"You have to get over the idea that if you disagree with Objectivism - with something Ayn Rand said - that you're not an Objectivist... that's fantastic! That would turn Objectivists into mindless followers ... Just think about what is true and if Objectivists disagree with it: tough on them ... You can't think with the idea that the answers are in the back of the book given by Ayn Rand" - Leonard Peikoff, 12th October 2009
He is of Canadian origin, thus bolstering the Urban Legend that if you want to be involved with the Ayn Rand Institute, you should be any nationality but actually American.
He has spent most of his life writing and lecturing on the very new and revolutionary ideas of Objectivism, a cause very close to his heart. If lecturing on a new (or old) Philosophy, explicating the intricate ideas contained therein and trying to spread its general message constitutes "not thinking for oneself", then pretty much all Philosophy professors should be considered unoriginal bums, whose work is of absolutely zero value. In fact, anyone who ever uses an idea or invention which was not their own should be considered some sort of parasite on society.
Criticism such as 'if you're expressing someone else's ideas then you're not an individualist' represent the horrendous misunderstandings which exist about Ayn Rand's philosophy, and only further justify the cause of one devoted to explaining and expounding what her ideas really meant.
Leonard Peikoff, as Miette points out, is Ayn Rand's intellectual heir, a title given owing to the time Peikoff spent studying with her. In turn, she believed he showed an understanding of her ideas and an effective communication of her ideas, enough for her to grant that he had successfully integrated and understood her philosophy.
However, title's bestowed are not as important as the justification for them.
So let's look at the justification. The vast majority of his work can be found in recorded lectures. I believe that where he is reiterating Ayn Rand's ideas, it is the kind of work which requires a nuanced and heavily integrated, first-handed understanding of the ideas, not just a blind repetition of someone else's words. The same applies to his application of Ayn Rand's ideas to other fields.
His intellectual output includes:
- An explication of the solution to the general problem of Induction, which Ayn Rand never made fully explicit in her writings, but which rests on her solution to the Analytic-Synthetic dichotomy, as well her Aristotelian and Baconian ideas that Causality is an aspect of Identity, not something to be looked for in the relationship between existents and nothing to do with this nonsense about counting coloured birds
- A systematic and integrated presentation of Ayn Rand's philosophy, known colloquially as OPAR, or "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn RAnd".
- A guide for students of Objectivism to see how Objectivism is based on facts, and to see its ties to reality, as opposed to holding a bunch of ideas tied together in a vacuum; basically, so they don't just end up spouting OPAR without understanding it
- Guides on how to think in principle and in a reality-orientated way in general, so that not only with Objectivism or Philosophy, but with day-to-day problems, one is always being rational and not rationalistic
- An essentiallised History of Philosophy, investigating how the great questions came about, how they were answered and how these have influenced each subsequent thinker
- An in-depth study of cultures, showing how their essential philosophical understanding guided their entire approach to the world
- A book detailing how the National Socialist movement of Germany was founded on mysticism and collectivism, in turn heavily grounded in the ideas of Plato and Kant
- Various other lectures and courses, including guides to Art, Grammar(!), Education (a course which, in turn, was the basis for the highly successful VanDamme Academy), how to Communicate ideas clearly (in writing and speaking), and many more, including a rather humourous and informal discussion of sex (for which he says he may very well be accused of being a filthy hedonist).
He also does a Weekly podcast, available via iTunes.
I do not record all this to create some sort of hagiography of the guy. It's just that there are some who would like to claim that he - and those associated with him, including the Ayn Rand Institute and its affiliated speakers and writers - is just a hack. One may consider the work he has done over the years, and then decide if that label is accurate. They may do the same with output of the Ayn Rand Institute, via the Ayn Rand Bookstore.