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When Did You First Read Ayn Rand?

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When did you first read Ayn Rand?  

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  1. 1. At what age did you read your first Ayn Rand book?

    • Middle school (or below?)
      33
    • High School
      139
    • College years (say upto 21)
      89
    • 22 - 25 years old
      52
    • 26 - 29 years old
      15
    • 30+
      40
    • Not yet read Ayn Rand
      1
  2. 2. At what age did you think that Objectivism might be the philosophy for you?

    • Middle school (or below?)
      20
    • High School
      117
    • College years (say upto 21)
      99
    • 22 - 25 years old
      65
    • 26 - 29 years old
      17
    • 30+
      44
    • I doubt Objectivism is the philosophy for me
      7


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I heard of Objectivism through my brother, but never paid too much attention to it until last summer. I remember him making some remarks on why capitalism was the only proper economic system a few years back, but at that time, I used to think "Doesn't the prisoner's dilemma disprove all of that?" To which he would say things like, "you have a very narrow view of what self-interest means", and "so you're saying that the ends justify the means?"

Last summer, my brother was reading 'The Fountainhead' and suggested I read it too, it would give us both something to discuss. Wow, was I in for an experience! I must say, I'm glad to have been exposed to this. (Before this, my guiding philosophy was basically Platonism. How silly!)

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I've been reading Ayn Rand and other Objectivist authors since 1982. Actually, that's just over more than half my life!!

Very happy to have found this site - big thanks to SBP2009 for steering me over here.

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...That's about the same time I started, AMAI. I must say though it took a long time for me to really realize it was correct and fundamentally different from things that (on the surface) seemed similar.

Why do you think it took a long time for you, Steve?

For me, it was "of course" from the beginning. I was quite shocked (at first but then realized that of course they would be anti-Reason, since they support socialism) when I told my parents about Rand and encountered incredible hostility towards her and her ideas. I had to make a choice really, and I chose Objectivism.

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I was basically a Christian and a libertarian at the time, and my parents (my dad was basically a Christian classical liberal) were somewhere along that line too. So the whole "God" part was the hardest part to relinquish. My dad is close to being an Objectivist after reading Atlas, so I don't know if he'll be able to make that step, having been ingrained in him for 47 years.

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...That's about the same time I started, AMAI. I must say though it took a long time for me to really realize it was correct and fundamentally different from things that (on the surface) seemed similar.

It took me quite a while to properly disentangle Objectivism from libertarianism. Objectivism is fundamentally *not* about politics at all. It's about the individual's relationship to reality per se. That's the dog. Politics is just the tail.

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I first started to form an individualistic and rational philosophy in 7th grade. I live in a relatively small mid-western town and the god and altruism stuff was shoved down my throat a lot. I had always disagreed with most people about morality and religion, so finding objectivism was a natural step.

A year ago I joined my high school debate team and choose to be in LD (philosophy debate). I was researching for a case when my debate teacher handed me the Ayn Rand Lexicon. After reading the first few pages I was able to predict her response on almost every topic; I knew I had found my philosophy.

Today I have read several of Rand's works, and often get into heated debates about philosophy and politics. Objectivism is truly a shining light of reason that we all should attempt to share with the world. (lest it end)

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I read The Fountainhead about three weeks ago, finished Atlas Shrugged last week. That "life changing moment" happened after the Fountainhead, and AS reinforced it.

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read Atlas last April '08, and everything fell into place while reading. read the Fountainhead in May '08, and Roark became my favourite character.

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It was in college for me. I can still remember the day. Everything made sense and it felt so good to know I was special. I knew from that day capitalism is destined to spread its power over humanity by the power of mind over matter and violence. To this day I am grateful to have picked up this book, Atlas Shrugged, which I had heard about in a random internet conversation. From then I have consistently supported the Iraq war, the Afghanistan war and the coming Iran war and opposed all government interventions in the economy that have made America a socialist/fascist country. These wars are supremely important for the idea of American freedom and capitalism to survive.

Today, in the midst of the socialist crisis in the USA, even uneducated rednecks agree with me (cf. tea parties)!

Thank you, Miss Rand for this!

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From then I have consistently supported the Iraq war, the Afghanistan war and the coming Iran war and opposed all government interventions in the economy that have made America a socialist/fascist country. These wars are supremely important for the idea of American freedom and capitalism to survive.

I suggest you rethink your position here; Objectivists have serious issues with both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. And I very much doubt that there will be a war against the Iranian theocracy, no matter how warranted such an action might be -- Bush did too thorough a job poisoning the well, and the American military is too corrupted by just war theory to prosecute such a conflict properly. If American freedom is to survive, the first 'war' we have to deal with is the domestic one being waged against our individual rights by our own government.

I'm not really sure why I'm bothering to say this, though... your tone makes me think your true purpose is to inject a meme painting Objectivists as redneck warmongers. If that is not your intent, my apologies, and you should work on your rhetoric.

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I suggest you rethink your position here; Objectivists have serious issues with both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
What issues are those? Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism are still a huge obstacle to individual rights and freedoms for all Americans and other countries too, especially Israel. I'm sorry to say that you sound like a liberal peacemonger here. My point was that I supported the War on Terror, although Bush messed it up with his idiocy. I'm sorry if I worded it wrongly. I don't think Objectivists are redneck warmongers. I see the War on Terror as a war of self-defense as well as one of protecting our economic interests abroad. I'm glad Obama in spite of his rhetoric is continuing this war. I would definitely support Obama if he does start a war against the brutal Iran theocracy.

you should work on your rhetoric.
I will.

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What issues are those? Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism are still a huge obstacle to individual rights and freedoms for all Americans and other countries too, especially Israel. I'm sorry to say that you sound like a liberal peacemonger here.

Well, I certainly wouldn't want that. I entirely agree that we are at war, and that we need to fight. There are two obvious follow-up questions: who are we at war with, and what strategy will bring us victory? I identify the enemy as a transnational ideological movement variously termed "Islamic jihadism", "radical Islam" or (my personal preference) "Islamic totalitarianism". This movement has control of some national governments, and uses terrorist organizations such as Hamas, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda. The movement has a complex internal structure and is split into competing factions along both ethnic (Persian vs. Arab) and religious (Shia vs. Sunni) lines, but all factions are united by a commitment to the establishment of a world-dominating state governing in strict accordance with Islamic law. So that's the enemy. How do we defeat them?

The issues many Objectivists have with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars boil down to the claim that they are at best irrelevant and at worst counter-productive when considered relative to the goal of defeating totalitarian Islam. As a general rule, a necessary condition for defeating an enemy in war is identifying his center of strength and then destroying it as thoroughly as possible -- eliminating both the capacity and will to continue the fight. The centers of strength of the Islamic totalitarian movement are in Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Rather than moving against, or even pressuring these states, we are wasting time, money and lives trying to build democratic governments in nations that are at best marginal relative to our proper strategic goal. Rather than acting to defend ourselves and secure our own liberties, we are sending our troops into harm's way to enable populations that hate us to democratically vote themselves into the same kinds of governments that wind up supporting our enemies. We are, to put it short, fighting an altruistic war, and it's working out as altruism always does -- which is to say, it's killing us.

I see the War on Terror as a war of self-defense as well as one of protecting our economic interests abroad. I'm glad Obama in spite of his rhetoric is continuing this war. I would definitely support Obama if he does start a war against the brutal Iran theocracy.

I think it's a mistake to call it a "War on Terror". Terrorism is a tactic deployed in the service of a strategic goal. Declaring war on a tactic is nonsensical. World War I was not a "War on U-Boats"; World War II was not a "War on Blitzkriegs". I would support a "War on Islamic Totalitarianism", if we were actually fighting one, but pretending that what Bush did was even an attempt at that is wrong -- and pretending that Obama is waging a war on anything except freedom is simply ludicrous. It isn't that Bush tried to do the right thing but screwed it up; he fundamentally misunderstood the nature of the threat and wasted lives with irrelevancies.

(Note that none of the above is self-evident. I supported Bush through 2005, largely because I thought he might be working up to the attack on Iran that needed to happen. Once I became convinced that he had no intention of doing that, I changed my evaluation. The signs were present earlier, but I underestimated the power of fundamental ideas and let my optimistic wishful thinking blind me to the reality. Live and learn.)

Oh, one final thought. A book came out a month or two ago, called Winning the Unwinnable War. It's a collection of essays by various ARI analysts on the so-called War on Terror, what went wrong and what should be done to fix it. I haven't read the book yet, but I read several of the essays in it when they were originally published in The Objective Standard. I expect it will be the best source for an extended development of the Objectivist perspective of the War on Terror; if you're interested you might pick up a copy.

Edited by khaight

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Thanks for that long post. It explained some things well. I don't mind the name of the war, as long as we are fighting. Obama is definitely waging a war on freedom with his openly socialist policies at home, but abroad, he seems to be carrying on Bush's work admirably. However, IMO I don't see the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as altruistic, as they did help in protecting our economic interests in the Middle East. In the sense that we carried out our self defense after 9/11 (which some seem to have forgotten about), I did and still do support these wars and would definitely support wars against the centers of Islam including Iran, Saudi Arabia etc.

Also I'll try to pick up that book you mentioned.

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I don't mind the name of the war, as long as we are fighting.

See, that's the thing. I don't think we're fighting, and the reasons we aren't are largely encapsulated in the fact that the 'war' has the wrong name. Words stand for concepts, and concepts are how we understand the world. Giving the war the wrong name means we're conceptualizing it incorrectly. Flawed thinking leads to flawed action. If we call it the "War on Terror", that has implications. It identifies the wrong enemy, which leads to wrong strategic goals, which leads to wrong military actions. We pick the wrong targets, we use the wrong rules of engagement, we pick the wrong allies. This is not a recipe for victory -- indeed, it makes victory impossible by obfuscating our understanding of what it would consist of. Has a clear set of victory conditions in the "War on Terror" been specified by any of its architects or advocates? If so, I haven't heard of it.

Fighting the wrong war is worse than not fighting at all.

Obama is definitely waging a war on freedom with his openly socialist policies at home, but abroad, he seems to be carrying on Bush's work admirably.

I agree that Obama is carrying on Bush's policies, but I don't think there's anything admirable in that. Leonard Peikoff once described Bush's actions post-9/11 as "taking a gun with one bullet and firing it into the ground." Obama is waving the empty gun around, even though our enemies can see that it has no magazine and nothing in the chamber. Bush misidentified the enemy and fought an appeasing, altruistic pseudo-war against irrelevant targets. Obama has kept the altruism and appeasement while waffling on the pseudo-war. I really wonder what you find to admire in Obama's foreign policy? His constant delays on settling on a policy in Afghanistan? His appeasement of the Iranian theocracy? His insults of Israel, our only real ally in the Middle East? His support for the attempted left-wing coup in Honduras? His sell-out of Poland and Czechoslovakia to the Russians?

However, IMO I don't see the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as altruistic, as they did help in protecting our economic interests in the Middle East.

I suggest you read some of the essays that went into Winning the Unwinnable War. The book's subtitle is "America's Self-Crippled Response to Islamic Totalitarianism", and the thing doing the crippling is altruism. A couple of them are available for free on the Objective Standard website:

"Just War Theory" vs. American Self-Defense

The "Forward Strategy" For Failure

They do a fairly good job of explaining the ways in which altruistic premises have impacted our war policy, and the disasters that have resulted. (I also have to question the idea that the Afghanistan and Iraqi campaigns have in any way protected our economic interests in the Middle East -- as well as the notion that 'economic interests' should in any way serve as a major justification for a war. The goal of war is to destroy an enemy who threatens your existence. Our government's policy has eschewed that goal. No amount of oil pumped from Iraqi oilfields can erase that fact.)

You might also want to read John David Lewis' article "No Substitute for Victory": The Defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism. Dr. Lewis has a book coming out in March, Nothing Less Than Victory: Decisive Wars And The Lessons Of History, which I'm sure will also be worth reading if you are interested in questions of war, peace and victory.

I've also heard a number of good things about Angelo Codevilla. He's not an Objectivist, but I gather he's written a number of incisive critiques of our government's recent war policy, and stuff on the theory of war more generally. I've got a number of his books in my to-read stack. War: Ends And Means; No Victory, No Peace; and Advice To War Presidents are the most on-point. The second, in particular, is a collection of essays focusing specifically on the "War on Terror".

In the sense that we carried out our self defense after 9/11 (which some seem to have forgotten about), I did and still do support these wars...

Did we? We clearly didn't defend ourselves from 9/11 itself, because it happened. A proper defense after the fact would have destroyed the capability and will of the enemy so that they no longer posed a threat. I don't see that that happened. The Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan. The Iranian theocracy is not only still in power, they are closer than ever to becoming a nuclear power. The Islamists have more power in Turkey and in Pakistan than they did before our 'self-defense' started. Our enemies are not destroyed. They are increasingly emboldened, growing in power and in number.

There is a war being waged against us. Because of our moral and intellectual defaults, we are unwilling to act effectively to defend ourselves, and because of that we are losing.

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I read Anthem in 10th grade and just thought it was so cool! Then I kind of forgot about it until I was carrying a box of books and Atlas Shrugged fell out, I had always loved the cover so I decided to read it. I had a teacher who was an Objectivist and I remember her seeing me reading it and saying something like, "Oooooo! Ambitious..."

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I read The Virtue of Selfishness at 18 and 1/4. Converted to Objectivism within 24 hours. Felt ecstatic, thrilled, bewildered, enervated, and beaten-up.

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I first read Ayn Rand going into my junior year of high school. Tobias Wolfe's novel Old School was required reading and Ayn Rand was a minor character in the book. She wasn't positively portrayed. I checked Atlas Shrugged out of the library and skimmed it and also read some of Ayn Rand's essays. Later, I read Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead more thoroughly. I saw a clip of Gary Cooper playing Howard Roarke on another Objectivism forum from Facebook. I liked The Fountainhead better than Atlas Shrugged as a story because the dialogue is more realistic, but I think Atlas Shrugged is more interesting as a philosophical book.

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I first encountered the ideas of Ayn Rand in her PLAYBOY interview in 1964. I was a clueless sophomore in high school in East Tennessee, struggling to maintain my sanity while growing up in the Bible Belt. I was immediately hooked. From that time on, you would rarely have seen me without a copy of Atlas Shrugged. I told people it was "My Bible."

That summer, I visited New York and saw Ayn Rand in person answering questions at the Nathaniel Branden Institute. (A friend had purchased tickets to see the sold-out Broadway play "Hello Dolly" months in advance. I went to NBI instead. I don't think he ever forgave me.)

All those years ago, I remember thinking that Ayn Rand would save the world. In retrospect, though, considering how confused I was at the time, all that really matters to me is that she saved my life.

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I read Anthem first and was hooked!

Yes, Anthem is arguably the best intro.

Followed by VoS, TF, the rest of her essay collections, and then AS, I'd say.

Of course it doesn't happen that way usually.

I was recommended The Fountainhead by my girl-friend's uncle - who happened to be a high-rise construction worker - and took it from there.

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It was college age for me, but I was in the Navy. I read "Atlas Shrugged" and it has changed my life. I had always rejected the idea of a deity, rebelled against what I considered oppressive (though I doubt I knew the word at the time) government, and had a strong sense of self and individual rights. I was energized and relieved to discover that I was not as "alone" as I had thought.

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I read "Atlas Shrugged" when 18 or 19. It made quite an impression on me, so I then voraciously read much of her non-fiction as well as her other novels (though I haven't read Anthem).

I considered myself an Objectivist at the time, though I don't now. I discovered Aquinas a little over a decade ago and that had a similar impact on me.

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I read Ayn Rand first when I was 31 (I am now 46). I was only about halfway through the book when I realized it was the philosophy for me.

As years rolled by however, I got into other things and got soft on the philosophy and soft on myself. I realize now that was a no-no and an error on my part. Anyway, I'm back and I am here to stay.

There are so many things that I agree with completely about Rand's philosophy (I don't like calling it, "Objectivism" -- so I don't). And there are so many things that I emphatically disagree with about her philosophy. I take what I can use from it and integrate it into my own life and leave the rest.

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