Ayn Rand Didn’t Shrug

Like the best things in life, I’ve heard about Objectivism by chance. I was in Seattle, WA, training to climb Denali, in Alaska. I had already been climbing Mount Rainier for two weeks, and now all I wanted was to drink beer and relax. I was doing just that when I saw a used bookstore and nonchalantly got in.

Because my mind was already tweaking out with the idea of starting to write, I ended up buying this book about nonfiction, with this weird woman in the cover. The book was “The Art of Nonfiction”. I quickly realised it was an edited transcription of a course she, Ayn Rand, had allegedly given orally, and I immediately lost interest in reading it. I enjoy reading what an author writes, not what editors think the author should have written.

But what renewed my interest was actually written in the back-cover: “…author of ‘Atlas Shrugged’, philosophically the most challenging bestseller of its time.” “The fundamentals of her philosophy…” Who was that woman I had never heard of, who had not only written a philosophical bestseller but also created her own philosophy?

I was hooked on the spot.

I then got out of the bookstore and went to the nearest bar. Nothing better than admiring the view having a beer with books to leaf through and stuff to research online! I asked for a pint of Guinness and rummaged in my phone for this so-called Ayn Rand.

I was impressed by my findings.

She had come from Russia, still a non-English-speaking adolescent, running away from socialism to America. Her dream was to be a writer, and she worked her ass off until she became a Hollywood screen-writer. What she really wanted was to write fiction novels, but not any novel. She wanted to portray what she considered to be the perfect world, where the perfect man would live in. What philosophy would underly the former and move the latter?

She noticed that the country she had begun to love had been formed by the right ideas, but it was quickly petering out into a mixed economy where the State was getting ever stronger — she smelled the stench of authoritarianism just like back at her homeland, and she despaired. She knew the dominant ideas were wrong, but she had to understand why. She studied all the main philosophical systems, with the understanding that amassing free-floating ideas alone would do, since all knowledge is hierarchical and, therefore, integrated.

She couldn’t find one single philosophical system she could abide for, only Aristotle gave her some light. She realised she would have to create her own philosophy. That’s what she did, and Objectivism was born.

But that’s not the only thing she did.

She also wrote “Atlas Shrugged”, her magnum opus. I’ve read it and I can attest for it: her philosophy is embedded in every single one of its 1,200 pages — in every single word, in fact.

That is as concrete as a philosophy can get.

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