Randian Reflections: Preface

by Peter Saint-Andre

Ayn Rand's philosophy, which she called Objectivism, is usually thought of as a capitalist creed for use and abuse by entrepreneurs and corporate titans; as an apologia for selfishness of the most boorish kind; as a crass, atheistic materialism; or as a hyper-rational offshoot of Aristotelian logic with strong Nietzschean overtones.

Yet there is more to Rand's ideas than such caricatures can capture. There is a poetry in her thought that is almost universally ignored, a presentation of deeply humanistic possibilities, an impassioned defense of human freedom, a celebration of the sacred fire of individuality and creativity. There is much that is deeply good about Rand's vision, cheek by jowl with much that is incorrigibly bad -- and there is, too, much that has been distorted and misunderstood by friend and foe alike.

I have been absorbing and studying the novels and philosophy of Ayn Rand since 1979, and wrote these essays about her between 1993 and 2009. Unlike her faithful followers, I do not deify the woman; yet unlike her dismissive detractors, neither do I demonize her. There is both good and bad in her art and her ideas; and in my life and my thinking I have striven to learn from that which is positive in the Randian tradition without in the least shrinking from recognition of that which is negative or just plain wrong.

For me, the positive vision of human potential that Ayn Rand presents is best captured by the fragment of a line from the first scene of Part IV of The Fountainhead: "joy and reason and meaning". I hold that, at its highest and properly understood, the vision behind that phrase provides a strong foundation for the kind of humanistic individualism that she once called "a philosophy for living on earth".

So it is joy and reason and meaning that I take as my underlying theme in these essays -- a theme presented in variations that explore both the highest possibilities and the darkest dangers of Rand's philosophy. It goes without saying that only you can decide if Rand's way can help you understand your own journey and find happiness in life. But I invite you to walk this road with me for a while so that you can get a sense for the terrain in this strange world we call the ideas of Ayn Rand.

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