The Fountainhead: We Don’t Need No Education

The Fountainhead, part 1, chapter 1Last time, we found out that Howard Roark, Randian superman, was being expelled from architectural college. In this installment, we'll find out why. Try to form your own guess before reading on!When Roark returns to his rented room in town, there's a message from the dean asking to meet with him. Instead, he spends an hour sitting and doodling, reworking some of his old sketches. He later makes the excuse that he lost track of time; although since … [Read more...]

When Should a Humanist Forgive?

In "The Ashes", I wrote that we should stop trying to help Trump voters who are about to suffer the consequences of getting what they voted for. This drew a rejoinder by Dragoness Eclectic:And this, I fear, is the difference between the compassion preached by Jesus, and secular humanist compassion: "We'll only be kind and compassionate to our friends and allies" vs. "Love your enemies; for even sinners love their friends. You are called to do much more."I thought this critique … [Read more...]

The Fountainhead: Our Hero

The Fountainhead, part 1, chapter 1The Fountainhead begins with nudity:Howard Roark laughed.He stood naked at the edge of a cliff. The lake lay far below him. A frozen explosion of granite burst in flight to the sky over motionless water. The water seemed immovable, the stone — flowing. The stone had the stillness of one brief moment in battle when thrust meets thrust and the currents are held in a pause more dynamic than motion.Howard Roark will be our hero for this novel. A … [Read more...]

How to Resist Temptation

A quick question about your philosophical intuitions. Who's the more moral person: the one who feels immoral temptations and resists them, or the one who's never tempted to do wrong in the first place?Famous philosophers have taken different sides on this. As an article in the Atlantic describes, social scientists are now investigating the question:One argument, associated with Aristotle, is that a truly moral person will wholeheartedly want to do the right thing, and no part of her … [Read more...]

The Fountainhead: Once More Into the Breach

After finishing my marathon review of Atlas Shrugged, I always wanted to circle back and review Ayn Rand's other major novel, The Fountainhead. It was part curiosity, part completionism. (An unkind assessment might add a hint of masochism.)The Fountainhead is the earlier book, published in 1943, fourteen years before Atlas. While it was successful in its own right and helped establish Ayn Rand as an author, it's not as well-known. This may be because, unlike Atlas Shrugged, it's set in a … [Read more...]

Coming Soon: The Fountainhead

Good news! I've been reading and making notes on Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, and I'm nearly done with it now. I'm planning to write another chapter-by-chapter review, like the one I did for Atlas Shrugged, beginning in January 2017.I'll do my best to make it entertaining, but I have to admit that The Fountainhead isn't as wacky as Atlas Shrugged. It's slower, talkier, less action-oriented. It doesn't have the disappearing-geniuses mystery plot, the mad-science sci-fi, or the … [Read more...]

Repost: The Mystical Dogma of Human Equality

[I'm taking a break from the blog to bond with and care for my new son. Please enjoy this classic post! I'll check in periodically to answer comments.]Recently, the Catholic writer and apologist Mark Shea fielded a question from a reader who was disturbed by pro-slavery Bible verses quoted on an atheist billboard in Pennsylvania. Here's the letter, in part (HT: Friendly Atheist):One of my atheist/anti-Church friends posted a sign by American Atheists quoting Colossians 3:22 (Slaves, obey … [Read more...]

I Get Religious Mail: That’s Not What “Miracle” Means

The newest charity that's sent me an explicitly religious solicitation is American Leprosy Missions, "the oldest and largest Christian organization in the United States dedicated to curing and caring for people affected by leprosy and related diseases around the world". Take a look:Imagine pulling a dollar bill out of your pocket and seeing it multiply 33 times, like Jesus multiplying the loaves and the fishes!That's what you can do today. Because now every $1 you give will turn … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Ideological Event Horizon

Atlas Shrugged, Closing ThoughtsIn life and in death, Ayn Rand stands alone as the supreme advocate of individualism. No one was fiercer in defending the romantic idea that you should follow your conscience above all else, chase your dreams whatever the price, and ignore the taunts and scorn of the masses along the way.At least, that's the popular conception. It's certainly how Rand thought of herself. But Atlas Shrugged offers surprising evidence to the contrary.The last third of … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Great Chain of Being

Atlas Shrugged, Closing ThoughtsThroughout Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand tells us that her ideal state would be a perfect meritocracy. Everyone would rise or fall as their talents merited. There'd be no corrupt bargains, no discrimination, and no hereditary ruling class.It's an appealing vision, but what the novel shows isn't the same as what it tells. Regardless of what Rand says she wants, she repeatedly undermines her meritocratic ideal by writing characters who do indeed have special … [Read more...]