In that corner, Ayn Rand, and in this…

April 19, 2011

I do not really consider myself an anti-Randian; she hasn’t seemed worth the trouble. I have noticed, however, that the recent release of a film based on Atlas Shrugged has called forth several responses, either fresh or exhumed, from those who, for one reason or another, do oppose or dislike her work. I confess that I have found them quite enjoyable.

First is a short video of W.F. Buckley in conversation with Charlie Rose. This is a brief but, I would say, fairly nuanced appraisal of Rand and her philosophical project, ‘objectivism’ (nuanced, at least, in comparison to what is coming further down in this post). Rand is usually called a ‘conservative’ on account of her opposition to anything resembling collectivism or social welfare, but Buckley’s remarks make it clear that many conservatives don’t want her in their corner either.

The review by Whittaker Chambers of Atlas Shrugged to which Buckley refers is here. It is worth reading.

Meanwhile, writing in the May 2011 issue of First Things, David Bentley Hart delivers a wickedly funny survey of things Randian, focusing especially on an earlier film based on The Fountainhead, but also taking opportunity to skewer her philosophy and manner of philosophizing:

Rand was so eerily ignorant of all the interesting problems of ontology, epistemology, or logic that she believed she could construct an irrefutable system around a collection of simple maxims like “existence is identity” and “consciousness is identification,” all gathered from the damp fenlands between vacuous tautology and catastrophic category error. She was simply unaware that there were any genuine philosophical problems that could not be summarily solved by flatly proclaiming that this is objectivity, this is rational, this is scientific, in the peremptory tones of an Obersturmführer drilling his commandoes.

That’s not very nuanced, but, for all I know, perfectly fair. It is pretty fun in any case.

For a less rhetorically supercharged response to Rand, I recommend reading two posts written by friend-of-this-blog Maclin Horton after he had finished reading Atlas Shrugged: Ayn Rand, Crank and A Few More Notes on Ayn Rand. As usual, Maclin is thoughtful and balanced. If you are brave, you can also read the nearly 400 comments that piled up in response to his remarks.

Finally, I simply note that the Atlas Shrugged film has been savaged by the critics. Does that mean that this post amounts to little more than kicking Ms. Rand when she’s down? I’m not sure. Maybe.

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6 Responses to “In that corner, Ayn Rand, and in this…”

  1. Mac Says:

    Thanks for the link. I don’t think you’re kicking her when she’s down. Aside from the fact that her own philosophy would give her little ground for complaining, her fundamental ideas are so poisonous that, from the Christian point of view, what might seem harsh is simply accurate. There are those who find a lot of literary merit in Atlas Shrugged, and their feelings are sometimes hurt when those of us who don’t say so, but that’s life.

  2. cburrell Says:

    Self-styled objectivists obviously think her ideas are pretty good, but I don’t think I have ever heard of someone finding literary merit in the book. Maybe I didn’t read the comment threads on your posts closely enough!

  3. Janet Says:

    I had a really discouraging conversation with someone who I dearly love and who thought that AS had literary merit. It just ruined my breakfast.

    AMDG

  4. cburrell Says:

    I’ll bet it also ruined second breakfast.

  5. Janet Says:

    Actually, that conversation took place at second breakfast.

    AMDG

  6. cburrell Says:

    Elevenses, then.


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