I had a hard time with Ayn Rand because I found myself enthusiastically agreeing with the first 90% of every sentence, but getting lost at 'therefore, be a huge asshole to everyone.'
...from the initial outline Ayn Rand provided, a very rich and powerful philosophy emerges e.g., it solves such problems as science versus free will and moral responsibility, knowledge versus the fact of fallibility. Merely because Rands ideas were not born in academe or developed in full detail by her, it cannot be concluded that they are unsound.
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
I figured it might provide a parable of Ayn Rands philosophy that I could discuss. For me, that philosophy reduces itself to: "Im on board; pull up the lifeline."
— Roger Ebert on Part I
Ayn Rand is one of the most widely read philosophers of the twentieth century. Academics have often dismissed her ideas as "pop" philosophy. As a best-selling novelist, a controversial, flamboyant polemicist, and a woman in a male dominated profession, Rand remained outside the academy throughout her life. Her works had inspired passionate responses that echo the uncompromising nature of her moral vision. In many cases, her audiences were either cultish in their devotion or savage in their attacks. The left was infuriated by her anticommunist, procapitalist politics, whereas the right was disgusted by her atheism and civil libertarianism.
— Chris Matthew Sciabarra, in Ayn Rand : The Russian Radical (1995) Introduction, p. 1
Ayn Rand is one of those things that a lot of us, when we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, wed pick up. Then, as we get older, we realize that a world in which were only thinking about ourselves and not thinking about anybody else thats a pretty narrow vision.
In Ayn Rand's world, a man who self-righteously instigates the collapse of society, thereby inevitably killing millions, if not billions of people, is portrayed as a messianic figure rather than a genocidal prick. Which is what he'd be anywhere else.
— John Scalzi