Friday, October 30, 2009

Dear Editor, Reason Magazine:
The November issue of Reason, featuring an essay on Rand (Brian Doherty) and a review (by Nick Gillespie) of two recent prominently published biographies of her was inspiring and encouraging to those of us who value Rand's ideas and hope for her increased influence. Two minor criticism should be made, however.
Rand, contrary to Mr. Gillespie, was not a philosophical materialist but naturalist. Materialists include Thomas Hobbes and Ludwig Feuerbach and materialism is mainly reductive, claiming all is really nothing but matter in motion. Naturalists take their lead from Aristotle. Rand rejects materialism explicitly--indeed, she avidly derides materialists as "mystics of the muscle."
The one but serious enough problem with both Jennifer Burns' and Anne C. Heller's well composed biographies is that they extensively commit the genetic fallacy which involves the explanation of someone's ideas by reference to their childhood histories. In fact, of course, millions share many of Rand's ideas without sharing her history in the early Soviet Union.


Tibor R. Machan

Machan holds the R. C. Hoiles Chair @ Chapman University, CA. He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution (Stanford, CA) and author of Ayn Rand (Peter Lang, 2001).

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