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Bibliography of work on Objectivism

Ayn Rand and Objectivism have become the subjects of an extensive body of literature, both in favor of Objectivist ideals, and critical. There follows a general bibliography of major works dealing with Rand's ideology of Objectivism.

Works by Ayn Rand

Fiction and drama

Non-fiction

Works by other Objectivist writers

Critiques published during Rand's lifetime

Few published critiques of Objectivism appeared during Rand's lifetime. John Hospers, later a Libertarian Party presidential candidate in the United States of America, devoted some positive critical attention to Rand's ethic of rational egoism in his Human Conduct: An Introduction to the Problems of Ethics (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc. 1961). But his discussion occupied only a few pages, and not many other philosophers offered any response to Rand either positively or negatively.

The major pre-1982 critiques included (alphabetically by author):

  • Childs, Roy. "Objectivism and the State: An Open Letter to Ayn Rand". In this short open letter, Roy Childs portrays Objectivism as fundamentally contradictory because initiation of force, which Objectivism prohibits, must exist to maintain the monopolistic form of government that Objectivism mandates.
  • Ellis, Albert. Is Objectivism a Religion? (New York: Lyle Stuart, Inc., 1968). Ellis answers his titular question with a "yes". In effect he regards Objectivism as a sort of Puritanism without God: a "dogmatic, fanatical, absolutist, anti-empirical, people-condemning creed".
  • O'Neill, William. With Charity Toward None: An Analysis of Ayn Rand's Philosophy (Totowa: Littlefield, Adams & Company, 1971). This work provides an academic discussion of Objectivism and its shortcomings according to the author's own outlook, which seems to represent a sort of analytic pragmatism.
  • Robbins, John. Answer to Ayn Rand: A Critique of the Philosophy of Objectivism (Washington: Mount Vernon, 1974). Robbins, a Calvinist Christian (a phrase he would regard as redundant) follows in the philosophical footsteps of theologian Gordon Haddon Clark. A revised and much expanded version of this work appeared in 1997 under the title Without A Prayer: Ayn Rand and the Close of Her System: see the discussion of that work below.

Other works, both pro and con, published after Rand's death

The secondary literature on Rand and Objectivism underwent a veritable explosion after Rand's death in 1982. First, and perhaps most obviously, we have the two biographical accounts by Nathaniel and Barbara Branden:

  • Branden, Barbara (1986). The Passion of Ayn Rand. New York: Doubleday.
  • : Ms. Branden's biography of Rand burst onto the Objectivist scene in 1986 to both accolades and denunciations. In it she revealed a great deal of hitherto unknown biographical trivia about Rand (including her birth name, which Branden gives as "Alice Rosenbaum") and presented her as a great but deeply flawed human being. When first published, the biography arguably had the primary appeal of presenting the Brandens' side of their famous excommunication from the Objectivist movement — following Nathaniel Branden's affair with Rand and her anger when he wanted to break it off.
  • Branden, Nathaniel (1989). Judgment Day: My Years with Ayn Rand. Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin.
  • Branden, Nathaniel (1999). My Years with Ayn Rand. Hoboken: Jossey-Bass.
  • : The second edition constitutes a revision of the first edition. Unlike his ex-wife's account, Branden's biography focuses more on his own role in the history of Objectivism and retells many of the same events from his own point of view. It includes a full account of the reported affair between Branden and Rand.

After Rand's death, critical discussions of Objectivism appeared rapidly. Douglas Den Uyl and Douglas Rasmussen published the first major collection of such critiques in 1984, and other critiques have followed. They include the following (alphabetically by author):

  • Den Uyl, Douglas, and Douglas Rasmussen, eds. The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1984). This volume, a collection of critical essays, deserves note as the first single volume of strictly philosophical criticism of Objectivism since O'Neill's With Charity Toward None.
  • Gladstein, Mimi Reisel, and Chris Matthew Sciabarra, eds. Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania University Press, 1999). This volume includes a wide-ranging collection of writings on Rand's relationship to feminism. Since Rand regarded herself as an opponent of feminism and indeed regarded "man-worship" ("man" decidedly meaning "male") as the very essence of femininity, one might expect that feminists would regard Rand as an enemy. Some, unsurprisingly, do; Susan Brownmiller, in comments reproduced here (pp. 63-65), famously characterized Rand as a "traitor to her own sex". Others have more nuanced views. At any rate, this volume attempts to accord Rand some academic and scholarly consideration even while subjecting her to critical analysis.
  • Huemer, Michael "Is Benevolent Egoism Coherent?" Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 3 (2002): 259-88. Portrays ethical egoism as implausible and as incompatible with Rand's conception of rights. Suggests that Rand may not have been an ethical egoist.
  • Long, Roderick T. Reason and Value: Rand versus Aristotle (Poughkeepsie: The Objectivist Center, 2000). Long, a professor of philosophy at Auburn University, maintains that Rand was not as Aristotelian as she thought she was and that Objectivism shares certain features with the philosophies of Hume and Hobbes. The book also includes replies from Aristotle scholar Fred D. Miller, Jr., and Objectivist Eyal Mozes, and a counter-reply from Long.
  • Nyquist, Greg S. Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature (San Jose: Writers Club Press, 2001). Nyquist apparently takes Machiavelli, Santayana, and Lovejoy as his philosophical guides. His critique of Objectivism argues that Rand was a poor philosopher who did not subject her principles to empirical verification, and that when they are thus subjected, they are found wanting.
  • Plasil, Ellen. Therapist (New York: St. Martin's/Marek, 1985). Plasil had affiliations with the Objectivist movement and came under the influence of "Objectivist psychotherapist" Lonnie Leonard. This autobiographical work details her relationship with Leonard and, whether rightly or wrongly, attributes at least some of the blame for his behavior to the principles of Objectivism itself.
  • Raimondo, Justin. Reclaiming the American Right (Burlingame: Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993), and An Enemy of the State (Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2000). Each of these two works includes a section critiquing Rand and Objectivism. In Reclaiming the American Right, Raimondo uncovers what he sees as the actual sources for Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged — notably Garet Garrett's 1922 novel The Driver, which features a businessman-hero named Henry Galt. In An Enemy of the State, Raimondo provides an account of economist Murray Rothbard's period of affiliation with the Objectivist movement and defends Rothbard against the charge that he plagiarized Barbara Branden's master's dissertation for a paper of his own.
  • Robbins, John W. Without a Prayer: Ayn Rand and the Close of Her System (Trinity Foundation, 1997). This work presents a heavily revised and expanded version of Answer to Ayn Rand from Robbins, a Calvinist Christian and a follower of Gordon Haddon Clark. His criticism may be confusing on several points to those who are not familiar with Clark's presuppositionalist/scripturalist philosophy. (Robbins claims, for example, that Objectivism and Christianity have no propositions in common. What he means by this is essentially that there is just one consistent system of propositions - namely, the system consisting of the propositions expressed in the Christian Bible together with those that can be deductively derived therefrom - and that Objectivism would not share any of these propositions if it were consistent.)
  • Ryan, Scott. Objectivism and the Corruption of Rationality: A Critique of Ayn Rand's Epistemology (San Jose: Writers Club Press, 2003). Ryan argues that Rand relied implicitly on a foundation of rationalistic objective idealism to create an explicit philosophy at odds with such idealism, and that in doing so she had the primary motivation of a desire to cleanse philosophy of anything smacking of religion/theism. Ryan claims that Rand's explicit philosophy contravenes its implicit presumptions at numerous points. He also criticizes Rand for what he takes to be her various philosophical shortcomings - e.g. her alleged misunderstanding of the problem of universals; her alleged failure to differentiate between sensation and sensory perception; her alleged failure to distinguish between the claim that sensory perception is reliable and the claim that sensory perception is our sole means of acquiring knowledge; her effective reduction of necessity to tautology. Though his primary focus is on epistemology, Ryan also devotes two chapters to criticism of the Objectivist ethics.
  • Sciabarra, Chris Matthew. Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995). Sciabarra contends that Rand became exposed to idealist philosophy in her youth, especially in her college days, notably through philosopher N.O. Lossky. He argues that she disliked dualities and that Objectivism is a "dialectical" philosophy intended to overcome such dualities. The book's main virtue, according to its defenders, is that it is a very scholarly effort that treats Rand with utmost seriousness as a philosophically important thinker and places her intelligibly within the history of philosophy; its main vice, according to its detractors, is that it makes Rand academically respectable by assimilating her to a philosophical tradition to which she does not belong. (Sciabarra also publishes the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies and in its first issue presents evidence relevant to his claims about Lossky: the details of Rand's college transcript.)
  • Smith, George H. Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies (Amherst: Prometheus, 1991) and Why Atheism? (Amherst: Prometheus, 2000). The first of these works includes several chapters on Rand and Objectivism, including critiques of quasi-religious Objectivism and comparisons of Rand's thought with (for example) that of Herbert Spencer. The second includes a chapter elaborating and critiquing the Objectivist theory of truth and knowledge. Here Smith reaches a conclusion to which Ryan (above) also comes independently: that whereas philosophers ordinarily understand knowledge to be "justified true belief," Rand's "contextualism" in effect redefines knowledge as justified belief and drops the requirement that it be true.
  • Walker, Jeff. The Ayn Rand Cult (La Salle: Open Court Publishing, 1999). Walker claims that Objectivism is a cult.
  • Yang, Michael B. Reconsidering Ayn Rand (Enumclaw: WinePress Publishing, 2000). Yang, a Christian and former Objectivist, owes a heavy debt to Robbins's work. His book can be read on its own or as a supplement to Robbins.

List of authors

Academics who have written on Objectivism in academic journals include:

  1. Wayne Davis (Chair of the Philosophy Department, Georgetown University)
  2. Douglas Den Uyl (Bellarmine College, Louisville, Kentucky; Liberty Fund, Indianapolis)
  3. Randall Dipert (C.S. Peirce Professor of American Philosophy, SUNY Buffalo)
  4. Lisa Dolling (head of the honors program in theology at St. John's University in New York)
  5. Allan Gotthelf (Professor Emeritus of The College of New Jersey; Secretary of the Ayn Rand Society, an official group of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association)
  6. Stephen R. C. Hicks (Rockford College, Illinois)
  7. Michael Huemer (Philosophy Department, University of Colorado, Boulder)
  8. Gary Hull (Business School, Duke University)
  9. Lester Hunt (University of Wisconsin, Madison)
  10. Jonathan Jacobs (Colgate University)
  11. J. G. Lennox (History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh)
  12. Roderick Long (Auburn University)
  13. Tibor Machan (Chapman University; Emeritus of Auburn University; The Hoover Institution)
  14. Stephen Parrish (Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan)
  15. Douglas Rasmussen (St. John's University, New York)
  16. Eric Mack (Tulane University)
  17. Fred Seddon (adjunct professor at Duquesne University)
  18. Aeon Skoble (Bridgewater State College, Massachusetts)
  19. Tara Smith (University of Texas at Austin)
  20. Slavoj Zizek (The European Graduate School)

Critiques available online

General

Ethics and rights

Political theory (minarchism vs. anarchism)

Scholarship

Other

By Michael Huemer:

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