Saturday, September 06, 2008
'Reason' and The Fountainhead
"Reason can be fought with reason. How are you going to fight the unreasonable? The trouble with you, my dear, and with most people, is that you don't have sufficient respect for the senseless. The senseless is the major factor in our lives. You have no chance if it is your enemy." - Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

This sentiment is really challenging to me, and perhaps that is Rand's point. To challenge. To question one's motivations, to get to the heart of what makes a person tick.

Being one who studied religion, I'm not sure if I fit into the "reason" or "passion" camp (I refuse to call religion 'senseless'). I'd imagine that Rand latch on to the side of me that studied religion and label me as an idealist, with my actions being based on thoughts that are illogical. However, there is the project manager side of me, that every day strives to simplify things into small and very logical steps. That side of me tends to be executional at the task level, driven by mostly logic.

The strange thing to me is that no one, ever is all reason or all passion. It would be impossible. Perhaps that is also what she is illustrating. At the outset of the book, Roark appears to be coldly logical, and fairly self centered. Things were black and white for him; either they fit into his simple understanding of the world or they did not. He lacked the people skills to vocalize his thoughts. He was seen as an animal.

However, Roark meets Dominique and that seems to change him. Dominique is a socialite, has an amazing way with words and people. She can sell people on just about anything. However, she is not governed by any sort of reason. One day she will praise one thing and the next she will loathe it, and all of this done publicly. She is clearly afraid of committing to any one thing or person for fear it will define her.

Rand does a nice job with the extremes, and when they meet, it is explosive. They seem to bring out feelings of hate and anger in each other. I wonder if this is because they can not understand the basis of the other's being. Pure passion doesn't take to reason. Reason will always fight passion. Maybe it is one's ego, hanging to either passion or logic, that fights being presented with the other.

I have not finished the book, but hope she gives a nod to the balance that must exist in each of us. I worry that because she is a fan of Objectivism, that she will ultimately point out the follies of passion and point the reader to the ultimate good of pure reason. At this point, I also worry that she labels reason as the greatest good, the only path for fulfillment, and the path of passion to be one without merit, that could never result in a person reaching their highest potential or achieving joy. I can't really agree with her.

I see that fulfillment is really the result of following one's correct and right path in this life. Following one's heart, without questioning if certain decisions are totally logical or within reason can often lead a person to what brings them fulfillment. In my own life, I can see that choosing Improv or Religious Studies or working in advertising do not follow a path of reason. There is no specific logic to those choices, they were decisions of passion and spirit.

I argue that each person can choose to be happy or miserable, whether they choose reason or passion. Depending on the personality and interests of an individual, each person experiences fulfillment or joy in different ways. Joy is rarely the objective, but the outcome of following your own correct path. I can't see that following pure reason would result in fulfillment. But to come full circle, I'm sure Rand would argue that it is because someone who does follow their passion (not reason) has fallen prey to the senseless. They've left the realm of reason, and therefore are the "enemy."

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