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AYN RAND:  The Object of his Affection

Leonard Peikoff won't shrug off the impact of his mentor

Leif B. Strickland

Strickland examines the movement surrounding Leonard Peikoff and the Ayn Rand Institute.  He writes:

To a cultish group of followers, [Rand's] philosophy heralding individuality, selfishness, reason and capitalism is the One Way, the Only Truth.  If anyone leads this flock of purists (one scholar calls them "Randroids"), it's Leonard Peikoff -- a youthful 64-year-old philosopher from Irvine with bulging eyes and short, jet-black hair.  Rand's "intellectual heir" has written introductions to all of her books, and he writes, lectures and hosts a radio show about Objectivism, her philosophy. . . .

Basically, the [Ayn Rand Institute]  is the muscle behind Peikoff's goal to change the world into an Objectivist utopia.  But not all Objectivists are pleased with the institute.  Along with her radical ideas, Ayn Rand's legacy included a philosophical and personal fight that continues today. . . .

Peikoff and the Ayn Rand Institute are most often criticized for their apparent refusal to acknowledge that Rand had flaws, that she was anything less than saintly. "They have altered the historical record of her life," said Chris Sciabarra, whose book Ayn Rand: Russian Radical, was called "reckless" and "destructive" by a trustee of the ARI.  "When I published my book, so many people sent letters thanking me for having approached Rand in such an -- dare I use the word -- objective way."  (Sciabarra, a visiting scholar at New York University, coined the term "Randroid.")  [Actually, the term may have been coined by Roy Childs -- CMS.]   Peikoff shoots back:  "What difference does it make? I don't go around spreading her virtues or her vices. But the people involved here want you to come out and attack her now that she's dead."  "I think," Peikoff later said, "she was a 100 percent moral woman, who had no moral flaws."  If all of this makes Peikoff seem dogmatic, like a staunch protector of Rand's image, so be it, he says. It's because he believes in what he preaches, Peikoff says, and because he still admires the woman he knew for more than 30 years."

LEIF B. STRICKLAND is a Union-Tribune intern and a sophomore at the University of Southern California.

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