Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand would have been one hundred years old today. She is best known for her books Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead and Anthem, all of which were intended to teach us her philosophy of Objectivism.

I came across objectivism and Ayn Rand after I had already received a dose of libertarianism from the works of L. Neil Smith. I found Smith's works to be more fun and less stark. I did not like how sex in Ayn Rand novels seemed to be a game of dominance and repression. Smith appreciated sensuality and a fun roll in the hay. Also, I've found Smith's libertarians (or “propertarians”) to be a lot nicer to other people than the elitist snobs in Rand's utopia.

Rand did have a more rigorous philosophy, though. She carefully expresses certain parameters to objectivism:

Metaphysics:Objective Reality“Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed”
Epistemology:Reason“You can't eat your cake and have it, too.”
Ethics:Self-interest“Man is an end in himself.”
Politics:Capitalism“Give me liberty or give me death.”

Libertarianism and objectivism are related, as Edward Hudgins points out in his tribute to her 100th birthday:

Rand developed an ethos of rational self-interest, but this “virtue of selfishness” was not an anti-social creed for predators. Instead, it led Rand to her great insight that there is no conflict of interest between honest, rational individuals. Since individuals are ends in themselves, no one in society should initiate the use of force or fraud against others. All relationships should be based on mutual consent. This became the credo of the modern libertarian movement, found today in think tanks, publications and public policy proposals.

So, I consider Ayn Rand to be influential on my life and certainly my philosophy during my early college years. However, I would have to say that there are other great works that are equally influential, like The Lord of the Rings, Unintended Consequences, The Nagasaki Vector and The Cathedral and the Bazaar.

Today, I still remember the key point: Facts are facts (“A is A”). Ayn Rand's insistence on there being an objective reality is certainly one leg of my philosophical table. While I agree with objectivism in general terms, it is the absolutist form that I object to. I can be nice to other people without ruining them, although being too nice can make them dependent.

For example, I blog not just for my own benefit, but for the benefit of my readers.

Farewell, Ayn, I'm glad you made an impression on several generations.

Amazon.com links:

Josh Poulson

Posted Wednesday, Feb 2 2005 04:12 PM

Adjacent entries


« Lethal Force at the Capitol
Lethal Force Redefined by Ninth Circuit »





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