Friday, June 5, 2009

The Fountainhead: A Challenging Philosophy

Last night I finished the book The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. It was kind of a beast of a book, 700 plus pages, but still nothing like her more well-known masterpiece Atlas Shrugged (which I also plan on reading this summer) which is over 1,200 pages.

I first heard about Ayn Rand when she was mentioned in a newsweek article earlier this year (which had a nonsense theory about how libertarians were to blame for the economic crisis). I found out she was apparently one of the blocks that build up the foundation of libertarian thought. So I figured it would be a good thing to read her novels. This thought was even more re-inforced when I read a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed about how they call interns and young employees "virgins" if they have not read Atlas Shrugged...

So I read The Fountainhead. What has reading this book done to me? Challenged my very notion of life. She once summed up her theory of Objectivism like this:

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.

It's hard to explain how she was able to transform this theory so perfectly into a work of fiction, but in "The Fountainhead" she did just that. Not only that, the book was not tied together until the final 15-20 pages where one could see exactly how this philosophy relates to every single individual and is reflected in government and collectivism.

What was most challenging about this book is the fact that I know Ayn Rand is an atheist. Before reading the novel, I was aware that Rand was writing from a standpoint that rejected religion. But I also know that there are many who are libertarians who reconcile their faith with this philosophy (Ron Paul being the most notable). The reason I feel a need to reconcile these two views is because it makes so much sense. I am a HUGE believer in the power of the individual, the importance of individual responsibility, and the fact that our nation was founded on the principle of individual freedom. I see the freedom some individuals experience when they can disregard what others think about them, but stick with their convictions. I can picture Ron Paul, the lone voice in the House of Reps for so many years standing alone in his views and convictions.

So, the question comes, how do you reconcile a Christian faith that has stressed the need for submittance to God and man with this philosophy of the individual as a hero? It really is quite the task, and I may never know.

One thing that I know for certain: reading this book and being presented with this philosophy has made me want to learn and understand more about both objectivism and Christianity.


Lexs said...

I finished reading Atlas Shrugged about a month ago - impressive work - you will enjoy. I too found it tough to deal with her atheism. I think it stems from a mis-interpretation of Scripture on her part. Keep up the good fight!

DC said...

Yeah I can't wait to read it, even though I have been avoiding it by reading shorter (yet still good) other books. It will be interesting to look more deeply into her views of Christianity/Religion and the like.