Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Ayn Rand as Word-Thinker and Persuader

Scott Adams, the creator of "Dilbert," has recently gained a bit of notoriety for claiming that there is a method behind all the Donald Trump madness. Trump, Adams insists, will probably win the Presidential election "in a landslide" because The Donald is a "master persuader." As bewildering and counter-intuitive as this assertion may seem at first blush, Adam's claims are, at least in part, based on a scientific understanding of human nature. That doesn't mean, of course, that Adams is right about Trump. He may be guilty of reading into Trump what isn't there. But Adams' view of human nature, nonetheless, remains largely sound. And for this reason, it might be illustrative to view Ayn Rand through the lens of Adam's own views on human nature and persuasion.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Rand's Novels 4: Atlas Shrugged

Rand's Atlas Shrugged is easily her most polarizing novel. It's hard to be neutral about it. You either love it or you deplore it. When I first read the work some thirty years ago, I wanted to like it, but it just would not go down. Whereas it only took me two or three days to read We the Living and The Fountainhead, Atlas required more than a month to finish, and even then, it was a tedious slog. I found the story preposterous, the characters flat and uninspiring, and the work's message shrill and one-sided. In Atlas, Rand seems to go out of her way to avoid subtle, nuance, and verisimilitude. She simply wants to preach, in parable form, her newly minted Objectivist philosophy. She does not shrink from hammering the same point over and over. Throughout the book there is the same hectoring tone, unrelenting and bristling with contempt, which she uses to try to beat the reader into submission. Even when I found myself largely in agreement with some point she kept making over and over, the shrillness of her tone and the insistent dogmatism of the presentation were off-putting and patronizing.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Objectivist Roundup

Barely a pulse:

Austrian economist Richard Ebeling describes his meeting with Ayn Rand

Leonard Peikoff in his old age still finds it necessary to remind the world that he is the leading expert on Objectivism.  Is another Objectischism brewing?

- Neil Parille

Monday, May 09, 2016

Objectivist Roundup

Neil Parille notes the latest ripples in the Objectivist doldrums:

One-time supporter of the Ayn Rand Institute (then later of David Kelley’s Atlas Society) businessman Ed Snider has passed away.

Someone just “published” an 11 page biography of Ayn Rand.

Ayn Rand Myths” says it’s a myth that Ayn Rand disapproved of homosexuality (because Leonard Peikoff allegedly doesn’t) and that Alan Greenspan didn’t admire Rand.

Yaron Brook, president of the Ayn Rand Institute, has just published “Equal is Unfair.”  A lecture by Brook on the topic is here.

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.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Objectivist Roundup March

Neil Parille notes what is notable this month:

Scott Ryan, author of Objectivism and the Corruption of Rationality  has passed away. See Ed Feser’s tribute here.

Check Your Premises (the blog of the pro-ARI Ayn Rand Society) has published Harry Binswanger’s 1977 response to Robert Nozick concerning his “On the Randian Argument.”

The Huffington Post wonders if Donald Trump is an Objectivist.

The snoozefest known as The Objective Standard has published a collection of writings about Ayn Rand.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Was Bowe Bergdahl Going Galt?

The latest edition of Serial highlights the influence of Atlas Shrugged in Bowe Bergdahl's decision to quit his post. This older article adds further detail.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Rand's Novels 2 - Anthem

Anthem is a dystopian novella written in 1937. It is unique in Rand's ouvre in a number of ways. It is largely plotless (as Rand herself admitted) and it's much shorter than her other published fiction. It's more a parable than a story, and while it lacks the portentousness of her last novels, honestly, it's little more than a trifle. It's a short piece of fiction which has its basis, initially, in Rand's experiences during the early years of Soviet Russia. In Anthem, Rand took some of the high moral rhetoric that was used to defend communism in Russia and took these scraps of incoherent sentimentality to its logical extreme.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Objectivist Roundup - January

Neil Parille rounds up some recent Objectivist news from around the interwebs: 
• There are forty-nine countries where Muslims are in the majority and Craig Biddle can’t wait to nuke ‘em all.
• You’re 50 years young Objectivism – and it’s time for a reboot.
• The Gotthelf and Salmieri Companion to Ayn Rand is out.  I have a preliminary review.
• The increasingly ARI-dominated Ayn Rand Society has a new blog, Check Your Premises (not to be confused with the anti-Diana Hsieh web site).
• This is a little older, but former Ayn Rand associates Allan Blumenthal and Joan Mitchell Blumenthal self-published some books in 2013.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Rand's Novels 1: We the Living

Of all of Ayn Rand's published fiction — and, indeed, of nearly all her writing, published or otherwise — We the Living is the easiest for the non-Objectivist to appreciate. Most of her chief faults as a novelist are absent from the book. The characters and situations of novel are more or less real, (and all the more vivid and powerful for being so). The prose is largely straightforward, direct, unadorned. It may be the best Russian novel written in English. I wish Rand had written more novels like We the Living. But, alas, that was not to be.

Oddly enough, We the Living was the most reviewed of any of Rand's books, receiving more positive than negative notices. H. L. Mencken, who, in the twenties, had been one of the leading literary critics in America, described Rand's first novel as "a really excellent piece of work." The novel, however, struggled to gain an audience in the 1930's, and Rand's publisher, Macmillan, destroyed the plates after a modest print run of 3,000 copies. In 1959, Rand issued a second, revised edition of the work. Rand insisted that "all the changes [she made] are merely editorial line changes." This view has been challenged. It seems that Rand indulged in a little more than mere line changes, that she sought to edit her former self in order to conceal some of the views she had flirted with in her youth.