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Table of Contents What is Objectivism?............................................1 What is Philosophy?.............................................2 What is the Objectivist View of Reality (Metaphysics)?............................4 What is the Objectivist Theory of Knowledge (Epistemology)?.............12 What is the Objectivist Position in Morality (Ethics)?............................17 What is the Objectivist View of Law and Government (Politics)?.........21 What is Objectivismâ€™s View of Art?..................27
What is Objectivism? My philosophy...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, and reason as his only absolute. â€” Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged Objectivism is the philosophy of rational individualism founded by Ayn Rand (1905-1982). Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, Rand witnessed the Bolshevik revolution. She emigrated to America where she worked in Hollywood and became a best-selling author of novels, most famously, Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Objectivism holds that there is no greater moral goal than achieving oneâ€™s happiness. But one cannot achieve happiness by wish or whim. It requires rational respect for the facts of reality, including the facts about our human nature and needs. It requires living by objective principles, including moral integrity and respect for the rights of others. Politically, Objectivists advocate laissez-faire capitalism. Objectivism is optimistic, holding that the universe is open to human achievement and happiness and that each person has within him the ability live a rich, fulfilling, independent life. 1
What is Philosophy? In order to live, man must act; in order to act, he must make choices; in order to make choices, he must define a code of values; in order to define a code of values, he must know what he is and where he is—i.e., he must know his own nature (including his means of knowledge) and the nature of the universe in which he acts—i.e., he needs metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, which means: philosophy. — Ayn Rand, The Romantic Manifesto If Objectivism is a philosophy, the first question to ask is “What is philosophy?” A philosophy is a comprehensive system of ideas about the world and our place in it, about human nature, about the validity of our knowledge, about the values we should pursue, for ourselves and in our relationships to others. It is a guide for living, because it addresses the course we take in life. Philosophy has distinct branches that address fundamental questions: • Metaphysics (What is reality?). • Epistemology (How do I know?) • Ethics (What is important for life as a human being?) • Politics (What is the purpose of government?) 2
â€˘ Aesthetics (What is the role of art?) The most widespread philosophical systems are religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or Buddhism. Each religion is a philosophy with its own specific views on issues in each branch. The belief in God, or gods, or a realm beyond the natural world is a metaphysical belief. Many religions call for faith in a higher power vs. a reliance on reason to acquire knowledge. Thatâ€™s epistemology. And religions have a lot to say about ethics, values, and moral principles. But religions are only one type of philosophy. In ancient Greece, for example, Plato and Aristotle developed distinctive philosophical systems to address all the major issues, from metaphysics to aesthetics, but did not include the idea of a personal god. Objectivism is similar in this respect. In politics, philosophical views are often known as ideologies, such as liberalism, conservatism, socialism, and libertarianism. Political philosophies like these offer systematic views on issues such as the proper functions of government, the rights of individuals, and the role of democracy.
What is the Objectivist View of Reality (Metaphysics)? Reality exists as an objective absolute—facts are facts, independent of man’s feelings, wishes, hopes or fears. — Ayn Rand, “Introducing Objectivism” Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that studies the fundamental nature of existence, including human nature and our place in the world. In this area, Objectivism holds that: 1. There’s an objective reality, independent of our minds, in which things exist, have definite identities, and interact causally. 2. Reality consists in the natural world we perceive and live in; there is no supernatural realm. 3. There’s no dichotomy between mind and body, matter and spirit. 4. We have free will. 1. Objective Reality Objectivism gets its name as a philosophy from its fundamental commitment to objectivity. The concept of objectivity has different (but related) meanings in each branch of philosophy. In metaphysics, to say that something is objective means that it exists in the world independent of our minds. It doesn’t depend on what we think or feel about it, or whether we know about it in the first place. This is what we mean 4
when we say that there’s an objective reality, or that something is an objective fact. We are contrasting what’s objective with what is subjective, with what is in our minds—thoughts, feelings, desires, etc. The vast terrain of existence—from deserts to swamps, from atoms to galaxies, from primitive life-forms to human beings, from cells to societies—includes things that differ in every way. But there are two things we can say about each and every one of them: – It exists. – It has some identity. “Existence” and “identity” are two fundamental concepts that apply to everything. Objectivism holds that these are fundamental facts, or axioms, that lie at the base of all knowledge. The axiom of existence doesn’t tell us what things exist; it says only that things do exist. The axiom of identity doesn’t tell us what properties a given thing has; it says only that whatever properties it has, it has those and not others. A is A; nothing can be both A and not–A. These axioms cannot be proven but they are not arbitrary. They are self-evident, revealed in every form of awareness— from the simplest sensation to the most advanced scientific theory, there is always something we are aware of, something that exists. And that something is something in particular—it has some identity. 5
The law of identity has an important implication about action: A thing cannot act in contradiction to its nature. A rock can roll downhill but not uphill. Actions do not happen randomly. Actions have causes—gravity, force, reaction, etc. They are caused by the nature of the entities that act (and the circumstances in which they act, which consist of other entities). As a consequence, the same thing in the same circumstances will act the same way. This is the law of causality, and it underlies our everyday knowledge of how things behave as well as scientific theories about atoms, genes, disease, and on and on. 2. Natural vs. Supernatural The term “nature,” in the broadest sense, refers to the world of physical objects that exist in space and time. It’s the world we perceive and can study by rational methods. In this widest sense, the term does not mean just the nature we enjoy in a park. It doesn’t mean natural as opposed to human or artificial. The term means the world, reality, existence. But it highlights the fact that things have natures—identities— and interact in accordance with causal law. Many philosophies propose a realm of existence beyond nature—a supernatural realm. Most major religions posit a personal god (or gods), along with angels and other spirits, and a heaven where we have some kind of life after death. Objectivism disagrees with any notion of the supernatural as incompatible with the objectivity and regularity of na6
ture. For example, the miracles related in Greek myths and the Bible and Qurâ€™an, like the sun standing still for Joshua, would contradict the idea of cause and effect, and imply that objects in nature (like the sun) do not necessarily act in accordance with their natures. Objectivism holds that things in nature are created and destroyed through natural processes, but the existence of this world itself is self-evident; it does not require an explanation by anything outside itself. In short, there is no rational basis for believing in a world beyond nature, nor a life beyond this one. But in contrast to the view of nature as a cold and meaningless realm, Objectivism holds that we live in a â€œbenevolent universe.â€? We are beings well-adapted to the real world in which we live, with the freedom to carve our own path and the ability to achieve happiness. 3. Mind and Body Philosophers and cognitive scientists today are exploring the connection between mind and body, in particular the relation between consciousness and the brain. But the distinction between mind and body has a larger cultural significance. Philosophies that subscribe to a higher realm beyond nature often hold that human nature is likewise bifurcated into a lower self and a higher one. According to this school of thought, the mind (or soul) is an entity in its own right, distinct from the body it inhabits, as a driver is different from his car. Our senses and worldly desires arise from the 7
body and are oriented toward the lower realm of nature, while our reason and spirit aspire to the higher realm to which the soul returns after death, like a driver leaving his car when he gets home. This bifurcation gives rise in turn to the belief in an inherent conflict between mind and body, and between material and spiritual activities, as in St. Paul’s “Letter to the Galatians”: “For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are contrary to each other….” The conflict takes many forms, in secular as well as religious views. One common form is the belief that morality is not practical. The idea presumes that moral ideals are spiritual whereas practicality is a matter of material affairs. For example, many defenders of capitalism cite its practical benefits in economic results but are reluctant to defend the morality of a system based on self-interest. Objectivism rejects this dichotomy by questioning the moral assumptions. But the two main areas of life to which the premise of a mind-body opposition applies are love and work. In these areas, the premise implies that sex is a purely physical desire while love is spiritual and, in its purest (Platonic) form, is chaste. And that profit-seeking business is materialist but creating art is a higher, spiritual profession.
A major theme in Atlas Shrugged is that such dichotomies are groundless. In the case of love and sex, the point is dramatized in the character arc of Hank Rearden, who loves Dagny Taggart for her spirit and shared values but feels that his desire for her is degrading, a low animal impulse. Over the course of the novel, he comes to see the error of that assumption. In the case of business production, virtually every scene shows the intelligence, courage, imagination, and integrity of work at all levels. As the composer Richard Halley says, Whether it’s a symphony or a coal mine, all work is an act of creating and comes from the same source: from an inviolate capacity to see through one’s own eyes…. That shining vision which they talk about as belonging to the authors of symphonies and novels—what do they think is the driving faculty of men who discovered how to use oil, how to run a mine, how to build an electric motor? In short, there is a difference between the mind and body, but no dichotomy or conflict. They are both aspects of human nature. We are living organisms, and all our faculties, mental as well as physical, work together to keep us alive. 4. Free Will vs. Determinism The issue of free will vs. determinism is one of the fundamental, enduring issues in philosophy. Do we have genuine choice among alternative actions? Are we in genuine control of our choices? Or do we act from necessity? 9
Objectivism holds that we have free will. We choose our actions through the direct control we have over the inner actions of our mind, especially the role of attention. Thinking about a promise, you can focus on the value of keeping your word or on a short-term gain from breaking the promise, and you will act accordingly. The fact of free will is self-evident: we can observe directly that we have the ability to control our own minds, to focus our thoughts on one consideration or another, and thus to direct our own actions. Determinists claim that free will is not compatible with science, that believing in free will means denying causality. Objectivists disagree. The law of causality says that things act in accordance with their natures. Billiard balls react mechanically; they donâ€™t strive to go in the pocket. Living organisms do striveâ€”to live. Their goal-directed action is a higher, more inwardly directed form of causality. The human power of choice is a further step in inward control in which we cause our actions through voluntary attention. In this respect, free will highlights an essential aspect of the Objectivist view of mind and body. Though we deny the existence of a supernatural realm and an eternal soul divorced from the body, Objectivists do not accept a materialist or reductionist view of mind. Consciousness is a real part of nature, and the human form of consciousness, with our distinctive faculty of reason and freedom, is what it is. Scientific advances will help explain how the nervous system gives 10
rise to these capacities, but explanation is not reduction. Our freedom to choose our actions is of the essence of what it means to be human. It underlies our need for moral guidance and moral ideals to live by. What we call our spiritual needs are not in conflict with our physical or biological needs. Objectivism holds that “spiritual values” are of vital importance to fulfillment and happiness. Spiritual values are those pertaining to the needs of human consciousness, arising from the human capacity for reason, creativity, free will, and self-awareness. These needs include self-esteem, love, art, and philosophy, among others. Achieving these values in one’s life is no less important than providing for one’s material needs and achieving worldly success.
What is the Objectivist Theory of Knowledge (Epistemology)? Reason integrates man’s perceptions by means of forming abstractions or conceptions, thus raising man’s knowledge from the perceptual level, which he shares with animals, to the conceptual level, which he alone can reach. The method which reason employs in this process is logic—and logic is the art of non-contradictory identification. — Ayn Rand, Philosophy, Who Needs It Objectivism holds that the basis of all knowledge is perception, the evidence of the senses. We perceive reality through vision, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. In this respect, Objectivism is an empiricist philosophy, in agreement with Aristotle and many other philosophers, as opposed to the rationalism of thinkers like Rene Descartes, who hold that perception is unreliable and that knowledge is based on abstract truths like the axioms of geometry. Reason is the conceptual faculty. We perceive individual things, but we have the capacity to grasp common features among them. Horses are similar to each other, for example, and different from dogs. We integrate the perceptions of the horses into a single mental unit, expressed in a word. When you say or think “horse,” your mind is using a concept you formed that refers to all the horses that ever have been or 12
will be. Concepts are abstractions that identify an unlimited number of things at once. Concepts allow us to formulate causal laws, moral principles, and other generalizations. The method of conceptual knowledge is logic. Because there are no contradictions in reality (law of identity), two ideas that contradict each other cannot both be true; and any idea that contradicts the facts we can observe through our senses must be false. Logic gives us standards we can use to guide thinking. The scientific method is an advanced form of logical reasoning. Through it, reason has unlocked the secrets of nature and made our industrial civilization possible, with all its wealth and comforts! Conceptual thought is fallible. Since we have free will, we can evade unpleasant facts, let bias distort our thinking, and jump to conclusions without evidence. Since reasoning is a complex process, we can also make innocent mistakes despite our best efforts. Objectivity is therefore a necessary practice. In epistemology, being objective means setting truth as your ultimate goal and your only consideration. Objectivity is a voluntary commitment to accept facts as facts, rely on observation and logic, and exclude distorting influences like bias, prejudice, and wishful thinking. Objectivity is not always easy, but itâ€™s possible. That confidence rests on the principle of â€œthe primacy of existence,â€? which Ayn Rand described as the principle 13
that the universe exists independent of consciousness, that things are what they are, that they possess a specific nature, an identity. The epistemological corollary is the axiom that consciousness is the faculty of perceiving that which exists—and that man gains knowledge by looking outward. The opposing position is the primacy of consciousness: that the objects of our knowledge are not independent but are created or constructed by our minds. It is the view that, ultimately, nothing is real except in relation to our perceiving it or thinking of it. This relativist view takes many forms. There is cultural relativism, the idea that different cultures live in different realities shaped by their own assumptions. There’s the postmodern claim that language shapes the categories we use to interpret the world. But that is putting the cart before the horse. Reality is not a function of our words or ideas. Without an objective reality, there could be no ideas or words; there would be nothing for them to refer to. To be conscious—in any form, at any level—is to be conscious of something that exists and is what it is. The primacy of existence is a self-evident truth. Denying it is the intellectual equivalent of closing one’s eyes while driving and hoping the road will conform to your steering. In holding that reason is an absolute, Objectivism rejects the claims of faith as a source of knowledge. Understood as “the 14
conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1), faith consists in belief not based on evidence, or based on such spurious forms of “evidence” as revelation and authority, and is not compatible with objectivity. Faith cannot substitute for reason as a means of knowledge, nor can it supplement reason. What about emotions? In Atlas Shrugged, when the heroine Dagny Taggart faces a difficult choice, the man she loves says, “If any of your uncertainty is a conflict between your heart and your mind, follow your mind.” That expresses another aspect of reason as an absolute: Reason is a cognitive capacity. Its function is to acquire knowledge about the world, including knowledge about ourselves, our goals, and the best ways to achieve them. Emotions, along with feelings and desires, are affective modes of consciousness. Cognition identifies things and facts; affect reacts to them as good or bad for us, and motivates action accordingly. Emotional reactions rest on cognition; they result from the way we interpret the thing we react to. Fear, for example, is a reaction to what we perceive as a threat. Suppose a shy person fears going to a party because he has the implicit belief that he has nothing interesting to say. That belief is the result of past experience. It may or not be true, but the feeling of fear is not itself proof that it’s true. The introvert can re-examine that belief—perhaps by going to the party and focusing on what people say instead of his fears—but that is an exercise of reason. His feeling of fear is not itself evidence that his belief is correct. 15
Does that mean Objectivists look down on emotion? Far from it! Objectivism holds that we need joy, pride, love, and passion to achieve our values, under the guidance of reason. Thereâ€™s no inherent conflict between reason and emotion. But they play different roles, working together in support of our lives.
What is the Objectivist Position in Morality (Ethics)? The Objectivist ethics holds man’s life as the standard of value—and his own life as the ethical purpose of every individual man…. Man must choose his actions, values and goals by the standard of that which is proper to man—in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy that ultimate value, that end in itself, which is his own life. — Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness For thousands of years, people have been taught that goodness and virtue consist in serving others. “Love your brother as yourself” teach the Christian scriptures. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” preach the Marxists. Utilitarian philosophers, many of whom defended free market capitalism, taught that one should act always to attain “the greatest good for the greatest number.” The Objectivist ethics rebuilds morality from the ground up. “You cannot say ‘I love you’ if you cannot say the ‘I’,” wrote Ayn Rand. According to Objectivism, a person’s own life and happiness is the ultimate good. To achieve happiness requires a morality of rational selfishness, one that does not give undeserved rewards to others and that does not ask them for oneself. 17
Objectivism holds that values and moral principles are objective, based on facts about life, human nature and needs, and the world we live in. To begin with, we are living beings. As with any other species, life is conditional; it depends on acting to meet our needs by using our capacities. Rand describes the ultimate value as “Man’s survival qua man,” which means “the terms, methods, conditions and goals required for the survival of a rational being through the whole of his lifespan.” The cardinal values for humans are Reason, Purpose, and Self. Reason, because it is our means of gaining knowledge, and, through production, our means of survival. Purpose, because each of us has free will and must direct himself toward chosen goals, through a chosen course of life. Self-esteem, because without it a self-motivating being cannot fully sustain the effort to meet life’s challenges. The virtues of Objectivism define principles of action that lead to the achievement of objective values, considered in the full context of human life. The key principle of the Objectivist ethics is rationality, as against mysticism and whim. The ethics is a code of benevolence and justice toward other people—holding evildoers to account for their vices, but treating rational and productive people with good will and generosity. It entails integrity—an integration of our principles and our actions. A rational being practices honesty, loving the truth more than deception. A virtuous person prizes independence: 18
he lives first-hand, on the basis of his own judgment and effort. The Objectivist ethics places industry and productivity in one’s chosen work at the center of life’s concerns. It is the code of a person who holds his head up with pride, in an objective appreciation of his merits and in aspiration to continue living up to his standards. “As man is a being of self-made wealth,” Rand said, “so he is a being of self-made soul.” The Objectivist ethics is a code that honors achievement and celebrates greatness. It honors the creativity not only of artists, but of industrialists and engineers, investors and inventors, because their work reflects the same courage, commitment, and integrity. It holds that any work is worthy that is well and thoughtfully done, in any realm and on any scale of achievement, from the factory line worker to the corporate CEO and the most brilliant composer. In extolling “the virtue of selfishness,” as Rand titled her book on ethics, she challenged the conventional altruist morality. Altruism is literally the philosophy of “otherism.” That morality assumes that selfishness is grasping, short-sighted, and exploitative; that self-interest means getting the most for oneself by any means, at the expense of others, creating a perpetual conflict of interests. So the altruist morality preaches self-sacrifice and humility. By contrast, Objectivism defines self-interest in terms of meeting one’s long-term needs, spiritual as well as materi19
al, and realizing oneâ€™s full potential. To do so we need to practice rationality and the other virtues. In maintaining the virtue of selfishness, in other words, Objectivism equally maintains the selfishness of virtue. By that standard, there are no inherent conflicts of interest among people. Productiveness is a cardinal virtue because the human mode of living is production. We are not like dogs squabbling over meat or children sharing a pie; we are each creators, making new goods through our productive work, and trading with each other to mutual benefit. Since trade is not a zero-sum game, Rand rejected the age-old moral view that one must be either a giver or a taker. What about charity and generosity? They can be elements in the benevolent relationships that serve our interests. But they are not primary virtues nor the highest badge of nobility, as altruism claims. That honor belongs to achievement. As Rand puts it: Men have been taught that the highest virtue is not to achieve, but to give. Yet one cannot give that which has not been created. Creation comes before distributionâ€”or there will be nothing to distribute. The need of the creator comes before the need of any possible beneficiary. Yet we are taught to admire the second-hander who dispenses gifts he has not produced above the man who made the gifts possible. We praise an act of charity. We shrug at an act of achievement. 20
What is the Objectivist View of Law and Government (Politics)? “Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned. The recognition of individual rights entails the banishment of physical force from human relationships... The only function of government, in such a society, is the task of protecting man’s rights…; the government acts as the agent of man’s right of self-defense, and may use force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use; thus the government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of force under objective control.” — Ayn Rand, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal The Objectivist political philosophy has two main elements: individual rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness; and a limited government whose only function is to protect rights in accordance with objective laws. Capitalism is the politico-economic system implied by these principles. Objectivism agrees with the basic political principles of the Declaration of Independence. It shares the political ideals of the classical liberal and modern libertarian traditions. But it supports those principles and ideals through its distinctive ethical philosophy. Individual Rights 21
The Objectivist ethics holds that each person has the moral right to pursue his own life and happiness, acting by his own judgment, with productive achievement as a central goal. If we are to live by that standard, our fundamental social need is the freedom to act independently in society, by our own choice, without coercion by others. That’s the basis for the principle of individual rights. As Rand observed, “A ‘right’ is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context.” When rights are implemented in a political-legal system, they protect different dimensions of freedom and prohibit the corresponding types of force. The right to life protects our freedom to preserve ourselves by prohibiting murder, assault, and other harms. The right to liberty protects our freedom of action in our personal, professional, and social lives—freedom of conscience, free speech, and freedom of contract, among others—by prohibiting coercive interference and constraint. The right to property protects our freedom to acquire property, to keep the fruits of our labor and use or dispose of them as we see fit, by prohibiting theft and fraud. And we live as ourselves, for ourselves, so we have a right to pursue our own happiness. These are rights to action. They don’t guarantee that we will achieve happiness, acquire wealth, or succeed in our actions. These rights do not impose obligations on others beyond the obligation not to use force against us. Some people hold 22
that we also have â€œrightsâ€? to goods such as food, shelter, or medical care. There can be no such rights in a free society because they would force others to provide the goods, in violation of their freedom. The rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness enable us to live by trade rather than power. Trade is voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. As Rand put it, The principle of trade is the only rational ethical principle for all human relationships, personal and social, private and public, spiritual and material. It is the principle of justice. A trader is a man who earns what he gets and does not give or take the undeserved. He does not treat men as masters or slaves, but as independent equals. He deals with men by means of a free, voluntary, uncoerced exchangeâ€”an exchange which benefits both parties by their own independent judgment. Limited Government Government is an institution with the power to enforce a set of rules in the territory it controls. Objectivism holds that the sole purpose of government is to protect individual rights. Its main positive service is a system of civil laws to deal with disputes about such things as the exact boundaries of property rights, the terms of contracts, and negligent harms 23
(torts). Civil laws and courts allow us to adjudicate such disputes in a rational, peaceful wayâ€”by force of argument, not force of arms. This function creates the context that producers and traders need for reliable long-term planning and contracting, which in turn are necessary conditions for the prodigies of global capitalist production and the wonders and conveniences of modern life. The negative function of government is to protect the rights of its citizens against the initiation of force by criminals, through criminal laws enforced by police and courts; and to defend the country against foreign aggressors. In both civil and criminal realms, law functions by providing clear standards for determining which actions and interactions among people are consistent with individual rights. Objectivity in the law is crucial to its function. The laws must be clearly expressed in terms of essential principles. The highly detailed, programmatic laws so common today violate this principle, as do the vague standards under which many regulations are issued. The law must be intelligible to the people on whom it is enforced. The law courts must be structured so that objectivity and impartiality are the hallmarks of any legal decision. And the law must always be grounded in principles of rights. Since rights are violated by the initiation of force or the threat of force (â€œyour money or your lifeâ€?), government has the exclusive power to use retaliatory force. The power of 24
government is the power of the gun—and that is a dangerous power. Governments can and often have used that power to exploit, enslave, and kill their citizens and to wage aggressive war against others—as Nazi Germany and Soviet Communism demonstrated so brutally. Even the freer countries today do not scrupulously respect individual rights. A limited, rights-respecting government would have no welfare system and no forced pension-paying system like Social Security in the U.S. It would not have agencies with open-ended and vaguely defined regulatory powers over businesses and employees. There would be no antitrust law, nor zoning laws, nor anti-drug laws. This does not mean that a free society would not have unemployment insurance, pensions, distinctive neighborhoods, or public campaigns to reduce drug abuse. But if people wanted any of these things, they would undertake them privately and voluntarily, through individual contracts and free associations. No one would have the right to enforce his preferences on someone else through government’s coercive power. Some libertarians are anarchists who believe that a “free market” system of competing protection agencies can ensure a “non-monopolistic” system of rights protection. But rights cannot be secured without uniform laws and uniform ways of enforcing them. Competition in a free market presupposes that rights are already secured—that people are protected from assault, that property rights are respected, and contracts 25
enforced. The anarchists want market competition to create the very protection that frees one from force in the first place. Anarchism, in practice, would amount to gang warfare. Capitalism Capitalism is not merely a system of economic freedom, much less an economic system favoring big businesses. In its pure form, capitalism is a social system characterized by individual freedom, diversity, and dynamism. It is a system that treats people as individuals, with no ethnic, religious, or other collective principle enshrined in the law. It is the system under which each of us makes his own choices and must take responsibility for his own life and happiness. It is the system in which long-term peace and unbounded prosperity are possible. As Ayn Rand said, it is the system of separation of economy and state, just as there is separation of church and state, and for the same essential reason: because each person has a right to think and to live as he chooses, and because we all benefit from everyone having that freedom. The ideal, as she put it, is â€œfree minds and free markets.â€?
What Is Objectivism’s View of Art? Art is the technology of the soul. Art is the product of three philosophical disciplines: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics. Metaphysics and epistemology are the abstract base of ethics. Ethics is the applied science that defines a code of values to guide man’s choices and actions—the choices and actions which determine the course of his life; ethics is the engineering that provides the principles and blueprints. Art creates the final product. It builds the model. — Ayn Rand, The Romantic Manifesto Stories and music, pictures and sculpture, theater and dance have been part of the human experience from our beginning. Objectivism holds that art must be recognizable and meaningful. Romantic Realism is the school of art that Rand thought best represents her philosophy’s ideal. • Music: melody and authentic human emotions. • Painting: recognizable subjects conveying values. • Sculpture: human figures expressing humanity through body language. • Literature: telling exciting stories with characters one would like to know. The arts are vitally important because they inspire our deepest sense-of-life feelings about ourselves and how we feel about 27
existence. Rand’s definition of sense of life is “a pre-conceptual equivalent of metaphysics, an emotional, subconsciously integrated appraisal of man and of existence. It sets the nature of a man’s emotional responses and the essence of his character.” Art gets us to experience the appraisal in a concrete, tangible form. For example reading a novel, you might feel: “Yes, that’s what life can be, I get that character, that’s me!” Or you might have the opposite reaction: “No, that’s not the way life works, I don’t like those characters…” Either way, you are reacting from your deepest sense of life. A work of art can stir deep feelings we often have trouble putting into words. The best art, according to Rand, can be described as “Romantic Realism.” Romantic realists present realistic stories, melodies, and forms that highlight the essentially heroic character of man, and specifically the human capacity for free will and choice, commitment to goals, and courage in the face of obstacles. In her own novels, Rand developed a style of “slanted realism” that created heroic characters in plots centered on key principles and ideas. Thus the world of her novels is not merely a report of the world as it is, but as it “might be and ought to be.” The goal of the Romantic Realist artists is to transport us into special worlds of beauty, meaningful events, and to build towards a climax. Along the way artists will show us good vs. evil, light vs. dark, or express universal truths. 28
Our Mission The Atlas Societyâ€™s mission is to inspire people to embrace reason, achievement, benevolence and ethical self-interest as the moral foundation for political liberty, personal happiness and a flourishing society. We build on Ayn Randâ€™s works and ideas, and use artistic and other creative means to reach and inspire new audiences. We promote an open and empowering brand of Objectivism; we welcome engagement with all who honestly seek to understand the philosophy, and we use reason, facts and open debate in the search for truth above all else; we do not appeal to authority or conflate personalities with ideas. We resist moral judgment without adequate facts, and believe disagreement does not necessarily imply evasion.
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