Many articles have been written about what’s wrong with Ayn Rand’s philosophy. But, to my knowledge, none of them presents her ideas accurately. So I thought it would be helpful to write one that does.
Here’s what’s wrong with Rand’s ideas:
Rand held that “existence exists,” that reality is real, that there is a world out there, and that we are conscious of it. She held that everything in existence is something specific; everything has a nature; a thing is what it is. (A snake is a snake. A woman is a woman. A pillar of salt is a pillar of salt.) She held that a thing can act only in accordance with its nature. (A snake can slither; it cannot speak. A woman can speak; she can’t become a pillar of salt.) And Rand held that there is only one reality: the one we perceive, the one we experience, the one in which we live.1
Where to start with all of the problems in just that one paragraph? . . .
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1 See Ayn Rand, “This is John Galt Speaking,” in Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual (New York: Signet, 1961), esp. 124–52.
2 See “For the New Intellectual”; Ayn Rand, “This is John Galt Speaking,” in For the New Intellectual; and Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, 2nd ed., edited by Harry Binswanger and Leonard Peikoff (New York: Penguin, 1990).
3 Sam Harris, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason (New York: W. W. Norton, 2004), 41.
4 Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, translated by Norman Kemp Smith (New York: St. Martin’s, 1965), 82–85.
5 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 346.
6 Rand, “For the New Intellectual,” 32.
7 Ayn Rand, “What Is Capitalism?” in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (New York: Signet, 1967), 16.
8 See Rand, “This is John Galt Speaking,” 120–27.
9 See Rand, “This is John Galt Speaking,” 129; Leonard Peikoff, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (New York: Meridian, 1993), 267.
10 See Rand, “The Nature of the Second-Hander,” in For the New Intellectual, 68–71; see also Ayn Rand, Journals of Ayn Rand, edited by David Harriman (New York: Dutton, 1997), esp. 90–91, 293–294, 416.
11 See Ayn Rand, “The Objectivist Ethics,” in The Virtue of Selfishness (New York: Signet, 1964), esp. 21–28.
12 Ayn Rand, “Introducing Objectivism,” in The Voice of Reason (New York: Meridian, 1989), 4.
13 Rand, “Introducing Objectivism,” 4.
14 Ayn Rand, “Man’s Rights,” in Virtue of Selfishness, 108–10.
15 Rand, “Man’s Rights,” 110.
16 Ayn Rand, “What Is Capitalism?,” in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (New York: Signet, 1967), 19.