deserving of an exclamation point." i said. "it was a strong statement and it was about your feelings and it was an exclamation." he went on to state that he was horrified and embarrassed beyond belief that that letter was sent with that piece of punctuation in it. that was when i realized, fully and clearly, as if a light went on in my head, that he and AR and everyone around them, were so full of their own self-worth (actually so full of crap) that they had lost sight of everything rational. that was when i became not only an ex-objectivist, but practically an anti-objectivist. i let NB know what i thought of his opinion and especially his nerve in blustering his way into our apartment only to insult me, while drinking my coffee (feel free to laugh). (i made really good coffee...smiles...) a few days later he apologized to me, but by then, i didn't care what he thought.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Daily Wire Secures Exclusive Rights to Atlas Shrugged

The conservative internet news site and media company the DailyWire has announced that it has secured the exclusive rights to Ayn Rand's controversial best selling novel Atlas Shrugged. Daily Wire co-CEO Jeremy Boreing indicated plans for creating a series based on Rand's novel that would be streamed on the subscription-based DailyWire+. As Boering explained,

When we [i.e., the DailyWire] decided in 2020 to launch into entertainment, my vision at that time was to bring Ayn Rand’s seminal work on the creative power of economic freedom and the terrible consequences of its loss to the screen as a premium series. The obvious problem, we thought, is that we would never be able to get the rights to such a culturally ubiquitous work. I was wrong.”

I suspect Boering was not alone in believing that he would never get the rights to Atlas. So how did he pull it off? As far as can be made out, a deal was negotiated between Leonard Peikoff's and the DailyWire's lawyers, which strongly suggests that Peikoff himself must have signed off on the deal. As the DailyWire explained:

The deal was negotiated by Sonnier and general counsel Joshua Herr on behalf of DailyWire+, Roger Arar and Kaslow on behalf of Atlas Distribution Company, and Tim Knowlton of Curtis Brown Ltd. on behalf of the Peikoff Family Partnership and the Estate of Ayn Rand.
Some orthodox Objectivists (James Valliant for instance) have declared themselves "terrified" by this news. They fear the DailyWire smuggle "conservative" notions into Atlas, particularly religious tropes. Jeremy Beoring insisted that the DailyWire+' version of Atlas would be true to the book’s message, plot, and character archetypes. I suspect being "true" to Rand's novel was part of the deal with Peikoff, although what exactly that will mean in practice remains to be seen. Bear in mind that those in the Objectivist world who wish to see a well-made version of Atlas don't exactly have a lot of choices when it comes to getting Atlas on screen. Hollywood would never deign to make such a series and the DailyWire is about the only film company in the world with first-rate production values willing to take on such a quixotic venture.

Of course it goes without saying that, even with high production values, Atlas remains essentially an unfilmable novel. It will be interesting to see who Boering enlists as the screenwriter for the project. Will Andrew Klavan be asked to try his hand at the business? And who's going to direct and act in this thing? Most Hollywood actors wouldn't dare involve themselves in a DailyWire+ project—let alone one involving the Ayn Rand. Is everyone ready for Gina Carano as Dagny Taggart and Laurence Fox as Hank Rearden? There's a decent chance both those actors, each of whom has suffered cancellation for their political views, will star in the series. Perhaps they can also find a part for James Woods.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Objectivist Roundup, November 2022

1.   Anne Heller, author of Ayn Rand and the World She Made, passed away recently at the age of 71.  Heller’s biography of Rand, which was published in 2009, was excellent but probably didn’t get the attention it deserved.  A few months before it came out, Jennifer Burns published her biography of Rand, Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right.  Goddess of the Market was the first biography of Rand since Barbara Branden’s 1986 The Passion of Ayn Rand.  Burns had almost complete access to the Ayn Rand Archives and revealed, for the first time, that six of Rand’s posthumously published books – most notably Rand’s Journals - were so heavily edited as to be practically worthless.  So Heller’s book was perhaps bound to be overshadowed (she was not allowed access to the Archives).  Chris Sciabarra has a tribute.

2.  Long time Objectivist writer Andrew Bernstein recently publish a book on US education: Why Johnny Still Can’t Read or Wright or Understand Math.  I haven’t read the book, but the Ayn Rand Fan Club recently interviewed him.  Bernstein makes some good points but seems to think students would do significantly better on average with improved teaching methods, which is an implication of Rand’s view of intelligence, which I discussed recently. 

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Orthodox Objectivism's Struggle with the Inheritability of Intelligence

[Introductory Note: the following is an important article by ARCHNBlog contributor Neil Parille. One thing to bear in mind in relation to the subject of intelligence is that the correlation between measured intelligence (i.e., IQ) and societal outcome success is one of the highest correlations ever measured by social science. The persisting skepticism of intelligence in orthodox Objectivist circles constitutes, as Neil explains in this essay, the legacy of Rand's blank slatism.]

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that Objectivists are, like apparently a fair percentage of the population, skeptical of intelligence tests (which I’ll call IQ tests).  A while ago I heard Ayn Rand Institute president Yaron Brook claim that IQ tests are “B.S.” (he didn’t use the abbreviation). Perhaps less surprising is that Objectivists are generally skeptical of the contention that intelligence is a highly heritable (put colloquially, genetic) trait.

As I’ve mentioned before, there is quite a disconnect between what psychologists know about intelligence and what the average person believes.  Here is what probably close to 100% of experts in the field of intelligence research believe:

1. There is such a thing as intelligence.  Some people are better at math, have a bigger vocabulary and are better at solving problems of all kinds.

2. IQ tests reliably measure what we consider intelligence.

3. Intelligence is a highly heritable trait, probably in the 50 to 80% range.*

4. IQ correlates to a variety of life outcomes.  Higher IQ people on average commit less crime, have less illegitimacy, have lower rates of drug use, etc.

If you don’t believe me, here are three prominent left wing intelligence researchers.

Here is Rand’s definition of intelligence:

“Intelligence is the ability to deal with a broad range of abstractions. Whatever a child’s natural endowment, the use of intelligence is an acquired skill. It has to be acquired by a child’s own effort and automatized by his own mind, but adults can help or hinder him in this crucial process.”

It is occasionally said by Objectivists and others that there are kinds of intelligence or aspects of intelligence that aren’t captured or measured by IQ tests.  This idea was made popular by Harvard University’s Howard Gardner in his book Multiple Intelligences.  Gardner listed among other types of purported intelligence musical ability and athletic ability.  Most would consider these things skills.  In any event, this dubious theory doesn’t undercut the consensus view of intelligence.  For example, if you consider playing baseball a form of intelligence, it is still the case that given two equally gifted baseball players the one with the higher IQ will tend to be a better player.  Put differently, nothing has been identified as a form of intelligence which inversely correlates to IQ.

Leonard Peikoff was asked in 2016 what Ayn Rand’s IQ might have been.  He responded that he didn’t have any idea because IQ was not a topic in the Objectivist community during Rand’s life.  He said that he didn’t know whether IQ tests were valid.  I recall, but can’t find the podcast, where Peikoff was asked if Rand believed intelligence had a genetic basis.  His response was that Rand didn’t think it mattered because we don’t use all of our brain power (or words to that effect).  This is a common claim but, if one thinks about it, is untrue.  If someone has an accident and loses twenty percent of his cognitive functioning, he is unlikely to increase his mental ability to his pre-injury level by more effort.

It does seem that Objectivists who are informed on these issues accept the consensus.  Edwin Locke is a prominent Objectivist psychologist and an expert in the field of motivational psychology.  In his 2017 book, The Illusion of Determinism, he accepts that intelligence is genetic in the 50 to 80% range. He sees egalitarianism behind the multiple intelligences theory, e.g., “we are all equally smart, just in different ways.”  In his 2020 Objectivist Conference talk he discussed IQ tests and accepted their validity.  Harry Binswanger said in a couple podcasts that he thinks IQ tests measure intelligence and intelligence is at least moderately heritable.

I imagine that many Objectivists have a hard time accepting the high heritability of intelligence for a few reasons: 

First, it conflicts with their blank slate view of human nature.*  As Rand famously said, man is a “being of self-made soul.”  In her essay “Racism,” Rand defined racism as “the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry.”  Taken to the extreme this means that every person is born with the potential to be a Newton since Newton’s genius must have been unrelated to his “body chemistry.”  (But note that in her definition of intelligence Rand referenced a child’s natural endowment.)   Yet if intelligence is highly heritable then nature places a limit on human ability.  The average IQ is 100.  It takes an IQ of 115 to be an accountant and an IQ of 130 to be a Ph.D. research scientist.  It follows then that the average person will not be able to become an accountant and the average accountant won’t be able to become a physicist. 

Second, an additional reason is the correlation between intelligence and desirable life outcomes.  Put differently, people with an average IQ of 110 will have an easier time navigating the difficulties of life than people with an average IQ of 90.  Some people are just born to be more successful than others. Although high IQ people can make a mess of their life, the Bernie Madoffs of the world are the exception.

Third, Objectivists, like Rand, contend that achievement is largely a question of proper epistemology.  In Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, Rand considered the world’s problems to be largely caused by an inability to solve “the problem of universals” (which she considered to be synonymous with a theory of concept formation).   I’d rather have a good theory of concept formation than a bad one, but there is no evidence to believe that Objectivists develop scientific breakthroughs at a higher rate than others.

Fourth, if intelligence is highly heritable, then what about other traits such as political beliefs, personal honesty or industriousness?  Evidence shows that there is at least a moderate genetic component to these as acknowledged by up and coming  Objectivist psychologist Gena Gorlin.


*This is established by studies of identical twins separated at birth and adopted into families with different socio-economic status.  The IQ of an adopted child correlates to the IQ of the biological parents than the adopting parents.  

**I’ve heard Objectivists say that Rand’s view of man being a blank slate is limited to the rejection of innate knowledge and isn’t necessarily related to the nature/nurture debate.  On the other hand, I’ve corresponded with at least a couple prominent Objectivists who claim that males are not innately more aggressive than females notwithstanding that this is observed everywhere and persists even when attempts are made to raise boys and girls equally.  See James Q. Wilson’s Crime and Human Nature.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Objectivist Roundup, October 2022

Not much happening in the world of Objectivism in the last month or two.

The only thing of note is Carl Barney’s response the ARI’s strange piece on schisms.  Barney makes several good points and it’s also interesting to see his version of the events that led to his break with the ARI.  Some money quotes:

My break with Yaron (and it was fundamentally with Yaron rather than with ARI) came about when I was giving him about $4 million a year and he wanted more. I said I would give him more, but I wanted to know his strategy for ARI and Objectivism. After painfully frustrating and failed strategic planning meetings, Yaron, in order to persuade me to continue funding ARI, agreed to promote and deliver Leonard’s courses. This was really important to me. But he didn’t keep his word....

My efforts regarding the dispute resolution process go back to 2015. I said to Yaron and some ARI Board members, “I have a lot of money invested in the success of ARI. Another disruptive conflict, such as the McCaskey affair, could severely damage ARI and my investment as the McCaskey affair did. So, would you agree to a dispute resolution process to head off any further disputes?"

Yaron agreed and said he would make it happen. (This was a condition of my giving him more money.) Over the next few years, I met with two lawyers who were also involved with ARI, Steve Simpson and Larry Salzman (Larry was on ARI’s Board). We met for many hours, attempting to draft a process that would be approved by Yaron. The lawyers and I met, discussed details, drafted versions, critiqued them, and edited them over and over. But ultimately, Yaron and Onkar would not approve them. I tried and tried, for about four years, working with Steve, Larry, Yaron, and others to establish a dispute resolution process. I spent probably between 100 and 200 hours. But nothing came of it.

One might cynically point out that the most rational people on earth shouldn’t need a highfalutin conflict resolution process, but $4 million a year is a lot of money.  And if Brook is half as arrogant and condescending in private as he is in public, I can’t blame Barney.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

An Epistemological Quandry

Harry Binswanger has come out with a video on Ayn Rand's break-up with philosopher John Hospers. Binswanger attended the notorious meeting for the American Society for Aesthetics that led Rand to terminate her friendship with Hospers. Against the advice of his colleagues, Hospers had invited Rand to present a paper on aesthetics. Rand read one of her essays on her concept of a "sense of life." Afterwards, Hospers offered some criticisms of Rand's theories, to which Rand then offered a replied. 

Now according to Binswanger, Hospers criticism was "unhelpful," amounting to something of a philosophical put-down. "He didn't give her respect," he would later recall. When Rand delivered her responses, she was "so nice and so gentle." But when she looked in Hospers direction, to perhaps gauge his reaction, he not even paying any attention to her.

Hospers delivers a remarkable different account of the event:

By tradition, commentators make criticisms. Mine, I thought, were mild as criticisms go. I wondered publicly about whether every work of art (even mediocre ones) carries with it a sense of life; I mentioned Ayn’s own example of Dinesen (fine writing, but an awful sense of life); I speculated about whether to any extent what we say about sense of life depends on the language we use to characterize it ("emotive meaning" again).

I saw something wrong when I noticed that her remarks in response were icy, sarcastic, even insulting. I never discovered what there was about my remarks that made her "go ballistic." Apparently I had betrayed her, and I had done so publicly, when an academic audience already presumed critical of her might have been turned her way. There was no doubt that she felt deeply hurt. At the party in her room afterward, she would not speak to me, nor would anyone else: word had gone out that I was to be "shunned." I never saw her again.

So the epistemological question that confronts us is How can we know which account is the right one? Presumably, almost everyone who participated and witnessed the event in question is dead. A few members of the audience who, like Binswanger, were mere students may still be around. But finding them would be difficult and verifying that they were actually in attendance at the meeting close to impossible. So it really is Binswanger's word versus that of Hospers (who is no longer with us). How are we to determine which, if either, is telling the truth? Does Rand's own epistemology provide us any insights on solving this quandry?

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Review of Simon Lemieux's Book on Rand

Who the Hell is Ayn Rand? was recently published.  It is written by Simon Lemieux who teaches at Portsmouth Grammar School in England. It’s a volume in a new series of brief introductions to ancient and contemporary thinkers. It’s a good overview of Rand’s life and philosophy from a somewhat left-wing perspective.  In particular, I like how Lemieux lets Rand speak for herself, letting the reader judge for himself if Rand’s ideas are correct or practical.  In this respect it’s quite unique in the world of Randian criticism.  In lieu of a formal book review, I’ll summarize each chapter and make some comments.


The introduction points out that Ayn Rand continues to be controversial.  Lemieux also notes that Rand has been misrepresented and “wasn’t a fully-fledged libertarian or a reckless libertine.”  He makes the interesting observation that Randianism is something of a combination of Nietzscheanism and can-do American individualism.

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Objectivist Round-up, September 2022

1. Who the Hell is Ayn Rand? was recently published by Simon Lemieux. It’s a volume in a new series that provides brief introductions to ancient and contemporary thinkers. It’s a good overview of Rand’s life and philosophy from a somewhat left-wing perspective. I hope to review it in a week or two.

2. Ayn Rand Fan Club interviewed Michael Stuart Kelly of the Objectivist Living website. I enjoyed the discussion of his friendship with Barbara Branden, his involvement in The PARC Wars, and the rise and fall of Objectivist forums.

3. Chris Sciabarra just announced that the final issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies will come out in 2023. JARS published numerous significant articles on Rand and related issues. Chris also published two important essays on Rand’s college transcripts based on archival research. I will always be grateful to Chris for printing three book reviews I wrote. JARS was first published in 1999.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Objectivist Round-up, August 2022

1. An expanded version of the Letters of Ayn Rand is now online. According to Jennifer Burns, this is one of the few pieces of Rand’s posthumous material that hasn’t been rewritten to any significant extent. When I read the volume years ago, I thought that the correspondence to John Hospers was particularly interesting. To print those parts of Rand’s letters that quote Hospers’ correspondence with her, the editor needed Hospers’ permission. They agreed to print Hospers’ statement:

“The letters were interstices between oral conversations; they were written only when Ayn and I were at different geographical locations and could not meet in person. Almost all of the significant material in our communications with each other was in oral, not written, form. The letters may thus give a distorted view of the content of our conversations.”

"You rightly have a great interest in reproducing everything that Ayn said; and you have no particular interest in whatever it was that I said, either to initiate a discussion or to respond to her. The result is that my thoughts just don’t appear in these pages—not that you wanted them to, of course. But sometimes I thought that Ayn had not correctly apprehended a point I had made, and her summary of what I said sometimes did not reproduce what I really did say. Whether what I said was mistaken or not is beside the point here; I was often more interested in clarifying a point than in presenting it for acceptance. I am afraid the reader who read what Ayn wrote to me, and not what I wrote to her, would gather that I was a bloody fool. I daresay that in some ways I was, yet not so much as one would get the impression of from the letters. The trouble is, from her letters one gets only one side of a dialogue. And that isn’t quite fair, is it?”

2. The Ayn Rand University has a new course on comparing Rand’s ethics to the “virtue ethics” of Philippa Foot and G. E. M. Anscombe. I wonder what Rand would have thought about this kind of compare/contrast approach to her work. Anyway, while the course seems a bit expensive at $1,200, you can aways audit it for a mere $900.

3. Speaking of compare/contrast, Harry Binswanger has an interesting video discussion comparing Rand’s philosophy to “academic philosophies.” See here, here and here. Harry says he hasn’t followed academic philosophy since 1990 but he’s been told that philosophy has gotten better since then. He mentions John Searle and Phillipa Foot. Searle’s Mind, Language, and Society is a good introduction to philosophy that sounds like Rand at times. Foot’s best known work is Natural Goodness.

4. The Atlas Society has a You Tube channel with many interviews.

Sunday, July 03, 2022

Objectivist Roundup, July 2022

1. Once it became likely that the United States Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade, it’s been all abortion all the time for the Ayn Rand Institute. They have even published a free Kindle book, Why the Right to Abortion is Sacrosanct, not knowing apparently that the “primary dictionary definition” of sacrosanct is, “most sacred or holy.”

2. Speaking of abortion, it’s not clear what Rand’s views were. The ARI’s claim that she supported legalized abortion until birth is debatable. See here and here.

3. This is an interesting (and unusual) discussion with a critic of Objectivism by the Ayn Rand Centre UK. I had never heard of Paul Crider before, but as an Objectivist turned libertarian turned conventional left winger, his criticisms of Objectivism and Atlas Shrugged are much more informed than most critics.

4. Speaking of Objectivists turned liberals, Dr. Diana Hsieh took her website down stating that it no longer reflects her current beliefs. Based on her Twitter feed it seems that she is more or less a left winger. She actually has become a union organizer. I don’t know of any studies, but most Objectivists who leave the movement seem to turn libertarian or conservative.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Guessing Game

Now let's test our ability to match a quote with the appropriate Objectivist (or Objectivist approved) philosopher. Among the great apostles of reason, which great thinker penned or spoke the following bit of rhetoric in praise of enlightenment, independent thinking, and intellectual courage? The quote is as follows:

Enlightenment is man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage is man’s inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another . . . "Dare to think! Have the courage to use your own reason!" is therefore the motto of the Enlightenment.

Who must we thank for this bit of eloquent magniloquence on behalf of "reason"? Is it Rand? Is it Peikoff? Is it perhaps Binswanger? Or is it some other Objectivist-sympathizing worthy? Can anyone guess this without cheating?

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Objectivist Roundup, June 2022

Here's another roundup of latest Objectivist news, compliments of Neil Parille:

1.  Spanish philosopher Luca Moratal Romeu has a 415 page book on Ayn Rand’s political philosophy.  The book is $37.  I can read Spanish but, unfortunately, there is no Amazon preview so I don’t think I’ll be purchasing it.

2.  ARI philosophers Onkar Ghate and Mike Mazza discuss criticisms of Ayn Rand by professional philosophers Sidney Hook and Robert Nozick.  I can’t find Hook’s review of For the New Intellectual on the web, but my recollection was that much of his criticism was focused on Rand’s caricature of the history of philosophy in the book’s introductory essay.

3. OCON 2022 kicks off next month.  Some of the talks look interesting, but when I saw that future Rand biographer Shoshana Milgram was speaking, I checked the speaker’s section.  Apparently, she is still working on her biography, which will only go to 1957.  I wonder if the book will ever be published.  If so, it likely won’t be authorized as previously promised.

Sunday, May 08, 2022

Objectivist Roundup, May 2022

1. A Companion to Ayn Rand (2018) is now out in a more reasonably priced paperback edition. Although all the contributors are associated with the ARI, the essays are in general valuable, albeit not particularly critical. What I found most interesting is that Greg Salmieri acknowledged that the editing of Rand’s posthumously published writings (such as her Journals and Question and Answers) leaves something to be desired.

2. The ARI’s recent “Of Schisms” essays has received criticism from two of its targets, Robert Tracisnki and Craig Biddle They challenge the essay’s description of their schisms.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Objectivist Schisms: an Overview by Neil Parille

As observers of Objectivism know, schisms are a perennial part of the world of Objectivism. In particular, the “official Objectivism” going back to Ayn Rand, which has continued into today with the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI), has been particularly prone to dust-ups, breaks, and even excommunications.  I don’t know of any sociological studies of schisms that might shed light on this, but there may be a couple reasons.  First, Objectivism is a relatively small movement, and most people tend to know each other.  This means that disputes will tend to become personal.  Second, many associates of Ayn Rand are still alive.  Hence protecting her legacy in their eyes likely heightens the gravity of any disputes.

The biggest schism in the Objectivist movement was Ayn Rand’s break in 1968 with Nathaniel and Barbara Branden.  The Brandens were the chief promoters of Objectivism, particularly through the Nathaniel Branden Institute.  While the details remain somewhat obscure, the rupture began because Nathaniel and Rand had years earlier commenced an affair which eventually grew cold.  When Rand wanted to restart the affair, the much younger Branden balked at this, in large part because he was having an affair with a beautiful young model and actress, which he concealed from Rand for years.  When Rand found out about his affair, she denounced Nathaniel in her own inimitable way.  In her “To Whom It May Concern Statement,” she never mentioned that she and Branden had an affair, nor Branden’s clandestine affair with the model.  She went on to denounce him for failing to devote his efforts to advance Objectivism and she all but accused him of stealing from her. She did hint that Nathaniel had betrayed her in an unspecified way:

This year, in a long series of discussions, held at his request to help him solve what he characterized as his psycho-epistemological problems, I was shocked to discover that he was consistently failing to apply to his own personal life and conduct, not only the fundamental philosophical principles of Objectivism, but also the psychological principles he himself had enunciated and had written and lectured about. For example: he was unable or unwilling to identify the motivation of some of his actions or the nature of his long-range goals; he admitted that in many respects he was acting on the basis of unidentified feelings.

As Nathaniel later wrote in his memoir, Rand’s attack was so “over the top” that people suspected that he was an alcoholic or a child molester.  Both Nathaniel and Barbara responded, countering Rand’s allegations of wrongdoing.  Nathaniel hinted that there had been an affair and conceded that he concealed something important of Rand.  He explicitly denied her allegations of financial wrongdoing.
After the Branden split, there were other schisms during Rand’s life.  After her death, Leonard Peikoff, Rand’s self-proclaimed “intellectual heir,” started the ARI.  Peikoff shortly thereafter split with philosopher David Kelley over Kelley’s contention that Objectivism was an “open system.”  Peikoff’s denunciation, in which he purported to speak for Rand, was vitriolic.  More splits, generally of a lesser significance, have continue until the present.

Monday, March 07, 2022

Taking Ideas Seriously

[Neil Parille continues where he left off in 2009.]

Ayn Rand was quite explicit that ideas are what matter and, in particular, it’s abstract philosophical ideas which guide human history.  Because of this, Objectivists usually blame the sorry state of the world on “intellectuals” and professors of philosophy.  Leonard Peikoff once said that we’d know the world is on the right track when the philosophy department of UC Berkeley was Objectivist.

Objectivists talk about the history of philosophy as a battle between Plato and Aristotle.  According to Objectivists, a society or culture succeeds to the extent it adopts Aristotelian ideas.  For example, they argue that the Renaissance began and flourished because Thomas Aquinas supposedly reintroduced Aristotle’s works to the West.  In the main Objectivist work of historiography, Peikoff’s The Ominous Parallels, he argued that Nazism and the gas chambers were the direct result of the influence of Immanuel Kant on German intellectual life.  Christianity, to them, is as foolish as one can get.

History paints on a large canvas.  One can find examples and counterexamples to prove or disprove any broad historical narrative.  For example, contrary to Rand, many scholars argue that the most important Renaissance thinkers were Platonists.  Germany’s leading Kantian philosopher was Ernst Cassirer.  It’s said that upon hearing a Nazi say “truth is what the Fuhrer says it is,” he responded, “if that’s the case, there is no hope for Germany.”  He promptly left for England.  I recently heard Yaron Brook claim that the Roman Empire fell because it adopted Christianity.  Yet the Eastern half of the Empire - which was more Christian – lasted until 1453.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Objectivism on Christianity and Religion

[Here is another article  by Neil Parille:]

Ayn Rand and her followers have a bee in their bonnet when it comes to religion. In particular, contemporary Objectivists often fret about the influence on the Religious Right on politics. It doesn’t appear, however, that they have spent much time studying the topic of religion because the same old chestnuts keep popping up again and again..

Sunday, January 16, 2022

The PARC Wars Revisited

[ARCHNBlog is privileged to have the following contribution by Neil Parille, who discusses some the latest information to surface concerning James Valliant and his book The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics.]

As long-time readers of the Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature blog might remember, one of the strangest incidents in the recent history of the Objectivist movement was the publication in 2005 of The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics (PARC) by James Valliant.  This book took aim at Barbara Branden’s 1986 biography of Ayn Rand, The Passion of Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden’s two memoirs.  It is also noteworthy for including Rand’s diaries from the time of her break with Nathaniel Branden.  These diaries were provided to Valliant by Rand’s heir, Leonard Peikoff.