CAUTION: THIS PORTION OF THE REVIEW DEALS HEAVILY WITH MATTERS OF RELIGIOUS FAITH, AND COULD BE DISCONCERTING FOR THOSE NOT INITIATED IN SUCH THINGS. IF YOU ARE THE KIND OF RELIGIOUS PERSON WHO INTERPRETS SCRIPTURE LITERALLY, I WOULD STRONGLY, STRONGLY, STRONGLY RECOMMEND THAT YOU DO NOT READ FURTHER BECAUSE YOU WILL DOUBTLESS ENCOUNTER CONCEPTS THAT WILL DISTURB YOU. IT IS NOT MY DESIRE TO CAUSE ANYONE ANY DISCOMFORT, OR SHAKE THEIR FAITH, I’VE HAD THAT DONE TO ME AND IT’S NO FUN TO HAVE THOSE KINDS OF SLEEPLESS NIGHTS. ALL I WANT TO DO HERE IS REVIEW A BOOK, SO PLEASE, IF YOU FIND YOUR FAITH LESS THAN ABSOLUTELY SECURE, OR IF YOU’RE LITERALLY MINDED, AGAIN, I URGE YOU NOT TO READ ANY FURTHER.
Of course no review of any Ayn Rand book would be complete without a discussion of the Objectivist philosophy in which it’s steeped. I’ve elected to handle that separately from the book review itself in deference to those who simply aren’t interested such matters. I think in the interest of full disclosure, I should probably come clean with my biases and qualifications before we begin.
I’m a poseur.
There’s no two ways about that. I’m not a philosopher, I wasn’t a philosophy major, I have no formal training in either classical philosophy, nor the more new-fangled schools thereof. I am, however, of a naturally inquisitive mindset, and this has led me frequently to read up on the subject. I do not consider myself an authority by any stretch of the imagination, but I am probably better versed in the matter than average. To sum up, I’m above average, but below useful.
My own personal philosophy is a la carte. I don’t subscribe to any particular one, I have no particular philosophical master per se, but I tend to be one of those annoyingly vague people who pull a little bit from column A, and a little bit from column B, and so on. I tend not to pull anything from Platonism, which I consider to be 99% utter nonsense; I like Descartes, but I’ll be the first one to admit that he’s rather vague on some central tenets and a ‘leap of faith’ is not what you can really call nailing an argument home. Despite the bad press he’s gotten - and I promise you he’s *not* a racist, or a Nazi - I find I’m intrigued by Nietzsche, both for his unquestioned readability, his odd system of delivery (Which is related to his readability) and the odd, almost messianic form of atheism. While I reject his atheism, I have to say his concept of self-actualization through art is bang on the money. I’ll cop to Hegel’s cyclical view of history, at least in the general sense, and I know enough to recognize that Marxism is a subset of Hegelianism (And I suppose the economic tidal wave in China at the moment would count as the inevitable Synthesis between the western Thesis and the Marxist/Lenninist Antithesis). I’m fascinated by Carl Jung, but consider his notion of the “Cosmic Unconscious” to be mostly nonsense, and I hate, hate, hate Joseph Campbell, who’s the worst kind of me-too hack, philosophically speaking: the kind who essentially enables even worse hacks to go on to even greater levels of half-assed hackery. (George Lucas, I’m looking at you, sir!)
If you’re the kind of person that has to put a name on things, I guess I’d probably be what they used to call a “Christian Existentialist” (Which, despite it’s name, is not an expressly Christian school of thought). This can best be summed up as “God exists, I exist, everything else is subject to debate.” In my life, I’ve been a lot of different kinds of believers: A Fanatical Fundamentalist, an Atheist, a Religious Anarchist, a Heretic, a kind of Mystic, A “True Seeker” (In the Straczynskian sense), a Unitarian, a Baha’I, or at least something very much like one, and a plain ‘ol garden variety Christian. At the moment, I’m a Christian again, and I don’t predict changing, but of course I didn’t predict changing all those other times, either.
So now you know my biases, let’s get on to the subject at hand.
The first thing I’d like to do is quote some passages from the “This is John Galt Speaking” chapter - a seventy-page speech one of the protagonists makes about his philosophy - that jumped out at me while I was reading it. I’ll comment where it seems appropriate