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Saturday, December 10, 2016

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Bill,

I think you're certainly correct that *as a historian of philosophy* Rand was a terrible hack, nearly as bad as...well, virtually all analytic philosophers who attempt to write about the first cause argument, for example. (See--as I imagine you already have--Ed Feser's piece on Fr. Clarke's piece on this. http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2014/07/clarke-on-stock-caricature-of-first.html ) Rand's concern tended to be with establishing her own views, and not with trying to criticize in a fair or fine-grained way the views of others. So she was more than cavalier. I find it very annoying, but I don't know how much I think it really detracts from her work as a whole.

Now, I know you've written pieces before pointing out her mistakes, conflations, confusions and so forth in arguing for her *own* positions. And I agree. She makes mistakes not merely in her claims about the great philosophers, but in pretty much everything she writes. I once published an article arguing that her own philosophical principles--contrary to the belief of Rand herself and of every other Objectivist I know of--do not conflict with theism. (Obviously, they don't support it, either, but they don't rule it out, as she thought they did.)

But I hesitate to apply the "hack" label to her as a philosopher. At least, usually I do. She's usually interesting, sometimes challenging, occasionally fun; and while she's regularly wrong, she's often wrong in a way that can be pedagogically useful. And she, unlike many of us in the profession of philosophy, compellingly makes the case that philosophy is really important.

Yikes, the ComBox was not supposed to be open on this post. But I am happy to have your observations, Patrick.

Having tangled with Randians in the past, they are an extremely unpleasant and populous bunch of adolescents of all ages. There are of course exceptions, and as you know, there are some professional philosophers who take her seriously.

In most cases, analytic philosophers do not know the history of philosophy but I think 'virtually all' goes too far. But Rand may be uniquely bad, blending ignorance with her tabloid, absurdly polemical style.

I agree with your final paragraph.

I just noticed on the first page of my copy of *Philosophy: Who Needs It,* this observation by me, "There are insights here amid all the ranting and raving."

One thing I'll say for her: she has readers. She reaches people. After the Golden Age of American Philosophy -- I am thinking of Wm James but not just him -- few if any American academic philosophers reached the wide reading public.

Perhaps we could say that Rand is at the opposite extreme to the over-specialized, hyper-professionalized technicians of academic philosophy.

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