Tuesday, May 15, 2012

On "Atlas Shrugged"

On "Atlas Shrugged": Oddly Nietzschean in its prescription for present-day morality, Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged (1957) contended that man's only moral obligation (in this life) was to rationality, and not to other people. And similar to Nietzsche, Rand's philosophy (objectivism) has been attacked as both anti-academic and literary, without any serious grounding in empirical thought. Regarding her philosophy, she stated, "My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute." Of course, pragmatists like William James shouted "Damn all absolutes!," which itself was a kind of absolute. But like Nietzsche, Rand believed that it behooved man to focus on this life (as opposed to the afterlife), because modern industrial (democratic) society demanded a great deal of responsibility from man. With Christian morality being geared so heavily toward the afterlife, Nietzsche and Rand wondered if Western civilization could ever overcome itself and move beyond metaphysical thinking. In fact, John Galt (the protagonist of Atlas Shrugged) was essentially Rand's version of Nietzsche's "Overman" (Übermensch).

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