Author’s note: I’ve omitted characters’ names and other information in the following excerpts and discussion of Ayn Rand’s novels to minimize spoilers. But if you are extremely sensitive to spoilers, I recommend reading Rand’s works before reading this article.
Happy Halloween! It’s a holiday for making light of evil and celebrating the good. But, given the inflatable ghosts on your neighbors’ lawns and the kids dressed as zombies and monsters—it’s also an opportunity to reflect on the basis and nature of evil. We can’t rely on garlic, decapitation, or sunlight to repel the noxious creatures that we do inevitably encounter in life. In order to fortify ourselves against evil, we have to understand it.
Toward this end, Ayn Rand is a tremendous help. “The motive and purpose of my writing,” she wrote in regard to her fiction, “is the projection of an ideal man. The portrayal of a moral ideal, as my ultimate literary goal, as an end in itself—to which any didactic, intellectual or philosophical values contained in a novel are only the means.”1 Rand threw her portrayals of moral ideals into high relief, revealing what makes some men virtuous and others vicious. Thus, among the treasure of intellectual and philosophical values her writing offers are refined illustrations and incisive analyses of evil, its motives, variations, manifestations, and essence. Fortunately, most of us will never deal directly with the worst kinds of villains that Rand depicts. Nonetheless, her crystal-clear distillations can help us identify and deal with vice and evil of any form or degree, including any unhealthy tendencies we may have, a family member’s psychological manipulation, a criminal’s attempt to swindle us, or worse.
To grapple with the full breadth and depth of Rand’s ideas on evil, readers should turn to her writing, specifically Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, Anthem, and We the Living. Here, I aim only to highlight and integrate a few key ideas drawn from her works. . . .
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1. Ayn Rand, “The Goal of My Writing,” The Romantic Manifesto: A Philosophy of Literature, rev. ed. (New York: Signet, 1975), 162.
2. Ayn Rand, “The Fountainhead,” For the New Intellectual: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (New York: Signet, 1961), 73.
3. Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead, centennial edition (New York: Plume, 1994), 20.
4. Rand, Fountainhead, 609.
5. Rand, Fountainhead, 151.
6. Rand, Fountainhead, 155.
7. Rand, Fountainhead, 633.
8. Rand, Fountainhead, 633–35.
9. Rand, Fountainhead, 633–35.
10. Ayn Rand, The Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution (New York: Penguin Group, 1999), 53.
11. Rand, Return of the Primitive, 53–54.
12. John Dewey, The School and Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), 15.
13. Dewey, School and Society, 20.
14. Rand, Return of the Primitive, 62.
15. Rand, Fountainhead, 666–69.
16. Ayn Rand, “The Anatomy of Compromise,” Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (New York: Signet, 1967), 163.
17. Ayn Rand, “Altruism as Appeasement,” The Objectivist, January 1966 (Irvine, CA: Second Renaissance), 6.
18. Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, centennial edition (New York: Penguin, 1957), 1048.