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Russell's paradox & the fountainhead

  1. Apr 15, 2007 #1
    it has been a long time since i first heard of atlas shrugged & the fountainhead & i rand has always seemed to have had a rabid bunch of followers (moreso than other authors) & i didn't want to become one of her 'groupies'. i finally caved & read the fountainhead recently & liked it, so what does that say about me? it reminds me of russell's paradox: if i liked a book promoting independent thought, individualism, etc (the fountainhead), i'd be joining the mass of fans of that book, so i'm not really an individual, defying what the book advocates. if i was critical of the same book, i'd be an outsider, an independent thinker, which is what the book advocates & what i'd be critical of! :rofl:
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2007
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  3. Apr 15, 2007 #2


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    "Independent thought" means your thoughts are your own -- whether or not those thoughts happen to some ideal is completely irrelevant.

    (Hurrah for taking GD too seriously!)
  4. Apr 15, 2007 #3
    Capital letters are your friends.
  5. Apr 16, 2007 #4


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    I've never read anything by her, but it's interesting the devoted followers and detractors she attracts. She's not taken very seriously by the academic community as a philosopher, but the public loves her, almost the way real philosophers seem to be loved in France and Germany.
  6. Apr 16, 2007 #5
    Take a number and get on line with all the other outsiders.
  7. Apr 16, 2007 #6
    there have been other authors who have published heavily-philosophical fiction though, john milton, albert camus & others. it's not the same as publishing in peer-reviewed journals but rand wasn't the only author/philosopher who did that.

    what are you talking about? do you even know who rand was or what the fountainhead is? :confused:
  8. Apr 16, 2007 #7


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    Sure, along with Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre, and even Plato to some extent. The difference is that these philosophers are taken seriously by the academic community, and their work isn't nearly as widely popular as Rand's. I'm not making any judgement on the quality of The Fountainhead as I've never read it and don't know much about it other than the standard change that she is extremely long-winded. I'm just opining that I find it interesting that there seems to be an inverse relationship between academic acceptance and mainstream success. It can't just be that fiction is easier to read than journal articles. Or, maybe it can be. Those other philosopher you and I mentioned are probably just as widely read as Rand is; the curiosity is that she seems to be the most widely read of all contemporary philosophers, but she may be the only one that still uses fiction as a tool, unless you consider guys with philosophy degrees that choose to write or make films, like Terrence Malick, to be philosophers.
  9. Apr 17, 2007 #8


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    Not sure that mainstream is exactly the right term for Ann Rand. It has been ~30yrs since I read any of her books, they are pretty good reads. A possible reason that the academics do not give her much credit is that all of her philosophy is presented in the form of novels. So no she will not be given the same attention as the hard core.

    Further I do not recall her "philosophy" being all that deep... What was it??? Something about altruism? Been to long, don't remember.

    I think her works are better novels then they are philosophy.
  10. Apr 18, 2007 #9
    I think the question that The Fountainhead raises is not:
    a) Agree with Rand's ideas and follow the herd.
    b) Disagree with Rand's ideas and follow a different herd.
    But rather:
    c) Have your own ideas and stick to them in spite of the herd.
    Am I right?
  11. Apr 18, 2007 #10
    that;'s what i thought also, but i didn't understand the 'get-online-with-the-other-outsiders' business.
  12. Apr 18, 2007 #11
    I meant that many people are critical of the book. If one wishes to call themselves an outsider because they too are critical, they trail behind a long line of other outsiders. How many outsiders can there be before, by sheer force of numbers, they cease to be outsiders?
  13. Apr 18, 2007 #12
    I have read most of Rand and even saw the movie about her life; longwinded does not even begin to describe her. Some sentences are a page of fine print. Oddly I was more enamored of her ideas in college than I am today. I say oddly as most people grow more conservative with age. I have missed that boat completely! She's not an amateur philosopher so much as an amateur economist IMO, and certainly not a novelist of Camus' caliber.
  14. Apr 18, 2007 #13
    i agree totally, most of her dialogue is very stilted. i like most of her ideas though.
  15. Apr 18, 2007 #14
    I like some of them as well, but after reading Howard Zihn and others, this notion that we owe most of civilization's progress to the overarching achievements of a few seems elitist, to say the least. Also there is not much compassion in her worldview, which suggests that 99 percent of us should be grateful slaves to the capitalists who financed the industrialization of the US. I don't mean to oversimplify her arguments, which when taken alone are fairly compelling.
  16. Apr 19, 2007 #15
    Exactly right.
  17. Apr 19, 2007 #16
    ...Ayn Rand and flourished in the 60s and early 70s. For the principal figures of Rand's short-lived "Objectivist" movement were indeed like characters out of some theatrical farce.

    With her flowing cape, intense eyes, and long cigarette holder, Rand was the very picture of eccentricity; she sometimes wore a tricornered hat, and at one point carried a gold-knobbed cane. Her thick Russian accent added to the exoticism. It is a measure of Rand's powerful personality – and the real key to understanding the Rand cult – that, after a while, many of her leading followers began to speak with a noticeable accent, although each and every one of them had been born in North America.

    This Russification process was especially pronounced in Nathaniel Branden, her leading disciple. Branden delivered his lectures on the "Basic Principles of Objectivism" in a sonorous singsong voice with a very definite Slavic undertone. Pompous, dogmatic, and utterly self-infatuated, Branden was the second-in-command and chief enforcer of a cult that demanded total obedience and agreement on every conceivable subject – in the name of individualism. Any deviation from the Randian line – and they had a line on everything – was taken as evidence of "bad premises," and grounds for expulsion from the inner circle.

    Murray's own experience with the Randians was a case in point. In the late 50s, Murray and a group of his libertarian friends in New York City became interested in the burgeoning Objectivist movement, which had taken off as a result of the success of Rand's novel, Atlas Shrugged.

    Murray wrote Rand a letter complimenting her on the novel, and soon joint meetings of the Randian "Senior Collective" and Rothbard's Circle Bastiat were being held. As advocates of laissez-faire capitalism, avowedly committed to the supremacy of reason, it seemed as if the Randians would be valuable allies.

    But the Randians did not understand the concept of "allies": in their universe, you either agreed with all of their positions, or else you were consigned to the Outer Darkness. (Curiously, on the level of macro-politics, the Randians were grossly opportunistic.)

    The Randian ideology was not so much an integrated philosophical system as a mythos, based as it was on Rand's novels. Unfortunately, as she got older, she imagined herself to be a philosopher, and gave up fiction writing to become the leader of a movement.

    In her nonfiction tirades, Rand quotes mainly from her own works; this was due not only to her inflated self-estimate, but also to a colossal ignorance. She read almost nothing but detective novels, and her followers, usually considerably younger, were even worse. Although her philosophy of rational self-interest was an eccentric modern variation on a much older philosophical tradition, the only precedent she acknowledged was Aristotle.

    While claiming not to be militant atheist – "It would be paying religion a compliment it does not deserve" – she denounced conservatives for their devotion to religion and tradition, dismissing them as "moth-eaten mystics."

    Religion was also the main issue in the events leading up to Murray's break with the Randians: although Murray was an agnostic, his wife, JoAnn, was (and is) a Presbyterian. Apprised of this, Rand grilled Joey on the reasons for her religious faith and suggested that she read a pamphlet put out by the Randians that "disproved" the existence of God.

    When Joey refused to recant her heresy, Murray was told that he had better find himself a more "rational" mate. That was enough for Murray. The break was finalized by his formal "trial" held by the Randian Senior Collective, which Murray declined to attend.

  18. May 9, 2007 #17
    Inspired by this thread, I got a copy of Atlas Shrugged and am about a quarter of the way through it. I read The Fountainhead when I was in High School, 40 years ago. I didn't like the book then, but I misunderstood the message. I hadn't noticed how poor the narrative was, but perhaps it was better than this work, I don't recall. Perhaps it is because she was not a native speaker of English. But neither was Nabokov and he was an expert at its use.

    I don't get this message at all. Howard Roark, Dagny Taggart, Hank Reardon, et. al. are role models. She wants us to live as they do, not because it will make us rich but because it will make us happy. Her message is that we owe all of civilization's progress to the achievements of ALL people who helped it progress whether they were overarching or not. And we owe it to ourselves to add our own efforts.

    I note that although Hank Reardon wanted to profit immensely from his invention, money was not his main motivation. He was offered 20 years worth of profits from the invention if he would keep it off the market. He refused and the reason he gave was that the invention was "good".
  19. May 17, 2007 #18
    I'm a little more than half way through now.

    She mentions that gold has objective value. Although this is not at the center of her ideas, I find it curious that she would pick gold. I can't think of any metal (or any thing) whose value is more subjective. A huge percentage of annual gold production is used for making ingots as a final product. Do you know of any other metal that is formed into ingots, never to be melted or used in any way?

    There are speculators in any open market, but in the market for iron, there are a large number of buyers who want to use the metal for something. That gives iron an objective value. In the gold market, there are fewer such buyers and more speculators. That gives gold a subjective value. Seems to me.
  20. May 20, 2007 #19


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    Isn't value inherently subjective?
  21. May 20, 2007 #20
    I would think. But if you accept that some things have more objective value than others, why would you pick gold as having more?
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