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Existentialism and Objectivism

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I have recently been interested in both Existentialism and Objectivism. I am aware that both are at odds with each otehr (from what I've read so far on an Objectivist website) but is it possible for an individual to have views from each without contradicting onesself. For example, I agree that one should do whatever brings him pleasure, but he does not necessarily have to do using reason (although it's helpful).

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For example, I agree that one should do whatever brings him pleasure, but he does not necessarily have to do using reason (although it's helpful).

Objectivism does not advocate hedonism (read: irrational pursuit of "whatever brings him pleasure"). The rational pursuit of your values, the achievement of which will bring you happiness, is what Objectivism holds to be the moral purpose of your life. Anything done out of unreason is necessarily destructive, because reason is based on reality. Unless I'm hitting way off mark here, the "Objectivist" idea you put forth as quoted above is not even Objectivist.

And to clarify: no, one cannot pick up an idea from Philosophy X, another from Objectivism, say reason isn't necessary, and then declare the two compatible. Reason is held as absolute in Objectivism--and anything less is not Objectivism.

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I dated a girl once that considered herself an existentialist. She particularly liked Sarte. I never did wind up reading any actual books on the subject, but from what she said about it, its got a real negative view of life. That life is unasked for and terrible, but oh well, I'm here and might as well keep living. Another thing I remember her saying is that Sarte claimed people could never be truly free, since there are consequences to every situation that prevents people from doing what they "really want." I don't think I need to explain why thats stupid. Anyway, I lent her the Virtue of Selfishness and she called Rand "stupid and full of contradictions" (was she reading the right book?). You can guess how long this relationship lasted after that ;).

On the other hand I do know Nietzsche is considered an existentialist and that there are a decent amount of similarities between what he had to say and Objectivism (I believe Rand was influenced by him at one point).

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Existentialism and Objectivism are incompatible and contradictory for two main reasons; their metaphysical and epistemological theories. Objectivism holds that reality is objective and knowledge is gained through reason.. Existentialism holds that reality is subjective and depends on our consciousness and knowledge is gained either through instincts or through some supernatural sixth sense.. if you believe the metaphysical and epistemological conclusions of existentialism then you cannot bean objectivist.. if you believe the metaphysical and epistemological conclusions of objectivism then you cannot be an existentialism

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Ethics is completely based off of one's epistemological and metaphysical ideas.

Nietzsche valued life like Objectivists, but he was an irationalist and a subjectivist, So his moral program and lack of political program were very different in the end.

Dionysus vs Apollo.

CMac, I meant this as a reply to the OP, sorry.

Edited by Hairnet
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I have recently been interested in both Existentialism and Objectivism. I am aware that both are at odds with each otehr (from what I've read so far on an Objectivist website) but is it possible for an individual to have views from each without contradicting onesself. For example, I agree that one should do whatever brings him pleasure, but he does not necessarily have to do using reason (although it's helpful).

Objectivism holds that one should aim a happiness which is sustainable over the long term. It attempts to define the values which form the basis for this kind of happiness in order to guide each person in living well.

What this means is that not everything which gives us pleasure is ultimately good for us. This is immediately apparent upon consideration; the pleasure from completing a productive enterprise is probably based on life-furthering values, while the pleasure from taking a hit of heroin is likely not based on sustainable values.

Thus, our simple pleasure/pain mechanism is not enough to guide us. We must trace out the ultimate consequences of any potential source of pleasure or happiness. We must ask ourselves, what are the long-term consequences of this course of action? Is this pleasure caused by something which is going to help me in continuing to live well in the future? Or is it caused by something that's pleasurable now but will come back to bite me? The answers to these questions are not immediately apparent, and so we must use reason to find them.

This is what is meant by always using reason in pursuing happiness. It's not that we should only try to get pleasure from activities which make us think or something like that; getting pleasure from jogging or some other mindless activity is fine. The important aspect to consider is whether jogging will be good for us or bad down the road, whether our indulging in it now will put us ahead of where we would have been without it, or behind.

Rand characterizes the ultimate goal in terms of happiness as "non-contradictory joy," and we can now see what she means. We should only pursue those activities that give us happiness without any sort of residual guilt for worsening our position relative to living well for the future. Thus, we can see why the course towards which Objectivism guides us is very different from simple hedonism; happiness is an ultimate goal, but only a certain kind of happiness, one without unhealthy side effects.

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  • 1 year later...

Ayn Rand is a genius - at marketing.

For several years I've contended that, *practically speaking*, Objectivism is a re-branding of Existentialism (and the same applies to every transformational thinking 'movement' out there including Dr. Phil, Tony Robbins, etc.... and by the way David Allen too... the new GTD is very much grounded in existentialism.)

Only last week, Oct 2011, had I actually read the wikipedia entry for Objectivism and was simply blown away ---

"Rand stated that she chose the name because her preferred term for a philosophy based on the primacy of existence—"existentialism"—had already been taken." (refers to Peikoff, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. New York: Dutton.; page 18)

I will try to explain.

She's simply casting what others call 'god'. She is saying that objective reality (what defines everything) is beyond perception... same practical definition of god.

And also moot...if something is beyond perception than it, by definition, plays no role in the our 'real' domain. Something meta-physical is the same as a belief - it can't be perceived.

She asserts that reality exists *independent* of an perceiver's

consciousness.

This means that:

(a) what we know can only be grounded in perception

( B) that we can't ever know if perception is 'ultimate reality'*

(*The claim that reality is outside perception is also a perception. To not choose is to also choose, thank you Neil Peart.)

Therefore what is real is actually not 'Objective' in the ultimate sense but only so through agreement.

If you have an opinion, it's subjective.

If others share the opinion it's not so objective and becomes more factual - Babe Ruth was the greatest.

If a process is established whereby everyone can apply the rules that everyone also agrees upon (the scientific method) we can state facts.

Well that's existentialism - everything is subjective and it's only the degree of agreement that objectifies something.

The agreements we have about agreements are what we can Conventional.

Tree falls in the forest, no one there, does it make a sound?

Well conventionally yes, cause we know trees make a sound when falling.

But existentially no, cause until it's perceived it didn't happen.

Well, you say, but the tree doesn't exist in existential so who cares? Well that's right, but what's critically important is that you get that the assessment of reality is just arbitrary, why?

Because there a major real-world payoff to choosing to perceive things in the existential side of the coin - removing suffering.

Human suffering, personal or macro, are about shoulds that don't occur. There should be a way to get all the energy we need...we should be able to reform Wall Street, the Phillies should've won, I should be better at losing weight, etc.

All problems are created in the conventional...but they are all solved in the existential because when you say 'does it REALLY mean anything?' the answer is no - it's our conventions that cause the meaning.

This is why transformational thinking, and therapy, is pretty much about exposing the underlying should's (irrational beliefs) that cause us conventional suffering - being a victim of others' conventional actions.

The expression 'get over it' or 'give it up' means to stop dwelling in the conventional shoulds and practice applying the existential filter to everything.

Stated another way, convention causes suffering because there is uncertainty. But existentially everything is certain - 'perfect' - as it is, is exactly how it should be, cause it shouldn't be anything else. If you don't make something mean something it really isn't then you won't suffer.

Conventionally, 2+2=3 is wrong. Existentially that statement is just fine, perfect, cause it's just a bunch of glphys, no meaning.

I think Objectivism is a (fantastic) re-languaging of existentialism and as such it can liberate anyone who wants to take on the mental 'de-referencing' that choosing to re-perceive select things in an existential light can offer.

Edited by RandNotAyn
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Yes... I was particularly confused by the statement: "She is saying that objective reality (what defines everything) is beyond perception..."

I would be very interested to know where you pulled that statement from. It certainly bears little resemblance to my recollection of Rand's thoughts on reality.

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Quite so. The statement probably comes from someone who read someone who read an expert who claimed to have read and understood Rand.

When a 'critic' comes out swinging with such ignorance, it's a waste of time to refer him to the original literature - he's not genuinely looking to increase his knowledge.

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She's simply casting what others call 'god'. She is saying that objective reality (what defines everything) is beyond perception... same practical definition of god.

And also moot...if something is beyond perception than it, by definition, plays no role in the our 'real' domain. Something meta-physical is the same as a belief - it can't be perceived.

You are selectively evaluating Rand's philosophy in the context of a presumed mind-body dichotomy, which her philosophy clearly rejects. It would be like saying, "Rand was an advocate of morality, and since morality by definition comes from God, Rand was a theist." Your definition is simply wrong.

Edited by brian0918
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Quite so. The statement probably comes from someone who read someone who read an expert who claimed to have read and understood Rand.

When a 'critic' comes out swinging with such ignorance, it's a waste of time to refer him to the original literature - he's not genuinely looking to increase his knowledge.

That's what it sounded like to me. Someone misunderstanding a mistaken wikipedia entry :)

RandNotAyn, if you are genuinely interested in Objectivism, go to the source material and really read it. I think you'll see soon enough that Rand isn't claiming most (if not all) of the things you attribute to her. Possibly Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology would be your best start, as it seems you're most mistaken on the metaphysics.

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She's simply casting what others call 'god'. She is saying that objective reality (what defines everything) is beyond perception... same practical definition of god.

The problem here is just imprecise reading. To say that reality exists independent of an observer does not necessarily mean there is an impossible-to-understand aspect of reality. What you are talking about does have to do with a reality independent of an observer, but also that there are some things in reality which can never even be indirectly understood, so it's pointless to try to understand them or care about them. Rand takes a different approach, saying that we can't even claim those sort of things are part of reality in the first place, let alone claim we understand what god means.

Edited by Eiuol
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