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At the time of her death was Ayn Rand working on other philosophical questions that she had? If she was, what were they? Did she give Peikoff and others, clues or leads as to which area of philosophy they should focus their attention on and explore more?

asked Sep 13 '14 at 05:33

Carl's gravatar image


edited Sep 13 '14 at 10:53

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

The question asks:

At the time of her death was Ayn Rand working on other philosophical questions that she had? ... Did she give Peikoff and others, clues or leads...?

One major example that comes to mind is the "problem of induction." There is a substantial section on Induction (and also Scientific Methodology) in ITOE, Expanded Second Edition, pp. 295-304. Those sections end with the following (pp. 303-304):

Prof. M: The question is: when does one stop [gathering evidence from widely varying instances]? When does one decide that enough confirming evidence exists [to validate a hypothesis]? Is that in the province of the issue of induction?

AR: Yes. That's the big question of induction. Which I couldn't begin to discuss—because (a) I haven't worked on that subject enough to even begin to formulate it, and (b) it would take an accomplished scientist in a given field to illustrate the whole process in that field.

The most substantial effort so far by Objectivists to validate induction systematically came many years after Ayn Rand's death, in The Logical Leap by David Harriman, with an Introduction by Leonard Peikoff.

Ayn Rand remained intellectually busy and productive right up to the time of her death, although not as an academic philosopher, but as a staunch philosophical advocate and public commentator avidly seeking to apply her philosophy to concrete issues. The book, Journals of Ayn Rand, edited by David Harriman, contains considerable material on two new projects that Ayn Rand had worked on from time to time beginning shortly after the publication of Atlas Shrugged. (Refer to Chapter 16.) One project was to have been a non-fiction book on Objectivism. Some years after Ayn Rand's death, Leonard Peikoff published a comprehensive book of his own, known as OPAR, describing the entire philosophy of Ayn Rand in terms that any intelligent reader can understand, within a space limit of about 500 pages. Chapter 16 in Journals also explains that a large part of the material on epistemology was published by Ayn Rand herself in ITOE.

I also vaguely recall that I read or heard somewhere that Ayn Rand at one time hired a young Objectivist mathematics expert to help her learn algebra more thoroughly, to aid in refining her understanding of the relation between concept-formation and mathematics. I don't know if the tutoring was helpful to her, but her notes in Chapter 16 of her Journals certainly show a strong interest by her in exploring the relationship further. In 1959 she wrote (pp. 702-703):

My hypothesis is that all consciousness is a mathematical process (or, rather, the function of any consciousness is a mathematical process). To prove this I would have to identify the basic principles common to perception and mathematics. (By perception I mean here the total process of human awareness, from sensations to perceptions to conceptions.) I would have to identify the wider abstractions underlying the processes of concept-formation and of mathematics. And I would have to integrate them with neurology on the one hand (with the physiological part of the integration of sensations into perceptions) -- and with metaphysics on the other.

If my hypothesis is true, then algebra might give me the clue to the objective rules of induction....

In ITOE, she accomplished part of what this passage describes.

The second project described in the Journals was to have been a new novel titled, To Lorne Dieterling, which never went beyond the stage of initial notes on the characters and story. A 1957 note states (p. 706):

Basic theme: The story of a woman who is totally motivated by love for values -- and how one maintains such a state when alone in an enemy world.

By 1959, she had revised and refined the theme (p. 709):

New statement of theme: the art of psychological survival in a malevolent world; the art of spiritual self-sufficiency.

Additional elaboration, 1963 (p. 712):

The story of Atlas who did not go on strike. (The issue of "pronouncing moral judgment," of not sanctioning evil. Or: "how to lead a rational life in an irrational society.")

What would happen if a few key people or cultural leaders maintained a "moral tone" -- instead of today's scared, social-metaphysical, cowardly surrender to any immoral assertiveness (which is the policy of letting evil set the moral terms). Why are people more afraid of me than of communism? [She offers an answer.]

Page 713, from 1964, restates the theme yet again:

Theme: Loyalty to values, as a sense of life.

My earlier notes are all wrong. The approach I projected is too intellectual -- too explicit. The novel has to deal with the generalized terms of a "sense of life" -- i.e., with emotional metaphysics. The nature of the assignment (and the trick) is to concretize the story, while keeping it abstract.

On pp. 715-716, the editor notes that Ayn Rand had:

... returned at the end to a problem that had concerned her from the beginning: how does one maintain a view of life as it could be and ought to be, while living in a culture that is predominantly hostile to rational values? At this stage [of her life], however, she knows the solution, and serenity has replaced her earlier [pre-Fountainhead] bitterness.

Ayn Rand's main project during the final years of her life was to have been a 9-hour TV miniseries of Atlas Shrugged, which she intended to produce herself, and write the screenplay for it herself. She was actually already about 25% finished with the screenplay at the time of the announcement of it that appeared in the December 1981 issue of The Objectivist Forum (TOF), a publication by Harry Binswanger from 1980-1987 (website link). Sadly, the very next issue of TOF announced that:

Ayn Rand died on March 6, 1982, of heart failure.... She had been in declining health since late fall, and was hospitalized with cardio-pulmonary problems throughout February. Her general trend during the whole period was clearly downward, as she grew progressively weaker. Finally, on March 6th, her heart failed.

My understanding is that Leonard Peikoff, the heir to Ayn Rand's estate designated by her, had discussed what to do about a TV or movie version of Atlas Shrugged if Ayn Rand was unable to finish it during her lifetime, and they had mutually concluded and agreed that Dr. Peikoff would not try to finish the screenplay himself and should feel free to sell the movie rights to an independent film maker if he judged that to be the best course. Many years later, he did so, and the result is the three-part movie that now exists. (For those who may not know, Part 3 was released to theaters on September 12, 2014.) I do not know if the sale of the movie rights includes or precludes a possible future TV or DVD miniseries.

answered Sep 16 '14 at 02:20

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

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Asked: Sep 13 '14 at 05:33

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Last updated: Sep 16 '14 at 02:20