Letters of Ayn Rand

Chapter 9

Letters to a Philosopher (John Hospers)

At the time of the following correspondence, John Hospers taught philosophy at Brooklyn College and at the University of California, Los Angeles. Much interested in Objectivism at that time, Hospers appeared on radio shows with Ayn Rand and devoted considerable attention to her ideas in his popular ethics textbook Human Conduct.

As a condition of reprinting the excerpts from his letters quoted by Ayn Rand, Professor Hospers asked that the following statement by him be included. It is included without comment.

The letters were interstices between oral conversations; they were written only when Ayn and I were at different geographical locations and could not meet in person. Almost all of the significant material in our communications with each other was in oral, not written, form. The letters may thus give a distorted view of the content of our conversations.

You rightly have a great interest in reproducing everything that Ayn said; and you have no particular interest in whatever it was that I said, either to initiate a discussion or to respond to her. The result is that my thoughts just don’t appear in these pages—not that you wanted them to, of course. But sometimes I thought that Ayn had not correctly apprehended a point I had made, and her summary of what I said sometimes did not reproduce what I really did say. Whether what I said was mistaken or not is beside the point here; I was often more interested in clarifying a point than in presenting it for acceptance. I am afraid the reader who read what Ayn wrote to me, and not what I wrote to her, would gather that I was a bloody fool. I daresay that in some ways I was, yet not so much as one would get the impression of from the letters. The trouble is, from her letters one gets only one side of a dialogue. And that isn’t quite fair, is it?

This material was originally Chapter Seven of the Letters of Ayn Rand book.