Ayn Rand‘s philosophy has changed thousands of lives, including my own, and has the power to change the course of history. Her views, however, are spread across more than a dozen books and hundreds of articles and speeches. The present book is the first comprehensive statement of her philosophy.
I have presented the ideas of Objectivism, their validation, and their interrelationships. I have arranged the ideas hierarchically; each chapter, and within the chapters each section, builds on earlier material. Ayn Rand’s philosophy has changed thousands of lives, including my own, and has the power to change the course of history. Her views, however, are spread across more than a dozen books and hundreds of articles and speeches. The present book is the first comprehensive statement of her philosophy.
I have covered every branch of philosophy recognized by Miss Rand and every philosophic topic—from certainty to money, logic to art, measurement to sex—which she regarded as important; this has led me to include abundant new material which she herself treated only in private discussion. But I have covered the ideas in conceptual form. That is: I have digested them, for myself and thereby for the reader. I offer not a heap of concretes, polemics, quotes, and random elaborations, but a progression of essentials. In every contest between the forest and the trees, I have chosen the forest: I have omitted every nonessential that might cause the reader to lose sight of Ayn Rand’s system of thought as a whole.
With the present book to serve as a broad integrating context, future scholars can turn to study specialized aspects of Ayn Rand’s work and to present them with an appropriately greater level of detail.
Like any proper work of general philosophy, this book is written not for academics, but for human beings (including any academics who qualify). In essence, the text can be understood by the general reader, although an individual will have an easier time if he first reads Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology.
This book was initially planned as an edited version of a lecture course, “The Philosophy of Objectivism,” which I gave in New York City in 1976. The lectures were prepared with some assistance from Miss Rand, who attended all twelve of them and, after most, joined with me to answer questions from the audience. “Until or unless I write a comprehensive treatise on my philosophy,” Miss Rand wrote that year in The Ayn Rand Letter, “Dr. Peikoff’s course is the only authorized presentation of the entire theoretical structure of Objectivism, i.e., the only one that I know of my own knowledge to be fully accurate.”
In 1984, eight years later and two years after her death, I began to revise the lectures for publication. I soon found that many of their formulations could be made more precise. I found arguments that I could now develop more cogently, examples that I could make more eloquent, and crucial new integrations that I only now understood. Above all, I found that the ideas required a more logical order of presentation. All these improvements changed the nature of the project. My task became not to edit, but to rewrite the lecture material.
Since some of Ayn Rand’s most important ideas are expressed only briefly or not at all in her books, the absence of a reference note in my text does not imply that the point is my own. On the contrary, where no reference is given, the material in all likelihood is taken from the lengthy philosophic discussions that I had with Miss Rand across a period of decades. This is especially true of the material on metaphysics and epistemology, which were the primary subjects of our discussions, but it applies throughout.
Our discussions were not a collaboration: I asked questions; she answered them. In rewriting the lectures, moreover, I have not changed or added to any of Ayn Rand’s ideas. My contribution is not to the substance of Objectivism, which is entirely Ayn Rand’s achievement, but to the form of its presentation. The reader must, however, bear in mind that Ayn Rand has not seen the new wording or organization.
(For those who want to compare the lectures with the present book, cassettes of the former are still available for purchase from Second Renaissance Books, Box 4625, Oceanside, CA 92052.)
Because of my thirty years of study under her, and by her own statement, I am the person next to Ayn Rand who is the most qualified to write this book. Since she did not live to see it, however, she is not responsible for any misstatements of her views it may contain, nor can the book be properly described as “official Objectivist doctrine.” “Objectivism” is the name of Ayn Rand’s philosophy as presented in the material she herself wrote or endorsed.
To be objective, I identify the status of my work as follows: this book is the definitive statement of Ayn Rand’s philosophy—as interpreted by her best student and chosen heir.
Objectivism – The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (pdf file)
More from Leonard Peikoff
More from Ayn Rand
- A Biography of Ayn Rand
- Objectivism and The State An Open Letter to Ayn Rand
- Essentials of Objectivism