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Charles Murray on Ayn Rand

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In The Claremont Review of Books, Charles Murray, who remains very impressed and influenced by Ayn Rand, reviews Anne Heller's and Jennifer Burns' recent bios of the author of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. A snippet:

There's no getting around it: taken as a whole, there is a dismaying discrepancy between the Ayn Rand of real life and Ayn Rand as she presented herself to the world. The discrepancy is important because Rand herself made such a big deal about living a life that was the embodiment of her philosophy. "My personal life is a postscript to my novels," she wrote in the afterword to Atlas Shrugged. "It consists of the sentence: 'And I mean it.' I have always lived by the philosophy I present in my books—and it has worked for me, as it works for my characters." As both books document, that statement was self-delusion on a grand scale.

After Atlas Shrugged was published in 1957, Rand and her chief disciple Nathaniel Branden converted the themes of her novels into a philosophy that they labeled "Objectivism." Objectivism takes as its metaphysical foundation the existence of reality that is unchanged by anything that an observer might think about it—"A is A," as Aristotle put it, and as Rand often repeated in her own work. Objectivism's epistemology is based on the capacity of the human mind to perceive reality through reason, and the adamant assertion that reason is the only way to perceive reality. In Rand's view, notions of intuition or spiritual insight were hokum.

One of the extensions of these premises to daily life is that "[o]ne must never attempt to fake reality in any manner," in words from The Virtue of Selfishness (1964) that appear in variations throughout Rand's work. To fake reality despoils that which makes human beings human. Wishful thinking, unrealistic hopes, duplicity, refusal to take responsibility for the consequences of one's actions—all these amount to faking reality and, to Rand, were despicable. But Rand herself faked reality throughout her life, beginning in small ways and ending with the construction of a delusional alternative reality that took over her life.

More here.

Several Reason staffers reviewed the Burns and Heller volumes. Check it out here.

And check out Reason.tv's "Radicals for Capitalism," a 10-part series analyzing the enduring influence of her work and ideas. First episode below and rest here.