ROGER E. BISSELL, REASON PAPERS, no. 21 (FALL 1996): 82-87
"DIALECTICAL OBJECTIVISM? A REVIEW OF CHRIS SCIABARRA'S AYN RAND: THE RUSSIAN RADICAL"
Roger Bissell writes: "Few works with the level of scholarship evidenced in historian and political theorist Chris Sciabarra's book about Ayn Rand's philosophy have generated such a visceral, polarized response: scathing hostility and scorn on the one extreme and glowing, enthusiastic praise on the other. While an examination of personalities and events surrounding the preparation and subsequent reception of this book would be a fascinating study in its own right, the present review will focus instead on the thesis that spawned the controversy." Bissell then presents Sciabarra's essential thesis. He notes that Sciabarra's portrayal of "dialectics as a methodological orientation" includes "six basic, interrelated characteristics": holism, contextualism, synchronic and diachronic internalism, anti-dualism, and a unity of theory and practice. He suggests however that in future work, Sciabarra needsto "zero in on a more elegant, concise (dare it be said: genus-differentia?) statement of what dialectics is." He also criticizes Sciabarra for emphasizing anti-dualism, since it is also true that dialectics is opposed to monistic reductionism.
As for Part One, Bissell writes: "Sciabarra's talents as an intellectual historian shine forth as he delves deeply into both Rand's educational background and the cultural conditions in Czarist and Revolutionary Russia..." Part Two, in Bissell's view, "is probably the best overview of Rand's philosophy available." Part Three, Bissell argues, "is the most original and challenging part of Sciabarra's thesis and the strongest part of the book. . . . Sciabarra's acumen as a political theorist is highly impressive. He seems not to miss a single opportunity to weave together the many seemingly unintegratable aspects of Rand's thought into a highly compressed microcosm of Rand's own radical outlook." Bissell also compliments "Sciabarra's excellent Notes, References, and Index." Bissell concludes that with Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, as well as Marx, Hayek, and Utopia (SUNY, 1995), now under his belt, Chris Matthew Sciabarra has emerged as one of the most provocative, and enjoyable, writers on the history of ideas of the twentieth century."
For the full text of this review, see Roger Bissell's Site.
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