The philosophic writings of Ayn Rand and her associates have grown to include almost two thousand pages distributed among eight books—plus various lecture courses, newsletter articles, and pamphlets. Accordingly, I conceived the idea of creating a reference work, organized by topic, to function as an Objectivist dictionary or mini-encyclopedia.
I first proposed this idea to Ayn Rand in 1977. She was originally somewhat skeptical about its feasibility, being concerned as to whether her writings would lend themselves to the kind of excerpting that would be required. To sell her on the project, I wrote a detailed prospectus of the book and worked up a sample—the entries beginning with the letter “N.” She was favorably impressed with the results and gave me permission to go ahead. She commented extensively on several dozen entries, helping me to define appropriate standards for excerpting and topic selection.
As the work progressed, Miss Rand became increasingly enthusiastic about the project. One value of the book had special meaning to her: it eliminates any shred of excuse (if ever there had been one) for the continual gross misrepresentation of her philosophy at the hands of hostile commentators. As she quipped to me, “People will be able to look up BREAKFAST and see that I did not advocate eating babies for breakfast.”
Miss Rand had intended to read over the entire book, but after completing the letter “A” I had to shelve the project in order to found and edit The Objectivist Forum, and did not resume work on it until two years after her death. Consequently, she read only about 10 percent of the material.
I have endeavored to cull from the Objectivist corpus all the significant topics in philosophy and closely allied fields, such as psychology, economics, and intellectual history. The Lexicon, however, does not cover Ayn Rand’s fiction writings, except for those philosophical passages from her novels that were reprinted in her book For the New Intellectual. Material by authors other than Miss Rand is included only if she had given it an explicit public endorsement—as with Leonard Peikoff’s book The Ominous Parallels and his lecture course “The Philosophy of Objectivism”—or if it was originally published under her editorship in The Objectivist Newsletter, The Objectivist, or The Ayn Rand Letter. I have also made use of four Objectivist Forum articles that Miss Rand read and approved.
To keep the book to a manageable size, I have had to omit many passages which could have been included. I have sought to include under each heading only the essential passages, roughly proportioning the length of the entries to their scope and importance, within the limits of the amount of material available in the sources. The entry under Immanuel Kant, for instance, is as long as it is not merely because Miss Rand had so much to say about Kant’s philosophy, but because of his immense influence on the history of philosophy, and thus on history proper. Miss Rand regarded Kant as her chief philosophical antagonist. Nevertheless, I may have missed some passages that merit inclusion, and readers are invited to send me any such passages to New American Library for their possible inclusion in future editions. For some headings (e.g., Knowledge), I give only the term’s definition and rely on the cross-references to lead the reader to other topics for elaboration.
In accordance with Miss Rand’s wishes, I have included statements about other philosophies only in selected instances: on Aristotle (whose system is the closest to that of Objectivism), on Kant (whose system is the diametrical opposite of Objectivism), on Friedrich Nietzsche (whose views, though fundamentally opposed to Ayn Rand’s, are often taken to be similar), on John Stuart Mill (the philosophical father of today’s “conservatives”), and on some influential contemporary schools: Pragmatism, Logical Positivism, and Linguistic Analysis. Those interested in the Objectivist analysis of other philosophies may consult For the New Intellectual and The Ominous Parallels.
In a number of instances, I have used oral material from Leonard Peikoff’s tape-recorded lecture courses. Dr. Peikoff has edited these passages for this purpose. I have also included a few statements by Miss Rand from the question-and-answer periods following these lectures. Miss Rand’s answers, which were wholly extemporaneous, are presented virtually unedited.
In excerpting from written material, I have sought to minimize the clutter of ellipses and square brackets. Where I have excised material from within a continuous passage, I have, of course, used ellipses to indicate that deletion. But I have not used ellipses at the beginning or end of entire passages, even when I have made initial or terminal cuts. Thus, the reader is put on notice that, at the beginning of a passage, some words from the start of the original sentence may have been dropped. Likewise, at the end of a passage, sentences in the original may continue on beyond where they end here.
Square brackets are used to indicate my own interpolated words or introductory notes (except that I have retained the square brackets used by Ayn Rand, Leonard Peikoff, etc. to insert their own comments within a direct quotation from someone else). In a few instances, I have deleted italics, but as a rule they are as they appear in the original texts; in no case did I add italics.
Some entry headings appear in quotation marks. The quotes are used to indicate either a concept that Objectivism regards as invalid or obfuscatory (as with “Collective Rights”), or a term used in a new or special sense (as with “Stolen Concept,” Fallacy of. The content of the entry should make clear which function, in a given case, these quotation marks serve.
Some explanation is necessary about the manner in which I have identified the sources of the passages quoted. The references include page numbers for both hardcover and paperback editions when possible (only paperback editions are currently available for Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, and %Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal%%). I have cited the page number only for the passage’s beginning even when it continues beyond that page in the original (e.g., a page reference normally given as “54–56” would appear here only as “54”). And, unless otherwise stated, all quotations are from Ayn Rand.
Note also that paperback page references for The Romantic Manifesto and The New Left refer to the second editions of these works. The first edition of the former did not include “Art and Cognition,” and “The Age of Envy” was not included in the first edition of the latter.
All the books cited are available in paperback editions from New American Library. Much of the other material, including back issues of Miss Rand’s periodicals and some separate pamphlets, is available from The Objectivist Forum, P.O. Box 5311, FDR Station, New York, NY 10150. (When an article published in a periodical has been reprinted in a book, only the book reference is given.)
I wish to thank Leonard Peikoff for his continued encouragement and editorial advice. Thanks are also due to Allison Thomas Kunze for identifying several passages that were worthy of inclusion and to Michael Palumbo for his meticulous assistance in assembling the manuscript.
I must stress that the Lexicon is not intended as a substitute for the primary sources from which it is derived. It is a fundamental tenet of Objectivism that philosophy is not a haphazard collection of out-of-context pronouncements, but an integrated, hierarchically structured system, which has to be studied and judged as such. For a brief indication of what Objectivism as a philosophic system advocates, the reader may refer to the entry, Objectivism. For a fuller statement, the best single source is Galt’s speech in Atlas Shrugged (reprinted in For the New Intellectual).
New York City