Ayn Rand


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I am extremely offended by Ayn Rand's depiction of women as subhuman in Anthem. While Rand says that all men should live for themselves and not for others, she has the Golden One do nothing for herself, but only follow and obey Equality 7-2521.

Is anyone else bothered by this?

>>By Wintersoul   (Saturday, 25 Jan 2003 12:57)

Yes, Wintersoul, Ayn Rand is definitely the worst, most supremely vacuous writer to ever be accepted by the mainstream of literature. Her philosophies are, in a word, absurd---influenced by cold war propaganda and empty, capitalistic rhetoric. She is also the only writer I've ever heard of who writes 900 pages novels in which every character remains the exact same on the first page and on the last page. Sloppily written and profoundly stupid, Rand's works are not only utterly irrelevant (both in the realms of philosophy and literature), they are painful.

>>By Oscar H.   (Friday, 2 May 2003 18:49)

I disagree. Although Rand's treatment of many issues is less than perfect, in my opinion, she really answers some key questions about human happiness and social structures in general. I haven't read Anthem, but I have read the Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, both of which I enjoyed immensely. They may lack the storytelling zest that many people are used to and enjoy so much, and they don't really embrace any archetypal ideas, but that doesn't seem like their purpose. I think that their purpose is to convice people that individuality and creative achievement are the most sacred things anyone can hope to obtain. Almost everything I've read seems to say, "yes, life has some problems, but these can be overcome." What authors don't typically show is how. All solutions came in hints and whispers, riddles and rhymes, but Rand is one of the few people who just say, "Invent! Invent and you'll be happy." I think that this has to be taken on it's own. I can understand how people would have qualms with aspects her work, but I think nothing can be considered irrelevant in the realms of either philosophy or literature. Just keep an open mind; you can always put it down if you get bored.

>>By Ian S   (Tuesday, 6 May 2003 04:08)

Has anyone else heard about the allegations that Ayn Rand met with, and then supposedly became Adolf Hitler's mistress? I saw a documentary (I think, by LifeWerks) that implied some sort of relationship.

>>By Oscar H.   (Saturday, 7 Jun 2003 07:46)

Rand did not have anything to do with Hitler - she despised collectivity of any kind, which definitely includes fascism. The Nazi practice of subjugating the individual to the state, not to mention their thousands of other offenses against human liberty and life, was absolutely abhorrent to her, and she spoke and wrote to this effect several times.

I agree completely with Ian's comments - Rand was not a great writer, and her ideas were far from perfect. But it doesn't follow that they are entirely worthless. Ian, I think you summed it up very well.

>>By Jen   (Monday, 9 Jun 2003 18:58)

Ayn Rand's masterpiece Atlas Shrugged is the most marvellous and outstanding book I've ever read! Her long sentences and admirable language are really worth the time it takes to do the around 1000 pages of tiny tiny letters. The Fountainhead is good as an apetizer, and Atlas Shrugged is - of course - the main dish. Listen to Ian!

ps. And I guess you need an engineering mind to really enjoy and fully understand the purpose of her writing...!

>>By Engineering Physics   (Monday, 7 Jul 2003 22:10)


i am halfway through Atlas Shrugged and i have a trivial doubt... why did rand choose to disregard the one single symbol of a degenerating society. A crumbling economy. Inflation.

Its not like she didn't have the opportunity. In Part 3, in the chapter titled "Anti-life", James Taggart gives a $100 bill to a beggar. And the beggar pockets it without comment. And Taggart wonders at the fact that the beggar took it as if it wouldn't matter to him if it were a $100 bill or a dime. I would imagine that given the state of affairs that the country was in a $100 dollars wouldn't be worth even a dime. Why did she not explore this?

just wondering...

>>By Spiderspit   (Sunday, 28 Sep 2003 17:08)

Rand writes about ideas, not simply as motivations but almost as entirely separate forces. Her characters act based on belief, not on whimsy. Her plot lines are moralistic because she tries to both tell a story and make an argument.

Whether or not you agree with her assumptions or her conclusions, there are few other writers/thinkers who combine fiction and philosophy so intensely.

>>By TheWayfarer   (Tuesday, 7 Oct 2003 04:05)

hey! this is to spider spit.u my friend r being very practical which is very logical but what u fail to understand ,maybe because u havent reached that state of hopelessness which one feels when things dont go right. the said beggar is dejected and is riding his forsaken life as a passeneger and not the driver.he knows where he is heading which is not pretty and even then he has accepted his fate per se. he has stopped fighting for issues or principle or it may even be money because he is tired of the drudgery of life itself..he fails to enjoy life as a whole which is y it doesnt matter to him what amount he gets and when or by whom.

>>By s.s.   (Friday, 10 Oct 2003 13:20)

I agree, s.s., and the inflation aspect is an interesting point, my feeling is, it is implied in the story - perhaps there are specific passages that make me think this. I think Atlas goes to the right of "capitalist" rhetoric, hence libertarians seem to value Rand's works. From what I know of Rand, once she entered the US in the 1920's, she never left to be anyone's mistress - although she did have a publically known affair with a protege for about 20 years. I agree that Tagney in Atlas should have been developed throughout the story; although I think other characters (Rearden) were and certainly this occured in the Fountainhead. As for Anthem, the lead character is male, but in Atlas, female, & also in We the Living. Fountainhead is probably shared between female/male lead roles.

>>By kiradominique   (Saturday, 18 Oct 2003 10:13)

i read most of rand's works[including the non-fiction such as the virtues of selfishness] at around 20 and in a blaze.i was thrilled by the idea that the individual was supreme.but a rereading some 10 years later left me cold.i am the center of my universe,and sole responsibility for the success of that life falls on my shoulders.but i am not the center of THE universe,and i am also responsible for the ways my life impacts others.rands environmental irresponsibility horrified me and made me wonder if the g.o.p. sat around reading them like scripture.

>>By goddog   (Sunday, 19 Oct 2003 16:41)

i disagree with goddog.
if one has that kind of aspect towards life the one is never going to be happy.it can only be indirect that u r happy if who u love is happy.but how much is it possible for a person to have that kind of happiness, what i mean is how many ppl can one individual actually love.it is one point to love ur parents, ur family, ur spouse etc. but is it really worth loving them because one has been taught to think in that manner.
goddog's manner of writing shows that the guy must be thinking that intelligence has anything to do with age.as a matter of fact it does not.

its how much u have lived ur life rather than how long.


>>By s.s.   (Sunday, 26 Oct 2003 19:27)

Is taking responsibility for how I impact others the 'aspect' you speak ofS.S?Only sociopaths can be happy without taking responsibility for their actions.Where did I say anything about making any one else happy?And what gives you the idea that our capacity to love is limited?Or that the bond I feel with my family is socially obligated?I said I am responsible for the success of my life,and therefore,by implication, others would be responsible for theirs.But does that give me the right to rob them?Or rape them?Or deprive my children of necessities cuz I'd rather smoke dope all day than go to work?HELL NO.Just cuz I wanted to get drunk am I not resposible for the child I run over or her family's enormous grief?And to take this back to Rand,if I want to get rich strip mining coal shouldn't I take responsibility for the farms or ranches I destroy?And what about the wildlife?This is not Only the planet of humans.Human chauvinism is the biggest threat not only to the natural world but to humans as well.
And no shit S.S.,intelligence doesnt have anything to do with age.If you're born an idiot you'll probably die an idiot.But wisdom, PERSPECTIVE, are something which can be aquired,if they are pursued.I guarantee you ,anybody who thinks they truly get it is deluding themselves.And it isnt how long you live,with that I agree.Nor is it how much you live,though the fuller your life is the more opportunity you have to understand.the important thing is how WELL you live.

>>By goddog   (Monday, 27 Oct 2003 00:38)

finally, someone has bothered to cut to chase and say it as it is...go goddog...I have never read ayn rand. ok, maybe abut 10 pages of Atlas Shrugged. I only read it because i was at the time sleeping with this canadian woman from vancouver. What struck me was not the absence of a narrative style (that shouldn't be any reason not to read a writer). But what annoyed me was the existentialist credo she had obviously assimilated and was now trying to preach. Existentialism is not an Ethic. At least not a universal one. That is why, existentialism never really became a powerful philosophical trend. That is why, sartre tried at one point to justify it by trying to marry it with Marxism. That was because sratre knew that he argued himself into ma corner - if what was right and wrong depended on the individual as long as one faced the consequences of one's actions, then there was no way to say something could not be done. But The existentialists also believed in responsibility, mauvais foi, as they called it, bad faith. Responsible acvtion. It gets sticky here, because what is responsible can be debated upon. What is responsibl;e for you, goddog may not be for S.S. because of the moral values one has been incvulcated with. If we follow this line of reasoning, then we have to go back to Nietzsche and his genealogy of morals. But lets not go there.
Goddog is right when he says that everyone is left to do his own thing, but there must always be the burden of responsibility. Freedom is not another word for nothing left to lose. It is not a liberation. it is a burden, that comes with a social conscience.

Ayn rand tries to take this and then preaches the right kind of behaviour. It became for me a fictionalised self-help book. I would venture to say that the only reason why she has become big in the second half of the 20th century is the escape route she provided for people like George Bush. I bet he has a whole shelf full of her books. Oh sorry, I forgot, Bush doesn't know how to read english. Well then, barbara bush must have told him some bedtime stories taken from rand's work.

Okay, i am being mean here. And i apologise. I was only trying to say that rand was preaching a right way of doing things, a right way of living. Invent, Invent and you'll be happy, says Ian, very early on in the posts. But Creation is a tragic exercise. Creation is Death. If all writers were happy when they invented their tales, if all artists were happy after hoiurs of labouring over their canvases, if all musicians were happy after writing their songs, then, there will be no more writing, no more art, no more music. Because art, creation, this inventing that ian claims rand exhorts us to do, is a recognition of the chimerical nature of human emotions.

>>By dionysus   (Monday, 27 Oct 2003 02:38)

Let me try to be the diplomat. I suspect that “s.s.” and “goddog” are closer in spirit that either realizes. I would suggest that the gap between them is less of a philosophical nature and more related to a difference of an age. Go back to the entry of 2 May by “Oscar H.” to put Ms. Rand in a proper context. She is living & writing in a time when a good deal of the intellectual body is leaning left of center. The full history of the failure of Marxism (never mind the horrors of Stalinism), as practiced by the Soviet Union, had yet to play out – and I’m not interested in digressing into politics per se – and the potential for a better political system was still a real possibility to Western cultures. Historically we all know more than Rand and her contemporaries simply because we have been witness to how things played out in the second half of the 20th century. We know WHAT doesn’t work and most of us know WHY it doesn’t work. You certainly can’t fleece people of their freedom and simultaneously steal any of their motivation and expect to have anything more than the mess created after 75 years of a failed system a la the late, unlamented Soviet Union.

Does that make Ayn Rand “right”? Hell, no, it doesn’t even make her readable! All that we have learned is that there are a number of political systems that don’t work, both left and right. When insatiable greed and lust are allowed to rule you are in for a bumpy ride. And, yes, as mentioned by “goddog” and “dionysus”, Rand is read and quoted in the corridors of power and that should be the tip-off. Why would you want to share a philosophical stance with power brokers who can barely conceal their agendas, which invariably come down to greed and lust? I would rather read something about Ayn Rand (rather than “by” Ayn Rand) because she is, if nothing else, a curious specimen of the 20th century.

The individual who calls himself “s.s.” has youth (17) on his side and I remember it well. I remember thinking how much smarter I was than most everyone else and I certainly remember having opinions which I felt were not only rock solid and unshakably sound, but opinions which I would never change. Believe me, my friend, life evolves. You will change your mind 50 times about who is smart and who is stupid, who writes well and who’s overrated, which composers truly matter, which painters stand the test of time, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. I salute your intelligence and your inquisitiveness. However, if she were alive today Ayn Rand would never give a moment’s thought about you or me, nor would she give the proverbial rat’s ass about the hungry person down the street. I have no time for people who lack, among other virtues, compassion and intelligence in itself is never an excuse.

On the other hand, “goddog” (42, I think) is speaking from the seat of experience, someone who is still open to possibilities but someone who has had time to re-think what matters to him and what doesn’t. His words tell us that his children matter to him and like most parents he will fiercely defend his family from any words (philosophical or otherwise) that he deems harmful. Somewhere, “s.s.”, in your 26 October message you crossed the line and attacked the man in his lair and you should never do this unless you are ready to fight to the death.

Then again, thank goodness we have a venue in which dialogues can play themselves out in such a manner; the notion of ‘agreeing to disagree’ if you will. If the rest of the world subscribed to this process maybe people would not be quite so intent on destroying each other.

>>By Persevere   (Monday, 27 Oct 2003 17:31)

allright mr. goddog, i have no qualms against speaking about this.
and u know what i will answer u word for word.there is nothing wrong about taking responsibilities about ur family and kids and i am all for u on that.as per taking responsibility for ur actions on OTHERS, well what is very obvious here is the operational word 'others'.do u realy believe it is possible for u to take responsibility for every actions of urs.u would be surprised to know how many ppl u might have hurt in ur life just by walking by or just by not looking or just by saying something which u thought was insignificant but was very important to someone else.
if u r so experienced and fuul of wisdom then how can u commit the cardinal sin of forgettintg that there numerous factors around u and of them all u can only control..what? 90% at the most.
i'll tell u what it is not sociopaths who r the only ones who r happy.
i for one am not a sociopath but am as outgoing as possible, and i am so outgoing that i always end up getting to know the most hedious of secrets of ppl whether 14 or 40.
u may think this is in a way a boast because according to u this may not be possible but that will be only be ur limitation not mine.
and u know what take all the responsibility u want but i for one will refrain from taking any responsibility because a person looked at me and cried because i reminded them of their son or bf or father or husband.and what was my action in this circumstance? that i showed my face to them and they went and killed themself b'coz of grief.
sorry goddog i will not ruin my life for something so stupid if u wish to do so then u deserve the pain.


>>By s.s.   (Monday, 27 Oct 2003 19:54)

we must all thank rand for this scintillating discussion...

>>By dionysus   (Monday, 27 Oct 2003 22:52)

Over the years, even I have come to doubt if the all of Ayn Rands philosphy is practical and is really the key to happiness. However, that is because I havent been thinking anything abstract for sometime now - so am not sure how exactly I feel about Atlas Shrugged or Fountain Head.

I was watching Dirty Dancing a while back, and this guy abuses / physically injures a girl and when the leading girl asks him for an explaination / help - he quotes Ayn Rand and offers her Fountain Head as if it would explain his actions. I found that appalling and I realized how much her writings are misinterpreted and misrepresented.

She never said compassion is a sin or all that matters is your happiness - so screw everyone else. Compassion / altruism must not be the moral that defines a human, it is not the gauge to measure a mans worth!

In Atlas Shrugged the oath does just say I will not live for anyone else.... it also says... nor will I ask some one to live for me.

"I swear -- by my life and my love of it -- that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."

She explains the individual, his actual value and despises the value given for it in the society. She doesnt explain the financial state of United States when she narrated the beggar pocketing the 100$ bill with indifference, because she was not addressing the effect but the cause.

I still doubt if all of Ayn Rands philosophy is practical and is truly the key to human happiness - but in effect, the core of objectivism is in my opinion an ingenious creation that wil inspire debates of such intensity for many years to come!

>>By ezlux   (Tuesday, 28 Oct 2003 16:50)

Rather late in life (mid/late 30s) I was prevailed upon to read Rand by a young friend who found her to be amazing and wonderous. I admit to having reservations, but because I liked this person I decided to make a sincere attempt.

By page 20 I was disgusted, but vowed to press on. By page 40 I decided that a lobotmized hamster wouldn't find it credible, but that I would read it as a form of cultural studies. By page 60 I decided watching bad afternoon game shows would be a more enlightening, uplifting, and intelligent form of cultural studies.

I actually threw the book away, something I have only ever done to one other author (a copy of Rush Limbaugh's book that fell into my hands). A couple of years later I thought perhaps I may have been too harsh, or maybe AS was not the most representative work, so I tried The Fountainhead. Made it about 1/3 before it too went in the trash....

More than anything what offended me was the "characters" Rand creates as foils for her principle sympathetic characters to outwit, out argue, and generally debase. These foil characters aren't caricatures or cartoons, they don't have nearly that much breadth or depth. They are such lame, pathetic, unidimensional nonentities that one has to wonder why they are created at all.

Sadly the answer comes all too quickly - what Rand presents as the ideas and philosophies that she wishes to disprove are in fact such fantastic distortions, misrepresentations, and gross mis-characterizations that she needs characters equally lacking in substance to act as mouthpieces for them.

And of course Rand then had the sympathetic characters intellectually demolish these bogus philosophies with ideas that are only marginally less specious. Specious arguments, straw man and ad hominum attacks - who could ask for more?

So there may be something to what Rand had to say, but I didn't find it in what I read. What I got was lame ideas presented as better because they were contrasted against ideas that were falsely represented as even lamer - hardly a foundation for a life philosophy (but more than enough substance for much current social policy, at least some people seem to think so).

PS dionysius - the young friend was female and in Vancouver?!?

>>By greenfyre   (Wednesday, 5 Nov 2003 22:52)

As noted above my knowledge of Rand’s work has been limited and consists largely of third party interpretations by some of her devotees. With that caveat in mind:

Rand’s whole body of work seems to be an unsuccesful attempt to provide a philosophical basis for privilege and the behaviour of the oppressor. The whole notion of "We are personally responsible for what happens to us" is the point of view of the rapist, the torturer, the occupier, the "witness" who just walks away"; and of course they are not refering to their own behaviour, but rather what is happening to the victim.

"I deserve this, I worked hard" is the justification of privilege. The fact that the average near destitute third worlder works harder than 95% of the middle class can even imagine does nothing to shake the belief the middle class has in their own entitlement. Goddog cites sociopaths, but I don’t know if we need to pathologize this - it is merely immaturity.

My impression is that we look for substance in Rand because we seek to understand it’s relatively wide appeal, the erroneous assumption being that there must be some substance for it to have such appeal. I suggest we drop the assumption and re-examine Randian theology with a more open mind.

To me the appeal of Rand is obvious if you look at it from the perspective of someone who is desperately seeking justification for their own privilege, selfishness, and indifference, whether indivindual or collective. The whole thing is just not that interesting. What IS interesting is the question of how we can get western culture to grow up, or at least develope from the infantile to the juvenile.

>>By greenfyre   (Thursday, 6 Nov 2003 15:36)

The insatiable greed and lust mentioned by perservere are not exhibited by any of Ayn Rand's so-called "heros". Nor do her "heros" use her ideas as a philosophical basis for the privilage of the oppressor, as greenfyre says. Nothing could be further from the truth.

When you see a person of power quoting, taking, using her work, they are doing just that, using. The evil that she describes are those who use and take. These are the people of power we see today, who may concievably enjoy her writing as a healthy man enjoys a crutch. It's an excuse for most, look at the perceived intelligence of this woman, how smart she makes me look, how good she makes me feel about myself, even after dropping a bomb on a hospital. Those are the actions of the (albeit overly simplified) "villians" in her stories. The "heros" in her stories are not in power, and never will be, because they haven't learned to use and take. This makes her stories unrealistic.

Yes, it is an unrealistic view of things, she takes a one-sided approach down a dark hall with blinders on. That is a dangerous thing for any writer/artist. If you hear someone offer unflinching support for her work and/or her ideas, run. Run far away, and fast. They are many orders of magnitude more dangerous than Rand herself. Ever notice the irony of her biggest supporters being portrayed in her book: the "elite" in The Fountainhead who offer opinions on art, none of their own, but opinions nonetheless. Anyone treating her work as the "bible of libertarianism" (yes Ive heard this said) is missing the point. Her characters reflect her philosophies (I would hope they would) in this way. She has "heros" and "villains" and nobody in between. Her Peter Keating was the closest thing to an attempt to look at the middle ground where almost every realistic person lays. And her utter failings in portraying such a character reflect her personal inability to see things as they really are. There is no right or wrong answer, the truth has never been spoken.

Her ideas often get misrepresented as several people smarter than me have said. People many times mention her declaration of independence from responsibility towards others without remembering the caveat: so long as you dont tread on someone elses ability to live the same way. That is the single idea I see most frequently overlooked, and maybe I should stop and mention that I truly enjoy reading Ayn Rand, and I feel this is by far her greatest contribution. What a shame that is. If nobody treaded on anybody else, there wouldn't be poor, starving people in third world countries because there wouldn't be third world countries because, yep, you guessed it: there wouldn't be countries. What Ayn Rand does is calmly ignore the indirect consequences of an individual's actions; Reardon and her other "heros" never worry about the effects of theirs. But, ignoring (ignorance) is part of every effective rhetoric and a convienient tool for writers/artists.

Ayn Rand's writing stirs emotions in people, and often it comes from the darker side. Can I really completely ignore the people around me and only live for myself? Is it possible to take only the people I respect and leave this world? Would I be a "villian" in her next book (I've read it, its disappointing)? Stirring emotion is the mark of any good artist. Ayn Rand is a good artist, but dangerous.

>>By Distrust   (Friday, 7 Nov 2003 03:22)

Well I'm certainly open to a clear and unambiguous staement of
her ideas - let me know where I can find them.


>>By greenfyre   (Friday, 7 Nov 2003 03:57)

Is that a joke? If I asked you where I could find a clear, unambiguous statement of the ideas of Paolo Freire, I would hope you would tell me to read him, and not some (mis) interpretation of his work by some college professor, or some generalized and misconstrued version by someone claiming his work as their own.

But still, I really can understand why her novels might quickly turn someone away, try her non-fiction work then, or don't. But don't label someones work based on 30 pages of one novel, 20 of another and a couple of overheard off-hand remarks. I do think your first impression criticism of the "villians" in her stories are right on track; cartoons is an excellent way to put it. Her ideas have plenty of flaws (who's dont) but there is still plenty in there to learn from and discuss.

>>By Distrust   (Saturday, 8 Nov 2003 19:32)


I'm going to suggest that your argument is specious - that is unless you have actually read Darwin, Marx, Newton, Aristotle, Plato, Einstein, Hegel, Lao Tzu, the Koran and so on (and on and on and on), all in the original? None of us will live long enough to begin to read it all, so we accept summarized versions.

And so we should. Most original works are framed within the context of their time. They need to thoroughly and convincingly make a case, and often did so in great detail. Once the case is made, a summary is more than adequate.

Further, the original authors often wrote within a particular social and psychological milieu. It is often not possible to understand the original unless you have a phenomenal grounding in the society and dominant ideas and paradigms active at the time.

Even if the author is current, understanding them will often demand a firm grounding in their discipline. Someone who has no background in Philosophy is not going to get a better grasp of Wittgenstein or Foucault by reading their works rather than a summary written for the lay reader. Reading the original they will get no idea at all as to what these guys are on about.

Even if we did somehow have the 1000 lifetimes necessary to study all the original texts, it would still leave no time to actually implement the ideas - often the intent of the authors. So if there is a summary of Rand's ideas that is generally accepted as accurate, then let's use that.

Further, it would be a phenomenal leap of faith to find an author's writing and ideas weak, even comical, in the first 50 pages, but grant the possibility that they might suddenly firm up and acquire substance and veracity later.

I'll grant is sometimes does happen, but most authors are more consistent. It also begs the question as to, if you are capable of clearly presenting well reasoned ideas, why not do it right from the start rather than only after the first 75 pages?

"30 pages of one novel, 20 of another and a couple of overheard off-hand remarks" Excellent illustration of another point - that if you can't cite the text accurately, even when it's right there on the same web page, what does it matter whether you use the original or a summary?

And if there is no acceptable summary of Rands ideas - why not?

As for Friere "If I asked you where I could find a clear, unambiguous statement of the ideas of Paolo Freire, I would hope you would tell me to read him" Not if I didn't think you had the background or interest to wade through "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" or "Education for a Critical Consciousness". Or if you weren't fluent in Portugese, because of course you would only want to read him in the original - not a translation.

I'd be more inclined to suggest something that gives you exactly what you asked for. I generally recommend Ferreira, Eleonora Joao 1997 "Making Sense of the Media: A Handbook of Popular Education Techniques" . A supurb resource for people who are just interested in actually using Pop Ed. And why not? I'd rather they were using Pop Ed techniques than not simply because they couldn't get through or really understand Frieire in the original.

>>By greenfyre   (Sunday, 9 Nov 2003 01:41)

u my friend greenfyre seem to be suggesting that all the generalised "clear and unambiguous statements" of all the books are accurate.
do u say that everything that is widely accepted is accurate as well?
then y is it that there were countries who werent supporting america's attack on afghanistan, even after the majority of the world agreed with them?
the answer is that even if a thing is widely accepted it has a good scope of being disagreed with.

u may wish to read all the "clear and unambiguous staements" of all the books written in all the languages but there are also ppl who wish to read a tenth of all those books rather than plunge themselves to interpretations of different so-called scholars of literary world.

there r always generalisations from escapists but u finally have to face the specifics because u do not live in a beehive with one consciousness but do so as a human brain with ur single,secluded,individual brain.
i cant say all americans are assholes or all indians are illiterate because it isnt so but such notions do exist in the world and ur opinion of accepting some "clear and unambiguous staement" ,which is generally accepted, is no different.

as for saying than rand's works are impractical i agree with most on that front.
atleast for now.

here's a fact for u all. there was a time when making a perfect sphere was impractical,a myth in the civilised world because it was impossible to create it. but when man went into space he realised that it was impossible to make sphere on earth only due to gravity.and now a perfect sphere can be made in space, it is not impractical.

similarly cant it be said that rand maybe impractical now but she may not be in the future.
i agree keating was as close as she got to practicality but she also touched toohey which was also a practical perception according to me, though exaggerated.

understanding someone doesnt mean u have to live there lives.for getting what they r trying to mean all u have to do read them with an open mind without any antiquated notions or stubborn mind.if one does so then one is able to read between the lines. u may get ideas which r warped or distorted according to ur brain but if u read interpretations then u already r recieving distorted texts being claimed to be accurate summaries of what the writer was trying to portray.how accurate do u think will the final perception of work be in this case?


>>By s.s.   (Monday, 10 Nov 2003 11:21)

Ok, Im not sure what that last one was all about, but let me just say this. It IS much better to read the original source. I want to form my own opinions, not off of someone elses interpretation. Although it may not be practical all the time, and especially in the case of a mediocre fiction writer, it may not be enjoyable to read. If it is practical, as I think is the case of Ayn Rand, it is always better. A person can read her novels with no background, her philosophy with just a little more background, and greenfyre you strike me as having plenty.

Of course, it can be hugely beneficial to read second-hand sources, especially considering many of these writers have devoted huge chunks of their lives to studying the topic. But to me, given the ability and the desire to read the original, i will. If I am still interested in the subject, I'll move on to interpretations.

This is why my suggestion would still be to read her. I haven't read her ideas presented by anyone else, so I can't say I'm much help in that regard, but I'm also not sure that I have any desire to read anything by anyone else. She presents her ideas quite clearly, and her non-fiction books are hardly as tome-sized as her fiction. Can't say that you'll enjoy them even remotely, I found them at times arduous hence the lack of desire to read anybody else, but there is definitely something an open mind can take, if no more than more accurate criticism.

But with no offense meant, your comments have struck me similar to one of the privileged who might say that Karl Marx is a class A bullshitter because they have never read him, associate his ideas with communism and the "enemy", and fail to see anything else. Now, I am in no way comparing the talents of Marx and Rand, or even mentioning them in the same sentence (wait I just did) but even Nixon (maybe especially) could have gained a lot from reading Marx, if only he did it with an open mind. Thats what I am trying to say. It may be a specious argument, so be it.

>>By Distrust   (Monday, 10 Nov 2003 18:13)

I haven't been in this discussion about rand since the 27th October for lack of any real interest in all things Rand. Yes, greenfyre, we could have slept (did you sleep with her) with the same girl from Vancouver.

The discussion has been great. Rand has never interested me but the discussion she has given rise to has been excellent. And besides I have a paper on Friday to deliver so I can't invest too much time here.

But just a few points.
> But don't label someones work based on 30 pages of one novel, 20 of another and a couple of overheard off-hand remarks. (Distrust, 8th november)

Labels are inevitable. You have, in a sense, boxed greenfyre because like me, he thinks Rand is not worth a read. But a Reader (with caps, mind) a truly conscientious one, does not need to read the whole book to understand its import. reading and writing are the same practice. In order to read one must be a writer (not necessarily one who writes books, but one who is appreciative of the written word) and vice versa. My research requires me to scour through the Library for books that the thousands in number. Do I read every thing. I am proud to say i do not. I am skilled enough to read the contents page and know exactly the thrust of the writer's epistemological attitude to his or her subject. So, don't label Greenfyre as foolish for not wanting to read on.

Ayn Rand is a good artist, but dangerous.(Distrust, 7th November)

a good artist is always dangerous, I put it to you. But that is just semantics. I see your point. Only, I don't think Rand's work is art. It is an unstylistic regurgitation of Lockian anachronism. Live as you want, but do not impinge on other's right to live as they want. An ideal. A Utopia. Such ideals find currency in a world like ours for several reasons. Society is so fragmented that we have begun to think individually. "Be yourself" is the war cry of millions of people around the world. "be yourself" that is all we can do...to beourselves.. This beyourself-ing is a recent post war phenomenon. We have become so enamoured of ourselves that pop-philosophies (now that's a label if i ever saw one) like Rand's are digested so easily that they become the opiate of the masses (uniquely individual, though they are). It allows for self-aggrandisment. It allows one a defence mechanism for a world that really has written the social actor out of the script. In short, Rand's work has become like a new age, charismatic Church, complete with miraculous "live" healings (the said phenomenon is in itself an intriguing sociological case, wouldn't you say Greenfyre?). My point: Rand works today because she offers an spurious way out of this quagmire called modernity, because modernity oppresses us, she is popular because she justifies self-seeking acts based on the logic that as long as i don't interfere with your life, I am fine.

god! look at the time...

>>By dionysus   (Tuesday, 11 Nov 2003 00:43)

Well, points well taken by both greenfyre and dionysus. Don't call me her philosophical defender by any means, but I do think that there is value in her work. I actually find it fascinating that there seems to be numerous shades of level of approval here. Most other places on this site I've happened onto seem to be the incredibly inane "this writer is the greatest in the world" and "yes I too agree that he/she is the greatest writer, but also in the universe". What I really wanted to try and point out was what I saw as a misinterpretation of her work. In that power structures traditionally contain a disproportionate number of the "villians" in her stories. It just is comical/ironic (maybe it really isn't) that these people at times turn out to be her stoutest defenders.

>>By Distrust   (Tuesday, 11 Nov 2003 22:56)

ss & Distrust

Make no mistake - where one has the ability, time and interest I too advocate reading the original. I certainly do so as much as is reasonable with my own work. But even within my field, anyone who proposes to do so with all the critical texts is doomed to a lifetime of reading that will lead to nothing, except perhaps a production of an interpretive work that they themselves would reject.

Having said that, frankly I can't help being amused by the idea that someone who lacks the language, background and context will get a "better" idea of the work than someone who does. My experience is the brighter ones will realize that they haven't understood a bit of it. The dullards will pretend some understanding that would make the original author retch.

It is this habit that led to the appelation "sophomore" - bright enough to be literate and able to read the words, but not bright enough to realize that they did not understand the text.

Of course if you do take the trouble to acquire the language, background and context - why then you have become one of those "so-called scholars" and are apparently discredited

> u my friend greenfyre seem to be suggesting that all the generalised "clear and unambiguous statements" of all the books are accurate.

I say nothing that implies that in any way.

> do u say that everything that is widely accepted is accurate as well?

Of course not.

> but there are also ppl who wish to read a tenth of all those books rather than plunge themselves to interpretations of different so-called scholars of literary world.

The truth is that unless philosophy happens to be your field, you do well enough to finish off Copleston's nine volume History of Philosophy. But, if you won't accept these interpretations, Copleston at least provides you with a reading list of several thousand original works that you can get working on. And of course he really only covered Western thought, so there's much more than that.

I look forward to your summary of "Being and Time", which you will naturally read in the German, not trusting translators. I understand St Augustine is better in the Latin anyway, and good luck with all of those Pali and Sanskrit texts.

For myself, I have checked the library, and to hope to read 1/1000th is still ludicrously ambitious even though I read a couple of books/week. I'd impress myself if I managed to read the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica alone, never mind the original sources. I don't know about you lads, but my interests are far too broad to even begin contemplate such ambition.

> accepting some "clear and unambiguous staement" ,which is generally accepted, is no different.

Basically you need to resolve the problem of regression. Why be satisfied with reading Wittgenstein in the original? Why trust that he got his sources right? better to read all of them too. And why trust them? Best to read their sources, and so on - where do you stop, and why?

Another problem is what counts as interpretation. You tell me that Rand is worth reading, but that is interpretation - why should I find it credible?

> your comments have struck me similar to one of the privileged

I'm the one suggesting that the bulk of humanity does not have the time to play dilettante and read all of the original sources. To me it is a sign of privilege to suggest that people have that kind of time. Personally, most of them can't even access these works, much less waste time reading them - and when you need to get food to your children, readings of this sort is wasted time.

> because they have never read him,

(of Marx, but comparing to my experience of Rand). I was very clear about how much Rand I had actually read, somewhat vaguer about how many in-depth discussions I have had, both of which you then misrepresented as: "But don't label someones work based on 30 pages of one novel, 20 of another and a couple of overheard off-hand remarks. "

Very Randian of you, by the way, to not address the actual statements of the other side, but instead to misrepresent them as far less than they were so that they can be dismissed as trivial.

> . I haven't read her ideas presented by anyone else

So present them yourself. If you understand them then that should be possible, and if you don't understand them, stop claiming they are worth knowing.

>. A person can read her novels with no background, her philosophy with just a little more background, and greenfyre you strike me as having plenty.

But I don't want to - I have over 100 unread books in my apartment alone (never mind the local library), and just this past week Dionysus has "assigned" me 2 more; all of which I have excellent to good reason to believe will be informative, enjoyable, and interesting.

I have some experience of Rand and found her to be none of these. You disagreed - rather than reassert my experience I expressed an openness to learning different and asked for a summary, and all I got was this run around.

> Can't say that you'll enjoy them even remotely,

Why would I do that to myself?

> Now, I am in no way comparing the talents of Marx and Rand,

I should hope not, and I have at least 3 volumes of him in the pile mentioned above - I should read Rand instead of him? Or Foucault? Or …. Please

So, I'll give you what I asked for, check out
http://en2.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayn_Rand, especially http://en2.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Objectivist_philosophy#Morality

(remove space in URL - gnod won't let me post it as is)

IF you find it to misrepresent her ideas, please say how and why. Ditto if you think it is incomplete. If not, then please let me know that it is an acceptable presentation of her ideas

> In short, Rand's work has become like a new age, charismatic Church, complete with miraculous "live" healings (the said phenomenon is in itself an intriguing sociological case, wouldn't you say Greenfyre?).

Very much so ;-)

> Rand works today because she offers an spurious way out of this quagmire called modernity, because modernity oppresses us, she is popular because she justifies self-seeking acts based on the logic that as long as i don't interfere with your life, I am fine.

Bingo! And spurious because the " as long as i don't interfere with your life" is understood to mean personal acts with direct connection, when in fact most oppression and exploitation is systemic and bureaucratized. Further, it ignores the historical basis for much inequity.

Eg if my wealth and privilege is inherited from a father who worked within a racist, sexist system, whereas the other's relative want is a consequence of that system, what is my moral obligation? To simply not "interfere with his life"? I have already interfered with his life. His life was interfered with before he was born.


> (did you sleep with her)

LOL - No! - but I wanted to ;-) Actually there may be more than one woman in Vancouver who had at least a passing infatuation for Rand.

>>By greenfyre   (Wednesday, 12 Nov 2003 00:12)

I have not read any of Ayn Rand's books, though after reading the comments and discussions posted on this page, I am intrigued in her writing. Many of the issues discussed reminded me of a Russian novel called We by Yevgeny Zamyatin. His entire novel is based on the "One State" populated by millions of people created all for the same purpose and programmed to follow a specific schedule. To have an imagination was considered a crime worthy of execution. To have a soul was to be the epitomy of every threatening philosophy that could possibly deter any of the population away from the clutching grasp of the "Great Benefactors." The novel is philosophical in that it explores a society of brainwashed, mathematically created people not considered individuals. Each person has a name such as D-503, or I-330. Individualism is unheard of.

The world they live in is created in such a way that responsibility is practically nonexistent, the same responsibility goddog had mentioned earlier. There is no need for responsible behavior if every being remains unanimously obedient to the cause of the "One State."

And as for environmental affairs, all is made of glass, their entire world is enclosed by glass, and cultivation is not necessary. Each person (or should I say number) is fed the same thing every day, but never bores of it, never questions the purpose or the reason. Thus, there once again is no need for responsibility - a world that requires no cultivation is in no need of care.

These are just some connections I found to be interesting. If anyone would like to discuss We in depth, I am open to it.

In the meantime, I look forward to reading Ayn Rand with curiousity.


>>By Farie Child   (Wednesday, 12 Nov 2003 00:46)

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