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After reading Joel E. Siegel’s critique of Ayn Rand’s work in the review of the film about her (“These Go to 11,” 4/25), I wanted to write in defense of her and her many fans. Regarding his characterization of her work as simplistic, I agree wholeheartedly. I think she would agree as well that her characters are not meant to represent fully developed personalities, but ideas. They are symbols. The worlds created within are not meant to mirror reality in a way that, say, a sociologist could use as evidence for a theory. Her theory is already assumed correct. Instead, the story is a dramatization of her ideas, symbolized by characters in action.

It is simplistic, but in a way that something like the Communist Manifesto is as well. Both effectively propagandize philosophies by applying rather simplistic frames of reference to the world, the class struggle, the productive, and the unproductive. In a scope so large they simplify because no such simple dichotomy would be correct any other way. Whenever you attempt to argue such a grand premise, simplification is an inevitable byproduct. It is the nature of the task, not the way the task is carried out. Would many historians think Marx’s view of history simplistic? Sure they would. But these philosophers look at the big picture, the macrocosm; they are not documentarians nor any type of data-gatherer. The reality is that no model of how the world works will succeed 100-percent of the time tested against real-world cases. Simplification is necessary for creating such a model of the world, even though many details are left out. But that is what philosophers do: They simplify.

Wheaton, Md.

via the Internet