I am firmly of the conviction that Ayn Rand's place in the philosophical pantheon is only a matter of time. The fact of her greatness is, at this point, obvious to someone such as myself, someone who has put in the effort at mental integration necessary to separate the wheat from the chaff of the Western intellectual tradition.
Now, I am not saying that her greatness is obvious in the sense that just anyone can pick up her books and realize right off that they are encountering the writings of the greatest philosopher since Aristotle. If that were the case, we'd be enjoying the benefits of full-fledged reason, individualism and capitalism all around the world today, rather than being on a worldwide course of drift and evasion. Hell, if only Aristotle's greatness were obvious to everyone, we'd be in a capitalistic paradise by now: Galt's Gulch would be the norm rather than the exception. We wouldn't be wondering "what is to be done about the poor," as everyone would be realizing their full potentials, their inner geniuses.
(In a Q&A session, Ayn Rand was asked if she would write a version of Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology for those of 110 IQ instead of for those of 150 IQ. Her supremely benevolent view of human potential is revealed in her answer: "I'd prefer that people raise their IQ from 110 to 150. It can be done." [Ayn Rand Answers, p. 179] What the fuck do the likes of John Rawls and Thomas Nagel have to offer in comparison to this? And why the fuck is Rand constantly tarred as an elitist whose philosophy is only for a select few? It is as if her critics are pathologically, awesomely committed to misconceptions about her [to borrow a phrase from Michael Herr's delightful little memoir, Kubrick].)
Part of this reason this isn't so obvious is that Rand's style was very plainspoken. Actually, this should be taken as evidence that she is a great thinker, not a shallow one. But the inversion accepted by so many is that a deep thinker should philosophize and write in the mode of Immanuel Kant, G.W.F. Hegel, Martin Heidegger, or any number of their genuflecting emulators in academia. If you want a style that is truly elitist, try slogging through their writings. (Rand also had things to say about English being her language of choice due to its precision and clarity. ["Global Balkanization"]) Ayn Rand was writing for people as such, and as such, her writings have an eminently practical character to them. This goes especially for her epistemology.
Speaking of her epistemology, it is her greatest contribution to philosophy, and arguably on par with Aristotle's writings on metaphysics and logic. And if there is any doubt as to whether Rand is a genuinely deep thinker, one need only have a look at the appendix of the 2nd edition of Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. That she didn't work out all the specialized sub-branches of epistemology (e.g. philosophy of science, philosophy of mathematics) is quite irrelevant to this; her task was to set the ground rules for any of the specialized sub-disciplines in any area of thought - to provide a guidebook as to how to think independently - and she succeeded admirably. If these methods were automatized and integrated into every thinking person's life, the world's troubles would be over in no time. A world full of Ayn Rand-caliber thinkers - with the resulting moral character - wouldn't even think of going to war, committing crimes, wallowing in self-pity, aching for some meaning or purpose in their lives, etc. That this point is lost on her critics is quite telling.
As for her critics, it is only a matter of time before they have to reckon with Ayn Rand - to accept and work within the system she laid out, or to explain why not. And to do that, they also have to reckon at long last with Aristotle. It is a fact - one that people throughout the ages have struggled mightily to evade, distort, or subvert - that the Aristotelian influence on the West is chiefly responsible for its intellectual, scientific, cultural and moral progress. In attacking Ayn Rand - in shooting the messenger - it is Aristotle these people are implicitly attacking.
Making the non-obvious obvious at last is the chief aim of my current book project (which will be completed soon). When all is said and done, I expect her name to be amongst a new Big Three of philosophy along with Aristotle and perhaps David L. Norton (whose conscientious and systematic rigor in Personal Destinies is second to none). I would like to make a note about Wittgenstein in this context. I am not a Wittgenstein specialist by the remotest stretch; this is not to say that I won't be in the future. But based on my cursory investigations, I find one chief intellectual virtue in him: his commonsensical, non-rationalistic, non-elitist approach. I am not saying that his method and answers are as good as Rand's, but there is a conscientiousness about his approach that leaves those of his contemporaries in the dust. Part of this has to do, I think, with Wittgenstein's extensive experience with ordinary people in the real world. It makes him psycho-epistemologically healthier already (even if his approach is still stymied by aspects of psycho-epistemological rationalism - or perhaps even an over-empiricism). I'll also mention this: As with Aristotle and Ayn Rand, Wittgenstein in his mode as philosopher of mathematics rejected actual or completed infinities, contra the pretentious twats who pretend that actual infinities had been "proven" by this mathematician or that, as if mathematics could substitute for metaphysics. My inkling, though, is that an Aristotelian-Randian conceptual framework is ultimately the most sound basis for a philosophy of mathematics; I only point out a conclusion that the consensus favorite for "greatest philosopher of the 20th century" reached, which happens to be correct.
To be continued . . .