- Series: Ayn Rand Society Philosophical Studies
- Hardcover: 312 pages
- Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press; 1 edition (June 3, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0822944243
- ISBN-13: 978-0822944249
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #493,513 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Concepts and Their Role in Knowledge: Reflections on Objectivist Epistemology (Ayn Rand Soc Philosophical Stu) (Ayn Rand Society Philosophical Studies) Hardcover – June 3, 2013
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About the Author
Allan Gotthelf is Anthem Foundation Distinguished Fellow for Research and Teaching in Philosophy at Rutgers University. He is the author of On Ayn Rand and Teleology, First Principles, and Scientific Method in Aristotle’s Biology and coeditor of Philosophical Issues in Aristotle’s Biology and the forthcoming Ayn Rand: A Companion to Her Works and Thought.
James G. Lennox is professor of history and philosophy of science at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Aristotle: On the Parts of Animals I–IVand Aristotle’s Philosophy of Biology: Studies in the Origins of Life Science. Lennox is coeditor of Philosophical Issues in Aristotle’s Biology;Being, Nature, and Life in Aristotle: Essays in Honor of Allan Gotthelf; and Concepts, Theories, and Rationality in the Biological Sciences.
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The fundamental challenge that the Objectivist contributors to this series face is to communicate Rand's philosophy in a way that preserves its distinctive features and character while rendering it intelligible to academics steeped in the "analytic" tradition. The series debut fell a bit short of that goal in my view, resulting in critiques by the non-Objectivist contributors that sometimes seemed to miss their mark due to a failure to grasp the essentials of Rand's position.
The Objectivist contributors take a different tack in this new book. Rather than attempting to translate Objectivist ideas into the language of today's academics, they establish their position using Rand's terminology and only then relate her terms, concepts, and principles to those in mainstream contemporary philosophy, taking care to highlight important (though sometimes subtle) differences as well as points of limited agreement, while never hesitating to indicate areas where Objectivism flatly rejects accepted premises, terms, or positions. The advantage of this method becomes clear in the discussion section: whereas in the first volume of the series the non-Objectivist contributors often seemed to misunderstand the Objectivist view to which they were responding, here the respondents demonstrate a better sense of the Objectivist position and are thus able to offer more informed and focused critiques. This makes for a lively, on-topic discussion, to the benefit of the reader (and ultimately, I think, to that of Objectivism).
As to the veracity of the Objectivist position, the reader must decide. I do not think that a verdict can be reached based solely on the content of this one book, however. At a minimum, I would consider Rand's own "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology," along with Leonard Peikoff's "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand" (esp. chapters 1-5) and Harry Binswanger's forthcoming "How We Know" as essential reading on the topic. That said, Dr. Gotthelf provides a solid introductory overview of Rand's epistemology, her ideas are well represented by the other Objectivist contributors, and most of the obvious (and not-so-obvious) issues that are de rigueur in contemporary epistemological debates--including standard objections surrounding any version of "direct realism"--are diligently raised and pursued by the non-Objectivist contributors and, in my judgment, deftly and persuasively answered in the Objectivist responses.
As a dedicated student of philosophy, I appreciate any book that challenges me to think carefully about philosophical issues. This book earns high marks in that regard: I came away with a deeper understanding of Objectivist epistemology, particularly as it stands in relation to other "direct realist" theories. I would enthusiastically recommend this book to anyone with a serious interest in epistemology, and certainly to professional philosophers interested in exploring Objectivist epistemology, as it presents an accurate overview and a compelling discussion of Ayn Rand's theory of knowledge.