Ayn Rand’s Marginalia

Ayn Rand's Marginalia cover Those who have had the experience of discussing topics with Ayn Rand invariably remark on her intensely active, penetrating mind. In Ayn Rand’s Marginalia, we are treated to glimpses of Ayn Rand’s mind at work—and her passion for ideas—as we see her private, marginal comments on various books and articles.

Unlike readers who passively imbibe an author’s development, Ayn Rand actively judges a writing’s truth and clarity at every stage.

For example, we see her ability to translate an author’s woozy, seemingly plausible abstractions into concrete reality. When C.S. Lewis writes, in attacking the advance of technology since the Renaissance, “Each new power won by man is a power over man as well. Each advance leaves him weaker as well as stronger,” Ayn Rand responded indignantly: “So when you cure men of TB, syphilis, scurvy, small pox and rabies—you make them weaker!!!”

We see her diligence in catching—and correcting—sloppy or evasive formulations. In response to a claim by Henry Hazlitt that capitalism considers “all the needs of consumers,” she responds indignantly: “This is fudging. Capitalism certainly does not consider ‘all the needs’ of consumers. ‘Needs’ are not the yardstick. Nobody gets anything on the basis of his needs—under capitalism.”

Always on the lookout for an author’s fundamental premises, Ayn Rand is quick to identify and address them. When Barry Goldwater writes in The Conscience of a Conservative, “We want to stay alive of course; but more than that we want to be free,” she identifies his “acceptance of that false dichotomy: life or freedom—instead of explaining why they are inseparable corollaries. Just as the Conservatives accepted, with disastrous results, the false dichotomy of ‘freedom or security,’ so they are now accepting another one: ‘freedom or life.’ On these terms, what’s the use, meaning or value of freedom?”

Marginalia is presented in an easy-to-read format that includes both Ayn Rand’s marginal comments and the text of the original passages she is responding to, so the reader can better understand and evaluate Ayn Rand’s comments.

Marginalia is a valuable resource for anyone interested in politics, culture, or philosophy. It provides examples of how to be an active, philosophical reader—and a collection of penetrating insights and pregnant questions about philosophy, economics, culture, and politics.

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(Softcover; 231 pages)

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