1. Ever since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, it’s been all war all the time for the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI). ARI supporter James Valliant even called Leonard Peikoff prophetic for his New York Times advertisement in October 2001 calling for the use of nuclear weapons against Saudi Arabia and Iran. One would have thought that this would have been better left forgotten.
2. Leonard Peikoff turned 90 this month. I’ll make a few comments on his legacy.
i. Peikoff’s production, given his claim to be Rand’s intellectual heir. has been relatively little. He published The Ominous Parallels: The End of Freedom in America (which hasn’t aged well); Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (a summary of Rand’s thought with a few Peikovian extensions); and The DIM Hypothesis (which hasn’t made much of a splash in ARI circles). He did give many lectures over the years, which are gradually being published.
ii. Peikoff started the ARI and left his rights to most of Rand’s works to it. This will ensure that Objectivism has a presence for decades to come. I wonder what Rand would have thought of the ARI. It’s more focused on day-to-day political and cultural issues than the finer points of Rand’s philosophy.
iii. Peikoff helped cement the “cultish” side to Objectivism. Like Rand, he excommunicated lots of people. Some of his splits seem petty even by Rand’s standards. Most notably, he broke with philosopher of science John McCaskey because McCaskey refused to endorse a book that Peikoff had a role in (The Logical Leap). At the time, Peikoff proudly announced that he was not on speaking terms with half the members of the ARI’s board.
iv. Peikoff allowed, and perhaps directed, the serial rewriting of Rand’s posthumously published material (most notably her Journals) in typical cult of personality style.
v. When Barbara Branden published her biography of Rand in 1986, Peikoff denounced it as one long arbitrary assertion. Not only that, but he supported (and perhaps helped edit) a dishonest hit piece on Nathaniel and Barbara Branden, The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics. Contrary to what this book alleges, Rand’s “bad side” has been amply documented by numerous people who knew Rand, many of whom never broke with her. If the long-anticipated authorized biography of Rand is ever published, it will (if it’s honest) have to concede that Rand’s “critics” essentially got it right. Combined with number iv (above), I wonder if many ARI supporters will experience the kind of cognitive dissonance that Christian date-setters feel when their predictions go wrong.
vi. Peikoff set the tone for hard core Objectivists by denouncing Open Objectivism and Libertarianism. While contemporary ARI supporters have softened their criticism of Libertarianism (ostensibly on the idea that it has become less associated with anarcho-capitalism) their contempt for Open Objectivism remains.