Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Rand's Novels 3: The Fountainhead

Rand's second major novel, although a deeply flawed book, nevertheless is a work of genius and contains some of her most powerful writing. Although I would contend that We the Living is a better all-round novel (more realistic, containing less flaws), The Fountainhead is more ambitious and reaches greater heights (as well as much greater lows). Regardless of the flaws of The Fountainhead, I would not hesitate to rank it above the over-written and preposterous Atlas Shrugged. While both novels suffer from more than a fair share of unrealistic characters, situations, and eccentric, often counter-intuitive, if not perverse, analysis of the human condition, The Fountainhead at least makes an attempt to engage the reader's sympathies. Rand had not yet formulated her Objectivist philosophy when she wrote the novel, and she does not attempt to place everything within the strict confines of an ideological straight jacket. In The Fountainhead, she gives free rein to her imagination. And while this doesn't always work out for the best, at least it provides a source of entertainment. In this post, I will give a quick glance to the good, the bad, and the ugly of Rand's second major novel.
The Good: One thing that makes The Fountainhead considerably more palatable, to my way of thinking, than Atlas Shrugged is that, although its hard to regard Roark and Wynand and Toohey as real human beings, Rand at least attempts to make us care about Roark and Wynand, and make us horrified at Toohey. Roarks' stainless integrity, his lonely battle against ingrained stupidity and corruption, resembles the similar stance taken by Cyrano de Bergerac in Edmond Rostand's famous play of that name. Moreover, Rand's characterizations of her three main characters is more ambitious and less ideological than what we run across with the heroes and villians in Atlas Shrugged. She has fun introducing biographical anecdotes of Wynand and Toohey. Reading about the reactions of these characters to various episodes throughout the novel provides diversion.

Perhaps the most palatable aspects of The Fountainhead involve something Rand is not generally known for. I have in mind some of the satirical sections, where she makes fun of things she doesn't like. While she does the same thing in Atlas, in the latter novel, her satire comes off as too portentous and moralistic. The satire in The Fountainhead features a lighter touch and is more imaginative. Consider the following passage concerning Lois Cook (based on Gertrude Stein) and the "Council of American Writers":

Lois Cook was chairman of the Council of American Writers. It met in the drawing room of her home on the Bowery. She was the only famous member. The rest included a woman who never used capitals in her books, and a man who never used commas; a youth who had written a thousand-page novel without a single letter o, and another who wrote poems than neither rhymed nor scanned; a man with a beard, who was sophisticated and proved it by using every unprintable four-letter work in every ten pages of his manuscript; a woman who imitated Lois Cook, except that her style was less clear; when asked for explanations she stated that this was the way life sounded to her, when broken by the prism of her subconscious—"You know what a prism does to a ray of light, don't you?" she said. There was also a fierce young man known simply as Ike the Genius, though nobody knew just what he had done, except that he talked about loving life.

The council signed a declaration which stated that writers were servants of the proletariat—but that statement did not sound as simple as that; it was more involved and much longer....

Rand then introduces another Council:

The Council of America Artists had, as chairman, a cadaverous youth who painted what he saw in his nightly dreams. There was a boy who used no canvas, but did something with bird cages and metronomes, and another who discovered a new technique of painting: he blackened a sheet of paper and then painted with a rubber eraser. There was a stout middle-aged lady who drew subconsciously, claiming that she never looked at her hand and had no idea what the hand was doing; her hand, she said, was guided by the spirit of the departed lover whom she had never met on earth. [313-314]

Looking back at The Fountainhead, it's the satirical sections that, to my mind, leave the best impression.

The Bad: Rand prided herself on her ability to develop gripping plots. In many ways, this talent of hers is in full display throughout the course of the novel. However, what often happens with gripping plots is that they racket up the tension only to give way to an satisfying climax and denouement. The Fountainhead disappoints with its portentous and unconvincing climax. Rand has her hero, Roark, anonymously design the Cortlandt housing project, under Peter Keatings name. As a stipulation for doing the design, Roark makes Keating promise that the design won't be changed. When the design is nonetheless changed, Roark dynamites the building and is arrested. In his trial, after giving a long and tendentious speech (although thankfully not as long and tendentious as Galt's speech in Atlas Shrugged), Roark is acquitted.

There are a number of things that are deeply problematic with all of this which is representative with what is wrong with the novel in general. The first problem is the insane level of Roark's integrity. It may start out as somewhat inspiring, but in the end, Rand takes it to such absurd extremes that it begins to verge toward narcism and self indulgence. Moreover, it should be kept in mind that if everyone attempted to behave like Roark, and insisted on always getting their way when it came to "their" vision, society would quickly descend into a war of all against all. An individual who wishes to maintain a given level of integrity must do so with certain amount of judgment, knowing when it's appropriate to be loyal to the purity of one's visions and when it is merely eccentricity and pretentiousness. It's not clear that Roark meets that standard in the climatic scene in the book, where he uses integrity as an excuse to engage in a dangerous act of vandalism.

The trial scene also suffers from a strong sense of unrealism and deus ex machina. Rand wants the book to end triumphantly, so she needs a "not guilty" verdict. But how can she manage that? Roark is clearly guilty of an act vandalism; he admits as much in his speech at the trial. So why would a jury declare him not guilty? Rand attempts to lend an aura of plausibility to the scene by explaining how Roark had chosen "the hardest faces," rather than the "gentlest types," for the jury. Somehow we are supposed to believe that a "tough" jury would have let Roark off. Rand clearly didn't understand that  tough-minded people are often great sticklers on points of law, and are not likely to be taken in by mere patter, no matter how eloquent.

It should also be noted that the trial verdict is hardly the only deeply implausible event in the novel, just the one that sticks out the most.

The Ugly. And then there's the rape scene, probably the most infamous scene in all of Rand's writings. Rand is famous for her excesses, in both her fiction and her philosophy, but she really out-does herself here.

What is particularly odd and even disconcerting about the rape scene is that Roark, in the novel, is presented not merely as a hero, but as an "ideal man"—someone to be respected, admired, imitated, even worshipped. If we are to take the scene seriously, then it's difficult not to make the following assumption: namely, that the ideal man, assuming he has reason to believe that a woman he fancies desires him, can skip the formalities of wooing and courtship and go straight to the sex. He doesn't even need to bother with attaining the woman's explicit consent beforehand! After all, as Rand would later insist, such behavior was not really "rape," but rather "rape by engraved invitation." Real rape (i.e., rape lacking the all important—but merely metaphorical—"engraved invitation") would, Rand assured us, constitute a "dreadful crime." Well, that's a relief!

Perhaps what's most disturbing in all this is the poor judgment Rand evinced in writing the scene and putting it into her novel. The Fountainhead was supposed to be the author's paean to the heroic in man. This being so, did Rand really believe that her "rape by engraved invitation" made Roark more heroic, more of an ideal man? Would she have wished to be "raped" in such a manner? I would hazard to guess that, had she actually been subjected to such behavior by any man, ideal or not, the author of The Fountainhead would have been deeply mortified. The rape scene not only fails as a projection of an ideal, it fails in terms of Rand's own self-knowledge. Perhaps some women really do fantasy about "rape by engraved invitation"; and perhaps Rand was one of those women. But is there any woman, however deranged and removed from all sense of reality, who would want such a thing to happen to them, not in the world of dreams and fantasies, but in the brute world of fact?





33 comments:

B.W. said...

An excellent, even-handed review. The Fountainhead is definitely my favorite of Rand's books, and I think it was the first one I read. I think The Fountainhead is more exciting and entertaining than We the Living, but I agree that when it comes to literary merit and "lack of flaws", We the Living is undeniably more of an actual, serious novel. It seems like there's a bit more passion for her ideal, or maybe a bit more focus and definition of it, in The Fountainhead. But yeah, then it reaches a tipping point with Atlas Shrugged where it kind of goes off the rails (pun in ... tended ?) I remember trying to read Atlas Shrugged after The Fountainhead and only getting through a couple of chapters at the time. I remember thinking, "There's a whole GROUP of Roarks now? Uggghhhh..."

And yes, I think the business with Roark and Dominique was some kind of personal fantasy that she incorporated into the book. For the reader, the intrique in those early quarry scenes is the fact that Dominique doesn't know who Roark is at that point. Rand plays off this point pretty well, and it's this skill in handling plot mechanics that really make The Fountainhead so entertaining. But then it just gets weeeirrd. I think she saw that as the payoff of the dramatic tension that she had set up, but she grossly miscalculates to say the least. We're invested in the story at that point because of the dramatic irony of Dominique not knowing the Roark that we know at this point in the story. And I think she concieved of the scene of Roark showing up Dominique's bedroom as where that needed to go, or how that fantasy would play out to her. But I read that and I was like, "Wait. What!?"

B.W. said...

I should add too, what I mentioned above about how she creates intrique in the quarry scene is by no means a very unique or innovative technique. It's one of the oldest tricks in the book when it comes to romantic subplots, (and personally one of my favorites.) It's been in everything from Cyrano to Superman. But I think she executes the technique quite well in The Fountainhead.

On ther hand, where she goes with it, that's, ummm, that's pretty different.

Jzero said...

While nothing in Atlas Shrugged quite qualifies as a rape scene, it's worth noting that there are leanings in that direction. There's a point where Dagny and Hank hook up and Dagny has some kind of internal monologue about (and I'm paraphrasing a bit) how she wants a man who will just take possession of what he wants, sexually, and while she dances around the language a bit, it seems obvious to me that Dagny's looking for a guy that will just have at her without any of the niceties of asking permission and all that. One presumes that it's okay because it's ranked-just-below-Galt Hank who she wants to just come get her; Rand doesn't create any situation where one of the doughy villains decides to just claim Dagny as his sexual possession, so we're not faced with that to mull over. But even when Galt and Dagny meet in some dirty tunnel to have a tryst, there's a lot of "knowing looks" and not much in the way of "hey, wanna get together"-style conversation.

So I'd have to agree: I think Rand was actually into that kind of erotic fantasy to some extent. Perhaps she let it out a bit too much in The Fountainhead, and then pulled it back and/or tried to express it in a less blatant way in Atlas Shrugged?

Anonymous said...

I also think The Fountainhead is the best novel by Rand. The characters are not yet such black-and-white caricatures as in AS (heroes: firm mouth, sleek, energetic, experts in everything; villains: blubbery mouth, bulging lips, flabby, incompetent in every aspect). So is in The Fountainhead the good guy Mike incredibly ugly, Cameron is a drunk and has a beard. Peter Keating isn't always painted quite black either, for example in the scenes with Catherine Halsey, Guy Francon is also more or less human, and Wynand is of course also a fascinating mixture.

The courtroom scene is indeed a weak point and I cannot see how it could have been improved. I fail to see however the problems with the so-called "rape" scene. It's obvious that Dominique wanted sex with Roark, that he knew it and that she knew that he knew it, it was just a kind of play of resistance and overcoming resistance. Perhaps it's difficult to understand for a modern pc American, but there are women who want sex without prolongued courtship with dinners and all that, and who don't insist on written permission for every single step on the road to copulation. I think that when Rand chased after Frank in Hollywood, she would have enjoyed being taken by him in the Roark manner. It only wasn't his style. Passionate Russian women, hah!

Lloyd Flack said...

I wonder whether the rape scene is an example of Rand overestimating her ability to read others motives and believing that her heros would also be extremely good at understanding others. I'm suggesting a romantic overestimation of the clarity of non verbal communication.

Lloyd Flack said...

But this is largely Rand putting her own fantasies into a novel and not understanding that many people's reaction to them would be distaste.

Michael Prescott said...

Turns out Donald Trump is a Fountainhead fan. From a recent USA Today interview:

"Trump described himself as an Ayn Rand fan. He said of her novel The Fountainhead, 'It relates to business (and) beauty (and) life and inner emotions. That book relates to ... everything.' He identified with Howard Roark, the novel's idealistic protagonist who designs skyscrapers and rages against the establishment."

http://is.gd/gz3M6B

Given how distasteful and buffoonish Trump is to many people, I don't think this kind of PR is particularly helpful to the Objectivist movement, or whatever may be left of it.

Jzero said...

The ironic thing is that a lot of the people who now "rage against the establishment" aren't looking to dismantle the establishment so much as put themselves, or someone they like, in charge of the establishment.

Gordon Burkowski said...

@Michael:

People who love The Fountainhead show up in some unlikely places. Actor Michael Caine, for example, who named his first daughter Dominique. She was born in 1956, one year before Atlas Shrugged.

I can see how people who don't share Rand's ethics or politics could be inspired by Roark's uncompromising integrity. That's not the case when it comes to Atlas Shrugged: either you buy the whole package or you don't buy in at all.

J. Goard said...

Allow me, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, to present my case for the uniquely crazy Atlas Shrugged as by far the better work.

1 - Visualization: The Fountainhead is ostensibly a story about transcendent architecture, yet it contains basically zero evocative descriptions, let alone any that convey to me why the strange good stuff is supposed to be better than strange bad stuff. I'm left with the impression that architecture is merely a skin for what Rand really wants to convey: that she and her literary heroes are the equivalent in literature, Contrast this the imagery of the John Galt line racing up to and over the untested bridge, Dagny coming across Wyatt's burning oil fields, Francisco and Hank having the titular conversation cut short to handle an emergency, the lead up to the tunnel disaster, scenes from the history of the motor company. There is simply no contest here. Even the descriptions of art in Atlas, though unspectacular, are far more convincing. I have no doubt that Rand had strong reference points for Halley's Fourth and Fifth, for example, as I do.

2 - Clark Kent: The most bizarre aspect of the rape scene is that Dominique only knows Roark as a confident, hot guy, and yet, the takeaway is clearly not supposed to be that accomplished women are allowed to have purely sexual motivations from time to time, but almost the opposite. It is supposed to be part of Dominique's character arc that her lustful and intellectual values will naturally align if she just opens herself up to them -- and that, right there, is grade-A crazy Objectivism in vitro. As far as I'm aware, this is not how the Lois/Clark/Superman triangle has ever been played out, and it's obviously contra Cyrano. Dagny's sexual encounters with men whom she not merely admires, but has gotten to know over substantial time, are erotically masochistic but romantically sane.

3 - A jury of one's peer-inferiors: Individualist Galt packs up and leaves, builds shit himself, and then starts addressing other individualists one-on-one. "Individualist" Roark turns out to have a Johnnie Cochran-level knack for jury selection. (Of course, even O.J. was immediately hit with a huge civil suit.) If it weren't Rand, one might take this for the "Life of Brian" sort of gag on individualism. ("Think for yourselves!"/"Yes, we will all think for ourselves!") Why, when the author controls the story, add this need for formal approval (shared by Night of January 16th)? For Christ's sake, the final lines of The Fountainhead, in the most obvious of metaphors, describe Dominique rising above office buildings, courthouses and churches, until only Roark is left -- and yet, the heroic climax involves courtroom procedure in a courthouse!

(More to come...)

Echo Chamber Escapee said...

@Lloyd Flack: I wonder whether the rape scene is an example of Rand overestimating her ability to read others motives and believing that her heros would also be extremely good at understanding others. I'm suggesting a romantic overestimation of the clarity of non verbal communication.

She admitted somewhere that the rape scene was something that would never work in real life. In fiction, the hero can be sure he has read the heroine's motives correctly. So Roark could know that Dominique wanted him to attack her, that she wanted to fight him, and that she wanted to lose. In real life, Rand conceded, it would not be reasonable for a man to jump to the conclusion Roark does.

Rape fantasies turn out to be fairly common, something like 30-40 percent of women admit to having had them. But it's a fantasy, not something they want to have happen in real life. So I have no problem with Dominique fantasizing about being overpowered by that sweaty, muscular quarry worker. The problem is that Rand isn't writing this as Dominique's fantasy: she wants us to believe Dominique wants to be actually raped by Roark. It doesn't work.

Lloyd Flack said...

J. Goard, I agree that the imagery in Atlas Shrugged is good and better than that in The Fountainhead. But most of the characters are less interesting, less believable and less sympathetic. I think that is the main reason why most here prefer The Fountainhead. That and that the events in Atlas Shrugged are eve
n more unbelievable.

Michael Prescott said...

I think the criticism of both the rape scene and the courtroom climax largely misses the point. The book is fiction of a particular type. It's not meant to be "realistic." One way to make fiction more interesting than real life is to have the characters do things that people in real life only fantasize about. For instance, we may have gotten mad enough to fantasize about blowing up something, but we wouldn't actually do it. A fictional representation serves as a catharsis; it allows us to vicariously experience the pleasure of acting outside social limits. Many women do fantasize about being raped, as proven by the immense commercial success of "The Fountainhead," success driven largely by the notoriety of the rape scene. The book, being fiction, allows this fantasy to play out.

A book on creative writing that I read some years ago suggested having your protagonist not just think of outrageous acts, but actually perform them. Instead of having your protagonist wish she could shove a cream pie into her annoying boss's face, have her actually do it. This is sound advice and does make for better, more lively characters.

People in stories are always coming up with the perfect riposte, even though in real life people are often tongue-tied and only think of the right quip later. Fictional people take outrageous risks and get away with it, though in real life James Bond or Indiana Jones would be dead many times over. Fictional people say and do things the rest of us only daydream about. This is the appeal of fiction, or at least fiction of a certain type.

So of course Dominique has to be raped by Roark. She is living out the reader's presumed fantasy. And of course Roark will blow up his building. He is living out another fantasy. And they'll fall in love and he'll be acquitted because a happy ending is part of the fantasy.

I can understand not liking this sort of story and preferring something realistic like "An American Tragedy," but as Rand liked to say, the stories she enjoyed were "better than real - they were interesting." Sure, she called herself a Romantic Realist, but by "realist" she simply meant that her stories were set in today's world and not in the distant past or a mythical kingdom. She never imagined that her writing was realistic in the Theodore Dreiser or Upton Sinclair sense. That kind of writing, however much it may be preferred by the cognoscenti, was not what she was about.

To criticize Rand for not being "realistic" is like criticizing a banana because it doesn't make a good hammer. Or as Alfred Hitchcock put it, "Some movies are a slice of life. Mine are a slice of cake."

jinrok said...

Why, what a perfect segue, Michael! :^D

(continued)

4 - Genre and longevity: Atlas Shrugged is an example of highly anachronistic genre-mashing science fiction, the love child of VIctor Hugo and Jules Verne, adopted by Ian Fleming. This is why, as a vehicle for shoddy philosophy but impressive rhetoric, I believe it will stand the test of time. When we project ourselves into the world of Galt and d'Anconia, do they have internet and smart phones? Sure, why the hell not. Base on Mars? Transporter beams? P=NP proof? We would've gotten there if there had been one more act. And they still would've been listening to classical concertos, smoking unfiltered, and loving big things made of strong metal. At least a dozen aspects of the world are bound to seem strange and cool for the indefinite future. By contrast, the world of Roark is 1940s America, in which Frank Lloyd Wright is a major cultural icon, society is cleanly stratified by class, and the world hangs on the pronouncements of single prominent critics. This world is already unrelateable and uncool.

gregnyquist said...

Sure, she called herself a Romantic Realist, but by "realist" she simply meant that her stories were set in today's world and not in the distant past or a mythical kingdom.

She meant more by romantic realism than just a contemporary setting:

"My school of writing is romantic realism: "romantic" in that I present man as he ought to be; 'realistic' ... in that it's possible to man and applied to this earth." [Ayn Rand Answers]

In other words, by realism Rand meant something that was possible, although it could be a very "stylized" possibility, and didn't involve, as Rand would say, statistical averages or the highly plausible.

My criticism of the Cortlandt trial is based on Rand's own view of realism, not on any assumption that Rand needs to adopt the same sort of realism as Dreiser or other "naturalists." Serious literature can be as stylized and unrealistic as it pleases; but, when it comes to the characters, to their psychology and motivation, serious literature seeks to be realistic and convincing. Shakespeare's major plays are full of unrealistic incidents and impossible plot devices; moreover, his characters speech are far more eloquent than people in "real life" (they speak in blank verse, for heaven's sake!); yet Shakespeare's major characters are thoroughly convincing as representations of human nature. The problem, therefore, with The Fountainhead is not that it's realism is too stylized (Shakespeare is far more stylized), or that it has a happy ending, but that its big climax and subsequent resolution fails to convince, even on its own terms.

Of course, one could argue that, regardless of Rand's stated goals or her definition of "romantic realism," she was not really writing a "serious" novel that contained (however stylized) realistic and insightful representation of human nature; that, on the contrary, Rand's novels (excluding We the Living) are really fantasies with realistic settings, written as wish-fulfillment exercises. Perhaps, in the end, this is what Rand's last two novels really amount to; and that may be how they will be remembered and admired. But I doubt Rand herself would have been comfortable being categorized as a writer of fantasy.

Michael Prescott said...

Thanks for clarifying, Greg. I think Rand's novels owe a great deal not only to Victor Hugo but to other 19th century romantics like Sir Walter Scott and Alexander Dumas. How realistic is "The Count of Monte Cristo"? The plot obviously involves extreme implausibilities - a man escapes from an impregnable prison, finds a treasure trove, and executes a series of complicated revenge strategies that work out to perfection. Moreover, it is not very realistic psychologically; in real life, a prisoner subjected to near starvation and solitary confinement for so many years would not be able to smoothly readjust to society, much less function at an almost superhuman level of manipulation and deceit.

Even Hugo's novels are not known for their rich psychological insights. And Rand's favorite character, Enjolras in "Les Miserables", is a one-dimensional figure, essentially a marble statue that declaims inspirational dialogue and strikes heroic poses.

Rand herself was, as this blog has amply demonstrated, no master of psychology. She had a rationalistic and entirely unreasonable notion of how human beings behaved, or ought to behave. I agree with you that this is a serious weakness for a novelist, especially one dedicated to depicting "the ideal man." But all writers have weaknesses and blind spots. I guess I'm more inclined to cut Rand a break and to say that, like Dumas, Hugo, and other romantics of an earlier era, she compensated for her psychological implausibilities with other elements.

What other elements? Well, you mention "Roark's stainless integrity, his lonely battle against ingrained stupidity and corruption." I think this is so important to the book's appeal that it merits even more acknowledgment. What always meant the most to me was the inspirational quality of scenes celebrating youthful idealism and intellectual integrity. For instance, the famous "boy on the bicycle" scene, or Roark's interview with the dean. I believe that most people who like "The Fountainhead" are responding to this motif above all.

Naturally, one can argue that books like "The Count of Monte Cristo" don't qualify as serious literature, and neither does "The Fountainhead." Here I'm inclined to agree with novelist James M. Cain, who said that ultimately the only critic who matters is Old Man Posterity. The works that stand the test of time will overcome any criticism. "Monte Cristo" has been filmed three or four times and is still being read today. "The Fountainhead" is still influential enough to be cited by politicos and pundits, and it's never been out of print. Though Rand's book has its defects, I think it will outlast us all.

Cheers!

Anonymous said...

I've said it before----I'll say it again:

Atlas Shrugged would be twice as good if it were half as long!

Anonymous said...

At least she asked the right questions.........

......even if she didn't always come up with the right answers.

There could be no AYN RAND CONTRA without Ayn Rand.

Kudos to Mr. Nyquist.

Anonymous said...

A true understanding of Borderline Personalty Disorder would be helpful in understanding the characters as they are written in Rand's novels. Anyone who has the experience of interacting with a borderline partner or family member would recognize the elements immediately.

This site has been useful, but it mostly avoids going into a deep analysis of Ayn Rand's (multiple and co-morbid) psychological maladies.

Part of the reason for this is because the writers and contributors here are obviously ex-Ayn Rand fanboys who still admire much about her, despite their criticisms, as these posts about her novels demonstrate.

Archaeologists and historians recognize from the ancient records that Alexander the Great was psychologically unbalanced. This is from ancient records, and I'm not just talking about his violent behavior. Here in the present day, we have much more information about Ayn Rand's distorted state of mind, even from associates of Ayn Rand who are still alive to describe it. Yet here at the ARCHN blog we can't say a meaningful word about her psychological problems because that would be "unfair" to her.

She was a mess. Admit it and move on!







Lloyd Flack said...

The focus here is on criticism of her ideas. Attacking her personally gets in the way of this and damages the critic's credibility. So her mental state gets discussed only to the extent that it helps to explain her beliefs.

Echo Chamber Escapee said...

I'll add two points to Lloyd's comment.

1) Little is gained by amateur psychologists attempting to diagnose someone none of them ever met. At best you can only guess. You will never know.

2) Mental illness does not preclude coming up with good and useful ideas or insights. (See John Nash, the subject of "A Beautiful Mind.") Thus, even if we could establish that Ayn Rand had some particular mental illness, it would say nothing about the merits of her ideas. It's more useful to keep the focus on the ideas, not the person.

Gordon Burkowski said...


"It's more useful to keep the focus on the ideas, not the person."

Agreed. However, let's keep in mind that Rand herself - and most Objectivists - have the following standard operating procedure:

1) "Prove" that an opponent's philosophy - or politics or even artistic choices - are "irrational";

2) Use this alleged proof as a licence to engage in vicious attacks not simply on opposing views but on the character of the people who hold those views.

In short, Objectivists who complain about ad hominen attacks might start by taking a long look at their own approach - and at the modus operandi of Rand herself.

Anonymous said...

Rand's ad hominems don't justify your ad hominems.

Two Rands don't make a right!

Anonymous said...

Again, we see how this site condones and justifies Ayn Rand's ideas which were so obviously linked to her mental illness.

Anyone with even a basic understanding of Borderline Personality Disorder will see the disorder shining through in her writings. Contributors and commentators at the ARCHN blog who don't understand the disease would do well to read "Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder" by Mason & Kreger.

Rand's published eulogy of Marilyn Monroe is one such example where she really gives it away; she's a Borderline identifying with another Borderline, and in a very public way. Its pathetic and sad.

Even Blumenthal, the trained psychiatrist from her inner circle admitted that she was BPD.

But here at the ARCHN blog, Ayn Rand's ex-fanboys want to skip over her mental problems so they can promote Chicago School economics and "traditionalist" values.

I realize that readers here would not be interested in the philosophy of Michel Foucault. However, I want to point out (merely as an example) that his work received criticism because it was apparent that influences from his real life involvement in sado-masochistic sexual practices were seeping into his writings. That's fair criticism.

How about Ayn Rand's proclamation in "The Virtue of Selfishness" that homosexuality is caused by bad parenting? That's a vile and disgusting claim. But for Ayn Rand, who quite possibly never bothered to read a book on anthropology in her life, the idea aligns perfectly with a BPD mindset. Such a claim must have caused much consternation among her closeted gay followers.

Ayn Rand's ideas are directly linked to Borderline Personality Disorder. The term "magical thinking" is appropriate in this context.
And indeed, "magical thinking" is key to understanding BPD and Ayn Rand. Look it up.















Lloyd Flack said...

Could she have had Borderline Personality Disorder? Quite possibly but we do not have enough information to know for sure.
People here are more interested in analyzing her ideas than her. And are not getting off on indignation and moral superiority by attacking her.

Lloyd Flack said...

So you are complaining because people here are not denouncing Rand herself or at least not going out of their way to do this. Did it occur to you that some of this is rejection of Rand's judgmentalism?
The question is why are you so keen to have us condemn her? Are you on a judgmentalism kick like her? Are you an objectivist agent provocateur trying to get people here to attack her personally so that you can denounce them for ad hominem attacks? Or are you a troll trying to get their jollies by stirring up a fight?

Lloyd Flack said...

I just did a search and found that you have commented on Rand and on Cclaims o Borderline Personality disorder here before. People here had doubts and regarded it as uncertain. And thought that a focus on her personality was a bad idea.

Gordon Burkowski said...


I've read three Rand biographies and there's no doubt that she had issues. However, it's silly to suggest that her supposed BPD or Foucault's SM constitute an automatic rebuttal of their ideas. That's like pointing out that Van Gogh was mentally ill - then drawing the conclusion that anyone who likes his paintings must be mentally ill too.

I have a feeling that Anonymous is not especially open to counterarguments. However, viewing A Beautiful Mind might be a quick way for him/her to find out that crazy people can come up with important ideas.

Anonymous said...

"Borderline Personality Disorder" is a rather nebulous term.

But I will concede that writers and artists tend to be a little eccentric.

Perhaps it is an occupational hazard!

Anonymous said...

Could she have had Borderline Personality Disorder? Quite possibly but we do not have enough information to know for sure.

On the contrary, there is abundant and overwhelming information supporting the diagnostic conclusion that Ayn Rand had BPD.

Borderline Personality Disorder is a complex and difficult subject. This is why the mainstream media has trouble covering it and mostly avoids it, despite the fact that a certain number of famous celebrities obviously have been (or are) afflicted with BPD. This web sight is also deficient in that regard.

Despite my criticisms, I maintain that the ARCHN blog has been useful.

@Gordon Burkowski - My point regarding Michel Foucault was not to dismiss his work, but to acknowledge the fact that criticisms of his writings (a peer reviewed process) were indeed valid when it became clear that this personal predilections were intruding upon them.

Now, will this blog fully analyze "The Virtue of Selfishness"? The book contains many horrible ideas. Is Greg Nyquist unwilling to talk about them? Which ideas from the book deserve criticism and which deserve praise, according to Mr. Nyquist? This book was designed to reach a wider audience, therefore it deserves as much scrutiny as her other writings, perhaps more.

A personal observation: The first time I read "The Virtue of Selfishness", it occurred to me, immediately, that Ayn Rand was leading a cult. This was given away by the introduction, which was devoted to condemning and excommunicating a former cultist from her group.







Anonymous said...

You can't discredit a philosophy by discrediting the philosopher.

So it doesn't matter if she had "Borderline Personality Disorder", whatever that is.

In fact to use such arguments is a tacit admission that you don't have any real
arguments.

But there are real arguments-------

check out AYN RAND CONTRA by Greg Nyquist!!!





Anonymous said...

-- "How about Ayn Rand's proclamation in 'The Virtue of Selfishness' that homosexuality is caused by bad parenting?"

She has implausible deniability on this one: it was Nathaniel Branden, not her, who suggested that bad parenting leads at least some male homosexuals to have a neurotically negative view of women. Whether this claim has any truth to it would, of course, be irrelevant to homosexual activists.

Adriana I. Pena said...

If she had borderline personality disorder, that would make her incapable of fathoming normal human behavior, as she took herself to be the norm.

That is a fatal flaw in someone who philosophizes about human nature, because she is talking about something she knows nothing about.