Late yesterday I received a note from Tibor’s daughter that he had passed away. I knew that his health was not good, but her news was a blow.
I met Tibor sometime in the 1970s, when we were young firebrands in the Objectivist-libertarian world. It was a time when one could actually read most of the pro-freedom literature. That stream has turned into a firehose, far beyond my capacity to keep up. But Tibor seemed to. In more than 40 books, hundreds of articles, and virtually uncountable numbers of newspaper columns, he kept drilling at the bases of collectivist thought and making the case for freedom.
Tibor was Hungarian by birth. His father smuggled him out of Hungary in 1953 at the age of 14. As Tibor later recounted, “We trekked out to Austria, through mine fields and a booby-trapped barb wire . . . ” The family emigrated to the United States in 1956, but Tibor left home at 18 to make his way in the world. He graduated Claremont McKenna College, received his MA from New York University, and his PhD in philosophy from UC Santa Barbara. During a distinguished academic career, he taught philosophy at Auburn College in Alabama and earned an endowed chair at Chapman University in California. Along with Robert Poole and Manny Klausner, he helped launch Reason magazine and the Reason Foundation.
Tibor was a handful. He was excitable, voluble, sometimes running on in streams you could hardly take in—until he paused and you could digest it all, usually for insight. A prolific but often hasty writer, he counted on editors to spin his prose into gold. As one of those editors, I can say it wasn’t always easy.
On his feet, though, Tibor was wonderful. In talks for The Atlas Society over the years; his energy and clarity always engaged our audience, and he was always ready —with an apparently unlimited reserve of energy and patience–for the many participants who wanted to follow up.
I miss him. My condolences to his family and his many friends.
David Kelley is the founder of The Atlas Society. A professional philosopher, teacher, and best-selling author, he has been a leading proponent of Objectivism for more than 25 years.
David Kelley founded The Atlas Society in 1990 and served as Executive Director through 2016. In addition, as Chief Intellectual Officer, he was responsible for overseeing the content produced by the organization: articles, videos, talks at conferences, etc.. Retired from TAS in 2018, he remains active in TAS projects and continues to serve on the Board of Trustees.
Kelley is a professional philosopher, teacher, and writer. After earning a Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University in 1975, he joined the philosophy department of Vassar College, where he taught a wide variety of courses at all levels. He has also taught philosophy at Brandeis University and lectured frequently on other campuses.
Kelley's philosophical writings include original works in ethics, epistemology, and politics, many of them developing Objectivist ideas in new depth and new directions. He is the author of The Evidence of the Senses, a treatise in epistemology; Truth and Toleration in Objectivism, on issues in the Objectivist movement; Unrugged Individualism: The Selfish Basis of Benevolence; and The Art of Reasoning, a widely used textbook for introductory logic, now in its 5th edition.
Kelley has lectured and published on a wide range of political and cultural topics. His articles on social issues and public policy have appeared in Harpers, The Sciences, Reason, Harvard Business Review, The Freeman, On Principle, and elsewhere. During the 1980s, he wrote frequently for Barrons Financial and Business Magazine on such issues as egalitarianism, immigration, minimum wage laws, and Social Security.
His book A Life of One’s Own: Individual Rights and the Welfare State is a critique of the moral premises of the welfare state and defense of private alternatives that preserve individual autonomy, responsibility, and dignity. His appearance on John Stossel’s ABC/TV special "Greed" in 1998 stirred a national debate on the ethics of capitalism.
An internationally-recognized expert on Objectivism, he has lectured widely on Ayn Rand, her ideas, and her works. He was a consultant to the film adaptation of Atlas Shrugged, and editor of Atlas Shrugged: The Novel, the Films, the Philosophy.
“Concepts and Natures: A Commentary on The Realist Turn (by Douglas B. Rasmussen and Douglas J. Den Uyl),” Reason Papers 42, no. 1, (Summer 2021); This review of a recent book includes a deep dive into the ontology and epistemology of concepts.
The Foundations of Knowledge. Six lectures on the Objectivist epistemology.
“Universals and Induction,” two lectures at GKRH conferences, Dallas and Ann Arbor, March 1989
“Skepticism,” York University, Toronto, 1987
“The Nature of Free Will,” two lectures at The Portland Institute, October 1986
“The Party of Modernity,” Cato Policy Report, May/June 2003;and Navigator, Nov 2003; A widely cited article on the cultural divisions among pre-modern, modern (Enlightenment) and postmodern views.
"I Don't Have To" (IOS Journal, Volume 6, Number 1, April 1996) and “I Can and I Will” (The New Individualist, Fall/Winter 2011); Companion pieces on making real the control we have over our lives as individuals.