Libertarian History/Philosophy

Ayn Rand's Aesthetics: Nockian, Not Aristotelian

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Daniel McCarthy blogging at The American Conservative, finds an interesting detail in the footnotes of Jennifer Burns' new book about Rand, Goddess of the Market, showing that while Rand thought she was getting a central feature of her aesthetics from Aristotle, it was really a misunderstanding she got via old right essayist Albert Jay Nock. McCarthy quotes Burns:

According to Rand, Aristotle believed that 'history represents things as they are, while fiction represents them as they might be and ought to be.' However, as two scholars sympathetic to Rand conclude, this attribution 'misquotes Aristotle and misrepresents his intent.' … It appears that Rand drew this concept not from Aristotle, but from Albert Jay Nock. In Memoirs of a Superfluous Man (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1943), 191, Nock writes, 'History, Aristotle says, represents things only as they are, while fiction represents them as they might be and ought to be.' In her copy of the book, Rand marked this apssage with six vertical lines.

My Washington Times review of Burns' book. More, much more, Reason on Rand to come. And my book Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement has many tens of thousands of words on the lives and work of both Rand and Nock.