“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” These words illustrate the attitude of one of the most challenging intellectuals in American history. An immigrant whose success took decades to achieve, and whose influence spans generations. The author, Ayn Rand.
Ayn Rand and her work have generated much controversy and interest since she began writing in 1936. The entire scope of her ideas can’t be discussed in their entirety in this piece. The purpose of this writing is to offer praise for a great philosopher, and in doing so, ignite interest for those who haven’t yet discovered Rand and the ideas she offers.
For those readers who are unfamiliar with Rand, here is a brief biography. Rand was born on February 2nd, 1905 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Her name at birth was Alisa Rosenbaum, and her parents were middle class Jews. Her father was a pharmacist and owned his own business. By her own account, Rand was intelligent from a young age. She began writing screenplays at the age of eight and novels at the age of ten. However, when the Bolshevik communists began to take control of Russia in 1917, Rand found her world torn apart by war. Her family’s middle class nature made them prime targets for the Marxist revolutionaries and her father’s business was destroyed, reducing her to poverty and starvation.
Despite this, Rand was able to attend university where she exposed herself to works of philosophy and classic literature by Plato, Aristotle and Victor Hugo. She traveled to the United States in 1926 on a visa to visit relatives and fell in love with America, claiming to have cried tears of joy when she first saw the Manhattan skyline. In this country, she would make her mark upon the world.
More biographical information on Ayn Rand can be found here.
Rand initially wanted to be a screenwriter, but found her success in writing novels instead. Her most famous works are the novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Both novels have sold millions of copies worldwide, and Atlas Shrugged is considered to be the most influential book in America after the Bible. Bear in mind that English was not Rand’s first language.
Rand’s novels portray her philosophic system which she called Objectivism. Objectivism is a secular philosophy that is formed on the first principle that reason is man’s primary virtue; and as such, human beings must use reason to achieve their own happiness. Objectivism concludes that individualism is the proper state for human beings as evidenced by Rand’s quotes, “I started my life with a single absolute: that the world was mine to shape in the image of my highest values and never to be given up to a lesser standard, no matter how long or hard the struggle,” and “Achievement of your happiness is the only moral purpose of your life, and that happiness, not pain or mindless self-indulgence, is the proof of your moral integrity, since it is the proof and the result of your loyalty to the achievement of your values.”
Ayn Rand not only challenged the status quo through revolutionary content of her novels, but she also challenged the market for her work. She was a woman, writing novels with major philosophical themes in the early twentieth century, a time when it was uncommon to see women publish works of that magnitude. In fact, she recounted that The Fountainhead was rejected by several publishers on the grounds that it was “too intellectual.”
Rand’s perseverance and dedication to her values led to her success as an author and a philosopher. Her influence extends to many individuals around the world; she’s seen as an inspirational figure by aspiring intellectuals everywhere. Even if one doesn’t share her philosophical views, she still ought to be recognized for contributions to literature and American thought. Rand’s philosophy, as previously stated, is much more complex than can be covered in this piece, and it is highly recommended that the reader take time to learn more about Ayn Rand.