Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Review: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

There are no children in The Fountainhead, and this is because if this gap was visible all of Rand's argument comes tumbling down.

Rand's core argument is that man is naturally predisposed to selfishness, to wish only to fulfill his own wants, that any form of self-sacrifice or altruism is parasitic. Man's goal is to create skyscrapers and art.

I disagree, of course. Evolution found an optimum where our ability to think complexly came at the expensive of a very dependent childhood, and as a result humans evolved to be social creatures. Man is instead inherently predisposed to bond with others, to wish to see them to do well, to help them, to form loyalties and allegiances. We create skyscrapers and art not for the sake of these lifeless objects themselves, but because we want admiration, belonging, to communicate with others, to mark our place in the history of our people.

For this reason, I find Chernychevsky's take on rational egoism (the same philosophy Rand espouses) to be much more compelling. It feels good to help others, to accomplish something, to be admired, and so, selfishly, we act altruistically.

You see, my dear sir, O perspicacious reader, what schemers these noble people are, and how egoism plays in their souls? (...) They take their greatest satisfaction in having people whom they respect regard them as noble; to achieve this end, my dear sir, they work hard and devise all sorts of schemes no less diligently than you do in pursuit of your goals. Only your goals are different, and so the schemes you devise are not the same. You devise schemes that are worthless and harmful to others; they devise schemes that are honest and useful to others.

Rand's writing is tedious, the book is overly long, the rape is treated with startling dismissiveness, but I give her some credit for putting forth an argument rather than hiding her views in criticism of the status quo without putting forth a proposition for something she believes to be better.

No comments:

Post a Comment