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Who is Ayn Rand?

She was born in Russia and immigrated to the US in 1905 at the age of 21. She wrote a bunch of interesting books in her time. I discovered Ayn Rand when I was in college in the 1980's. I read a pile of her books, and passed them on to my friends. The Fountainhead was the first that I read, followed by Atlas Shrugged and then plodding on through a few more before I burned out. In these novels she began to develop Objectivism, her very own philosophy. She became quite famous later in life and was associated with Alan Greenspan and a host of other intellectuals.

I find it interesting that these days people scoff at Ayn Rand in much the same way that they scoff at Ron Paul. As if they were the lunatic fringe, not the sanest people around. Anyone who has not read at least one of Ayn Rand's books has no right to denigrate her ideas. And I pity the fool who dismisses Ron Paul before they really listen to him speak about what is happening in our country today.

It is true that Objectivism does not address the decimation of Earth's resources that we are now facing. But Rand's philosophy does insightfully assess many assumptions in our culture that continue to cause trouble. For example, Rand observes that "values" in our culture involve not so much specific codes of behavior as the idea that one's actions are right and good if they are done for someone else. Acting for yourself is not seen as being righteous. Acting for others will get you into heaven. Rand reintroduced the idea of rational self interest. In our culture we go to great lengths to appear unselfish, because to be selfish is the greatest sin of all. But to be a self with needs is to be selfish. So to deny our inherent selfishness is to deny our very selves. There are deep problems associated with the religious-unduced selflessness slant of our culture. Objectivism seeks to be objective about what is happening and why. I appreciate that.

It appears that someone is trying to get Rational Self Interest back into college curriculums, by appealing to the self interest of Universities. According to The Week at least 17 universities accepted a million buck donations under the condition that Atlas Shrugged be required reading in a course on capitalism from a moral perspective. That should be an interesting course.

I didn't know it until just now, but Anglina Jolie and Brad Pitt are working on putting together a movie version of Ayn Rand's book Atlas Shrugged. It's on the shelf for now, because they want to do it right and until the pieces come together they won't touch it. I look forward to that one coming through.

Apparently Ayn Rand blocked a number of attempts to make her book into a movie, fearing perhaps that Hollywood would be completely oblivious to Objectivism and misconstrue her lifework. I wouldn't doubt it.

The Youtube video below is by a serious young man who purchased Greenspan's recent autobiography The Age of Turbulence and reads a portion of it so us that considers Ayn Rand.



Apr. 12th, 2008 04:59 pm (UTC)
Whether Rand believes in altruism or not, I don't know. I do know she's opposed to it, though. Similar to what you had posted, she has said that altruism is basically a suicide because we would have to give all of our self to others. I find this a flawed way to look at it, just as I would find it equally flawed to say that being selfish means we must be "purely" selfish. Certainly, that would be stupid.

Yes, humans are animals. But not mere animals. We have biological urges, as animals do, but we also have the consciousness (or self-awareness or whatever term you prefer) to be aware of how our actions are reflected in society. If we were mere animals, setting u pa moral system (or denouncing a moral system) would be pointless, as animals are capable of only the most rudimentary morals, if any at all.

Try lecturing a dog on why his actions are right or wrong. You might get him to stop sh*tting on the carpet, but essentially you didn't add any moral sense to the dog.
Apr. 13th, 2008 01:34 am (UTC)
Agreed that we humans have a frontal lobe that allows us to imagine the future and relate it to the past, and thus to believe that we know what is best for the future.

I personally believe in moderation in all things, including moderation. So I integrate Rand's ideas....moderately, not the way she would have wanted.

I do see truth in her comments about the suicidal nature of altruism. It's not about suicide of the body, but about suicide of the spirit or soul of a person. Giving all for others limits the possibility that one might fulfill one's potential. If you take her statements in a less literal manner, they may be more palatable for you too.

It seems to me that MOST people in our culture are in varying stages of suicide of the soul: they may not be dead yet, but they are not doing what it is that makes them truly ALIVE. And it does take some selfishness to pursue personal enlivenment.



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