This post is dedicated to Ayn Rand author of ‘The Fountainhead.’ I read her most famous and influential work about 8 years back. I was impressed by the beauty of her writing style and her vision. I remember a few lines from Fountainhead,
“His life was crowded, public and impersonal as a city square. The friend of humanity had no single private friend. People came to him; he came close to no one. He accepted all. His affection was golden, smooth and even, like a great expanse of sand; there was no wind of discrimination to raise dunes; the sands lay still and the sun stood high.”
I was so taken by the protagonist of her novel that for 6 months after reading Fountainhead I behaved like Howard Roark. Gradually my loyalty shifted to Ellsworth Toohey, and finally I discovered that I was no better than Peter Keating. I do not need to explain why I did not behave like Gail Wynand.
Later I read her biography and many articles published in different magazines, and also watched many interviews she gave to press. How she responded to many questions posed by many journalists or how she defended her philosophy is of no importance, but yes what kind of questions she was asked does matter.
“ But men like Howard Rorak doesn't exist in reality.”
“ But do not you think that your approach to morality as to how a person should behave in an interpersonal relationship is rather business like.”
Later I read one article in which she was called a pseudo philosopher and her entire philosophy dismissed as a mere fantasy.
Now, what does pseudo philosopher means? There is no such thing as good or bad philosopher. Any philosopher‘s worth is measured by the degree of influence of his or her work. If a philosopher comes up with a unique idea or a rare insight and makes people think then she is worth her salt.
By that criterion Ayn Rand was not a pseudo-philosopher or bad philosopher, but an able philosopher.
The argument that man like Howard Roark don’t exist is silly. All kinds of man have existed since the dawn of civilization. Only thing is that great man who have such principles and values as that of Howard Roark are exception and are not born every day. If you have not seen a man like Howard Roark then it merely proves that you have not “seen” a man like Howard Roark. There is no reason to believe that man like Howard have not existed in past or will not exist in future.
Ayn Rand created a wide spectrum of different characters. On one end stood Howard Roark her idea of an ideal man, and on the other extreme stood Peter Keating, a common man. Gail Wynand and Ellsworth Toohey lied in between these two extremes.
Anybody, even a person who has no formal training in philosophy and critical thinking will be able to find himself somewhere on this spectrum. Thus Fountainhead is not a book, but a mirror. You can see yourself in this mirror and see what can happen to you if you live with the kind of values you are living.
There are men who have principles and personal values which they cherish for their entire life, and there are men who have no principles or values. If we find ourselves similar to Peter Keating, then we should aspire to become like Howard Roark.
This being said, I think that Ayn Rand was a worthy philosopher and her work will continue to influence mankind in the future as it has done in the past.