This is a question in response to this other one that I asked. I didn't really get a satisfactory answer, mostly because it seems like Rand's work is largely ignored by academics. The highest voted answer starts with "you'll be hard-pressed to find a serious philosopher who takes Ayn Rand seriously". Why is this the case? To a layperson like myself, her ideas seem pretty well thought out, self consistent, and thought provoking, if a bit black-and-white. Is her work lacking rigor? Is is a problem of her presentation through fiction? Are the ideas presented flawed in a way that is not obvious to me?
This is the case because Rand offered very few philosophical arguments. I actually do not know of any particular arguments she did offer, but I will assume that she at least attempted to offer some.
In the analytic tradition, philosophical arguments consist of clearly stated premises and logically sound conclusions. Some (already noted) attempts to locate in Rand's work such specific premises and conclusions show that her positions on several important points (e.g. causation and free will) are self-contradictory and inconsistent. This makes her conclusions irrelevant to the philosophical discourse in which she appears to have been attempting to participate. So in this way, the answer to your above question is a resounding "YES!"; a lack of argumentation entails a lack of rigor in argumentation.
Upon reflection, I realize that one could respond here by saying that Rand was engaged in a more Continental approach to philosophy. Consider her tendency to employ fiction to "make her point" – a strategy (as previously mentioned in another answer) employed by Sartre and Camus, among other Continentals. Reading her this way, Rand's work could be seen as having a place within some larger historical philosophical discourse. However, her well-documented ideological struggle against Marxism undermines her own argument again here; the Marxist dialectic underpins the Continental approach to philosophy. If we are to take Rand's conclusions seriously, which is to say that if we take her particular anti-Marxism to be the point she is making, then she is using the Marxist dialectic to completely disavow Marxism, thus ending the dialectic. There are two problems with this. First, her work would be little more than her bid to be the "the champion of all philosophical discourse", and second, there are still WAY too many questions left unanswered for us to stop doing philosophy.
So frankly, she has written nothing particularly philosophically interesting or compelling.
This highlights another frustration some academic philosophers might have regarding Ayn Rand. She relies on absolute self-certainty where she should be relying on well-reasoned arguments. One problem here is doing this often resembles well-thought-out, consistent philosophy, but in terms of actual philosophy, it amounts to nothing more than polemics and screeds. From her writings, all that can be logically deduced are her opinions, yet I have no doubt that Rand dislikes Marxism, nor do I doubt her love of Capitalism. Another problem is that assuming the certainty of your conclusions is simply poorly-executed philosophy – every philosopher must be willing to accept that they could be wrong about their conclusions, or else they are not doing philosophy.
Again, her work is thus philosophically uninteresting. But if your thoughts are provoked by her writing, that's a good thing. I recommend taking some time to sketch out her arguments and see for yourself if her conclusions actually follow from her premises.
I hope this is answered above.
I think there's a simpler explanation for why Rand is generally ignored in academia. She loathes Kant (presumably would also Berkeley and the British Empiricists) and defines herself in perfect opposition to him. She refuses to even acknowledge the possibility that he might be right, and takes all of his questions to be ridiculous and evil pseudoquestions.
But this is where much of the debate about her kind of philosophy (Metaphysical, Scientific, Moral Realisms; see the various respective articles on the SEP for examples) lies - how do you resolve the question about internal versus external realism, given the sorts of challenges that Kant and his predecessors/successors put forward? Some philosophers will defend antirealist arguments, and others will oppose, in order to develop their respective positions.
If you refuse to engage in the debate that academic philosophers are having, then it should hardly seem a surprise that they would not address your opinions.
There are a number of interlocking reasons.
First, as you point out, she wrote fiction, not philosophical papers.
Second, she did not appear to engage in any substantive way with the prior philosophical work done on the subjects that interested her. Her only connection to the philosophical tradition (writ large) is what we can charitably call a highly idiosyncratic reading of Aristotle.
Third, her arguments (once extracted from the fiction) appear to most philosophers to be lacking subtlety and depth. They may seem like deep thoughts to casual readers, but they are not at a level of sophistication anywhere near that of mainstream philosophers. In fact, her arguments are generally polemical in nature.
Your question is answered (and questioned) in Ayn Rand: Academic reaction on Wikipedia. The article gives reasons why many academics have dismissed her work. It also notes that other academics have taken her work seriously.
(As for the point about fiction -- Rand also wrote nonfiction (though not any academic papers that I'm aware of). And writing fiction doesn't preclude one from being taken seriously as a philosopher -- see Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus.)
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Ayn Rand isn't well liked because her work doesn't fit into the mold of what academia deems acceptable philosophy. This makes perfect sense when you understand that Ayn Rand's view of philosophy is different (she wasn't trying to meet the standards of academic philosophy). Rand views philosophy as a detrimental component of human life, while academics treat philosophy like more of a discipline one does simply because one can. If you were to ask an academic what the purpose of philosophy is they're likely to be confused by the question.
Often her conclusions are misrepresented (as they are in the highest voted answer in this thread by Jaime Ravenet, and by Robert Nozick's work On The Randian Argument). Even more often people treat her works of fiction as philosophical arguments and attempt to extract an argument from some character's dialogue, or they attack her personal life and don't even try to hide their ad-hominem.
Example of dismissal:
This attempts to ignore or dismiss her arguments on the foundations of philosophy. Specifically, beginning from the beginning by establishing the absolute baseline of what must be taken as a given. Irrefutable absolutes she referred to as axiomatic concepts. These were not "absolute self-certainty", they were where she argued one must begin because that is the point at which no further reduction is possible... and because any attempt to refute them fails by first affirming them. Every argument has its premises, Objectivism as a whole is no different.
Here is an example of misrepresentation:
This implies that it was Ayn Rand's goal to answer all possible questions such that we "stop doing philosophy" right? Actually Ayn Rand argued in Philosophy: Who Needs It? that Philosophy is a fundamental part of everyday life for every human being, and you need it badly like it or not.
So you can see even in the "popular" view in this thread you've got dismissal and misrepresentations. Most of the people I attempt to discuss Objectivism with are like this. They read one of her works of fiction at some point and fancy themselves knowledgeable enough to speak on the subject.
In reality it's become fashionable to dislike Ayn Rand.
...but you're going to write another few paragraphs on why she can be safely disregarded.
Ayn Rand had an unfortunate disposition. Originally from Russia, she wasn't a very good communicator verbally or on paper unless you spent some time listening to her. On top of English being her second language and the subject being often complex, it required too much effort to really get a grasp of what she was trying to communicate.
The time period she lived in has a lot to do with it also. The "collectivist" counter-culture was on the rise; the political atmosphere and governmental policies in the United States (she felt) were pushing the nation in the same direction as Russia, the country she fled. She felt a very immediate threat from the direction the country was moving in, both culturally and politically, because of what she experienced in Russia first hand. This first hand experience provided a lot of the motivation behind strong positions against things she would come to call "evil" etc...
So when you mix together someone who is an outspoken critic that holds strong unpopular positions and someone that isn't a very good public speaker you end up with the common view of Ayn Rand. "An angry tirade occasioned by mistaking philosophical disagreement for a personal attack and/or evidence of unspeakable moral corruption."
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Ayn Rand wrote political rhetoric not philosophy. It is intended to provoke emotion not thought and targets the weakest points of her opponents and ignores the failings of its own.
Her work of philosophy was built upon her fictional world and appeals to emotion. Her attempted foray into philosophical work(Essays written to various publications) was really prompted by her cult like following, that developed subsequent to the publication of Anthem, Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged. But even this work was designed consumption not analysis. It is full of Appeals of Emotion , Fear, and Ad Hominem Tu Quoque. These are effective tools for political muck raking but not the types of arguments that sway critical thinkers.
I would expect that these issues would be overlooked and someone would take the ball and run with it developing Objectivism into a valid philosophy. Save for the fact that Ayn Rand had a penchant for attacking anyone who did not agree with her labeling them Communists and criminals, especially attacking those in the liberal arts academia. So combining her vitriol for academia with a pseudo-philosophy that essentially labels academia as worthless, and it is anti-intuitive for those academics to validate her works. And those few who have risked the ire of the academic community as well as turning out works that no longer invoke the emotion that drew those who would follow in first place.
The comments on this blog post on Brian Leiter's blog provide many good resources.
A lot of the problem here is that no Academic can be bothered to take the time to debunk Rand. This is something I can understand but which is still unfortunate.
This Mike Huemer post I find to be a particularly good take down of objectivist ethics.
Robert Nozick, an Arch-Libertarian, has a pretty good article called "On the Randian Argument". A quick google search will turn up some results, but I hesitate to post links since I don't know whether these sites are violating copyrights.
Here is a quote due to Nozick taken from an interview:
This is just the sort of silliness that prompts serious philosophers to get too annoyed with Rand to bother seriously responding.
In light of some confusion/dissatisfaction with the Nozick quote (expressed in the comments to this answer), here is a detailed explanation of the point Nozick latches on to. This is a well known objection to Rand that is so well-known as to be akin to the self-defeating objection to the verificationist theory of meaning (in that philosophers will often joke about it and hold it up as the paradigm of a faulty theory).
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Because it's garbage! Do you think there is a correlation between bad metaphysics in popular science and second-rate philosophers dominating public discourse like Rand? I do. It is definitely a sign of the state of things. She became popular here in the US where it is almost a civic duty to be philosophically illiterate. Philosophy is not only viewed with contempt, but it isn't seen as practical or consistent with the mentality of "get er' done." Under such conditions what looks like philosophy gets peddled about as the real thing, and who is really going to judge the difference?
A writer like Rand doesn't need academics under such conditions. I don't think it is her fault since she does feel the void for public intellectuals to be philosophical--however impoverished it is. And it is bad! The closest thing you will find to philosophy in the mainstream is either a cosmetic brand of women's makeup that goes by the name on the Home Shopping Network, or the new MTV show called Failosophy which makes fun of wild viral videos. So the fact that Rand has not been read or taken seriously by us academics is a blessing and a curse. For people know who she was and talk about her books. When it comes to academic philosophy nobody knows what we do or actually cares. Her rhetoric and imaginative literature have been able to resist the social pressures which are making philosophy (at least in the academic sense) an irrelevant relic or as a student just told me last semester, what "looks more like your hobby!" It would be difficult to refute that she knew this and could play with people in all kinds of idiosyncratic ways, even in her coffin.
Now for the curse, she falls into the fetish of pop culture and academics alike! She is an ideologue with her social blueprint and "ready-to-hand" ISM. I agree with Eric Voegelin that "None of the ideological Isms is acceptable in a critical investigation" (Order and History, Vol. 4, 236). Rand provides another deformative symbolization in the littered "wasteland" of ideologies. She is an irresponsible reader of other philosophers and history. But what else would you expect from one who weaves fiction in as a cover of mass ignorance? She has low standards and that is the bottom-line. Without getting all high-brow or looking for ultimate answers, it is not too much to ask that we shoot for a higher threshold. We have to remain open to the search and possibility of what can be salvaged without settling for "smart idiots" (Eric Voegelin's term) like Rand.