PostHeaderIcon Introducing Objectivism

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In political discussions, I generally identify myself as a small (el) libertarian, since it is too time consuming to explain what I mean, when I say I am an objectivist. There are, however, profound differences between some of the various schools of libertarianism, and the specific philosophy of Ayn Rand, which she named objectivism. This will serve as a succinct introduction to the subject, to which I can link in future discussions here and elsewhere.

The Ayn Rand Institute has some superb interactive online courses. They just added a short 15 minute introductory course on objectivism, narrated by Ayn Rand herself. It is very well done, and I highly recommend it. However, although it is free of charge, one must enroll in their online university to watch it. While safe and painless, few would probably bother to do so. Thus, the following is the transcript of Ayn Rand’s voice-over, without the visuals:

At a sales conference at Random House, preceding the publication of Atlas Shrugged, one of the book salesmen asked me whether I could present the essence of my philosophy while standing on one foot. I did, as follows:

1. Metaphysics: Objective Reality
2. Epistemology: Reason
3. Ethics: Self-interest
4. Politics: Capitalism

If you want this translated into simple language, it would read:

1. “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed” or “Wishing won’t make it so.”
2. “You can’t eat your cake and have it, too.”
3. “Man is an end in himself.”
4. “Give me liberty or give me death.”

If you held these concepts with total consistency, as the base of your convictions, you would have a full philosophical system to guide the course of your life. But to hold them with total consistency—to understand, to define, to prove and to apply them—requires volumes of thought. Which is why philosophy cannot be discussed while standing on one foot—nor while standing on two feet on both sides of every fence. This last is the predominant philosophical position today, particularly in the field of politics.

In the space of a column, I can give only the briefest summary of my position, as a frame-of-reference for all my future columns. My philosophy, Objectivism, holds that:

1. Reality exists as an objective absolute—facts are facts, independent of man’s feelings, wishes, hopes or fears.

2. Reason (the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses) is man’s only means of perceiving reality, his only source of knowledge, his only guide to action, and his basic means of survival.

3. Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.

4. The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. The government acts only as a policeman that protects man’s rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders.

In a system of full capitalism, there should be (but, historically, has not yet been) a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church. Capitalism was the system originated in the United States. Its success, its progress, its achievements are unprecedented in human history. America’s political philosophy was based on man’s right to his own life, to his own liberty, to the pursuit of his own happiness, which means: on man’s right to exist for his own sake.

That was America’s implicit moral code, but it had not been formulated explicitly. This was the flaw in her intellectual armor, which is now destroying her. America and capitalism are perishing for lack of a moral base. The destroyer is the morality of altruism. Altruism holds that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only moral justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty. The political expression of altruism is collectivism or statism, which holds that man’s life and work belong to the state—to the society, to the group, the gang, the race, the nation—and that the state may dispose of him in any way it pleases for the sake of whatever it deems to be its own tribal, collective good.

“From her start, America was torn by the clash of her political system with the altruist morality. Capitalism and altruism are incompatible; they cannot coexist in the same man or in the same society. Today, the conflict has reached its ultimate climax; the choice is clear-cut: either a new morality of rational self-interest, with its consequences of freedom, justice, progress and man’s happiness on earth—or the primordial morality of altruism, with its consequences of slavery, brute force, stagnant terror and sacrificial furnaces.” (For the New Intellectual -Ayn Rand)

You may observe the practical results of altruism and statism all around us in today’s world—such as the slave-labor camps of Soviet Russia, where twenty-one million political prisoners work on the construction of government projects and die of planned malnutrition, human life being cheaper than food—or the gas chambers and mass slaughter of Nazi Germany—or the terror and starvation of Red China—or the hysteria of Cuba where the government offers men for sale—or the wall of East Berlin where human beings leap from roofs or crawl through sewers in order to escape, while guards shoot at fleeing children.

Observe these atrocities, then ask yourself whether any of it would be possible if men had not accepted the idea that man is a sacrificial animal to be immolated for the sake of the “public good.” Read the speeches of those countries’ political leaders and ask yourself what arguments would be left to them if the word “sacrifice” were not regarded as a moral ideal, but as the anti-human evil which it is. And then, listen to the speeches of our present [Kennedy] Administration—and ask yourself the same question.

From: http://campus.aynrand.org/classroom/15/watch/

Just think how long ago Rand had this figured out. We are precisely one month shy of the 50th anniversary, of my being rudely interrupted in the middle of a Ping-Pong game I was winning, by a fellow soldier running into the dayroom shouting that someone had just shot our Commander-in-Chief in Dallas. All one needs do is reread Atlas Shrugged now, to see how prescient she was. If only we had listened, and followed her advice. The tragedy is that it is far too late now.

There is no Galt’s Gulch, and all would-be John Galt’s have failed in their missions. The altruists have won hands down, and we are reaping the seeds of our destruction, which they have so carelessly sewn, in their mindless jihad against ‘selfish’ individualism. Entropy is taking its course, and our once great civilization is crumbling around us. Nothing could stop it now. More the pity. ◄Dave►

9 Responses to “Introducing Objectivism”

  • daedalus says:

    Thanks for the reminder Dave.
    For us old timers, no we won’t enjoy a restoration of full liberty, but we have had a great opportunities. If our enlightment does any good it will be for the under twenties of today.

    • ◄Dave► says:

      John!!! Thank providence! We have been unable to reach you, and I feared the worst. This made my day! How is your health, old friend? ◄Dave►

      • Troy says:

        Ditto Dae — is is good to have you back.

        Speaking of backs, on November 4 I am to have my most invasive back surgery yet. While I dread the downtime (2-3 days in hospital, 6 weeks in a “turtle shell” brace and ~ 8 months until full recovery), still I look forward to some relief from back and leg pain that have become persistent. With any luck, I will emerge without the constant need for opiates which I really dislike (they make my itch all over). For the like of me, I cannot understand how or why anyone would take this stuff for “fun”??

        Troy

        • Chris says:

          Best of luck Troy. I hope you find the relief you need and a speedy recovery.

        • ◄Dave► says:

          That explains a lot, Troy. I could tell you weren’t your normal jocular self; but I had no idea your back had flamed up again. I wish you all the best and a full recovery, since it appears that it won’t be speedy. How soon will you be able to use a keyboard again? Six weeks in that brace sounds horrendous; but hopefully in the end it will be worth it.

          My condolences to St. J9 again. I can only imagine what you have been putting her through! Please ask her to send me an e-mail. I am not sure I can find her address with this new computer, and I will want to check on your progress. Take care and best of luck. This too shall pass… ◄Dave►

  • Troy says:

    I should be able to use my computer within a week at most. Whether I will be clear-headed enough to make any sense is another question.

    Thanks to all for the good wishes.

    Troy

  • Troy says:

    Now, regarding your article…

    If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.

    Thomas Jefferson

    (My favorite Jeffersonism.)

    The progressives clearly understand what TJ said. Ergo the ever-expanding programs to dumb down, to make dependent, to promote divisiveness, etc.

    In an earlier article where I questioned the existence of “natural rights”, I was trying to express this same thing. Ultimately, WE (the people) create and ensure each others rights — else, there are no practical rights. Yes, philosophers may well muse over the theory of “natural rights” but only an enlightened, civilized society can bring such theories to actualization.

    I will try to expound on this line of thinking during my convalescence. (With sufficient morphine circulating within, who knows what mysteries might be revealed to my withered brain?)

    Troy

    • ◄Dave► says:

      I look forward to that, Troy. Obviously, we are not connecting. If you assert that the only rights I can have, are those granted to me by cooperative neighbors, then by my lights, you are no longer talking about rights. Instead, you are talking about permissions and privileges, which could be withdrawn at any time. This is a very different species than what I am referring to, when I speak of sovereign, inherent, natural, human, or birth rights. This is also very different than what our Founders meant, by unalienable [inalienable] rights. You can dismiss them as abstractions of no consequence if you like; but it was those very musings by Enlightenment era philosophers, which culminated in the social experiment called these United States of America.

      The colonial Congress didn’t meet in the summer of 1776, for the purpose of deciding which rights they were willing to grant to each other. They passed the Declaration of Independence, asserting that by birthright as freemen, they already had them, and they could not be taken away. They further asserted their equal station with the monarch as sovereign individuals, and advised King George III that in the future, they would be making other arrangements for the governance of this exceptional land. Are you sure you wish to argue that they were mistaken in these fundamental assertions?

      What you are essentially suggesting, is that even though the Founders fought the King’s army to establish their individual sovereignty, and eventually codified the Bill of Rights, as part of the supreme law of our Land of Liberty, for the benefit of their posterity; and my own father fought in WWII to make sure it stayed that way for his son; since the Progressives have managed to propagandize our populace into a herd of docile groupthink altruist sheeple, who no longer agree with the proposition, somehow our rights have been repealed, and simply no longer exist. I can’t abide that, Troy.

      It is difficult to discuss the notion of rights, without using the term rights, which you deny is valid. I have searched my lexicon in vain for an alternative term. As lame as it is, the closest I could come was ‘claim.’ So, I lay claim to my sovereignty and the ownership of my life, and I categorically deny any other’s claim to authority over me, or that my life is at their disposal. I lay claim to the freedom to exercise my own freewill, whenever and wherever I choose to do so, as long as I am not encroaching on the freedom of others to do the same. I categorically deny any other’s claim to authority to impede my Liberty. I lay claim to my pursuit of happiness by doing things that please me, and I categorically deny any other’s claim that I must pursue their happiness or am somehow obligated to do things that please them.

      I lay claim to all the fruits of my industry, and categorically deny that I am obligated, to provide for the needs of anyone not living in my home. I lay claim to the safety of myself and my family, and recognize that others are not obligated to keep us safe, nor I them. Thus, I will defend myself by any means at my disposal, and categorically deny any other’s claim of authority to disarm me. Etc. etc. Yes, I realize these are imperfect and somewhat strained constructs; but somehow I need to be able to express that I do not need the permission of society to be free, to live my life as I choose to live it, unmolested by busybodies purporting to know better than me how I should do so.

      With the exception of my three year enlistment in the Army during the Vietnam War, for 68 years now I have led a remarkably free life in a decidedly unfree world, by bobbing, weaving, and for the most part simply ignoring the existence of the Federal bureaucracy. I’m not about to throw in the towel now and join the mindless sheeple in their complacency. Oddly enough, I don’t have much need of rights; they do. The rub is, if we don’t somehow convince them that they have them too, our own posterity will never have the chance we had, to live relatively free lives in prosperity. It is only for them that I continue to try to awaken the current crop of sheeple, and try to hope it is not too late, even though I seriously suspect that it already is. ◄Dave►

      • Troy says:

        Dave,
        Since my surgery continues to be delayed (due to a crisis in my surgeon’s family), I lack the creative jolt I was hoping to get from the opiate stew that will be dripped into my system for the first few days post-surgery. Ergo, I will have to rely on the thrice-daily codeine hit I get from my Percoset pills.

        I agree that there is a body of natural rights due to each of us by virtue of our very existence. These I refer to as “philosophical rights”. If this is true, such rights must have existed since the first humanoid developed the brain power necessary to realize it. However, it is only in very recent history that large numbers of humans have actually been able to enjoy such rights. I refer to those rights that can be freely enjoyed as “practical rights”.

        My point, which I seem unable to make clearly, is that for our “philosophical rights” to become “practical” requires the cooperation of other humans. At the very least, of most of those in our immediate “tribal group”. This is why I consider true education so important to mankind… an uneducated brute, acting mostly on emotion and crude desire, is unable to grasp the subtlety inherent in the true nature of human rights. It takes a healthy dose of critical thinking to truly understand how helping and cooperating with those who, on the surface, seem to be in competition for whatever resources I want and need, can result in more for both of us — or, at least a reasonable division of what there is, without violence in the dividing up process.

        I am at a loss to understand how my simple attempt at human logic pushes so many buttons.

        Troy

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