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11/01/2002

An Introduction to Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand
"Philosophy, and particularly Objectivism, is supposed to be an aid in life ... Objectivism should help you to enjoy life. It should help to make you glad that youfre alive." - Leonard Peikoff

Ayn Rand, the Author of the Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, in her novels lays down the foundations of her philosophy: Objectivism. In her novels she introduces us to heroes of enormous integrity, self-esteem and ability and characters with vices such as dishonesty, hatred and paralytic inaction.

Ayn Rand originally called her philosophy the philosophy for living on earth, namely because she found that philosophy for the past 2000 years called for the destruction of man and his happiness and not his propagation and prosperity, hence she set out to identify the facts that give rise to a happy and purposeful life and define the actions necessary to achieve it.



For example, in terms of a personfs romantic life ? Obejectivism shows you that you cannot be in love with someone to which you believe you owe a duty or obligation. But that love can only come from a selfish desire to be with a human being, someone you look at with the deepest admiration and respect. To such people their partner is not an unpaid servant, or a leashed household animal, but the crowning glory of their life - someone of whom they can say: I am proud to be in love with you.



Ayn Randfs philosophy can be summarized as follows:

  • There is a reality - and it exists independent of what anyone thinks or feels. This fact may appear too obvious to need stating, but the idea of an independent reality has been controversial throughout most of the history of philosophy.
  • Reason is a personfs only means of gaining knowledge. This is in contrast to those philosophies that claim that emotions, or intuitions, or some form of revelation or sixth sense is a means of knowledge - and in contrast to those philosophies that claim knowledge of reality is impossible.
  • Human beings are ends in themselves, not sacrificial animals - which means it is wrong to sacrifice others to yourself or to sacrifice yourself to others. This is in contrast to those philosophies that believe a personfs highest duty is to live for the sake of others.
  • The initiation of physical force should be banned from human affairs. The only role of the government is to protect individual rights, with the result that there is a complete separation of the state from the economy. This is in contrast to those philosophies that advocate some form of state intervention in peoplefs lives, whether in the form of the welfare state, censorship laws, drug regulations, or - at the extreme end - totalitarianism; and in contrast to those philosophies that advocate some form of anarchism.
  • Art should hold up to man a view of life as it might be and ought to be. This is in contrast to those philosophies that claim that there are no objective standards by which to judge an artwork; and in contrast to those philosophies that claim that certain art has intrinsic worth and therefore must be enjoyed by anyone who likes great art.

The philosophy of Objectivism offers many practical benefits. If youfre a journalist or lawyer, then Objectivism shows you how to distinguish fact from fantasy. If youfre a businessman, then Objectivism shows you why there is no conflict between making a profit and being moral. If youfre an artist, then Objectivism shows you how to transform your view of the world into art. If youfre a mother, then Objectivism teaches you the principles by which to raise your child. Whatever your field - whether youfre a scientist, computer programmer, writer, janitor, pilot or student - Objectivism teaches you the philosophic principles necessary to excel in life.



* Sections in the above essay were extracted from Robert Whitefs essay Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. The complete essay can be viewed at http://www.objectivism.org.nz