Object Lesson

Friday, August 17, 2012



With the announcement of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney's vice-presidential running mate this week, the philosophies of author Ayn Rand are once again part of the political discourse. In this piece that originally ran in 2008, Brooke looks at the enduring legacy of the original Objectivist.


Big Star - Oh My Soul

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Brooke Gladstone

Comments [2]

Frank De Canio from Union City, NJ

Kudos to Steve Maggi for his cogent comment. I've never considered Ayn Rand a philosopher, still less a heavyweight in the thinking department (in one class I took about Objectivism you weren't even allowed to use "reason" to question the tenets of her "philosophy"). I do agree with her that reason should inform one’s decisions in life, but apparently reason had a greater effect on Marcus Aurelius and Seneca than it had on Rand’s purportedly wrecked personal life. By their fruits ye shall know them, the saying goes. And her de rigeur atheism is another form of "faith" in a world in which we know nothing of our wherefrom and whereto. Aside from that, she just seems shallow in her reasoning. She made the statement that altruism was wrong because thereby we are subordinating our lives to others. She saw it as equivalent to suicide. Let me tell you, the world is the beneficiary of the lives of others. Was Jonas Salk looking after his own interests when he rid the world of what was once one of the world’s most dread diseases? He must have been in some manner stirred by the drive to help others. Martin Luther King, soldiers in the armed forces, Thomas Edison; indeed, our physicians who dedicate themselves to healing the lame and the sick - where would the world be without their contributions? Oh, you could argue that life's contingences prevailed in some instances and in others that you could detect some self-interest (I don‘t think so) but so is the person who gives a dollar to a homeless person. Most people do things, whether Beethoven writing his ninth symphony or a film maker would like recognition, if only from their ego-ideal. Schopenhauer, a truly great philosopher, and not probably a pleasant one, who WAS sort of a self-driven genius (who refused to change his classes so they wouldn’t compete with Hegel’s even though nobody was going to them!)said that empathy, the ability to identify with another was the highest ethical stance a human could have - and he gave a logical basis to his opinion. It wasn’t just some moral imperative speaking through him. We don’t have to be controlled by moral imperatives to be charitable toward others. Rand says that altruism puts the other’s interests over our own. My question: what is wrong with wanting to do that? I can see if she said nobody should be "obligated" to do that; to do anything from fear or guilt. But if people do things because they want to - well, why not? Aside from that, why would she shave her legs and shower every day - I assume she did - if not to heed the expectations of civil society and to be approved by others? To be a slave of another’s approval is dangerous; to need to be liked at all costs, is stupid; to subordinate your ends to another is wrong. But to think that we owe nothing to society is infantile. Macbeth says: I do all that may become a man; who dares do more is none.” And I wouldn’t put Atlas Shrugged on the same level as Macbeth!

Frank De Canio

Aug. 19 2012 12:09 PM
Steve Maggi from Austin, TX

Although this is a rerun, it was hilarious to hear that Randroid apologist get contradicted by Rand's own words. Rand was no philosopher any more than L Ron Hubbard was a theologian. She was a B-list hack who couldn't cut it in Hollywood that has been transformed into a prophet by egotistical rich people trying to rationalize their sociopathic behavior through a shroud of false intellectualism. Never mind Rand's own behavior, especially when she used "collectivist" medicare and social security at the end of her life. Rand's books are also terrible and bloated, like her follower/pusher John Allison and Cato Institute.

Aug. 18 2012 01:13 PM

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