AYN RAND & OBJECTIVISM: PHILOSOPHY TO PROPHECY
It will be very difficult indeed to discuss the subject of Ayn Rand and particularly the philosophy of Objectivism. This is not because of any difficulty with any of the concepts contained within the philosophy, but the complexities when those same concepts have far-reaching implications and ramifications to the very basic thread of our lives and our society itself. Each facet of Objectivism is more than capable of standing on its own merit. The tapestry that Ayn Rand weaves in her philosophy is exquisite in its nature and profound in its intellectual implications. It is a complete and cohesive theory on what is, in reality, the fundamental blueprint for a life built on reason, and integrity, and purpose.
We hope to bring some clarity to what constitutes her belief system. If you have never heard of Objectivism, and you have an open mind, you are in for a treat. This is a philosophy that is based on a set of principles that have been used to develop a moral and ethical code with no equal. There are many codes that exist today within our society. They compete for your mind and your reason. Not to set it free to flourish, but rather to control and direct those very same thoughts and actions. Why? Because they believe they know something that you do not. They offer salvation, but cannot explain exactly what it is, and they tell you that you are going to like their particular version. They offer you equality and security, but at a cost, and usually that translates into a loss of individuality, and action, and thought, and eventually and inevitably, loss of any and all personal freedom.
If you have heard of Objectivism, and really do not understand it, or maybe you tend to disagree with what you believe it to be, then it is in your best interests to invest some time in achieving a better understanding of the concepts upon which it is built. We are not talking about choosing a color to wear today, or what you are in the mood to eat for dinner tonight. We are talking about making decisions on who you are, and what you wish to be. What are your rights as a human being and as an individual within your society. How will you treat other people as you progress through life and ultimately the difference between right and wrong. Those of you who may be convinced that Objectivism has no intrinsic value, or hate it simply because you fear the concepts contained within or simply because someone you admire has instructed you to denounce it, I have little to suggest, except maybe to reconsider your position. Are you sure you know why you feel the way you do? Can you articulate those misgivings? Are you willing to participate in a Conversation? Then by all means, may we have a discussion about something that can define the direction your Path may take for the rest of your life. I say this because it is a curious thing, or possibly not so curious. We have seen many people over the years who do not agree with Objectivism. They readily criticize it. They decry the concepts. They denounce the author and the substance. Ofttimes with malice and forethought. They do all these things and more. But what they do NOT do is engage in discussion. They do not ask questions, and when they do, they are questions that contain little or no relevance, and often cannot be answered rationally. The proverbial ‘ gotcha ‘ questions that divert from substance. The questions that let them believe they have won an argument, when in fact they have said nothing at all, and there is no victory in deception. And for those of you that already embrace the concepts contained within Objectivism, we invite your participation. There is much that we can learn from one another. There are things that we can teach to those that are open to new ideas.
We will not even begin to scratch the surface today of what Objectivism is, but we will attempt to define some of the fundamental concepts upon which it is built, with a quick explanation and rebuttal of the traditional concerns that have been used to attempt to delegitimize the philosophy. You cannot devalue something that has intrinsic value. They may have their opinions, but it is simply that. An opinion. Our opinion is that they are wrong. Ultimately, life revolves around our own decisions, our own opinions. We can say that it always comes to fact, but the reality is that the interpretation of fact has as many variations as the grains of sand along the shores of any ocean. In the end, we live our lives based on opinion. Your decision is whether to base that life on the opinions of others, or those that we have determined, through our own thoughts and philosophy, to be the basis for our Path through the future. It is imperative that you choose wisely. It is preferable to dance to your own strings, as opposed to the strings being controlled by another. It will ultimately be your own choice.
I: Reality is Objective and discovered through the application of reason and inductive logic
The central tenet of Objectivism, as the name implies, demands the accumulation of knowledge through objective means, primarily through reason and logic, by way of sense perception and the formation of concepts through these means. It posits that what we call reality actually exists independently from our own consciousness and hence is in an objective state, regardless of our own existence. It implies that knowledge through religion or god is not valid since there can be no confirmation or objectivity of the information. The main disagreements and criticisms come from the religious viewpoints, but also from other fields of thought in philosophy that conclude that reality, in fact, does not exist at all or is basically a figment of our own imagination, with an infinite number of realities existing within an infinite number of individuals who possess their own set of perceptions.
Our response to this whole train of thought is possibly a little simplistic. The subject of reality has been debated ad infinitum for millennia, with no clear answer in sight. At some point, we must assume some things as fact. Today we posit that reality does in fact exist. To believe otherwise makes the whole exercise moot.
We are slightly uncomfortable to start an explanation of Objectivism asking anyone to accept all the tenets of the system, but we do ask you to make an effort to listen to concepts that may appear alien to you given the education that has been accepted as the norm throughout generations leading up to this point. The philosophy is highly criticized by those who seek out power and influence in our society today. It is the antithesis of not only the Liberalism that exists today, but Conservatism as well. Why? Because it will erode that tremendous power that they hold and will fiercely fight to retain to their dying breaths. And that, of course, is in direct opposition to the whole concept of America and its’ Constitution, which was built on an ideal that our country should be ruled by ‘we, the people’, and not by an autocracy of nobles, which our representation in Washington truly believes they are, but are fearful to articulate, nor a plutocracy of the rich and well connected, which seems to be in control of the autocracy today, much to the detriment of ‘we the people’.
There can be no ‘We, the people’ without individuals that are capable, and confident, and strong enough to stand up for what was supposed to be their birthright. The real answer is Individualism. Individualism can be achieved through Objectivism. Is there any question why those in power would hate such a philosophy? It is contrary to all that they hold dear, and you my friends are not a part of that dream, except as a means to their own personal, and selfish, ends. And that is true irony, since a major tenet of Objectivism is Selfishness itself, but with a twist. Enlightened Self-Interest. We will speak of that shortly. And that would stand history and reality on its head, and return the Great American Experiment to its rightful place as that shining city on the hill, as a beacon and reminder to all that true freedom really is a possibility. And relegate those representatives throughout this great land back to what was the original intent for them. Our employees and servants to our Constitution. Which reality do you want?
Having said all of this, we here at Lone Cypress always look at things from a more practical viewpoint. And it gives us the opportunity, right from the start, to make an important point. We accept nothing blindly. The evolution of creating your own personal philosophy is an arduous and challenging process. You must look at everything from every angle possible. You must question everything, and question many of your own beliefs again and again as you add more and more information to your knowledge base. We are not here to tell you to ‘DO THIS!’ We are here to explore options. To talk of alternatives. To discuss ideas that just may help you to help yourself. We cringe at being like those very same people we protest that are leading individuals in directions unknown instead of simply helping and supporting those individuals to find their own way and build confidence and resolve. We do not want you to march to our drum. We wish you to listen to your own music, and act accordingly. If it means that you leave us, finding our musings of little or no value, we can live with that. We really have no choice. If that ultimately means that you find a better you, then so be it. We could not ask for more. All we ask is that you expose yourself to ideas and concepts that we have found, after exhaustive research and contemplation, to promise the best, real chance to create change, within ourselves most assuredly, but also within society, and possibly bring about a better future, one where we may not all agree with one another, but find a way that allows us to co-exist, and yet still be free and happy, to raise families and grow as individuals, without the fear of coercion, and hatred, and destruction.
II: The proper moral purpose of one’s life is the pursuit of one’s own happiness.
A fundamental aspect of Objectivism is the concept of rational and ethical egoism, and that it is not only beneficial but NECESSARY for an individual to be concerned with their own happiness and well-being. This is also known as enlightened or, as Ayn Rand has termed it, rational self-interest. Simply stated, this outlines the assumption that everyone, and not just a single individual or any group, has the right to be happy and to work towards that end. That their first goal is to attain a semblance of well-being and health and security. The critics, borne of centuries of manipulation and indoctrination, decry the evil of ego, and talk of greed, and the total disregard of caring for the poor and unfortunate, who have been a part of the human condition on this planet across all of the millennia of mankind. There is NOTHING that could be farther from the truth and is easily dismissed. Undefined selfishness can certainly be a vice. Rational Self-Interest, on the other hand, is a virtue. Any concept can be perverted to reflect evil. But when understood and used rationally, as with most things, it can be a force for nothing but good, and beneficial to all. You MUST be selfish to be successful. It is imperative to be selfish to become educated. You must work hard and study long hours to gain the knowledge necessary to achieve any level of education. It takes dedication and focus and resolve. It usually means forsaking luxuries. It means being selfish with your time, and your thoughts, as well as your efforts. Only then can you achieve, and ultimately share that knowledge and power with others. Only then can you teach others what you have learned. The only obstacle to that is yourself. With every new level of knowledge you obtain, you always have the opportunity to enrich the lives of those around you, those you love, or those you simply believe need or deserve help. The problem is not with the virtue of rational self-interest, but rather it is with damaged individuals, ignorant and uninterested in helping his fellow man. That is the selfish you should point to. That is the selfish you should protest, the one you should avoid. Give respect and acclaim to those individuals that share their success. Honor and praise the individual that works for years, and decades, to create wealth to ensure a stable environment for himself, to ultimately create goods and services that you could not do for yourself. To supply jobs that you cannot create, and to share wealth with those less fortunate, whether through weakness or circumstance. No man can offer his wealth to another unless he first creates it. Government cannot do so. It steals and redistributes at the point of a gun. That government, and the businesses that they support, and who support them, are the examples of greed and selfishness we need to eradicate from the face of society. Do not demonize wealth and success and business. The vast majority of business is the lifeblood of our country, and our existence derives from their efforts. Bad representation, bad laws, lack of enforcement, and a select few businesses that have been given the opportunity to enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of us are the problem. It is YOUR responsibility to determine who they are and remove them from the playing field. But unfortunately, as a country, we do not have the resolve, the insight, the integrity or the ability to make these decisions. Without philosophy, and concepts such as rational self-interest, I am afraid that what we wish for shall never come to pass. It is a disappointment and a tragedy. We live in a potential Eden, and we insist on trashing it with each subsequent decision we make. It will ultimately be our own decision that destroys America. What then will remain? What’s it going to be, America?
When will we realize that our direction is in error? When will we understand that the conflict and hatred that we display will not resolve the issues? When will we grant people the right to live their own lives, by their own rules? And most importantly, when will we all, as a country, accept responsibility for our own actions, acknowledge our own shortcomings, and make the effort to create change, first within ourselves, and eventually within our society? We will never succeed with the division that exists within. There cannot be two ‘societies’. We need to think, and then to identify, those individuals, in politics and business, in media and entertainment, that are the true obstacle, and replace them with substance and value. Individuals of character. The only alternative is continued pain and suffering. Take a knee America. Protest Hate. Not just hate against Blacks. Not just hate against Gays. Hate against anyone. At any time. For any reason. If not? Then it’s game over. Game called on account of hate.
All too many people oversimplify the views put forth by Objectivism and grossly under-estimate the value and validity of the philosophy. They do not question the concepts and certainly do not question the source of the criticisms that often come from people of ignorance and those with ideologies and agendas that simply cannot accept such a reality because that would demand a re-evaluation of everything they have come to believe. It is difficult to introduce people to new options and alternatives when they are unwilling to even have a conversation. You would think that they would welcome the chance to demonstrate to the world why their own position holds value and is based on reason and fact. Unfortunately, there are very few willing to do just that. If you are not willing to discuss and debate, you prevent yourself from growth and understanding, and even worse, you never allow yourself to teach others and bring them the realization of exactly what it is that you so dearly hold as true. You must not be afraid to try. To change self if necessary, and to enlighten others if given the opportunity. I am continually confused and dismayed that so few people, convinced of their own truths, are so incapable of defending their own positions of thought. I am eternally eager and excited to engage upon the field of ideas to challenge any position, even my own, to achieve a better understanding of life, and self, and the necessities of living with others in peace and harmony. Man is uniquely qualified to do such a thing. We should never be afraid to do so. Only man can think, and change, and grow. But he does it rarely, and he does it oh, so slowly.
Objectivism is NOT a cult. Like any philosophy, it is simply but the opinion of another. You need not become a Christian to believe that ‘Thou shalt not kill’ or ‘Thou shall honor thy father and thy mother’. I find it hard to find fault with any of the 10 commandments. But if I accept and adopt them as my own, it does not necessarily mean I am a Christian, only that my intellect and reason sees value in the concepts. The Jewish faith has 613 ‘commandments’. A little tedious if you go through them all, but if you find many that make sense to you and choose to make them a part of your own personal philosophy, or even all of them, it does not make you a Jew. Hopefully, it just makes you a better person. Islam also has its own set of commandments, and as with Judaism, it can be a little convoluted to understand some of them, but I would have to say that I accept and agree with most of them. Does that make me a Muslim? I would have to say no. Why? Because of the simple fact that I do NOT embrace any of these philosophies. I do not accept the dogma. I do not agree with the imperfect leadership. I am perfectly capable of making my own decisions and acting accordingly. I do NOT need religion. I do NOT need God. If anything, God needs me. A God without any believers is what? He is nothing. He does not even exist.
So too with Objectivism. It is a collection of concepts. Concepts of value. It is a comprehensive collection of valuable observations for living a life of value and consequence. Compared to those philosophies of religion mentioned, I find Objectivism intellectually vastly superior, reasonable and necessary to live a life that could conceivably resolve all of the destructive issues that work to divide us as individuals as well as a society. That is my choice. Do not deny me my choice. Everyone incessantly talks about freedom of choice. I have made mine. I grant you the right to the same. But I fail to understand all the hate and the fear of the existence of ideas. Why do you feel the need to hate? And so strongly? These are but ideas. Opinions. If you wish to question them or criticize them, reasonably, then do so. That is the strength of man. Change my mind. Convince me. Convince others. And then enjoy the freedom to believe what you will. And allow me to do the same. But please, stop the hate. That my friends, is something that does not exist in Objectivism. There is no mention of non-believers. There is no mention of infidels. There is no mention of retribution or eternal damnation. It is self-affirming. It is uplifting and positivism. Do not talk to me of selfishness and greed. Those concepts do not exist in Objectivism. They are fallacies. They are lies. From people incapable of conceiving or comprehending rational concepts. From people who have no answers, whose only ability in life is to criticize and attempt to destroy. Totally unable to build, and create, and resolve. Mankind has barely survived millennia of love and religion, heart and emotion. Hate and death. Objectivism is an alternative. It may or not be the answer. The opposition confounds me. I continue to ask. Why?
And please do not confuse Objectivism with Ayn Rand. She is just the messenger. SHE is not the message. As imperfect as the next human being, and yet infinitely more capable of thinking and connecting the dots than most. Her weaknesses and fallibilities as an individual do NOT reflect on the philosophy of Objectivism. I disagree with much of her personal decisions in life. She was searching, as we all are, for answers, and found many more than many of us have been able to do. Her thoughts on God were her own. She believed that God was of no consequence. To some degree, I agree. But you can have belief in God or religion and still be an Objectivist. They are NOT exclusive. Her views on feminism and abortion are again her own. Objectivism does not demand adherence. Does not even suggest it. That is truly the fundamental strength of the philosophy. You think and reason. You strive to make yourself strong. You become confident and competent. And then YOU decide what it is you want to do with that knowledge, that strength, that self. If you wish to devote yourself to the less fortunate, there is no restriction on you doing so. If you want to create wealth and donate every penny to whatever cause you choose, you may do so. If you decide to become the worst greedy and selfish bastard ever to walk the face of the earth, go ahead. But these examples are not Objectivism. They are individual choice. Objectivism creates strength and self-awareness and opportunity. In the end, the individual decides. And must accept responsibility for their actions. Do not judge the philosophy by the actions of the faithful. Otherwise, we should remove all religion from the face of the earth for the misguided and evil individuals that used the philosophies to manipulate, and divide and destroy and kill untold millions over millennia.
Open your mind and open your heart. There is much we do not yet understand. We must open our eyes to see. We must be willing to listen, and not just the opportunity to speak. But we all must continue the search for truth.
To refuse to accept is to live a lie.
To refuse to think is to die.