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A commonly spread rumour about Ayn Rand is that she did not actually read Kant. Does anyone know for certain if she did or did not read Kant? As far as it stands, I'd go with just assuming positive intent, and saying she did read him, absent any evidence.

asked Dec 19 '10 at 13:42

Tenure's gravatar image

Tenure ♦

edited Dec 19 '10 at 13:51

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

I'm glad to see that the question acknowledges and follows the onus-of-proof principle. I would also add that if this question is meant to imply in any way that perhaps Ayn Rand "got it wrong" regarding Kant (for whatever reason), interested readers can find an excellent collection of excerpts by Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff in The Ayn Rand Lexicon, in the entry titled, "Kant, Immanuel." That collection spans nine full pages in the printed edition of the Lexicon, subdivided into several major sub-topics. Anyone who is interested is encouraged to read those excerpts and then do whatever other research may be warranted to confirm whether or not Ayn Rand "got it right."

(Dec 19 '10 at 16:32) Ideas for Life ♦ Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Have you considered submitting this question to Peikoff's podcast, as he would likely have first hand knowledge.

I would also suggest that there is plenty of reason to presume that she did read Kant. If ever there was a writer that has demonstrated that she knew of that of which she spoke, it was Ayn Rand. In order to present her ideal man in fiction, she created a philosophy for an explicit grasp of "ideal", to create this philosophy she studied history and philosophy. This is not someone who took intellectual shortcuts.

(Dec 19 '10 at 19:26) la_phil ♦ la_phil's gravatar image

I don't think there can be any question but Rand read some of Kant's writings. Whether she read all of them, I would doubt, just because it is a waste of time. The rumor ought not be attended to, IMO.

(Dec 19 '10 at 20:57) Mindy Newton ♦ Mindy%20Newton's gravatar image

I find it disturbing that Ayn Rand did not explicitly mention the passages that led to her to her criticisms of, for example, Kant and John Stuart Mill. But I once wrote an essay on Rand's criticism of Mill for my Uni; if one really conducts research, one finds that her criticisms are justified. She read Mill, definitely. In the case of Kant, I think that's virtually certain. She had crucial, new thoughts on concept formation since the 40's, but she didn't publish anything on it until the late 60's or 70's. It's clear that she took such things seriously and came up only with ripe ideas...

(Dec 21 '10 at 13:10) Selfmadesoul ♦ Selfmadesoul's gravatar image

I recall reading somewhere that some non-Objectivist philosopher went through the corpus and came to the conclusion that she had indeed read a substantial amount of Kant's works. Unfortunately, this was a long time ago and I don't recall where I read this.

(Dec 22 '10 at 02:58) JJMcVey ♦ JJMcVey's gravatar image

I have no direct knowledge that Rand read Kant, like Dr. Peikoff would. But it is pretty clear to me that she did, by reading "Philosophy, Who Needs it." which is a compilation of many speeches and writings on other philosophies, by Rand. She begins with explaining why people should study Kant or other philosophies. MANY chapters are spent (8-13) explaining the problems of Kant, and like philosophies, and their results. Rand was interested in practicable philosophy. Much of Kant is good for mind exercise, but doesn't make life any more livable. I think this is the root of her dislike of Kant.

(Jan 10 '11 at 15:44) Chuck ♦ Chuck's gravatar image

Completely off the subject, but I loved seeing the phrase "assuming positive intent" in your question. It's something I use a lot every day. :)

(Jan 10 '11 at 17:41) rationaljenn ♦ rationaljenn's gravatar image
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Asked: Dec 19 '10 at 13:42

Seen: 2,774 times

Last updated: Jan 10 '11 at 17:41