Objectivism Is The Everyman's Philosophy
In the universe, what you see is what you get,
figuring it out for yourself is the way to happiness,
and each person's independence is respected by all
Rand's Philosophy in Her Own Words
- "Metaphysics: Objective Reality" "Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed/Wishing won’t make it so." "The universe exists independent of consciousness"
- "Epistemology: Reason" "You can’t eat your cake and have it, too." "Thinking is man’s only basic virtue"
- "Ethics: Self-interest" "Man is an end in himself." "Man must act for his own rational self-interest" "The purpose of morality is to teach you[...] to enjoy yourself and live"
- "Politics: Capitalism" "Give me liberty or give me death." "If life on earth is [a man's] purpose, he has a right to live as a rational being"
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In the movie "Office Space" there is a comment about the 'flair' restaurants require workers to show (ie tacky pins on their apron.) Well, I was just curious as to how everyone displays their Objectivist 'flair'. Do you have Ayn Rand inspired bumper stickers? A 'Who is John Galt?' t-shirt? Tattoos? Pins? Coffee mugs?
By Ilya Startsev,
As can be seen with an old popular thread I started on Objectivism online forum, I am very interested in putting side-to-side various philosophies, even before I learn that some of them cannot be thoroughly compared! So I would like to find out whether it is even possible to conceive of transcending Rand’s worldview with that of her well-known ‘archenemy’ – Immanuel Kant himself. I’ve spent the last two years trying to figure out this big conflict in contemporary philosophy by studying Kant’s philosophy and debating Kantians, especially on Philosophy forums, which are now, unfortunately, non-operational. So what are some ideas that I’d like to put forward to initiate this discussion? Part I: Describing conflicts First, I want to delineate the premises of my argument as conflicting characters of both philosophies. Let Objectivism take only (a) subdivisions, while Kantianism take only (b) subdivisions. General vs. specific Objectivism is general in respect to being broadly applied to most areas of life, including even sex (in Rand’s words!). Philosophy, according to Rand, is a way of living, rather than only a way of thinking (which is a part of living but not the whole). Hence Rand is more concerned with having an integrated picture of the whole rather than only its parts in isolation or abstraction. Rand’s epistemology starts with metaphysics (most broad or general field of philosophy). Kantianism is specific in respect to being narrowly applied only to thoughts concerning positive knowledge in theoretical science, moral/ethical practice, and judgments in art. Kantian way of thinking takes ideas in isolation and abstraction and only bounded by mind, representing all areas of knowledge within mental structures and through categories of thought. Kant’s epistemology cycles through itself, making metaphysics subservient to it without a possibility of deriving any knowledge about ends. External vs. internal Objectivism is concerned with external experience of reality, where it finds knowledge. Every judgment must correspond to or be ultimately derived from external reality. Kantianism is concerned with internal experience, wherein it claims to find all positive knowledge. Everything considered to be ‘external’ to mind is merely thought to be a representation or appearance structured by our mind as pure reason or inwardly directed by mind as practical reason with aesthetic judgments connecting the two reasons. Public vs. academic Objectivism is well known in general public by means of popular novels, podcasts, presentations, and audiobooks, but not among many academicians, who openly oppose it or try to avoid it. Formal discussions of Objectivism mostly occur in Objectivist journals, and Objectivist scholars do not take these discussions to established and trustworthy academic philosophical journals. Hence the nature of Objectivist discussions and research is mostly closed rather than open, in regard to academic work. Kantianism is popular among many academicians but not in general public. Kantianism is considered by many academicians to be a ‘suble’ and ‘true’ philosophy not comprehended quite enough by most others. Objective vs. subjective Objectivism follows the ethics of rational or objective egoism to the detriment of sometimes being able to develop healthy relationships with others. Objects in this philosophy precede private subjects. Kantianism follows the ethics of rational yet subjective altruism to the point of forcing others (even violently) to heed one’s ‘social’ will (especially of those in power) as if it were universal law. Peikoff describes Kantian influences on Nazism in The Ominous Parallels, and Kant himself praises the sublime in war over peace in Critique of Judgment, §28. Thus, subjects in this philosophy are not only central but the only ones, as physical objects in themselves are non-existent. Political vs. scientific Objectivism has greatly influenced the progress of politics and economics through conservatives, neoconservatives, libertarians, and even some liberals. However, Objectivism hasn’t had much effect on science. Kantianism has greatly influenced the progress of science through Bohr’s Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, Chomsky’s universal grammar theory, and various neuro and cognitive scientists, anthropologists, and psychologists. However, Kantianism hasn’t had as much direct effect in politics. Part II: Transcending conflicts Second, as a possible way to transcend these areas as it would mostly benefit Objectivism (like a stronger connection to academia in 3), I need to provide a potential idea to be built upon. My current and main source of inspiration is Leonard Peikoff’s DIM Hypothesis (2012), which is based on Rand’s epistemology, in particular her theory of concepts. What Peikoff develops in his book called after his hypothesis is a metaphilosophy (although he doesn’t call it that) specifying boundaries of all philosophies involving three categories: disintegrating, integrating, and misintegrating. As a point of contention, these are Peikoff’s words that I reinterpreted in favor of my own hypothesis: I’ve been building on some concepts from Peikoff’s hypothesis this past couple of years and have found another way (a visual method) to describe all philosophies, while also borrowing some of these terms from Peikoff. Based on my extensive research, I would like to show not only that I independently verified some insights from Peikoff’s hypothesis (as I also did a few years back for Rand’s theory) but also describe what he had achieved (and he considers this book his greatest achievement so far) as an understanding of Rand’s epistemology not as an epistemology in academic sense (which they don’t accept as such) but a meta-epistemology that transcends epistemology as conceived by Kant. If Rand’s epistemology be truly a meta-epistemology and Peikoff’s hypothesis be truly metaphilosophical, then we can use these areas to transcend Kant’s ‘transcendental’ philosophy without losing specificity required (as in 1). As far as I know, Kant never covered these areas in his philosophy. Considering that there also exists a term ‘metametaphysics’ (books on the topic: 2009, 2015, and 2016; cf. my metaphysics), maybe this so-called ‘transcendence’ can also achieve greater breadth than Rand was able to conceive, although, as speculative as all this may sound, there is currently not enough understanding of these new ‘meta’ (meaning not just ‘after’ but ‘beyond’) fields because they are on the frontier of contemporary philosophical research. Maybe we can share knowledge and understanding to see whether any of my suggestions have ground for further developments. At the end, if we reach any conclusion, we may find and improve upon the missing links required for Objectivism to hold the center stage it deserves in philosophical discussions.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but Ayn Rand made no real effort to engage with those whom she labeled "mystics" and "Subjectivists". I have read her notes, and although I have read records of her visiting places like steel mills to try to make that side of her Magnum Opus (Atlas Shrugged) sound more realistic, there are no records in her notes of her ever visiting "the mystics" or "the subjectivists" in order to truly understand the people she was criticizing. Yes, she grew up in Soviet Russia, but that was a regime that claimed the mantle of "logic" and "reason" and "objectivity" every bit as fervently as she. Now you or them or anyone else can argue as to who was the proper heir of that mantle, but the fact is that the Soviets claimed that mantle with equal fervor as she. There is no record within her notes of her delving into the world of people who were more or less self-proclaimed "mystics" and "subjectivists". If I had to guess, it's because she simply saw it as "beneath her". With other high-profile Objectivists it seems to be the exact same story. As far as I can tell, Objectivists don't really have a handle on "the other side"; they fire off criticisms of "mystics" without really knowing what "mystics" are saying.
Linked in on Real Clear Science was this article from The New Atlantis. The link was labeled: We're entering a New Age of Philosophy Why Information Matters By Luciano Floridi, professor of philosophy and ethics of information at the University of Oxford When we use a computer, its performance seems to degrade progressively. This is not a mere impression. Over the years of owning a particular machine, it will get sluggish. Sometimes this slowdown is caused by hardware faults, but more often the culprit is software: programs get more complicated, as more features are added and as old bugs are patched (or not), and greater demands are placed on resources by new programs running in the background. After a while, even rebooting the computer does not restore performance, and the only solution is to upgrade to a new machine. Philosophy can be a bit like a computer getting creakier. It starts well, dealing with significant and serious issues that matter to anyone. Yet, in time, it can get bloated and bogged down and slow. Philosophy begins to care less about philosophical questions than about philosophers’ questions, which then consume increasing amounts of intellectual attention. The problem with philosophers’ questions is not that they are impenetrable to outsiders — although they often are, like any internal game — but that whatever the answers turn out to be, assuming there are any, they do not matter, because nobody besides philosophers could care about the questions in the first place. The brain is the hardware, the mind is the software analogy. The end of the first paragraph results in a hopeless solution. Upgrade to a new machine. Well, you cannot simply replace your brain, given the technology today. By the time the end of the second paragraph is reached, echos from The Ominous Parallels begin to reverberate and resonate to the frequency of "whatever the answers turn out to be, assuming there are any, they do not matter, because nobody besides philosophers could care about the questions in the first place." Listen closely and see if you can hear a similar message in this: The intellectuals are ignorant of philosophy's role in history—because of philosophy. Having been taught by philosophers for generations that reason is impotent to guide action, they regard the mind and its conclusions as irrelevant to life. Having been taught that philosophy is a game, with no answers to offer, they do not look to it for answers. —Page 314 Two paragraphs later, he reiterates the issue in a similar manner invoking linguistic analysis. Do not try to understand these lines. I produced the first two using a “Postmodernism Generator,” and the second two using an “Analytic Philosophy Generator.” They sound like real examples of contemporary scholasticism — philosophy talking about itself to itself in its own jargon. Such scholasticism is the ultimate freezing of the system, the equivalent of a Windows computer’s “blue screen of death”: so many resources are devoted to internal issues that no external input can be processed anymore, and the system stops working. The world may be undergoing a revolution, Rome may be burning, but the philosophical discourse remains detached, meaningless, and utterly oblivious. Time for an upgrade. Again, give up, for you cannot replace your brain, grafted onto what Ayn Rand put forth in The Ayn Rand Letter, Vol. 1, No. 18 June 5, 1972, "Fairness Doctrine" For Education Most of today's philosophy departments are dominated by Linguistic Analysis (the unsuccessful product of crossbreeding between philosophy and grammar, a union whose offspring is less viable than a mule), with some remnants of its immediate progenitors, Pragmatism and Logical Positivism, still clinging to its bandwagon. —Page 79 Nine paragraphs in, the surface is finally scratched. The answers will have to do with this particular time in human history. Philosophical “upgrading” moments are rare, and they are usually prompted by important transformations in the surrounding reality. Since the Nineties, I have been arguing that we have reached one of those moments — a turning point in our history. The epochal transition from an analogue to a digital world and the rapid development of information technologies are changing every aspect of our lives: education, work, and entertainment; communication, business, and commerce; love, hate, and anything in between; politics, conflicts, and peace; culture, health, and even how we remember the dead. All this and more is being relentlessly transformed by technologies that have the recording, transmission, and processing of information as their core functions. I must have missed something in the collegiate college courses I did not attend, about philosophic answers being applicable universally, regardless of the "when" in human history. It is the mark of the subjectivism that preface their claims with "It may have been true then but . . . " By this time the crow is starting to kick in, because I can't look this one up on a searchable CD, and don't recall off the top of my head which of ARI lectures I got it off of, although it was probably one of Peikoffs. By the twelfth paragraph, pay-dirt. This means that if philosophers are to help enable humanity to make sense of our world and to improve it responsibly, information needs to be a significant field of philosophical study. Among our mundane and technical concepts, information is currently not only one of the most important and widely used, but also one of the least understood. We need a philosophy of information. Didn't someone write an introductory book about the basic nature and role of concepts? It is, in essence, the philosophy of information, 'unless-ons' we are just playing linguistic analysis word games. The rest of the article drifts back into rationalizations about computers while introducing the Turing test. By the end of the next section, How to Ask a Question, I can halfheartedly agree. The twenty-second paragraph says: What philosophy can offer to contemporary debates that involve the concept of information, whether we discuss the intelligence of computers or the makeup of the universe, is clarity about how to ask the right questions so that answers are possible and useful. Failing to ask the right questions can only lead to confusions and misunderstandings. This resonates with a question I've asked myself several times: If the right questions lead to the right answers, where might the wrong questions lead? As John Galt responded to Mr. Thompson in the Wayne-Falkland Hotel on page 1011 of Atlas Shrugged: John Galt: "Will you tell me just one thing: if you're able to pretend that you haven't heard a word I said on the radio, what makes you think I'd be willing to pretend that I haven't said it?" Mr. Thompson: "I don't know what you mean! I—" John Galt: "Skip it. It was just a rhetorical question. The first part of it answers the second." Rand's philosophy has been available to the world now coming up on 60 years. Meanwhile, Ellisworth Toohey asked, "But Mr. Talbot as a man? "What's his particular god? What would he go to pieces without?" In the radio room across the hall somebody was twisting a dial. "Time," blared a solemn voice, "marches on!" —The Fountainhead, page 689