Ayn Rand's Objectivism philosophy has always intrigued me. And it seems to still have a lot of influence over certain politicians and thought leaders. Have any philosophers taken up the mantle where Objectivism left off and built on top of what Rand produced? If so, where should I start reading?

I guess I need to address directly the fact that most "serious" philosophers are very dismissive of Rand's ideas. Are there really no other philosophers that have treaded the same ground as Objectivism? Why are her ideas so readily dismissed? Is Objectivism flawed in some obvious way? If you could suggest readings along those lines it would also help me.

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    Just in passing, wikipedia provides some helpful context: "The reception for Rand's fiction from literary critics was largely negative, and most academics have ignored or rejected her philosophy"
    – Joseph Weissman
    Commented Nov 14, 2011 at 14:14
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    I dare say that its having an influence on leading politicians ought to act as a deterrent if anything
    – Chuck
    Commented Nov 14, 2011 at 14:38
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    @Chuck - influence on any politicians or just conservative ones?
    – Chad
    Commented Nov 14, 2011 at 15:57
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    Personally, I did enjoy Rand's writing but the philosophy seemed very dated, naive and simplistic, at least by today's standards. I tend to think those who invoke her often have a limited view of the complexities of reality. Some just a self-serving agenda (which kinda makes sense i suppose). It's certainly worth understanding but i believe most people can move beyond it without the need for any structure. Just think a little on your own and you'll easily progress beyond where Rand "left off".
    – nicerobot
    Commented Nov 14, 2011 at 18:05
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    I disagree that its naivety "is that exact reasons that other philosophers should flesh it out more." Anyone can raise a naive philosophical point and many people seem to like to after a few beers. That doesn't mean they're actually worth exploring.
    – nicerobot
    Commented Nov 15, 2011 at 20:31

5 Answers 5


The most significant person would probably have to be Leonard Peikoff, the author of Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. The book's writing was supervised and authorized by Ayn Rand, but Peikoff provided a structure and clarity to Objectivism that Ayn Rand never did on paper.

Ayn Rand's work exists spread across op-eds, articles, and speeches. The fiction merely gives you "a feel for" what she was trying to communicate. Leonard Peikoff, by authoring this book, delivered a cumulative presentation from start to finish of the entire body of Objectivist thought.

A lot of people don't view this as significant. The significance of this book is that it presents Objectivism as an integrated interdependent hierarchical conceptual unit (as it was intended). If you flip to page 200 and begin reading about a topic, pages 1-199 are required reading because the contents on page 200 depend upon every concept in the preceding pages. Peikoff also adds a level of linguistic finesse through examples and metaphors that Ayn Rand never could because she wasn't born a native English speaker. Peikoff's ability to help the reader conceptualize with reference to Ayn Rand's work greatly helps the reader organize and structure the conceptual framework to continue onward through the book to more complex higher level concepts.

Another important work that developed on the economic theory in Rand's work is The Capitalist Manifesto by Andrew Bernstein. This book went mostly under the radar despite its alluring title. (As opposed to the widespread media coverage of the recent critique of Capitalism Capital in the Twenty First Century, by Thomas Piketty).

In the realm of cognition, the second edition of Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology includes an essay from Leonard Peikoff on the Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy that is worth reading.

More recently attempts have been made to show that Objectivism was never meant to be presented as cultivaing and promoting hordes of "Nietzschean monsters who couldn't spare a dime for a tramp" with David Kelley's Unrugged Individualism: The Selfish Basis of Benevolence. This is important because often critics of Objectivism dehumanize Objectivists as unfeeling hyper-rational "Randroids" who stick out like a sore thumb in society (literally nobody in my personal or professional life knows of my admiration of Ayn Rand).

There are also thinkers that are loosely compatible with Objectivism, but you would probably never find one of the leading Objectivist intellectuals (Leonard Peikoff, Yaron Brook, Harry Binswanger) endorsing them.

Thinkers aligned with the Austrian School of economics are also ideologically compatible with Objectivism. Compatible in the sense that these theories can easily be "embedded" within the overall Objectivist ethical and political frameworks very easily. They do the best job of describing the "nuts and bolts" of the kind of Capitalism that Objectivism prescribes. While not explicitly contributing to Objectivism philosophically, Austrian economics gives you the case for how markets work practically, while Objectivism gives you their broader justification ethically. I would recommend Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics by George Reisman, as well as the essential Rothbard and Mises.

Authors who have written on the subject of Atheism are also aligned with Objectivism insofar as they offer specific arguments for discarding supernatural faith-based thinking in favor of Reason and Science. In George H. Smith's Atheism: The Case Against God he actually references Ayn Rand's method of concept formation several times in his conceptual formulation for what Atheism is. Other examples include the more recent "Four Horsemen of Atheism" (Richard Dawkins, the late Christopher Hitchens, Dan Dennett, and Sam Harris) offer a lot as well while none explicitly advocate Objectivism.

A disclaimer is in order I think. It must be understood that the authors mentioned as merely "compatible" would have more than likely been regarded as incompatible by Ayn Rand because these thinkers often do not integrate their well reasoned arguments into a broader conceptual framework presented as a whole.


I don't want to sound (too) glib, but you'll be hard-pressed to find a serious philosopher who takes Ayn Rand seriously. The only significant philosopher I can think of who bothered to engage with Rand's work seriously is Robert Nozick, who only did so in order to point out some of the flaws in her argumentation.

Rand's work, like that of Robert Pirsig (author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) is best judged as literature for non-philosophers with a vague interest in philosophy (which in Rand's case seems to include a fair number of prominent conservative politicians)

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    I didn't refer to a "largely left leaning community of academics"; I don't know of any philosophers, liberal, conservative, or otherwise who have found it worthwhile to respond to Rand, with the aforementioned exception of Nozick (who is a libertarian.) Similarly, I don't know of any philosophers who have taken Pirsig seriously, either. And you're going to have a hard time arguing that philosophers are ignored based on their politics; Heidegger is widely commented upon by leftist philosophers (as is Carl Schmitt). Commented Nov 14, 2011 at 16:19
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    It seems unnecessary to inject political jibes into this discussion. Let's try to be respectful of others and disagree agreeably as far as possible
    – Joseph Weissman
    Commented Nov 14, 2011 at 16:30
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    Heidegger is a socialist? Look, my point is that some philosophers of the right are taken seriously by philosophers of the right (and vice versa), and that no philosophers, right or left, take Rand seriously. It's not her politics that is the problem; it is the fact that her philosophical work is facile and amateur. Even philosophers who are prone to agree to her have neglected her work. Commented Nov 14, 2011 at 16:50
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    @MichaelDorfman I understand that Rand's philosophy is considered amateurish by serious academics. But are there any serious philosophers that follow similar lines of ethics, epistemology, asthetics, etc. as Objectivism? There are some sophisticated ideas within her philosophy that seem to be dismissed out of hand because they were created by someone outside of the established Philosophy Club. That is my perception but I'm an outsider so maybe I am missing something as to why Objectivism is considered so silly by serious academics. Commented Nov 14, 2011 at 18:24
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    @philosodad: OK, now you're just being silly. Of course I evaluated their writings as philosophy when I read them. I found them both seriously lacking in this regard, as does virtually every other philosopher who has read them. I was not unwilling to engage seriously with them; I found them not amenable to serious engagement. My answer did not say that serious philosophers were, by definition, unwilling to engage Rand or Pirsig; I merely said that almost none had done so in print, and there was a reason for that. My question to you: why the urgent need to defend them as philosophers? Commented Jul 6, 2012 at 13:45

Dr. Stephen Hicks also sites Rand as an influence. He has produced analysis that references Objectivist material and wrote the entry for Objectivism in the "Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy".



Some of Leonard Peikoff's work is very good, such as "Understanding Objectivism."

Elliot Temple has made some improvements on Objectivism, such as correcting some problems with Objectivist epistemology:


See also:


George Reisman's book "Capitalism" explains a lot of economics from an Objectivist/Austrian economics point of view:



Regarding another answer here, the claim that you'd be hard-pressed to find a serious philosopher who takes Ayn Rand seriously is a classic case of the No True Scotsman fallacy --- the many many academic philosophers who have worked on Rand are dismissed as not "serious" because they like or are influenced by Rand.

There are literally hundreds of philosophers who have engaged with, extended, and argued over Rand's work. You can find a whole bunch of them through ARI, and another bunch through the Objectivist Center, and no doubt there are others tucked away in various universities without any affiliations to institutes like this. There is an entire academic journal devoted to studying Rand's philosophy and thought, and a Google Scholar search of her name yields over 20,000 results.** Amongst the detailed extensions to Rand's work are detailed works of moral philosophy by Prof Tara Smith, works of epistemology by Prof Stephen Hicks, and many other smaller contributions by other academic philosophers.

Aside from those engaging directly with Rand, there are many instances where concepts and ideas put forward by Rand in broad terms are later introduced to academia in greater detail by other academic philosophers independently of her, and then those ideas are discussed in detail, often without reference to her work. A case that comes to mind is the work of the philosopher David Chalmers, whose work on the philosophy-of-mind bears strong similarities to Rand's view of consciousness. In these cases there is often an academic discussion that occurs without any reference to Rand, though the ideas discussed are remarkably similar to those in her philosophy. (To be clear, I am certainly not suggesting that Chalmer's work is just a rehash of Rand - he goes into far more detail on the nature of mind and academic arguments over this. Having said that, I am surprised there is not more reference to her in this field.)

It is fair to say that Rand presented her philosophy in a broad description that is less detailed than the philosophical discussions that occur in academia. However, her ideas have been fleshed out by many academic philosophers, and there are many cases where her ideas should be referenced in academic discussion, but are not.

** By way of comparison, this is about 10-20% of the results for some very famous philosophers like Bertrand Russell and Karl Popper. So she is less commonly studied than those philosophers, but still quite high.

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