Russian-American, b: 2 February 1905, St Petersburg, d: 6 March 1982, New York City. Cat: Objectivist philosopher; novelist. Ints: Man and society; ethics; epistemology. Educ: University of St Petersburg. Infls: Literary influences: Aristotle, Victor Hugo and Dostoevsky. Personal: Frank O’Connor. Appts: 1958–68, Lecturer, Nathaniel Branden Institute, NYC; 1962–76, Editor of The Objectivist (from 1971, called The Ayn Rand Letter); 1968–78, Visiting Lecturer, Yale, Princeton, Harvard, MIT, Columbia and other universities.
As an adolescent during the Russian Revolution, Rand saw people shot in the streets and lamented the triumph of the Bolsheviks. In her studies she was antipathetic to Plato’s idealism and attracted to Aristotle’s rationalism. Two years after graduating with a degree in history from St Petersburg, she left Russia for the USA, where she was naturalized.
Rand became the author of two unconventional but best-selling novels, The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957). In these, as in her other writings, she challenged prevalent philosophies of the time with her ‘objectivism’, a rationalist ethic of ‘heroic individualism’ repudiating all forms of altruism as ‘collectivist’ traps, incompatible with a free society. Her ‘objectivist’ creed was that reality exists as the ‘objective absolute’; that reason is our means of grasping it; that morality is a ‘rational science’ with human life as its standard, self-interest as its driving force, individual happiness as its purpose and freedom as its consequence. Thus Rand proclaimed unfettered selfishness and capitalism to be the only means to the salvation of the individual and society. Rand argued her case with messianic passion and authority, winning a coterie of avid disciples.
Sources: Kersey; Ms., September 1978.
We're sorry this article wasn't helpful. Tell us how we can improve.