Category Archives: Rand Studies

“Dialectics of Liberty” reviewed in JARS: Thumbs Up …

As I mentioned yesterday, the concluding issue of the twentieth anniversary volume of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies was officially published on JSTOR—as hard copies are on their way to print subscribers.

In this December 2020 issue of the journal, another publication close to heart was reviewed: The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom, coedited by Roger E. Bissell, Chris Matthew Sciabarra, and Edward W. Younkins. The review essay, written by Allen Mendenhall, can be found on JSTOR here.

It’s always a bit awkward inviting a colleague to review a book you’ve co-edited for a journal of which you are a founding co-editor! But when I approached Allen, I simply told him, in essence: Just because I’m a founding coeditor of the journal and a coeditor of DOL doesn’t mean you have to give us Two Thumbs Up. I asked of him only that he mention those authors in the anthology who were members of the JARS editorial board (Robert L. Campbell, Roderick T. Long, and me) or advisory board (Douglas Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen), or contributors to past issues of the journal (Roger Bissell, Ed Younkins, Steve Horwitz, Gary Chartier, and Troy Camplin), which would at least provide us with some context as to why the review is appearing in the journal. Yes, context-keeping applies even to reviews of books about the art of context-keeping!

Then, I told him: “Take no prisoners, and have fun!”

And that he did. Allen gave us a really wonderful review. An excerpt can be found on the book’s home page here. But here’s a key comment:

The … chapters … are broad in scope, treating such expansive and seminal concepts as freedom, reality, and human flourishing and such elemental philosophical fields as logic, epistemology, metaphysics, and ontology. They send a message, namely that the editors are “thinking big,” calling into question whole schools of thought and promoting approaches to inquiry that are primary, essential, and comprehensive. They’re hitting the reset button. …

DOL is a wide-ranging volume colored with the unique voices and personalities of its various contributors. Yet it is united in purpose and models the dialectical method that it celebrates. [Contributor John F.] Welsh registers a memorable line that supplies fitting closure to this review. “A volume dedicated to the ‘dialectics of liberty,'” he states, “provides a wonderful opportunity to explore not only the interstices at which dialectical and libertarian theory overlap, but how the two might enhance each other for the benefit of advocacy for individual freedom, free markets, and minimal government.”

I concur. And The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom is that volume.

Folks looking to pick up a copy of the anthology can still do so at the heavily discounted rate of $5 per softcover book (with a $5 shipping charge no matter how many copies you order). There are only a dozen or so books left at this special rate. Please visit the DOL Discount Page and let Paypal do the rest!

New JARS News

Back on October 11, 2020, I announced the publication of the December 2020 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. As noted in my previous announcement, this completes the twentieth anniversary volume of the journal. Two decades of critical, independent, interdisciplinary Rand scholarship to celebrate! (Abstracts of the essays from the current issue are available here; contributor biographies are available here.)

Today, I have some follow-up news: JSTOR has just published the new issue. Subscribers can find the contents here. Print subscribers should be receiving their hard copies in the coming weeks.

But I have additional news to share! As readers no doubt know, we are abstracted and indexed by nearly two dozen services. Today, we have been added by the European Reference Index for the Humanities and Social Sciences (ERIH PLUS). With a significant expansion in our subscriber and reader base and in our accessibility through libraries worldwide, our global reach expands as well. This important reference index will further enhance that reach.

Happy Twentieth Anniversary to JARS! To many more milestones to come!

The Conclusion to the Twentieth Anniversary Volume of JARS

JARS: Our Twentieth Anniversary Celebration Concludes

I am delighted and deeply honored to announce the publication of the second of two issues celebrating the twentieth anniversary of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. The December 2020 issue will be making its debut shortly on JSTOR; print subscribers should expect the second of these two historic issues in the weeks thereafter.

Issue #40 (Volume 20, Number 2) – December 2020

As I mentioned back on June 5, 2020, we decided to devote two issues to reviewing those works in the general area of Rand studies, which have never been critically appraised in our pages. The list of works reviewed in this second issue of volume 20 are:

The Vision of Ayn Rand: The Basic Principles of Objectivism, by Nathaniel Branden

Think as If Your Life Depends on It: Principles of Efficient Thinking and Other Lectures, by Barbara Branden

The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom, edited by Roger E. Bissell, Chris Matthew Sciabarra, and Edward W. Younkins

Free Market Revolution: How Ayn Rand’s Ideas Can End Big Government, by Yaron Brook and Don Watkins

Foundations of a Free Society: Reflections on Ayn Rand’s Political Philosophy, edited by Gregory Salmieri and Robert Mayhew

Culture and Liberty: Writings of Isabel Paterson, by Isabel Paterson (edited by Stephen Cox)

Myth, Meaning, and Antifragile Individualism: On the Ideas of Jordan Peterson, by Marc Champagne

Ayn Rand: An Introduction, by Eamonn Butler

Atlas Rising: Ayn Rand and Silicon Valley by The Atlas Rising Institute

Mean Girl: Ayn Rand and the Culture of Greed, by Lisa Duggan

Bucking the Artworld Tide: Reflections on Art, Pseudo Art, Art Education & Theory, by Michelle Marder Kamhi

The Soul of Atlas: Ayn Rand, Christianity, a Quest for Common Ground, by Mark David Henderson

The Perfectionist Turn: From Metanorms to Metaethics, by Douglas J. Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen

***

As is the case with every issue, we have introduced at least one new contributor to the JARS family. This issue brings debut pieces from four new contributors: Onar Am, Alec Mouhibian, Molly Sechrest, and Amos Wollen.

Here is our Table of Contents for Volume 20, Number 2 (the abstracts can be found here; contributor biographies can be found here):

The Man Who Would Be Galt – Dennis C. Hardin

Something That Used to Be Objectivism: Barbara Branden’s Psycho-Epistemology – Robert L. Campbell

The Dialectics of Liberty – Allen Mendenhall

Free Market Revolution: Partial or Complete? – Chris Matthew Sciabarra

From Defiant Egoist to Submissive Citizen: Is There a Bridge? Why the Hell Is There a Bridge? – Roderick T. Long

Goddess of the Republic – Alec Mouhibian

Peterson, Rand, and Antifragile Individualism – Onar Am

Introducing Ayn Rand – Edward W. Younkins

Silicon Rand – Troy Camplin

Ayn Rand: Mean Girl? – Mimi Reisel Gladstein

Bucking the Artworld Tide – Molly Sechrest

Ayn Rand and Christianity: The Virtuous Parallels – Amos Wollen

The Perfectionist Turn – David Gordon

Eudaimon in the Rough: Perfecting Rand’s Egoism – Roger E. Bissell

Index to Volume 20

Those seeking to subscribe to the journal should visit the sites linked here. And—as we march into the third decade of this remarkable journal—those wishing to submit manuscripts for consideration should follow the instructions here.

Once again, I wish to express my deepest appreciation to my co-editors, our board of advisors, our contributors, and most of all, our readers, without whom we would never have been able to publish this grand finale—the longest single issue in the history of our journal—to our twentieth anniversary volume.

As I said in the Introduction to Volume 20, Number 1: “Here’s to another two decades and beyond of JARS triumphs . . . two decades, or until such time as Rand studies have so penetrated the literary and philosophic canon that specialized journals of this nature are no longer required.”

Coronavirus (29): Medical Procedures in the Age of COVID … And I’m Still Alive!

When you walk into my urologist’s office, there’s this sign at the appointment desk. It reads:

This too shall pass.
It might pass like a kidney stone.
But it will pass.


I can’t think of a more fitting description of this past year. Or of my medical experiences throughout 2020—a number that has become an adjective unto itself. As in: “Oh no! Please don’t tell me this is gonna be another 2020 moment!” Though let me hasten to add—for those of you who have said to me, “I can’t wait for 2020 to end! Bring on 2021!”—please don’t rush your precious lives away. After all, 2021 might be better; then again, it might make 2020 look like a picnic by comparison. So count your blessings!

Back on March 28, 2020, in the seventh of what is now 29 installments in my Coronavirus series—29, in keeping with my friend, Thomas L. Knapp‘s “Prime Number Obsession” (that “all sets should consist of a prime number of items”)—I wrote:

As many of you know, I have had a lifelong bout with a serious congenital intestinal disorder, which required life-saving intestinal by-pass surgery in 1974, when I was 14 years old, and which has necessitated 60+ surgical procedures since, to deal with increasingly difficult and complex side-effects from the condition. Have no fear! I intend to be here for a long time to come.

But the Coronavirus outbreak has affected me and my family on a very personal level. I was due to undergo a procedure to pulverize a rather stubborn and large kidney stone on March 13th, but it had to be postponed to March 30th, due to technical difficulties with the lithotripsy machine at the hospital. But by that point, since the procedure was considered “elective” surgery, it was canceled indefinitely. My only hope is that the stone, floating around and growing in size within my left kidney since the summer of 2018, will continue to defy the rules of gravity and stay put—because there is nothing… NOTHING… on earth that I have ever experienced to rival the pain of a lodged kidney stone. And I am a person who has a pretty high threshold for pain tolerance. Nevertheless, on a scale from 1 to 10, the pain level of a lodged kidney stone is about a 13. It’s like giving birth to the Planet Jupiter through a pinhole. Way back in 1995, I suffered agonizing, excruciating pain from a single stone fragment that got lodged in my ureter after a lithotripsy procedure. I was hospitalized for a full week, with routine morphine shots that might as well have been infusions of simple tap water. I had to endure the placement of a stent in me, which stayed there for about a month, before it was removed with the help of nothing but a local anesthetic. I cannot imagine that anything conjured up by medieval torturers could have been worse than that experience; my screams must have cleared out the urologist’s office.

But that was 1995. And this is 2020. And if I can help it, I’m going to will that kidney stone to stay put, so that what is currently considered “elective” surgery doesn’t necessitate an emergency procedure that would require me to go anywhere near a hospital—at a time when the hospitals in NYC are being overloaded by Coronavirus cases. I had two endoscopic surgical procedures scheduled in April, and they too are being postponed, regardless of my wishes, inclinations, or the dictates of my passion.

Since that time, I’ve received countless emails, Facebook messages, texts, and phone calls—from relatives, friends, and colleagues wondering how I’m doing! I’ve kept in touch with many people as often as I can, but decided to write this post so that I can point to it as a way detailing my most recent medical adventures. I do this not merely as a “public service” to describe medical procedures in the age of COVID, but also as a cathartic exercise for myself, and, most importantly, as a way of updating and thanking every person who has expressed their concern and support over these many months.

Though my hometown’s grief has been palpable, the fact is that the hospitalization, infection, and death rates have been crushed throughout New York state (despite a very recent uptick in case numbers in areas of New York City). Fortunately, elective surgeries began again in late June. 

Given this reality, I consulted with each of my doctors and it was determined that I undergo my pre-op testing in July so that I’d complete all three of my (planned) procedures within the first three weeks of August—before the possibility of any substantial uptick in novel coronavirus cases.

But the medical protocols have changed substantially since March and April when I was initially scheduled for these procedures. Three of the most important changes emerged directly from the new realities in which we live:

First, no significant medical procedure goes forth without a COVID screening within 72 hours of the appointment followed by a self-quarantine. You must wear a mask to any facility right up to the point that you are wheeled into the operating room. Since mid-March, I have been used to wearing a mask and social distancing where necessary—though distancing is not possible when doctors are getting intimate with you, so-to-speak.

Second, every procedure is scheduled in such a way as to create an environment in which waiting rooms consist of only one, two, maybe three people awaiting their appointments. And appointments are scheduled so far apart such that every operating room is thoroughly disinfected—they typically are, of course … but not like this. One would be hard pressed to find a visible speck of dust let alone any misbehaving microbe under microscopic analysis.

And finally: Nobody is allowed to accompany you into the waiting room. My sister—who has driven me to virtually every medical procedure throughout my entire life, who has sat with me right up to the point I was taken into the operating room only to greet me in recovery—had to find a place to park her car outside the facility (good luck with that!), and be on call once I emerged from the recovery room to be released from the medical facility. Aware of the emotional strain this might create in patients, medical staff rose to the occasion with the utmost care, compassion, and empathy they could possibly offer, despite—or perhaps because of—the many months they dealt with some of the most horrific conditions any of them had ever witnessed in their entire professional lives. I can’t thank them enough.

So here’s how it all went down over the past 2+ months by way of a mini-diary of events:

July 25: Pre-operative tests: EKG, chest X-rays, bloodwork. Even a consultation with both my neurologist and my cardiologist. I receive a SARS CoV 2 (COVID-19) antibody test. Results: Negative. I am approved for all upcoming procedures.

July 31: SARS CoV 2 (COVID-19) nasal swab test. Negative. Scheduled for first procedure on August 4, 2020. Onward!

August 3: Tropical Storm Warning issued for Tuesday, August 4, 2020. Isaias will be roaring up the East Coast, with high sustained winds that eventually knock down or split thousands of trees throughout the New York City metropolitan area. Power outages are widespread; one person is killed in Queens. Leaving my Brooklyn apartment on the morning of August 4, torrential rain coming down, trees swirling to the right and left of us on the parkway, I turn to my sister while she’s driving into Manhattan and say: “You gotta be kidding me! Just getting to a hospital provides us with yet another 2020 Moment!”

August 4: Colonoscopy, with a double polypectomy, while under Propofol. Clip, clip here, clip, clip there, and a couple of Tra La Las [YouTube link]. Done!

August 5: Esaphago-gastro-duodenoscopy, while under Propofol. Buzz, buzz, buzz, chirp, chirp, chirp, and a couple of La Di Das [YouTube link].  Done!

August 10: ENT appointment. Don’t ask! Done!

August 12: KUB (Kidney-Ureters-Bladder) X-rays. My, my, how things have changed since March! X-ray reveals a Death Star-sized stone inside my left kidney, and a Junior Death Star-sized stone right next to it! And the news is reporting an uptick in COVID-19 cases in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn… exactly where I will be going for my pre-op COVID test and lithotripsy. WTF!

August 13: Lower- and upper-endoscopic biopsy results: All negative. I speak to the administrator at my urologist’s office and ask her: “Are you sure that nothing will interfere with my lithotripsy on the 17th?” “Well… maybe a locust invasion? I mean, who knows what can happen in four days,” she says, reassuringly.

August 14: SARS CoV 2 (COVID-19) nasal swab test. Negative. Onward!

August 17: My surgeon tells me that he doesn’t know if he can destroy both stones, so he’ll aim for Death Star, Sr., because it is, well, Mucho Senior. Sonic blasts proceed, while under Propofol +++ —Boom, Boom, Clap! Boom, Boom, Clap! Boom, Boom, Clap! [YouTube link]. Miraculously, post-op tests indicate that the lithotripsy was so dialectically powerful that it transcends “either-or” and embraces “both-and”: The surgeon succeeds in pulverizing both Senior and Junior due to their close proximity. Fragments remain. But all are passable! Done!

Or not.

“You thought you had three procedures and you’d be finished. Oops!” Purgative preps for each of the three previous procedures result in internal bleeding. I see my colorectal surgeon on September 1 and schedule an infrared radiation coagulation procedure to seal three wounds: two on the right, one on the left. Nothing political implied here, though the surgeon jokes that anytime he has a political disagreement with somebody, he extends to them an invitation to meet him in his examination room, where they are usually put in a position that makes them very agreeable.

September 8: I become very agreeable. The light saber battle begins [YouTube link]. Without Propofol or any other (even local) anesthesia. Don’t ask, don’t tell! Given my intestinal preconditions, recovery is—and continues to be—agonizing. But to paraphrase Master Yoda: “More doctors, see I must.”

September 10: I visit my new dentist (because my old dentist has retired post-COVID), and she finds me in otherwise good dental health, except for a partially impacted wisdom tooth that “bears watching.” I’ll see her for a follow-up in six months! I schedule a dental cleaning on September 26. Done! And Done!

September 24: Flu shot. Done!

September 29: Follow-up with colorectal surgeon; the two wounds on the right have healed; the one on the left requires additional recovery time. Two out of three ain’t bad [YouTube link]. Given my chronic intestinal condition, this, like all things related to it, “bears watching.” Will return for a check-up in six months. On the way home, I stop at my optometrist’s office and get my glasses adjusted. Done! And done!

October 6 (today): Routine visit to my cardiologist. Done!

All I can say is: There has indeed been a noticeable uptick in six hotspots in New York City (primarily in Queens and Brooklyn—including my own neighborhood). I am very happy that all these medical procedures and appointments are now in the rearview mirror. I remain COVID free—and intend to stay that way.

Back on May 6, 2020, I posted a pic of myself to reassure folks that I was alive (self-administered haircut and all). Today, I post another pic documenting that I’m Still Alive (albeit with a haircut provided by my own barber!).

Throughout this period, I refused to allow anything to interfere with my projects. And that includes rooting for my New York Yankees, who, miraculously, took a game from the Tampa Bay Rays last night in the opening game of the American League Division Series, 9-3!

And in terms of my work: I have reviewed, corrected, and submitted to Penn State Press the first set of page proofs for the December 2020 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, the finale to our twentieth anniversary volume, which will be the largest single issue in the history of the journal, for which I have also contributed a 30+ page essay that should raise some eyebrows. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am expecting to sign off on the second set of corrected proofs later this week.

As I said back in March: This “Kid from Brooklyn” intends “to be here for a long time to come.”

“Layers”: A Nathaniel Branden Novel

For those who are not yet aware, a new, posthumously published novel, Layers, written by Nathaniel Branden, has been released in both a Kindle and paperback edition.

The book was the subject of a fascinating article by Stephen Cox, which was published in a trailblazing 2016 double issue symposium of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies: “Nathaniel Branden: His Work and Legacy” (also available as a Kindle edition). Cox’s contribution to that symposium, “Nathaniel Branden: In the Writer’s Workshop,” explores how “Nathaniel Branden was both inspired by imaginative literature and ambitious to create it himself. The history of [Cox’s] literary relationship with [Branden] provides important insights into his intellectual character, his aesthetic interests, and his literary ability.” At the heart of that article was Cox’s discussion of the various drafts of the novel that Branden shared with him—which eventually became Layers.

Nathaniel had sent me various drafts of that novel many years ago, and I was astonished by both the depth of its psychological insights and literary quality. As the book finally neared publication, six years after Branden passed away, I was asked to provide a back-cover blurb, which appears below. I encourage readers to check out this important work.


Layers – By Nathaniel Branden

Here are those back-cover blurbs:

Layers is a remarkable work by a remarkable human being. Nathaniel Branden was a leading psychotherapist who inspired thousands by his work with individual patients and his influential books about the psychology of self-esteem and personal growth. At his death he left a work of fiction—Layers—that reveals what patients seldom see: the agonizing conflicts within the therapist’s own mind. Layers is a work of compelling psychological insight, a story of one man’s intrepid search for the truth about himself. Branden tells this story with the drama and suspense and sudden beauty that readers expect and deserve from an important work of fiction.”
– Stephen Cox, University of California, San Diego

“This thought-provoking novel reveals yet another ‘layer’ to the complex, interwoven fabric that constitutes Nathaniel Branden’s life and legacy. A must for fans of his famous associate, Ayn Rand, and for those who may be encountering Branden’s insightful work for the first time.”
– Chris Matthew Sciabarra, author of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical

“This story vividly illustrates, as none other I’ve ever read, how centrally important it is to do what you most deeply love and want to do in life, and how badly your life can go awry if you don’t.”
– Roger E. Bissell, Research Associate, Molinari Institute

Happy Eighteenth Anniversary to Notablog!

Yesterday, I celebrated my 1,800th entry in “My Favorite Songs” with the Sonny Rollins tune, “Oleo,” part of this year’s Jazz Edition of my annual Summer Music Festival.

Today, the numbers “1” and “8” show up again: I am celebrating the 18th anniversary of the beginning of Notablog!

It was on this date in 2002 that I made my very first post, which announced the publication of an installment in the New York Daily News series, “Big Town Classic Characters: New Yorkers of the American Imagination,” entitled “From ‘The Fountainhead’: Howard Roark,” which was subsequently re-published by The Atlas Society. Since then, I’ve posted 3,057 entries on subjects from politics, culture, and social science methodology to sex, sports, film, and music.

I’d like to express my thanks to all my readers for your continued interest in my work. Watch this space for upcoming information on the migration of Notablog and my home page to new domains. That’s going to happen very, very soon… we’re talkin’ soon … because New York University is finally retiring its ancient i4 server, in which my current blog and home page are stored. Much more to come …