True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.
NOTE TO STUDENTS: WHY I ASSIGN AYN RAND'S ANTHEM
In life, Ayn Rand was always at the center of controversy; she remains so today. Some general studies philosophy books, as well as a number of philosophers and philosophy professors today, deny that she was a "true" philosopher (or omit her entirely from consideration; my copy of The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy does not mention her). This is amusing, because often enough these same critics reject the notion of objective truth in the first place, and seem willing to identify virtually anyone as a philosopher. She has been called extremist, ultra-capitalist, apologist for capitalism, high priestess of individualism, and much else. This is very telling: such attacks usually reflect disagreement with her philosophical conclusions, rather than doubts about her credentials.
On the other hand, there are philosophical institutes dedicated to the study of her work, such as the Ayn Rand Institute and the Atlas Society. Her novels, written to be vessels for her philosophy, are among the best-selling books of the 20th century. I assign Anthem (one of her first and shortest novels) not because I agree with all of her views (I don’t), but because it concisely addresses just about every concept we examine in class, in a form similar to dystopia novels such as 1984 by Orwell, Brave New World by Huxley, and Fahrenheit 451 by Bradbury. Regarding the idea that philosophy requires an open, enquiring mind, the critics of Rand who marginalize her out of valid discourse are contradicting everything they claim to believe, as they so dismissively attempt to omit and bury her.
As with any philosopher in our study, you should consider her work with a critical eye, and make your own judgments about her ideas. She would not have it otherwise.