Is Ayn Rand's most popular quote actually ethical to use?

Posted by BrettRocketSci 12 months ago to Philosophy
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Of all the powerful and memorable lines from Ayn Rand and her fictional characters, over the years this one has become the most popular:
"The Question Isn’t Who Is Going to Let Me, It’s Who Is Going to Stop Me."
Do a search on Amazon for that quote and you'll find it on a lot of products. That's exciting and encouraging to me.
The issue is, she never said that, exactly. It's a paraphrase and condensation from a conversation with Howard Roark in The Fountainhead. The link I provided from The Quote Investigator has a good recounting and explanation for it's evolution over the years.
I happen to love this quote. And I want to use it with a book project I have in the works. But another Objectivist told me that it isn't appropriate to use because it's not actually an accurate quote from Ayn Rand.
Yet, it does remain true to the original source and sentiment. And it has brought Ayn Rand into more popular culture awareness. The more this quote is used and spread, the better I say.
What's the reaction and judgment of others here in our Gulch? I would love to see an intelligent discussion and debate.
Thanks, Brett
SOURCE URL: https://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/10/11/let-me/


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  • Posted by $ Solver 12 months ago
    The quote...

    “The Question Isn’t Who Is Going to Let Me, It’s Who Is Going to Stop Me."

    ...seems to be derived from two consecutive sentences in Ayn Rand’s, “The Fountainhead”:

    “My dear fellow, who will let you?”

    “That’s not the point. The point is, who will stop me?”

    The underlying concept is the same.
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    • Posted by LibertyBelle 12 months ago
      The remark was not made in reference to criminal actions. Keating asked Roark who would "let" him become an architect. (At least as I recall the exchange). Roark said, "Who'll stop me?" Becoming an architect is not criminal conduct. But Keating seemed to be implying that Roark would not be able to do it without the permission of the then-current Establishment. Roark proved that notion wrong.
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      • Posted by dukem 12 months ago
        Currently, "practicing" a regulated profession (as defined by that state) without a license from the state (any of the fifty) is against that state's law, and it/they are regularly enforced. So, the "state" stops that activity.
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  • Posted by DrZarkov99 12 months ago
    I've carried the thought through in a slightly different way. When asked about whether or not I (or they) could accomplish a challenging goal, I would respond "There's only one person who can stop you, and that's yourself."
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  • Posted by dansail 12 months ago
    I actually use...
    "I swear by my life, and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." - John Galt
    ... as the signature line on my e-mails. I thought that was the more popular quote...
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  • Posted by Jstork 12 months ago
    It is a good statement as long as it is not in reference to nefarious activities.
    If the government doesn't like it: they will stop you. If there are no laws or regulations regarding the activity, they will create them (even if they are rather arbitrary) to do their best to stop you.
    Sorry: that got political.
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  • Posted by KevinSchwinkendorf 12 months ago
    Interesting situation - It might not be a direct quote, but is representative of a condensation of actual quotes. I heard from a friend once that this also describes the opening speech that George C. Scott gives, as General Patton, in the opening scene of the movie by his name, "Patten" (remember, with a giant American flag behind Patten). This friend of mine (now deceased), was a co-worker in my engineering company, but was also an M-1 Abrams tank commander in the Oregon National Guard, and a real history buff. He said that Gen. Pattern never gave "that speech" (in the movie), but it was an accurate (and representative) condensation of many speeches that he gave to his troops. I say, if that kind of "dramatic license" works for Hollywood, why not for us?
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  • Posted by $ Thoritsu 12 months ago
    For your own use, the paraphrase idea from drjmetz is perfect.

    I like the idea that this is a bait for a hook. Without knowing the source, this quote would take off today. If it were attributed it to Rose the Riveter, Megan Rapinoe or Colin Kapernick it will vigorously thrive.

    I'd love one of those a bumper sticker, like my "Legalize Freedom" sticker. Nice conversation piece, that no one disagrees with. Then when you discuss it, they start thinking.
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    • Posted by exceller 12 months ago
      That was my though process as well.

      A quote like this would certainly be embraced by the radical left.

      The fact that it is attributed to AR is an added plus. It would not bother the left for a second that they put AR on the "burn her books" list. There is no ethical or moral compass there.
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  • Posted by jdg 11 months, 3 weeks ago
    I've read all her books, and until now I have never heard that sentence as a quote from her. I guess that it must be from another source.
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  • Posted by cranedragon 12 months ago
    Not the most popular, but my favorite -- when Dagny sees Ken Danagger in the Gulch and thinks -- to hold an unchanging youth is to reach, at the end, the vision with which one started.
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  • Posted by maxgeoac 12 months ago
    You can always write it as "A quote that is often attributed to Ayn Rand, yet is truly on a paraphrase of her work is..." This not only corrects the narrative on the "quote", but also puts it in the correct perspective.
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  • Posted by exceller 12 months ago
    AR made her philosophical stand clear enough in her works.

    To say that it is not her own because it was uttered by one of her characters is nonsense.

    By the same logic none of the contents of AS is her own view of the Deep State or none of the long philosophical manifesto by John Galt is her own, either.
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    • Posted by 12 months ago
      You are missing the distinction of the criticism (question) that it is not a literal use of her words in the book. It's a paraphrase. That was the reason for the objection to use it as a quote.
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