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Difference between revisions of "Ayn Rand"

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'''Ayn Rand''' (1905-82) was a Russian-born 20th century novelist, nowadays credited as the founder of the philosophical movement called [[Objectivism]], which believes that reason and the knowledge of objective reality leads to an [[Ethics|ethic]] of rational self-interest and [[Libertarianism|libertarian]] [[capitalism]]<ref>Ayn Rand (1962) "[http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=objectivism_intro Introducing Objectivism]", [[Ayn Rand Institute]]</ref>.
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'''Ayn Rand'''(1905-82) was a Russian-born twentieth century novelist, nowadays credited as the founder of the philosophical movement called [[Objectivism]], which believes in objective reality and reason, which lead to an [[ethics|ethic]] of rational self-interest and [[libertarianism|libertarian]] [[capitalism]]<ref>Ayn Rand (1962) "[http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=objectivism_intro Introducing Objectivism]", [[Ayn Rand Institute]]</ref>.
  
She is described by her admirers as ‘a philosopher’ but this is not a term accepted by many in the philosophical community. Although her books certainly advance a ‘philosophy’ of life, there is little resembling an argument, merely large amounts of assertion, including views disparaging homosexuals, whom she considers 'disgusting'. <ref> Asked at the Ford Hall Forum at Northeastern University in 1971 about her position, Rand stated that homosexuality is "immoral" and "disgusting." </ref>
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She is described by her admirer’s as ‘a philosopher’ but this is not a term accepted by many in the philosophcial community. Although, her book’s certainly advance a ‘philosophy’ of life, there is nothing resembling an argument merely large amounts of assertion, including views such as that regarding homosexuals, who she considers 'disgusting'. <ref> Asked at the Ford Hall Forum at Northeastern University in 1971 about her position, Rand stated that homosexuality is "immoral" and "disgusting." </ref>
  
 
===Life and Works===
 
===Life and Works===
  
Rand was born, as Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum in Saint Petersburg, Russia and studied a mixture of social sciences and history before going on to become a screenwriter, a career which eventually took  her to Hollywood where she 'odd-jobbed' for a number of years including appearing as an extra in Cecil B. DeMille's film, The King of Kings. It was while working on this film that she met her future husband, Frank O'Connor.
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Rand was born, as Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum in Saint Petersburg, Russia and studied a mixture of social sciences and history before going on to become a screenwriter, a career which eventually took  her to Hollywood where she 'odd-jobbed' for a number of years including appearing as an extra in Cecil B. DeMille's film, ''The King of Kings''. It was while working on this film that she met her future husband, Frank O'Connor.
  
 
Her first published novel was a critical and semi-autobigraphical account of Soviet Russia called We the Living (1936) but neither this book nor the next had much critical or commercial success. However, her third book,  The Fountainhead, which appeared in 1943 rapidly found amass market, and is claimed to have now sold over six million copies. This book presents the entrepreneur as hero, a theme developed in due course by her best known work, Atlas Shrugged (1957). Atlas's plot involves a dystopian United States of America in which industrialists and other creative individuals decide to go on strike and retreat to a mountainous hideaway where they build an independent free economy .
 
Her first published novel was a critical and semi-autobigraphical account of Soviet Russia called We the Living (1936) but neither this book nor the next had much critical or commercial success. However, her third book,  The Fountainhead, which appeared in 1943 rapidly found amass market, and is claimed to have now sold over six million copies. This book presents the entrepreneur as hero, a theme developed in due course by her best known work, Atlas Shrugged (1957). Atlas's plot involves a dystopian United States of America in which industrialists and other creative individuals decide to go on strike and retreat to a mountainous hideaway where they build an independent free economy .
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After the popular success of 'Atlas Shrugged', Rand increasingly promoted her 'philosophy' of 'Objectivism', editing a newsletter devoted to the subject. As to the origins of the philosophy, "The Ayn Rand Lexicon: Objectivism from A to Z", quotes her as saying:
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 +
<blockquote>"The only philosophical debt I can acknowledge is to Aristotle.  I  most emphatically disagree with a great many parts of his philosophy--but  his definition of the laws of logic and of the means of human knowledge is so great an achievement that his errors are irrelevant by comparison." <ref> "About the Author," Appendix to "Atlas Shrugged" quoted from "The Ayn Rand Lexicon" (1986) Edited by Harry Binswanger, Introduction by Leonard Peikoff, p344 </ref></blockquote>
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In the same book, she elaborates:
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<blockquote>
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Aristotle's philosophy was the intellect's Declaration of Independence. Aristotle, the father of logic, should be given the title of the world's  first intellectual, in the purest and noblest sense of that word.  No  matter what remnants of Platonism did exist in Aristotle's system, his  incomparable achievement lay in the fact that he defined the basic principles of a rational view of existence and of man's consciousness:  that there is only one reality, the one which man perceives--that it  exists as an objective absolute (which means: independently of the consciousness, the wishes or the feelings of any perceiver)--that the task of man's consciousness is to perceive, not to create, reality - that  abstractions are man's method of integrating his sensory material - that  man's mind is his only tool of knowledge - that A is A.
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 +
If we consider the fact that to this day everything that makes us civilized beings, every rational value that we possess - including the
 +
birth of science, the industrial revolution, the creation of the United States, even of the structure of our language -  is the result of Aristotle's influence, of the degree to which, explicitly or implicitly, men accepted his epistemological principles, we would have to say:  never have so many owed so much to one man."
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<ref> "For the New Intellectual, HC(20),pb(22)" from "The Ayn Rand
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Lexicon", p35 </ref>
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</blockquote>
  
 
===Atlas Shrugged===
 
===Atlas Shrugged===
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''Atlas Shrugged'' was reviewed by ''National Review'' in 1957. It was unrelentingly scathing. The review called the book "sophomoric"; and "remarkably silly," and said it "can be called a novel only by devaluing the term."  
 
''Atlas Shrugged'' was reviewed by ''National Review'' in 1957. It was unrelentingly scathing. The review called the book "sophomoric"; and "remarkably silly," and said it "can be called a novel only by devaluing the term."  
  
Despite this, ''Atlas Shrugged'' is consistently in the top few hundred best sellers at Amazon.com with high sales in the United States in particular. The books are promoted by an organisation called the "Ayn Rand Institute: The Center for the Advancement of Objectivism" which appears to have (in publishing terms) almost bottomless pockets for promoting Rand's works.
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Despite this, ''Atlas Shrugged'' is consistently in the top few hundred best sellers at Amazon.com with high sales in the United States in particular. The books are promoted by an organisation called the "Ayn Rand Institute: The Center for the Advancement of Objectivism" which appears to have (in publishing terms) almost bottomless pockets for promoting Rand's works. The Institute has also encouraged the study of 'Objectivism' in U.S. schools and at some 30 colleges.<ref> Atlas Shrugs Again, Forbes/September 28, 2007 , By Marc E. Babej and Tim Pollak -  text archived at http://www.rickross.com/reference/general/general976.html accessed November 22 2008 </ref>
  
 
The book has acquired a cult-like following particularly amongst those who see themselves as 'entrepreneurs' applying Rand's supposed principle of Nietzschean freedom (that is, the freedom of the exceptional individual to ignore the consequences of their actions for others less able or powerful).  
 
The book has acquired a cult-like following particularly amongst those who see themselves as 'entrepreneurs' applying Rand's supposed principle of Nietzschean freedom (that is, the freedom of the exceptional individual to ignore the consequences of their actions for others less able or powerful).  

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Ayn Rand(1905-82) was a Russian-born twentieth century novelist, nowadays credited as the founder of the philosophical movement called Objectivism, which believes in objective reality and reason, which lead to an ethic of rational self-interest and libertarian capitalism[1].

She is described by her admirer’s as ‘a philosopher’ but this is not a term accepted by many in the philosophcial community. Although, her book’s certainly advance a ‘philosophy’ of life, there is nothing resembling an argument merely large amounts of assertion, including views such as that regarding homosexuals, who she considers 'disgusting'. [2]

Life and Works

Rand was born, as Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum in Saint Petersburg, Russia and studied a mixture of social sciences and history before going on to become a screenwriter, a career which eventually took her to Hollywood where she 'odd-jobbed' for a number of years including appearing as an extra in Cecil B. DeMille's film, The King of Kings. It was while working on this film that she met her future husband, Frank O'Connor.

Her first published novel was a critical and semi-autobigraphical account of Soviet Russia called We the Living (1936) but neither this book nor the next had much critical or commercial success. However, her third book, The Fountainhead, which appeared in 1943 rapidly found amass market, and is claimed to have now sold over six million copies. This book presents the entrepreneur as hero, a theme developed in due course by her best known work, Atlas Shrugged (1957). Atlas's plot involves a dystopian United States of America in which industrialists and other creative individuals decide to go on strike and retreat to a mountainous hideaway where they build an independent free economy .

After the popular success of 'Atlas Shrugged', Rand increasingly promoted her 'philosophy' of 'Objectivism', editing a newsletter devoted to the subject. As to the origins of the philosophy, "The Ayn Rand Lexicon: Objectivism from A to Z", quotes her as saying:

"The only philosophical debt I can acknowledge is to Aristotle. I most emphatically disagree with a great many parts of his philosophy--but his definition of the laws of logic and of the means of human knowledge is so great an achievement that his errors are irrelevant by comparison." [3]

In the same book, she elaborates:

Aristotle's philosophy was the intellect's Declaration of Independence. Aristotle, the father of logic, should be given the title of the world's first intellectual, in the purest and noblest sense of that word. No matter what remnants of Platonism did exist in Aristotle's system, his incomparable achievement lay in the fact that he defined the basic principles of a rational view of existence and of man's consciousness: that there is only one reality, the one which man perceives--that it exists as an objective absolute (which means: independently of the consciousness, the wishes or the feelings of any perceiver)--that the task of man's consciousness is to perceive, not to create, reality - that abstractions are man's method of integrating his sensory material - that man's mind is his only tool of knowledge - that A is A.

If we consider the fact that to this day everything that makes us civilized beings, every rational value that we possess - including the birth of science, the industrial revolution, the creation of the United States, even of the structure of our language - is the result of Aristotle's influence, of the degree to which, explicitly or implicitly, men accepted his epistemological principles, we would have to say: never have so many owed so much to one man."

[4]

Atlas Shrugged

The heart of Atlas Shrugged is a speech by its 'hero', John Galt. In it, Galt explains the philosophy of Objectivism. [5] Here, Rand echoes Nietzsche's contempt for the Christina virtues of sacrifice:

"This is an age of moral crisis, brought about by the doctrine of sacrifice " and "The essence of previous moral codes is to demand that you surrender your mind and your life to the whims of God or society."

In place of this, Rand offers an argument from selfishness:

"If you must act to benefit others, why is it acceptable for others to accept such benefits? Because they did not earn them. At its core, the Doctrine of Sacrifice is a doctrine that seeks the unearned."

Instead,

"To maintain its life, any organism must act in accordance with its means of survival. For man, this means living by the exercise of his mind." And: "Man's life -- the life of man qua rational being -- is the proper standard of value. Your own life -- and happiness as its emotional concomitant -- is the purpose of morality."

The proper means of interaction with others is trade. Rand offers a happy vision of free-market economics:

"In a society of trade, there is no conflict of interests among men at different levels in the pyramid of ability. The most talented people, who make new discoveries and invent new products and technologies, contribute the most to others; while those at the bottom, who are engaged in mere physical labor, benefit the most. "

The speech is very long, spanning 56 pages in one paperback edition (the only interruption occurs after the first paragraph), and appears in the chapter "This is John Galt Speaking" in the third section of the book. Later in the book, the speech is referred to as being approximately three hours long.

The speech, like the book, like the 'philosophy' of 'objectivism' finishes:

"You will win when you are ready to pronounce this oath: "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." "

Rand stated in a 1963 essay, titled "The Goal of My Writing", that her fiction was intentionally different in that its goal was to project a vision of an ideal man: not man as he is, but man as he might be and ought to be. Rand, who described herself as a "romantic realist" , presented her theory of aesthetics more fully in her 1969 book, The Romantic Manifesto : A Philosophy of Literature .

Influence

Atlas Shrugged was reviewed by National Review in 1957. It was unrelentingly scathing. The review called the book "sophomoric"; and "remarkably silly," and said it "can be called a novel only by devaluing the term."

Despite this, Atlas Shrugged is consistently in the top few hundred best sellers at Amazon.com with high sales in the United States in particular. The books are promoted by an organisation called the "Ayn Rand Institute: The Center for the Advancement of Objectivism" which appears to have (in publishing terms) almost bottomless pockets for promoting Rand's works. The Institute has also encouraged the study of 'Objectivism' in U.S. schools and at some 30 colleges.[6]

The book has acquired a cult-like following particularly amongst those who see themselves as 'entrepreneurs' applying Rand's supposed principle of Nietzschean freedom (that is, the freedom of the exceptional individual to ignore the consequences of their actions for others less able or powerful).

For this or perhaps other reasons, the list of public figures claiming to have been influenced by Rand includes:

Alan Greenspan, sometime Head of the US Federal Reserve; Hugh Hefner of 'Playboy' fame; Angelina Jolie, a dynamic 'action woman' film star; and Jimmy Wales, a business entrepreneur behind a successful online encyclopaedia called Wikipedia, in which 'Ayn Rand' is treated respectfully and at length.

There is even a video game called BioShock, (released in the summer of 2007) built around Rand's philosophy and Atlas Shrugged .

Rand received the rare accolade of appearing on a U.S. postage stamp in 1999 in New York City.


References

  1. Ayn Rand (1962) "Introducing Objectivism", Ayn Rand Institute
  2. Asked at the Ford Hall Forum at Northeastern University in 1971 about her position, Rand stated that homosexuality is "immoral" and "disgusting."
  3. "About the Author," Appendix to "Atlas Shrugged" quoted from "The Ayn Rand Lexicon" (1986) Edited by Harry Binswanger, Introduction by Leonard Peikoff, p344
  4. "For the New Intellectual, HC(20),pb(22)" from "The Ayn Rand Lexicon", p35
  5. All quotes can be found at: http://www.objectivistcenter.org/cth--1721-OutlineofGalt'sSpeech.aspx accessed November 20 2008
  6. Atlas Shrugs Again, Forbes/September 28, 2007 , By Marc E. Babej and Tim Pollak - text archived at http://www.rickross.com/reference/general/general976.html accessed November 22 2008