Friday, April 22, 2011

"The sacrifice of the ideal to the nonideal"

Good films have been made of bad books and bad ones of good books. Whether Atlas Shrugged is one of the former I do not know. But I do regret the added attention that will be given the author's "philosophy." Today, Michael Gerson on Ayn Rand's "Adult-Onset Adolescence":
.... Rand's novels are vehicles for a system of thought known as Objectivism. Rand developed this philosophy at the length of Tolstoy, with the intellectual pretensions of Hegel, but it can be summarized on a napkin. Reason is everything. Religion is a fraud. Selfishness is a virtue. Altruism is a crime against human excellence. Self-sacrifice is weakness. Weakness is contemptible. "The Objectivist ethics, in essence," said Rand, "hold that man exists for his own sake, that the pursuit of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose, that he must not sacrifice himself to others, nor sacrifice others to himself."

If Objectivism seems familiar, it is because most people know it under another name: adolescence. Many of us experienced a few unfortunate years of invincible self-involvement, testing moral boundaries and prone to stormy egotism and hero worship. Usually one grows out of it, eventually discovering that the quality of our lives is tied to the benefit of others. Rand's achievement was to turn a phase into a philosophy, as attractive as an outbreak of acne. ....

Rand cherished a particular disdain for Christianity. The cross, she said, is "the symbol of the sacrifice of the ideal to the nonideal. ... It is in the name of that symbol that men are asked to sacrifice themselves for their inferiors. That is precisely how the symbolism is used. That is torture." Yet some conservatives marked Holy Week by attending and embracing Atlas Shrugged. ....

Conservatives have been generally suspicious of all ideologies, preferring long practice and moral tradition to utopian schemes of left or right. And Rand is nothing if not utopian. In Atlas Shrugged, she refers to her libertarian valley of the blessed as Atlantis.

It is an attractive place, which does not exist, and those who seek it drown. [more]
Ayn Rand's Adult-Onset Adolescence - Michael Gerson - Townhall Conservative