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Atlas Shrugged -- For Adults Only

Posted by starlisa 6 years, 3 months ago to Books
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The first thing I read by Rand was Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.

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THIS ARTICLE REPURPOSED FROM: http://lamrot-hakol.blogspot.com/2012/10...

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The other day, I was talking to my partner about Atlas Shrugged at the dinner table, and my 12 year old daughter asked what it was. I told her it's a book by Ayn Rand, and that she can't read it until she's 21.

My partner stared at me and asked why. After all, I'm an Objectivist. I think Rand's philosophy is incredibly important. So why would I bar my daughter from reading it until she's an adult?

I've felt this way for at least a decade, but given the President's comments about Ayn Rand's books being something you'd pick up as a 17-18 year old feeling misunderstood, and then get rid of once you realized that thinking only about yourself wasn't enough, I thought it would be worthwhile to explain why kids shouldn't read Atlas Shrugged.

The thing is, Obama is right. In a way. Let me explain that.

I didn't read Atlas Shrugged until I was 33 years old. In fact, other than Anthem, which I may have read in passing in high school, I never read anything of Rand's until I was 32, and I started with her essays. Maybe I'll post about how and why I got into those at a later date. But as someone who didn't get into Rand's philosophy as a kid, it took me a while to realize that for the vast majority of people, reading it as a teenager is almost inevitably going to create the opposite effect that Rand had in mind.

There's a common misconception that Objectivism is about being selfish and grasping and greedy. It's an understandable misunderstanding. After all, Rand wrote a book of essays called The Virtue of Selfishness. She spoke against altruism and in favor of selfishness. The thing is, though, that in Rand's writing, those are "terms of art". A term of art, or jargon, is a word that's used a specific way in a specific field, regardless of how it's used colloquially. In politics, to "depose" means to remove a leader. In law, to "depose" means to have someone give a deposition. In medicine, an "ugly" infection is one that doesn't respond well to antibiotics.

We're all familiar with groups "reclaiming" perogative words. "Queer" was an insult when I was growing up, and it still is for a lot of people. Yet to the younger generation of GLBT teens, "queer" is simply how they identify. Rand used the term "selfish" to mean acting to further ones long term and global well being, given the understanding that we are not alone in the world, and that what I do to others can be done to me as well. There is no other way to describe that in a single world, so far as I'm aware, than selfishness. Or if we allow a modifier, "rational selfishness".

But Rand failed. She failed to communicate this in a way that would be clear enough to get past the negative connotations of selfishness as meaning a blind, grasping devotion to ones short term desires, paying no attention to the world around us. Even expanding the term to "rational selfishness" didn't work, because people understood "rational" to mean "cold and unemotional" and concluded that "rational selfishness" meant cold, hard, unemotional, uncaring selfishness. Like a robot that lacks all empathy.

But adolescents are a different story. Adolescence is a time when we are detaching ourselves from our role as dependent children, and learning to stand on our own, personally empowered. When I was 17, I remember one evening during an argument with my father, exclaiming, "You're a person, and I'm a person. Why should you have any more right to decide than I do!" And I was absolutely convinced of my righteousness. Two years later, when my younger brother was 17, I heard him say virtually the exact same thing. I looked at my father and said, "I'm so sorry, Dad. And I wish there was some way I could explain it to him." But I knew there wasn't. You can't explain that to an adolescent. They have to learn to grow up and realize that the world doesn't revolve around them.

Which is one of the reasons why a lot of adolescents love Atlas Shrugged. They miss the bigger picture, and only pick up on the message that they shouldn't have to sacrifice themselves for others. Which is a good message, but they conflate it with their irrational selfishness. Their self-centered, almost solipsistic view of the world. And when they do grow up, as most of them do, they jettison Objectivism, thinking that it's part and parcel of the adolescent mindset they no longer need.

And that's why Obama said what he did. It's absolutely true that 17 and 18 year olds who are feeling misunderstood, and whose self is feeling threatened would pick up Atlas Shrugged and see it as a vindication of what they're feeling. And it's absolutely true that someone like that reading the book would, in the vast majority of cases, throw it away once they grow up and realize that we're all in this together, so to speak.

And that's why I won't let my daughter read the book. Because it takes a certain amount of maturity to understand that the kind of altruism that says doing for others is always more moral than doing for oneself is evil and anti-human, but that benevolence and empathy are vitally important virtues. The vice of altruism always leads to bad results in the long run, even if it may seem beneficial in the short term. Because giving requires a recipient. And if receiving is a bad thing, there's always going to be someone bad and wretched. More than that, you're always going to need poor people, because without them, you can never be virtuous. It's an ugly world that raises altruism up as the highest virtue.

Perhaps we need to find another term to reflect what Rand called "selfishness". The battle to reclaim that word was lost before it even started. All it does now is feed into the ignorance of the left.
SOURCE URL: http://lamrot-hakol.blogspot.com/2012/10/atlas-shrugged-for-adults-only.html


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  • Posted by BradA 6 years, 3 months ago
    I read my first Rand as a senior in college (20). Reading it at that point simply affirmed and clarified my already developed philosophy. At the time I found it reassuring and it reinforced the path I had chosen. I am not sure what impact it would have had if I had consumed it in high school, before my own thoughts had gelled. Having Objectivism spoon fed to me would probably not have gone down well as I've always been stubborn about needing to reach my own conclusions. I am grateful that I was exposed to it at what seemed to be exactly the right time. Starlisa's characterization of the thought processes of teenagers is a gross oversimplification. I am sure there are some that can probably handle it as teens, while others might not be ready until their 30's. And then there are those, who apparently make up the majority of our voting population, based on the last election, who will never be ready and who will never get it. And this is why I am following John Galt's path.
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  • Posted by Zenphamy 6 years, 3 months ago
    A teen (child) whose parents haven't given them enough guidance to understand the difference between self-interest and self-centeredness is taking a step into adulthood with a severe handicap. Collectivist have understood that concept very well and have taken full advantage of the opportunity of parents that haven't exercised that basic parent/child communication, through the schools. They are often taught by collectivist that being selfish is wrong and sharing is good.

    One of the earliest concepts a child develops is, mine - not yours. Many will try to expand that to everything else available. The parent has to teach them to limit that to what is truly theirs and that others feel the same way about what is theirs. They have to also teach them that it's right to protect what is theirs and that others should do so as well. They continually encounter takers and bullies in there school mates. If they've learned the mine and yours concepts well enough and the difference between self-interest and self-centeredness, they've also developed a good self esteem that is a shield from such.

    A teen's (child) consternation comes from not having a firm grasp of that basic concept and then being exposed to the continuous peer and teacher pressure to fit in, yet knowing deep down that it's just not right. How do they resolve that if they're denied information beyond their parents words? AS is written so that anyone with the basic understanding of what is mine and what is yours is yours can grasp and understand the ideals expressed there and gain confidence in what the parents have taught.

    What better way to re-enforce what the parent has taught than to let them explore the writings of others that think and reason like their parents do, such as AR.

    As to finding another term to reflect 'selfishness', that is nothing more than allowing others (collectivist) to define you. I think AR went through a lot of thought to arrive at that word.

    For me, I choose to struggle against other's attempts to define me or redefine or conflate the terms and descriptions I understand to explain my reasons and logic. We've allowed that type of nonsense for far too long.
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    • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 6 years, 3 months ago
      Thanks. One time, I said to my teenage daughter: "I am an egoist. You are an egoTist. As as egoist, I place my self-interest above the interests of other people. As an egoTist, you do not even recognize that other people have interests."
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      • Posted by khalling 6 years, 3 months ago
        great point. but once you labeled her, isn't it kind of hard to shake? Behaving like one is different than making it a core principle guiding all of your actions.
        I always use Mother Theresa to illustrate egoTist.
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        • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 6 years, 3 months ago
          She was a 14-year old girl. You must know that from both sides. People ARE different, of course. When she was in kindergarten, she came home to announce her support for the Democratic Party presidential ticket. I did not argue politics with her. I was happy that she knew about it. I also knew that she got that from a teacher, but I was not going to get in the middle of that. If I denigrated the teacher, why then should my child obey classroom rules?
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      • Posted by 6 years, 3 months ago
        Well said. I hope she's gotten better.
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        • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 6 years, 3 months ago
          She dropped the T. Better or worse is hard to say. She is a conservative, anti-immigration, the whole bit. All I care about is that when she was 18, she got a job as a telemarketer, saved her money, moved to South Beach, and lived happily ever after. I just sent her a printout of an article by Barbara Branden. She watched Atlas Shrugged Part 1 and liked it, really identifying with Dagny. I figure it all evens out.
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  • Posted by $ hosscomp 6 years, 3 months ago
    I think younger people are more open to rational ideas. I also think 'selfishness" is the correct term and I don't think Rand failed in explaining it. I think anyone who would later jettison AS are second-handers like Obama anyway. And, yes, that probably is the majority.
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    • Posted by Hiraghm 6 years, 3 months ago
      I disagree. I think younger people are more open to new ideas. Not necessarily rational ones.
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      • Posted by khalling 6 years, 3 months ago
        I think younger people are just trying to expand their world. they are just as likely to embrace a rational world. However, the irrational world is all around them whispering in their ear to ignore their senses and and thinking mind. "let it go" "give into it" "worry about it tomorrow" are heady, hollow concepts.
        They are tired of hearing their parents tell them to "invest in their future" while watching their parents support the opposite. "I own myself" is a very powerful concept to explore. They just have to hear it for the first time.
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  • Posted by Channingsr 6 years, 3 months ago
    I see the selfish people in AS as the government people. Every one had his own agenda despite the BS they spouted. Hank has what I have come to call Enlightened Self-Interest. He understood that nobody ever made a fortune without the help of others but the leaders really ought to get paid a lot more than those they provide jobs for. Generally speaking politicians provide little for anyone and should be rewarded accordingly.
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  • Posted by TexasLadyJuanita 6 years, 3 months ago
    What a bunch of "bloviating" crap. I read all of Rand in High School. I am 61 and have read hundreds of books since then (probably thousands). The only two books I have read more than once is Atlas Shrugged and the Holy Bible. I am able to reconcile the two. I highly recommend sculpting the young adult mind with many books, including Rand.
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    • Posted by Genez 6 years, 3 months ago
      I agree 100%. I have only told the kids they needed to be at least teens due to the 'adult' scenes in AS. I read it around 16 and it definitely helped me to understand some of what was wrong with the general populace that didn't seem to value excellence or achievement (at least in academic areas). I think how a person understands it and how they understand the 'virtue of selfishness' has everything to do with their maturity and their worldview. My wife and I were married at 19 and are still married today over 25 years later. For many of the teens I know today, they are not capable of understanding it, let alone getting the real meaning out of it. If you know that your child is not capable of understanding the book and it's concepts I can see suggesting they wait. On the other hand the only thing I've ever not allowed my kids to read was due to sexual nature of some scenes in a few books and even that I pretty much let it go once they hit 18..
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  • Posted by jljaxon 6 years, 3 months ago
    I read Atlas Shrugged for the first time (probably read 4-5 times by now) when I was 16. It took me less than 24 hours, but I stayed up all night and sat in the back of class and read it all the next day. I was struck by the fact that she unabashedly stood up for capitalism even though our society asserted that it was evil and selfish. I have encouraged my sons to read it and age be damned. There needs to be a counter-balance to what they are taught in school and popular culture.
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  • Posted by $ blarman 6 years, 3 months ago
    I've seen other authors - mainly economists like Milton Friedman - who instead of using the word selfishness use self-interest instead.

    Selfishness is a motive centered in placing self above all else - thus it rightly has a negative connotation. I can pursue self-interest on the other hand - especially through the market - at the same time as everyone else. Market transactions take place when my self-interest for one thing matches another individual's pursuit of another thing and we both trade believing that we have in some measure fulfilled our self-interest.

    Selfishness is a zero-sum game. Self-interest isn't. That's the difference.
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    • Posted by Danno 6 years, 3 months ago
      Even a person who strongly believe in collectivism is selfish since he thinks that approach will bring him the most material comfort. There is nothing but selfishness. If you are are truly not selfish in your frontal lobe then you maim yourself physically and die early.
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      • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 6 years, 3 months ago
        Have you read "The Virtue of Selfishness"? Nathaniel Branden as two essays on the false selfishness you seem to accept.
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        • Posted by Danno 6 years, 3 months ago
          No I haven't. To clarify I think there is only one Selfishness based on fear of death. Collectivists have been brainwashed to twist words and instincts to say Altruism is not selfish. Complete nonsense.
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          • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 6 years, 3 months ago
            If you make the time to read "Atlas Shrugged" you will find that the collapse of James Taggart is prefigured in an off-hand comment by Francisco d'Anconia talking to Dagny Taggart. He asks her rhetorically how she intends to actually make herself perfectly clear to the Board; and she says, "They're men. They want to live, don't they?" And Francisco replies, "Do they?"

            The psycho-epistemology of the looter, the moocher, the muscle-mystic is based on the evasion of reality. Evasion of objective reality the external world is only a consequence of their internal evasions, supressions, and repressions.

            Most people get through life to the end of their days without having to face the ULTIMATE consequences of their DEEPEST contradictions.

            The world ALTRUISM was invented about 1840 by Auguste Comte. I read that work for a graduate class paper I wrote on Herbert Spencer. Comte meant exactly what Ayn Rand said he did: the obliteration of self in service to humanity. Any other meaning is a twisting to avoid the fact.
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            • Posted by $ blarman 6 years, 3 months ago
              I like that. Never understood why the word altruism twinged my spidey-sense, but that clarification was very instructive. Thanks.

              I've always preferred the term charity, anyways, using the definition: service done out of sincere care for another without expectation of compensation. I can't call government welfare that because they are expecting compensation: votes and power.
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            • Posted by Danno 6 years, 3 months ago
              " the obliteration of self in service to humanity. Any other meaning is a twisting to avoid the fact."

              Agree. Pretty much what I meant. One can not kill the instinct only twist it in the frontal lobe to become misguided nonsense.
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    • Posted by tdechaine 6 years, 3 months ago
      That is why people misunderstand! Selfishness necessarily places one's self above all else, and that enables one to care for others. In trade, if both traders are not putting themselves first, the trade cannot be a win-win. You're playing symantics.
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      • Posted by 6 years, 3 months ago
        That was Rand's argument. The question is, is it more important to communicate the concept or is it more important to insist on a particular word? In Intro to Objectivity Epistemology, she wrote at length about the fact that concepts come first and words are only verbal symbols which exist for the purpose of communicating those concepts. If the word selfish is failing in this task, it's irresponsible of us to keep fighting for a denotative meaning which no one understands. I mean, if we want to live in a world populated by rational people, why would we want to work towards that in a way in which our rational minds can plainly see is not effective?
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        • Posted by $ Commander 6 years, 3 months ago
          Thanks for the clarity on (verbal-symbols).....I thought I was alone in this perspective.
          I've been "mining" the gulch for "precious"....can sleep well now. Very enriched.
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        • Posted by tdechaine 6 years, 3 months ago
          Words have specific meanings; skirt around them and you create problems. "Selfish" doesn't fail, people do in explaining it. Only irrational minds have such problems. If we had a "world populated by rational people", we would be in Galt's Gulch.
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          • Posted by $ blarman 6 years, 3 months ago
            Is it not irrational to persist in redefining the color blue? Rationality must be judged in the method by which a goal is achieved as well as the end results, is it not?

            I'll give you another reason why you fight a losing battle: religion. To anyone who is Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc., selfishness is a predefined sin with a very concrete definition from which society has derived its use. Even the irreligious left use it as a brow-beating stick to implement their welfare principles. In short, you are never going to alter the definition of selfishness no matter how much you want to try to justify it. Far more effective to leave selfishness as it is presently defined and use another term and argument.
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            • Posted by Hiraghm 6 years, 3 months ago
              khalling, do I get in trouble if I tell him 'bite me'?

              As a Christian, selfishness is *not* a predefine sin. For thousands of years, the teachings of Jesus have been appropriated to gather wealth for those who use religion, and with it political power. But, that doesn't make it predefined.
              Even the list of 7 deadly sins doesn't include "selfishness".


              A proud look
              A lying tongue
              Hands that shed innocent blood
              A heart that devises wicked plots
              Feet that are swift to run into mischief
              A deceitful witness that uttereth lies
              Him that soweth discord among brethren

              The definition of avarice is excessive or insatiable appetite for wealth... but even that's not selfishness.
              Compiled half a millennium after Christ, the common list doesn't include selfishness, since selfishness implies hoarding or taking to oneself *at the expense of or to the detriment of others*.

              gluttony
              fornication, lust
              avarice/greed
              hubris, pride
              sorrow/despair/despondency
              wrath
              vainglory
              sloth

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            • Posted by 6 years, 3 months ago
              Well, Judaism doesn't see selfishness as necessarily bad. Its justification for killing in self-defense is "Who says his blood is redder than yours?"

              I think "selfism"would be a much better term than selfishness. Parallel and opposite to altruism (other-ism). I'm proud to call myself a selfist.
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              • Posted by $ blarman 6 years, 3 months ago
                I like "selfism". I think it could work as long it was consistently defined and used within context.

                Just a question, but how do parallel and opposite work? Geometry wasn't my favorite discipline, but I believe the concept of "skew" lines is the closest I can come to visualizing what you are after there. Can you elaborate?
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                • Posted by 6 years, 3 months ago
                  It's less geometry and more language arts. Parallel construction means words of a similar pattern. Benevolence and malevolence share a structure, but are opposites. Malfeasance and misfeasance share a structure and are not opposites, but more gradations of a given concept. Selfism and altruism, again, are parallel terms, but opposites. Really, the opposite of altruism is egoism, since alter=other and ego=self. But egoism is too close to egotism (note how Rand herself mixed them up), and thanks to the quack Freud, most people don't think of ego as meaning self; but only part of one's self.
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            • Posted by tdechaine 6 years, 3 months ago
              So you are saying that Rand's goal of properly defining (in an objective philosophical context) such terms was inappropriate? You are dissing proper concept formation and resulting definitions for the sake of convenient "definitions" used by irrational people.
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              • Posted by $ blarman 6 years, 3 months ago
                Rand was trying to co-opt a term already in general philosophical usage (what is religion other than philosophy) that has a pretty defined meaning. She wasn't trying to form a concept as much as redefine an existing one, and she didn't even have the media to help her.

                Inappropriate? Wrong word. Pointless? Absolutely. When a concept is already defined and you are outnumbered a billion to one against changing it, I have to question your definition of who is rational.

                Again, go back to the point of persuasion and conversation - you have to start from common ground and common lingo. Starting off by trying to define your own terms for everything is bound to fail to persuade the listener - and even less so when you are trying to replace a term already in their vocabulary with such a core foundational meaning and significance.
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                • Posted by Zenphamy 6 years, 3 months ago
                  I can't agree that religion is philosophy. It's not. Greek - 'love of knowledge', "the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, esp. when considered as an academic discipline."

                  As far as changing words to suit a wrong or twisted definitional understanding, what do you gain? I think it just gets you stuck in intellectual mud. If you're allowing others to redefine your philosophical language, particularly in describing first principles, then you don't have your own philosophy.
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                • Posted by tdechaine 6 years, 3 months ago
                  I understand fully what you are saying. But it is up to Objectivists and others who appreciate proper definitions to educate those who use whatever connotations of words that suit them. The ultimate goal should always be to get the proper definitions of words understood and accepted, not the improper ones tolerated and then have to have inappropriate alternative ones created to simply explain the differences.

                  Note that Rand did not "co-op" the term; she defined it (as with all other words) going back to the root of words and to create a cohesive philosophy.
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                  • Posted by 6 years, 3 months ago
                    Using etymology to come up with new definitions of words is a mug's game. Words mean what they mean. You can't say, "Oh, but according to the etymology, it would really mean this." We've seen people trying to use antisemitism to include bias against Arabs, when the word was coined explicitly to mean hatred of Jews. You can object to the coinage, but if it's a done deal, which it is both in the case of antisemitism and selfishness, you're stuck with it, and quibbling about etymology is just silly.

                    Again, do we want to communicate effectively, or do we want to be dicks?
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                    • Posted by Zenphamy 6 years, 3 months ago
                      If we're promoting the basic concept of willfully utilizing the ability to rationally reason through reactions and thoughts to a real world that we exist in, why would we cooperate with the purposeful propagandizing of words, meaning, and concepts basic to our argument?
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                      • Posted by 6 years, 3 months ago
                        It's the other way around. It isn't as though "selfish" meant "acting for one's self interest" and it was corrupted into "being grasping and disregarding others". The latter is the actual meaning of the word. Rand wanted to co-opt it.

                        This was understandable. Most people think of selfish as the opposite of selfless. Rand opposed selflessness as life-killing. She was right about that. But the opposite of selfless is not selfish. It never has been. No more than the opposite of helpless is helpful.

                        It's Rand who was engaging in the purposeful propagandizing of words, meanings, and concepts. And while her intent was praiseworthy, I can hardly think of a single thing that has been more counterproductive.
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      • Posted by $ blarman 6 years, 3 months ago
        Semantics are incredibly important. Unless we can agree on the definitional foundations of words as describing certain concepts, language ceases from meaning and communication stops.

        I would also point out that self-interest is tempered selfishness. True selfishness is unbridled. I will give you an example.

        In the market, those who consummate a transaction are NOT acting solely on selfishness and thinking only of themselves. A market transaction occurs when both sides MAXIMIZE the utility of the transaction, but both still incur a cost. The difference is that each side compares the cost to the value gained and is satisfied. Selfishness happens when one side bears a cost that is higher than the value they gained from the transaction. Theft is a pursuit of selfishness. Why? Because it crosses the line where one party benefits at the expense of another.

        When pursuing self-interest, both parties can be satisfied and you have a win-win situation. When one party seeks only to be satisfied at a cost which is unsatisfactory to the other, you have the conditions for selfishness. It should also be noted that selfishness also entails a portion of coercion or force, since without it, the transaction simply fails to take place.
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        • Posted by Zenphamy 6 years, 3 months ago
          IMHO, you keep insisting on a wrong definition of selfish. It's simply: (of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure: I joined them for selfish reasons. I'm not sure why you're so insistent about a basic concept of a philosophy you seem interested in.
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        • Posted by tdechaine 6 years, 3 months ago
          That is totally incorrect. That's why Rand used the somewhat redundant term "rational self-interest." You are not acting (rationally) selfishly if you hurt others you care for in the process or if the action is immoral. Theft is actually selfless, not selfish: the thief does not actually gain in a moral sense. E.g. Madoff did not act selfishly; and look where his actions got him.
          Read Rand's book on this subject.
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          • Posted by $ blarman 6 years, 3 months ago
            Ah, but "rational self-interest" is NOT equivalent to selfishness. That's been the whole point of this argument of semantics. The words are not synonyms in any other vocabulary but your own. To continue to use such is not rational at all, but selfish, as you are trying to exchange an idea with me and set your own price - one for which I find zero value!

            And to try yet again in your vocabulary of one to redefine theft to be selfless is absurd and an affront to logic itself. Thieves think of no one EXCEPT themselves (definition of selfishness) when they steal. They are not concerned about an equitable trade at any level in either a moral or physical context. To be selfless requires an act of sacrifice of one's own property/time/etc. in order to better someone else. You can't sacrifice or give away something you don't own!

            Now really, I'm quite content to converse with someone who can come up with a cogent argument, but you're doubling down on nothing more than your own irrationality at this point. Neither you nor I is going to have any more success with attempting to redefine selfishness than Ayn Rand did when she tried it. Choosing to continue to do something that has been done before and expecting a different outcome isn't rationality, but rather obstinate stupidity and a complete waste of time.
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            • Posted by tdechaine 6 years, 3 months ago
              I assume you have not read Rand.
              Rational self-interest is essentially = rational selfishness. "The exact meaning and dictionary definition of the word “selfishness” is: concern with one’s own interests."
              "Man’s self-interest can be served only by a non-sacrificial relationship with others." A thief is not truly acting in his best interest (despite your use of terms like "absurd" or "affront to logic". Your use of "selfless" is too narrow.

              "The meaning ascribed in popular usage to the word “selfishness” is not merely wrong: it represents a devastating intellectual “package-deal,” which is responsible, more than any other single factor, for the arrested moral development of mankind." Do you really want to accept that?



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  • Posted by $ minniepuck 6 years, 3 months ago
    this is an interesting post. thanks, starlisa. I respect your parenting decision. I imagine every teenager reacts differently to AS should they read it at that age. I don't have kids of my own, so I can't share any of those experiences. I'll just say that I read Anthem first as a teen and then AS which I found interesting but didn't fully know what to make of it. I read it again as a freshman in college, and it's impact was cemented a bit more. Now in my late 20's, I've read it for a third time and have the best grasp of it so far. life experience (as limited as it is for me thus far, as pointed out by a small army of men and women in their 50's and 60's who love and care for me like I'm their daughter) helps mold reaction and understanding. I imagine I'll read it at least 3x more in years to come and continue understanding other aspects of the novel I've so far missed. it is important to be mature and humble enough to understand you have much more to learn. I realize youth and it's oftentimes accompanied immaturity is largely an impediment to that. anyway, helping my husband run his business makes me passionate about AS's message, so here I am--learning from the producers of this site that have been at this longer than I have. for me, AS was the catalyst that started me down a new, long path of thinking, discovery, and understanding. I've a ways to go, but it's well worth the effort. I hope the same excitement of discovery for your daughter when she's ready.

    what do you allow your child to read? do you talk to her about Rand, or will you have her discover her writing on her own later in life?
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  • Posted by dcwilcox 6 years, 3 months ago
    I read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged as a freshman in college and the books explained why I had achieved the success that I had. I had taken charge of my life and focused all of my energy on mastering my skills in math and science. Because I had to recover from a difficult youth which included quitting high school twice, no one around me thought I could make it to MIT. I not only made it to MIT, I graduated in three years. Reading Rand's books helped me mature even faster than I might have and laid the foundation for a happy and productive life. In difficult times, I have reread Atlas Shrugged for inspiration. It's always refreshing and has never failed to help me "recharge my batteries" when the need has arisen. Had I read Rand's books at 12 or 13, I am confident that I would have done a far better job of running my life in a rational manner and I may well have avoided my turbulent teen years.
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  • Posted by deanhcross 6 years, 3 months ago
    I was exposed to AS at eighteen while finding a reference to Ayn Rand in my search for a ten page paper on Aristotle. I became aware of the premise without much of the substance. It took me twenty years to finally read it through.....for the first time anyhow. Read it several times since.
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  • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 6 years, 3 months ago
    I read Atlas Shrugged in high school. A friend of mine handed me "Anthem" as we passed in algebra classes. I next read "The Fountainhead." After "Who is Ayn Rand", VOS and FNI, I read "Atlas." In my senior year, I signed up for the "Basic Principles of Objectivism" lectures. On college visits that spring, I attended meetings of several Ayn Rand Clubs and Students of Objectivism.
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  • Posted by SteveFoerster 2 years, 7 months ago
    I happened across this post because we're a newly homeschooling family and I'm weighing assigning one of Rand's works for my twelve year old. Normally at that age I'd start with Anthem, since it's easily digestible and thus an ideal "gateway drug", but I was considering whether the Atlas Project global group read of Atlas Shrugged is too good an opportunity to miss, even at his age.

    I can say that none of my kids is likely to be interested later on in the self-loathing aspects of Progressivism, nor do I think that adolescents with access to adult explanations are incapable of understanding Rand's idiosyncratic use of words like "selfishness" or "altruism". Mine aren't, at least.
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  • Posted by joanaugust 6 years, 2 months ago
    I read the fountainhead at 12 and atlas shrugged at 14; of course, I was pretty bright having graduated high school at 16. I was a poor kid raised in the slums; Ayn Rand saved my life, and is my intellectual mother. I'm also a very loving, caring person. However, if your kid is a miley cyrus fan, then maybe you should wait a while, and start her with a logic book instead.
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  • Posted by DGriffing 6 years, 3 months ago
    I too regarded myself as an objectivist. For 20+ years in fact, implicitly since I discovered the philosophy at 18 and explicitly since I discovered Ayn Rand at 26. I also agree that Objectivism is for adults. I now have a 20 year old daughter and for 15 years have been able to accept that there are significant flaws, not just in Rand's messaging but in the underlying philosophy itself. One key flaw is the unique "art/jargon" use of terms, but other flaws involve the limits of how much you can derive from an axiomatic deductive system. While its true that "A" is "A", and that existence exists, this doesn't tell us what "A" is, or what actually exists.

    I've spent 38 years as a scientist and an engineer and despite Rand or Objectivism, there is more than a little validity to modern physics, including quantum and relativity, and to evolution in biology.

    While its true that many of our ancestors in science and other areas of study had Kantian flaws, they also believed in classical physics. Revolutions in knowledge require that you stand on the shoulders of giants to make new discoveries, even when those discoveries invalidate some of what you long held to be true. The same goes for Objectivism.
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  • Posted by Stormi 6 years, 3 months ago
    I have a bit of reservation about using the words "ban" or "bar" when it comes to reading. I was never barred, in fact in Wyo., I was given permission to check out adult library books before the age limit, based on my Dad's permission. Dad treated me as an adult with limitations. He did not bar me, but rather explained that doing something he did not agree with came with consequences, which would be mine. As a manager, he discussed business at the dinner table and included me in the conversations. Because of that upbringing, I did not feel the need to demand equal rights, as I knew that my rights were limited only by my willingness to take on the personal responsibility that went with them. That can be quite a weight. Although Dad never read Rand, he lived Objectivism or maybe Existentialism. When I wanted a car, he told me at 16 to get a part time job and pay my insurance and repairs. I read philosophy as part of my 4 years of high school Latin classes, read "1984", "Brave New World", so I came to Rand prepared and feeling as if she spoke what my Dad had taught me my whole life.
    When my own daughter came along, she was taught the same things. She could read whatever drew her interest, but we discussed it. By then I had learned via my degree in English, that readers come to works and take from them different levels of understanding, which then change and grow as they mature. I did try to ban Marilyn Manson CDs, but she implored me to read the lyrics. Doing so, I did some referencing and found they reflected his interest in Nietzsche. Once I showed her my books from my philosophy degree and told her his ideas were not original, her interest in Manson waned and her interest in philosophy blossomed. Earlier,when the schools started teaching, There is no "I" in team" - I handed her "Anthem" and said nothing. I watched as at age nine, she devoured it in a single sitting. Closing the book, she said, "Now I understand what they are doing to us!" She learned to question, not just accept what was told to her.
    Never forget, you may be banning your child from a work you admire, and that is your choice, but the public school system is feeding them all means of brainwashing and subliminal messages promoting collectivism and socialism.
    They think there is no age too young for propaganda. I am just happy my daughter continued to read Rand in college and now works as co-director of business where there are other Randians. She has one Masters degree and is presently part way through an MBA, where her reading of Rand is finding practical application. Kids don't just grow up and become responsible, somewhere it has to be modeled and shown to be the rational path.
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  • Posted by kyllacon 6 years, 3 months ago
    We can substitute Personal Responsibility for selfishness and communicate the same message that Ayn Rand was trying to convey in The Virtue of Selfishness. If everyone were personally responsible for their own well being financially or otherwise then everyone would be in a better position to contribute value to society and they would be in a better position physically, mentally, and financially to help their neighbors should they fall on hard times.
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  • Posted by hamiltonh 6 years, 3 months ago
    My mom handed me atlas shrugged when I was in 10th grade. She'd never read it but she'd heard about the ARI essay contest and wanted me to give it a shot. I never ended up writing the essay but I couldn't put the book down. So true about discovering more every time - I've read AS a total of 7 times including that first reading and I've never been disappointed.
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  • Posted by Jeff_PA 6 years, 3 months ago
    About confusing terms: In your first sentence you mention "my partner." For decades this has meant a business partner. Nowadays, it seems to point more often to "sexual partner." I would strongly encourage people to use a word I invented, nifio, which is short for "significant other." See my YouTube explanation: type nifio.
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    • Posted by 6 years, 3 months ago
      People tried POSSLQ back in the 70s for unmarried couples living together. It was lame and never caught on, but it made for some great jokes on late night tv. Forget nifio.
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    • Posted by 6 years, 3 months ago
      Yeah... no. And it doesn't mean sexual anything. It's short for life partner, and it's more or less the equivalent of spouse, but without waving a red flag in the faces of people who will get all hot and bothered about stuff.
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  • Posted by ritagirl 6 years, 3 months ago
    Great comment... it really made me think about what I would do with my own (theoretical, for the time being) children, or any young readers for that matter. I didn't start reading Ayn Rand until later in life, a few years ago actually. I was about 30, and probably had reached a point in at which I was ready to hear her message, because it instantly clicked, and I was able to look past colloquial connotations in language to (I think) understand and appreciate what she was getting at. My father actually turned me onto her, when he started reading snippets of Atlas Shrugged to me (after he laughed aloud while reading, and I asked what was so funny). You see, when he was my age, he was a die-hard liberal voter, but over the years as I was growing up, he definitely changed his views, which of course affected his politics, along with everything else, I'm sure.
    Like many people, including my father, I went through phases (and I'm sure I'm in store for a few more yet) where as a teenager through to about 20 years old, I believed that "selfishness" (in the conventional sense) was an evil. I think when I was 13 or 14, I read Mao's Little Red Book ("borrowed" from my father, actually — he liked to review all sides to things, a trait I've adopted as well), and thought IT was the be all and end all as far as a philosophy for living went. Had I tried to read Ayn Rand at age 20, I would likely not have read more than 50 pages, and then dismiss it as garbage. This fact alone is probably proof that the author's correct in establishing a Rand-age limit for her/his child. I think I had to attend university, and see firsthand what a divergence of views there actually are, and how certain views tend to be fostered in post-secondary educational institutions as "the" views, the politically correct ones, to even begin to question my views, eventually casting off the "glasses" I had adopted in adolescence (from peers, media, family, etc.), and even start to craft a pair of my own.
    I honestly don't think I would have been ready for Rand's philosophy any sooner. After two degrees and necessary forays into the world of academia, along with the types of work experience I've been fortunate enough to have so far, let's say I'm pretty used to having to explain, defend and justify my decidedly Randian opinions, which tend to be outside the norm for the circles I frequent for obvious reasons.
    Maybe it's just the old saying, if you're not a liberal in your 20s, you have no heart, and if you're not a conservative by the time you're 40, you have no brain. Though I use those terms "liberal" and "conservative" loosely, in this case.
    That said, I'm not sure I can forbid or would try to prevent my children from reading her work, if they want. My own parents never censored anything from me, just gave me their opinion if I asked, and told me if i wasn't satisfied with that, or if I wanted to learn more and decide on my own, I should watch/read it for myself. Anytime I think back on my childhood and developing a love of reading, or consider how and why I am the way I am, I recall that I was always free to make my own choices on cultural consumption and media. Not that all of them were good, but at least they were mine.
    Notwithstanding my own feelings (and I don't necessarily think parents' shielding or protecting their children from material they determine to be too mature to be a "censorship" or even a bad thing, exactly, as it's every parent's choice to make, and not anyone else's right to interfere, barring physical endangerment), I still very much appreciated the nuanced discussion about the very language Rand employed. It's unfortunate there are such negative connotations with the words she was forced to use, out of necessity I would say, for lack of more suitable terminology with which to describe her theories.
    But to get back to the point, I would only hope that if there are any courses in universities that are currently teaching Rand's work, the instructors are as well-versed as this author on the semiotic issues inherent in the language of her texts, so as to be able to forestall the unfortunate (and somewhat inevitable) confusion that may result among first-timers, particularly young ones who may be less prepared to fully digest and appreciate it.
    I still must conclude, that if I encountered any young person that showed a genuine interest in reading and discovering the works and ideas of Ayn Rand, whether my child or not, I would have a hard time denying them the opportunity. However, knowing of their endeavour (being unarguably ambitious and challenging, even for older, more experienced readers), I would hope to encourage or assist the particular young person as much as necessary, but actively try my best not to colour their judgment, at least not to the extent that I would challenge someone older.
    Who knows? I just love the language in this post. There will probably always be a little "understandable misunderstanding".
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  • Posted by FBGDave 6 years, 3 months ago
    What a load of crap this letter is ... I read AS for the first time when I was 15 and understood it all to well. It absolutely changed my life, for the better. I followed it with Fountainhead. I did not know that obama had made comments about AS, but being the champion of looters that he is, that does not surprise me. He is the type that AS scares, as is the fool that wrote this letter..
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  • Posted by johnpe1 6 years, 3 months ago
    Lisa, I commented on the site of your original essay, so you might want to check there. Many thanks for your insights! -- johnPE78
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    • Posted by johnpe1 6 years, 3 months ago
      didn't "take", over there -- here 'tis:::
      Lisa, I enjoyed reading your post. I first read Atlas Shrugged when I was 19, after having read We The Living and The Fountainhead. I never got confused about moral selfishness, and Rand surprised me when she said that "the world ends" when we die, indicating that everything revolves around the sovereign individual. But it's true -- each of us makes personal decisions on an individual basis.
      When Nat Taggart said, "The public be damned" he was talking to adults and meant that caring for self is the adequate motivation for choices sufficient to "lift all boats", in my view. However, most adults are too numb -- from the horribly imprecise language which we share -- to think through this with real rationality. (And, of course, the imprecision is made worse by intentional distortions for political reasons.) So, even adults are unable to see that altruism is a vice. Especially when compassion is paraded in front of us as the license for the political enterprise of buying votes by any means available. Especially when compassion is paraded in front of us as the license for the political enterprise of buying votes by any means available.
      I just hope that the current disillusionment with big government takes root and grows. The three installments of Atlas Shrugged, in whose blog your essay was cited, should also help.

      Thanks again for your words, and Happy 2014! -- johnPE78
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  • Posted by CircuitGuy 6 years, 3 months ago
    The adults only part of Ayn Rand might be the Fountainhead in which a female goads someone into raping her, falls in love with him, and then carries on the relationship by inviting him over and teasing and insulting him until he "rapes" her again. I'm not sure which age this becomes appropriate, but I won't shield it from my kids at any age they're able to read it.

    I see what this article is saying about kids mistaking it for selfishness, BUT Rand's message is even more important for kids who are going through the developmental stage of establishing their own identity. They are trying out different ideas. They need to read Rand and Emerson and anyone who will tell them it's better to try stuff and be wrong than to follow others blindly. As they say at Facebook and other parts of the software world, move fast and break things!

    I will introduce my kids to Rand's ideas as soon as they can understand. They can find the kinky stuff on their own.

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  • Posted by tdechaine 6 years, 3 months ago
    I agree with the posts: read the book as early as you are able to read and comprehend. The missing element in the above viewpoint is the parent: isn't he/she supposed to be assisting the child as he/she develops? Shouldn't the parent be able to monitor and discuss such books to ensure that the ideas presented are integrated/intrepreted correctly?
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    • Posted by 6 years, 3 months ago
      I discuss things with her. And she hears me talking (arguing) with other people. My main concern is that she has a big heart. A lot of people who go the collectivist route get there because of their compassion. Compassion sits at the fork in the road, with on fork going to irrationality and altruism, and the other going to rationality and benevolence.
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      • Posted by tdechaine 6 years, 3 months ago
        Help her understand the compatability between acting selfishly and compassion - there need not be any conflict. Also note that liberals/ collectivists are altruistic only to the extent that they can get government to force us all to participate in the altruism to lower their burden.
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