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The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand: Truth and Toleration in Objectivism [Paperback]

David Kelley
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 1, 2000 0765808633 978-0765808639 2

Ayn Rand's philosophical novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged made her the most controversial author of her age. Her works have drawn millions of readers and continue to sell at a breathtaking pace. Their impact on American culture runs from libertarian politics to the self-esteem movement in psychology to the rugged individualism of Silicon Valley and the Internet. Rand also launched a movement of intellectuals committed to her philosophy of Objectivism. While it has grown dramatically since Rand's death in 1982, however, the Objectivist movement has also fractured into rival camps whose differences over doctrine and strategy are compounded by competition for leadership and bitter accusations of heresy.

In Truth and Toleration, philosopher David Kelley analyzes the conflicts that led him to break ranks with orthodox Objectivists and create an independent branch of the movement. Originally published in 1990 as a manifesto, this work has been revised as an analysis of the principles of intellectual collaboration-the terms on which intellectuals and activists can work together in a common cause. Going beyond the immediate issues, Kelley discusses the nature of individual responsibility for the spread of ideas and for their historical consequences. He offers a new argument for toleration based on a non-relativistic theory of truth. He describes the nature of tribalism among intellectuals, showing how the troubled legacy of Ayn Rand has followed a pattern similar to the not-so-civil wars among followers of other original and charismatic thinkers such as Marx and Freud. In a postscript for the second edition, Kelley reviews the growth in Objectivist scholarship and the influence of Rand's ideas over the past decade.

Truth and Toleration is an engaging introduction to the Objectivist movement, its core ideas, and its central fissures. At the same time, it offers a case study in the sociology of intellectual movements and a frank discussion of the issues that arise whenever thinkers leave their studies to promote their idea in the public realm.

Editorial Reviews


"The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand represents a precious contribution to the literature of reason." -- Roderick T. Long, Professor of Philosophy, Auburn University

"His arguments are bold yet fair; sophisticated yet fully accessible. They are a very significant contribution to Objectivist thought." -- Stephen Cox, Professor of Literature University of California at San Diego

About the Author

David Kelley is the executive director of the Objectivist Center. Educated at Princeton University, earlier in his career he taught philosophy at Brandeis University and Vassar College. He has written widely on the subject of libertarianism including The Evidence of the Senses; The Art of Reasoning; and is co-author of The Logical Structure of Objectivism.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers; 2 edition (December 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765808633
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765808639
  • Product Dimensions: 0.4 x 6.2 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,216,980 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Kelley, Ph.D., is the founder of The Atlas Society in Washington, DC, which promotes open Objectivism, the philosophy originated by novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand.
He is an internationally-known expert in Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism. A former college professor of philosophy, he has written and lectured extensively on issues in epistemology, ethics, politics, social issues, and public policy. He has also been a consultant to the film adaptation of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.

Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
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35 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book July 11, 2001
By A Customer
This is a truly wonderful book. In it, philosopher David Kelley analyzes several issues that have haunted the "Objectivist Movement." In particular, he discusses whether Objectivism is an open or closed system of ideas, and whether the practice of toleration is in fact consonant with the principles of Objectivism. Kelley answers that it is an open system of ideas, and he shows that the practice of tolerance is consonant with the fundamental principles of Ayn Rand's thought. [I give this book 4 stars, rather than 5, because its thesis - though correct - is of peripheral philosophical importance].
Moreover, this book serves as a manifesto and rally-point for Objectivists who are reasonable people. There is every reason for healthy, reasonable human beings to be interested in Ayn Rand's thought. She outlines a secular, life-affirming, benevolent morality that offers valuable, principled, fundamental guidance in making decisions. She also has many interesting philosophical theories on, e.g., the nature of historical and cultural change, concept-formation, philosophical methodology, and politics.
But historically, Rand's followers have been an odd cult of self-effacing, thought-policing, paranoid sycophants. Many of the Objectivists I have met were, well, blustering, inarticulate, wrathful nutcases who liked Rand mostly for her wholesale condemnation of contemporary society. These individuals hated all other people (and Rand did, too); they also hated themselves (Rand, in her worst moments, gives them an excuse for doing so). So basically, Rand's writings gave them a great swift sword to exercise in their dealings with others.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars KELLEY'S VIEW OF OBJECTIVISM AS AN "OPEN SYSTEM" April 3, 2012
David Kelley was "excommunicated" (so to speak) from the "official," Leonard Peikoff/Harry Binswanger/Ayn Rand Institute school of Objectivism for his sympathies to Libertarian sentiments. He then founded the Institute of Objectivist Studies in 1990 (which co-founder George Walsh described as "a home for homeless Objectivists"; pg. 11), which later became The Objectivist Center and The Atlas Society.

This 2000 book is a revision and expansion of Kelley's 1990 monograph Truth and Toleration; he has also written books such as The Art of Reasoning (Third Edition), The Evidence of the Senses: A Realist Theory of Perception, A Life of One's Own: Individual Rights and the Welfare State, etc.

Although Kelley was an active Objectivist (he was even selected to read Rand's favorite poem at her funeral), his "refusal to denounce Barbara Branden's The Passion of Ayn Rand, and his openness to libertarianism (which he views as "two sides of the same committment to reason, objectivity, and respect for the independence of others as indivdiduals") "led to a conflict with other leaders of the movement." (Pg. 10-11) After being exiled from the movement, his 1990 monograph "was my attempt to answer the arguments... (and) provide the full philosophical case for my own position." (Pg.
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16 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ayn Rand for the rational - and tolerant! July 10, 2006
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A number of the reviewers here of Kelley's book are water-carriers for the ARI and their curious claim that NOBODY (except them, of course!) can speak for Objectivism and the legacy of Ayn Rand. Echoing Leonard Peikoff, they claim that Objectivism is a "closed system" that is perfect, complete, above criticism, and comprises ONLY the writings of Ayn Rand or those she endorsed (although ARI tries to ignore the Brandens' pre-1968 writings that Ayn Rand herself, endorsed). Ironically, this means that not only is Peikoff's own book on Objectivism excluded from the "canon" (as Peikoff admits in his Preface), BUT SO ALSO IS EVERYTHING ELSE THAT HAS BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT OBJECTIVISM, PRO OR CON, SINCE RAND'S DEATH! So even the Ayn Rand Institute's authors cannot claim that their writings are "Objectivist."

However, this attempt to stifle or disqualify any critical commentary on Ayn Rand's remarkable contributions to philosophy is doomed to failure, as has been repeatedly demonstrated in the history of ideological movements. The early followers of Saint-Simon, Auguste Comte, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud (to name a few examples) all tried to limit or disqualify any criticism or revision of their founders, but to no avail. In fact, such attempts inevitably lead to even more criticism, more revisions and additions, and the proliferation of schools of thought, all claiming that only they have found the "true" interpretation of what the original philosopher "really" meant.

Sadly, the ARI people just don't get it. I guess we will just have to let history teach them.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars You can't lose for trying...but....
I first read this work when it came out in 2000. At the time, I had been quite a believer in objectivism but completely irked by the Peikoff-style iron fisted approach to... Read more
Published on May 13, 2004 by Kevin Currie-Knight
1.0 out of 5 stars Wide Open Mind
Kelley endorses a concept of "tolerance" that includes the "toleration" of the comprehensive dishonesty of Nathaniel and Barbara Branden. Read more
Published on July 21, 2002 by Durban House Publishing
1.0 out of 5 stars Why is this so hard to understand?
Objectivism is the name that Ayn Rand gave HER philosophy. If you change it's fundamentals around, it's no longer Objectivism. Read more
Published on June 23, 2002 by Repairmanjack
1.0 out of 5 stars Rand is Not for the Morally Squeamish
Immoral conduct has something to do with what used to be called "bad character." Rand knew that beneath it all, our habits, emotions, and characteristic attitudes are largely the... Read more
Published on April 26, 2002 by James Valliant
5.0 out of 5 stars Renewed my excitement for Objectivism.
... I actually found _The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand: Truth and Toleration in Objectivism_ far from dull. Why? Read more
Published on March 30, 2002 by Mike Anthony
3.0 out of 5 stars Could be criticized for belaboring obvious
The great philosopher Karl Popper once noted that any denial of the dualism between fact and standards (or fact and values) "is dangerous," because those who believe they... Read more
Published on August 3, 2001 by Greg Nyquist
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth Reading
In 1989, David Kelley spoke at the Laissez Faire Supper Club, a libertarian organization. Although he was an Orthodox Objectivist at that time, he was denounced and driven out of... Read more
Published on July 22, 2001 by Steve Jackson
5.0 out of 5 stars Ground-breaking and Inspirational
A ground-breaking work in philosophy, this work shows why toleration is an important virtue for rational and objective discussion. Read more
Published on July 12, 2001 by Shawn Klein
1.0 out of 5 stars Here we go again...
Perhaps someday someone will correct Dr. Kelley's understanding of Objectivism and help him eliminate the title of Grand Second Hander. Read more
Published on June 29, 2001 by "unimatrix"
5.0 out of 5 stars Much needed corrective to Objectivist "tribalism"
It is hard to believe that a philosophy which preaches individualism, benevolence, and rationality would oppose toleration, but that is what Objectivism, in the version preached by... Read more
Published on February 23, 2001 by Eddie LeBaron
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