As a longtime, nonfanatical admirer of Ayn Rand, I have read (sadly) my share of published commentaries about her philosophy that had little resemblance to her actual ideas. So I can hardly resist thinking that the reason Joel E. Siegel regards Rand’s philosophy as shallow (“These Go to 11,” 4/25) is that his own understanding of her system is shallow. My evidence: his statement that Rand celebrates solipsism, the idea that the universe is only a product of the mind and has no existence independent of consciousness. Never in my life have I read such a profound misrepresentation of her views. Throughout virtually all of her nonfiction writing Rand hammered home the point that reality is an objective absolute, that existence exists regardless of our thoughts, feelings, or wishes. Solipsism is about as alien to Rand’s thought as the championing of capitalism is to Karl Marx’s.
More commonly misrepresented, however, is her advocacy of selfishness, which Siegel, among many others, regards as immature. They portray Rand’s view of selfishness as turning the emulation of 2-year-olds into a way of life. This is presented as the only alternative to regarding self-sacrifice and selflessness as cardinal virtues. Here is what Ayn Rand really had to say on the subject, from The Fountainhead:
“Let’s stop and think for a moment. Is sacrifice a virtue? Can a man sacrifice his integrity? His honor? His freedom? His ideal? His convictions? The honesty of his feelings? The independence of his thought? But these are a man’s supreme possessions. Anything he gives up for them is not a sacrifice but an easy bargain…Self-sacrifice? But it is precisely the self that cannot and must not be sacrificed. It is the unsacrificed self that we must respect in man above all.”
I leave it to the readers to judge
via the Internet