Friday, October 12, 2007

I like Ayn Rand, so there

Today marks fifty years since "Atlas Shrugged" was released. I still prefer "The Fountainhead" and rank it among my top ten desert island books. While Ayn was not right about everything, she was right about a lot and I don't understand the immense repugnance for her that people display today, apart from the fact that Alan Greenspan is still alive.


Blogger Russ said...

So, which Ayn Rand do you like, the novelist, the philosopher? I, too, agree with a good many of her thoughts. I read Rand in the same way I read most real thinkers: I read a little; think a lot; read a little; think a lot; read a little; think a lot. If their ideas seem to sync up with mine or if they don't sync up but they expose legitimate defects in my thinking that their ideas can correct, I try to update my conceptual framework based on what they have to say.

I too think she has a bad reputation these days, but I also think that that public perception has little to do with her ideas, her atheism being a notable exception, and is owing to other causes.

One factor which I think contributes significantly to her not being as well received as she might be is the airing of much dirty laundry associated with the Ayn Rand Institute. Sadly, there are many of her followers who elevate her to near-deity status. I've participated in a few Objectivist Club meetings and I find many Randists to be Randian absolutists. Some refer rather seriously to the "Gospel According to Rand." Others have made statements like "there are two kinds of people in this world: those who agree with Ayn Rand and those who are wrong." This zealotry has led to many rifts in the organization with a few of them being widely publicized. There have also been many well-circulated "lover's quarrels" among top-level Randians. Couple these with the political activism of ARI and I think it explains to some extent many people giving them the raspberries.

Then, again, there is that wee little fact that she was not a theist. Apparently, that grinds a lot of people's cookies.

Although these things might make her less popular than she might otherwise be, I do think that, as contemporary philosophers go, overall her ideas are doing pretty well for themselves in the public sphere. Note that Spinoza, Kant, Sartre and Wittgenstein are still doing well despite having no public relations firm like the ARI keeping their ideas in the public eye. With ARI and the thousands of Objectivist Clubs around the country pushing her philosophy and many of her books making the required reading lists in high schools and universities, I think her ideas will be as prevalent as one can reasonably expect them to be for quite some time.

2:55 PM  
Blogger Milo Johnson said...

I like both Ayns. I came to her late, I knew of the books (who didn't?) in college, but never read them until I was in my thirties. As an atheist of absolute certainty, I don't particularly care if believers get their panties in a wad, and it's a horrible shame that such a near-religion of a cult has risen around her. What draws me to her, and I still read both "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged" every few years, is the way she was finally able to explain to me why so many horrible things happen deliberately in this world. Her dissection of Ellsworth Toohey, and by extension, all of the other members of his abhorrent clan was like a 5,000 watt searchlight beam being blasted into my eyes. All of a sudden, the rise of mediocrity and mendacity in what should have been the noblest country in the world made sense as a deliberate action. I finally realized that there are many in the world who destroy simply because they can't build and are jealous of those who can. I lost my naivete because of Ayn Rand, and I owe her forever.

4:24 PM  

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