Ayn Rand's Philosophy on Society, Conformity and the Necessity of Reason

That four-letter word undoubtedly caught your attention as your eyes involuntarily widened. I even tensed as I typed that word–afraid of the disapproval I would receive from you, the reader. But wouldn’t the concepts behind The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand support the argument that just because society has dubbed something unacceptable, doesn’t mean that it is?

Altering our reaction to this word would change its potency. Though very few seem to question this paradigm, even fewer would dare to advocate this viewpoint for fear of judgment.

The select few that strive to go against societal norms would no doubt exhibit the same qualities as Howard Roark and Henry Cameron; characters of the novel that are steadfast in their beliefs, driven and ingenious. It’s these qualities that terrified society of Cameron’s work, made Roark enamored with Cameron, rendered Cameron and Roark compatible, and separated them from everyone else, especially Francon and Keating.

Fear is what drove society to reject Cameron’s work–what I fear will drive you to reject mine.

People were fearful of change, new concepts, and how those new ideas would affect them. But they were specifically fearful of those, such as Cameron, who was at the forefront of such change. Just as the dean of Stanton Institute of Technology referred to Roark as “dangerous,” society felt the same way about Cameron (15). For this reason, members of society focused their criticism on the individual they felt posed a threat to the norm. Cameron was even able to observe that society hated “any man who [loved] his work” and that it was “the only kind they [feared)” (54).

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Roark reveres Cameron for everything he has sacrificed for the sake of architecture. While Cameron could’ve been wealthy and admired by the social “elite”, he chose to only accept commissions that he felt were worthy to be erected. For example, in an interview, Cameron boldly stated, “Architecture…justifies the existence of the Earth,” not that it was a business or career (72). However, Roark respects Cameron not only for his opinions but also for not compromising his principles over the entirety of his career. Similarly, I will not accept given academic conventions at the cost of my ideas. Roark overlooks their failures of Cameron and informs him that he has “noticed only that she wasn’t] afraid of” anyone (54). Even though Cameron told him not to see him as a “noble fighter” or a “martyr to a lost cause” that is exactly how Roark views him and exactly what he is (55).

While Roark shares the same views as present-day Cameron, he shares many qualities with a younger Cameron–when he was not hardened by the rejection of his work, but motivated by it. Generally speaking, as was stated earlier, they are opinionated, determined, and brilliant. But they are most notably similar in their abilities to deal with failure. For example, when they had lost commissions while working together they wouldn’t speak of their situation but instead, sat in Cameron’s office and simply “[leaned] upon the reassurance of each other’s] presence” (67). Cameron’s life story stands as evidence of his resilience, and throughout the book, Roark begins to show the same quality through his words and actions. For instance, after the trial over the Stoddard Temple ended and Roark was convicted, he found joy that a creation such as that existed in the first place. In addition, the way others speak about him illuminates this ability to handle adverse circumstances. At the construction site in Monadnock Valley, Mike says to Mallory confidently, “they can’t beat [Roark]…they just can’t, not the whole goddamn world” (532).

The amount Francon and Keating depend on others is the fundamental difference between them, and Cameron and Roark. For instance, Keating thrives off of the approval of others and states they gave him a “feeling of his value,” while “Roark gave him nothing” (64). While Roark focuses on the art in architecture, Keating is much more focused on how others feel about his work. Furthermore, in a meeting with Heller over the construction of his house, Roark explains why he wishes to construct Heller’s house the way he intends to. He explains that a house should be made to best fit its “own needs,” and any house that is created to “impress” only has a “determining motive of…an audience” (132). Similarly, I cannot–will not–construct an essay to impress, but only to express. What Roark means is that basing architecture on the preferences of others destroys the purpose of the building. Additionally, at the Cortlandt trial, Roark takes the stand and proclaims only a “parasite lives second-hand” when a real “creator lives for his work” and not for others (712). At this point in the novel, the reader can get a glimpse of something that truly disgusts Roark; an individual that cannot think for himself. Lastly, at this same trial, people in the courtroom began to ask themselves “do I need anyone’s approval? -Does it matter?” when they listened to Roark speak (710). It was simply Roark’s presence and heir of confidence that he projected that made people in the courtroom question the necessity of dependence on others. Roark plows his path and leads by example–something I hope to do in my future as well.

Ayn Rand brilliantly used the plot and characters to do much more than tell a story. Her philosophy on society, conformity, and the necessity of reason came alive between the lines.

Rand’s beliefs even affected the structure of this essay. For instance, her philosophy inspired me to question the conventions of academic writing. What is deemed “professional” actually prohibits my voice. For instance, the words “I,” “you,” and “fuck” are believed to be inappropriate for an academic paper. Well, to that I say to you, “Fuck that!”

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Ayn Rand's Philosophy on Society, Conformity and the Necessity of Reason. (2022, Aug 12). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/ayn-rand-s-philosophy-on-society-conformity-and-the-necessity-of-reason/

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