One of my new favourite blogs, Secular Right, has an open thread on Ayn Rand.
I have never met a real life objectivist but the ones I have come across online have been batshit crazy and they are always engaged in pitched battles with batshit crazy liberals trying to live down to Rand’s caricatures. Between them they generate more heat than light. It was a pleasant change, then, to come across some mostly well-reasoned arguments for and against Rand’s fantasy land.
I made my opinion clear in my review of Atlas Shrugged. It was good to hear the case for the other side but they didn’t quite shake my first conclusion that, as adolescent budding-philosophers, they thought of themselves as Hank Rearden driving his train into Dagny Taggart’s tunnel.
Some snippets of the conversation:
Ayn Rand was the first person to define and present a rational philosophy for living in this universe. Once you read her works, you’ll have a rational philosophical base with which you can evaluate the ideas of the so called ‘experts’ around you, in newspapers, on radio, on TV etc. You’ll come to the conclusion that these so called ‘experts’ have massive flaws in their thinking and their ideas.
As I said, to the extent that Rand attempted moral complexity with the Rearden character, that is it. But to the extent that there is conflict in that storyline, Rand makes it a very easy choice for Rearden. Has there ever been a reader, ever, anywhere, in the history of this book who ever wondered, even for a millisecond, what choice Rearden would make?? Some precocious, but misguided eleven year-old, somewhere, maybe. No, we all know how he was going to choose, because Rand does not present Rearden with two moral positives (or moral negatives) and explores how and why Rearden would choose between them. What she wrote was not complexity, but the minimum necessary to recite on her ideas about people freeing themselves of the ideas which lead to what she saw as emotional repression.
Bingo. No one in Rearden’s family has any redeeming values. They were rotten through and through. Most people Rand would call ‘altruists’ would have advocated Rearden dumping the lot of them, too.
In toto, Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism offers individuals certainty “which feeds their ambition and results in their happiness.” Her philosophy will add years to man’s existence and has jump-started an entirely “new ball game” in his continuing accumulation of knowledge.
I just flipped through the first 150 pages of the paperback of “Atlas Shrugged” and confirmed my memory: there are no speeches, yet, though in its thousand-some pages Atlas contains a number of them, e.g., one on love and sex, another on the soul of an artist, another on the moral meaning of money, and, of course, a very long one outlining Rand’s entire system of philosophy.
These are tightly integrated with the action of the story which is actually an otherwise lean and fast-paced mystery of epic scope, containing effective thrills and chills and much subtle, beautiful and profound poetry, so often missed by many who think they already know what to expect.
i just did a word count, John Galt’s speech is 32,000 words long. I’m not sure in what universe that’s considered “lean and fast-paced.”
Did you ever seriously think that Francisco was not putting on a show at being the playboy? That Dagny would end up with Galt? That Rearden would enjoy sex with Dagny? That Lillian would reject the Rearden metal bracelet? Is there any morally ambiguous characters in the whole book? Did anyone ever question whether one of the characters was an antagonist or a protagonist? Even for a second? If she printed the strikers’ words in a different color like they do with Jesus in some bibles, I don’t think she would have been that much more obvious than she was.
The thread was not completely batshit-crazy-free but I’d tried to avoid quoting them.
I’ll let Officer Barbrady have the final word.
There are so many things which is pedestrian, substandard, ridiculous, and nonsensical about the characterizations, the plot, the theme, and the dialogue that it is difficult to know where to start.
It convinced Officer Barbrady to never read another book again.