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Objectivist philosophy

Objectivism (capitalized) is the name chosen by Ayn Rand for her philosophy. She described Objectivism as a philosophy for living on earth.

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Objectivist tenets

I. Objective reality

Reality is what it is, independent of our beliefs or desires. No two facts of reality can contradict each other- this is an important test of truth. Everything that exists has a specific identity and a specific nature that determines how it acts. Nature is to be explained in terms of nature, without reference to the supernatural.

II. Reason

The mind apprehends reality through a process of reasoning based on sensory observation. Reasoning is the art of building from perceptions to concepts and propositions. In this way, conclusions are built up from the evidence. Reasoning, or logic, follows certain, non-arbitrary rules which must be adhered to if we wish to reach valid conclusions. These rules include non-contradictory identification and grouping by essentials. By applying the rules of logic consistently, we can achieve objectively valid knowledge about reality. (Compare: rationalism, empiricism)

III. Morality

If we wish to survive we must act in certain ways. The base of an objective ethics is the recognition that the concept of "value" rests on the concept of "life." Man's life qua rational being is the standard of morality. She wrote:

"To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason, Purpose, Self-esteem."

Moral behavior is that which tends to promote our survival as rational beings. Immoral behavior is that which tends to promote our destruction. Beyond mere physical survival, moral behavior will tend to promote success, well-being, and happiness; immoral behavior leads to unhappiness and, ultimately, destruction. There are different levels of value. The higher values are those which make the lesser values possible. At the higher levels of value there is a harmony of interests among all rational human beings. There is no conflict between self and others, in that one's rational self-interest and the rational interests of others are in fundamental harmony. The rational pursuit of one's interests promotes the interests of others, while the good of others promotes one's own good. As a practical matter, the good of each is best served when individuals pursue their own legitimate interests as they each see fit. (Compare: utilitarianism)

IV. Politics

If self versus others is a false alternative, so too is the question of the individual versus society. The individual good and the social good are in harmony. " the interests of the mind are one, no matter what the degree of intelligence, among men who desire to work and don't seek or expect the unearned." (Atlas Shrugged)

A society is moral to the extent that individuals are free to pursue their goals. This freedom is the fundamental social value. It requires that human relationships of all forms be voluntary. Mutual consent is the defining characteristic of a free society. People are unfree to the extent that they are forced to do what they would not choose for themselves. As all governmental action is based on using force to this end, it is necessary to limit the scope of government action exclusively to the protection of individual rights, with no restrictions on individual freedom. Politically, people can exercise their rights however they please, so long as they do not encroach upon the rights of others. The only means of violating another's rights is by the initiation of physical force. The proper role of government is limited to using force in retaliation against those who initiate its use--i.e., against criminals and foreign aggressors. Economically, people are free to produce and exchange as they see fit, which means: laissez-faire capitalism, with as complete a separation of state and economics as of state and church.

See also : Minarchism, Libertarianism, Egoism, Psychological egoism, Ethical egoism

Criticism of Objectivism

Ayn Rand writes "Man - every man - is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others; he must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself; he must work for his rational self-interest, with the achievement of his own happiness as the highest moral purpose of his life.""

Many forms of humanist philosophy, and most of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, hold this belief to be immoral. Both humanists and most members of the Abrahamic faiths hold that man must not live for his own sake, and that morality calls for man to sometimes sacrifice himself for others.

Ayn Rand's objectivism also holds that all forms of religious ethics are literally immoral. According to Rand "morality is by definition a system of values designed to answer all ethical questions. Some sort of a hierarchy of values must exist so that a person can rationally decide between conflicting values. A hierarchy implies that no two values are equal and that ultimately one value must be supreme. Without a hierarchy and a supreme value, any attempt at constructing a morality would result in an unsystematic hodgepodge of values. There would be no way to make rational moral decisions. There must ultimately be one supreme value; otherwise, morality is impossible. There can only be one absolute value. If there were two, then neither would be absolute. The only true absolute value is an individual's life. Objectivism is the only system derived from this value and is therefore the only correct morality. All other moralities are false."

The great majority of philosophers, as well as most humansists, hold that this line of reasoning is an assault on all non-Rand forms of ethics. They hold that the reasoning is specious and flawed, and that Rand has not proven that her philosophy is the only moral philosophy one can have. Most Jews, Christians and Muslims who are aware of Rand's work similarly reject this claim.

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