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Bill Brown

A complicated man.

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I let the Ayn Rand Centenary pass without comment yesterday. I just didn’t think I could add anything substantive to the celebration. I have stated my gratitude for Ayn Rand and Objectivism elsewhere on this site and I stand firmly behind the sentiment of that essay, even if the style is a little immature. I wish Ayn Rand had lived to be 100 because I would be very interested to read her take on the fall of the Soviet Union, the rise of Internet entrepreneurs, and the developments in genetics.

I haven’t done much writing of late on the subject of Objectivism because I haven’t been active in graduate school for awhile. The needs of grad school really spurred my writing output: it’s hard to muster up the will to research and write an essay for no external purpose. I also haven’t blogged about Objectivism because I didn’t really have anything to add. Objectivism informs my writings even when the subject matter isn’t explicitly Objectivist.

I haven’t been an outspoken Objectivist for several years—instead I chose to quietly pursue my studies and focus on integrations. This Metafilter thread, though, was too much for me to stay quiet.

I cannot believe how dismissive people are of her philosophy. Metafilter certainly attracts the pedant, but I hadn’t encountered such a patronizing tone in a long time. At first, it was disheartening because people were making pronouncements about Objectivism while stating that they had read The Fountainhead in high school. Then I realized that there rhetoric was so over the top that ambivalent lurkers might conclude that where-there’s-smoke-there’s-fire and seek out Atlas Shrugged.

In the week leading up to yesterday, my Google alert was buzzing with activity. Combined with the recent press surrounding ARI’s op-eds, I thought Objectivism was actually gaining some traction within the culture. The articles in the nation’s newspapers were similar in tone to the MeFi thread, though.

In that thread, I stated:<blockquote>I also enjoy the people who casually dismiss her philosophy as only adequate for youngsters. “Oh, wait till you grow up, sonny, then you’ll understand.” Have you noticed that most of the Objectivist intellectuals out there are not young? I’m sure that you would just casually dismiss them as stunted in their development, but it just shows how intellectually snobby you are. I am 30 years old and have been an Objectivist since I was 14. Time has emboldened my Objectivism, whose implications I understand far better than I could have appreciated at such a tender age.</blockquote>Newspaper writers also denigrated her ideas as the folly of youth. It makes me wonder how the average adult reader would react to such condescension. Would they avoid investigating her views because they’ve passed a certain age? It seems likely to me, especially given the firming up of one’s personal philosophy—used loosely since most people are not explicit about their beliefs—over time.

How does that bode for Objectivism as a philosophic movement? I would imagine that it will spread in the future because of the association with youth. If more young people are exposed to it, then a higher number of them will probably adopt it as their own. Do we forsake the mass of adults then as irretrievable? ARI’s programs seem to be aimed towards that end; I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad strategy though the young are not typically the best source for donations.