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December 14, 2017

The Dialectical Rand

My essay, "Reply to Critics of Russian Radical 2.0: The Dialectical Rand," which appears in the December 2017 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, has apparently caused a bit of a stir on Facebook, as folks discuss one part of my essay---though it appears few have actually read the essay in full.

Anoop Verma has already posted a piece on his Verma Report: Ayn Rand: The Philosopher Who Came In From the Soviet Union, a clever play on Le Carre's The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.

I am reluctant to say much about the essay until people have actually read it, though in truth, I think the essay speaks for itself. I did, however, clarify one issue that has dogged my use of the word "dialectics" for over twenty years now. Some folks may think my use of the word is idiosyncratic, but as I explain in the first four chapters of my book, Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism, though the word has come to be associated with various untenable philosophical doctrines, it originates among the ancients, and its theoretical father is Aristotle. On Facebook, I posted this reply to one commentator:

I absolutely do not identify dialectics as the Hegelian "triad" of thesis-antithesis-synthesis (though this is more a formulation of Fichte, rather than Hegel); I identify it as the art of context-keeping. It is this art that led even Peikoff to exclaim that Hegel was "right" methodologically when he said "The True is the Whole"--but very wrong in terms of his philosophical premises. The original theoretician of "dialectics" was Aristotle, whom even Hegel called "The Fountainhead" (and he used those specific words) of dialectical inquiry: that is, Hegel saw Aristotle as the father of a mode of analysis that sought to understand any problem from multiple vantage points, on different levels of generality, and across time, so as to get a more enriched perspective of the fuller context of the problem, and how it is often an expression of a larger system of interconnected problems.
It would really be great if folks would actually read my book, and the new JARS article before hoisting onto me theories that I explicitly reject. (I address the issue of false alternatives in the book and in the newest essay as well.)
I agree completely about defining one's terms, . . . and I've devoted a trilogy of books (Marx, Hayek, and Utopia, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, and Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism) to explaining exactly what I mean by dialectics. In the concluding book of the trilogy, in fact, I reconstruct the entire history of the concept in the first three chapters, and then devote a full chapter to defining dialectics, and unpacking that definition in such a way that it cannot possibly be confused with any of the ways in which it has been distorted. And boy has it been distorted..

Stay tuned; there may be a few additional exchanges I'll post here.

December 13, 2017

Song of the Day #1521

Song of the Day: Night Fever is a song written and recorded by the Brothers Gibb (or as they are more famously referred to as "The Bee Gees"). It made its first appearance on the mega-soundtrack to the 1977 hit movie, "Saturday Night Fever," a film that was released forty years ago this week. I did a 30th anniversary salute to the soundtrack, so there weren't many other tunes to choose from---but there is no better one to feature than the one that seems to have inspired the very title of the pathbreaking film, which brought international fame to John Travolta who, as Tony Manero, hustled his way onto the dance floor of Brooklyn's 2001 Odyssey disco (which later became a gay dance club named Spectrum and today is a Chinese restaurant). Check out the classic original recording by the Bee Gees and then the scene in which it is heard in the film [YouTube links].

WTC Remembrance: Spanish Translation of 2016 Installment

As readers of Notablog are aware, I've been writing annual installments to my 9/11 "WTC Remembrance" series since 2001. The 2016 installment of that series, "Fifteen Years Ago: Through the Looking Glass of a Video Time Machine," was just translated into Spanish (it had been translated into Portuguese some months ago). Given Monday's attack at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, we are only reminded of the fragility of life during a period of what seems to be an unending "war on terror."

I'm happy that my essay, which recalls the horrific events of September 11, 2001, now reaches a wider audience.

December 12, 2017

Song of the Day #1520

Song of the Day: The Birth of the Blues, music by Ray Henderson, lyrics by Buddy G. DeSylva and Lew Brown, was incorporated into the 1926 Broadway revue, "George White's Sandals." It has been recorded by many artists throughout the years, including the 1926 version by Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra [YouTube link]. But today is the birthday of Ol' Blue Eyes, who himself was deeply influenced by jazz and the blues. And what better way to celebrate it than with one of Frank Sinatra's hits (it spent five weeks on the Billboard charts). Take a listen to Sinatra's solo recording from 1952 [YouTube link] and then, watch a very special live TV rendition on "The Edsel Show," with Louis Armstrong [YouTube link].

December 06, 2017

JARS: New December 2017 Issue Arrives!

Any day now, the December 2017 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies will be published electronically on both JSTOR and Project Muse, and subscribers to the print version should be receiving the year-end edition in the coming weeks.

JARS_17_2_cover-front copy (004).jpg

This issue promises to be one of our most provocative yet. And in keeping with our tradition of introducing at least one new writer to the world of Rand studies with each issue we publish, we are pleased to feature articles from two new JARS contributors: Kyle Barrowman and Anastasiya Vasilievna Grigorovskaya. Readers can access the abstracts to each of the featured articles here; contributor biographies can be found here.

It should be pointed out that the website page for the two 2017 issues does not currently have functioning drop-down menus like the pages for the other "back issue" years (we're working on it!). But all of our site pages retain the top navigation bar. Thinking we had the luxury of time, our webmaster, Michael Southern, never had the opportunity to give us instructions on how to update the site in keeping with his unique design; so for now we're going with straightforward, accessible pages for the 2017 issues. Sadly, Michael was shot to death in September. He was not only our original webmaster, when the journal was founded in 1999, but he completely rebuilt our current site in 2015. He also contributed a deeply moving personal memoir to our 2016 symposium, "Nathaniel Branden: His Work and Legacy."

Michael is not the only JARS family member who passed away this year; we also lost our dear friend Murray Franck, who gave us indispensable legal advice and guidance in the early days of our journal and published an essay on the morality of taxation in our Fall 2000 issue.

In recognition of their contributions to the journal, we have dedicated the new December 2017 issue in memory of Michael Southern and Murray Franck.

And what an issue this is! It includes a diverse array of essays in keeping with both our interdisciplinary reach and our openness to the presentation of a wide range of perspectives:

Table of Contents

Volume 17, No. 2 - December 2017, Issue #34

Philosophical Problems in Contemporary Art Criticism: Objectivism, Poststructuralism, and the Axiom of Authorship
Kyle Barrowman

Profit Maximization Does Not Necessitate Profit Prioritization
Robert White

The Objective-Subjective Dichotomy and Rand's Trichotomy
Arnold Baise

When "A is not A": Reflections on a Conversation
Kathleen Touchstone

The New Type of Hero in Ayn Rand's Novels and Its Historical Roots
Anastasiya Vasilievna Grigorovskaya

Atlas Shurgged and Social Change
Edward W. Younkins


The final two articles in this issue (by Roger E. Bissell and Chris Matthew Sciabarra) were written in response to Wendy McElroy's review of the second edition of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, which appeared in the July 2015 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. The replies also incorporate responses to other critical commentaries on Sciabarra's work, which appear in A Companion to Ayn Rand, part of the Blackwell Companions to Philosophy series. Though Ms. McElroy was invited to write a rejoinder to the replies herein, she has respectfully declined to respond due to deadline pressures regarding books and other projects to which she is committed.

Reply to the Critics of Russian Radical 2.0: Defining Issues
Roger E. Bissell

Reply to the Critics of Russian Radical 2.0: The Dialectical Rand
Chris Matthew Sciabarra


Finally, on a personal note, I'd just like to say that while I've contributed a number of essays to JARS throughout the years, I have done little more than write prefaces and introductions over the last twelve years. That drought of my own scholarship on Rand studies---due mostly to spending many hours with peer readers and authors to assure the integrity of the double-blind review process and the copyediting and proofs that follow---ends with this issue. I am delighted to finally contribute once again a bona fide scholarly essay to a journal that I cofounded with Stephen Cox and Bill Bradford back in 1999.