TheDancer

Should one read only Ayn Rand? Or have knowledge of other philosophers?

22 posts in this topic

Hello everybody,

This is my very first post on The Forum. For the last few months, I have been reading other people's posts, and haven't gotten up the nerve to post my own. So I'm going to give it a shot, now. =)

This may be a topic that has already been discussed. . .but, I have been told that I read too much Ayn Rand, by my friends. In the last 6 months, I've read Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, Anthem, and am now working on OPAR. I have to admit, I am enjoying reading about Objectivism so much, that I'm not reading up on any other philosophers. I have always been hungry for a philosophy based on reality and logic, and I feel like I've hit pay dirt with Ayn Rand.

So, I just wanted to ask everybody this: Do you all feel that reading from several different philosophers, in addition to Ayn Rand is a good thing? I ask, because I remember seeing somewhere that Ayn Rand stressed that a person should read from all philosophers, to be able to compare and contrast them, and then ultimately, come to the logical conclusion that she and Aristotle have a better grasp on fundamentals for living.

So. . .Do you all find yourselves only reading Ayn Rand books, knowing the other stuff is incorrect, or do you throw in some Kant or Dewey along the way for a balance? What are the positives and the negatives to each perspective?

I'm relatively new to Objectivism, having only read Ayn Rand regularly for the last 6 months. So any feedback on this would be very much appreciated!!

Shawn

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For what it's worth, my personal account:

When I read Atlas Shrugged for the first time, I just knew that I had stumbled onto something that was totally and without a doubt right. I never bothered reading any other philosophers, and I never will.

Studying Objectivism, and interacting with the smart Objectivists on this forum, transformed and saved my life basically; I would never waste a minute on anything else.

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So. . .Do you all find yourselves only reading Ayn Rand books, knowing the other stuff is incorrect, or do you throw in some Kant or Dewey along the way for a balance? What are the positives and the negatives to each perspective?

Welcome, Shawn. Speaking for myself, I read a diverse body of literature, not just philosophy. I love science and science fiction as well, and history, economics and a number of other non-fiction interests.

In regard to your question on reading other philosophers: you might as well ask, do I eat only food, knowing that poison is incorrect, or do I throw in a little arsenic for balance? :D

No, as it happens, I do read other philosophers, and have, at one time or another, read nearly all of them. But I don't do it for "balance," I do it to better understand the history of philosophy and how the great ideas have come about--and to know the arguments of my enemies thoroughly so that they can be gunned down properly and completely.

Well I remember the time in my life, when I was 19, when I sat where you are sitting now. It was such an incredible feeling, to have a completely new vista of ideas and knowledge suddenly open up before me that I had been completely unaware of prior to that point. All kinds of misconceptions, misunderstandings and "contradictions" that I had been suffering and experiencing were, over the following years, able to disintegrate and disappear out of my mind as I slowly but surely integrated and absorbed the consistency of a rational mode of thinking.

My greatest aid, in that venture, was actually Rand's "Introduction To Objectivist Epistemology," which, to this day, I regard as her most profound and fundamental work. It quite literally taught me how to think--and, if I could wave my magic wand, that book would be used as the base for teaching proper thinking to an entire generation of our youth and beyond.

I would highly recommend that you purchase it and read it. Get the copy that has the Q&A session with the philosophy professors as an afterward, as Rand's responses to their questions are nearly as illuminating as the text itself.

Once you have integrated rational principles of concept-formation into your consciousness, you will be in a much better position to evaluate the works and history of philosophy. You will be armed, so to speak, with the incredible capability of your own mind to engage in sane, thoughtful and rational discrimination regarding those works and that history.

And, if your upcoming adventure turns out to be anything like mine was, and is, you will have the time of your life!

Best Wishes,

Bradley

timeforeverymantostir@yahoo.com

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Hello everybody,

This is my very first post on The Forum. For the last few months, I have been reading other people's posts, and haven't gotten up the nerve to post my own. So I'm going to give it a shot, now. =)

This may be a topic that has already been discussed. . .but, I have been told that I read too much Ayn Rand, by my friends. In the last 6 months, I've read Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, Anthem, and am now working on OPAR. I have to admit, I am enjoying reading about Objectivism so much, that I'm not reading up on any other philosophers. I have always been hungry for a philosophy based on reality and logic, and I feel like I've hit pay dirt with Ayn Rand.

So, I just wanted to ask everybody this: Do you all feel that reading from several different philosophers, in addition to Ayn Rand is a good thing? I ask, because I remember seeing somewhere that Ayn Rand stressed that a person should read from all philosophers, to be able to compare and contrast them, and then ultimately, come to the logical conclusion that she and Aristotle have a better grasp on fundamentals for living.

So. . .Do you all find yourselves only reading Ayn Rand books, knowing the other stuff is incorrect, or do you throw in some Kant or Dewey along the way for a balance? What are the positives and the negatives to each perspective?

I'm relatively new to Objectivism, having only read Ayn Rand regularly for the last 6 months. So any feedback on this would be very much appreciated!!

Shawn

The answer completely depends upon your own purposes and intellectual values. If you want to know how to use reason and what a rational philosophy is, and how to think for yourself, then Objectivism is the place to develop your own values. If you want to understand wider issues in society, the historical context within which Objectivism develops its ideas, if you are interested in other philosophies, then by all means you'll need to study them. There are other philosophers who said interesting things and made quite interesting arguments. Not all other stuff is incorrect.

However, you shouldn't look at it from the point of view of balancing one idea with another. There is no need to balance rationality with irrationality, truth with falsehood. The perspective to look at it is from your own values, your hierarchy of values, and where your interests lie and how they develop over time. There is no injunction not to read a philosopher either. There is only one evil: the refusal to think, to focus your mind. After that, the world is open to you.

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I studied modern philosphy in college, the Rationalists, the Empiricists, and that jerk Kant (The Prolegomena, not the Critique, the first is sophistry, the second is both that and ultimately incomprehensible). I enjoyed the exercise. That was before I found Rand. I read the Communist Manifesto and some of Das Kapital in high school, which gave me first-hand knowledge that Marx was a fraud. I enjoyed learning about ideas and I suffer no permanent damage from the experience.

I would recommend that you consider finding and taking Leonard Peikoff's History of Philosphy 2-volume course. It's long, but wonderful. He's an outstanding teacher and covers over 2,000 years of the development of philosophy from Thales to the present Analytic "philosophers", ending with a discussion, in retrospect, of Rand's answers to all those Great Questions. It's a wonderful course taught by an Objectivist and an instructor you can trust.

As far as your friends, and your reading "too much" Ayn Rand, that's absurd. I commend you for taking your own independent study course on the works of a great writer and philosopher. I'm sure they wouldn't have a problem with someone spending a semester studying Newtonian Mechanics or Darwin's works on Evolution, or a full year on the works of Shakespeare. Rand is that great and deserves that same level of attention. After you have read her works, or if you feel like a break, there's plenty of time to read and contrast the thoughts of other philosophers. Do any of these so-concerned friends condemn themselves or others for watching every episode of "Friends" or "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" or every issue of Cosmo? You're learning, improving your life, integrating a comprehensive philosophical system into your life. That's worth some time, I think.

Cheers, and congratulations.

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Hello everybody,

This is my very first post on The Forum. For the last few months, I have been reading other people's posts, and haven't gotten up the nerve to post my own. So I'm going to give it a shot, now. =)

This may be a topic that has already been discussed. . .but, I have been told that I read too much Ayn Rand, by my friends. In the last 6 months, I've read Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, Anthem, and am now working on OPAR. I have to admit, I am enjoying reading about Objectivism so much, that I'm not reading up on any other philosophers. I have always been hungry for a philosophy based on reality and logic, and I feel like I've hit pay dirt with Ayn Rand.

So, I just wanted to ask everybody this: Do you all feel that reading from several different philosophers, in addition to Ayn Rand is a good thing? I ask, because I remember seeing somewhere that Ayn Rand stressed that a person should read from all philosophers, to be able to compare and contrast them, and then ultimately, come to the logical conclusion that she and Aristotle have a better grasp on fundamentals for living.

So. . .Do you all find yourselves only reading Ayn Rand books, knowing the other stuff is incorrect, or do you throw in some Kant or Dewey along the way for a balance? What are the positives and the negatives to each perspective?

I think everyone should be curious and read widely just to learn what's out there. Explore the world of ideas. Who knows what gems you'll find.

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Hello everybody,

This may be a topic that has already been discussed. . .but, I have been told that I read too much Ayn Rand, by my friends. In the last 6 months, I've read Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, Anthem, and am now working on OPAR. I have to admit, I am enjoying reading about Objectivism so much, that I'm not reading up on any other philosophers. I have always been hungry for a philosophy based on reality and logic, and I feel like I've hit pay dirt with Ayn Rand.

Shawn

Most of us have had that enthusiastic response to 'finding our minds', so enjoy the experience. 'Virtue of Selfishness' is a book with excellent essays, and I suggest you read it before Introduction To Objectivist Epistemology. ITOE is heavy going unless you have a particular bent for abstract ideas, and I left it till last, when I already had the basic ideas understood.

One caution. Owning a new car, we like to tell everyone about it, but not everyone shares our passion about it. Same goes with Ayn Rand. Take it easy on your friends or they will tire of hearing you speak about ideas they have no interest in, and it can even put them off. This is the place to come for discussion. :)

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Hello,

First post!!

"Do you all feel that reading from several different philosophers, in addition to Ayn Rand is a good thing?"

How could you not? As Dr. Peikoff stated in one of his podcasts (http://peikoff.com/podcasts/83.mp3), one should not "think that the answers are given in the back of a book written by Ayn Rand." You don't need to read other philosophers if all your interested in is what Miss Rands particular opinion was on the subject. That would seem to be an exceptional case. I think that most people are reading her works because they are seeking answers to very important questions. But what else but the truth can give them the answers they look for? This requires that one have a first hand, working knowledge of the philosophy-philosopher in question. You would want to know who first formulated the idea and why? One might also investigate how did these ideas effect history? How did these ideas change or develop as we retain them in the modern world? It would aslo be critical that you evaluate Miss Rands interpretation of their ideas, and come to a conclusion regarding her accuracy. I am sure she would not approve of 'taking her word for it.' Faith doesn't play a role in Ayn Rands philosophy, and niether does the arguement from authority. Each mind must come to its own conclusion, based off their own assessment of the evidence.

I think that your friends "you read too much X" can probably be translated -"Your ideas rely to heavliy on X author" i.e. "You haven't made uo your own mind, but are just repeating X." Perhaps not, but I have heard that type of thing quite a bit and that is usually all I hear in it.

All the best

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So. . .Do you all find yourselves only reading Ayn Rand books, knowing the other stuff is incorrect, or do you throw in some Kant or Dewey along the way for a balance? What are the positives and the negatives to each perspective?

Shawn

I was a high school dropout, and I discovered Objectivism at the age of 25. I never read *any* other philosopher before I read Ayn Rand, unless you count The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital (the reason that I read a couple of books by Karl Marx was not that I was ever a Communist, I just thought that I should try to understand the enemy). After having read the treasure trove of knowledge which Ayn Rand´s works constituted, I was never inclined to read the boring stuff by other philosophers (at least, I perceived the works of other philosophers to be boring, either because it was relatively trivial, which applied to most philosophers, or because it was difficult to read, which applied to Kant and even to Aristotle).

My attitude is that I have a limited amount of time which I can devote to reading, so I have to make priorities. So far, I have found the knowledge of non-Objectivist philosophy which I have been able to acquire by reading Objectivist works, and listening to Dr. Peikoff´s lecture courses, and by reading books on the history of philosophy (e.g. the works of W.T. Jones and Windelband) to be sufficient for my needs. But if I were ever to develop the ambition to become a professional intellectual, instead of just remaining a layman, then I would, I am sure, decide that I needed to invest time in reading the works of at least the most major philosophers (e.g. Plato, Aristotle and Kant). So what you should do depends on your personal context. How thorough a knowledge of philosophy do you need? And how much time can you afford to invest in reading about philosophy? I definitely think that it is *more* important to read the works of Ayn Rand than those of any other philosopher.

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Thank you for all your excellent feedback, everybody! Reading your posts has helped me to clarify what it is I am after, my purpose, in reading Ayn Rand.

From your responses, I have learned the following:

1. That I'm not interested in switching from philosopher to philosopher, in hopes of having a broad knowledge of every different kind. Maybe this will change in time, but after I have been on the wrong path for 20 years, I am motivated to focus most, if not all my attention to really learn Objectivism, which is a breath of fresh air not to have to skip around, like I'm in a history of philosophy class(although I do see how diversifying your knowledge at some point, would be beneficial). If I were to take a history of philosophy kind of course, or study, it would be one of Peikoff's series of lectures on history. If I'm armed with a better rational mind to begin with, I can then read other philosophers afterwards, applying my objective thinking to evaluate each differing viewpoint. This makes sense.

2. That with my new reality-based thinking might scare off my friends, if I keep trying to talk about rationality, reasons, and how mysticism is illogical. I should tone it down. In fact, if I just integrate Objectivism into life, I am sure my friends, and others will see the change in me, how I will have increased self-esteem, increased productivity, and higher fulfillment, and want to know more about this new philosophy for me. Show by example. Less talk, more action, that makes sense.

3. That after I read OPAR, I need to check out The Virtue of Selfishness, and The Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. From what you all have said, these seem to be very helpful to refining how one thinks, in general. How to apply rationality to any given context, or situation. I seem to have started with the novels Anthem, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged, and now I see the importance of including the nonfiction, as well.

4. That I have found a wonderful group of people, here on The Forum. I'm not sure what the protocol is exactly, but I just wanted to say thank you to all of you: Henrik, TheChef, Arnold, Thales, Alann, Paul's here, Brad Harrington, and Carlos, for your posts in response to mine. I have read and thought about each of your contributions to my original post, and can tell you that each of you have been very helpful!

I look forward to integrating Objectivism more solidly into my life, as well as becoming more active on The Forum, and learning from so many of you.

Cheers,

Shawn

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Shawn, welcome to THE FORUM and I look forward to reading about your progress and achievements with your new guide, Objectivism.

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Thank you RayK, I appreciate the encouragement. Since I'm starting out on this new path, it's helpful to receive encouragement from people who have integrated parts of/all of the path (in this case, Objectivism) into their lives.

Yes, I am looking forward to finishing reading OPAR ( and then the rest of her nonfiction), so I can then know more concretely how to apply Objectivism to my everyday life, as I have an enormous amount of curiosity pertaining to how this will affect my friendships, romance, my business, and my goals.

I realize, from reading everybody else's posts, that incorporating Objectivism into your life is a process, and it will take time. Years. But that's okay, I am 26 years old, and I'm really wanting to do this. . . In short, I'm motivated to press RESTART.

It's 12:38am, and I think I'm going to read some pages from OPAR tonight! I hope everyone else is enjoying pursuing their reading interests, too.

Shawn

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Congratulations, Shawn, in beginning so wholesomely well. Time to celebrate your own words in a bit of verse.

I'll push RESTART inside my mind

And I will boot me up to be

The man of reason I will see

When I look inside my mind.

________________________________

Happy reading to you.

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Thank you RayK, I appreciate the encouragement. Since I'm starting out on this new path, it's helpful to receive encouragement from people who have integrated parts of/all of the path (in this case, Objectivism) into their lives.

I heartily recommend Leonard Peikoff's course, "Understanding Objectivism." It is loaded with practical tips on how to integrate Objectivism into you own life and get the most out of it.

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There can be value in reading multiple philosophers, but the value depends on the reader and his goals. Do you wish to be a professional philosopher? Do you have a passing interest in philosophy, or somewhere in between? Another point: I'd say that based on your relative newness to Objectivism, you don't know whether or not Objectivism as a whole is correct or not. It just takes a lot of time to understand the parts, the whole, and the way of thinking. So for someone new to Ayn Rand's ideas, I suggest a spiral method: read lots of Ayn Rand's books and understand what you can. Keep in mind which aspects raise questions or objections in your own mind and investigate those questions. For example, for someone from a religious background, is she right that there is no god, and what are the implications of that? Where she criticizes other philosophers, is she right? does she really understand what they have to say, or is she misunderstanding them? This is a good opportunity and purpose for reading other philosophers. Is Kant really that evil? Did he say what Ayn Rand said he did?

This is important: the truth is not who said what, but what reality is. Of 2500 years of philosophy, did anyone other than Ayn Rand have anything of value to say? At first glance, I'd say there are good ideas out there. (Though nobody else put them into a systematic whole like she did, and she had many, many original and correct answers to daunting questions.) So there may be things out there to be discovered by you. In fact, you may come to find that Ayn Rand was wrong on a point or two (though I haven't found that to be the case in 20 years of study).

At that point it pays to revisit the earlier readings. Read them again with a broader understanding and see what details you get this time that you missed before.

So yes there is value to be had. But it isn't "balance" between truth and falsehood, rather it is keep the doors open to the truth of reality wherever it may be, in Rand's writings or elsewhere.

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Thank you RayK, I appreciate the encouragement. Since I'm starting out on this new path, it's helpful to receive encouragement from people who have integrated parts of/all of the path (in this case, Objectivism) into their lives.

I heartily recommend Leonard Peikoff's course, "Understanding Objectivism." It is loaded with practical tips on how to integrate Objectivism into you own life and get the most out of it.

Betsy, your reply reminds of something I was looking for but had forgotten. A while ago, before reading Atlas Shrugged, I remember coming across a passage where Ayn Rand mentions that a person might think about decisions by asking what John Galt or Francisco would do if one of them were in that person's place. My memory of it is vague although I recall clearly that I avoided reading further because I thought it might ruin part of the novel for me. Does anyone know where I might find that passage?

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For example, for someone from a religious background, is she right that there is no god, and what are the implications of that? Where she criticizes other philosophers, is she right? does she really understand what they have to say, or is she misunderstanding them? This is a good opportunity and purpose for reading other philosophers. Is Kant really that evil? Did he say what Ayn Rand said he did?

This was largely why I became a philosophy student. I first read Ayn Rand when I was 17, and though I loved her writing I doubted that things were as bad or that philosophers were as evil as she described them. You will never hear modern philosophy presented so clearly or unequivocally from the authors themselves, so naturally I wanted to confirm her findings for myself. Also I am very analytical and enjoyed dissecting even the worst articles during college, for the exercise. That said, to do this requires a lot of time and the rewards aren't going to be enough to justify the task for most people. And sometimes the ideas are so bizarre or vague that you need to rely on scholars to explain what you're reading, which can present an extra barrier since the experts are usually corrupt themselves. I would recommend that you only read what you have to to satisfy your curiosity, and otherwise stick to understanding philosophy through Objectivism. If you find that Kant or Hegel is sending your head spinning, don't think you have any obligation to continue studying them.

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For example, for someone from a religious background, is she right that there is no god, and what are the implications of that? Where she criticizes other philosophers, is she right? does she really understand what they have to say, or is she misunderstanding them? This is a good opportunity and purpose for reading other philosophers. Is Kant really that evil? Did he say what Ayn Rand said he did?

This was largely why I became a philosophy student. I first read Ayn Rand when I was 17, and though I loved her writing I doubted that things were as bad or that philosophers were as evil as she described them. You will never hear modern philosophy presented so clearly or unequivocally from the authors themselves, so naturally I wanted to confirm her findings for myself. Also I am very analytical and enjoyed dissecting even the worst articles during college, for the exercise. That said, to do this requires a lot of time and the rewards aren't going to be enough to justify the task for most people. And sometimes the ideas are so bizarre or vague that you need to rely on scholars to explain what you're reading, which can present an extra barrier since the experts are usually corrupt themselves. I would recommend that you only read what you have to to satisfy your curiosity, and otherwise stick to understanding philosophy through Objectivism. If you find that Kant or Hegel is sending your head spinning, don't think you have any obligation to continue studying them.

This is helpful. Thank you, bborg. This removes any guilt or insecurity I might have in just focusing on Ayn Rand at this point.

Shawn

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Thank you RayK, I appreciate the encouragement. Since I'm starting out on this new path, it's helpful to receive encouragement from people who have integrated parts of/all of the path (in this case, Objectivism) into their lives.

I heartily recommend Leonard Peikoff's course, "Understanding Objectivism." It is loaded with practical tips on how to integrate Objectivism into you own life and get the most out of it.

Thank you for your suggestion of Peikoff's "Understanding Objectivism," Betsy. In addition to the basic readings, I am in fact, curious as to what lecture courses are the most beneficial to one, starting out. Now I just need to save up the money! :D

Shawn

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Thank you for your suggestion of Peikoff's "Understanding Objectivism," Betsy. In addition to the basic readings, I am in fact, curious as to what lecture courses are the most beneficial to one, starting out. Now I just need to save up the money! :D

After the history of philosophy lectures listen to his Objective Communication and then Logic.

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Reflecting back on it now, I realize I should have posted this original post under a different topic. History would have been more appropriate, or something. I'll be better about that from now on.

Shawn

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I say yes, know as much as you can. You need be familiar with them and be able to recognize them instantly so you have ammunition to blast their ideas or protect yourself when such interactions happen (and man, they do happen!)

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