March 20, 1966
Miss B. Joni Harris
2530 Second Avenue
Detroit, Michigan 48201
Dear Miss Harris:
This is in reply to your letter of March 1.
The dilemma you describe in your letter in regard to your novel has no solution, since you are guilty of a contradiction in your basic approach.
You write that “Objectivism is the philosophical foundation of the work” and that “the story depicts my heroine as having discovered her ‘rational philosophy’ on her own.” This means that you want to ascribe to your heroine a discovery which in fact is not hers and that, for the purposes of your novel, you want to pretend that Objectivism, in fact, does not exist. You cannot expect me to sanction an attempt of that kind.
If your heroine were a physicist, you could not decide to have her discover the law of gravitation. In the same way and for the same reasons, you cannot write about a heroine who discovers “a rational philosophy,” unless you are able to provide her with an original “rational philosophy” of your own.
I suggest that you narrow your theme to your heroine’s specific problems and use generalized philosophical ideas, without attempting to make her the discoverer of an entire philosophy.
I cannot give you permission to include in your novel a “notice” connecting it with Objectivism in any way or form. Such a “notice” would imply a sanction which I cannot give to a person I do not know.
If, as you say, you agree with my philosophy, then you must realize that your novel has to stand on your own name, and on its own merit.
You are mistaken when you compare your approach to my attitude towards Aristotle: (1) Atlas Shrugged was not a restatement of Aristotle’s work and it did not claim that its hero had originated Aristotle’s philosophy. (2) Aristotle died over 2000 years ago, which is not true
of me, and his works are in the public domain, which is not true of Objectivism.