PDA

View Full Version : Ayn Rand for a Teenager?


WhyNot
07-01-2008, 06:58 PM
Well, I just discovered that Bioshock is (sorta) based on the work of Ayn Rand, thanks to the popular culture/parody thread. Color me bemused. My 15 year old son has been attempting to tell me all about Bioshock, as it's one of his favorite games. I admit most of his explanations have gone in one ear and out the other. Still, it's something he's into. Ought I steer him towards Rand's writing, or is it better to leave that for when he's older?

He's tackled some interesting written-for-adults works, including things like Blink and Guns, Germs and Steel. His philosophy reading, however, has plateaued around the Illusions level. Will Rand blow his little mind or bore him to tears?

silenus
07-01-2008, 07:16 PM
Once you teach about how Rand is a lunatic, let him at her. I'd start him off with Anthem, then if he can stand it, The Fountainhead. But you need to talk with him as he is reading the books, otherwise he will think she has good ideas. :D

Orual
07-01-2008, 07:22 PM
Yeah, I would recommend Anthem as well - it's the shortest and the most readable.

Bryan Ekers
07-01-2008, 07:25 PM
Starting with Anthem is fine, the only talk I think you should give him is to explain the context of Rand's writing - how she'd escaped from Russia in the early Soviet days and some details of life under Stalin, to clarify that what she was railing against was real and serious, though it had collapsed before he was born.




Yikes. I feel old, now...

Jragon
07-01-2008, 08:01 PM
Bioshock is actually based specifically around Atlas Shrugged, however he'll probably glaze over and have his head explode somewhere around the 56 page speech on Objectivism. It may be good to introduce him through Anthem or Fountainhead.

However, it should be warned Bioshock is less about Objectivism so much as blind belief in philosophy. It definitely doesn't praise objectivism in a major way (in fact the entire premise is the founded "perfect" objectivist society does way better than the normal world at first but then proceeds to absolutely crumble, enter player). It certainly does seem to entertain and enjoy some aspects, but overall criticises Ayn's over-the-top "either you accept my whole philosophy or none of it" ideals and encourages people to look at philosophies and only take practical cues, rather than eat any single philosophy hook, line, and sinker (because it leads to blind idealism and can cause societies to crumble). In fact, some of it seems almost patently ridiculous, because it feature's Rand's completely unblocked Laissez-Faire market there are WEAPONS AND AMMO VENDING MACHINES on the walls, probably trying to make money off the civil war in Rapture, so it certainly paints blind belief in the philosophy as ridiculous. So he may end up reading Rand with Bioshock in mind and think "some of this is good but... wow this could cause some issues" which is good, and reading literature that challenges your beliefs can be good, but you may want to warn him in advance that he certainly won't be reading Bioshock's philosophy, but will be exposed to ideals that were presented.

Before I posted I searched for a second, this article from Kotaku has a pretty good description of Bioshock's relationship to the philosophy and echoes a lot of what I said.
http://kotaku.com/354717/no-gods-or-kings-objectivism-in-bioshock

Zsofia
07-01-2008, 08:16 PM
I would say that high school through college is in fact the optimum time to read Rand, because that's the only time you'll enjoy it. Give him Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenace while you're at it - let him enjoy it when he's able to.

Oh, and play Bioshock, it's awesome.

BrainGlutton
07-01-2008, 10:15 PM
Adolescents tend naturally to think they know everything and isn't everything obvious?! Objectivism is a perfect fit.

But beware of synergistic effects.

JThunder
07-01-2008, 10:41 PM
Better warn this teenager that Ayn Rand did not own a dictionary, and thus, did not know what "altriusm" and "selfishness" meant.

lawoot
07-01-2008, 10:45 PM
I have only read Atlas Shrugged, and I read it when I was 15 (30 years ago >>>sob<<<). It's not an impossible book for a teen to get through.

WhyNot
07-01-2008, 10:45 PM
Cool. I think I'll point him towards the bookshelf where we have, I believe, Anthem and The Fountainhead, and leave it there. Nothing less cool than having your mom push literature at you, but I'll make sure he knows it's acceptable reading material for him. If he likes it, great. If not, Zen... it is! :D


(Not that I wouldn't let him read whatever he wants, but we do have "our" bookshelves and "his" bookshelves, just by dint of habit. Rand is on "our" bookshelf, although to be honest, I've never made it out of the first chapter.)

BrainGlutton
07-01-2008, 10:54 PM
Better warn this teenager that Ayn Rand did not own a dictionary, and thus, did not know what "altriusm" and "selfishness" meant.

Oh, she knew, all right, she just felt entitled to redefine the terms. Like with Paul Johnson and the term "Intellectuals. (http://www.amazon.com/Intellectuals-Paul-Johnson/dp/1842120395/ref=pd_bbs_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1214967151&sr=8-1)" (It means "someone who is passionately interested in knowledge and ideas for their own sake," Mr. Johnson; it does not mean "someone to whom ideas are more important than people"; and if it did, Ayn Rand and Nietzsche and Russell Kirk would be better exemplars than Marx, Tolstoy or Brecht.)

vintageloveletter
07-01-2008, 11:46 PM
Anthem was part of my assigned high school reading back in '96 when I was a sophmore. I think I got all the concepts back then.

Suse
07-02-2008, 12:30 AM
My 13-year-old son loved The Fountainhead and only stopped reading Atlas Shrugged because school ended. I read The Fountainhead years and years ago and don't really remember it; I'll send him to this thread to get others' takes on Rand's works.

WhyNot
07-02-2008, 10:49 AM
My 13-year-old son loved The Fountainhead and only stopped reading Atlas Shrugged because school ended. I read The Fountainhead years and years ago and don't really remember it; I'll send him to this thread to get others' takes on Rand's works.
I'd also love to hear his take on them, if he's a Doper. Or you can give him my email: flaminghippie@gmail.com

Maeglin
07-02-2008, 11:06 AM
I was a moody, elitist teenager so Rand was the perfect author for me. I was a little ashamed by college, though.

Give him the book, but mothers, don't let your babies grow up to be Randroids.

WhyNot
07-02-2008, 11:21 AM
I was a moody, elitist teenager so Rand was the perfect author for me. I was a little ashamed by college, though.

Give him the book, but mothers, don't let your children grow up to be Randroids.
:D

Yeah, he's not your normal teenager. Heck, if you were raised by neopagan hippiesque freaks, you wouldn't be either! He's not exactly elitist - that is, he thinks his way of doing things is the best for him, but he's very amused by the way things work for others. OTOH, he's not entirely morally relativist, either - he holds that some things are just WRONG, whether or not the people around him agree.

He definitely gets a kick out of the Objectivism in Bioshock, but because he thinks it's more than a bit ridiculous, not because he shares the philosophy. I'm curious what greater exposure and more explanation will do to him.

vison
07-02-2008, 11:46 AM
I spent the summer of my 15th year reading all Rand's books that I could get my hands on.

I was a sorta fangirl for about 6 months, but it wore off. It didn't do me any lasting harm, as far as I know. I tried re-reading these books in my 30's but gave up. It wasn't the "philosophy" as much as the terrible writing.

Also, I found out that Rand didn't exactly "escape" from the USSR, at least not with her feet leaving bloody tracks in the snow. And, learning about her affair with her disciple Nathaniel Branden took the remaining bloom off the rose.

Stranger On A Train
07-02-2008, 11:48 AM
Once you teach about how Rand is a lunatic, let him at her. I'd start him off with Anthem, then if he can stand it, The Fountainhead. But you need to talk with him as he is reading the books, otherwise he will think she has good ideas. :D*clap clap clap*

Rand was a poor philosopher, as one might expect from the author of a book entitled Philosophy: Who Needs It. Her didactic, dichotomous approach to Objectivist epistemology and ethics is anti-intellectual at its core, and her use in narrative of exaggerated characture to justify her points (The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged especially) is childish and a shallow reflection of the Socialist Realism she so despised.

If the lad is really interested in philosophy as a means to ask well-structured questions (which is the only practical use for philosophy), start him with something accessible like Bertrand Russell or John Seale, and then work him back to Plato to get a foundation of Western philosophy (which is useful not only in the context of philosophy itself but in contrasting historical and social development between Europe and the Americas and Asia). Rand is junk food philosophy for people who want the same mores pounded onto their heads until the top is flattened.

Stranger

burundi
07-02-2008, 11:58 AM
I would say that high school through college is in fact the optimum time to read Rand, because that's the only time you'll enjoy it.
I was about to post the same thing. Fifteen is the perfect age to read Rand. Now's also the time for him to read Kerouac, too.

Maeglin
07-02-2008, 12:36 PM
:D

He definitely gets a kick out of the Objectivism in Bioshock, but because he thinks it's more than a bit ridiculous, not because he shares the philosophy.

I have to say, now I am kind of intrigued by the possibilities of using video games to teach philosophy. Perhaps something a little more sophisticated than Planescape: Torment, though.

Although I substantially disagree with Stranger's analysis of Rand (despite substantially agreeing with his conclusion), I would also suggest he turn to more interesting and rigorous authors if he really does have an interest in philosophy.

BrainGlutton
07-02-2008, 02:04 PM
I lost interest in video games not long after Pac-Man came out. They have plots now?!!

WhyNot
07-02-2008, 02:10 PM
I lost interest in video games not long after Pac-Man came out. They have plots now?!!
Oh yeah, big time. There are some games (I'm blanking on the name, but they're a long and planned to be longer series) which are actually blasted for having too much plot - there are multiple 30 minute or longer mini-movies you have to sit through before you can start blowing shit up.

It's, like, art. Media, just like books and movies. I admit, I find it hard to believe - my last video game was prob'ly Mortal Kombat II. The only video game I've had the patience to play with my son in the last few years is Eregon - which I'm sure sucked by today's standards, but was at least stylistically familiar to my ancient and decrepit brain.

plnnr
07-02-2008, 02:56 PM
It may make him a Rush fan.

Ugh.

muldoonthief
07-02-2008, 03:15 PM
So out of curiosity, does he harvest the Little Sisters, or rescue them?

Elendil's Heir
07-02-2008, 04:29 PM
Forget Rand. Give him Lincoln at Gettysburg by Garry Wills. A much more healthy and interesting to political philosophy, and it will stand him in good stead later in life. Wills truly earned the Pulitzer he won for this book.

WhyNot
07-02-2008, 04:48 PM
So out of curiosity, does he harvest the Little Sisters, or rescue them?
First response: "Heh...I wondered when you were going to ask that..."

And then a bunch of stuff about "Adam" and flaming hands and regeneration and Achievements. His first time playing, he saved them, after that, there were many variations to see how he could get the most benefit.

He also says, "Ask [muldoonthief] if he killed Sander Cohen in his apartment or in Fort Frollick." He's always been a fan of irony. ;)

muldoonthief
07-02-2008, 04:56 PM
First response: "Heh...I wondered when you were going to ask that..."

And then a bunch of stuff about "Adam" and flaming hands and regeneration and Achievements. His first time playing, he saved them, after that, there were many variations to see how he could get the most benefit.

He also says, "Ask [muldoonthief] if he killed Sander Cohen in his apartment or in Fort Frollick." He's always been a fan of irony. ;)

Hah! Did he also explain that "harvest" is an in-game euphemism for "brutally kill with your bare hands and then eviscerate the body" ?

I killed Sander Cohen in his apartment. IIRC, I read a bit too far into a gamefaq guide and thus knew not to kill him in Fort Frolic.

WhyNot
07-02-2008, 05:14 PM
Hah! Did he also explain that "harvest" is an in-game euphemism for "brutally kill with your bare hands and then eviscerate the body" ?

Yep. :p

I used to be a Nervous Nellie about the violence in his video games. He didn't actually get a game system at all until he was 11, and all his computer based games were things like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Finally one day he asked me, exasperatedly, "Mom, what's the real difference if I'm 'killing things' with a bow and arrow or with a Sub-Neutron DestructOmatic machine gun? Neither one would be okay in real life!"

I didn't have a good answer for him, so I let his uncle get him a Gameboy. The XBOX followed two or three years later with, at first, careful vetting of the games by rating. Now he's on his own recognizance as far as his choice of games, as long as he's got the sense and reflexes to hit Pause when his little sister wanders into the room. He's decided Grand Theft Auto is over the line for our house, but Bioshock isn't. I haven't questioned his decision making process on that one too closely, but I trust him.

If he's caught by the police with a bow and arrow, though, we're taking the video games away! :D

VarlosZ
07-02-2008, 07:24 PM
I started reading Rand at 15 (and stopped at 17 or 18). I very much enjoyed The Fountainhead, and stopped reading Atlas Shrugged halfway through, so I'd recommend the former -- it's just a much better novel, all philosophy aside. I wouldn't worry too much about his picking up nasty ideas; most people age out of it (I know I did). And you could always slip him some Eastern philosophy at the same time, which should be an effective antidote to this 'everything is what it is' claptrap.

Coil
07-03-2008, 03:38 AM
"Mom, what's the real difference if I'm 'killing things' with a bow and arrow or with a Sub-Neutron DestructOmatic machine gun? Neither one would be okay in real life!"
Brilliant!

BrainGlutton
07-03-2008, 09:11 AM
I used to be a Nervous Nellie about the violence in his video games. He didn't actually get a game system at all until he was 11, and all his computer based games were things like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Finally one day he asked me, exasperatedly, "Mom, what's the real difference if I'm 'killing things' with a bow and arrow or with a Sub-Neutron DestructOmatic machine gun? Neither one would be okay in real life!"

The difference is the size of the emotional hardon.

WhyNot
07-03-2008, 09:51 AM
Brilliant!
Isn't it? :D I figured if he was old enough to formulate that argument, he was old enough to be relatively unscathed by the violence in E and T rated video games. Once he showed me he could handle those without getting obnoxious, I loosened the reins further.

BrainGlutton, you scare me sometimes.* :dubious:






*(Not really.)

muldoonthief
07-03-2008, 10:11 AM
WhyNot, you've got a good kid there. I'm impressed he rescued the Little Sisters on his first play through - it's mighty tempting to kill them all and get that precious, precious Adam.

I'd disagree with him on the Bioshock vs. GTA though - Bioshock is much more immersive, and pretty damn frightening. Of course you don't get to beat hookers to death with a bat and take your money back in Bioshock, so maybe he's right after all.

I'm just worried he's going to get 150 pages into "Atlas Shrugged" and start asking "When do the Big Daddies show up?"

WhyNot
07-03-2008, 10:37 AM
WhyNot, you've got a good kid there. I'm impressed he rescued the Little Sisters on his first play through - it's mighty tempting to kill them all and get that precious, precious Adam.

I'd disagree with him on the Bioshock vs. GTA though - Bioshock is much more immersive, and pretty damn frightening. Of course you don't get to beat hookers to death with a bat and take your money back in Bioshock, so maybe he's right after all.

I'm just worried he's going to get 150 pages into "Atlas Shrugged" and start asking "When do the Big Daddies show up?"
He said something interesting yesterday. I asked him (sort of suspecting the answer), "So, does Bioshock have Good Guys and Bad Guys? Which are you?"

He replied, "That's the cool thing - you just don't know!"

Whereas in GTA, it's pretty clear that you're supposed to be a Bad Guy and make Bad/Evil choices. He seems drawn to the ambiguity of Bioshock, and he's certainly willing to "Harvest" to get Achievements and win the game, but he's not willing to bring a pro-Bad Guy game into the house. Not that he wouldn't play it at his friend's....

But yeah, he does say Bioshock is "freaky" and "scary" and he only plays it when his little sister is in bed or not home. He sounded pretty wigged out about the "sculptures" moving around.

I think he knows there are no Big Brothers in Atlas Shrugged. He sounds a bit interested in reading it - yesterday he ran in and went, "Wait, Atlas! Like - " and he mimed holding up the world. "That's brilliant!" and ran away again. I'm not sure what dots he connected, but the wheels are turnin'!

eleanorigby
07-03-2008, 10:44 AM
Ok, now mess with his head. Once he starts reading, approach him at random intervals and ask, "who is John Gault?"


I think he'll like Anthem as well. 15 is about the right age for AS and all Rand--I had to read AS for Honors Econ class junior year.