I just pulled out my copy of Atlas Shrugged for the fun of it. It makes me kind of emotional; I was only twenty when I read The Fountainhead and then a few chapters of this sequel. I never wanted to finish it because I don’t know if I agree with Ayn Rand about capitalism or even about rationality and egoism. Her thinking doesn’t go very deep into the human psyche like a Freud or a Jung. She applies ancient philosophy to the process of living (especially Aristotle) but somehow this misses a crucial level of human experience. I doubt if people can live like machines one hundred percent of the time, and for a contrast to Rand you only need to read Henry James. I would say that Rand probably lacked self knowledge or maybe was ignorant of human nature and motivation. She was blind on one side. In high school I had a friend who was a huge fan of hers, plus Frank Herbert and Nietzsche. But on the capitalism dimension, I can’t really agree because this kind of system didn’t work for me. I think probably a form of socialism would be better for every human being, not just a few people with an advantage like superior intelligence or some talent, etc. I was extremely lucky that there was a safety net for people with disabilities when I ran into problems with my health. Ayn Rand doesn’t take such things into consideration. So my feelings on the whole thing are quite complicated. I remember being the naïve twenty year old picking up her books at the bookstore and accepting it all like gospel at first. I really didn’t know anything at all at that age and was very impressionable. But it’s amazing how the more you read the more you develop a vocabulary for defining yourself as a human being. Every book is a lamp to illuminate your life, pushing the darkness a little farther away.
Thus I think that Walt Whitman is a far better read than the shallowness of Ayn Rand, but still it’s very interesting to revisit old territories. The deeper things of experience are harder to accept and take longer to understand and come to terms with, but it’s worth it to persist in this hunt for truth and ultimately freedom.
One thought on “Revisiting Rand”
I read Atlas Shrugged in grad school, just out of curiosity from hearing Ayn Rand’s view demonized. I found the book a tour de force of propagandistic writing. She was very, very good at it.
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