Wednesday, March 07, 2012

A Word on Ayn Rand

I can now say that I've had the great fortune to have read both of Ayn Rand's most famous novels: The Fountainhead; and Atlas Shrugged. I'm not going to talk about Rand's political views regarding the Israeli-Arab conflict, but simply wish to comment that these two books are probably the most refreshing and intellectually honest that I've read in a very long time. Atlas Shrugged is a mammoth tome, and I think it could have been shorter, but regardless I felt at the end of it that Rand's thought was not something to dismiss lightly. It spawned an entire philosophical school, 'Objectivism' which is concerned with having firm, material premises on which human morality can be derived. This is in contrast with morality which is derived from religious texts, dogma, superstition or human emotion. There is an enormous amount of information online about her philosophy, but I thought I'd jot down a few thoughts here for posterity.

Rand has an ambitious sociological project, and she is very concerned with how civilizations and great people's go through periods of renaissance and decline. Like Ibn Khaldoun - who was a world and time away - she gives her own theory for why societies decline. In her opinion this decline is when people who rely on the efforts of others for their survival, without using their own reason and brains to seek out their happiness, eventually outnumber the thinkers and rational creators in a society. In effect, stupid people start to outnumber, and then dominate, smart people, and impose their own bastardised morality upon them. When that happens the civilization is ready to collapse.

The other thing which struck me was how she seemed to see her philosophy as a response to the historical materialism of Marxist thought. It's quite interesting to see her mention - in Atlas Shrugged - her disdain for the mystics of the spirit and of the muscle. The former are the monks and priests of the Catholic Church, the second are the Communists who eventually took over her native Russia. Rand is unabashedly proud of her new home, America, but not for any kind of patriotic silliness. She firmly believes that the United States, in its truest sense as intended by the founders of the republic and the framers of the constitution, is a nation founded upon rational principles. Today that would get most people screaming bloody murder, but we have to remember that she wrote as a refugee to the turmoil of the Russian civil war and the - quite brutal - imposition of Lenin's communism upon her country. Those who live a time and see it with their own eyes can - I think - be given some priority regarding their opinions on topics that we can only read about.

Rand's new form of philosophy, with a morality based solely on solid, material premises, sanctifies the heroic in man, and believes that anything which curtails his ability to trade and produce is the greatest of evils, as it restricts his ability to express his own productive thought in a way that would benefit himself and his path to happiness and fully actualising himself. Her thought is controversial and - I think - mostly misunderstood, but I find myself sympathising with much of what she said. If you have the time, read Rand. I can say she's definitely had some impact on the way I think, though how profoundly I have yet to discover. More to come...

4 comments:

Crazy Bear said...
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Anonymous said...

Crazy Bear,

You are quit the misguided opinionated person, I am not sure I can take anything seriously said by someone that chooses the handle Crazy Bear.

Having said that, it should be clear enough by now to anyone that is not deliberately blinding themselves the horrors the Butcher has committed by now, and if anyones idiocy is leading Syria to failure is none other than the bumbling boy-king.

Crazy Bear said...
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Crazy Bear said...
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