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Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Wed, 2005-11-30 10:47
What is Objectivism?
Let its founder speak first. Asked to specify Objectivism's essentials standing on one foot, Ayn Rand, standing on one foot, said:
Writing about this episode later, she went on to say:
Neither it can, and so it is.
Ayn Rand herself, relative to other philosophers, didn't write "volumes." In terms of quality and import, however, she out-wrote most of them combined and multiplied. Some philosophers (not many) had argued discretely for one or more of the above; she integrated all of it and brought esthetics into the mix as well. She argued that facts are facts; that reality is what it is, independent of our feelings or wishes; that human reason is able to grasp what it is; that reason's tools—sense-perception, concept-formation and logic—are, contrary to many philosophers, valid; that these facts have irresistible and demonstrable implications for ethics, politics, economics and art: they enjoin rational self-interest, individual liberty, capitalism and what she called "romantic realism" as part of "man's proper estate"—an "upright posture."
Along the way, she demolished several age-old dilemmas and dichotomies. She disposed of the "is/ought" dichotomy—that you can't derive values from facts—by pointing out that an entity's actions are determined by that entity's nature and that a volitional, conceptual entity such as man can appropriately derive values, by thought and choice, only from facts. She pointed out that trying to derive values from other sources—such as "divine revelation" or range-of-the-moment whims can lead only to disaster, and in so doing busted the intrinsicist/subjectivist dichotomy.
She pointed out that volition is a causal agent, and so resolved the free will/determinism controversy.
She pointed out that facts without logic are as useless as logic without facts, and so busted the rationalist/empiricist dichotomy.
She pointed out that consciousness is not rendered invalid by the fact that it has organs—that we are not deaf because we have ears that can hear—and so busted Kant's noumenal/phenomenal dichotomy.
She exposed the lethal incoherence of requiring that we must know everything in order to know anything (see modern physics).
She pointed out the logical absurdity of the traditional ethic of self-sacrifice for the sake of others—if I am here to sacrifice for you, and you are here to sacrifice for me, what good does that do either of us? What is the point? She highlighted its logical/practical effect, all too eloquently exemplified during the twentieth century in which she lived: humanity's being divided up into those who make sacrifices and those who receive them; thence, bloodbaths and concentration camps.
She pointed out the existential monstrosity of an ethic that says we should act from duty and eschew happiness. "The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live." With that, she launched a revolution.
Ayn Rand showed that we can not only contemplate the stars, but we can also reach them—in part by dispensing with the notion that we'll find a "God" there. "My philosophy, in essence" she said, "is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute."
This site, SOLO—Sense of Life Objectivists—is a passionate "Amen!" to that.
Other articles on Objectivism by Lindsay Perigo
See here for all articles by Lindsay Perigo in the archive of the old SOLOHQ site.
More SOLO Store
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand