Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ayn Rand and Objectivism

When beginning to tackle the vast multitudes of philosophies that deal with secular ethics (and there are a lot!), I think it is best to start with Objectivism. But before we delve right in, it is important to first look at the life of the woman that formulated the philosophy. Ayn Rand was born to a rich family in Russia in 1905. During the Bolshevik Revolution , her family had their riches stolen. She later went to a prominent Russian university where her relationship with philosophy first began, then abruptly ended when she was once again purged by the Bolsheviks. One may be seeing the trend that communism has not treated Rand very well from the get-go, and this distaste for socialist thinking is extremely blatant in her philosophic theory. There is little more to say on Ayn Rand's life story other than she moved to America in 1925 and was now in the political climate of free enterprise (this will be important later).

So what is objectivism? If you've ever seen The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged, both narratives written by Rand outlining her philosophy, you would know that there is a lot to say about it (those things are more like blunt weapons than books). Basically, the premise of her philosophy is that man should do anything to further his life. There are, of course, limitations to this; being dishonest and/or cheating your fellow man is not allowed. The success of an individual should be earned through blood, sweat and tears as opposed to chance or dishonesty. The argument Rand makes, which is very concrete when examined thoroughly, is that anything that is not work that makes you happy actually only appears to make you happy. For example, if I buy a Porsche and go 200mph in it, I think I am being pleased by my choice, but really I am not making a difference in the world and this temporary thrill only sums up to be a waste of time.

Now we can see how the word "morality" is truly a shit show to use. A moral action in the perspective of objectivism has no correlation with what you and I would call "moral" in our life. Giving charity is a moral action, right? Nope. At least that's the answer an objectivist would say. Moral actions, they would go on to say, are anything that seeks to truly further your position. Ultimately, it comes down to how much work you can do in your life. As a side note, what economic system ideally has a direct correlation between work and success? Capitalism! What is the enemy of capitalism? Communism! Hmm... looks like Ayn found a clever way to stick it to communism. Moving on, Rand's philosophy implies the non-existence (or at least non-importance) of God because the power to work lies in the individual wholly.

Now I need to preface what I'm going to say by making it clear that I really do love this philosophical system. If more people inherited this system of ethical rules, we would have an infinitely more productive society, not to mention a fair one. But, this business-centric moral system has a huge pitfall; it is hyper-idealistic (ironic, since Communism is also a highly idealistic system). By the moral standards I just discussed, doing nice things that have no affect on your work are actually aimless and amoral. If I talk to a cute chick at the bar, I'm putting pleasure before business. If I sell my friend one of my possessions for a lower price than I would get on ebay, I am once again acting aimlessly. In short, if everyone was a true objectivist, the world would be a bunch of emotionally-numb douchebags.


  1. You sure do have a lot of information to share!

  2. Not a fan of Rand, but I like how you dealt with her work. Most are either hypercritical, or fanboys. Great job.