Table of Contents
Scholarly accuracy is important. We need to be able to know what other people said in order to understand it and build upon it (by making further advances on it or by criticizing it). Conceptually understanding what another person said can be difficult. By contrast, accurately copying the literal text another person wrote in a book should be relatively easy. However, this is something people seem to really struggle with, including professional authors who should know better.
In this post, I'll be checking some citations in the online version of the Ayn Rand Lexicon for accuracy. If I find an error, I'll check the book version of the Ayn Rand Lexicon in order to see whose fault the error is. I will also state a judgment about how serious the error is (feel free to disagree in the comments). I'll only paste full quotes if the quote is short - otherwise I'll just give enough information to indicate which quote I'm checking, and you can refer to the Lexicon for the full quote. I'll indicate whether or not there was an error in a given citation with a ❌ in the subheading for the citation, and give it a ✅ if it's fine. That way you can just look at my table of contents and get a quick idea of how many problems there are.
UPDATE: I added this short summary. There was one error that was present in both the online and the book version of the Lexicon, where the wrong essay was cited for a quotation. That was the biggest error I found. The other errors I found only affected the online version of the Lexicon and involved 1) giving the wrong page number for the edition of the work cited (see the end of this section) 2) giving the wrong source for the particular variation of a quote used (see the first quote checked below for this example), and 3) omitting emphasis from Rand's original text. The online Lexicon generally seems to get emphasis correct based on what I looked at, and Binswanger generally seems to cite the correct work. Hopefully, then, those errors were outliers. Overall the quality of the scholarship did not seem too bad and the number of errors was actually lower than I expected.
Quote 1 ❌
The quote as represented on the Lexicon page begins "An embryo has no rights." The citation is to “Of Living Death” in The Voice of Reason, pages 58–59.
The quote in the online Lexicon is incorrect for the source it gives (The Voice of Reason). The quote in the book version of the Lexicon, which is identical to the quote in the online version, is correct for the source that it gives (The Objectivist). The issue is that The Voice of Reason and The Objectivist versions of the essay differ from each other in whether "not-yet-living" is hyphenated (it is in The Objectivist and isn't in The Voice of Reason). Both versions of the Lexicon have "not-yet-living" hyphenated, but only the book version of the Lexicon cites a source where that's actually the case. I suspect that the creators of the online Lexicon decided to cite a more publicly accessible source than The Objectivist without checking that the source they were using was actually identical. I regard this as a minor error since 1) the quote as cited appears somewhere and 2) the inaccuracy is relatively minor, affecting only a couple of hyphens.
Quote 2 ✅
The second quote begins "Never mind the vicious nonsense of claiming that an embryo has a 'right to life.'" The citation given is to “A Last Survey” in The Ayn Rand Letter, IV, 2, 3. The citation format there appears to be Volume, Issue Number, Page. I was able to find a copy of the primary source material on archive.org (available for borrowing for an hour at a time, lol). The quote and citation are accurate.
Quote 3 ✅
The third quote begins "If any among you are confused or taken in by the argument that the cells of an embryo are living human cells...". The citation is to "The Age of Mediocrity" in The Objectivist Forum, June 1981, 3. The quote and citation are accurate.
Quote 4 ✅
The fourth quote, in full, is
A proper, philosophically valid definition of man as "a rational animal," would not permit anyone to ascribe the status of "person" to a few human cells."
The citation is to “The Age of Mediocrity” in The Objectivist Forum, June 1981, 2.
The original quote from that source is:
Observe that a proper, philosophically valid definition of man as “a rational animal,” would not permit anyone to ascribe the status of “person” to a few human cells and would not serve the militant mystics’ purpose.
The Lexicon version obviously has some omissions from the original quote. However, Binswanger specifically says that he may omit stuff without noting that he is doing so, and it's within scholarly convention to make such omissions. For the part he did quote, other than the capitalization change, it is accurate.
Quote 1 ✅
The quote begins "The lower of the conscious species possess only the faculty of sensation, which is sufficient to direct their actions and provide for their needs." The source given is “The Objectivist Ethics," in The Virtue of Selfishness, 18. The quote appears in the cited work, and omissions are noted appropriately in the Lexicon.
Quote 2 ✅
The quote begins "Although, chronologically, man's consciousness develops in three stages: the stage of sensations, the perceptual, the conceptual-epistemologically, the base of all of man's knowledge is the perceptual stage." The source given is “Cognition and Measurement,” in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, 5–6. The quote appears in the cited work and omissions are appropriately noted.
Quote 3 ✅
The quote begins "Sensations are the primary material of consciousness and, therefore, cannot be communicated by means of the material which is derived from them." The source given is “Definitions,” in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, 40–41. The quotation appears in the cited work.
Quote 1 ✅
The quote begins "Honesty is the recognition of the fact that the unreal is unreal and can have no value…". The work cited is "Galt's Speech" in For the New Intellectual, 129. The quote is accurate and appears in the cited work.
Quote 2 ❌
UPDATED: I added an additional error in the online version of the Lexicon. I removed part of my claim about the error Binswanger made after getting further context and revised my judgment about the svereity. I corrected my anachronistic use of the title from a more modern edition of the work cited.
The quote begins "Self-esteem is reliance on one’s power to think." The citation in the book version of the Lexicon is to "The Comprachicos" in The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, 181. The online version of the Lexicon cites the same essay in Return of the Primitive, a revised version of The New Left.
The quote is correct but the citation is incorrect. The quote does not appear in "The Comprachicos" at all, but appears instead in a different essay in the same volume, "The Age of Envy." I was able to borrow a 1975 revised edition of The New Left (which is the edition Binswanger used) from Archive.org. The page Binswanger gives is the one on which the quote appears in this 1975 revised edition. I consider this a moderate-sized error because, on the one hand, Binswanger gave the wrong essay name, which is kind of bad, but on the other hand, he gave the right page for the quote, so you can still find it. Note that an earlier version of this post said that Binswanger cited the wrong version of The New Left; I based this on the year given for the work in the list of works cited, but some introductory notes of his actually state that he's citing the second edition (which was pointed out to me by Elliot Temple), so I've edited accordingly.
Separately, the online version of the Lexicon added an additional error by giving the wrong page for the quote, since they cite Return of the Primitive (a substantial revision of The New Left) but give the same page number as Binswanger gave for The New Left. I wasn't able to personally check a printed copy of Return of the Primitive, but below is a screen capture of the Table of Contents of a printed version of Return of the Primitive I was able to get from Amazon.com. The order of the Amazon.com Table of Contents matches the order that the Lexicon has for its Table of Contents for Return of the Primitive. As you can see, there's no way a quote from "The Age of Envy" can appear at page 181...
Quote 3 ✅
The quote in its entirety is "The mark of an honest man . . . is that he means what he says and knows what he means." The citation is to "Textbook of Americanism" in The Ayn Rand Column, 92. The quote appears in the revised edition of the work.
Note that it appears that the original publication of The Ayn Rand Column, in 1991, does not contain "Textbook of Americanism"; however, the subsequent version, published in 1998, does. In he book version of the Lexicon, Binswanger just cites the name of the essay.
Quote 4 ✅
The quote in its entirety is "Intellectual honesty consists in taking ideas seriously. To take ideas seriously means that you intend to live by, to practice, any idea you accept as true." The citation is to "Philosophical Detection" in Philosophy: Who Needs It, 16. The quote appears in the cited work.
Quote 5 ✅
The quote in its entirety is "Intellectual honesty [involves] knowing what one does know, constantly expanding one's knowledge, and never evading or failing to correct a contradiction. This means: the development of an active mind as a permanent attribute." The citation is to "What Can One Do?" in Philosophy: Who Needs It, 201.
The quote appears in the cited work. The original text in the source is "What is required is honesty—intellectual honesty, which consists in knowing what one does know, constantly expanding one’s knowledge, and never evading or failing to correct a contradiction. This means: the development of an active mind as a permanent attribute." Binswanger omitted some text from the beginning but that's consistent with his stated policy. He also correctly noted the omission.
Quote 1 ✅
The quote begins "Extrospection is a process of cognition directed outward—a process of apprehending some existent(s) of the external world." The citation is to “Concepts of Consciousness,” in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, 29. The quote appears in the cited work.
Quote 2 ❌
The quote begins "A major source of men’s earned guilt in regard to philosophy — as well as in regard to their own minds and lives — is failure of introspection." The source cited is "Philosophical Detection" in Philosophy: Who Needs It, 17.
The quote is inaccurate. The first inaccurate part is in the first sentence quoted above. In Rand's essay, she emphasizes earned in "earned guilt." The emphasis is accurately reflected in the book version of the Lexicon, so this change is an error introduced by the online version.
The second inaccurate part is in the final sentence of the quote. In the Lexicon, this is presented as:
In the field of introspection, the two guiding questions are: “What do I feel?” and “Why do I feel it?”
As above, emphasis has been omitted. Specifically, What and Why were emphasized in her original text. And again, Binswanger's book version of the Lexicon correctly shows the emphasis, so this was an error introduced in the internet version.
This seems like a major error to me. It's a change in the text, which is a pretty big deal in general. Also, if you emphasize something, you want to call special attention to it, and Rand, much more than most people, would have had a specific reason for wanting to call special attention to something.
Quote 3 ✅
The quote in its entirety is "In regard to one’s own feelings, only a rigorously conscientious habit of introspection can enable one to be certain of the nature and causes of one’s emotional responses." The citation is to "The Age of Envy" in Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, 132. The quote appears in the cited work.
Quote 4 ✅
The quote begins "The formation of introspective concepts follows the same principles as the formation of extrospective concepts." The citation is to "Concepts of Consciousness" in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, 31-32. The quote appears in the cited work.