Nice article Glenn, that is of course the metaphor, but, "that does not mean the universe chooses to act that way". Easily said, but doesn't benevolence require volition? Rand does not normally deal in metaphors.
Can good will (or ill will for that matter) logically be attributed to the universe? Does the universe have a will or is it indifferent? How does this idea compare/contrast with Deism?
"Can good will (or ill will for that matter) logically be attributed to the universe?"
You have the meaning exactly backwards. It's how we as humans feel about the universe. The universe feels nothing about us. Belief in superstition brings only fear and dread about the universe. Belief in the unity and the predictability of the universe brings optimism in that what we can achieve is without limit as long as we are willing to think and reason out the underlying cause and effects. The universe is "knowable", it is not out to get us or defeat us.
Is it possible that she didnt say with precision, what she meant? As far as how people feel about the universe, the so called realist might feel fear and dread, in the same way that the so called mystic might feel at complete peace with the universe.
It's how HUMANS feel Robert. I am certain that Ayn Rand did NOT attribute feelings to nature or the universe. She was talking about OUR personal point of view about the universe and if you feel the universe is KNOWABLE, that is we can find out how it works and benefit thereby and we LIKE doing that then the universe feels benevolent to US. This is one of the greatest things I got from Ayn Rand, and puts her in the same category of hero with me as the likes of Richard Feynman and A. Einstein and James Maxwell. That's also why I thought your question was a great one.
I thought Rand made it perfectly clear what she meant; she said that the universe was "benevolent" because if one followed the rules, one would gain the desired reaction. It means that things work properly as opposed to randomly (for instance, if one follows a chemical formula to create something, it will be the resulted product consistently, it won't be cleanser one day and toothpaste the next...).
What does Ayn Rand mean by a 'benevolent universe'?
That the universe is kind in its balance (she extends the language of human dealings to cosmology, that's about is close as she ever got, and it's kind of backwards).
This speaks to sense of life. The universe is a friendly place. And, in order for it to be friendly, it must cycle through itself, there will be things that happen that people don't enjoy (pain). That, by the fact of existence, it is friendly (good). It speaks to mindset- what if you don't think that? You'll be a miserable son of a bitch.
Of everything I ever read by her, I like that the best. It means she wanted people to be happy (happy is something anyone can recognize, its universal in that way)
rde Getting dangerously close to spirituality, which might make Jason start scratching his balls funny.