The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand
Truth and Toleration in Objectivism
by David Kelley Ph.D.
This book is currently available as a PDF download from The Atlas Society:
About the Book
Ayn Rand's philosophical novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged made her the most controversial author of her age. Her works have drawn millions of readers and continue to sell at a breathtaking pace. Their impact on American culture runs from libertarian politics to the self-esteem movement in psychology to the rugged individualism of Silicon Valley and the Internet. Rand also launched a movement of intellectuals committed to her philosophy of Objectivism. While it has grown dramatically since Rand's death in 1982, however, the Objectivist movement has also fractured into rival camps whose differences over doctrine and strategy are compounded by competition for leadership and bitter accusations of heresy.
In The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand, philosopher David Kelley analyzes the conflicts that led him to break ranks with orthodox Objectivists and create an independent branch of the movement. Originally published in 1990 as a manifesto, this work has been revised as an analysis of the principles of intellectual collaboration -- the terms on which intellectuals and activists can work together in a common cause. Going beyond the immediate issues, Kelley discusses the nature of individual responsibility for the spread of ideas and for their historical consequences. He offers a new argument for toleration based on a non-relativistic theory of truth. He describes the nature of tribalism among intellectuals, showing how the troubled legacy of Ayn Rand has followed a pattern similar to the not-so-civil wars among followers of other original and charismatic thinkers such as Marx and Freud. In a postscript for the second edition, Kelley reviews the growth in Objectivist scholarship and theinfluence of Rand's ideas over the past decade.
The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand is an engaging introduction to the Objectivist movement, its core ideas, and its central fissures. At the same time, it offers a case study in the sociology of intellectual movements and a frank discussion of the issues that arise whenever thinkers leave their studies to promote their idea in the public realm.
About the Author
David Kelley is a professional philosopher, teacher, and writer. After earning a Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University in 1975, he joined the philosophy department of Vassar College, where he remained until 1984. He has also taught at Brandeis University as a Visiting Lecturer. Among his books are Unrugged Individualism: The Selfish Basis of Benevolence; The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand;The Evidence of the Senses, a treatise on epistemology; and The Art of Reasoning, one of the most widely used logic textbooks in the country. With Roger Donway, he co-authored Laissez Parler: Freedom in the Electronic Media, a critique of government regulation. His most recent political work is A Life of One's Own: Individual Rights and the Welfare State, a critique of the moral premises of the welfare state and defense of private alternatives that preserve individual autonomy, responsibility, and dignity.
His articles on social issues and public policy have appeared in Harpers, The Sciences, Reason, Harvard Business Review, The Freeman, and elsewhere. He has been an editorial writer for Barron's, has appeared on 20/20 and the ABC News special, "Greed" With John Stossel, and has written and lectured extensively on issues in philosophy, politics, and public affairs.
An active proponent of Objectivism for more than 25 years, he has lectured to student groups at Harvard, Yale, University of Michigan, Berkeley, Amherst, and many other colleges and universities. He has also addressed the Mont Pelerin Society, the Free Press Association, the Cato Institute, and Heartland Institute, as well as many Objectivist conferences.