Some Details into Rand Scholarship
Posted by Jerry on August 17, 2007
In my earlier excerpt from blogger Andrew Medworth’s post, I highlighted the growing signs of academic interest in the philosophy of Objectivism. Thankfully, Kyle Haight, a commentor on Medworth’s blog, gives additional information into the specifics of this positive trend in US academia:
One of the nice things about being a donor to the Anthem Foundation is the quarterly reports that Dr. McCaskey sends out discussing Anthem’s activities. In the most recent such update, he included a copy of the prepared remarks he made at the OCON 2007 Academic Panel. Here are some relevant quotes:
“At an Ayn Rand Society meeting, one of the country’s leading authorities on Thomas Aquinas said that what Ayn Rand said about Aquinas was really quite insightful. But separately, I happen to know, he thinks Objectivist views on foreign policy are ‘crazy’. But in the field he knows best, he admits that Ayn Rand was basically right.”
“I’ve seen a well-regarded non-Objectivist philosopher of biology say that Ayn Rand’s views on the open-ended nature of concepts may indeed contribute toward a possible solution to the problem of conceptual change in science. I’ve seen an international expert on the philosophy of perception say that Ayn Rand’s views in that area are really insightful, and those ideas are now changing his own views on the subject.”
In Tara Smith’s report, she mentions a recent workshop at Harvey Mudd, focusing on “Normativity and Justification in Epistemology and Ethics”. This was a follow-on to the conference last year on “Concepts and Objectivity”, and brought together some Objectivists with some non-Objectivist thinkers from the earlier conference who wanted to follow up on Objectivist ideas. As Smith put it, “The participants included several scholars who have never been students of Objectivism but who recognize certain affinities in their own views and approaches and who are increasingly finding dialogue with those more familiar with Objectivism to be valuable for their work.” One of the non-Objectivists in attendance was named: Geoff Sayre-McCord, the chair of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Allan Gotthelf’s report on that same conference contains a few more details. There were “five distinguished non-Objectivist professors (from three continents)”. They were from UNC (that would be Dr. Sayre-McCord), Virginia Tech, Auckland N.Z. and Warwick U.K. Another non-Objectivist professor from UC Riverside also attended.
I think the Dr. Helen Cullyer from [the University of Pittsburg] who reviewed Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics here may be a non-Objectivist ethicist who is now finding some of Rand’s ideas worth considering, but I’m less sure about that.