Just Deserts: A Philosopher for the Living
Celebrate American Radical Thinker Leonard Peikoff’s 90th Birthday
You might be interested to know that Leonard Peikoff’s 90th birthday is on Sunday, October 15. This is your chance to celebrate the world’s foremost philosopher for living on earth—while he’s alive and still thinking, writing and producing.
Peikoff, heir to Ayn Rand’s estate and the top Objectivist, is the rarest type of man: he is one who chooses to think. The proof’s in his work, which adds up to a brilliant career. Having authored three books—Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, The Ominous Parallels: The End of Freedom in America and The DIM Hypothesis: Why the Lights of the West Are Going Out—and produced breathtaking programs, lectures and courses, Leonard Peikoff, PhD. deserves recognition in philosophy. Dr. Peikoff’s artistic, political, literary, linguistic and historical studies astonish, enlighten and inspire. That he ventures singularly bold forecasts deepens the value and meaning of his already exceptional record as the foremost champion of Ayn Rand’s ideas.
On a variety of debilitating issues facing Americans and those in the West—including religionism, such as environmentalism and transsexualism, as well as immigration, terrorism and, especially, medicine, unfortunately reduced to health care decades ago—Dr. Peikoff’s not only a man of the future, he’s a wellspring of strength, perseverance and pathos. In these darker, challenging times, throughout his enduring career, he proves to be selfish, honorable and rational and at great personal and professional risk.
For example, in 2000, days before a child refugee from Communism was ousted by the U.S. government at gunpoint, Dr. Peikoff traveled at his expense—in defiance of the entire U.S. government, media and intellectual establishment—to Miami, where he delivered a powerful argument for Elian Gonzalez’s rights. Reasoning for and defending rational immigration to the global press, the Canadian native made the case for the U.S. granting Elian’s plea for American asylum from Communist Cuba. Weeks after the boy was seized, Dr. Peikoff persisted, leading a Los Angeles rally in the child‘s defense. Peikoff, having debated a boss at the institute Peikoff founded, similarly and passionately opposes today’s indiscriminate immigration.
A year later, in an essay titled “End States That Sponsor Terrorism,” published as an op-ed advertisement in the New York Times, Peikoff advocated that America defend against more barbarism and mass death by vanquishing such states following the September 2001 Islamic act of war, which Dr. Peikoff describes as Black Tuesday. This came after he’d examined Islamic terrorism on his radio program and defended writer Salman Rushdie and his besieged publishers and bookstores—long before Rushdie was almost assassinated last year—on the principle of absolute free speech. Leonard Peikoff is the only philosopher who did this, later repeatedly stressing and forewarning that Iran is America’s and the West’s avowed enemy.
Perhaps no life-and-death issue demonstrates Peikoff’s uniquely powerful blend of ability and passion more than health care, however, from his brilliantly conceptualized 1985 epitaph in an address to Northeastern University’s Ford Hall Forum, “Medicine: the Death of a Profession,” to his stirring December 11, 1993 rejection to a grass-roots gathering of Americans of President Clinton’s proposed reform, “Health Care is Not a Right.” Almost every forecast Dr. Peikoff asserted became real, from the spread and prevalence of bureaucracy in America’s rotting system to today’s near-total government control. Leonard Peikoff’s activism inspires progress in health care, too, including Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), retention of a woman’s right to abortion and advancement of embryonic stem cell research, all of which Peikoff endorsed early, knowledgeably and passionately and often.
At 90, Leonard Peikoff’s accomplishments abound. The Winnipeg, Canada native and American radical, patriot and citizen thrives on a legacy defending, chronicling and honoring the English language in various courses, writing, lectures, interviews and programming. From his staunch, sharp and early opposition to the transsexualist assault on reason, expressly words and concepts—his was an incisive forecast of the irrationalism which has since spread—to lessons on grammar and objective communication, Dr. Peikoff is an indefatigable voice and guardian of reason. What’s more, his thoughts, writings and talks on how to think and judge, how, why and when to express anger and outrage, how to achieve perfection—versus being a perfectionist—as well as his personal disclosures about being lost, confused and mistaken constitute an exemplary record of challenging and accounting for himself.
On social media, in the Los Angeles Times, via podcasting, radio and television, and in Oscar-nominated filmmaking and books, by creating the Ayn Rand Institute, making crucial distinctions in desperate times about U.S. politics, education and within the controversial Objectivist movement, as well as commenting forcefully and uniquely on operetta, the danger of regarding technology as a religion, or overestimating so-called metrics, i.e., statistics, in railing against New Left dogma, and, in partial, clearly defined praise of Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Laura Schlesinger—and movies such as ET, Whiplash and lambasting Titanic—he’s the rational man of art, business and action. Always with humor, laughter and a razor-cutting though deliberative sense of timing, Peikoff’s achievements reach beyond preserving a philosophy for living on earth.
Don’t take my word for it. Consider some of Peikoff’s writing. Judge for yourself:
“Today, each man must be his own intellectual protector. In whatever guise the theory of the analytic-synthetic dichotomy confronts him, he must be able to detect it, to understand it, and to answer it. Only thus can he withstand the onslaught and remain epistemologically untouched.” —from a 1967 essay in The Objectivist (reprinted in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology).
In his book The DIM Hypothesis, Peikoff identifies three methods people use to integrate concrete data into a whole. As he explains, the first, in which data is integrated through rational means, he calls Integration. The second, which employs non-rational means, he calls Misintegration. The third is Disintegration—which is nihilism, the desire to tear things apart. From a 2009 podcast about the nihilistic new president, Barack Obama, he contrasts Obama and America, noting that “[i]t was once the American dream to climb ‘from rags to riches,’ to make it big, to be able to crow proudly about becoming a millionaire. Now the administration tells us that it is unfair to achieve the dream because some people haven’t, and that the successes must be shot down until everyone’s rags match.”
Leonard Peikoff, whom I’ve known and worked for, audited, studied and socialized with for nearly 30 years, lives and works while having sustained multiple injustices, including early in his life. In my experience, he takes conflict and struggle in stride and he does this with loyalty and fidelity to the truth.
For example, introducing The Journals of Ayn Rand, he discloses that:
“Some pieces important to this volume have been lost. I refer to eight or ten scenarios for the silent screen, written in the twenties. These stories, several pages apiece, featured strong heroes, a passionate love interest, and non-stop action, often set in exotic locales; they exemplified an extravagant romanticism bubbling over with the excitement of living. I first came upon these scenarios in the eighties, after AR’s death. Had I been able to include them here, they would have brought a sorely needed balance to some other items, such as The Little Street, a bitter novelette from the same period. Mysteriously, these scenarios have disappeared from the Estate warehouse. If they should reappear, I promise to publish them.”
This tendency to find, mine and accentuate the good extends to every part of his work, from lectures on plays and poetry to his podcasting about the ecstasy of sex. In Leonard Peikoff’s final lecture in 2021, “Viennese Operetta: My Virtual Reality,” Dr. Peikoff recommends eight operettas, including Emmerich Kalman’s “The Gipsy Princess,” “Countess Maritza,” and “The Circus Princess”; Franz Lehar’s “The Merry Widow,” “The Land of Smiles,” and “The Count of Luxembourg” and Johan Strauss II’s “The Littermouse” and “The Gypsy Baron.”
Whatever indulgence of his lighter side, he diligently judges facts of reality. In Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, Dr. Peikoff writes that:
“By their nature, fundamental ideas spread throughout a society, influencing every subgroup, transcending differences in occupation, schooling, race, class. The men who are being influenced retain the faculty of volition. But most are innocent of explicit philosophy and do not exercise their power to judge ideas. Unwittingly, they take whatever they are given.” On a podcast (edited for a 2019 book, Keeping It Real: Bringing Ideas Down to Earth, Second (Revised) Edition), Peikoff answers questions about the past and the future:
“What is left in the souls of Americans, even if they don’t know it explicitly?”
“Is the enlightenment spirit still alive today, even if underground?”
“How does the growth of technology in the last 60 years correlate with the continued growth of evil philosophy and religion, which has taken place at the same time?”
“These two trends are the exact opposite,” he replies. “The growth of technology is the development of the Aristotelian and the pro-science tradition since the Renaissance, while the growth of Platonism is the growth of religion, of Platonism becoming Christianity, which did not take place at the same time, but in the last 60 years has. What it means, if this continues, is that the last elements of the Aristotelian tradition, including technology, are going to disappear, and the full triumph of Platonism is going to manifest itself. This combination can’t last, and it’s pretty clear that there’s no one defending the Aristotelian tradition. That leaves what’s going to happen pretty clear. I work that out in detail in my book, The DIM Hypothesis, including my specific prediction.”
That book’s promotional copy pledges that, “[e]xtrapolating from the historical pattern he identifies, Dr. Peikoff concludes by explaining why the lights of the West are going out—and predicts the most likely future for the United States.”
The forecast remains dark and ominous.
Leonard Peikoff dedicates The DIM Hypothesis to Ayn Rand, “who made an integrated life possible.” Despite the worsening state of the world and dim prospects for the future, let us celebrate the philosopher who’s making the most of his life, work and art. This Sunday marks Dr. Peikoff’s 90th birthday. In the name of the best within us, Leonard Peikoff deserves good will and a wish for the best of everything.