The Object of Objectivism

I just finished reading Anthem by Ayn Rand. I've read her before: The Fountainhead, and her book on the craft of writing. She has an intriguing philosophy that people have discussed and argued and studied to death. Well guess what? I'm going to discuss it more.

There are some things I agree with and some I do not in Objectivism, Ayn Rand's philosophy. Here are her basic major points:

1. Reality - The world is as it is. We cannot change physics; we can only perceive.
2. Reason - Man is a rational being. There is no 'God' or fate.
3. Self-interest - The 'meaning of life' so to speak is to be the best you can be for yourself.
4. Capitalism - We as individuals must work for our keep.

As I read her books, I noticed that her characters were ambitious and, to an extent, emotionless. With these two characteristics (obviously they had more than just these two) they fit right into Rand's philosophy. They worked hard day and night to make money and do science and stuff (how elegantly worded, Aimee), fending for themselves and rising to the top. They were happy with their success, and happiness is great. People should be happy.

However, the lack of empathy left the characters' lives (especially their love lives) a little dry and kind of sad, though they were rolling in dough and had high esteem from their colleagues and friends. The characters were driven by logic and reason, but they completely ignored their (and others') emotions. Their 'happiness' was more of a contentedness with their success in life and less of a love for their situation and result of their actions. You know, the way that normal, emotionally adjusted people are happy.

I agree with Ayn Rand about a few things: physics is unchangeable by human hands, man's decisions (rational or not) control the direction of his life, and the individual being is powerful, unique, and significant.

I do not, however, agree with her opinions regarding economy and society.

Yes, individuals should work for their own keep instead of being lazy and having everything done for them. But Ayn Rand's philosophy, in my opinion, supports and promotes selfishness. Our actions do affect the outcome of our life, but they affect other people as well. While we all only have this one life to live and should live it to its fullest, we should not disregard people less fortunate then ourselves. Capitalism is nice and all, because people can get super rich if they work hard enough, but there are people who physically or mentally cannot work, or they have different opinions of society, and they suffer for it.

Rand praises the individual and demotes altruism, leaving behind a world of self-absorbed nihilists. I agree that each and every unique person is worthy, but I disagree people should take advantage of others in order to obtain wealth and esteem. No one is better than anyone else, but we are all wonderful. We shouldn't let those who are selfish and ambitious rise above and hurt others emotionally on their way to the top. We should channel our determination and self-interest not toward a world where the strong and emotionally hard stomp all over the weak and vulnerable, but toward a world where everyone has a chance to be happy and receive what they deserve.

Let's help others instead of solely helping ourselves!

Peace, Aimee

7 comments:

  1. It's easy to agree on #1 and #2 (at least for me, since I'm a physicist and atheist).

    I think #3 is probably true, at least for the majority of people. There are some idealists, but most people are not, unfortunately.

    Also, I think most, or at least many, people are just opportunists. They use the system as much as they can for own benefits. For instance, the same people who were the elite in communist Russia became the most sucessfull capitalists later on. Capitalism is not a good system, but with strict regulations (like anti-trust laws), it's probably the system which works best for most people.

    I used to be idealistic when I was young. Now I've grown older, selfish and realistic.

    Keep you idealism as long as you can >:)

    Cold As Heaven

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  3. Cold As Heaven - Opportunist people bother me. I understand why capitalism can work if people work with it in a non-selfish way, but what I don't understand is how some people can manipulate the poor into spending money, which goes to the wealthy. I will definitely be keeping my idealism, but it might end up driving me insane not seeing it happen in the real world. :)

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  4. Capitalism without regulations is the worst there is. It well end up in monopoly; all the money in a few people's pockets.

    Capitalism with regulating laws works because the individuals can benefit themselves and contribute to society at the same time.

    Marxism/communism is a good idea, but it failed (in Soviet Union and Eastern Europe), because people are opportunistic and selfish. Unfortunately this seams to be part of human nature.

    Cold As Heaven

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  5. Selfishness is a part of human nature, I agree, but I think we can channel our selfishness in such a way that it won't hurt other people.

    I think the biggest problem is that power corrupts. If those in charge weren't so inconsiderate, then maybe we wouldn't need so many regulations in order for those systems to work...

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  6. Hi,

    I just stumbled upon this blog, and I'd like to suggest that you read Rand's book titled "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal", and particularly the chapter called "Big Business, America's Persecuted Minority". She gives a very convincing argument about how government is usually the perpetuator of monopoly or oligopoly, thanks to anti-trust laws like the Sherman Act.

    I agree with you that Rand's characters are cold and emotionless. When I read her, I try to keep in mind that she lived in Communist Russia, and she devoted most of her life as a writer to responding to the evils of collectivism, but she was certainly not the warmest person to ever walk the planet. Anyway, thanks for the thought provoking discussion!

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