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Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical Paperback – June 1, 1995

3.7 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Rand is an enduringly popular figure; her books have sold 30 million copies, respondents to a Library of Congress survey said her work was second only to the Bible in its impact on their lives, and The New Yorker has just rediscovered her sex life (July 24, 1995). But her impact was through her fiction, and attempts to extract her philosophy have usually resulted in thin intellectual chicken soup. This book is an exception. Sciabarra, a visiting scholar in politics at NYU, goes back to Rand's Russian roots, arguing that she rejected both Russian religious mysticism and Marxism but clung to what they had in common?a rejection of mind-matter dualism and a concentration on the concrete. He also argues (more doubtfully) that she developed her own dialectic of the mutual implication of mind and matter, thought and action, reason and feeling. Sciabarra thinks it is this dialectical tension that gives Rand's ideas power, but he admits she would have rejected the word dialectic and that he is bringing a hidden structure to light. Essential for Rand fans and for academics who want to analyze her thought.?Leslie Armour, Univ. of Ottawa
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

This book reveals the distinctively Russian aspects of Ayn Rand's philosophy. As such, it is a major contribution to the public's knowledge and understanding of this controversial and still-popular writer. --Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal, Nietzsche in Russia

Several books have been written about Rand but none with the philosophical depth and scope of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. It brings to light information about Rand's philosophical education that is not available elsewhere and shows that this education was substantial. Rand s ideas will no longer be able to be dismissed as merely shallow ideology. --Tibor Machan, Auburn University

Sciabarra shows that Rand is best understood as a postmodern thinker, for she was really concerned with creating a culture that overcame the dichotomies of modernity: empiricism/rationalism; facts/values; body/mind; and prudence/morality. This important and thoughtful work will change how the views of this deep and disturbing thinker are understood. --Douglas B. Rasmussen, St. John's University

Several books have been written about Rand but none with the philosophical depth and scope of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. It brings to light information about Rand's philosophical education that is not available elsewhere and shows that this education was substantial. Rand s ideas will no longer be able to be dismissed as merely shallow ideology. --Tibor Machan, Auburn University

Sciabarra shows that Rand is best understood as a postmodern thinker, for she was really concerned with creating a culture that overcame the dichotomies of modernity: empiricism/rationalism; facts/values; body/mind; and prudence/morality. This important and thoughtful work will change how the views of this deep and disturbing thinker are understood. --Douglas B. Rasmussen, St. John's University
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 477 pages
  • Publisher: Pennsylvania State Univ; 2nd edition (June 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0271014415
  • ISBN-13: 978-0271014418
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,445,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Those unfamiliar with the history of Ayn Rand may wonder about the widely divergent reviews *Russian Radical* has received at Amazon and elsewhere. My own view is that Sciabarra writes with superb scholarship and penetrating insight. His book is the main reason for my renewed interest in the ideas of Rand.
The critics of *Russian Radical* fall into roughly three camps. The first consists of those who appreciate Sciabarra's scholarship but disagree with his application of "dialectics" to Rand's thought. This is an honest and mostly friendly disagreement. Many of these critics are associated with the Objectivist Center of New York.
The second camp consists of Rand's "true believers" who take adoration of Rand to a near-cultish extreme. Such people, often associated with the Ayn Rand Institute, regularly attack scholars not officially sanctioned by Leonard Peikoff, Rand's heir. If you hear ad hominem attacks directed toward Sciabarra, chances are they're coming from this camp.
The third camp of critics consists of those who feel an irrational hostility toward Rand and who take out this hostility on anyone who sympathizes with Rand's beliefs. Rand, after all, advocated egoism and capitalism, making her an arch-enemy of big-government advocates and religionists.
Of course, there are also thousands of readers, me included, who appreciate Sciabarra's work and agree with it substantially. In my view, *Russian Radical* is the single most important book on Rand's ideas ever written. - Ari Armstrong
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Format: Paperback
It is refreshing to see at last a critical review of the philosophical thought of Ayn Rand, since her philosophy is sometimes described as "naive", and, perhaps just as troubling, as the greatest philosophy ever to appear in print. The author of this book has given the reader an honest and in-depth analysis of one of the most controversial figures in twentieth-century philosophical thought. Rand was not an academic philosopher, and this, coupled with her frequent vitriolic attacks against many philosophical schools of thought, induced many to speak out against her, and they typically did so with a degree of vituperation unmatched as yet in public debate. Fortunately the shouting and name-calling typically accompanying discussion of Randian philosophy is not included in this book. Also not included is any blind, uncritical allegiance to Randian philosophy, for this can also accompany discussions of it. Rand has made some interesting contributions to philosophical thought, and her theory of ethics is I believe unequaled, and one can find a very thorough discussion of just how she arrived at this theory throughout this book. However Rand, like every other philosopher, cannot remove herself from history and cultural influences, and view the world from a detached, apodictic point of view, for that is the nature of human learning. One builds on what has been done before, and with careful thought and unique insight, some original ideas can then be developed, which will hopefully extend what has been done before, and nontrivially. The author of this book clearly shows the historical origins of Randian thought, those origins have their place in the Russian university that Rand attended.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
First let me say that this book is a difficult read. Having said that, it is a must read for any serious student of Ayn Rand's "project."
Chris Sciabarra makes a strong case for the dialectical nature of Rand's philosophy. He looks at how her work might have been informed by her Russian roots and the early experiences of her life and how she developed a philosophy that attempted to integrate all aspects of Objective Reality. Objective Reality as Rand saw it is not inherently fragmented. A philosophy based on Objective Reality would of necessity integrate all aspects into a cohesive whole.
Apparently, some who regard Rand as a mystical goddess, take offense at the sharp focus that Sciabarra puts on her work. This seems odd, given that this book demonstrates a profound respect for her intellectual accomplishments.

Rand often said in her own writing that each person had a right to act in his own rational self-interest, and with that right came a moral obligation to actively seek the truth (Objective Reality) as a prerequisite of rational choice. In essense, Sciabarra has used Rand's most fundamental principles to attempt an objective analysis of her analysis. This makes his effort a moral one. Yet to some he has committed the original sin by eating from the tree of knowledge and must be cast out of the Garden of Eden for it.
My only criticism was that this book does not critique her failures or attempt to explain her tyranny toward those closest to her. But that subject has been covered in other books by those who knew her personally and is well beyond the scope of this book.
Sciabarra's thoroughly researched RUSSIAN RADICAL will remain an important contribution to Rand scholarship for many years to come.
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Format: Paperback
Chris Matthew Sciabarra has written an interesting book on the origins of Ayn Rand's thought. He argues that Rand is a "dialectical" thinker in the tradition of her Russian philosophy professors such as N. O. Lossky. Sciabarra presents historical evidence of this and also shows similarities between the thought of Rand and other thinkers in the dialectical tradition.
Ultimately, however, I'm not convinced. While there are interesting parallels, it seems to me that one can say the same thing with respect to all sorts of thinkers. It's easy to find similarities between thinkers and jump to the conclusion that one influenced the other, or that thinker B is "really" saying the same thing as A.
That being said, Prof. Sciabarra is an excellent writer with a tremendous grasp of Rand's thought and the relevant literature. Drawing on this, he provides one of the best discussions of Rand's philosophy. For example, the chapture "Being" is outstanding.
As Mr. Scott Ryan has noted, Rand's transcript has now been found. In addition, more of Rand's journals have been released. I hope that Prof. Sciabarra updates this valuable work.
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