Posted on behalf of vandermude
I am intrigued that you had not heard of Ayn Rand before. Her philosophy has been a major part of my life since the beginning of the 1970s so I take for granted that everybody knows her work.
She had an incalculable influence on my life. I first got introduced to her work in January 1970. But like I said, I ceased to consider myself an adherent.
It is well worth exploring what she has to say, but you must be very, very careful. Her thought and writings are a quasi-religious pseudo-philosophy. I use both of those terms advisedly, not pejoratively – given the technical meanings of religious belief and philosophy, I can back up my claim.
One of the best essays about Ayn Rand’s thought and influence I have ever read came from Charles Murray, the author of The Bell Curve:
Murray insightfully captures both the strengths and weaknesses of Ayn Rand’s thought.
At one time in the mid-1970s I seriously thought of trying to join her inner circle. I was a grad student in computer science at Rutgers in New Jersey. She was still active at the time and living in New York City (she died in 1982). But I knew that I am heterodox enough to have been excommunicated in about 30 seconds if I even bothered to try.
In terms of quasi-religion, most religions have a Holy Writ, which is taken as revealed and perfect. This is what has happened to Objectivism under Leonard Peikoff who took over from Ayn Rand. Peikoff and the people associated with him take Ayn Rand’s writing as Revealed Truth, and will not admit to any errors.
For a description of pseduophilosophy, see Massimo Pigliucci, an expert on pseudoscience and a professional philosopher:
What drew me away from Ayn Rand’s thought was that I realized that she violated her fundamental tenet “You can’t fake reality in any way.” She faked reality all the time. One example is her book “Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal”. A lot of examples in the book were about the railroad Robber Barons of the Gilded Age. Reading up on the late 1800s I realized that she would pick and choose her evidence to fit her argument. This is a classic example of Cargo Cult Science
I also realized that, although she considered reason and logic as primary virtues, many of her arguments were not very logical at all. She used a lot of ad hominem arguments and appeals to emotion. One important example was her reasoning about lung cancer from smoking and the field of statistical epidemiology. She actually tried to argue away statistical reasoning as invalid. The ironic thing was that she developed lung cancer from her life-long smoking habit in 1974, which contributed to her death.
In that sense her work is pseudophilosophy. It has some interesting ideas, but her reasoning leaves a lot to be desired.
For more discussion on this, contact me directly.
“There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”
[Kung Fu Monkey — Ephemera, blog post, March 19, 2009]”
― John Rogers
as quoted by many people, including Paul Krugman.
Antony Van der Mude