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Aynrand

Ayn Rand (aɪn ɹænd, February 2 1905 – March 6 1982), born Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum (Russian: Алиса Зиновьевна Розенбаум), was a Russian-born American novelist and philosopher,[1] best known for creating a philosophy she named "Objectivism" and for writing the novels We the Living, The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged and the novella Anthem.
According to The Economist, she was once the most influential woman in the world[citation needed], her work attracting both enthusiastic admiration and scathing denunciations.

Introduction

Rand's writing (both fiction and non-fiction) emphasizes the philosophic concepts of objective reality in metaphysics, reason in epistemology, and rational egoism in ethics. In politics she was a proponent of laissez-faire capitalism and a staunch defender of individual rights, believing that the sole function of a proper government is protection of individual rights (including property rights).

She believed that individuals must choose their values and actions solely by reason, and that "Man — every man — is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others." According to Rand, the individual "must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life."

Rand decried the initiation of force and fraud, and held that government action should consist only in protecting citizens from criminal behavior (via the police) and foreign hostility (via the military) and in maintaining a system of courts to decide guilt or innocence and to objectively resolve disputes. Her politics are generally described as minarchist and libertarian, though she did not use the first term and disavowed any connection to the second.[2]

Rand, a self-described hero-worshiper, stated in her book The Romantic Manifesto that the goal of her writing was "the projection of an ideal man." In reference to her philosophy, Objectivism, she said: "My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute." (Appendix to Atlas Shrugged)

Early life

Childhood and education

Rand was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and was the eldest of three daughters (Alisa, Natasha, and Nora)[3] of a Jewish family. Her parents, Zinovy Zacharovich Rosenbaum and Anna Borisovna Rosenbaum, were agnostic and largely non-observant.[4] From an early age, she displayed an interest in literature and films. She started writing screenplays and novels at the age of seven.

Her mother taught her French and subscribed to a magazine featuring stories for boys, where Rand found her first childhood hero: Cyrus Paltons, an Indian army officer in a Rudyard Kipling-style story by Maurice Champagne, called "The Mysterious Valley".[5] Throughout her youth, she read the novels of Sir Walter Scott, Alexandre Dumas, père and other Romantic writers, and expressed a passionate enthusiasm toward the Romantic movement as a whole. She discovered Victor Hugo at the age of thirteen, and fell deeply in love with his novels. Later, she cited him as her favorite novelist and the greatest novelist of world literature.[6]

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Rand was twelve at the time of the Russian revolution of 1917, and her family life was disrupted by the rise of the Bolshevik party. Her father's pharmacy was confiscated by the Soviets, and the family fled to Crimea to recover financially. When Crimea fell to the Bolsheviks in 1921, Rand burned her diary, which contained vitriolic anti-Soviet writings.[5] Rand then returned to St. Petersburg ("Petrograd") to attend university.[7] She studied philosophy and history at the University of Petrograd. Her major literary discoveries were the works of Edmond Rostand, Friedrich Schiller and Fyodor Dostoevsky. She admired Rostand for his richly romantic imagination and Schiller for his grand, heroic scale. She admired Dostoevsky for his sense of drama and his intense moral judgments, but was deeply against his philosophy and his sense of life.[8] She completed a three-year program in the department of Social Pedagogy that included history, philology and law, and received Certificate of Graduation (Diploma No. 1552) on 13 October 1924.[9] She also encountered the philosophical ideas of Nietzsche, and loved his exaltation of the heroic and independent individual who embraced egoism and rejected altruism in Thus Spake Zarathustra, but later rejected his philosophical center of "might is right" when she discovered more of his writings.

Rand continued to write short stories and screenplays. She entered the State Institute for Cinema Arts in 1924 to study screenwriting; in late 1925, however, she was granted a visa to visit American relatives.

Immigration and marriage

In February 1926, she arrived in the United States at the age of 21, entering by ship through New York City, which would ultimately become her home. She was profoundly moved by the city's skyline, later describing it in one of her novels, The Fountainhead: "I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York's skyline, the sky over New York and the will of man made visible. What other religion do we need? I feel that if a war came to threaten this, I would throw myself into space, over the city, and protect these buildings with my body."[10]

After a brief stay with her relatives in Chicago, she resolved never to return to the Soviet Union, and set out for Hollywood to become a screenwriter. Already using Rand as a Cyrillic contraction[11] of her surname, she then adopted the name Ayn, an adaptation of a "Finnish feminine name", most likely "Aino" or "Aina".[11] She might have been referring to the Finnish author Aino Kallas. Her surname may also have come from the Estonian word rand, meaning coast or shore.[12]

Initially, Rand struggled in Hollywood and took odd jobs to pay her basic living expenses. A chance face-to-face meeting with famed director Cecil B. DeMille led to a job as an extra in his film King of Kings, and subsequent work as a script reader.[13] She also worked as the head of the costume department at RKO Studios.[14] While working on the film, she intentionally bumped into an aspiring young actor, Frank O'Connor, who caught her eye. The two married on April 15, 1929, and remained married for fifty years, until O'Connor's death in 1979 at the age of 82. In 1931, Rand became a naturalized American citizen; she was fiercely proud of the United States, and in later years said to the graduating class at West Point, "I can say - not as a patriotic bromide, but with full knowledge of the necessary metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, political and aesthetic roots - that the United States of America is the greatest, the noblest and, in its original founding principles, the only moral country in the history of the world."[15]

Fiction

Rand viewed herself equally as a novelist and a philosopher, as she said "(I am) both, and for the same reason." It has been suggested that Rand's practice of presenting her philosophy in fiction and non-fiction books aimed at a general audience, rather than publications in peer-reviewed journals, have encouraged a negative view.[citation needed] Rand's defenders note that she is part of a long tradition of authors who wrote philosophically rich fiction - including Dante, John Milton, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Albert Camus, and that philosophers such as Jean-Paul Sartre presented their philosophies in both fictional and non-fictional forms.

In an article about Rand, that appeared in The Economist in 1991, it is stated that "Rand’s novels sell some 300,000 copies a year, exhorting readers to think big about themselves, build big and earn big. New editions of all her books carry postcards for readers who might be inclined to learn more about Objectivism, the author’s credo, a blending of free markets, reason and individualism."[16]

Early works

Her first literary success came with the sale of her screenplay Red Pawn in 1932 to Universal Studios: "Von Sternberg later considered it for Dietrich, but Russian scenarios were out of favour and it was ditched."[17] Rand then wrote the play The Night of January 16th in 1934, which was produced on Broadway. The play was a courtroom drama in which a jury chosen from the audience decided the verdict, leading to one of two possible endings.[18]

Rand then published the novel, We the Living (1936), and the novella, Anthem (1938): "Rand described We the Living as the most autobiographical of her novels, its theme being the brutality of life under communist rule in Russia."[19] Its harsh anti-communist tone met with mixed reviews in the U.S., where the period of The Great Depression was sometimes known as "The Red Decade" in reference to the high-water mark of sympathy for socialist ideals. Stephen Cox, at The Objectivist Center, observed that We the Living "was published at the height of Russian socialism's popularity among leaders of American opinion. It failed to attract an audience."[20]

Frank O'Connor and Ayn Rand spent the summer of 1937 in Stony Creek, Connecticut, while Frank worked in summer stock theatre,[20] and Ayn planned Anthem, a dystopian vision of a futuristic society where collectivism has triumphed. Anthem did not find a publisher in the United States and was first published in England.

The Fountainhead

Rand's first major professional success came with her best-selling novel The Fountainhead (1943), which she wrote over a period of seven years. The novel was rejected by twelve publishers. It was finally accepted by the Bobbs-Merrill Company publishing house, thanks mainly to a member of the editorial board, Archibald Ogden, who praised the book in the highest terms ("If this is not the book for you, then I am not the editor for you.") and finally prevailed.[21] Eventually, The Fountainhead was a worldwide success, bringing Rand fame and financial security. In 1949 it was made into a major motion picture. In the sixty years since it was published, Rand's novel has sold six million copies, and continues to sell about 100,000 copies per year.[21]

Following the success of The Fountainhead, Rand wrote screenplays for two movies, Love Letters and You Came Along.

Atlas Shrugged

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Rand's magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, was published in 1957. Due to the success of The Fountainhead, the initial printing was 100,000 copies,[22] and the book went on to become an international bestseller. (The frequent claim[23] that Atlas Shrugged was later found to be the "second most influential book in America, after The Bible,"[24] may be an exaggeration of the findings of one 1991 survey; however, it has been cited in numerous interviews as the book that most influenced the subject.)[25][26]

Atlas Shrugged is often seen as Rand's most extensive statement of Objectivism in any of her works of fiction. In its appendix, she offered this summary:

"My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute."

The theme of Atlas Shrugged is "The role of man's mind in society." Rand upheld the industrialist as one of the most admirable members of any society and fiercely opposed the popular resentment accorded to industrialists. This led her to envision a novel wherein the industrialists of America go on strike and retreat to a mountainous hideaway. The American economy and its society in general slowly start to collapse. The government responds by increasing the already stifling controls on industrial concerns. The novel, which includes elements of mystery and science fiction, deals with issues as wide-ranging as sex, music, medicine, politics and human ability.

Philosophy and the Objectivist movement

Rand's Objectivist philosophy encompasses positions on metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics and aesthetics. While there have been "objectivist" theories in the past, Rand's Objectivism reflects a specific world view and should be distinguished from other theories such as Plato's metaphysical realism. Along with Nathaniel Branden, his wife Barbara, and others including Alan Greenspan and Leonard Peikoff (jokingly designated "The Collective"), Rand launched the Objectivist movement to promote her philosophy.

Philosophical influences

She was greatly influenced by Aristotle. Some have observed parallels with Nietzsche, and she was vociferously opposed to some of the views of Kant. Rand also claimed to share intellectual lineage with John Locke, who conceptualized the ideas that individuals "own themselves," have a right to the products of their own labor, and have natural rights to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and property,[27] and more generally with the philosophies of the Age of Enlightenment and the Age of Reason. She occasionally remarked with approval on specific philosophical positions of, for example, Baruch Spinoza and St. Thomas Aquinas. She seems also to have respected the 20th-century American rationalist Brand Blanshard, who, like Rand, believed that "there has been no period in the past two thousand years when [both reason and rationality] have undergone a bombardment so varied, so competent, so massive and sustained as in the last half-century."[28]

Aristotle

Rand's greatest influence was Aristotle, especially Organon ("Logic"); she considered Aristotle the greatest philosopher.[29] In particular, her philosophy reflects an Aristotelian epistemology and metaphysics – both Aristotle and Rand argued that "there exists an objective reality that is independent of mind and that is capable of being known."[30] Although Rand was ultimately critical of Aristotle's ethics, others have noted her egoistic ethics "is of the eudemonistic type, close to Aristotle's own...a system of guidelines required by human beings to live their lives successfully, to flourish, to survive as 'man qua man.'"[31] Younkins argued "that her philosophy diverges from Aristotle’s by considering essences as epistemological and contextual instead of as metaphysical. She envisions Aristotle as a philosophical intuitivist who declared the existence of essences within concretes."[32]

Nietzsche

In her early life, Rand admired the work of Friedrich Nietzsche, and did share "Nietzsche's reverence for human potential and his loathing of Christianity and the philosophy of Immanuel Kant,"[33] but eventually became critical, seeing his philosophy as emphasizing emotion over reason and subjective interpretation of reality over actual reality.[33] There is debate about the extent of the relationship between Rand's views and Nietzsche's, and over what seemed to be an evolution of Rand's view of Nietzsche. Allan Gotthelf, in On Ayn Rand, describes the first edition of We the Living as very sympathetic to Nietzschean ideas. Bjorn Faulkner and Karen Andre, characters from The Night of January 16th, exemplify certain aspects of Nietzsche's views. Ronald Merrill, author of The Ideas of Ayn Rand identified a passage in We the Living that Rand had omitted from the 1959 reprint: "In it, the heroine entertains (though finally rejects) sentiments explicitly attributed to Nietzsche about the justice of sacrificing the weak for the strong."[34] Rand herself denied a close intellectual relationship with Nietzsche and characterized changes in later editions of We the Living as stylistic and grammatical.

The destruction of Gail Wynand in The Fountainhead is an example of her later view, a rejection of Nietzsche, that the great cannot succeed by sacrificing the masses: "her [1934] journals suggest a rejection of traditional false-alternative ethics. Her May 15 entry, for example, identifies the error of Nietzscheans such as Gail Wynand: in trying to achieve power, they use the masses, but at the cost of their ideals and standards, and thus become "a slave to those masses." The independent man, therefore, will not make his success dependent upon the masses."[33] Although Rand disagreed with many of Nietzsche's ideas, the introduction to the 25th anniversary edition of The Fountainhead concludes with Nietzsche's statement, "The noble soul has reverence for itself."

Kant

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Rand was deeply opposed to the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Their divergence is greatest in metaphysics and epistemology, particularly with regard to Kant's analytic-synthetic dichotomy, rather than the ethics of Kant's well known categorical imperative (her critique of Kant's ethics is directly rooted in Kant's metaphysics and epistemology). Rand and Kant had significantly different theories of concepts, identity and consciousness: In Objectivist epistemology, reason is the highest virtue, and reason and logic can be used to understand objective reality. Kant believed that we cannot have certain knowledge about the true nature of reality ("things-in themselves"), but only of the manner in which we perceive reality. For example, we can know for certain that we are unable to conceive of an object which is not extended - i.e., occupies physical space - but it does not follow that no object that is not extended can exist. Rand believed that if an object has an effect upon the senses, then that effect upon the senses gives us knowledge about the object itself. At the most basic level, it informs us that that object is of a particular character such that when it interacts with one's sense organs it causes a particular sensation, and that is knowledge about a quality of the object itself. In Rand's view, Kant's dichotomy severed rationality and reason from the real world. In Rand's words,

"I have mentioned in many articles that Kant is the chief destroyer of the modern world... You will find that on every fundamental issue, Kant's philosophy is the exact opposite of Objectivism."[35]
In the final issue of The Objectivist, she further wrote,
"Suppose you met a twisted, tormented young man and... discovered that he was brought up by a man-hating monster who worked systematically to paralyze his mind, destroy his self-confidence, obliterate his capacity for enjoyment and undercut his every attempt to escape... Western civilization is in that young man's position. The monster is Immanuel Kant."[35]

A more complicated difference between Ayn Rand's metaphysics and that of Immanuel Kant is the reality of space, time and number. For Kant, these are merely built into the human mode of perception, and we cannot know whether or not they are present in any thing-in-itself. One might hope that the following analogy applies: Color is not present in an object, but is purely a construct of our minds. Yet this is not enough for Kant, because color corresponds to some objective quality (quality of the object) while space, time and number have no such relationship to objectivity. (See Critique of Pure Reason B38-B45.) Rand would most certainly have disagreed with this concept, taking the fact that our faculty of perception has a particular (limited) identity not to be a charge against it, but a demonstration of its objectivity.

Founds "The Collective"

In 1950 Rand moved to 120 East 34th Street[36] in New York City, and formed a group with the deliberately ironic name "The Collective," which included future Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan and a young psychology student named Nathan Blumenthal (later Nathaniel Branden), who had been profoundly influenced by The Fountainhead. According to Branden, "I wrote Miss Rand a letter in 1949...[and] I was invited to her home for a personal meeting in March, 1950, a month before I turned twenty."[37]

The group originally started out as informal gathering of friends who met with Rand on weekends at her apartment to discuss philosophy; later the Collective would proceed to play a larger, more formal role, helping edit Atlas Shrugged and promoting Rand's philosophy through the Nathaniel Branden Institute, which Branden established to promote her philosophy. Many Collective members gave lectures at the NBI and in cities across the United States, while others wrote articles for its sister newsletter, The Objectivist.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Rand developed and promoted her Objectivist philosophy through both her fiction and non-fiction works, and by giving talks at several east-coast universities, largely through the NBI: "The Objectivist Newsletter, later expanded and renamed simply The Objectivist contained essays by Rand, Branden, and other associates...that analyzed current political events and applied the principles of Objectivism to everyday life."[38] Rand later published some of these in book form.

After several years, Rand and Branden's friendly relationship blossomed into a romantic affair, despite the fact that both were already married. Their spouses were persuaded to accept this affair, but it eventually led to Branden's separation from his wife, Barbara Branden. In 1968, Rand abruptly ended her relationship with both Brandens when she learned of Nathaniel's affair with Patrecia Scott, and she refused to have any further dealings with the NBI. She then published a letter in "The Objectivist" announcing her repudiation of Branden for various reasons, including dishonesty, but did not mention their affair or her role in the schism. The two never reconciled, and Branden remained persona non grata in the Objectivist movement.

Political and social views

Rand held that the only moral social system is laissez-faire capitalism. Her political views were strongly individualist and hence anti-statist and anti-Communist. She exalted what she saw as the heroic American values of rational egoism and individualism. As a champion of rationality, Rand also had a strong opposition to mysticism and religion, which she believed helped foster a crippling culture acting against individual human happiness and success. Rand detested many prominent liberal and conservative politicians of her time, including prominent anti-Communists, such as Harry S. Truman, Ronald Reagan, Hubert Humphrey, and Joseph McCarthy.[39] She opposed US involvement in World War I, World War II[40] and the Korean War, although she also strongly denounced pacifism: "When a nation resorts to war, it has some purpose, rightly or wrongly, something to fight for – and the only justifiable purpose is self-defense."[41] She opposed U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, "If you want to see the ultimate, suicidal extreme of altruism, on an international scale, observe the war in Vietnam – a war in which American soldiers are dying for no purpose whatever,"[41] but also felt that unilateral American withdrawal would be a mistake of appeasement that would embolden communists and the Soviet Union.[40] She said also that she considered the anti-Communist John Birch Society "futile, because they are not for capitalism but merely against communism."[42]

Economics

Generally, her political thought is in the tradition of classical liberalism. She expressed qualified enthusiasm for the economic thought of Ludwig von Mises and Henry Hazlitt. The Ludwig von Mises Institute says that "it was largely as a result of Ayn's efforts that the work of von Mises began to reach its potential audience."[43] Later Objectivists, such as Richard Salsman, have claimed that Rand's economic theories are implicitly more supportive of the doctrines of Jean-Baptiste Say, though Rand herself was likely not acquainted with his work.

Gender, sex, and race

Rand's views on gender roles have created some controversy. While her books championed men and women as intellectual equals (for example, Dagny Taggart, the protagonist of Atlas Shrugged was a hands-on railroad executive), she thought that the differences in the physiology of men and women led to fundamental psychological differences that were the source of gender roles. Rand denied endorsing any kind of power difference between men and women, stating that metaphysical dominance in sexual relations refers to the man's role as the prime mover in sex and the necessity of male arousal for sex to occur.[44] According to Rand, "For a woman qua woman, the essence of femininity is hero-worship – the desire to look up to man." (1968)

Rand's theory of sex is implied by her broader ethical and psychological theories. Far from being a debasing animal instinct, she believed that sex is the highest celebration of our greatest values. Sex is a physical response to intellectual and spiritual values – a mechanism for giving concrete expression to values that could otherwise only be experienced in the abstract. In Atlas Shrugged, she writes "Tell me what a man finds sexually attractive and I will tell you his entire philosophy of life. Show me the woman he sleeps with and I will tell you his valuation of himself."[45]

In a Playboy magazine interview, Rand stated that women are not psychologically suited to be President and strongly opposed the modern feminist movement, despite supporting some of its goals.[46] Feminist author Susan Brownmiller called Rand "a traitor to her own sex," while others, including Camille Paglia and the contributors to 1999's Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand, have noted Rand's "fiercely independent – and unapologetically sexual" heroines who are unbound by "tradition's chains... [and] who had sex because they wanted to."[34]

In Atlas Shrugged, Rand writes that the "band on the wrist of [Dagny's] naked arm gave her the most feminine of all aspects: the look of being chained." This novel, along with Night of January 16th (1968) and The Fountainhead (1943), features sex scenes with stylized erotic combat that borders on rape. Rand herself noted that what The Fountainhead clearly depicted was "rape by engraved invitation." In a review of a biography of Rand, writer Jenny Turner opined,

"the sex in Rand’s novels is extraordinarily violent and fetishistic. In The Fountainhead, the first coupling of the heroes, heralded by whips and rock drills and horseback riding and cracks in marble, is ‘an act of scorn ... not as love, but as defilement’ – in other words, a rape. (‘The act of a master taking shameful, contemptuous possession of her was the kind of rapture she had wanted.’ In Atlas Shrugged, erotic tension is cleverly increased by having one heroine bound into a plot with lots of spectacularly cruel and handsome men.)[17]

Another source of controversy is Rand's view of homosexuality. According to remarks at the Ford Hall forum at Northeastern University in 1971, Rand's personal view was that homosexuality is "immoral" and "disgusting."[47] Specifically, she stated that "there is a psychological immorality at the root of homosexuality" because "it involves psychological flaws, corruptions, errors, or unfortunate premises."[48] A number of noted current and former Objectivists have been highly critical of Rand for her views on homosexuality.[49] Others, such as Kurt Keefner, have argued that "Rand’s views were in line with the views at the time of the general public and the psychiatric community," though he asserts that "she never provided the slightest argument for her position, [...] because she regarded the matter as self-evident, like the woman president issue"[50] although in her article "About a Woman President" Rand said that that issue was not self-evident.

In the same appearance, Rand noted, "I do not believe that the government has the right to prohibit [homosexual behavior]. It is the privilege of any individual to use his sex life in whichever way he wants it."[47]

Rand defended the right of businesses to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, race, or any other criteria. Rand's defenders argue that her opposition to government intervention to end private discrimination was motivated by her valuing individual rights above civil (due to a rejection of the concept of "collective rights") and therefore her view did not constitute an endorsement of the morality of the prejudice per se. Rand argued that no one's rights are violated by a private individual's or organization's refusal to deal with him, even if the reason is irrational.

Rand did oppose ethnic and racial prejudice on moral grounds, in essays like "Racism" and "Global Balkanization," while still arguing for the right of individuals and businesses to act on such prejudice without government intervention. She wrote, "Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism... [the notion] that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors,"[51] but also opposed governmental remedies for this problem: "Private racism is not a legal, but a moral issue – and can be fought only by private means, such as economic boycott or social ostracism."[52]

See also: Objectivism, Ayn Rand, and homosexuality

HUAC testimony

In 1947, during the Second Red Scare, Rand testified as a "friendly witness" before the House Committee on Un-American Activities.(transcript here) Her testimony regarded the disparity between her personal experiences in the Soviet Union and the fanciful portrayal of it in the 1943 film Song of Russia. Rand argued that the film grossly misrepresented the socioeconomic conditions in the Soviet Union and portrayed life in the USSR as being much better than it actually was. Furthermore, she believed that even if a temporary alliance with the USSR was necessary to defeat the Nazis, the case for this should not have been made by portraying what she believed were falsely positive images of Soviet life:

"If we had good reason, if that is what you believe, all right, then why not tell the truth? Say it is a dictatorship, but we want to be associated with it. Say it is worthwhile being associated with the devil, as Churchill said, in order to defeat another evil which is Hitler. There might be some good argument made for that. But why pretend that Russia was not what it was?"[53]
After the hearings, when Rand was asked about her feelings on the effectiveness of their investigations, she described the process as "futile."[53]

Charity

Rand supported, in principle, the right to give charity but opposed the notion that it was a moral duty, and she did not consider it a major virtue.[54] She opposed all charity and social programs by the government. According to some, her characterization of charity in her fiction was chiefly negative.[55]

Later years

Visiting lecturer

Rand was a visiting lecturer at several universities, beginning in 1960 when she talked at Yale University, Princeton University and Columbia University. In subsequent years, she went on to lecture at University of Wisconsin, Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University and MIT.[56] She received an honorary doctorate from Lewis & Clark College in 1963[57]

For many years, she gave an annual lecture at the Ford Hall Forum, answering questions from the audience afterward.

Declining health and death

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In 1973, she was briefly reunited with her youngest sister, Nora, who still lived in the Soviet Union.[38] Although Rand had written 1,200 letters to her family in the Soviet Union, and had attempted to bring them to the United States, she had ceased contacting them in 1937 after reading a notice in the post office that letters from Americans might imperil Russians at risk from Stalinist repression. Rand received a letter from Nora in 1973 and invited her and her husband to America; her sister's views had changed and, to Rand's disappointment, Nora voluntarily returned to the USSR.[58]

Rand underwent surgery for lung cancer in 1974, and conflicts continued in the wake of the break with Branden and the subsequent collapse of the NBI. Many of her closest "Collective" friends began to part ways, and during the late 1970s, her activities within the formal Objectivist movement began to decline, a situation which increased after the death of her husband on November 9, 1979.[59] One of her final projects was work on a television adaptation of Atlas Shrugged. She had also planned to write another novel, To Lorne Dieterling, but had only written "preliminary sketches."[60]

Rand died of heart failure on March 6, 1982 at her 34th Street home in New York City,[61] years after having successfully battled cancer, and was interred in the Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, New York. David Kelley read Kipling's poem "If" at the graveside.[38][62] Rand's funeral was attended by some of her prominent followers, including Alan Greenspan. A six-foot floral arrangement in the shape of a dollar sign was placed near her casket.[14]

Legacy

Rand's novels continue to be widely sold and read, with more than 22 million books sold (as of 2005), and 500,000 more being sold each year.[63] Following her death, continued conflict within the Objectivist movement led to establishment of independent organizations claiming to be her intellectual heirs. Rand and Objectivism are less well known outside North America, although there are pockets of interest in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Her novels are reported to be popular in India[64] and to be gaining an increasingly wider audience in Africa. She also enjoyed some popularity in Israel, through the early work of Moshe Kroy. Generally, her work has had little effect on academic philosophy; her followers have been largely drawn from the non-academic world. However, in recent years there has been notable interest in Ayn Rand's philosophy in academic philosophy. The Anthem Foundation for Objectivist Scholarship offers resources to study Objectivism at The University of Texas at Austin, Ashland University in Ohio, and the University of Pittsburgh. At the University of Pittsburgh, professors James Lennox and Allan Gotthelf head the research. Both scholars are renowned for their illuminations of Aristotle's writings. Ayn Rand in Academia Duke University's professor, Gary Hull, is a member of the Ayn Rand Institute and has lectured courses incorporating Objectivist literature and discussion. Professor Allan Gotthelf also points to certain modern trends in academic philosophy which make philosophers more receptive to Objectivist ideas. Chief among them are the notions of essence and concept as epistemological, developments in virtue theory ethics, and very current projects in normative philosophies of science and logic.

Ayn Rand Institute

In 1985, Leonard Peikoff, a surviving member of "The Collective" and Ayn Rand's designated heir, established "The Ayn Rand Institute: The Center for the Advancement of Objectivism" (ARI). The Institute has since registered the name "Ayn Rand." The Ayn Rand Institute's main goal is to spread Objectivism throughout academia, particularly in humanities departments; it also works to expose high school and college students to Ayn Rand's writings and ideas.[65]

The Objectivist Center and The Atlas Society

Another schism in the movement occurred in 1989, when Objectivist David Kelley wrote "A Question of Sanction," in which he defended his choice to speak to non-Objectivist libertarian groups: "It was a response to an article by Peter Schwartz in The Intellectual Activist, demanding that those who speak to libertarians be ostracized from the movement...[I] observed that Objectivism is not a closed system of belief; and that we might actually learn something by talking to people we disagree with." Kelley's description of the reasons behind the break is disputed by the Ayn Rand Institute.[66] Peikoff, in an article for The Intellectual Activist called "Fact and Value" argued that Objectivism is, indeed, a closed system, and that truth and moral goodness are directly related.[67] Peikoff expelled Kelley from his movement, whereupon Kelley founded The Institute for Objectivist Studies (now known as "The Objectivist Center"). It has since created a division called The Atlas Society, which has its own web site that is focused on attracting Ayn Rand fiction readers, and downplays her role as a philosopher. This division is used for most public outreach efforts, with The Objectivist Center itself used principally for more academic ventures.

Edward Hudgins, a veteran of the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute and the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, is now executive director, with Kelley taking the title of Founder and Senior Scholar. The Atlas Society/Objectivist Center also publishes The New Individualist (formerly Navigator) which comes out ten times a year. It has been given a major facelift by editor Robert Bidinotto and it was the first magazine in the U.S. to feature one of the Mohammad cartoons on the cover.

Popular interest and influence

File:Rand donahue.jpg

The column "Book Notes" of the New York Times, reported in 1991 that in a survey by the Library of Congress and the Book-of-the-Month Club, when asked what the most influential book in their lives was, Rand's Atlas Shrugged was the second most popular choice. The most popular choice was the Bible.[68]

Neil Peart, the drummer and lyricist of the Canadian progressive rock band Rush, was influenced by Rand's writings, as evidenced by the track "Anthem" from the album Fly By Night (1975) and the title track from the album 2112 (1976). However, such an influence remains vague, and Peart denies being an Objectivist, although in the 1988 book Rush Visions: the Official Biography, author Bill Banasiewicz notes that Peart and Lee bonded over Objectivist theory. Rush also has the distinction of being the only rock group cited in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies – its Fall 2002 publication of "Rand, Rush and Rock" was then followed with a Rush-dedicated symposium, detailed in its Fall 2003 issue, on such topics as "Rand, Rush, and De-Totalizing the Utopianism of Progressive Rock."

In "A Streetcar Named Marge", a season four episode of The Simpsons, Maggie is placed in the "Ayn Rand School for Tots," where bottles and pacifiers are banned to encourage developing "the bottle within" and the school's grim proprietor reads from The Fountainhead Diet.

The forthcoming PC and Xbox 360 game Bioshock takes place in the ruins of a city described as the ultimate capitalistic and individualist paradise. Founded in 1946 by a Soviet expatriate named "Andrew Ryan" (clearly a wordplay on "Ayn Rand"), the city is purportedly an embodiment of the Objectivist ideal, although one that has fallen into ruin.

The 2003 novel Old School by famed author Tobias Wolff contains an episode in which Rand appears as a guest lecturer at the elite New England prep school attended by the main character. The character reads The Fountainhead, analyzes Rand in person, and compares her to the other two writers invited to the school – Robert Frost and Ernest Hemingway – and ultimately discards her philosophy in favor of the more empathetic Hemingway.

Amongst many books recommended for reading in the liner notes of Rise Against's 2006 album The Sufferer and the Witness, The Fountainhead is one of them, in the company of such varied books as Slaughterhouse Five, A People's History of the United States, and Ishmael, as well as several others.

Numerous prominent individuals have acknowledged that Rand greatly influenced their lives, including: Harry Binswanger, Nathaniel Branden, Barbara Branden, James Clavell, Edward Cline, Chris Cox, Mark Cuban, Paul DePodesta, Steve Ditko, Terry Goodkind, Allan Gotthelf, Alan Greenspan, Hugh Hefner, Erika Holzer, John Hospers, Angelina Jolie, David Kelley, Billie Jean King, Anton LaVey, Rush Limbaugh, Frank Miller, Leonard Peikoff, Ronald Reagan, George Reisman, John Ridpath, Robert Ringer, Tracey Ross, Kay Nolte Smith, Tara Smith, John Stossel, Margaret Thatcher, Clarence Thomas, Vince Vaughn, and many others.[69] Rand's philosophy of Objectivism continues to influence workers in the arts, business, and science. "The Atlasphere," an online community devoted to admirers of Rand, maintains a blog citing Rand's influence on popular or newsworthy figures who cite the influence of Rand's works on their lives,[70] while "Randex" updates a list of recent media references to Rand or her work.[71]

Rand's work and academic philosophy

Rand's work has been mostly ignored by the academic philosophers of the English-speaking world. Few leading research universities consider Rand or Objectivism to be an important philosophical specialty or research area. Many adherents and practitioners of continental philosophy criticize her celebration of self-interest, so there has similarly been little focus on her work in this movement. However, since her death, there has been an increase in academic structures open to study of Ayn Rand's work.

  • There are fellowships for the study of Ayn Rand's ideas at academic institutions such as the University of Texas at Austin,[72] Ashland University in Ohio, and the University of Pittsburgh. Courses of the Ayn Rand Institute's Objectivist Academic Center are accredited, so students can obtain university credits for studying Objectivism.[73]
  • Her supporters are beginning to bring Rand's work into the academic mainstream. For instance, the Ayn Rand Society, founded in 1987, is affiliated with the American Philosophical Association, and has been active in sponsoring seminars.
  • A major inroad into academic territory is the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies (JARS). It is a scholarly, peer reviewed journal dedicated to the study of Ayn Rand - principally her philosophic work. It is published twice yearly. JARS is nonpartisan and accepts articles that are favorable to or critical of Rand's positions. The stated editorial position is to remain unaligned with any advocacy group, institution or person. "While we publish essays by Objectivists and those influenced by Rand, we are especially interested in publishing scholars who work in traditions outside of Objectivism--including those who are critical of Rand's thought. We promote and encourage scholarly give-and-take among diverse elements of the academy." They utilize a constructive double-blind peer review process and are widely abstracted and indexed and linked.[74]

In a 1999 interview in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Rand scholar Chris Matthew Sciabarra said, "I know they laugh at Rand," while also noting a growing interest in her work in the academic community.[75]

In 2006, Cambridge University Press published a volume on Rand's ethical theory written by ARI-affiliated scholar Tara Smith, a philosophy professor at the University of Texas at Austin. The book is titled Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist. Cambridge University, University of Texas at Austin, and University of Pittsburgh have recently established Fellowships for the Study of Objectivism.[76][77] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews recently published a review of Smith's book by Helen Cullyer of the University of Pittsburgh. The review ends with the following:

"It should be stressed in conclusion that whether one is a fan or a detractor of Ayn Rand, the issues raised by this book are manifold and provocative. This book should force a debate of renewed vigor about what we mean by egoism, whether and how the egoism/altruism dichotomy should be applied within eudaimonistic ethical theories, and what our ethical theories imply about our political outlook. Smith provides us with a version of egoism that will need to be argued against by those who find it distasteful or misguided, rather than simply dismissed."[78]

In addition to the recent publication of Smith's book, the forthcoming issue of The Review of Metaphysics will publish an article by Allan Gotthelf on Rand's theory of concepts.[79] A recent conference at the University of Pittsburgh, "Concept and Objectivity: Knowledge, Science, and Values," featured presentations by Objectivists Onkar Ghate, Allan Gotthelf, James Lennox, and Darryl Wright alongside influential mainstream academics such as A.P. Martinich and Peter Railton.[80]

Student activism

One of the reasons for the prominence of Ayn Rand and Objectivism in the news and popular culture relative to other philosophical theories[81][82][83] may be related to the dozens of student groups dedicated to promoting and studying the philosophy of Objectivism[84][85][86] spread across the U.S., Australia, Canada, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Norway.[87] These clubs often present controversial speakers on topics such as abortion, religion, and foreign policy, often allying with controversial conservative (and sometimes liberal) organizations to organize their events. For example the NYU Objectivism Club hosted a joint panel[88] on the Muhammad cartoons that received nationwide coverage for NYU's censorship of the cartoons.[89] There are several dozen speakers sponsored by the Ayn Rand Institute[90] and other organizations, who give nationwide tours each year speaking about Objectivism.

The Ayn Rand Institute has spent more than $5M on educational programs advancing Objectivism, including scholarships and clubs. These clubs often obtain educational materials and speakers from the ARI. The Objectivist Club Association and ObjectivismOnline provide free hosting and organizational resources for Ayn Rand clubs. There are also several conferences organized by various organizations, such as the Objectivist Conferences, which are attended by several hundred "new intellectuals" each summer for two weeks and feature dozens of philosophy courses and presentations of new publications and research.

Criticism

Philosophical criticism

A notable exception to the general lack of attention paid to Rand in philosophy is the essay "On the Randian Argument" by Harvard University philosopher Robert Nozick, which appears in his collection, Socratic Puzzles. Nozick is sympathetic to Rand's political conclusions, but he does not think her arguments justify them. In particular, his essay criticizes her foundational argument in ethics, which claims that one's own life is, for each individual, the only ultimate value because it makes all other values possible. Nozick says that to make this argument sound Rand still needs to explain why someone could not rationally prefer dying and having no values. Thus, he argues, her attempt to defend the morality of selfishness is essentially an instance of begging the question and her solution to David Hume's famous is-ought problem is unsatisfactory.

Literary criticism

Rand's novels, when they were first published, "received almost unanimously terrible reviews"[17] and were derided by some critics as long and melodramatic.[91] Many of these, including her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, became bestsellers due largely to word of mouth.[17] Scholars of English and American literature, with a few exceptions, have largely ignored her work. Rand did, however, receive some positive reviews even from the literary establishment. For example, Lorine Pruette, a New York Times reviewer, wrote that Rand "has written a hymn in praise of the individual," stating that "you will not be able to read this masterful book without thinking through some of the basic concepts of our times."[92]

The most famous review of Atlas Shrugged from a conservative author was written by Whittaker Chambers and appeared in National Review in 1957. It was unrelentingly scathing. Chambers called the book "sophomoric"; and "remarkably silly," and said it "can be called a novel only by devaluing the term." The tone of the book was described as "shrillness without reprieve".[93] The Intellectual Activist published a reply, alleging that Chambers did not actually read the book, as he misspells the names of several major characters and never uses quotations from the novel in his critique.[94]

Rand herself replied to these literary criticisms (in advance of many of them) with her 1963 essay "The Goal of My Writing," and in essays collected in The Romantic Manifesto: A Philosophy of Literature (2nd rev. ed. 1975), in which she states the goal of her fiction is to project her vision of an ideal man: not man as he is, but man as he might and ought to be. Defenders of Rand's novels have also responded that many of her heroes are far from flawless, and that some are not wealthy. They argue that Rearden, the Wet Nurse, and Fred Kinnan suffer due to either moral flaws or errors in reasoning;[95] further, they assert that not all of the villains in Rand's novels are thoroughly weak and pathetic: Ellsworth Toohey is portrayed as a masterful communicator, critic, and manipulator, while Robert Stadler is a brilliant scientist.

Cult accusations

See Objectivist movement.

Several authors, such as Murray Rothbard who helped define modern libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism,[96] Jeff Walker, author of The Ayn Rand Cult,[97] and Michael Shermer, founder of The Skeptics Society,[98] have accused Objectivism of being a cult.

The Biographical FAQ of the Objectivism Reference Center website discusses these allegations and offer a letter in which Rand replies to a fan who wrote her offering cult-like allegiance by declaring "A blind follower is precisely what my philosophy condemns and what I reject. Objectivism is not a mystic cult".[99]

See also

Bibliography

Fiction

Nonfiction

Posthumous works

Film adaptations

Without Rand's knowledge or permission, We the Living was made into a pair of films, Noi vivi and Addio, Kira in 1942 by Scalara Films, Rome. They were nearly censored by the Italian government under Benito Mussolini, but they were permitted because the novel upon which they were based was anti-Soviet. The films were successful and the public easily realized that they were as much against Fascism as Communism, and the government banned them quickly thereafter.[100] These films were re-edited into a new version which was approved by Rand and re-released as We the Living in 1986.

The Fountainhead was a Hollywood film (1949, Warner Bros.) starring Gary Cooper, for which Rand wrote the screen-play. Rand initially insisted that Frank Lloyd Wright design the architectural models used in the film, but relented when his fee was too high.[101]

An adaptation of Atlas Shrugged is currently in pre-production.[102] As of April 2006, Lionsgate Film reports that it is moving forward with their plans for the movie, with Howard and Karen Baldwin as producers and screen stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reported to be interested in playing the parts of John Galt and Dagny Taggart.[103] The movie may be created in multiple parts to allow a fuller presentation of the novel's elaborate plot.[104] On September 21, 2006, it was announced that Angelina Jolie will indeed play Dagny Taggart in the movie adaptation.[105]

"The Passion of Ayn Rand" [3], an independent film about her life, was made in 1999, starring Helen Mirren, Eric Stoltz, and Peter Fonda. The film was based on the book by Barbara Branden, one of her former associates, and won several awards for Helen Mirren, including the Emmy and the Golden Globe.

References

  1. One source notes: "Perhaps because she so eschewed academic philosophy, and because her works are rightly considered to be works of literature, Objectivist philosophy is regularly omitted from academic philosophy. Yet throughout literary academia, Ayn Rand is considered a philosopher. Her works merit consideration as works of philosophy in their own right." (Jenny Heyl, 1995, as cited in (1999) Mimi R Gladstein, Chris Matthew Sciabarra(eds) Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand, Penn State Press. ISBN 0-271-01831-3., p. 17)
  2. "Ayn Rand's Q&A on Libertarians.". URL accessed on 2006-03-22. at the Ayn Rand Institute. Rand stated in 1980, "I've read nothing by a Libertarian...that wasn't my ideas badly mishandled — i.e., had the teeth pulled out of them — with no credit given."
  3. A Sense of Life. URL accessed on 2006-03-22. website of the documentary film about Rand's life.
  4. "Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical - Published Reviews.". URL accessed on 2006-03-23.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Ayn Rand Chronology". URL accessed on 2006-03-23.
  6. Rand wrote the ideal educational curriculum would be "Aristotle in philosophy, von Mises in economics, Montessori in education, Hugo in literature." Long, Roderick: "Ayn Rand's Contribution to the Cause of Freedom".
  7. "Ayn Rand". at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  8. Roger Donway, "Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, and Ayn Rand's Moral Triad.". URL accessed on 2006-03-23. Donway writes that Rand's objectivism "brought full circle the three-way argument that Chernyshevsky and Pisarev; the Underground Man and Nietzsche; and Dostoevsky the Christian philosopher conducted in Russia after 1860."
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  11. 11.0 11.1 ARI Biographical researcher Drs. Gotthelf and Berliner note that while still in Russia, Anna used the name "Rand", which is a Cyrillic contraction of Rosenbaum. They also note the Finnish origin of Ayn. "What is the origin of "Rand"?". URL accessed on 2006-03-28.
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  16. Still Spouting," The Economist, November 25, 1999
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  100. A biographical article at the Cato Institute suggests the story about the ban may be apocryphal, "Ayn Rand". URL accessed on 2006-03-23., although other sources provide details of the suppression: Rossano Brazzi International Network article about "Noi Vivi.". URL accessed on 2006-03-28.
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  105. Jolie shoulders 'Atlas'. URL accessed on 2006-10-03.

Further reading

General information

Rand's writing and speeches

Organizations promoting Ayn Rand's philosophy

Critical views

Audio / Video

References

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