Monday, April 30, 2012

At Its Heart...

...the core of Objectivist philosophy is thus:

Do what you think is right.  Objectivism is first and foremost moral fortitude.

Ayn Rand's heroes included communists and tyrants, murderers and rapists, as much as they included capitalists and entrepreneurs.  The closest thing to a moral directive in Objectivism is to think for yourself.

Anybody who thinks Objectivism is precisely what Ayn Rand decided it would be, and nothing more, missed the point.  Anybody who thinks Objectivism is inherently a libertarian philosophy, even, misses the point.

It is an individualistic philosophy.  Full stop.

If you can derive something different without lying to yourself, you can be an Objectivist and a communist at the same time.  It's my well-endowed philosophic position you'll have made a mistake somewhere, but there's nothing inherent to Objectivism which demands laissez-faire capitalism; it isn't written into the axioms of the philosophy, but derived from their application.

This puts me at odds with canonical Objectivism, precisely because I deny there is canon.  Ayn Rand gave us a starting place; it's my observation that the philosophy has largely (but not entirely!) languished since then, caught up in philosophic holy wars over whether or not Ayn Rand's word is to be the final authority on the matter, and by so doing, opposing its sole directive.

Objectivism is a necessarily incomplete philosophy; it can never be completed on the whole, we must each complete it ourselves.

Which is why it is at least partially right, even if the name has been corrupted to mean something which is wrong.


  1. Orphan,

    I think you're right philosophically, but wrong sociologically. Oism is (sociologically) primarily an attack on communism, Rand's greatest force for evil. But opposing communism was, for a philosophy student like Rand, insufficient, and she had to oppose the meta-idea behind communism. Have you read Sciabarra?

  2. I have not. I actually do not read much Objectivist literature, largely because what I do read tends to cite Ayn Rand as evidence for propositions, which is precisely the kind of canonicalism I find to be so opposed to the philosophy.

    I believe her philosophy stands in opposition, however, not to communism, but to collectivism, which I think is a pretty important distinction to be made about its inception. We The Living was possessed of a Randian Hero who also happened to be a communist; he was a tragic hero because he continued to be possessed of individualism in what had become a collectivist society. This isn't the refined position she later came to espouse, but that's actually important; that refinement was an advancement from the philosophic basics.

  3. Sciabarra is to some extent an intellectual historian...and objectivist in your sense, but probably not Peikoff's sense. I highly recommend both Ayn Rand: Russian Radical, and his other works on the dialectic.

  4. Orphan,

    From my reading...Rand walked out of Russia with primarily a white-hot hate of the Communism that had destroyed her world. Her purpose in life was to build a system that would demonstrate the monstrous evil that was communism. But she had studied philosophy as well, thus believing that you can't strike at the symptoms, and felt deeply that communism was morally monstrous.

    Hence...her attack was at the morality under communism... but the purpose was to kill communism.

    On the other side of the picture...
    Objectivism is her name for her philosophy, which addresses two distinct features of the philosophy that are hard to find elsewhere. Specifically, her line was that there were THREE lines available to folks addressing the topics of ethics and epistemology: Subjective, Intrinsic, and Objective. Her most impressive-to-me work was the threading of the needle between intrinsic epistemology, and subjective epistemology.