In her ethics Ayn Rand extolled the virtue of selfishness—and in her theory of art she was no less radical. Piercing the fog of mysticism and sentimentality that engulfs art, the essays in The Romantic Manifesto explain why, since time immemorial, man has created and consumed works of art.
Ayn Rand argues that objective standards in art are possible because art is not a subjective luxury, but rather a critical need of human life—not a material need, but a need of man’s rational mind, the faculty on which his material survival depends.
Ayn Rand explains the indispensable function of art in man’s life (ch. 1), the objective source of man’s deeply personal, emotional response to art (ch. 2), and how an artist’s fundamental, often unstated view of man and of the world shapes his creations (ch. 3).
Turning to her own field of artistic creation, Rand elaborates (ch. 5) on her distinctive theory of literature and identifies principles by which to judge an artwork objectively. “What is Romanticism?” (ch. 6) sheds new light on the nature and philosophy of the school of literature under which Rand classified her own work. Later essays explain how contemporary art reveals the debased intellectual state of our culture (ch. 7, 8 and 9).
In the final essay Rand articulates the goal of her own fiction writing as “the projection of an ideal man, as an end in itself”—and explains that she originated her philosophy as a means to this end.
Table of Contents
The Psycho-Epistemology of Art
Philosophy and Sense of Life
Art and Sense of Life
Art and Cognition
Basic Principles of Literature
What Is Romanticism?
The Esthetic Vacuum of Our Age
Art and Moral Treason
Introduction to Ninety-Three
The Goal of My Writing
The Simplest Thing in the World