Ayn Rand left an intellectual legacy the size of Mount Everest. A mountain this size cannot be traversed in a few hours, the literary equivalent of which is 36,000 words.
But Eamonn Butler pulls it off, not by scaling the mountain, but by taking the reader on an easy helicopter ride over Rand’s philosophical terrain in his excellent primer, Ayn Rand: An Introduction, published by The Cato Institute, and available on Libertarianism.org. Butler, who for the past four decades has served as Director of The Adam Smith Institute, the UK’s leading free market think tank, and has authored several influential primers on thinkers such as Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, brings his franchise to Ayn Rand. Butler covers all aspects of her philosophy, wisely stripped to their essentials, to make every word count. More crucially, Butler does not forget to trace the integrative concepts when jumping from ethics and epistemology to economics, and from politics and culture to aesthetics.
Illuminating the turning points in her life from a Russian childhood to life in America, Butler spares no feud—Rand’s own, or within her followers, from a dispassionate mention. Most impressive is his ability to do justice to Rand’s critics. Here he distills the essence of the more meritorious critiques, aptly ignoring the envious smears and ignorant spears thrown at the much-maligned Rand. Only once he throws his own...
Read Article : Book Review: Butler attempts the near-impossible, and pulls it off....
Countless articles and books have exposed the injustice of egalitarian policies, from affirmative action to "comparable worth" pay. Economists have documented their destructive effects . Newspapers bring daily reports of egalitarian lunacy: a school that won't post honor rolls, lest it be sued by parents of C students; SAT tests "re-normed" to boost the scores of minorities; a teacher hauled up before a college court for using the word "niggardly;" taken as a slur by semantically challenged students. None of this seems to have done much to stem the egalitarian tide.
Who would have thought that an animated film would finally touch a nerve, putting egalitarians on the defensive? That is the achievement of Pixar Studios' new hit, TheIncredibles,the story of a family of superheroes who struggle against the reign of mediocrity and finally break free to excel. Along the way it skewers the dumbing down of schools, the mantra that everyone is special, and the laws that give losers special status as victims.
The movie begins with a droll conceit: Superheroes with miraculous powers have been put out of action by the very people they saved from fires, felons, and other fiascoes. With the help, naturally, of trial lawyers, these "victims" brought a rash of lawsuits against their saviors for incidental injuries and "wrongful rescue." The former heroes are now living in suburban obscurity under the governments Superhero...
Read Article : Superhero Me!
Ayn Rand was right of course. Rand was right about living conditions in Russia. She was right about the logical conclusions of communism. In We the Living, the obstacle faced by the Argounov family is not some malignant natural force; it is the malignant force of human-made government. The Bolsheviks confiscate the Argounov family’s property, deny them an education, limit their ability to earn, and force them into subsistence level existence. Family member after family member is lost, each one an individual, and each one greatly missed. Rand makes clear that communism’s crimes are crimes against individuals, and she holds the criminals accountable.
She was right too that An American Tragedy is at best a “trite story,” and she was right about the shape of the novel should Dreiser and the Naturalism and Realism become the dominant point of view.
Rand published The Romantic Manifesto (TRM) in 1962. She had already published her definitive novel, Atlas Shrugged in 1957, and would devote the remainder of her career to writing nonfiction. Thus, TRM was not a plan going forward for Rand personally, but rather a codification of Romantic Realism, her aesthetics of fiction writing, as already demonstrated in her four novels—We the Living, Anthem, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged—for the benefit of writers and artists interested in Romantic Realism.
In TRM, Rand set herself up in opposition to...
Read Article : Her Better Judgment: Ayn Rand, Theodore Dreiser, and the Shape of the American Novel, Part 5
Part 4—Clyde and Roberta, Sonia and Pavel
As Dreiser depicts them, Clyde Griffiths and Roberta Alden are not lovers so much as they are victims. Biology and society conspire against them, and since neither of them has a mind or judgment, conflicting urges and impulses carry them to disaster.
Clyde and Roberta meet when she shows up for work at the Griffiths Collar and Shirt Company, where Clyde is a manager. He sees her and reacts to her good looks. “He liked her on the instant,” Dreiser tells us, “She was so pretty and cute” (American Tragedy 249). This impulse almost immediately is superseded by an opposing one. Clyde recalls the opinion of his cousin Gilbert and reacts against Roberta for being merely a “working girl,” and thus an inferior: “Yet she was a working girl, as he remembered now, too—a factory girl, as Gilbert would say, and he was her superior” (American Tragedy 249).
Roberta likes Clyde right away too. She finds him “young, attractive, and smiling” (American Tragedy 256), but because she is also sensitive to public opinion and responsive to social pressure, she dare not approach him:
She was becoming conscious of various local taboos and restrictions which made it seem likely that never at any time here would it be possible to express an interest in Clyde or anyone above her officially. For there was a local taboo in regard to factory girls aspiring toward or allowing themselves to become interested in their official superiors....
Read Article : Her Better Judgment: Ayn Rand, Theodore Dreiser, and the Shape of the American Novel, Part 4
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Rinaldo Enchanted by Armida, 1742 until 1745. Was this the kind of work Kant associated with charms and sensual delights of beauty?
Making Sense of Kant's Senseless Sublime
In the last decade of the 18th century Beethoven composed his 1st and 2nd piano concertos, Goya etched the series Los Caprichos, Jacques-Louis David painted The Death of Marat, and Mozart composed the Requiem in D Minor and the great Jupiter Symphony. These works coincided with the French Revolution, and together they guided European culture away from the extravagant art of Rococo exemplified by the sweetly-colored paintings of Boucher and Tiepolo, with their floating florid nymphs, cupids, silks, and princesses.
Jacques-Louis David, Death of Marat, 1793. The period of the French Revolution marked a new period of art with more gravitas.
This was a paradigm shift from the superficial to gut wrenching passion, as if Western art was going back to its roots in the dramas of Aeschylus and Euripides; answering the big questions of what is the good and what is important while at the same time elevating the creative process by innovation and superlative skill. This wasn't for the faint of heart. The artists would have to face inner turmoil and outer rejection as they attempted to get patrons to sponsor wildly dramatic depictions of death, war, and executions, which didn’t lend themselves to the decorative palace dining room....
Read Article : Making Sense of Kant's Senseless Sublime