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brit2006

Rand's views on murderer William Hickman

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I think this is just standard Rand. If you read Atlas Shrugged she describes the masses of passengers who die on the crashed train as being guilty or deserving the crash (if I recall correctly). I don't think her Hickman comments are unique in that regard.

No, that's different. To Rand, ideas matter and have consequences, life and death consequences. That is why Kira dies in We the Living, that is why Eddie Willers is stranded in the desert in Atlas Shrugged, that is why so many other ordinary people die to man-made disasters in Atlas Shrugged, that is why the society of Anthem is technologically backward.

If Ayn Rand was born in the '80s she would have spent a phase as a brooding Goth chick. It was a phase, her getting married apparently helped fight off the lower moods.

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The answer, at least partially, can be found in the introduction to "The Night of January 16th". I know that it was mentioned in the journals but I highly recommend reading it in full.

The way I understand it is that Hickman was an abstraction. The attraction was not conceptual (and thus details of the case were not relevant) but emotional, on a sense of life level. She used this case for her projection - like one can use a piece of art (even if the artist intended/meant something very different (even opposite) than what you getting out of it - it happens to me a lot). This was about the idea of individualism/independence - about the psychology it requires to be daring in this way. She did not admire this particular man. Her comments are not identifications about this particular case - but rather a hypothetical - conceptual exploration of emotional reaction. Rather than repressing it - she explored it. Sense of life reaction is not conceptual - one may react positively even though the details are horrifying. In my opinion this is a testament in a way to her underlying positive evaluation of herself (deeply rooted conviction "I am good") because I think many would have dismissed the feeling due to the details of the case.

It is very likely that the same is true of her journal comments related to society. It could have been her projection in relation to society's reaction to radicalism, toward those who boldly project that they don't need the approval of society, toward those who reject the notion that consensus, the majority of opinion - is a valid standard of truth and value.

It could have been an exploration of the reaction of society when it realizes that it lost it's grasp over the individual.

Edited by ~Sophia~
Ilya Startsev and Jake_Ellison like this

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I discussed this issue in Sunday's Rationally Selfish Webcast. The particular question was:

Did Ayn Rand draw inspiration from the serial-killer William Hickman? I ask due to this article on Alternet: "Ayn Rand, Hugely Popular Author and Inspiration to Right-Wing Leaders, Was a Big Admirer of Serial Killer" ( http://bit.ly/r4ST0e ). According to the article, Rand idolized the serial killer William Hickman and used him as inspiration for the leads male characters in her books, notably Howard Roark. Also, Rand is said to seek an environment in which sociopaths like Hickman can thrive. Are these claims true or not? If so, would they affect the validity of Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism?

Due to a hiccup in the internet, the beginning of the webcast recording for this question was missing. So I decided to re-record it. After a few painful trials, I was able to do so in one take, and then add some slides with the quotes in them. That took me a few extra hours, but I think it was worth it. It's now posted to YouTube:

If you like it, please share it! An audio recording of the full hour-long webcast is also available as a podcast: http://bit.ly/pXmgwG All my webcast and other videos can be found on my YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/dmbrickell

Watch the Rationally Selfish Webcast live and join its text chat every Sunday morning at 8 am PT / 9 am MT / 10 am CT / 11 am ET. Each week, I answer questions on practical ethics and the principles of living well, drawn from a queue of questions submitted by listeners. Just go to http://www.RationallySelfish.com at the appointed hour!

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