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A Companion to Ayn Rand

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A Companion to Ayn Rand (Wiley Blackwell 2016)

Allan Gotthelf and Gregory Samieri, editors

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Shoshana Milgram contributes a chapter to the newly released A Companion to Ayn Rand. It is the second chapter of the volume. It is titled “The Life of Ayn Rand – Writing, Reading, and Related Events.” This chapter is 23 pages, including endnotes (about 10,000 words without endnotes). It is organized into these sections:

Leaving Russia (1905–1926)

Early Career as an American Writer (1926–1936)

The Fountainhead: The Creation of Her First Ideal Man (1936–1943)

Atlas Shrugged: The Mind on Strike (1943–1957)

Objectivism: A Philosophy for Living on Earth (1957–1982)

Appendix: Concerning Biographical Sources

“The most important year of Rand’s youth was 1914: at the age of nine, she decided to be a writer. She had been writing stories for several years at this point. One night, in a London hotel room, when she was entertaining her sisters by inventing a story about the chorus girls she had seen on a theatrical poster, she realized that this task of devising interesting narratives about human lives was a writer’s life work—and the very career she wanted.”

. . .

“On June 8, 1958, she began to make notes for a projected non-fiction book Objectivism: A Philosophy for Living on Earth, . . . . She would work to support and defend the novel [AS] that had been misjudged and misunderstood, and also to crusade for reason (her top value, she said, ever since she could remember). . . .”

. . .

“‘I read a few of those modern philosophy essays that Nathan gave me, and all the questions that Leonard [Peikoff] was bringing home. And my conversations with Leonard. I began to see that what I took as almost self-evident, was not self-evident at all. . . . Leonard began to realize the importance of my statement that “existence is identity,” and he explained to me in what sense no philosopher had claimed it, not in this form. I had thought of it as what I said in Galt’s speech, that it’s merely clarification of Aristotle. I began to realize in what way it wasn’t. And it was that that was the turning point in my decision. I knew then that I could not write another novel for a long time.’ [AR] (Biographical Interviews)”

. . .

“In this chapter I draw on research I have done, much of it in the Ayn Rand Archives . . . toward a book-length study. . . . / For the facts of Ayn Rand’s life, I have relied on primary sources, including . . . an extensive series of biographical interviews conducted by Barbara Branden in 1960–1961 . . . (Biographical Interviews).” 

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Stephen - I am enjoying this book very much.

One thing that surprises me is that - considering how much work he has done in epistemology, including his recent book How We Know - Harry Binswanger's contribution to A Companion to Ayn Rand is the chapter on Rand's aesthetics!

IMO, Milgram does not give proper credit to Chris Sciabarra for his unrelenting efforts to uncover the details of Rand's college studies, including her transcript, in the face of unnecessary and unethical obstacles thrown up in his path by various parties connected with ARI and the Ayn Rand Archives.

But this chapter, and the book as a whole, contain a lot of valuable material. For scholars, it is a resource worth having.

REB

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Three of the authors in this book contributed also to Blackwell’s A Companion to Aristotle (2009): James Lennox, Robert Mayhew, and Fred Miller. Allan Gotthelf, co-editor of A Companion to Ayn Rand (CAR), was a leading Aristotelian scholar of recent decades. Contributor James Lennox, likewise.

CAR has a superb Index. Rand’s ITOE is indexed by Chapters. Indices to Rand’s fiction include index by Parts (and by Chapter for AS).

From the Index, the major philosophers dealt with significantly in CAR are, naturally: Plato, Aristotle, Locke, Hume, Kant, and Nietzsche. Some notice goes to Parmenides, Aquinas, Francis Bacon, Hobbes, Descartes, Spinoza, Hegel, and Comte.

Two philosophers sympathetic to Rand’s philosophy, Tibor Machan and Fred Seddon, receive no notice in CAR. Their books on Rand, as well as the books by Ronald Merrill and by Kathleen Touchstone are not mentioned. George Smith, not. Writers not part of the ARI network, writers on Rand at least pretty knowledgeable (and often very knowledgeable and at least somewhat sympathetic) that are remarked on in CAR endnotes are: Neera Badhwar, Gregory Browne, Robert Campbell, Douglas Den Uyl, Stephen Hicks, John Hospers, Michael Huemer, Michelle Kamhi, David Kelley, Roderick Long, Eric Mack, Robert Nozick, Douglas Rasmussen, Murray Rothbard, Chris Sciabarra, Louis Torres, George Walsh.

Concepts salient with Rand and receiving a fair amount of attention in CAR (I’m slighting politics a bit):

Abstraction, Achievement, Altruism, Art, Axioms

Benevolence, Benevolent Universe Premise

Capitalism, Causality, Character, Characterization in Literature, Choice to Live, Choice to Think, Christianity, Civilization, Collectivism, Concepts, Conflicts of Interest, Consciousness

Definitions, Deontology, Desires, Determinism, Duty

Egoism, Emotions, Entities, Essence, Esthetic Judgment, Evasion, Evil, Existence

Facts, Faith, Fallacies, Focus, Force, Free Will

Government

Happiness, Hatred, Heroes, Honesty

Individualism, Integration, Integrity, Intrinsicism, Irrationality

Justice

Knowledge

Law, Learning, Life, Love

Malevolent Universe Premise, Man, Metaphysical Value Judgments, Mysticism

Nature

Objective vs. Intrinsic and Subjective, Objectivity

Perception, Plot, Power, Pride, Primacy of Consciousness, Primacy of Existence, Productiveness, Property, Psycho-Epistemology, Psychology, Purpose

Rationality, Reality, Reason, Rights, Romanticism

Sacrifice, Self-Esteem, Self-Interest, Selfishness, Sense of Life, Society, Statism, Subjectivism

Trade

Values, Virtue

In CAR some papers from Reason Papers and The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies are cited as well as some of the Objectivist Studies monographs issued by David Kelley’s institution. My JARS paper “Universals and Measurement” does not come up. Nothing from my journal Objectivity is cited. Some work from the book The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand, edited by Den Uyl and Rasmussen, is touched on in this new book on Rand, her literature, and her philosophy.

 

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1 hour ago, Guyau said:

In CAR some papers from Reason Papers and The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies are cited as well as some of the Objectivist Studies monographs issued by David Kelley’s institution. My JARS paper “Universals and Measurement” does not come up. Nothing from my journal Objectivity is cited. Some work from the book The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand, edited by Den Uyl and Rasmussen, is touched on in this new book on Rand, her literature, and her philosophy.

 

Using Amazon's Look Inside,

1. I saw only one reference to JARS, which was Robert Campbell's "The Rewriting of Ayn Rand's Spoken Answers." 

2. The only Objectivist Studies thing I saw was David Kelley's book Unrugged Individualism.

Darryl Wright disagrees with Kelley's idea that benevolence is a virtue. Wright says it is an attitude, not a virtue. I would say the same about pride.

Stephen, do you agree with 1 and 2?

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Hi Merlin,

The mentions of the following are by Gotthelf, Salmieri, Wright, and Hunt. I haven’t read their contributions to CAR yet, so I don’t know what they say about the following papers that are listed in their References.

Journal of Ayn Rand Studies

Rasmusssen 4(1), 7(2), 8(2)

Mack 5(1)

Huemer 2(3)

Dykes 7(1)

Campbell 1(1), 11(1)

Long 6(2), 7(1)

Shedenhelm 2(1)

Hicks 10(2)

Objectivist Studies

Neera Badhwar

Roderick Long

David Kelley

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Thanks, Stephen. I can only say now that the search feature in Amazon's Look Inside is lousy. When I searched for "Journal of Ayn Rand Studies" before my previous post, I got only one hit. Moments ago I searched for some of the names you gave, and there are a lot more instances of "Journal of Ayn Rand Studies" than one.

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Perhaps it will be not too far afield for this thread to mention that The Bloomsbury Companion to Political Philosophy (2015), in its chapter “The Future(s) of Political Philosophy,” makes one notice of Rand:

“In the United States things do not look good. The most common political philosophy explicitly appealed to by those in government appears to be that of novelist Ayn Rand, the patron saint of the US ‘Tea Party’. The standards of argumentation and reasoning that professional philosophers maintain find little accommodation in current political discourse. Persons appeal to their favored first principles, and seem to regard such appeal as ultimately simply a matter of preference. Grandstanding about the validity of particular principles appears to coexist with a strange subjectivism about the justification of these first principles. Appeals to evidence are present, but it is often an appeal to evidence reminiscent of the sophistic traditions rather than the philosophical ones: one appeals to what helps the conclusions one wants, and ignores whatever evidence does not.”

With the last sentence, I agree entirely. I don’t agree that the appeals to “first principles” in US political discourse tend to insinuate that the favored principles are simply a matter of preference. Appeals in the everyday discourse reaching such bases as the Word of God or the ideals of liberty, equality, justice, civil peace, brotherly love, constitutionality, or individual rights do not ring as if they are regarded as simply a matter of preference. Moreover, my impression is that if interlocutors had time to continue discourse one-on-one, privately, they typically would be amenable to trying to justify such bases that they embrace. The attempts on that, like attempts directly on the political action items before us, are fraught with the failure the authors observe in that last sentence I quoted. I think this indicates that the more persuasion to the value of reason and objectivity among the citizens, and the more higher education from (undergraduate) books such as David Kelley’s The Art of Reasoning, the better.

In the chapter “Sovereignty,” Tibor Machan’s work is mentioned as developing “the modern idea that natural right and individual conscience is sovereign” in a “libertarian and (nearly anarchist) direction . . . .”

Robert Nozick in his Anarchy, State, and Utopia is engaged in the chapter “Sovereignty” and in the chapter “Distributive Justice.”

 

 

 

 

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Delighted to see Jason Rheins joining my 1991 point in Objectivity (to which Allan Gotthelf was a subscriber, both volumes) in a footnote (51) to his chapter in CAR on Rand’s metaphysics:

Quote

Our notion of deterministic action, which is not self-evident, is applied by us to physical bodies and quite successfully, judging by the progress of the physical sciences since the seventeenth century. However, in my view, at least, Rand’s principles of causality and identity do not guarantee that at every physical level science will ever discover that one antecedent state will produce one and only one consequent state. The nature of a cause determines and delimits it to performing actions from a finite range of effects, and things cannot act contrary to their nature by doing what is beyond their range of possible actions, but their nature may be such as to give rise to a limited disjunctive set of outcomes from one and the same initial condition. I must stress that this is my own opinion as to what Objectivist metaphysics need and need not be committed to with respect to causality—i.e., it need not assume that there is a strict one-to-one determinacy of all physical actions. Rand herself may have accepted more than this, though, taking all physical causation to be [one-one] deterministic. . . . 

Boydstun 1991 (excerpt from "Induction on Identity"):

On December 25, 2010 at 2:53 PM, Guyau said:

We might want to qualify and refine the general principle to which Hume appeals, the principle that “like objects, placed in like circumstances, will always produce like effects,” but it is at any rate clear that Hume is here squirming out of his official position that knowledge of fact is simply a matter of custom or habit. Also in the Treatise, when writing on our knowledge of the continued and independent existence of bodies (T I.4.2) and when writing on our understanding of why things, e.g., clocks, may sometimes behave one way and sometimes another (T I.3.7), Hume senses the inadequacies of his habituation account of inductive inference and tries to make accommodations. In his later work, the Enquiries, he deals with these complications either by not bringing them up or by offering only meager “hints “ of their solution (E 47).

Hume’s commonsense principle that same causes yield same effects was endorsed also by Aristotle: “It is a law of nature that the same cause, provided it remain in the same condition, always produces the same effect” (GC 336a27-28). Ockham endorsed the principle in a form close to Hume’s: “Causes of the same kinds are effective of effects of the same kinds” (Weinberg 1965, 142). Ockham took this principle to be necessary and self-evident. As the principle is formulated by Ockham or Hume, it is subject to two interpretations. One, a broad one, I shall endorse in a moment. The other—and this is what both Ockham and Hume (E 64) most likely meant—is just the principle as stated without ambiguity by Aristotle. I think we should be wary of Aristotle’s principle. Hereafter, I shall refer to it as the narrow mode of causality. Although it obtains throughout vast regions of our experience, throughout much of existence, it evidently does not obtain for physical processes in quantum regimes nor in classical chaotic regimes. I suggest we reformulate the principle more broadly, thus: “Identical existents, in given circumstances, will always produce results not wholly identical to results produced by different existents in those same circumstances.” Application of the law of identity to action or becoming would seem to require only this much (contrary to Peikoff 1991, 14–15).[20]

It is not always the case that identical things placed in the same circumstances yield a single (repeated) result. Some existents yield single distinctive results; others yield distributions of distinctive results. Only if one allows for the latter possibility in one’s construction of the principle that “same causes yield same effects” is it universally true. Within the realm of classical mechanics, which covers billiards, Hume is correct in saying that same causes yield same (single) effects.

. . .

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This essay of 1991 had no notes. I will now add a few endnotes to indicate changes or emendations to the positions I took in this essay nineteen years ago. I will also add some hyperlinks within the text.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Notes

20. There were two errors in this paragraph. Firstly, unlike quantum regimes, classical chaotic regimes hold no exceptions to Aristotle’s principle (a, b). Secondly, my broader formula intended to be the minimum implied by the law of identity did not quite reach the minimum, which would be: “For some given circumstance or other, identical existents will produce results not wholly identical to results produced by different existents in those same circumstances.”* As is seen in the link, that picayune revision to the broad formula is occasioned by a consideration that applies to all physical regimes, including the classical regular regime.

The gravamen of the broad formula was captured perfectly well in my 1991 statement: “Identical existents, in given circumstances, will always produce results not wholly identical to results produced by different existents in those same circumstances.” In contrast Leonard Peikoff had maintained earlier that year that Rand’s law of identity entails the following: “In any given set of circumstances, there is only one action possible to an entity, the action expressive of its identity” (1991, 14). Dr. Peikoff’s formula can be read as not in contradiction with mine if his phrase only one action possible is taken to mean only one kind and range of action possible. But that is not the plain reading of his text. In his 1976 lectures The Philosophy of Objectivism (Lecture 2), also, he had maintained that Rand’s law of identity applied to action entailed that only a single action was physically possible to a thing in a given circumstance. Rand gave notice that those lectures were an accurate representation of her views, so I expect she shared the erroneous view expressed by Peikoff concerning uniquely determined outcome. (That there is a unique outcome in all cases is not in dispute; the issue is whether in all cases only that unique outcome was physically possible; see my 1997 reply to Rafael Eilon, 159–62.)

So I expect Rand meant “uniquely determined” in her 1973 formula for the law of physical causality: “All the countless forms, motions, combinations, and dissolutions of elements within the universe—from a floating speck of dust to the formation of a galaxy to the emergence of life—are caused and determined by the identities of the elements involved” (MvMM, 25). In any case, the error is easily corrected without major revision to her metaphysics or to its counters to Hume’s account of causation.

 

Aside on QM and Rand 1957

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Stephen,

How did you get the quote from your December 25, 2010, post to appear in the above post?

I was going to make a comment about "the erroneous view expressed by Peikoff concerning uniquely determined outcome" ruling out volitional action (despite Peikoff's fudge trying to get volitional action in), but when I reply to your post, the software deletes the material you included in quote boxes, and if I try the method I figured out on another thread (the "Donald Trump" thread) for retaining nesting of quotes, that method doesn't work if I'm trying to import material from a different thread than the one I'm posting on.

Ellen

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On December 25, 2010 at 2:53 PM, Guyau said:

We might want to qualify and refine the general principle to which Hume appeals, the principle that “like objects, placed in like circumstances, will always produce like effects,” but it is at any rate clear that Hume is here squirming out of his official position that knowledge of fact is simply a matter of custom or habit. Also in the Treatise, when writing on our knowledge of the continued and independent existence of bodies (T I.4.2) and when writing on our understanding of why things, e.g., clocks, may sometimes behave one way and sometimes another (T I.3.7), Hume senses the inadequacies of his habituation account of inductive inference and tries to make accommodations. In his later work, the Enquiries, he deals with these complications either by not bringing them up or by offering only meager “hints “ of their solution (E 47).

Hume’s commonsense principle that same causes yield same effects was endorsed also by Aristotle: “It is a law of nature that the same cause, provided it remain in the same condition, always produces the same effect” (GC 336a27-28). Ockham endorsed the principle in a form close to Hume’s: “Causes of the same kinds are effective of effects of the same kinds” (Weinberg 1965, 142). Ockham took this principle to be necessary and self-evident. As the principle is formulated by Ockham or Hume, it is subject to two interpretations. One, a broad one, I shall endorse in a moment. The other—and this is what both Ockham and Hume (E 64) most likely meant—is just the principle as stated without ambiguity by Aristotle. I think we should be wary of Aristotle’s principle. Hereafter, I shall refer to it as the narrow mode of causality. Although it obtains throughout vast regions of our experience, throughout much of existence, it evidently does not obtain for physical processes in quantum regimes nor in classical chaotic regimes. I suggest we reformulate the principle more broadly, thus: “Identical existents, in given circumstances, will always produce results not wholly identical to results produced by different existents in those same circumstances.” Application of the law of identity to action or becoming would seem to require only this much (contrary to Peikoff 1991, 14–15).[20]

It is not always the case that identical things placed in the same circumstances yield a single (repeated) result. Some existents yield single distinctive results; others yield distributions of distinctive results. Only if one allows for the latter possibility in one’s construction of the principle that “same causes yield same effects” is it universally true. Within the realm of classical mechanics, which covers billiards, Hume is correct in saying that same causes yield same (single) effects.

. . .

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This essay of 1991 had no notes. I will now add a few endnotes to indicate changes or emendations to the positions I took in this essay nineteen years ago. I will also add some hyperlinks within the text.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Notes

20. There were two errors in this paragraph. Firstly, unlike quantum regimes, classical chaotic regimes hold no exceptions to Aristotle’s principle (a, b). Secondly, my broader formula intended to be the minimum implied by the law of identity did not quite reach the minimum, which would be: “For some given circumstance or other, identical existents will produce results not wholly identical to results produced by different existents in those same circumstances.”* As is seen in the link, that picayune revision to the broad formula is occasioned by a consideration that applies to all physical regimes, including the classical regular regime.

The gravamen of the broad formula was captured perfectly well in my 1991 statement: “Identical existents, in given circumstances, will always produce results not wholly identical to results produced by different existents in those same circumstances.” In contrast Leonard Peikoff had maintained earlier that year that Rand’s law of identity entails the following: “In any given set of circumstances, there is only one action possible to an entity, the action expressive of its identity” (1991, 14). Dr. Peikoff’s formula can be read as not in contradiction with mine if his phrase only one action possible is taken to mean only one kind and range of action possible. But that is not the plain reading of his text. In his 1976 lectures The Philosophy of Objectivism (Lecture 2), also, he had maintained that Rand’s law of identity applied to action entailed that only a single action was physically possible to a thing in a given circumstance. Rand gave notice that those lectures were an accurate representation of her views, so I expect she shared the erroneous view expressed by Peikoff concerning uniquely determined outcome. (That there is a unique outcome in all cases is not in dispute; the issue is whether in all cases only that unique outcome was physically possible; see my 1997 reply to Rafael Eilon, 159–62.)

So I expect Rand meant “uniquely determined” in her 1973 formula for the law of physical causality: “All the countless forms, motions, combinations, and dissolutions of elements within the universe—from a floating speck of dust to the formation of a galaxy to the emergence of life—are caused and determined by the identities of the elements involved” (MvMM, 25). In any case, the error is easily corrected without major revision to her metaphysics or to its counters to Hume’s account of causation.

 

I had just used the multi-quote function (the +) at the post over at the "Induction on Identity" thread, and as you see in this post, I was able to quote the upstream post with this quotation in it. So I don't know why its not working for you. The quote from Prof. Rheins I had in the upstream post in this thread was just from me delivering the text to the post and then applying the block-quote function to it. When I quoted the full upstream post for this test one, the text in my Rheins quote was also not eliminated; I simply have deleted that portion here. There was something weird, however, when I quoted the upstream post to this one, in that some of my text outside the quotes showed up twice in this one, and one appearance was put into a block quotation. 

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On December 25, 2010 at 2:53 PM, Guyau said:

—Hume – Reasoning to Cause or Effect

[....]

The gravamen of the broad formula was captured perfectly well in my 1991 statement: “Identical existents, in given circumstances, will always produce results not wholly identical to results produced by different existents in those same circumstances.” In contrast Leonard Peikoff had maintained earlier that year that Rand’s law of identity entails the following: “In any given set of circumstances, there is only one action possible to an entity, the action expressive of its identity” (1991, 14). Dr. Peikoff’s formula can be read as not in contradiction with mine if his phrase only one action possible is taken to mean only one kind and range of action possible. But that is not the plain reading of his text. In his 1976 lectures The Philosophy of Objectivism (Lecture 2), also, he had maintained that Rand’s law of identity applied to action entailed that only a single action was physically possible to a thing in a given circumstance. Rand gave notice that those lectures were an accurate representation of her views, so I expect she shared the erroneous view expressed by Peikoff concerning uniquely determined outcome. (That there is a unique outcome in all cases is not in dispute; the issue is whether in all cases only that unique outcome was physically possible; see my 1997 reply to Rafael Eilon, 159–62.)

So I expect Rand meant “uniquely determined” in her 1973 formula for the law of physical causality: “All the countless forms, motions, combinations, and dissolutions of elements within the universe—from a floating speck of dust to the formation of a galaxy to the emergence of life—are caused and determined by the identities of the elements involved” (MvMM, 25). In any case, the error is easily corrected without major revision to her metaphysics or to its counters to Hume’s account of causation. [....]

 

10 minutes ago, Ellen Stuttle said:

Testing:

 

 

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2 hours ago, Guyau said:

I had just used the multi-quote function (the +) at the post over at the "Induction on Identity" thread, and as you see in this post, I was able to quote the upstream post with this quotation in it. So I don't know why its not working for you. [....]

Thanks for the tip about using multi-quote first.

Still glitches, but I made some progress in the above two attempts.  Via a cumbersome procedure, however.

And I don't know why the code for an embedded link isn't working.  I checked carefully to be sure I'd written it right.

SIGH!  

I am finding the new software an ordeal, whereas the old was so easy and flexible to use.

Ellen

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Jason Rheins gets it right again in his chapter in A Companion to Ayn Rand (CAR). First, the issue:

A poster at Objectivism Online recently posed the question of whether, with Rand’s metaphysics, causes are restricted to entities or might relations and attributes also be causes, even though relations and attributes always belong to entities.* I expressed my view on the truth of the matter (and I think it is consistent with Rand’s metaphysics):

Quote

. . . Examples would be the angular momentum of a body, the intrinsic spin or the charge of an elementary particle, the inertial or gravitational mass of a body, or the intensity of a field.

It is a specific property of an entity that is the seat of its causal power, it seems to me. So while one could stress, with Aristotle and Rand, that there can be no properties or relationships without entities (or substances) possessing them, and in that sense an entity is a bearer of causal power, it is also the case that no entity has causal power except through specific properties it possesses.

We think of the gravitational field as being caused by gravitational mass (or by the energy in a field . . .), which is a property of a body. It seems an overstatement to me to say that only entities can be causes. . . .

Looking more closely at Newton’s law of gravitation, we should notice that what gives rise to an orbit being elliptical is the fact that the central force exerted has strength inversely proportional to the square of the distance separating the source body and the orbiting body. Newton proved that if the strength of the central force varied inversely with the distance of separation by some function other than squaring, a specific nonelliptical orbit would result. So we have the illumination that the form of separation-dependence of the strength of the central force is what causes the general form of orbits around the central-force body. And separation is a relation.

The issue has been discussed also here at Objectivist Living.

Prof. Rheins concludes that “Rand’s account of causality is not limited to entities (in the narrow, primary sense), even though it centers on them. In many contexts, existents that fall into other ontological categories can and should also be considered causes” (256). What is new in this representation of that as Rand’s view is supporting text of Rand’s he adduces: “while they run hog-wild proclaiming that . . . machinery, the effect, creates intelligence, the cause, that your sexual desires, the effect, create your philosophical values, the cause” (AS 1038)

 

 

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On 3/5/2016 at 6:25 PM, Ellen Stuttle said:

 

 

Peikoff would have failed  Quantum Theory 101.  Read  "Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum"  by Leonard Suskind   Chapter 1. 

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(Sorry about the mixed font. Glitches in the new OL program.)

A Companion to Ayn Rand (CAR) is a companion to the study of her philosophy. It presents her philosophy, backed with citations to her texts. Leonard Peikoff’s OPAR does that also, so what is the difference with CAR? The latter has about twenty times the number of words as the former. OPAR conveys more of the spirit of Rand’s writing by its own style than does CAR (B. Branden raises an eyebrow), which is in the standard, precise, vapid scholarly style, which is to say, only quotations from Rand show her spirit in CAR.

CAR brings Rand’s thought on an issue into full context, with citations, of whatever she wrote anywhere. That is helpful. This Blackwell Companion to Philosophy differs from its volume on Aristotle not only because of the scale of Aristotle’s technical achievements, historical influence, and long line of commentators, but because Aristotle is often hard to interpret, and one needs help with that, which the Companions (Blackwell and Cambridge) provide. Rand’s meaning is most always clear. We her readers live in her own cultural setting(s), and we need little help in understanding her. Interpreting Rand is not nearly the scale of problem we have in interpreting Aristotle.

CAR is unlike the volume on Aristotle in that CAR is an apology for its subject. CAR is a defense of Rand, not only a presentation and companion. It takes up or tries to preempt a lot of the serious criticisms that have been made of Rand’s thought. As with its settings of Rand in relation to other philosophers, the apologetics of CAR aid in clarifications of Rand’s Objectivism. Of course, one has to reflect on how true to Rand’s texts is the apology. That is to say, the wise student will read Rand, not only CAR. That goes for any Companion. I should mention that CAR is like other Companions in that overwhelmingly it is just one “In Rand’s view . . .” after another, with her expressed reasons for the view, and the author makes no assessment of the view or reasons.

Part of the joint effort in CAR of putting the best intellectual face on Rand’s texts goes too far in what it does not say. After claiming (unfortunately without documentation) that Rand read a good deal of Kant, James Lennox says that “for the broad sweep of philosophy’s history she relied on classic presentations, such as B. A. G. Fuller’s A History of Philosophy: Ancient, Medieval and Modern.” Prof. Lennox neglects to mention that if Rand read Fuller’s fine representation of Kant’s philosophy, she spat out that representation and contrived her own.

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If it hasn't been posted already, here is a link to a nice two-part interview with Greg Salmieri about Rand, the Movement, and CAR: http://theundercurrent.org/reflections-on-ayn-rand-and-campus-culture-an-interview-with-greg-salmieri-part-one/

This excerpt is especially important in seeing the aim of CAR. I and others have groused about how expensive the book is, but it's intended as a *reference* book, a guide for university students and (?) professors. I have a relatively inexpensive Kindle version, which is all I really need, but textbooks and reference books are deadly to a student's (or retired person's) budget!

TU: In the context of what you’ve said about the importance of explicit philosophy, and of Rand’s view of the importance of intellectuals like academic professors, what role do you hope the Companion will play in the academy and more broadly?

Dr. Salmieri: I’ve indicated why I think Rand’s ideas are so needed. It’s a good sign that people—whether they agree with her or not—are beginning to sense her importance. But most of what is written about her, positive or negative, is superficial. It’s an initial, sense-of-life response to her novels or her reputation that hasn’t been followed up by a serious exploration of her ideas. The Companion is a resource for those who want to go beyond their initial reactions and grapple with her philosophy.

I should mention that since the book is part of a reference series, it’s priced for university libraries, so I worry that many of the students who would like to read it won’t be able to afford it. For anyone in that position, I encourage you to check it out from your library. If they don’t have it, you can probably get it through interlibrary loan. And, of course, you can ask the librarian to order it. I’d certainly appreciate that, and there may be other students at your college who would appreciate it as well.

Thanks to Stephen and Merlin for their perspectives on CAR, as well.

REB

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On February 27, 2016 at 3:19 AM, Roger Bissell said:

One thing that surprises me is that - considering how much work he has done in epistemology, including his recent book How We Know - Harry Binswanger's contribution to A Companion to Ayn Rand is the chapter on Rand's aesthetics

Roger,

I can think of two explanations for these assignments.

1. Dr. Binswanger was told that for this volume he would have to cite at least one author he has been refusing to cite.  If he took the chapter on epistemology, he would have to cite David Kelley.  If he took the chapter on aesthetics, he'd have to cite Lou Torres and Michelle Kamhi.  

He picked his poison, and went with the latter.

2. Gregory Salmieri wanted to do the chapter on epistemology, and claimed it.  

Harry Binswanger took what he could get.

The second hypothesis is more economical.

Robert Campbell

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On February 27, 2016 at 3:19 AM, Roger Bissell said:

IMO, Milgram does not give proper credit to Chris Sciabarra for his unrelenting efforts to uncover the details of Rand's college studies, including her transcript, in the face of unnecessary and unethical obstacles thrown up in his path by various parties connected with ARI and the Ayn Rand Archives.

Roger,

To be completely fair to Shoshana Milgram, her biographical outline isn't always much more than that.

She mentions names of Rand's professors in Leningrad only in a footnote (the same one in which she objects to Chris Sciabarra's most recent article on that subject).

However, it is kind of convenient not to have to mention either Lossky or Vvedensky in her main text.

There is no way anyone whose access to Rand's oral history recordings depends on remaining in good odor with Leonard Peikoff is going to mention either what Chris Sciabarra was able to find, or ARI's efforts to obstruct his investigation.

Robert Campbell

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The acknowledgments to Salmieri's Chapter 12, on epistemology, say he had been working on it for years—and credit Harry Binswanger for commenting on it.

Hypothesis 2, then.

Robert Campbell

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7 hours ago, Robert Campbell said:

Roger,

To be completely fair to Shoshana Milgram, her biographical outline isn't always much more than that.

She mentions names of Rand's professors in Leningrad only in a footnote (the same one in which she objects to Chris Sciabarra's most recent article on that subject).

However, it is kind of convenient not to have to mention either Lossky or Vvedensky in her main text.

There is no way anyone whose access to Rand's oral history recordings depends on remaining in good odor with Leonard Peikoff is going to mention either what Chris Sciabarra was able to find, or ARI's efforts to obstruct his investigation.

Robert Campbell

Good odor, or not - just the mere (multiple) reference to The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies as well as Chris Sciabarra's Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical will lead a motivated, competent scholar to discover the pieces Chris wrote about Rand's college studies. Instead of a total shut-out, many, many juicy, non-orthodox sources are now just "two degrees of separation" away from orthodox Objectivism's official mega-reference. Perhaps that's the best we can reasonably hope for...

REB

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5 hours ago, Robert Campbell said:

The acknowledgments to Salmieri's Chapter 12, on epistemology, say he had been working on it for years—and credit Harry Binswanger for commenting on it.

Hypothesis 2, then.

Robert Campbell

There was a tidbit or two in Binswanger's chapter that I was glad or surprised to see.

1. He mentions the question over whether/how architecture re-creates reality. Back in 1980-81, when he was preparing the Ayn Rand Lexicon, he showed the "A" entries to Rand and asked her about the clear conflict between her characterization of architecture as not re-creating reality and her categorizing architecture as art, which she defined as involving a re-creation of reality. She apparently blinked and told him to leave out the entry on "architecture." (Though he included mention of it in the entry on "visual art." Go figure.) Now, however, Binswanger concedes that architecture does involve creation of a "world," which is in line with Peikoff's explication of "re-creation of reality" as being in the form of a microcosm (world in miniature). After struggling for over 40 years to get this point across, I'm glad to see that it is (one way or another) being firmly recognized by orthodox Objectivism.

2. He mentions an unpublished lecture, "The Esthetics of Literature," in which Rand laid out criteria of evaluation of artworks. (No doubt, this is one of who knows how many gems that are kept behind closed doors in the Ayn Rand Archives and dribbled out when convenient by the privileged insiders like Milgram or Binswanger. Attempts to find extant copies of this lecture, delivered by Rand as part of Nathaniel Branden's original Basic Principles of Objectivism series have been unsuccessful. One person who worked briefly at NBI during the period surrounding the big Split in 1968 says he saw large numbers of taped lectures being discarded, and didn't realize what they were until too late to save more than a few of them.) This is the goodie that I had not seen previously in print (or heard in a lecture):

[Salmieri] The first is the requirement that the artist obey the nature of the medium in which he works:

[Rand]...the first and foremost esthetic criterion is that a work of art must not violate its appropriate medium – that is, must not depart from it or step outside its limits. This is a precondition of classifying a work as a work of art.

The examples she gives are from literature and visual arts: 

A writer must achieve all his effects by means of language, a painter by means of color, etc. A writer may not, for instance, describe a character’s appearance by writing: “She looked like this – “ and then drawing a picture on the page…A painter may not do a landscape and write across its blank upper part: “Here there is a sunset.”

Even here, there are problems. For instance, does this mean that a painting with a caption underneath is "a violation of its appropriate medium"? Or a short story or novel with illustrations - is it similarly such a "violation"?

The problems only compound with abstract art and music. If captions are out, then what about program notes for a musical concert? Isn't this a similar intrusion? Similarly for abstract art, where someone's "explanation" of the artwork is offered to people viewing the artwork in a gallery? (Whether by the composer/artists or someone else.)

Probably a good deal of this "lost" lecture was incorporated into later essays, such as "Art and Sense of Life." But still, it is something that, along with the full text of "The Esthetic Vacuum of Our Age," would have been wonderful to have been included in The Romantic Manifesto - perhaps in an "expanded" version, as was done with Rand's epistemology book when the workshop transcripts were (in severely butchered form) later included.

REB

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One wonders whether Leonard Peikoff's first course on Objectivist epistemology is preserved in the Archives...  And, if it is, whether they'll admit to holding it.

Greg Salmieri actually complains (Bibliography Item 51, pp. 468-469) about the provenance of some of the lectures in The Vision of Ayn Rand being unclear.  For him, any such issues are Nathaniel Branden's fault.  People who refused to return tapes of Branden's own lectures to him get a free pass.

Robert Campbell

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