Writer of two highly celebrated novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand taught herself how to read and went on to witness the Kerensky Revolution, which she supported, and the Bolshevik Revolution, which she denounced. Due to her faith in individualism, she identified herself as a European writer instead of a Russian one, whose collectivism did not inspire her in any way. Here’s a glimpse into the philosophy of the writer you can love or hate, but not ignore.
Rand advocated what she called ‘Objectivism’, a philosophy that may come across as cold and selfish and devoid of any sentimental or sacral force. It is the codification of a truth that may seem inconvenient from a subjective moral standpoint, but is actually a rather rational course to take. Rand enforced the idea that facts are just facts, and no amount of wishing or longing can alter that in any way. It reflects a need to accept the happenings of life without attaching a sentimental value to the staccato accuracy of reason. Her philosophy is rooted in the idea that reality needs to be faced as it is, without romanticizing it or trying to escape it, thus echoing one of her favourite quotes by Francis Bacon- “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.” To maintain a conscious hold over our reality, we must accept its limitations and its rules. There is no transcendence, nothing that allows us to really go beyond the starkness of reality. It is an “objective absolute.”
This raises another idea she backed- the acceptance of reason as a supreme, self-sufficient whole, an immovable, immutable philosophy that governs the believer logically, through facts, which are unchanging, constant and true. She felt the need for man to mould himself to accept reason as a predetermining force and build his mind to think conceptually. Morality and the difference between good and evil are ideas that change with place and time, upholding the Marxist axiom that the ruling ideas belong to the ruling class. Man is not born with inherent ideas of good and evil. These are social constructs, which are slowly ingrained into our consciousness as we become conditioned to fit into a given framework of ideologies, “for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” (Hamlet, 2:2)
These ideas also explain her belief in laissez- faire capitalism, which in generic terms is a system that protects the rights and freedoms of every individual. It treats individuals as the fundamental and formative units of a democracy, reechoing Rand’s belief that man in himself is a self-content entity, whose thoughts and freedom to express needs to be protected and celebrated.
The reception to her philosophies swung two ways – from businessmen to college students, nobody was left unaffected. The readers either decried it as a celebration of a self-centered capitalist philosophy where man seeks to serve only his own purpose, or they celebrated it as the coherent articulation of a truth that everyone knows deep down, but will not talk about.