Talk:Ayn Rand

From Citizendium
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is developing and not approved.
Main Article
Related Articles  [?]
Bibliography  [?]
External Links  [?]
Citable Version  [?]
Works [?]
To learn how to update the categories for this article, see here. To update categories, edit the metadata template.
 Definition (1905-82) Russian-born novelist, nowadays credited as the founder of the philosophical movement called Objectivism; wrote Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead etc [d] [e]
Checklist and Archives
 Workgroup categories Philosophy, Politics and Literature [Categories OK]
 Talk Archive none  English language variant American English

Awfully critical

[I've read the comments carefully and think there are a lot of points, of relevance here to the wider CZ debates. So I propose to take it up in the CZ Forum. Martin Cohen 18:16, 28 November 2008 (UTC) ]

Might I ask that when you do so, you put a note here recording the section and thread titles in the Forum? (General comment that we often lose continuity between Talk and Forum, and no, I don't have an immediate solution other than manual notation.) Howard C. Berkowitz 18:43, 28 November 2008 (UTC)
If I knew how! But will have a go now... Martin Cohen 20:32, 28 November 2008 (UTC)
Well, that shouldn't be difficult. Here's the link for anyone interested to go to the ongoing discussion about this in the Forum: [1]Hayford Peirce 20:37, 28 November 2008 (UTC)

This article is remarkably hostile to Ayn Rand. It should be neutral, of course, and in that spirit should balance the current criticism with actual details about Rand's views and other works. One claim is, "She is described by her admirers as ‘a philosopher’ but this is not a term accepted by many in the philosophical community." This seems a little slanted. It is certainly true that most philosophers who are familiar with her writings don't think much of her as a philosopher, but I don't recall it often being denied that she is a philosopher. I doubt most philosophers care about that particular question--I don't. I'd say she wasn't a professional philosopher, and that she was an amateur philosopher, and that she was much overrated by herself and her followers. Does this mean she wasn't a philosopher? It makes about as much sense to deny that as to deny that black velvet Elvis paintings are art. Jimmy Wales and I used to debate about the merits of her work.  :-) --Larry Sanger 02:25, 28 November 2008 (UTC)

Okie, I have absolutely *no* dogs in this hunt, or fight (except I now wonder how I could have read her interminable books 50 years ago and found them entertaining) -- if no one else steps up, I will neutralize these assertions in the next day or so. I already did a *little* bit in that direction.... Hayford Peirce 03:13, 28 November 2008 (UTC)
Well, it hasn't been quite 50 years, but I did go through a certain fascination at 18 or so, until I realized I'd never get a date with Dominique or Dagny. On the other hand, I met my first wife at a political event, where I was the only person who had heard of Objectivism, so she did get a date with Howard. Actually, she's a sort of second-generation Topic Informant, as she did date one of Rand's disciples. Calling himself the dictator of a libertarian commune (!), he did have a black jumpsuit with a gold dollar sign on the chest, with a gold cape for formal occasions. Let's put it this way; I've known enough people that were on her fringes (ummmm...maybe that isn't the word) that I injured my rib cage laughing at Jerry Tucille's book, It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand. Howard C. Berkowitz 03:45, 28 November 2008 (UTC)
"...the dictator of a libertarian commune..." -- my head just exploded. --Larry Sanger 03:49, 28 November 2008 (UTC)
Merde! Larry just wiped out my reply. What did I say??? Well, OK, the thing that baffled me the most as I read the John Galt book as a freshman at Stanford in the fall of 1959 (only 49 years ago), was that people were always "kissing each other on the mouth". Yes, yes, even as a 17-year-old I knew that alternatives existed but it seemed to me then, and still does, as being extremly clumsy writing. Once yes, in an 800-page book, just a slip of the typewriter -- but *50* times?! Hayford Peirce 03:57, 28 November 2008 (UTC)
Larry's reaction 'twas to be expected; it was my response at the time. Yes, the article is a bit harsh. Going into the history, I wasn't aware there were Certified Philosophers (as distinct from academics with qualifications in philosophy).
This is bringing back so many memories; I'm giggling, which is getting me strange looks from several cats and dogs. Cats tend to be Objectivists. The American Psychiatric Association may not recognize Post-Rand Stress Disorders, but there are these sudden flashbacks — when the Unabomber's manifesto came out, I must have gotten a dozen calls asking if he was John Galt, or if he merely had Ayn Rand's editor.
Should the Language Variant be Russian English? Howard C. Berkowitz 04:03, 28 November 2008 (UTC)
Well, I'll answer that when *you* answer "Who is John Galt?" Hayford Peirce 16:07, 28 November 2008 (UTC)
Back in my more political days, there was one in the Alexandria, Virginia telephone directory. Never called him to ask. Howard C. Berkowitz 20:45, 28 November 2008 (UTC)

Re. this, and the discussion in the forum - why not 'neutralise' some of the phrases - qualify assertions that may be too dogmatic.

As to the whole article, well, let me defend my version! I have put together a short summary suitable for a CZ article of Rand's early life, her main works, and so on. I have tried to include the crticisms made, evidently they came across a bit abruptly! (And it may reflect the reality that I share the critics perspective, not the afficianados...) Summarising like this is quite time-consuming - Pascal said it well when he apologised for the lenght of his letter, saying that he would have written a short one but he was in a hurry - and it is all too easy to read summaries and say 'I would have put it differently'... As a starting point, the article is not as bad as you're all making it sound - is it?

I agree--qualifying and toning down is always a good place to start, and it might turn out to be enough. --Larry Sanger 02:00, 29 November 2008 (UTC)

Toned down ' abit' and New Version up now - better I think. Mind you, I'm a little bit worried in case it begins to PROMOTE 'objectivism! Martin Cohen 21:00, 29 November 2008 (UTC)

Presentation here; facts about her work, regardless of opinion about it.

First, I really have trouble with the discussion which I removed,

She is described by her admirers as a 'philosopher’ but this is not a term accepted by many in the philosophical community. Although her works certainly advance a ‘philosophy’ of life, there is little resembling a rigorous argument...

I'm sorry, but I don't know how to get to the philosophical community. Is it, perhaps, gated, and accessible only by private road or the Phoenix-Durango railroad? May I gently suggest that the term is a bit pretentious for an encyclopedia lead?

Second, whether one agrees with her writings and presentations or not, she certainly did not only express philosophical ideas in novels and speeches. Rand wrote nonfiction books and articles in which she specifically discussed philosophical concepts, comparing and contrasting with Aristotle and other self-described philosophers without academic credentials. There were lecture series, the Nathaniel Branden Institute, and she published periodicals in the sixties. I added some quick citations.

Can we tone down a bit more, please? Howard C. Berkowitz 21:12, 29 November 2008 (UTC)

As a non-philosopher whose only acquaintance with the field is a longtime friendship with Dan Dennett, may I say that I agree with everything above.... Hayford Peirce 21:20, 29 November 2008 (UTC)

Sticky business

The stamp material is something I have never encountered. Now, Hayford, are you saying she was first cancelled in New York? Howard C. Berkowitz 21:46, 29 November 2008 (UTC)

The upside-down version is worth millions, I believe.... Hayford Peirce 21:53, 29 November 2008 (UTC)
Yup, here it is: I suppose that this is a PD thingee that could be included in the article?

It's a nice image - yes, must be PD as a stamp surely!

I guess not -- someone actually designed and created the damn thing. So that person has the rights, unless they've been released. I just looked at the WP article on Postage Stamps and they are only using *very* old images, no modern ones. So I guess that tells us something.... Hayford Peirce 17:23, 30 November 2008 (UTC)
Pity it makes Rand look so good... her essential nuttiness is getting lost. Fortunately, the quotes from her book remind readers of that! Martin Cohen 16:48, 30 November 2008 (UTC)
Martin, is it quite so necessary to make your dislike of Rand so emphatic? As you suggest, let the words speak for themselves.
I will offer, hopefull gentle and funny anecdotes on the talk page, which sometimes also make a substantive point. My personal and subjective opinions, which are very complex about Rand, however, should not make it into the article, unless they are cited from valid external sources or perhaps tied to a Signed Article or Topic Informant page Howard C. Berkowitz 17:11, 30 November 2008 (UTC)
Hey, come on, guys! Let's systematically use the indent function to keep things looking neat! Thanks!!! Hayford Peirce 17:23, 30 November 2008 (UTC)
Goodness, someone's 'opinion' that Rand is a serious philosopher is not 'obviously' neutral either. It's like saying L. Ron Hubbard is a philosopher - no better, no worse. I've no ax/ axe to grind here, I looked at the 'consensus of opinion' on Rand and it is as I tried to represent: the work is of little literary or philosphical merit, but politically influential (on the right) and commercially successful. To keep lambasting me for sharing this assessement as being 'anti-Rand' is to assume that this assessement is flawed - well, is it?
Being netural, as Larry has been urging us to be! does not mean articles have to be either vague or ambiguous - complexity is not desirable in a reference work, is it? Martin Cohen 17:35, 30 November 2008 (UTC)
When you describe a "consensus of opinion" as from coming from something as ill-defined as "the philosophical community", that doesn't give me added information. There is only a redirect to philosophy from philosopher; if there is an authoritative body of opinion on what qualifies one to be a philosopher, it would help if you would start an article on that rather than deal with an edge case.
I have never said Rand is a "serious" or "silly" philosophers. I have, however, given sourced references to her writing and activities that clearly were separate from the novels. Your early comments seemed to restrict the information on Rand to the novels and a speech where she condemned homosexuality. Her nonfiction work, which used the terminology and context of philosophical discourse, may indeed be open to substantive criticism.
Criticism of misinterpretations of Aristotle, especially sourced, would be quite reasonable for a reference work. At the same time, some of her ideas are not unique to her, and it would be reasonable to tie her work to other writers, be they considered politicians or political theorists. There are even several delightfully funny books that are both memoirs but also deal with her very real and notable interactions with politics.
So no, I don't see the elements of a neutral reference work as yet. Perhaps they can get there, but, bluntly, unsourced "consensus" or "community" is hand-waving. Better material is available. I'm not going to go write it, because I'm not all that interested in the subject beyond personal experience. I will, however, speak up when I see an article that seems too one-sided in an area where there can be different, well-considered opinions. Whatever you label her, she had a significant influence on "New Right" thinking in the sixties. Howard C. Berkowitz 17:51, 30 November 2008 (UTC)
When something is generally accepted, one does not give a source. Otherwise there would be no knowledge base to start from. Why don't you add your last point to the article, - actually I see you have done - thanks! To repeat, this article is NOT intened as a critique of Rand, my edits may have given that impression, but I have explained the intention and made modifications.
The aim is a summary of this emminently minor figure in the cultural pantheon - if we can't even get this sort of thing quickly and calmly settled, what is going to happen where people actually have substantial disagreements?

Martin Cohen 18:56, 1 December 2008 (UTC)

Eminently minor. Not a critique. Right.

As I put in with relatively little search, there is a substantial body of work besides the novels. That wasn't there.

With respect to just putting in the change, my experience with CZ is that unless something is indeed noncontroversial, bringing it up, first, on the talk page tends to encourage civility rather than edit wars.

I disagree that some of the assertions made are generally accepted, and given at least some references to the contrary. Howard C. Berkowitz 20:38, 1 December 2008 (UTC)

"there is a substantial body of work besides the novels" - now THAT'S a controversial view...
Re. 'editing tactics', the 'norm' is to edit and discuss if and when things are considered controversial. As I say, and you just 'accepted' (?!) I do not consider the page to be a critique. And certainly not 'finished'. Hence, we don't need a debate first.
"I disagree that some of the assertions made are generally accepted, and given at least some references to the contrary." That's fair enough, and surely how pages SHOULD progress? Well, the code is getting in a mess, I'm hoping to 'move on' now. I still think the page is a lot better than before, and I would be reassured if others would acknowledge that, as well as record the faults. Which (I hope) we're now ironing out. Martin Cohen 20:49, 1 December 2008 (UTC)
I'm not sure how to respond to your statement that there is a substantial body of work besides the novels. Are you saying, by some criterion, "good" work? My statement is simply that she wrote, and presented, a good deal of material that was not in the form of a novel. I'm not judging if she was minor or major, but addressing what I see as a matter of fact.
Further, she spoke a good deal, often in her New York office/residence rather than on university podiums, but Tuccille or any of a range of other sources will show it was a frequent thing. I never attended, but I do know people that regularly went there; some concluded she was insane, but no one suggested she only wrote and spoke a few things.
As far as specifics, I do find a reference to things such as philosophical community a bit strange. Howard C. Berkowitz 20:52, 1 December 2008 (UTC)
Hmmm... well, Howard, I can't see that Rand's words automatically have to be treated to encyclopedic renderings... I rather assumed we would stick to that bit of her activity that had become well-known or influential - I think they say 'notable' over 'there' don't they? I guess this links to the 'philosophical community' idea too - of course I'm not going to define it, the concept is necessarily vague. It's equivalent to those who say 'the scientific community' when trying to short-circuit a debate on some eccentric theory. Martin Cohen 21:04, 1 December 2008 (UTC)
If I may stick my own two cents in, gentlemen. I agree, first of all, with Martin that there has already been substantial improvement to the article as it now stands.
That said, I *may* now be disagreeing with Martin in a more general way about what articles in CZ are supposed to be. As far as I know, there are no specific guidelines on how long articles are supposed to be or how much information they are supposed to include. Which is, I think, as it should be. For instance, in the 50s and 60s there was a great tennis player named Pancho Gonzales. For at least a generation he was universally known to everyone in the world who had any interest in tennis at all. Now his name has basically vanished from the face of the earth. I have, however, because he is of my generation, and because he interests me, written a *very* long article about him, first at WP and then over here. The EB, I believe, covers him in a 1-paragraph article. Personally I think that the CZ article, even with its rough edges still to be polished, is far superior to the EB article for anyone who wants to know about Gonzales. Could it be shorter? Sure. But I would strenuously object if anyone told me it *had* to be shorter or that I couldn't add even *more* info to it. To me, the point of an ency. is to give as much info as possible. Especially since it's online -- it's not as if we chiseling these words into stone to be set up in the marketplace somewhere. Or as if a *paying* editor told me, "We want a book between 80,000 and 120,000 words, no more, no less." I also have about a 500-1000 word article here about a short story by the fine British writer Michael Gilbert, The Headmaster. Too many words about a minor, not very long story? Perhaps. But maybe someday it will be useful to someone.
What I'm say, in a long-winded way, is that I think if anyone comes along and wants to add *another* 3,000 words to the Ayn Rand article, as long as they're apposite, we shouldn't try to preclude them just because to *some* people she's a "minor" figure. To some *other* people (not me) she's a major figure. And if they want to write a *long* article about her, fine. As long as it's neutral, of course, etc. etc. But no articles in CZ should ever be shoehorned into a "one size fits all" format. Hayford Peirce 21:37, 1 December 2008 (UTC)
If anybody is suggesting that the Rand article must be kept short because she was unimportant (was anyone saying that?), he is wrong about CZ policy. As Hayford says, there are no size limits (within the constraints of CZ:Maintainability), and certainly none that are based on any opinion, no matter how widely shared by the relevant experts, of the merits of the subject. That's not how we operate. We operate in this regard just as Wikipedia does: if somebody wants to add the information, they may. If an article seems to be getting too bloated for one page, as with Homeopathy, then ancillary articles can be created, such as memory of water. It's the same way with, for instance, L. Ron Hubbard. If anybody wants to write a 75K article about Hubbard, bless 'em. --Larry Sanger 21:43, 1 December 2008 (UTC)


Influential in philosophical circles, or in American politics? Her works were quite influential on more than a few political activists in the sixties and early seventies. I'll suggest we are not using notable in the same manner; I'm not limiting her to pure academic philosophy, or that her popularity is irrelevant to the social system. Howard C. Berkowitz 21:08, 1 December 2008 (UTC)

Where we agree (and may make claims as unattributed facts), where we disagree (and must attribute claims to their owners)

Let's try to get clear on what we agree on and where we disagree, please. Here is what I think we can all agree on (and the article should clearly convey these facts):

  1. Ayn Rand wrote (as in essays and books) and widely discussed (as in speeches) philosophy. It might not have been good philosophy, but it was, at least, philosophical.
  2. Ayn Rand was an amateur philosopher at least. Her champions would say this is damning, but I don't think anybody can seriously doubt that she was at least an amateur philosopher.
  3. Ayn Rand was an important figure in the intellectual history of the Libertarian and Conservative movements in the United States in the 20th century. Nobody who is actually informed of the facts challenges this.
  4. Ayn Rand had "students" or "associates" who went on to get Ph.D.'s in philosophy, and she interacted with a handful of professional philosophers, including for example John Hospers.
  5. But she didn't interact very much with philosophy professors; she didn't write articles for philosophy journals, or attend philosophy conferences, or do other things that philosophers count as evidence of being a "professional philosopher."
  6. Most college professors familiar with Ayn Rand's philosophical writings find them to be amateurish at best.

Here is what we disagree on. The article must not convey any specific positions on these issues--please:

  1. Ayn Rand was a good philosopher, a great philosopher, or an influential philosopher. - Many philosophy professors would deny these claims. I'll bet many even who disagree strongly with her would say that she has been an "influential philosopher." She may not have influenced the world of philosophy much (that would be interesting to investigate, but would require asking professors to come out of the closet!). But she influenced the philosophical thinking of many a high school student and undergraduate, and probably a lot of economists as well.
  2. Ayn Rand is not regarded as a "serious" philosopher by philosophers. - There are some professional philosophers who take her seriously. If you didn't know that, now you do. There aren't many, but they exist.
  3. Ayn Rand was not an important part, or even really a part at all, of the philosophical community. - This depends on how far "part of" might extend, and what is meant by "philosophical community." See 4 and 5 above for a fact-stating description of her relationship to the philosophical community.
  4. Ayn Rand's critique of Kant and her use of Aristotle were facile and amateurish. - Again, Rand has many defenders who disagree. I suspect one would be hard pressed to find any professional philosophers beyond those associated with Ayn Rand fan groups who think her discussion of the history of philosophy to be anything better than amateurish.
  5. Ayn Rand is not studied as a philosopher in universities. - This would be fact-stating if you were to add rarely or very rarely, but she is occasionally read in philosophy classes. (None of mine, but that's just me.)

If we can agree on the former claims, and agree that the latter claims must not be asserted or even implied without attribution or qualification in the article, then we have nothing to debate about here. Right?

--Larry Sanger 21:27, 1 December 2008 (UTC)

All of that sounds very reasonable and very commonsensical to me, written in terms that even a non-philosopher can understand. Hayford Peirce 21:41, 1 December 2008 (UTC)
From you, Hayford, that is high praise indeed!  :-)
That's an example of the sort of thing (not the precise thing) I mean by "Neutrality Notes," by the way. --Larry Sanger 21:47, 1 December 2008 (UTC)
Larry's example is good, and useful, yet (as I say there) it also looks to me like just a 'normal' attempt to achieve a balanced/ neutral/ objective account. I have reservations about qualifying a vast range of people from the Twentieth century as philosophers along with a handful of historical ones, but this is a separate issue. I'm not splitting up amateur and 'professional' philosophers, so much as people whose ideas are influential enough, and of the right degree of intellectualism, to be discussed and remembered as 'philosophers' - and those who are not. Surely almost all professional philosophers will fall outside this category, just as almost all writers do. To repeat my earlier example, I do not expect College courses to list as British philosophers, Locke, Berkely, Hume, Russell, Cohen. I don't belong in the list although I write books on philosophy, have taught courses in it, and have had my ideas 'taken seriously' by 'some' professional philosophers. (And how many is 'some'? 1 in a million is still 'some'... I still think we need to introduce an element of the relevant consensus of opinion in these debates...) In 50 years, maybe that position will change! But by then I guess CZ will have resolved the confusions about 'neutrality notes' anyway.
Does it make the case for Neutrality notes? I don't think so. Quite the opposite in fact. Sorry! But if Larry want's to have a discussion, without losing too many Citizens in the process, he must accept different opinions. I think it shows, as Hayford 'I think' has just said, that this kind of neutrality is part of the normal editing process, can be handled in the background, and collecting up as a new section just becomes a distraction. It's certainly distracting me! Martin Cohen 14:03, 2 December 2008 (UTC)

Perhaps clarifying by broadening

This morning, I added the Politics Workgroup to the metadata. A person or subject is often not defined by only one workgroup and other descriptor, and Rand's effect on certain aspects of American politics is quite clear to someone on this side of the pond. Glancing at a few European blogs and individual websites, the point is made, not infrequently, that Europeans may be only aware of her attempts in pure philosophy. Turnabout seems fair play; things are not always American-centric. In this case, the article seems to have started as Eurocetric.

Somewhat apropos, citing a negative review from National Review, without putting it in context of the publishers and ideologues involved, does ignore a certain conflict of interest. Had Ayn Rand been the reincarnation of Shakespeare and Thomas Aquinas, I doubt anything she wrote would receive a good review from anything under the control of Bill Buckley. If Bill Buckley were really John Galt's love child out of Dagny Taggart, Rand would still have made warding signs and splashed him with the atheist version of holy water.

Part of the reason I found the early drafts jarring is an overemphasis on the philosophical aspects of the subject. Now, I can't say I had direct involvement, but I did interact with a number of people that knew her. Many decades ago, I had dinner with Lee Edwards a time or two, and knew other people that had attended her salons. Few of them would describe themselves as generic philosophers; most would say political activist or even theoretician. The "philosopher" vote tended to come from younger people who had just discovered her work, and it would be interesting to see some reasonable disussion of why some of her novels resonate strongly with people in their teens and twenties. Howard C. Berkowitz 16:16, 2 December 2008 (UTC)


Howard, Chris, someone: what have you done with the Bibliography? And why? Hayford Peirce 18:06, 2 December 2008 (UTC)

I put it on the Works subpage. Doesn't that make sense? It seemed to be all material she had written. Chris Day 18:16, 2 December 2008 (UTC)
Yup. But I didn't see it there, because I was looking for it on the bibliography subpage, which is where I thought it might be.
That said, I gotta say that I really don't like this arrangement. This is probably just a personal gripe, but I think that an author's works ought to be listed on the same page as the main article about the author. Has this been hashed out in the Forum and/or Proposals or somewhere else? If not, I think that it ought to be.... Hayford Peirce 18:54, 2 December 2008 (UTC)

Public comments

I just deleted the following sentence from the intro.

'She also made unconventional assertions in public forums, although not all of them would have been so unconventional at the time she was making them.[1]"

It just seems out of place and inconsequential. As I know very little about Rand, maybe I am missing the context? Chris Day 18:16, 2 December 2008 (UTC)

I was a bit puzzled, actually; it never seemed a crusade of hers. If someone did want to deal with sexual ideas, there actually are reviews of the symbolism of apparent rape fantasies of major female protagonists in The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Personally, the more I deal with this article, the more I see the principal emphasis being American politics, then philosophy, then popular fiction and lit'ry criticism (see St. RAH on critics, esp. Number of the Beast). Agree or disagree, I still love the line "the Jackie Collins of ideological novelists." Howard C. Berkowitz 18:27, 2 December 2008 (UTC)
A nice line, Howard, but JC's first novel was published in 1968. How would RAH reconcile that with a 1957 review? Speaking of which, I'll dig up the NYT and Time reviews -- with 1 and 3 million readers as opposed to maybe 30,000, I think their weight is a little heavier.... Hayford Peirce 18:59, 2 December 2008 (UTC)
I shall clarify that's from a 1990 retrospective National Review review of the 1957 National Review review. Now, if you can review the Times and find contemporary reviews that were not necessarily NR revies, all the better. Howard C. Berkowitz 19:06, 2 December 2008 (UTC)
Am already to insert the NYT by Granville Hicks, but I think I'll go have lunch first. His first para. is a killer...
Could this be the first ever philosophy page to be approved soon?! I just read it all through again and the content is very apt and IMO informative too. If there's no objections, I think we should add the stamp image (as above) to the page too. Martin Cohen 21:27, 2 December 2008 (UTC)
I'll point out again that it is not purely a philosophy page, but, to American eyes, a political page. The political part is rather thin for an approved article, especially without some thought, and quite possibly linking and editing, to articles on libertarianism and American conservatism. Some of those articles need work. Howard C. Berkowitz 22:02, 2 December 2008 (UTC)

Neutrality Notes

Neutrality Notes

Core disputed issue

Whether Ayn Rand deserves any credibility or respect as a philosopher, or is a great thinker.

In accordance with our Neutrality Policy, we officially take no stand on this, but strive only to represent varying points of view fairly, attributing differing beliefs on disputed issues to those who hold them.

Why the dispute is difficult to resolve

Many of Ayn Rand's fans believe she represents a rare and refreshing defense of reason, self-interest, and capitalism, in a mainstream intellectual climate that seems to reject these. Rand also often excites pointed dislike in those who believe strongly in social justice or who believe that reason is limited. She mounted strongly-worded attacks on some of the deepest and most cherished beliefs, or principles, held by many intellectuals, and is therefore a polarizing figure.

Relevant agreed-upon facts

The following points of agreement may help to clarify exactly where the dispute lies:

  1. Ayn Rand wrote essays and books and widely discussed philosophy, and she was an amateur philosopher at least. Her champions would say it is incorrect and unjust to leave it at that, however.
  2. Most philosophy professors familiar with Rand's philosophical writings find them amateurish at best; they do not think she was a "serious" or particularly good philosopher.
  3. Rand was an important figure in the intellectual history of the Libertarian and Conservative movements in the United States in the 20th century.
  4. Rand had followers and associates who went on to earn Ph.D.'s in philosophy, and she interacted with a handful of professional philosophers.
  5. Rand did not interact very much with philosophy professors; she didn't write articles for philosophy journals, or attend philosophy conferences, or do other things that philosophers count as evidence of being a "professional philosopher."

Issues on which the Citizendium is neutral

The article should neither assert nor deny (explicitly or by implication) the following points, but instead attribute positions on them to those who hold them:

  1. Ayn Rand was a good, great, important, or influential philosopher.
  2. Ayn Rand is not regarded as a "serious" philosopher by philosophers. (Without a qualifier such as "most," this claim is vague. There are at least a few professional philosophers who do take her seriously.)
  3. Ayn Rand was not an important part, or even really a part at all, of the philosophical community. (This depends on how far "part of" might extend, and what is meant by "philosophical community.")
  4. Ayn Rand's treatment of the history of philosophy--for instance, her critique of Kant and her use of Aristotle--were facile and amateurish. (Rand has many defenders who disagree.)

About Neutrality Notes: as a service to our readership, the Citizendium creates Neutrality Notes to give essential "dialectical context" to our articles, both alerting readers to disputed issues that have made it difficult to write an article collaboratively as well as underscoring our public commitment to presenting a wide variety of views fairly.

There's my first example. What do you think? Discuss the Rand-related matters below, and the Neutrality Notes-related matters here. --Larry Sanger 16:44, 4 December 2008 (UTC)

See here (I have since undone the edit, so don't get excited, please!) for an example of what the article would look like with the whole above text in-line (not on a subpage). --Larry Sanger 16:59, 4 December 2008 (UTC)

By-default collapsed version:

Neutrality Notes

Core disputed issue

Whether Ayn Rand deserves any credibility or respect as a philosopher, or is a great thinker.

In accordance with our Neutrality Policy, we officially take no stand on this, but strive only to represent varying points of view fairly, attributing differing beliefs on disputed issues to those who hold them.

See this version in context here. Not as obtrusive. --Larry Sanger 17:22, 4 December 2008 (UTC)

That looks pretty good to me. The real question, however, is "Sed quis custodiet ipsos Custodes?" Who will guard the guardians? I imagine that Gareth, Howard, Ramanand, and I would, if each of us attempted to draw up neutrality notes for the Homeopathy article, come up with very different things. If you, Larry, have unlimited time and patience to keep making notes like this in the future, there's no problem. Otherwise.... Hayford Peirce 17:51, 4 December 2008 (UTC)
Surely it is possible to agree on what we disagree? Chris Day 17:53, 4 December 2008 (UTC)
Larry, I'm beginning to see what the NNs 'might' look like, thanks to the good work here on these examples. But let me put a 'counter-example' forward - our old friend L. Ron Hubbard - don't take this as either for or against your idea - it is exploring it with a 'boundary example. What assumptions do your notes for Rand maybe conceal? It might seem to make a bit of a fun of the idea, but if so, it is not intended to 'mock'. I think we could do one more with a third more 'respected figure, and then we would ahve a set to comapre - over to you though if so , for that! Anyway, here is how this for L. Ron Hubbard:

Neutrality Notes

Core disputed issue

Whether Lafayette Ronald Hubbard deserves any credibility or respect as a philosopher, or is a great thinker.

In accordance with our Neutrality Policy, we officially take no stand on this, but strive only to represent varying points of view fairly, attributing differing beliefs on disputed issues to those who hold them.

Immediate thoughts — this is essentially a clone of Rand. While there are those that claim Rand had a small following with elements of a cult, Scientology was orders of magnitude different. Where Rand was a militant atheist, Hubbard used aspects of religion. She had significant political effect, but he didn't. Hubbard had been accused of financial improprieties and of attempting to destroy enemies. Hubbard also was credited with a sense of humor; several science fiction writers have suggested he may have started things on a bet. Howard C. Berkowitz 21:49, 4 December 2008 (UTC)
When I had lunch with RAH many years ago I said at some point, "Hubbard is supposedly at sea somewhere on his yacht and no one in the world, particularly the FBI and the authorities who are looking for him, know where to find him. But you say you know his phone number?" And RAH nodded.... Hayford Peirce 22:09, 4 December 2008 (UTC)

Who wrote the above and what was the point of it supposed to be? --Larry Sanger 02:20, 5 December 2008 (UTC)

Martin wrote it as an example. I moved it up to where it should be after his comment "But let me put a 'counter-example' forward - our old friend L. Ron Hubbard - don't take this as either for or against your idea - it is exploring it with a 'boundary example. ...................Anyway, here is how this for L. Ron Hubbard:" Chris Day 03:33, 5 December 2008 (UTC)
I see. Martin should spell out his argument, because otherwise I will continue to pretend that it is lost on me. :-) --Larry Sanger 05:34, 5 December 2008 (UTC)
'On the road', so hence very brief, but the 'point' is this: would someone readin g about L. Ron accept the 'counter-example' - or say, "this is outrageous! The page is making all sorts of assumptions under the spurious guise of being 'neutral'!"
Yet the claim 'could' be made that LRH is only getting the 'same' benefit-of-the-doubt-neutrality as Rand. The example seemed to me to indicate that the neutrality offered to various points of view has to be offered to all points of view or it becomes in itself a judgement. Secondly, in as much as it is a judgement, it becomes problematic and controversial and hence complicates editing, rather than clarifying the areas disputed and perhaps demarcating them as outside the scope of the page.Martin Cohen 20:29, 10 December 2008 (UTC)
Just finally noticed this reply. Well, it's not really a counter-example because it's nearly nonsensical in places because the things we say about Rand are not the things we say about Hubbard. Obviously, we'd have to have some standards about how Neutrality Notes are constructed; you couldn't, for example, use the notes we've written about one figure as a simple template for another figure.
Of course you're right that in saying we are neutral between this, that, and the other, we must identify the this, the that, and the other that we are neutral about. But then, that is precisely the point of the Neutrality Notes: we spell out in detail where we do not take a stand. The fact that we do not add that we are neutral about something else need not be taken to imply that we do permit biased statements about something else. Indeed, since ex hypothesi we say nothing, the reader (and contributor) shouldn't conclude anything.
Perhaps it will help to point out that we should make neutrality notes about actual and easily anticipatable points of contention, not about every logically possible point of contention.
Also, the purpose of neutrality notes is not (at least, not mainly) to clarify anything about the areas disputed themselves (again, it's not a debate guide!); it is to specify those topics on which we will not make unattributed statements or otherwise imply that a certain position is correct. Finally, unless I am not understanding you, you seem to be under the impression that neutrality notes would declare certain matters as "outside the scope of the page." If that's what you think, you are mistaken. Our neutrality policy does not exclude discussion of any matters, but instead requires that people attribute disputed views on those matters to their owners, and in other ways see to it that various views on the matters are represented as fairly and sympathetically as possible, at least in a context that includes competing views side-by-side. --Larry Sanger 20:45, 31 December 2008 (UTC)

Ron Paul, 2008 U.S. Libertarian Party presidential candidate

As far as I know he wasn't a candidate of the Libertarian party, but tried to get nominated as Republican?Christian Kleineidam

According to the Other Place: "in 2008, Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr received more votes (520,386)...." Paul did indeed try to get the Republican nomination Hayford Peirce 01:53, 27 December 2008 (UTC)

Opposition to Kant

Rand was vocally opposed to the thoughts of Immanuel Kant, and wrote distribes against the German philosopher. Should we mention this fact? Regards. Yi Zhe Wu 20:12, 21 May 2009 (UTC)

Sure, why not? Hayford Peirce 21:53, 21 May 2009 (UTC)
  1. Asked at the Ford Hall Forum at Northeastern University in 1971 about her position, Rand stated that homosexuality is "immoral" and "disgusting."