Friday, December 7, 2007

What is Objectivism?

The following by Lindsay Perigo.

What is Objectivism?
Let its founder speak first. Asked to specify Objectivism's essentials standing on one foot, Ayn Rand, standing on one foot, said:
Metaphysics: Objective Reality
Epistemology: Reason
Ethics: Self-interest
Politics: Capitalism
Writing about this episode later, she went on to say:

If you want this translated into simple language, it would read:
'Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed' or 'Wishing won't make it so.'
'You can't eat your cake & have it too.'
'Man is an end in himself.'
'Give me liberty or give me death.' If you held these concepts with total consistency, you would have a full philosophical system to guide the course of your life. But to hold them with total consistency - to understand, to define, to prove & to apply them - requires volumes of thought. Which is why philosophy cannot be discussed while standing on one foot - nor while standing on two feet on both sides of every fence. This last is the predominant philosophical position today, particularly in the field of politics.

Neither it can, & so it is.

Ayn Rand herself, relative to other philosophers, didn't write "volumes." In terms of quality & import, however, she out-wrote most of them combined & multiplied. Some philosophers (not many) had argued discretely for one or more of the above; she integrated ALL of it & brought esthetics into the mix as well. She argued that facts are facts; that reality is what it is, independent of our feelings or wishes; that human reason is able to grasp what it is; that reason's tools - sense-perception, concept-formation & logic - are, contrary to many philosophers, valid; that these facts have irresistible & demonstrable implications for ethics, politics, economics & art: they enjoin rational self-interest, individual liberty, capitalism & what she called "romantic realism" as part of "man's proper estate" - an "upright posture."

Along the way, she demolished several age-old dilemmas & dichotomies. She disposed of the "is/ought" dichotomy - that you can't derive values from facts - by pointing out that an entity's actions are determined by that entity's nature & that a volitional, conceptual entity such as man can derive values, by thought & choice, ONLY from facts. She pointed out that trying to derive values from OTHER sources - such as "divine revelation" or range-of-the-moment whims can lead only to disaster, & in so doing busted the intrinsicist/subjectivist dichotomy.

She pointed out that volition is a causal agent, & so resolved the free will/determinism controversy.

She pointed out that facts without logic are as useless as logic without facts, & so busted the rationalist/empiricist dichotomy.

She pointed out that consciousness is not rendered invalid by the fact that it has organs - that we are not deaf BECAUSE we have ears that can hear - & so busted Kant's noumenal/phenomenal dichotomy.

She exposed the lethal incoherence of requiring that we must know EVERYTHING in order to know ANYTHING (see modern physics).

She pointed out the logical absurdity of the traditional ethic of self-sacrifice for the sake of others - if I am here to sacrifice for you, & you are here to sacrifice for me, what good does that do either of us? What is the point? She highlighted its logical/practical effect, all too eloquently exemplified during the twentieth century in which she lived: humanity's being divided up into those who make sacrifices & those who receive them; thence, bloodbaths & concentration camps.

She pointed out the existential monstrosity of an ethic that says we should act from duty & eschew happiness. "The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer & die, but to enjoy yourself & live." With that, she launched a revolution.

Ayn Rand showed that we can not only contemplate the stars, but we can also reach them - in part by dispensing with the notion that we'll find a "God" there. "My philosophy, in essence" she said, "is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, & reason as his only absolute."

This site, SOLO HQ - Sense of Life Objectivists Headquarters - is a passionate "Amen!" to that.
Lindsay Perigo

For more information Solo HQ for more of these articles can be found also now an updated version which is presently used The updated version is a huge online community of objectivists and people interested in discussing objectivism. Lindsay Perigo, founder and principle, is uncompromisingly as pationate than ever in his new website broadcasting these ideas.


Elijah Lineberry said...

Hi Kasper!

Jolly splendid you have a weblog...I shall enjoy reading it!

Christian said...

"She pointed out that volition is a causal agent, & so resolved the free will/determinism controversy."

If SOLO explains it properly, then the refute against determinism is a poorly laid out semantics based straw man argument, and I'm not impressed that you've fallen for it.

And it still doesn't address physical determinism - only biological.

There's just so much here that screams bullshit, and so much of it comes back to the premise that you think you can know anything at all, ever!

This is philosophy:
IF a is true, THEN b is true

This is NOT philosophy (although it seems Objectivists think it is):
SINCE a is true, THEN b is true.

We only know b to be true in case of a's truth, not regardless of a's truth!

Your weakness is in your claims of certainty and your anthropocentrism.

I anticipate backlash, so I'm going to go away and set down my argument properly from start to finish.

Kasper said...

To address Christian's arguement the conceptual identification of an entity such as a human being, differentia and genus, is a rational animal. No debate is necessary to counter biological or physical determinism. If you exist then you simply exist. No choice in that matter. The nature of your being is that you possess a volitional conciousness. You have no choice about making choices. Part of the identity of the entity, rational animal, is a thing that makes choices. You have to make them. But which choices you make are determined by your own selective choosing. The determinist argument that I think you are alluding too is the one that says humans don't choose and are completely guided by forces beyond their control. That particular argument is rubbish and doesn't hold any water.
One can be certain of knowledge. To understand this one must repeal to a theory on concept formation: Introduction to objectivist epistemology.
It is obsurd to proclaim a certianty such as "you cannot know" when denying "knowing" in the first place. That's called the stolen concept fallacy.