Introduction by Leonard Peikoff
Ayn Rand was a philosopher in the classical sense: she was intent not on teasing apart some random sentences, but on defining a full system of thought, from epistemology to esthetics. Her writing, accordingly, is extensive, and the range of issues she covers enormous—so much so that it is often difficult for a reader to know where in her many books and articles to look for a specific formulation or topic. Even Miss Rand herself was sometimes hard-pressed in this regard.
The Ayn Rand Lexicon solves this problem. It is a compilation of key statements from Ayn Rand (and from a few other authorized Objectivist texts) on several hundred alphabetized topics in philosophy and related fields. The book was initially conceived by Harry Binswanger, who undertook it during Miss Rand’s lifetime with her permission and approval.
Two different audiences can profit from the Lexicon. Those who know Miss Rand’s works will find it a comprehensive guide to the literature. It will enable them to locate topics or passages easily, and—by virtue of its detailed indexes and cross-references—to check on their wider context and ramifications. Newcomers to Ayn Rand will find the book an intriguing introduction to her thought, one eminently suited to browsing. Many such browsers, I venture to say, after sampling the entries under Reason, Selfishness, Capitalism, and a few more such topics, will become hooked by the logic and originality of Ayn Rand’s ideas. If this happens to you, the next step is to turn to one of her books.
By its nature, this kind of project requires an editor with a professional knowledge of philosophy in general and of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism, in particular. Harry Binswanger qualifies on both counts. He is a Ph.D. from Columbia University and taught philosophy for many years at Hunter College. Dr. Binswanger was an associate of Miss Rand’s. He taught Objectivism at the New School in New York City, and assisted in a course on the subject at the University of California (Berkeley). At present, Dr. Binswanger is editor of The Objectivist Forum, a magazine that applies Objectivism to philosophical and cultural issues.
In preparing the Lexicon, Dr. Binswanger has done a thorough and meticulous job. He has covered not only the familiar works of Ayn Rand, but also obscure and little-known sources. He has done the excerpting skillfully and accurately, always selecting essentials; as a result, the passages he offers are generally self-contained and self-intelligible. And he has arranged the material within a given topic in a logical sequence, each excerpt building on the earlier ones. If one reads straight through a topic, one will discover not a series of disconnected sentences, but a definite structure and development; this makes the reading even more illuminating and enjoyable.
The Lexicon is a welcome addition to the growing Ayn Rand Library, of which it is Volume IV. It is going to be extremely helpful to me personally, and I am happy to recommend it to anyone interested in the thought of Ayn Rand. She herself, I know, would have been pleased to see it become a reality.
South Laguna, California