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How do you live your Objectivist values?

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hernan
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How do you live your Objectivist values?
Well, if one takes the two most fundamental issues of:
  • Reason/Rationality; and,
  • Purpose/Productiveness

then -- personally -- I have to apply each every day when I work, or handle my kid, or decide how much to save and in what way.

But, before I go on... are you looking for something else? You mention "heroic"; do you mean some special ability here?

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Well, if one takes the two most fundamental issues of:

  • Reason/Rationality; and,
  • Purpose/Productiveness

then -- personally -- I have to apply each every day when I work, or handle my kid, or decide how much to save and in what way.

But, before I go on... are you looking for something else? You mention "heroic"; do you mean some special ability here?

I'm not asking who is a superhero. But Ayn Rand portrayed pretty ordinary people doing extraordinary things. (I guess I'm thinking mostly of Atlas Shrugged here.)

Thinking clearly and rationally is great, and all, but what would be an example where you used reason to enhance your survival or flourishing in a way that you might not have sans Objectivism? What have you done differently at work or at home or in your financial planning that you can fairly attribute to your familiarity with Objectivism?

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... but what would be an example where you used reason to enhance your survival or flourishing in a way that you might not have sans Objectivism? ... What have you done differently at work or at home or in your financial planning that you can fairly attribute to your familiarity with Objectivism?
I could come up with a lot of examples where I've used reason with a consciousness of using reason. What I mean is: rejecting an emotion -- perhaps greed or fear -- that was tempting me to do something else.

However, I suspect that examples like that won;t be convincing, because you could probably come up with examples of all sorts of non-Objectivists who would have acted the same way. If you know that some non-Objectivists might have acted the same way, would the example still be relevant?

(PS: I hope you don't mind the conversational -- min-post -- style.)

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I could come up with a lot of examples where I've used reason with a consciousness of using reason. What I mean is: rejecting an emotion -- perhaps greed or fear -- that was tempting me to do something else.

However, I suspect that examples like that won;t be convincing, because you could probably come up with examples of all sorts of non-Objectivists who would have acted the same way. If you know that some non-Objectivists might have acted the same way, would the example still be relevant?

(PS: I hope you don't mind the conversational -- min-post -- style.)

This is an entirely appropriate way to explore this question. I appreciate your participation.

You are correct. Although obviously some people are more rational than others, and perhaps Rand did lead you toward a more rational approach to life, still, as you say, she didn't invent rationality. (And, besides, I am sympathetic to Nathaniel Brandon in this area.)

So I guess I'm hoping you can give an example of something that is more uniquely attributable to Objectivism.

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Although obviously some people are more rational than others, and perhaps Rand did lead you toward a more rational approach to life, still, as you say, she didn't invent rationality.
True, she did not discover rationality. Nor did Rand invent the notion that Purpose/productiveness is critical to happiness. Nor was she the first to talk about the benefits of Pride and Self-esteem.

What Objectivism really gives one is a reasoned argument, explaining why these values/virtues are efficacious. Objectivism's approach does not take these as religious injunctions: "you ought to work". Also, importantly, Objectivism argues that the good is the moral and it is the practical. So, an Objectivist is not left with any conscious dichotomy of moral vs. practical (nor of self vs. others) which he has to work through. As elements, Objectivism does not come up with that much which is new -- it's about figuring out what little nuggets from all over the place are actually true, how they tie together, etc.

So, at its very basic, Objectivism gives one a certain set of values which one would otherwise have to arrive at -- and, one may or may not arrive at some or all of those same values. It also gives one the integration of those values. Ideally, this means one ends up with the right values, and one also holds them more self-assuredly.

I can probably come up with an example where I (personally) would not have acted a certain way but for Objectivism (but only by running the dubious task of trying to predict how my history would have unfolded had it not been for Objectivism). In the end, I cannot point to any single instance and claim that "but for Objectivism nobody would have acted the way I acted in this situation". I would not have acted the way I do in totality but for Objectivism, but I can't say which parts I would not have discovered for myself.

It's also worth adding that holding a philosophy does not make one the best practitioner of its values. I'm not speaking of the impact of "raw" ability -- like intellect or some other trait that is deeply rooted by the time of early adulthood. I think that it is quite possible that a person who says "Rationality is always the way" may practice less rationality than a person who says "Rationality is useful, but sometimes I use emotion". In other words, a person who says he is Christian need not be a practicing Christian, and a self-professed Objectivist may not practice Objectivism.

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True, she did not discover rationality. Nor did Rand invent the notion that Purpose/productiveness is critical to happiness. Nor was she the first to talk about the benefits of Pride and Self-esteem.

What Objectivism really gives one is a reasoned argument, explaining why these values/virtues are efficacious. Objectivism's approach does not take these as religious injunctions: "you ought to work". Also, importantly, Objectivism argues that the good is the moral and it is the practical. So, an Objectivist is not left with any conscious dichotomy of moral vs. practical (nor of self vs. others) which he has to work through. As elements, Objectivism does not come up with that much which is new -- it's about figuring out what little nuggets from all over the place are actually true, how they tie together, etc.

So, at its very basic, Objectivism gives one a certain set of values which one would otherwise have to arrive at -- and, one may or may not arrive at some or all of those same values. It also gives one the integration of those values. Ideally, this means one ends up with the right values, and one also holds them more self-assuredly.

I can probably come up with an example where I (personally) would not have acted a certain way but for Objectivism (but only by running the dubious task of trying to predict how my history would have unfolded had it not been for Objectivism). In the end, I cannot point to any single instance and claim that "but for Objectivism nobody would have acted the way I acted in this situation". I would not have acted the way I do in totality but for Objectivism, but I can't say which parts I would not have discovered for myself.

It's also worth adding that holding a philosophy does not make one the best practitioner of its values. I'm not speaking of the impact of "raw" ability -- like intellect or some other trait that is deeply rooted by the time of early adulthood. I think that it is quite possible that a person who says "Rationality is always the way" may practice less rationality than a person who says "Rationality is useful, but sometimes I use emotion". In other words, a person who says he is Christian need not be a practicing Christian, and a self-professed Objectivist may not practice Objectivism.

Let me first explain that I'm not going to expect you to prove that Objectivism led to some important outcome in your life. I am entirely open to your loosest conjecture. If you tell me you were an emotional animal until you read Rand, I am wiling to take your word, although I reserve the right to push back a little where the causation is less obvious.

I am more interested, here, in the difference between knowing the path and walking the path, to quote the Matrix (oh, I guess someone coined it before Morpheus), as you alluded to in the next to last paragraph. How do you practice Objectivism. What difference has practicing Objectivism made in your life?

I am particularly interested in her heroic ideal. But you don't have to stop the world to be a hero. Maybe you've been a hero to your family or at the office.

Of course, Rand thought things through and provided a reasoned argument for her philosophy. (I'm speaking loosely here, I realize others have since taken up her arguments.) I do get that. But having accepted her argument...what has been the consequence in your life?

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I read everything that Rand wrote during my high school years and internalized the lessons and philosophy. Coming from an enterpreneurial background, I was already aware that capitalism was the most practical and effictive economic system, what Objectivism gave me was the knowledge that capitalism was the only moral way for men to deal together, and some idealized characters who epitomized capitalist values.

I opened my first business when I was in my early 20s and made a few dollars. Over the next 15 years I opened several different businesses, all did well for a time, but I made some bad decisions and ended up dead broke at 38. No car, no busines, no home, and living in my parents guest room. At that point, everyone told me to lower my expectations and just get a job.

I considered it, but as I have always wanted to be heroic, at least in my own eyes, and as creating a successful business (like Hank Reardon) is my favored form of heroism, I opted to make another attempt to open a successful business. I went to work for a company that had a business model that I admired, worked for them for 2 years as a manager, and then moved and opened my own store, using what I had learned from them and adding some of my own twists.

The busines struggled for months, and then began to prosper, and now, at 47, I own a successful chain of 9 retail stores and employ about 150 people. My family enjoys a comfortable lifestyle, and my investors have all profited from their affiliation with me.

Without Rand's writings, I dont know that I would have had the courage to go back into business after my earlier failure. I am now doing what I love, and making a handsome living by doing so.

Thanks Ayn!

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Well, the story isnt over yet! I am working hard to grow my business still further.

If I am being honest. though, I am more Hank Rearden than I am John Galt.... more a man of action than true philosopher.

But of course, though Galt was also a man of action in his own way and I suspect you would be something of a philosopher-actor.

So may I ask, what is it about Rand that uniquely motivated you and for which you give her credit? After all, there are many rags to riches moral stories in the American tradition that might have inspired you. (I, myself, found Rand's moral defense of capitalism uniquely refreshing, particularly knowing the history of her times.)

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But of course, though Galt was also a man of action in his own way and I suspect you would be something of a philosopher-actor.

So may I ask, what is it about Rand that uniquely motivated you and for which you give her credit? After all, there are many rags to riches moral stories in the American tradition that might have inspired you. (I, myself, found Rand's moral defense of capitalism uniquely refreshing, particularly knowing the history of her times.)

Rand's moral defense of capitalism has indeed been key for me. After reading Atlas Shrugged and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal as a teen, I was immune to anti- business jabs and the unearned guilt that collectivists try to heap upon "greedy businessmen". Unearned guilt and self doubt have sabotaged many a promising career, and secure in the moral rightness of my cause, I have been immune to these things.

Even more beneficial to me though, was the heroic exanple set by (fictional) people like Hank Rearden, Francisco D'anconia, Dagny Taggart, Howard Roark, John Galt, etc. Long before I knew anything about Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, John D Rockefeller, Al Davis, or John Paul Getty, Rand's heroes were real to me and exemplified the traits that I would need to nurture in order to be the man I wished to be.

Still. to this day, Rand's heroes are more real to me in many ways than their historical counterparts. I believe this is, in part, due to the fact that her characters are pure in a way that is difficult for real flesh and blood people to be pure.

The examples set by her heroic characters, and later by real heroic businessmen, have given me hieghts to strive for, and my internalizing of her moral defense of capitalism have given me immunity to unearned guilt and self doubt about the rightness of my cause.

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Rand's moral defense of capitalism has indeed been key for me. After reading Atlas Shrugged and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal as a teen, I was immune to anti- business jabs and the unearned guilt that collectivists try to heap upon "greedy businessmen". Unearned guilt and self doubt have sabotaged many a promising career, and secure in the moral rightness of my cause, I have been immune to these things.

Even more beneficial to me though, was the heroic exanple set by (fictional) people like Hank Rearden, Francisco D'anconia, Dagny Taggart, Howard Roark, John Galt, etc. Long before I knew anything about Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, John D Rockefeller, Al Davis, or John Paul Getty, Rand's heroes were real to me and exemplified the traits that I would need to nurture in order to be the man I wished to be.

Still. to this day, Rand's heroes are more real to me in many ways than their historical counterparts. I believe this is, in part, due to the fact that her characters are pure in a way that is difficult for real flesh and blood people to be pure.

The examples set by her heroic characters, and later by real heroic businessmen, have given me hieghts to strive for, and my internalizing of her moral defense of capitalism have given me immunity to unearned guilt and self doubt about the rightness of my cause.

Obviously we share an affection for Rand's moral argument for capitalism, but was it merely that you encountered Rand before the more traditional American titans of industry, or perhaps that Rand led you to them (or to appreciate them), or that fiction can be easer to present than history, or is there something more to her moral argument that you think made the difference in your life and the choices that you made?

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Realizing that I am asking you to speculate, how do you imagine you would have chosen if you had not encountered and absorbed Rand?
Honestly, it is difficult to speculate. Since I read Rand when I was still in high-school, it is not as if I was down some path already and made a U-turn. If I had to speculate, I assume I'd have chosen more conservatively. I grew up in a culture where "bright kids" became doctors or engineers. I would probably have gone down a route like that. I might even have been richer than I am, but less contented. There's also a small chance I'd have gone a very different route and ended up on some socialist think-tank. Edited by softwareNerd
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Honestly, it is difficult to speculate. Since I read Rand when I was still in high-school, it is not as if I was down some path already and made a U-turn. If I had to speculate, I assume I'd have chosen more conservatively. I grew up in a culture where "bright kids" became doctors or engineers. I would probably have gone down a route like that. I might even have been richer than I am, but less contented. There's also a small chance I'd have gone a very different route and ended up on some socialist think-tank.

Yes, it's hard to speculate having started that early with Rand but I appreciate your stab at it which his, I think, quite reasonable. (And it is interesting and not at all unreasonable to speculate that it inoculated you against socialism in college.)

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Obviously we share an affection for Rand's moral argument for capitalism, but was it merely that you encountered Rand before the more traditional American titans of industry, or perhaps that Rand led you to them (or to appreciate them), or that fiction can be easer to present than history, or is there something more to her moral argument that you think made the difference in your life and the choices that you made?

An artist is able to burn away all irrelvancies and present a picture that focuses only on what truly matters to the artist. In learning about Reardon, Roark, Dagny Taggart. D'Anconia - these Idealized capitalists are presented as pure examples -it is easy to see the pertinent traits. Reading biographies of the real giants capitalism, one is presented a complex picture of an individual... the important aspects of the person are often buried under many layers of useless personal information. There is value in reading and studying the triumphant caputalists, but one must dig for the timeless truths amid the trivia.

Rand's Idealized heroes present none of those challenges. It's like the difference between discovering gems in the jewelry store or in a gem mine - in both instances there are valuable things to be found, but in the former location one must merely recognize them, while in the latter one must dig through quite a bit of worthless material to discover each gem.

On the objectivist morality of the trader, once internalized this gave me a framework with which to easily and effectively refute collectivists, socialists, and the merely envious who attempt to push guilt onto achievers. More importantly, it gave me the moral certainty of the righteousness of reaping the rewards of the wealth that I earn as a producer. This moral certainty is priceless, and makes me far more efficacious than I otherwise could be if I were racked with doubts of my own worthiness to produce wealth and keep what I have earned.

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(And it is interesting and not at all unreasonable to speculate that it inoculated you against socialism in college.)
Yes, from being a kid who thought communism was a great ideal, it definitely inoculated me against socialism. It thus led me to check out books from my college library which had not been checked out in years: Hayek, von Mises, etc.

However, I'm not an economist or some other type of intellectual. So, veering away from socialism has not had that direct an impact on my career (unless I'd have become an economist in my alternate history ... a very distinct possibility). Instead, being deeply convinced about the morality and practicality of Capitalism gives me a certain assurance about my ideas. There's also a second impact of being more aware of government impact on the economy, and trying to anticipate it.

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An artist is able to burn away all irrelvancies and present a picture that focuses only on what truly matters to the artist. In learning about Reardon, Roark, Dagny Taggart. D'Anconia - these Idealized capitalists are presented as pure examples -it is easy to see the pertinent traits. Reading biographies of the real giants capitalism, one is presented a complex picture of an individual... the important aspects of the person are often buried under many layers of useless personal information. There is value in reading and studying the triumphant caputalists, but one must dig for the timeless truths amid the trivia.

Rand's Idealized heroes present none of those challenges. It's like the difference between discovering gems in the jewelry store or in a gem mine - in both instances there are valuable things to be found, but in the former location one must merely recognize them, while in the latter one must dig through quite a bit of worthless material to discover each gem.

On the objectivist morality of the trader, once internalized this gave me a framework with which to easily and effectively refute collectivists, socialists, and the merely envious who attempt to push guilt onto achievers. More importantly, it gave me the moral certainty of the righteousness of reaping the rewards of the wealth that I earn as a producer. This moral certainty is priceless, and makes me far more efficacious than I otherwise could be if I were racked with doubts of my own worthiness to produce wealth and keep what I have earned.

Thanks, again.

This brings to mind a new question...

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Yes, from being a kid who thought communism was a great ideal, it definitely inoculated me against socialism. It thus led me to check out books from my college library which had not been checked out in years: Hayek, von Mises, etc.

However, I'm not an economist or some other type of intellectual. So, veering away from socialism has not had that direct an impact on my career (unless I'd have become an economist in my alternate history ... a very distinct possibility). Instead, being deeply convinced about the morality and practicality of Capitalism gives me a certain assurance about my ideas. There's also a second impact of being more aware of government impact on the economy, and trying to anticipate it.

One of my pet theories is that virtually everyone over invests unreasoning about politics and underinvests in reasoning about the decisions in their own lives so I appreciate your hesitance on this point. Still, I've known plenty of people who have hamstrung themselves by their socialistic ideals (along with others who have obviously not, e.g. George Soros).

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