AYN RAND:THE RUSSIAN RADICAL

AYN RAND:THE RUSSIAN RADICAL

PUBLISHED REVIEWS

WILLIAM THOMAS, NAVIGATOR 2, no. 14 (NOVEMBER 1999): 10-15


"ACADEMIC INTERPRETATIONS OF AYN RAND:  A REVIEW OF THE JOURNAL OF AYN RAND STUDIES"

In this review of the first issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, William Thomas revisits the methodological and historical theses of Ayn Rand:  The Russian Radical.  He argues that Sciabarra's discovery and analysis of Rand's college transcript from the University of St. Petersburg reiterates the methodological and historical themes of his earlier work.  In this article, "Sciabarra's attempt to explain 'dialectics' as a methodology opposed to 'dualism,' terms of dubious use for analyzing intellectual history . . . receives no further support . . ."  [On this point, Sciabarra responds that dialectics, tangential to the article on Rand's transcript, receives extended analysis in his forthcoming Total Freedom:  Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism.]  However, "Sciabarra uncovers new facts that give far greater warrant to his historical hypothesis," which was criticized by James Lennox in the pages of IOS Journal.  In that review, Lennox argued that Sciabarra transformed "speculations about Rand's intellectual influences into certainties over the course of his book, without providing additional evidence."  Here, Thomas acknowledges, stronger evidence is provided.   Sciabarra "also brings in new information about Rand's girlhood social circle and, in particular, her connection to the sisters of Vladimir Nabokov."

Thomas concludes:  "Although he cannot positively identify Rand's professors, owing to the illegibility of their signatures on her transcript, Sciabarra draws on other recent studies of the University of Leningrad in the 1920's to reconstruct  her intellectual milieu.  To this reviewer's mind, Sciabarra successfully exploits that line of research and bolsters his key claim of a link between Russian philosopher N. O. Lossky, his followers, and the young Rand.  One need not sign on with Sciabarra's theory of the dialectic to find it plausible that Rand was influenced by philosophy instructors who were committed to 'a system . . . developing interconnections among metaphysics, logic, philosophical psychology, epistemology, aesthetics, ethics, and philosophy of religion'; and by thinkers 'who saw the world in terms of universal interconnections' and 'as an instrument of action' (9).   These characteristics do broadly characterize Rand's thought in its systematicity and sweep of vision, and they amount to a very different conception of the aims and means of philosophy from that of twentieth-century Analytic philosophy and the British Empiricist tradition out of which it emerged." 

William Thomas is co-author with David Kelley of a forthcoming book, The Logical Structure of Objectivism.  He is Manager of Research and Training at The Objectivist Center.


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