Intro. Aesthetics, if it aspires to be in the least rational, sane, and just, must seek to explain, rather than judge, personal responses to works of art. When aesthetics seeks to justify a specific set of preferences, it degenerates into mere special pleading and rationalization.
Rand's foremost consideration in her aesthetics was to judge. She belonged to what I call the malicious school of aesthetic criticism: it was not enough for Rand merely to glorify her own preferences, she also had to denigrate the preferences of those with different aesthetic tastes. Her entire aesthetics seems orientated toward disparagement. And for Rand, there was plenty to disparage. She appears to have disliked most of what passed for art. Her remarks on specific works of art are nearly always, in some respect, negative. Rand simply did not care for most of what passes for great art in Western Civilization. People who don't like most art usually don't make best aestheticians. Combine that with a mania for judging (particularly for malicious, narcissistic judging), and you have a recipe for philosophical malfeasance on a grand scale. The Objectivist aesthetics is largely a rationalization of Rand's own aesthetic prejudices and hatreds. Rand's actual doctrine is littered with overly vague generalizations, historical inaccuracies, false attributions, and a congenital incapacity to understand any work of art she failed to respond to. Despite all her high talk about reason and objectivity, her aesthetics remains rooted in her own blatantly subjective feelings. Given how different her emotional reactions were from those of most educated people, one wonders what business she had dabbling in aesthetics.
Rand's aesthetic tastes largely revolve around six main prejudices: (1) prejudice in favor of Rand's "ideal" man, i.e., the man who has "no inner conflicts," whose "mind and his emotions are integrated," and whose "consciousness is in perfect harmony"; (2) discomfort with tragedy; (3) mania for realistic description or literal representation; (4) strong preference for plot over character in literature; (4) indifference to most forms of beauty, particularly beauty of nature; (6) indiference, sometimes even hostility, to most aesthetic forms. These six prejudices make up the bulk of what could be called Rand's "real" aestethics. Her official aesthetics, though inspired by these prejudices, takes on a different aspect, as we shall see in the ensuing posts.