The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand
Truth and Toleration in Objectivism
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.