I intend to use this blog as a platform for my daily thoughts on a variety of topics. I welcome comments, objections, and questions.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Recommendation: The Romantic Manifesto

I started a re-read of another book today, and I'd like to strongly recommend it to all of you: The Romantic Manifesto by Ayn Rand. The book is a collection of her essays demonstrating her definition of art and its crucial role in human life. In my opinion it is the best written and most insightful publication of her non-fiction work (and also my personal favorite). Her exposition of the Objectivist aesthetics is a subject rarely found in her novels themselves, and the insights of this book provide substantial clarity to her metaphysics and epistemology not found in some other sources.

In the book, she claims that both philosophy and art are fundamental necessities of human life. I could not possibly attempt to define and justify Rand's philosophy of art in a blog post. I had considered writing an honors thesis on the subject, so that should give you an indication of its complexity and scope. But, I can heartedly recommend her book, and share some of my favorite quotes (which will probably happen in several posts as I read it).

This comes from the introduction:
"It is impossible for the young people of today to grasp the reality of man's higher potential and what scale of achievement it had reached in a rational (or semi-rational) culture. But I have seen it. I know that it was real, that it existed, that it is possible. It is that knowledge that I want to hold up to the sight of men--over the brief span of less than a century--before the barbarian curtain descends altogether (if it does) and the last memory of man's greatness vanishes in another Dark Ages.

I made it my task to learn what made Romanticism, the greatest achievement in art history, possible and what destroyed it. I learned--as in other, similar cases involving philosophy--that Romanticism was defeated by its own spokesmen, that even in its own time it had never been properly recognized or identified. It is Romanticism's identity that I want to transmit to the future...

Will we see an esthetic Renaissance in our time? I do not know. What I do know is this: anyone who fights for the future, lives in it today." (Emphasis mine).

In the second chapter, Rand explains the concept of a "sense of life" and its relation to philosophy and art. I love this passage.
"Since religion is a primitive form of philosophy--an attempt to offer a comprehensive view of reality--many of its myths are distorted, dramatized allegories based on some element of truth, some actual, if profoundly elusive, aspect of man's existence. One of such allegories, which men find particularly terrifying, is the myth of a supernatural recorder from whom nothing can be hidden, who lists all of a man's deeds--the good and the evil, the noble and the vile--and who confronts a man with that record on judgment day.

That myth is true, not existentially, but psychologically. The merciless recorder is the integrating mechanism of a man's subconscious; the record is his sense of life."
That is a brilliant insight.

The Romantic Manifesto is about 180 pages and is a relatively quick read (quick in comparison to her novels, for those of you familiar with their complexity and length!). I recommend it!

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