Thursday, November 18, 2010

Essential Writings of Ayn Rand

As I am (constantly in a process of) organizing mental content, the idea occurred to me that, some day, there will be a "Basic Works" compilation for Ayn Rand like we see with Plato, Aristotle, Kant and other big hitters. So what might a Basic Works of Ayn Rand look like? What constitutes the essentials? The essays Rand wrote that might be considered foundational. Such essays as "The Objectivist Ethics" are prime examples of this. What else might be considered foundational in some important way? I think an essay such as "'Extremism,' or the Art of Smearing" covers certain epistemological essentials even while covering a political topic, so I think it qualifies. But we don't want to start doing the borderline-case, slippery-slope kind of thing, so we need a process of elimination. After such a process, I come down to the following writings:

Part 1: Speeches from the Novels (those excerpted in For the New Intellectual)

Part 2: General Essays on Philosophy
"Philosophy: Who Needs It" (1973) (PWNI)
"Philosophical Detection" (1974) (PWNI)
"For the New Intellectual" (1961) (FTNI)
"Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World" (1960) (PWNI)

Part 3: Metaphysics and Epistemology
"The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made" (1973) (PWNI)
Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (1966-67)

Part 4: Ethics
"The Objectivist Ethics" (1961) (TVOS)
"The 'Conflicts' of Men's Interests" (1962) (TVOS)
"Doesn't Life Require Compromise?" (1962) (TVOS)
"Causality Versus Duty" (1970) (PWNI)

Part 5: Politics
"Man's Rights" (1963) (TVOS)
"The Nature of Government" (1963) (TVOS)
"What is Capitalism?" (1965) (CTUI)
"Patents and Copyrights" (1964) (CTUI)
"Conservatism: An Obituary" (1960) (CTUI)
"'Extremism,' or The Art of Smearing" (1964) (CTUI)
"Racism" (1963) (TVOS)
"The Roots of War" (1966) (CTUI)
"The 'Inexplicable Personal Alchemy'" (1969) (TNL/ROTP)
"Censorship: Local and Express (1973) (PWNI)

Part 6: Aesthetics
First six articles in The Romantic Manifesto plus "The Goal of My Writing" (TRM)
Introduction to the 25th anniversary edition of The Fountainhead

Part 7: Essays on American Culture
"Apollo 11" (1969) (TVOR)
"Apollo and Dionysus" (1969-1970) (TNL/ROTP)
"The Comprachicos" (1970) (TNL/ROTP)
"The Age of Envy" (1971) (TNL/ROTP)
"Don't Let It Go" (1971) (PWNI)

I figure such a book would run to about 800 pages total with an index. (Part 1 would be about 140 pages, Part 2 about 90 pages, part 3 about 90 pages, part 4 about 60 pages, part 5 about 130 pages, part 6 about 130 pages, part 7 about 130 pages. That total comes to 770 pages.)

Abbreviation code: CTUI = Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal; FTNI = For the New Intellectual; PWNI = Philosophy: Who Needs It; TNL/ROTP = The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution / Return of the Primitive (rev/updated ed. of The New Left); TRM = The Romantic Manifesto; TVOR = The Voice of Reason; TVOS = The Virtue of Selfishness.

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