Thursday, August 12, 2010

A prediction

According to a metric used here - number of citations in philosophy journals - Ayn Rand isn't a big name in academic philosophy. The blogger uses this as evidence that Rand isn't a serious philosopher.

The reasoning there is oddly circular and unbecoming of a philosophical mind. It appears to run as follows:

We are to determine whether Rand is a serious philosopher by whether she appears in philosophy journals. Since she doesn't appear much in philosophy journals, serious philosophers don't study her. Since serious philosophers don't study her, she will naturally not appear in philosophy journals in the future. Therefore, she will not be studied in the future by serious philosophers, and so she won't appear much in journals, and so on and on. So basically, Rand cannot possibly ever break into philosophy journals studied by serious philosophers because . . . she is not in philosophy journals studied by serious philosophers.

Nice, huh?

If this self-contained, circle-jerking insularity reflects the mentality of "academic philosophers," then academic philosophy will continue to be mired in the muck for some time to come. The attitude is entirely unphilosophical and - to borrow an identification from the unserious Ayn Rand - it is out-and-out social metaphysics, i.e., in essence, placing "they say" above "it is." It is a grotesque rationalization for ignoring Ayn Rand because . . . others ignore Ayn Rand. That's not philosophy. That's cowardice and self-abasement, in addition to engaging in a vicious circularity.

However, if one were to study Ayn Rand's ideas based on their substantive merits rather than on deference to what They Say, one will (eventually) come to the conclusion that Ayn Rand was an original, first-rate philosophical mind (save for her polemics). In fact, there are signs that academia is slowly but surely heading in the direction of that very realization.

So I'm going to make a prediction here:

Within 50 years - two generations - Ayn Rand will appear high up on the "number of citations" list, likely in the top 10, probably in the top 5. If not considerably sooner.

Consequently, the current crop of smugly self-satisfied anti-Randians will be shown up for the unphilosophical assholes and/or idiots that they are.

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