Quote of the week...please share your favourite line from Ayn Rand's writings

“Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one's values.”

Friday, June 19, 2009

"My initiation with Ayn Rand's philosophy"

How did you get hooked on this philosophy? When did you start? Has your belief become stronger over the years or has waned off?
Tell us a little about your journey, so that you can inspire others to explore these paths in their own minds too.

43 comments:

  1. My first reaction on reading Fountainhead (given to me by a friend) was - "Wow! Here's a protagonist who does not believe in God." I had been struggling with my own convictions about religion and this novel came as a breath of fresh air.

    Later, I discovered both VOS and AS in my father's library and devoured them avidly. I was hooked, and followed it up by all her fiction and most of her non-fiction. In all these years (nearly 30 yrs) my agreement with Objectivism has only grown stronger - more so as events in the real world kept mirroring those discussed in Ayn Rand's books!

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  2. My first Ayn Rand book was "we the living", it must have been 12 or 13years ago. Though I quite liked the book, did not realise the beuty of her writing till the time I read Fountain Head. FH did it for me. I really found words and expressions to the joy that I used to feel, quite like her explanation of the music of Rachmaninoff, it was a sense of elation. However, even at this point it remained in the spehere of literature and not a guiding philosophy of live which is is to me today.

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  3. I had not heard of Ayn Rand till sometime in early 1983, when a teacher mentioned Rand as someone we might want to read. About six months later, while working on board a merchant ship, I found a copy of Atlas Shrugged in the ship's library. I finished it in five days flat, it was truly unputdownable! My whole world was shaken, although I did not fully grasp the full significance at that time. Ayn Rand introduced me to the world of ideas, and showed me the power of ideas.

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  4. I had read Ayn Rand's Fountainhead in my college days and was greatly impressed with the characters. But, it was just fiction to me then and it didn’t have much impact. I guess I still needed some life-experience to completely comprehend what Rand says.
    Recently, I re-read Fountainhead and the experience was - least to say - extremely life-changing! My brains were fried as I progressed through the pages. I was trying to associate living people with the characters in the book. What struck me most was the simplicity of her ideas, whereas all my teachers tried to complicate the simple.

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  5. I read Ayn Rand's fountain head when I was in standard 11th or 12th. It did not make sense to me and I threw away the book. Then there was this "architect serial" in hindi that used to come briefly .. I was in standard 12th at that time .. I realized that this was something like that book I had read, but that was about it.

    When I was in college (hostel) there was this guy who had this book lying around in his room. One day I just picked it up and took it back to my room. It was on a nice relaxed sunday that I devoured the book from start to finish.

    That sunday is every day of my life now. What a beautiful thing to know that it happened to me. Question is, was it bound to happen like that?

    To the people who read Ayn Rand, have you ever wondered, did you just read it coincidentaly or is it that ultimately you would have had to read it, at some point in your life?

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  6. i read atlas shrugged a few years back when i was in college. and unlike many people here i wasn't able to finish it in one sitting. that was because the book kept disturbing me and i used to read a bit and then drop it and just think for days before continuing it. at the time i had already started thinking about philosophies and about life and objectivism seemed a bit too rude and harsh to me. but what disturbed me was that even though i found it rude and harsh but i also knew that ayn rand was making sense to me.
    now i have read fountainhead and we the living as well. and fountainhead seems to me her best work. but now after reading these books i just can't finish the normal fiction books that don't have a philosophical undertone.
    i am not an objectivist because i am still searching for the right answers and without meaning any disrespect to ayn rand i think even she hasn't found them all. if anyone here is still open to other philosophies or is still trying to understand life; i would like to recomend a book by Robert M. Pirsig called Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance. i put this book next to fountainhead in terms of their life changing nature.

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  7. I discovered Ayn Rand's fiction when I was in college in Bombay.

    I first read The Fountainhead (FH) and found it to be the only novel that concretized the concept of ego. About Roark, I thought when I was reading the novel: this is what a properly egoistic man would be like.

    Then I read Atlas Shrugged (AS) and found it to be the only novel that concretized the concept of ability. About Galt and the strikers, I thought when I was reading the novel: these are the kind of men one would find in a properly capitalist system.

    Later I read 2 essays by Miss Rand on politics, in an anthology of essays in defense of capitalism. The essays were: What is Capitalism and The Roots of War from Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. Then I also read Philosophy: Who Needs It (PWNI) at the USIS Library in Bombay and realized that philosophy properly begins with metaphysics.

    After reading PWNI, I re-read AS and FH, and then read Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, The Virtue of Selfishness, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, and finally The Romantic Manifesto.

    So though my intellectual development with respect to Objectivism began with metaphysics, my total understanding of it grew from politics to ethics to epistemology, and then to esthetics.

    I have been practicing Objectivism for nearly 20 years now and I simply can't imagine giving it up for anything or for anybody.

    About the philosophy, I can say this: the more one consistently applies it, the more it radically transforms one's sense of life. The result is the integration of the following premises in one's subconscious:
    1. One's worth valuing for one's virtues, despite any errors.
    2. One can find individuals who're worth valuing for their virtues, despite any disappointments.
    3. The world's worth living in because one can achieve one's goals, despite any frustrations.

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  8. The Ayn Rand novels stated as a mandataory read for the CAT preparation as I was told this was one of the best in the category for a philosophical one. But then as I went through Fountainhead, I was amazed. IT made me thoughtful. It made me feel alive once again and helped me find myself. As a matter of fact I left everything, and I continued reading Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged back to back, I found them more relevant than my crap engineering semester exams, which were merely a duty to fulfill. Today, whatever I am, I am because of the Ayn Rand novels. They are the ground beneath my feet, and I know hey shall never slip away. Today I am there, following my dreams, my vision. Not that the novels helped me to find it, rather they gave me the strength to go for them and kick out the social stigma and rules. Bream the rules, for tht is the only truthful and strict code I follow, in my life.
    Hail Ayn Rand, for I don't know a better prophet who has walked down the earth, and changed the way people think.
    Ravi Manoram
    ravimanoram.blogspot.com

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  9. jaisim-FountainheadOctober 1, 2009 at 10:53 AM

    009/10/1 Prof. Ar. .Jaisim
    1962/63 I was studying Architecture, My brother wanted to present me a novel for my Birthday which had its hero as an Architect. Unfortunately he could not get it and presented me ATLAS SHRUGGED - saying it was by the same Author-Ayn Rand. - I just put it aside thinking it had something to do with Atlas and global data etc; And a year later I got my hands on FOUNTAINHEAD and LIGHTNING and THUNDER struck and IT has never been the same again. Spent every rupee (those days) on everything and anything she wrote or talked and when I started my practice in 1970 JAISIM-FOUNTAINHEAD was born and EGO was built as my first home as a tribute to her philosophy and architecture.
    Today 2009 -thirty nine years hence I still run my practice and anytime I have any doubts or reservations I just turn the pages and the answers are there. Every student that has passed my mind or hands gets an autographed copy of FOUNTAINHEAD.
    I LIVE a Profession because of her inspiration.

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  10. In the fading light as years passed suddenly from nowhere like lightning but of constant brightness LIBERTY (Baun Mitra) shone to awaken me from my probable slumber to more heights and discoveries

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  11. I read Fountainhead about two weeks before my tenth board exams, and it was, by far, the most amazing book i had read. the philosophy of objectivism impressed me with its relevance to the world today.
    roark became my hero.
    but i think most importantly, Fountainhead taught me never to accept passively what was said to me, or any action for that matter.
    Fountianhead, in other words, changed the way i looked at life. and for that, i will forever be grateful to it.

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  12. Want to note that Nishaad Rao was one of the finalists in The Fountainhead Essay Contest 2009. This is an annual international competition organised by the Ayn Rand Institute in the United States.

    Congratulations once again Nishaad! Hope to read you more often on the blog.

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  13. My introduction with ayn rand took place because of an essay cum summary writing competition on fountain head when i was in eleventh.At DPS its sometimes compulsary for everyone to participate and so i did.Only about 5% students were actually into it though in the end and i was obviously one of them.The most striking thing about Dominique and Roark that touched me was the extent of pain and suffering they could take to stand up for what they believed in.Its a fact that when roark and john galt and daggny(last two belonging to atlas shrugged) decided to give it all up for their talents ,thinkings n ideologies ,they were totally alone with no economical or emotional support at all.They just had their believe and they succeded in the end.Unlike in any other novel ,here the heros were actually alone and totally on their own n they still did it.This reinstated my believe in myself so deeply that i am not likely to lose it ever and its all thanks to ayn rand.
    I truely consider her my only hero.The fact that roark gave his best and struggled all through the book without really expecting (or for that matter getting) anything in return really acted like a support system for me as i was also struggling with medical preparation without any viable results.Fountainhead seemed like a constant companion throughout my high school.It kept reinstating in me the believe that i should never give up and still charges me up with determination whenever life seems to come to a stand still.Somehow the fountain head summery writing compition got cancelled when i was in 11th but i finally got a chance to participate in the atlas shrugged essay writing this year and i couldnt be more delighted.It does seem that we write our own destinies.Ayn Rand in india is really doing a great job and i know it will keep on getting better with each passing day.amen

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  14. I really think that high school was the perfect time to have come in touch with the ayn rand philosophy because those are the forming years of our lives and everything we come in contact with then leaves a great impact on us.I see my life on a different ,higher track today than others.There's a level to my life and my thinking which makes me lie above the average very easily because the goals and ambitions and ideologies i aimed for were quite high as compared to the other non ayn rand readers of my age.Well this hampered my friends making ability at school but i started watching myself as an individual and not as "one in the herd " .In my life after ayn rand i dont see any bounds to how high i can go. Ayn rand installled in me very deeply the thought that " impossible is nothing".
    In my life since ayn rand i always find myself taking the road less traveled even if it means going alone because i am no longer scared of that.I learned to rise above peer pressure and stopped throwing teeage tantrums because of her.I've discovered myself and what i truely want (not what the teachers,peer group, neighbours , parents want)n come closer to myself because of her quintessentially inspiring way of writing.And because of her today i am a different and much better and libral and open minded person. There is a world outside peer pressure after all

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  15. A couple of friends of mine had recommended Fountainhead to me, and I finally managed to read it earlier this year. I got hooked and followed that up with We the Living, Atlas Shrugged, and then some of Rand's non-fiction books like the Virtue of Selfishness and Philosophy: Who Needs It.

    The interesting thing that I discovered about myself after reading the books was that my value system even prior to reading Ayn Rand was inherently objectivist in nature, with a couple of exceptions (one of them being that I used to believe earlier that society had a duty to provide free education to every child - I now realize why that is wrong). However, prior to Rand, I had no way to articulate and logically prove the correctness of those values.

    The biggest impact that objectivism has had on me is that it introduced me to the nature and source of man's rights. Once I understood this and started applying it to some of the most controversial social, economic and political issues of our day, I was amazed at the power of the principle of the sanctity of individual rights to help us quickly come to the correct decision on just about each and every one of those issues.

    And to prove the power of this principle, I met a woman from Norway when I was on vacation in Brazil earlier this year (this was before I read most of Rand's books). We became very close friends, but she was a classical welfare statist and we used to end up having heated debates in Brazil about the benefits of capitalism vs. socialism. We would end up simply agreeing to disagree.

    We kept in touch after I returned to India and in the meantime, I read Atlas Shrugged and some of Ayn Rand's non-fiction books. We resumed our debates through email but this time, I managed to explain my beliefs in capitalism from a more philosophical standpoint and how the same principle of individual rights that justifies capitalism is also the basis behind the justification against pretty much all the major social ills that plague the world today or has plagued the world in the past (government-approved discrimination against gays, women and blacks etc.) and how government regulations that she supports and that seek to protect the "weak" and the poor (minimum wage laws, regulations regarding the maximum no. of hours that workers can work etc.) violate the rights of, and hurt, the very people they are designed to protect.

    After several rounds of such debates, she finally told me that she is slowly coming around to the view that laissez-faire capitalism may not be such a bad thing after all.

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  16. My first reading of The Fountainhead was a very casual one. It was just a book I had picked off my Father’s bookshelf. When I told some of my older friends I was reading The Fountainhead, they said I it would take a lot of time for me to ‘get out of the story’. All I registered from that was that it was a heavy book, and probably left a hangover.

    Rand’s introduction to the centennial edition of The Fountainhead was what appealed to me instantly. Her explanation of romanticism being the conceptual school of art, portraying things not as they are, but as they ought to be, dealing with the ideal and not the trivia of the day made it irresistible. I had been quite a voracious reader and had never come across an author who had claimed to elevate Man to the level of the Gods, and proudly so.

    The following year I went to college to study engineering, where I had my first encounters with altruism and collectivism. A classmate of mine had launched an NGO, and there were countless such activities which called upon the regular student to be selfless and work for the team. I do have a lot of respect for teamwork, but only when the team unites under a common, rational goal, without encroaching on anyone’s liberties. Such were some stark confirmations of the world that the Randian heroes had fought.

    Yes, feeling rebellious was very romantic, initially. Gradually I discovered that objectivism has nothing to do with the romance of rebelling. It is the possibility of a better self, a better life that is romantic. Every evening I used to go through selected parts of
    The Fountainhead, and always found my answers there.

    I have always thought of The Fountainhead as the theory and Atlas Shrugged as the practical application of objectivist thought. To be able to perceive the grandeur of Atlas Shrugged would never have been possible for me without a grasp of The Fountainhead. Atlas Shrugged, with its larger than life characters was huge in romance and intellectual expanse. After three years of reading the epic, it still gets my adrenaline pumping. And every time that happens I feel happy, even to remotely glimpse what all is possible.

    Rand’s philosophy is perhaps the only exhaustive philosophy today. I have always been able to find articles where she has written at length about almost anything a rational mind seeks. Earlier I would have though it takes courage to follow the path of individualism, but now it seems the only way of life, that doesn’t demand courage – only reason. There can be no progress without objectivism, in some form or other. I have seen in sustain right through an messy puddle of collectivism and non-committal uncertainty.

    Objectivism has equipped me with a relentless vision of life which I would otherwise have thought to be a delusion of grandeur, had I had the vision.

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  17. This is from a Facebook Note by my friend Richard Gleaves.It sums up my experience to the T.

    My friend Michael Robbins gave me a paperback copy of "Atlas Shrugged" at the end of freshman year at SMU- 22 years ago. I had been reading Sagan and such since I was 12 or so and always arguing against the religious nonsense in North Texas. He thought I'd like it.

    I hated the first page.

    I disliked the first 50 pages.

    I was tolerant of the next 100 pages.

    Somewhere around the running of the Galt line I started reading paragraphs out loud to family. By the end of the first week the remnant motor was found, the oil fields were on fire and I was angry at the world and confused about adults and what they were up to- terrified at what seemed to be the hopelessness of the situation. Shortly after I was sad as a grey pall fell over the characters- as doom seemed to crowd in and the motors were turning off. In the second week I was dreading turning the next page- the book seemed a litany of disaster, of collapse- people were dying, tunnels were collapsing, incompetence ran the world. Dagny and Hank seemed to be doomed last flickers of a dying light. I hated the book again.

    Then in week three the light of a sunrise struck the wings of a mysterious fleeing plane, I was thrust into a completely different universe. I started part Three of the book with the feeling of- as Rand describes Francisco's laugh- the first sight of spring among glaciers. I was meeting giants. I was meeting heroes. I was in a world that was real, that was possible, that was mine. And I began to UNDERSTAND. .....contd.

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  18. Not just the many inscrutable mysteries that had hounded the plot and the characters to that point. I started to understand why I had been the person I was for as long as I had been. I started to understand years of questioning, arguing- I started to realize that the thousands of questions I had been asking my entire life were not random scattershot things but my systematic response to an irrational world. I started glimpsing answers to questions I had given up on. Like Quentin Daniels at the blackboard when Galt sweeps the equations away and writes a few symbols- it was not the answer I was seeking but a whole new realm of potential inquiry i'd never glimpsed.

    By the time Dagny stood on a obscure runway watching the cross of that plane disappear back into the darkness of sunset, I felt that she and I were on a journey together that would set the course of a lifetime's thought.

    I despaired, became angry, became appalled as the world of the novel became dark again. But i saw the darkness as a necessary prelude to a new beginning.

    And then I got to THE SPEECH.

    The speech was too long- too hard- too much. The author started giving me answers to things I hadn't even questioned yet. Answers to things I didn't even know were problems- too many answers- too much information. But what I could grasp of the speech changed me as a man and as a citizen.

    By the time I staggered to page 1100, I was worn out. I felt as though I had been taken like Dante to heaven and to Hell - to Purgatory and Paradise- and then dumped back into life at the end. Like some prophet given a vision out in the desert- left only with the message and a burning desire to tell people what I knew.

    I don't think everybody would have this reaction. My mom didn't. My sister didn't. Most people don't. I think the difference is this: if in ancient times you gave a Mac with photoshop to a merchant in Brittany or Germanica he would be delighted with such a tool to do banners, signs, the occasional illustrated Bible, etc. But if it happened to find someone who was already burning with dissatisfaction, who wanted to change art, who was stymied by having only tempura and oil and stretched canvas with which to express himself... To that man you give the unmatchable gift of a flexible and unparalleled technology with which to become the artist he already longed to be. Objectivism, for me, was the mental technology I had been waiting for to answer the questions I had already spent a lifetime fighting to answer.

    For that gift, and for the person I was able to become thanks to it, I will always be thankful to Ayn Rand and her innovative achievements.

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  19. Fountainhead came into my life when I was struggling with ideas of selfishness and individuality. I was terribly unsure whats right and whats wrong. That was the time when i chanced upon 'the virtue of selfishness' and eventually 'fountainhead'.

    I wont say that FH changed my life. what it did was to tell me that the road I have decided to choose - that of individuality - is absolutely right. And tough. With the destination that consists of the achievement of true happiness.

    for me, three scenes depict the soul of FH>

    1) The opening scene in FH where roark is sittin over the cliff.. as a happy and a content man.. despite expulsion from the architecture school

    2) The scene after the Stoddard trial, where he tells Toohey "But I dont think of you" .

    3) The closing sequence where hes standing with Dominique on top of Wynand building.. as a proud man with his head held high.

    *

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  20. Q1) Is it really a waste of time living somebody else's life?

    Q2) Is it really that bad to sell branded ketchup, as long as it pays well while locking out your real talent in the cold.

    These were two questions I was struggling to answer.

    The ANTHEM answered them for me. And how.

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  21. I first read Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead in high school (1990). It was not part of my reading list for advanced placement English however my teacher presented to the class with the knowledge that if we wrote an essay it could be submitted for scholarship. I was interested. I read the book and it really changed my perspective on life. I was hooked. I was in love with Howard Roark because he was so true to himself and his beliefs, never wavering. I have always had strong ethics and high expectations of myself and others. People have disappointed me, but that is okay, I'm not going to ever lower my standards. Secondly, I loved the individual vs. the collective, or the selfish vs. the selfless. What impeccable writing skill! I am in complete admiration and continue to read her books, some of them over and over.

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  22. I was raised, as an adopted child of 3, in a Catholic household in Pittsburgh, PA. I attended a parochial school for eight years, then a public high school for four (in which I learned nothing). In junior high school I became an atheist (not that I took religion seriously anyway). My horrified "parents" burned my books and handed me back to the state. I eventually wound up at the age of 16 in a Jesuit-run "Boys Town," which was populated by underage criminals who couldn't be charged and treated as adult criminals. They would have "book-battles" in the home library (throwing arm-fulls of books at each other). I would later clean up the mess they left. One of the books I picked up to return to the shelf was a 1943 edition of "The Fountainhead." I read the first few pages, and was hooked forever after to Rand's work and her philosophy. The rest is "history."

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  23. I read Atlas Shrugged when I was 14 followed by The Fountainhead, We The Living, Anthem and the Virtue of Selfishness. And all of them seemed right. The answers - to God's non-existence, to the "selfish vs. selfless debate". It 'changed my way of thinking' for a couple of years. But at that time, I had only read her philosophy - analyzed it from only HER point of view.
    As I read more about what people thought of her ideas, I began to realize that there were some vague gaps in it, that just couldn't be filled.

    My question was - WHY? Why does she get to decide what an ideal person should be like? The back cover of the book quoted her saying - the fact that this book was published means that such people exist. A philosophy that started because she considers herself the ideal person- that's kind of childish.

    WHY do all the perfect/ideal people have angular faces or angular handwriting? Because she said so.

    Howard Roark's architecture, for example. WHY should buildings comprise of only what is necessary? It seems right when you read it her way - but just think about it - the Renaissance arches may not be necessary in a building. But that doesn't mean it is WRONG for them to be there. WHY is it wrong? Because she said so.

    She's right. A person shouldn't be forced to give what he has earned to the society's welfare. And so, even uf the person WANTS to give his wealth to the very non-deserving society, it's wrong. WHY? Because she said so.

    I think she has arbitrarily decided what things are right or wrong. And that's just wrong.

    I still like all of the books. I like that I read them -because they do give some message. They changed my way of thinking, not necessarily in their way, they just made me analyze things more.

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  24. Hi Priya,

    Good to hear that you read some of Rand's works--at least you know what her philosophy is about from the primary sources.

    After I read Rand's novels, I actually embarked on a diametrically opposite journey. I started reading many of her critics first. I couldn't believe what Rand was offering as a philosophy, and so I wanted to get the opposing view.

    It's been almost 7 years since I first read Rand, and now there are times when I still feel how truly innovative and important her ideas are.

    As to your questions:

    Why does she get to decide what an ideal person should be like?

    Well, if you are referring to her characters in the novel, then she has that right because she's the author.
    If you are referring to her *ideals* or principles of what makes an ideal person, then the answer is reality gets to decide, Rand merely discovered it and told us about it. But you are free to verify her views with correspondence to reality.

    For example, Rand said an ideal person is a rational man. Do you dispute that? Would you prefer that an ideal person is a mix of rational and irrational? Think of God. Why do religious people only ascribe the best and perfect qualities to God? Can God not be a bit evil? Just a bit? Who's to decide?

    Why do all perfect people have angular faces?

    That's like asking why does Sharukh Khan only play the meatiest roles in his movies? Why can't he play the role of a side-kick nobody?
    Well, the answer to that is simply--author's choices or director's choices. There are certain things in art that you take for granted as constituents of universal beauty. For instance, why are models so handsome and beautiful? Why don't we use unattractive people to sell products and endorse brands? Simple: universally accepted aesthetic choices.

    Now, nobody said there's anything *wrong* in the baroque pillars or renaissance arches.

    Priya, I think you need to read the novels more deeply to identify the underlying principles and ideas being driven by the symbolisms Rand uses. Buildings--for Roark and Rand--are not mere buildings, but metaphors for ideas, for integrity, for innovation, for the virtue of originality, for the newness of vision, for the celebration of individual creativity.

    Your reading appears to be stuck on the superficial level.

    Read authors like Louis Torres on Rand's art. Read "The Literary Art of Ayn Rand" for symbolisms in Rand's novels.

    Why is it wrong for people to give wealth away to the non-deserving, you ask?

    Why is it not wrong? If you don't think it's wrong, would you mind sending me all of your subsequent paychecks? Why should you do that, you ask?? Because I just want it, not because of any particular reason that makes me deserving of it. Why are you hesitating?

    Rand has explored this notion of altruism--giving to the undeserving to the point of self-sacrifice--in almost every page of all of her works. Please re-read them.

    Also, ask yourself, is a personal psychologically healthy--that is, does he have self-esteem--if he wants to give away his wealth not to the ones who deserve it or to the really needy, but to the undeserving? This person is suffering from a bad case of low self-esteem and a lack of value for productivity, wealth-creation, respect for money, and disdain for hardworking and suffering people.

    Priya, focus on the ideas of Objectivism, the principles--not the superficial color of Roark's hair, etc.

    Also, read other philosophers: John Searle, Daniel Dennett, Thomas Reid, etc. Read other authors who have written on Rand: Tara Smith, Leonard Peikoff, Tibor Machan, etc.

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  25. Thanks Priya for writing in your views on Rand's ideas. I dont think one has all the answers at one go, atleast I didnt. It is through such discussions that one can reach a conclusion - a logical one. :) That is what reading her philosophy does at the onset. It makes you "question on the basis of logic and reason". So that we reach our own conclusions based on our logic and our reason. And I think you have already embarked on that journey - you have begun to question. :)

    Thanks Jerry for the post. It is always a pleasure reading your ideas and views on philosophy.

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  26. See the response at my blog here [^] i.e. at http://ajitjadhav.wordpress.com/2010/08/13/a-write-up-for-the-blog-ayn-rand-india/

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  27. Now 62, I can reflect upon a happy life rich with the achievement of my dreams. Why? Because I read Ayn Rand as a teenager, because I was able to live as an Objectivist with a morality possible for human beings, one that allowed me to be clean and morally perfect!

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  28. "The fountainhead" was the first book read by me, which belonged to Ayn Rand. I had borrowed it from my brother. Well, fortunately it was the first novel read by me. After having a look at the book, I was very unsure about reading the entire book. But as soon as I started...there was no end.
    Initially what grabbed my attention was the detailed description given regarding whatever plot chosen i.e. Architecture in Fountainhead & Railway in Atlas Shrugged. Having read further, I started realizing that there is something called individual existence. In addition, each Individual has the right to live in whatever way he/she wants or desires. Above all no body lives for anybody. Every human is selfish and it is not derogatory to accept the same.
    Creativity is the foundation to every change. One must not stop thinking. Coz you never know when one may strike the right cord.
    The strength with which the female characters (sorry am going on gender coz I being a female can really understand the importance) displayed their values & thought process and the way they displayed the clarity of their beliefs was overwhelming.
    When I had read the book, I was not so very close to the society.
    Day by day as I am getting closer to it and experiencing it, I have started believing that yes, the society does not deserve what we give.
    Society should cease to exist.
    Coz there is nothing called collective achievement and collective thoughts.
    The day when there will be no difference of opinion there wont be any opinions at all.
    INDIVIDUALITY ROCKS!!!!!!!!!!!
    (Contradiction: It takes enough efforts to implement the same)

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  29. @Jerry Johnson
    "Why is it not wrong? If you don't think it's wrong, would you mind sending me all of your subsequent paychecks? Why should you do that, you ask?? Because I just want it, not because of any particular reason that makes me deserving of it. Why are you hesitating?"

    You didn't get my point. Just because you or even I would not give my money to someone for no particular reason doesn't mean it is the RIGHT thing to do. It's not wrong to give charity to the non-deserving if the person giving the charity doesn't mind.

    Also, I didn't exactly say she was wrong. I just said the theory has many loopholes - even scientific. It's impractical. Forget the hair, her 'ideal' people cannot exist - look at her concept of the human psychology as a tabula rasa. The basic flaw is her ignorance of the theory of evolution. The flaws show themselves in things like: "a man's sexual choice is the result and the sum of his fundamental convictions." Imagine evolution in a scenario where this were hundred percent true. No human mind can be completely rational - ignoring our adaptive feelings and instincts is absurd.

    In Atlas Shrugged, for example, her descriptions of society and ideas about freedom and capitalism seem inspiring - but very incomplete.

    Her books make perfect sense, but only in a fictional scenario. They are good novels, but not good philosophy.

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  30. They are good novels, but not good philosophy.

    That's a very decisive statement not qualified with any disclaimers like "in my opinion" or "to the best of my knowledge."

    Priya, firstly, you confuse epistemological concepts like tabula rasa with metaphysical concepts like the sex drive and evolution.

    Let me explain:

    1) It is not wrong to give charity to the non-deserving if the person giving doesn't mind.

    By what standard have you concluded that it is not wrong? Your response most likely is the person doesn't mind, it's his/her wish.

    That is the wrong answer. The whims and wishes of a person are not philosophically permissible standards for evaluating ethical behavior. An ethical system that premises itself on subjective whim is unpracticable because it collapses into contradictions and conflicts of motives.

    Thus, what is the standard by which giving to the undeserving, even if you feel like doing it, would be wrong? Read The Virtue of Selfishness for the answer.

    2) Her theories have many loopholes.

    The basic premises of Objectivism are: naturalism in metaphysics; reason in epistemology, that reason is our only tool of gaining knowledge and therefore of surviving; rational self-interest in ethics, that the only moral system appropriate to human beings is non-sacrificial pursuit of survival qua man; capitalism in politics, the only socio-economic system founded on respect for individual rights.

    What is the loop hole in the above?

    3) Look at her concept of human psychology of tabula rasa.

    First, you are incorrect in ascribing this concept of the blank slate to Rand. It originates with John Locke.

    In fact, Rand corrected the notion of tabula rasa because Locke's version has a fatal contradiction: if the mind really begins as a blank slate, then what is it upon which the external world creates its impressions?
    Rand answered this question correctly and resolved the contradiction by noting that the concept of tabula rasa applies only to the mind's conceptual faculty, not to its lower level functions of sensation and percept creation. Read more on this in ITOE.

    4) The basic flaw is her ignorance of the theory of evolution.

    Can you be clearer as to how this matter is "basic" to her philosophy? Which premise of her philosophy is necessitated by the theory of evolution? How are the two related?

    A man's sexual choice--from a philosophical perspective that Rand is talking about--has nothing to do with evolution. Besides, Rand's theory of sex is a higher level theory with its own controversies; it requires much study that a cursory comment on a blog. Nevertheless, whatever the merits of her theory of sex, it has no bearing on evolutionary theory, and it leaves the edifice of her philosophy intact.

    5) No human mind can be completely rational.

    Here’s another example of your confusion between metaphysics and epistemology. "Man is a rational animal" is a metaphysical statement--originating with Aristotle. This statement does not imply that "All man are completely rational." No philosopher in this world is so foolish to make a statement so obviously false as that!

    6)Ignoring our adaptive feelings and instincts is absurd.

    First, I dont know what adaptive feelings are--it sounds like a force-fitted relationship between emotion and evolution. I agree with you that emotions shouldn't be ignored. Of course. This is trivially true, because humans are integrated species of mind and body, of reason and emotion. This is amply clarified throughout the canons of Objectivism--that repression, emotional evasion, the denial of reality, the denial of true feelings--are antithetical to a good psychology, to a good life, and therefore, to Objectivism.

    Hope I have clarified your confusions. I strongly recommend you pursue your studies in this matter further--if you're truly interested.

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  32. Priya,

    Interesting! Good that you won't to impose your moral preferences of giving to the undeserved imposed on others through force. Your argument comes from the notion that the concept of right and wrong are valid only under a social context, which is far from the truth. Even I consider assertions like "a man's sexual choice is the result and the sum of his fundamental convictions." ridiculously absurd. But, is it a good reason to reject a whole philosophy? Obviously not.

    Why do you think that her ideas on Freedom and Capitalism are incomplete? Could you explain why?

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  33. I don't see anything wrong in Ayn Rand's view that an individual's sexual choices reflect his deepest convictions, particularly his conviction that he is able to live and is worthy of living.

    Ayn Rand rightly held that there is a fundamental difference between a man who chronically doubts his own value and desperately tries to fake it by sleeping with women who mean nothing to him, and a man who is (rationally) proud of his own value and who (naturally) chooses to express it when he sleeps with a woman he (rationally) admires.

    So her view that an individual's sex life reflects his fundamental philosophy is to be grasped in such a context.

    I don't think a man who possesses a genuine ego would be attracted to women with whom he cannot celebrate such an ego.

    Why? Because sex is one of the most selfish acts a man can perform. In other words, it's virtually impossible for a man to make love to a woman selflessly!

    Even if the man were to make an honest mistake by being with a woman who's (objectively) wrong for him, once he discovers his error (which he will sooner or later), he will correct himself by leaving her.

    Meanwhile, there is a perceptive dialogue between Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden in Atlas Shrugged which is relevant here. It's given below for reference:
    "Are you saying," he asked slowly, "that I rose in your estimation when you found that I wanted you?"
    "Of course."
    "That's not the reaction of most people of being wanted."
    "It isn't."
    "Most people feel that they rise in their own eyes, if others want them."
    "I feel that others live up to me, if they want me. And that is the way you feel, too, Hank, about yourself — whether you admit it or not."

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  34. Well, people feel attracted to a person of the opposite sex for a wide variety of reasons, and his/her philosophical convictions are just a factor-And in many cases(Even in men with self esteem) it may not be the crucial determining factor. This is especially true if you take into the account ones consciously held philosophical convictions when compared to what Ayn Rand called a person's Sense of life. Bryan Caplan had written a good post on the subject:

    http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2010/01/rand_vs_evoluti.html

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  35. Ramesh, it is important to remember that Rand actually thought that philosophy was not quite the primary determining factor in one's choice of sexual or romantic partner. Rand noted--correctly, in my opinion--that the primary motivator of love or sex is one's sense of life, which is almost impossible to escape or hide, and very difficult to change in one's later years.

    A conceptual evaluation of your sexual and romantic choices comes much later. Thus, in a way, Rand did believe in love at first sight--and by that meaning, being drawn instantly to a certain kind of sense of life in another person.

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  36. Jerry,

    Thank you for responding to my comment.

    In it, I focused exclusively on the causal relationship (which Ayn Rand identified) between self-esteem (a cardinal value in the Objectivist Ethics) and sex because I think it's a crucial link between philosophy and psychology. It's the basis for the following dialogue by Francisco in Atlas Shrugged (AS): "Tell me what a man finds sexually attractive and I will tell you his entire philosophy of life. Show me the woman he sleeps with and I will tell you his valuation of himself."

    I agree one's romantic and sexual choices are motivated by one's sense of life. Ayn Rand shows this in AS when Rearden's sense of life draws him to Dagny. Just as James Taggart's sense of life draws him (momentarily) to Rearden's wife, Lillian.

    But Rearden, by sleeping with Dagny, expresses what he already has (self-esteem) despite his (unearned) guilt over what he does. Whereas Taggart, by sleeping with Lillian, tries not to gain what he never had (his own value) but to defile (what he believes is) the value (Lillian) of a man (Rearden) he hates.

    In this respect, Taggart is much worse than Peter Keating in The Fountainhead. Keating is a second-hander whereas Taggart is a nihilist with no values not even second-hand ones.

    Cheers,

    Ramesh

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  37. Ayn Rand ended darkness for me and for the whole world. Her effect on me was magical. In one stroke, almost at once, when I was 24, she brushed away all doubts, conclusions, uncertainties.

    20 years have gone by since I encountered Ayn Rand, there is a great clarify that I have now (the spiral progression) but the under of that human being that Ayn Rand was still remains.

    I love Ayn Rand. In this blind, lonely world she is a tremendous solace, security. Its very difficult to put it in words.

    She gives a simplicity to things, as if all questions have answers, all problems can be solved, there is nothing beyond one’s reach; she takes you in to her fold and loves you in a manner that is absolutely unique, special, wondrous.

    Ayn Rand practically was such a tremendous guide that she almost made me a new human being. I sometimes wonder at where it will all go and my follow objectivists share that unique feeling, that is the bond between us. We have all been taken to a land – which is not just an empty ‘promise’ but a complete, real, grounded, secure, reality.

    Ayn Rand’s sheer intelligence astonishes me. Even the subtlest, the most hidden truths are not beyond her searchlight mind that uncovers, reveals.

    More. She then loves, is delighted and fashions it – Oh! How! The communication is then complete, piercing going straight into you. You don’t even need to chew, you take it all in.

    She is a valuer and how sincere, how simple, how total. The smallest things of value – but it is absolute for her, she sees the whole unit and reacts immediately.

    Her range! It is unbelievable. She makes a unit out of everything. A huge complexity is brought into a sweeping view, in to a small thing, conceptually complete.

    She lives her epistemology – so to speak. She values the rational epistemological method like no one else. She has made it automatic, a unit of thinking of itself and that has become a second skin – natural, flowing supremely confident.

    To know, to value, to live – she makes these concepts utterly obvious till you are not the same and never can be.

    Ayn Rand is too true, too good, the most complete human being in history and as she herself says in complete self knowledge about Gault – “completely normal”.

    She has released man’s energies, directed the world, given shape to things, value to things, meaning to things.

    Ayn Rand is the climax of man’s struggle to find his roots, his life, his reality, his happiness, his security, his serenity.

    I love her too much and it is inexpressible and infinite…

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  38. The first Ayn Rand book I read was "Capitalism the unknown ideal' when I was about 19. Growing up in an oppressive statist/socialist social and political environment, Rand's book just blew my mind away. I had never found any sense in socialism or statism but it was the first book I encountered with a consistently philosophical world view which espoused individualism in nthe political sphere. It speaks vloumes for the junk thrown at young people then (and now) few young people have actually encountered Ayn Rand's writings or libertarian/capitalistic writings. Fewer still would be those who have understood the essence of Rand's philosophy. Ever since I can remember, I have been a rationalist AND an individualist. Ayn Rand was to my mind the first person who brilliantly combined the two. But a broad acceptance of her worldview and philosophy is probably a few hundred years away. Personally I consider her to be the greatest philosophical thinker since Aristotle (never mind the lack of voluminous writings from her pen) and also the greatest literary artist ever. More than 30 years later, I still swear by the essentials of her philosophy of Objectivism.

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  39. I can identify with Raj. One was always interested in philosophy and economic theory but in this country Ayn Rand, Von Mises, Hayek and Bastiat were almost unheard of till recently. Which meant that enquiring intelligent minds had to make do with a hotchpotch of Russell, Satre, Camus, Keynes and so on. Even today the papers are full of Krugman and Stiglitz. How many in India have read Reisman or Machan? It is like a conspiracy against the ideas of rational individualism. So called rationalists like Kovoor were collectivists/statists and supposed defenders of free enterprise were social/religious conservatives. Even today, how many really understand what Rand wrote and what she meant by the virtue of selfishness, what she meant by capitalism, what she meant by the proper role of government, above all what she meant by Reason?

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  40. I discovered Ayn Rand at the age of around 25 in the 1980s and began to like her works. I had some definite political and economic views in my early years and used to discuss my ideas with a communist friend of mine at that time. I usually defended United States of America against the Soviet Union at that time, more on economic principles and less on political principles, which in essence amounted to the idea that American politico-economic system was more productive and prosperous one than that of the Soviet system and therefore a preferable politico-economic system.
    My communist friend one day gave me “The Romantic Manifesto” by Ayn Rand and told me that I would like the book! Oh! How his statement turned into a gross understatement! That book changed many of my views of art and its functions in life. After reading the book once, I thought that I had to read that book again and again and understand many of the principles of art, it fundamental nature, and its function in human life. I am still very grateful to my communist friend for having introduced Ayn Rand to me.
    That book made me realize that my conscious philosophy of life – far from a coherent, consistent and integrated system of thought - was still truer than my sense of life, which was essentially based on the malevolent universe premise. That book and The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged helped me in correcting my sense of life after a very long tortuous struggle.
    Even after reading and understanding The Romantic Manifesto and its principles, I did not expect Ayn Rand to give a consistent and integrated view of life, but as I began to read more of her nonfiction works, I realized that I got what I had been expecting and longing for, “an integrated view of life and of existence.”
    I have read and understood Rand’s original contribution in all branches of philosophy:
    In metaphysics, her many articles in Philosophy who needs it? Particularly the article,” The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made” which explains the basic metaphysical issue of any system of philosophy: the primacy of existence or the primacy of consciousness, and what is possible to man and not possible and the meaning of creation.
    In epistemology her book, “An introduction to objectivist epistemology,” which essentially first answers the question, How do we know what we know? and also the nature and source of man’s conceptual knowledge and its validation.
    In ethics, her book The Virtue of Selfishness, deals with the application of the above metaphysical and epistemological principles and derives a rational ethics to guide man’s life, which thus gives man a comprehensive system of philosophy to guide his life.
    In politics, which is another branch of philosophy, her book, ”Capitalism the unknown ideal” explains the moral principles of capitalism and its function.
    I have been living my life as an objectivist since then, and I am still continuing to expand my knowledge and its application to my life.

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  41. If anyone has had the patience or time to come this far down the comments list, first i would like to congratulate them. secondly, for all those people who have ever read any work by Ayn Rand, they must do some thinking of their own to truly understand what was the motive power behind this wonderful writer and what makes her writing so impactful. Even Mrs.Rand would not have liked someone to blindly follow her ideals or be coerced to do so.

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  42. I read Rand as a teenager, then read all her books. At some point in my early twenties, I decided I would throw out Rand forever. This was because it occurred to me that I had stopped thinking -- I was constantly looking for the 'appropriate' answer to all situations, and they usually ended up in an optionless category. I found I could not forgive the smallest of mistakes, or figure out the difference between minor and major lapses. Everything seemed major. I ended up naive, and easily subject to manipulation, till I thought I understood nothing. Everything and everyone on the planet came across as negative, and empathy was all but nonexistent. Starting life again from scratch was not easy, and till today I cannot say how much was right and how much was wrong. I explored eastern philosophies, and came to the conclusion that our own philosophers in fact got closer to truth than Rand did.

    There is a crucial link between understanding order and chaos, and it is upto human beings to decipher and comprehend how much of both can be combined to create a lively, robust and livable universe. The easterners have failed to grasp the beauty of their own philosophies, and Indians live in muck, chaos as though none of it can ever be their responsibility to clean up. They believe they have no way of controlling the forces of the Universe, whereas their philosophers have actually told them differently. They said -- experiment, do well, go further, fear not -- but know that you do not have control over everything. Still, proceed.

    The West has gone the other way. Rand may criticise Soviet Russia, but western dogmatism has cost lives whether it came in the form of Germany of Britain or modern USA. Rand's Objectivism displays the same rigidity. I have been on Objectivist forums and I find the same situation: Objectivists are 'afraid to think' and are constantly seeking the sanction of a Rand paragraph or piece of writing. It is like they surrender their minds to Rand's works. Rand's characters too, have no variety beyond a few barely recognisable ones. Ken Danagger, Ellis Wyatt, Dan Conoway, Owen Kellogg -- frankly what is the difference between all of them? One could easily be in the other's shoes.

    The human mind is curious, it seeks the entire spectrum, there is no no man's land for the human mind. That is why we could achieve so much and also perform horrors on fellow humans. Germany was amongst the most industrialised countries in the world in the 20th century. How could a nation that promoted science and technology also engage in such horrors? Why didn't writers like Rand proliferate in that nation, and nip the Nazi disaster in the bud, since rational thinking was promoted there? Why was a Rand not born on the soil of USA?

    A rigid, integrated philosophy is a contradiction in itself. Such is the beauty of our universe. What would have been the state of our planet, if John Galt types had been the majority in USA and decided to isolate America from the rest of the world, because we are just plain savages? Imagine a planet where Americans have never travelled, because 'well, who wants to travel to those savage lands?'. No international networks exist, because former colonial powers have decided to abandon the savage lands, and now return to a rational world where the populace is trained to focus on making more and more machines that will create more and more leisure time. But time that must be spent only in one's own 'rational' country. A sanitised world was the dream of Hitler and Stalin as well. I am not convinced that there is something called an Objectivist sanitisation that is the highest form of morality. It doesn't click.

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  43. My journey with Ayn Rand’s writing began in my college days when I got hold of her Atlas Shrugged. I still remember the book lying in the corner of our library-flipped upside down and the librarian asking me “You are not in your final year, why do you want this book? You will not like it.” Guess, my interest was triggered and I got introduced to Ayn Rand.
    Over the next few years, I did not have a chance to explore her writing further, until 2003 when one of my closest pal handed me the Fountainhead. Since then I have not stopped reading and exploring the objectivist school of thought further.
    Objectivism never really bothered. Mind sees what it chooses to see. Though Atlas Shrugged depressed me for quite a while, Rand’s Fountainhead brought back a ray of hope. Personally, I am marveled at the capacity of her mind. Though she is more of an existentialist rather than just an objectivist, she has this amazing capacity to actually put the reader’s mind in an enigmatic state. The impact is such that her writing makes a mind simmer with conflict of ideas; akin to the internal war between the conscious and the subconscious mind.
    What I can definitely vouch for though is that she was one of the finest romance writers I’ve ever seen who has explored romance with a shield of objectivity. The puzzle for the readers is ‘why is she called an objectivist?’ When one looks at her two classic masterpieces Fountainhead as well as Atlas Shrugged and the two female leads, one cannot but help noticing the similarities as well as the contrasts.
    I sometimes wonder how she could even relate to the modern world. Can we say she was judgmental or was she an observer who turned judgmental? If so, what made her become that? Possibly the environment that she sustained in. Yet most of her characters stand out true even today.
    The main drawback is objectivism as a rule again becomes a truth relative for one particular individual. The main thing we may have to observe is perception towards principles of objectivism. Perceptivity differs from individual to individual. When Rand speaks about Selfishness as a virtue, Altruism it is more of a writer’s thought process. Reality could be different as it is relative.

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