Thursday, May 9, 2019

Is Ayn Rand a Platonic or Aristotelian Thinker?

Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand has founded a school of philosophy called objectivism, but she has not written a single philosophical treatise on any area of philosophy. As far as I know, objectivism is the only school of philosophy in the last 400 years whose founder was primarily a fiction writer.

Much of what goes under the banner of objectivism is an interpretation by scholars who are Rand’s followers of what she has said in her fiction novels, short articles, and lectures and interviews. But it is possible that other scholars, who are not Rand’s followers, may examine the same writings by Rand and come up with a different interpretation of her philosophy.

Prof. Roderick T. Long has his own way of looking at Rand’s philosophical thought. In his interesting monograph Reason and Value: Aristotle versus Rand, he questions the objectivist claim that Rand was an Aristotelian thinker. In the beginning of the monograph, Long says:
Rand’s Objectivist philosophy proclaims itself a version of Aristotelianism. It is also a philosophy that places a premium on rationality. So my question here is: How far does the Objectivist account of rationality succeed in capturing the crucial insights of the Aristotelian approach? My answer, to give the game away, is that Rand unfortunately adopts a Platonic rather than an Aristotelian conception of theoretical rationality; that this in turn leads her to adopt a Humean rather than an Aristotelian conception of practical rationality; and that this leads her to adopt a Hobbesian rather than an Aristotelian conception of the relation between self-interest and morality— all of which tends to undermine her basically Aristotelian inclinations and sentiments. Hence, I would maintain, Rand’s admirers may still have something important to learn from their teacher’s first teacher. 
Long makes the case that Rand’s philosophical writings contain not only Platonic elements but also the elements of Humean, Hobbesian, and Kantian thought.

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