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Review of the Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

May 4, 2014

I gave some good time to this book, and learnt a few things, only to be disappointed in the end by the authors dogmatism. Many things it raises against altruism are of importance to this day in terms of altruism promoting inauthentic ways of life. She shows well some of the disingenuous behavior people will perform, and how difficult people will make it for someone who dares to try and make a name for themselves and keep their integrity intact. How they will put obstacles in the way of them, as they do for Howard Roark, the architect, and at every step try to get them to sell out in some way, by accepting compromises here and there on his principles of how a building should be designed and constructed.

Ulitimately, I was let down by this book, that reads more and more as a propaganda piece, in which the characters gradually lose their own internal life source through the book, and more and more just become emptied out vessels for Rands political and ideological objectives.

Here is the review of it I gave on goodreads earlier:

This book has some highs and lows, some great insights and some dodgy ideologies. Great descriptions, and some dodgy dialogue. Many times supposed opponents of Roark call him names that he would find flattering: egotist, superman, and people in reality, simply would not give a person that gratification. Little things like this build up over time and make it all too obvious that the author is writing a rhetorical propaganda piece in the name of her ideology as much as anything else.

Much of this “ideology” is actually interesting and raises important and valuable philosophical questions. The problem is her dogmatic and blind certitude in her attachment to it, that comes out not in the characters as such, as it is fair enough that characters symbolise things in this way, but in the manner of portraying characters like a propaganda piece for certain values and beliefs and against others that is trying to brainwash you and force a polarisation of the debate, like a typical newspaper piece.

It is very efficient and clever brainwashing though, compared to most newspaper and media pieces, but it is still brainwashing nevertheless. The emergence, therefore, of cult style behavior from it is unsurprising to me. I have had the misfortune of trying to reason with one of these Rand followers, and for people claiming to be so attached to reason, they seem to have forgotten that reason tends to entail arguments, disagreements, and assessing strengths and weaknesses of various premises.

To Rand followers unfortunately, what they mean by reason is I know the true premises and everything I say from those true premises is deductive truth also that can’t be questioned, so there is no argument to be had, I am right and you are wrong. There is a Spinozean style approach to Randians, without the integrity or dignity of a Spinoza who laid out all his premises openly for us to see in his ethics, so that we may debate and criticise some of his assumptions. Unlike the Randian who shifts ground from one “irrefutable” premise to another as the convenience of the moment dictates. Needless to say this type of thing is very typical blind, headless dogmatism, very aware of everyone eles assumptions, but completely unaware of its own, and it would be a disservice to philosophy to lower itself to this type of approach to the world.

In summary then,

  1. Good propaganda
  2. good ideas
  3. good rhetoric
  4. important debates
  5. passionate and enthusiastic

However,

  1. Poor philosophy
  2. Dogmatic reasoning
  3. poor handling of debates
  4. contrived dialogue
  5. Naive ideological attachment

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From → Philosophy, Writing

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