Thursday, May 3, 2012

To Be Reviewed...

The Leonard Peikoff lecture course, Understanding Objectivism, now in (much-less-expensive) book form. To the question, What do Ayn Rand and Objectivism have to offer to the world of philosophy?, this is perhaps the most invaluable resource out there. It needs to be critically examined as part of any serious scholarly treatment of (rather culturally influential) Randian/Objectivist ideas. Then we'll see in much clearer and more well-developed terms whether reading and studying Ayn Rand's work is really worth our precious philosophical time.

On a related note, perusing the Ayn Rand Lexicon, I see how her handling of Kant is not a good sign when it comes to assessing Rand's strength or maturity as a thinker. It is very amateurish, and not the least bit scholarly. Wouldn't a thinker such as Aristotle have done much better at interpreting a thinker like Kant? Why couldn't she be more like Aristotle, of whom she spoke so reverently (but probably understood just as amateurishly)? Or like Korsgaard, who has studied Kant indepeth and comes to much different conclusions about him?

On a further related note, why is the "scholarship" about Ayn Rand on so many left-progressive news-and-opinion sites so damn lousy? Who the F cares about a serial killer aspects of whom a very un-mature Rand spoke of in positive terms in her un-published journals - as it relates to her considered, mature, published thought? Or that she accepted social security and medicare benefits in light of her published (a) objections to such programs and (b) explanation for accepting government benefits? Selective out-of-context cherrypicking while ignoring or failing to seek out contrary evidence is not serious scholarship. These hit-pieces are by so-called journalists and not philosophy professors, yes, but does it really have to be that bad, that intellectually lazy, that anti-serious about ideas? (This means Rand is still on the hook for how she approached Kant.)

On a yet further related note, why would a "leading academic philosophy blog" give such crap any airtime whatsoever, even so much as airing the view that Ayn Rand's philosophy is inspired by a psychopath (with the implication that characters like Howard Roark are inspired by psychopaths)? (Sure enough, her reasoning about who should and who shouldn't accept government benefits is bizarre on the face of it and it's quite doubtful it could be supported by sound argument, but this was brought up on the "leading academic philosophy blog" in the first place because of her having accepted government support, and not because of her (published) reasoning behind it, of which the Leading Academic Philosophy Blogger, when calling her a "welfare queen," was nevertheless totally unaware. Hopefully these sorts of cheap, unfair hyper-partisan tactics aren't widespread in academic philosophy or the academy generally. We won't really know if Rand/Objectivism is worth studying until we apply fair, rigorous, disciplined, and scholarly standards (be they from inside or outside the academy) to her writings in the first place [see, e.g., here - a work which, by the way, is about Rand's eudaemonistic egoism - not about her comments on Immanuel Kant, or on a serial killer she never came anywhere near to writing about publicly, or about why only people who agree with her politics should accept government benefits - and which, by the way, comes out as very positive in favor of her ethical system; it looks like the ball is now in her critics' court should they choose to take up the task, unless they're content to leave it all up to Dr. Cullyer]. As to the Rand-admired-psychopaths stuff, it doesn't even merit comment, that's how ridiculous, malicious, context-flouting and manifestly unjust it is.)

On an even further related note, I'll also want to review Greg Swann's Man Alive!.