Objectivism is a philosophy defined by the Russian-American philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand (1905?1982). Objectivism holds that reality exists independent of consciousness, that human beings have direct contact with reality through sense perception, that one can attain objective knowledge from perception through the process of concept formation and inductive and deductive logic, that the proper moral purpose of one's life is the pursuit of one's own happiness or rational self-interest, that the only social system consistent with this morality is full respect for individual rights, embodied in pure laissez faire capitalism, and that the role of art in human life is to transform man's widest metaphysical ideas, by selective reproduction of reality, into a physical form?a work of art?that he can comprehend and to which he can respond emotionally.
It is impossible to adequately define the philosophy in a paragraph, so don't write it off casually.
I agree with it to an extent, "reality exists independent of consciousness, that human beings have direct contact with reality through sense perception, that one can attain objective knowledge from perception through the process of concept formation and inductive and deductive logic" but I do not believe "that the proper moral purpose of one's life is the pursuit of one's own happiness or rational self-interest".
There is a consciousness lag of half a second, for our sense to make sense of things.
Morality, in my opinion, is the direct product of evolution, and is necessary in developing complex societies. The consequences to our actions are not to be understood in the scope of our lifetimes (one of the reasons I find Nihilism wrong), and therefore, is constantly open to adaptation based on the individual society expressing said morality.
Laissez Faire ( I know someone is going to argue here) fails to be effective in situations where a consumer has no choice, and ultimately can only be effective in Utopian societies. I understand the direct response, you don't want it, you don't buy it, they go under, but how many people here are happy with their phone service? I understand there is government intervention, but all the same.
As for art, art is art. Like morality, it's interpretation is left to the individual, so ultimately, seeking any purpose, is meaningless, as it is left to the observer to make sense out of it, like consciousness.
I wouldn't call myself an Objectivist, but I'm a fan of Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff. Anyone else?
Nope, not me. This is just another guise for Humanism. A form of religion apart from God. I would say it (Humanism or Objectivism as you call it) represents a world moral view and not a Christian moral view.
Since I am a Christian I could say that in some portions your are correct, reality does exist apart from our own conscience. In a Christian moral view, this is called "Absolute Truth". That is to say that there is a Truth that exists for all people at all times and never changes. This Truth exists apart from anything man reasons or could possibly surmise to the contrary.
It is this Absolute Truth that calls us to a higher purpose well beyond self-gratification or self-indulgence, and that purpose is to Glorify God in everything we do.
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Again, I am not an Objectivist. But there are aspects of Objectivism that are appealing and entirely compatible with Christianity.
I would argue that I am able to do more for others if my individual liberty is not curtailed by an oppressive political regime than if it is. While I don't believe in pure altruism -- that is, denying myself and my family the necessities of life in order to give them to others -- I do believe in charitable giving of money, goods, and service to those genuinely in need. And I reserve the right to determine who is genuinely in need. If my ability to provide those things is inhibited by exterior forces that squelch my freedom to operate freely with others to produce an excess that could be shared, that's bad, IMO.
Objectivism, as I understand it, most certainly does NOT embrace corporatism or "crony capitalism", including establishing cartels or monopolies. That is NOT what is meant by laissez-faire capitalism. The rules are fairly straightforward and simple: one may not extract services or wealth from another through coercion, threat of force, or deception.
The concept of "the proper moral purpose of one's life is the pursuit of one's own happiness or rational self-interest" pertains to individuals' freedom to do what they are attracted to and are best at, rather than be pigeon-holed into vocations they abhor or are otherwise forced to endure. This is not incompatible with Christians' efforts to glorify God in what they do.
In other words, society should allow individuals the freedom to pursue their interests but always with the understanding that society, as a whole, is never responsible for seeing to an individual's needs. The individual is responsible for that. If others choose to help, that's fine, but help should not be expected.
For the government to compel those who are doing comparatively well to give their money -- under threat of force -- to assist those who lack money is also wrong. This action establishes the principle that government, not the individual, own the wealth the individual creates, and is anathema to individual liberty and the premise that individuals are entitled to keep the fruits of their labor.
This brings up the issue of charitable giving. I argue that only an individual's decision and direct actions to help others truly constitutes charity. Paying taxes that a bureaucrat ultimately decides to dole out to some nameless, faceless person who may or may not legitimately need it is...just paying taxes. It isn't charity. Abdicating responsibility for helping our fellow man by paying higher taxes (which you are forced to pay whether you want to or not) brings you no closer to God. But if individuals were not threatened with force to pay taxes which a bureaucrat doles out to others, that would leave more for individuals to donate in a truly charitable fashion.
So, Brian, you make some cogent points but I would say that on some fundamental issues Objectivism is quite a bit at odds with Christianity and a Christian Moral View.
I wish to make a few points but not necessarily in the same order as your post. First and foremost, taxes can not be and should never be confused for charity. Secondly, taxes are an inevitable responsible of a civil society. Taxes pay for services that are good for community, providing law enforcement, Fire departments, roads, bridges, street lights, and in general infrastructure.
Now, no one likes to pay taxes, but we like the benifits say, if our house is burning and the FD comes and saves the home. We like the streets we drive on and the so forth.
I agree with you that charity is personal and is something anyone/everyone who has the ability to participate should do so, and if we as individuals did more in the area of charity toward our fellow man, then government would/could do less (less welfare, food stamps, etc).
Where taxes are concerned, we should be diligent about watching what our representatives at the local, state and federal level are doing with our money and not letting them waste it or go into debt (deficit spending). We should demand that government run under a balenced budget and not spend more than what revenue comes in.
Now, govenment, or governance is necessary for any rational society to exists and survive. Not saying that any government is good, just that even the Bible states that there are authorites above us which we are to respect and be in civil obediance to. Without civil laws, many of which, at least here in the US, are based on Christian/Judea values, we would have chaos and society as a whole would break down into riots and rampages. Freedoms come at as price and no other place on Earth exist like the American Experiment in democracy and a government for the people by the people. We must have boundaries.
As far as econmics go, our founding fathers recognized that govenment needed to limited and small, so that the nation, as a whole good prosper by indviduals and collectives able to capitilize on a free market of good and exchange based upon supply and demand. Only a free market can keep a ecoomy in balance. That is why the Obama bailouts of major Corp such as GM and GE are BAD, a) becasue the create more debt not covered by any source of revenue that will ultimatly lead to higher taxes, and b) because the market cannot self correct, creating a false sense of stability that cannot be sustain without a complete take-over by govenement, leading us down the path to statism. That is to say, that the govenement will eventually own all assets of an economy right down to the wage they pay you.
So, rather than engaging in empty insights regarding Objectivism, no matter how appearling, what we should be doing is re-visting our roots and history as to how America was founded and upon what priciples that made it so great in just a couple of centuries. We should be very concern about the path this country is on, politically, econmically, and socially as we seem well on a path that will ultimatly destroy us as a democracy and throw us into the dark, dysmal, abyss of pan-Lenninism.
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You make good points. Allow me to clarify my position. I am not against paying taxes to support infrastructure such as those things you mention. But I am against wealth redistribution policies where the government takes from some to give to others.
As a Christian, one certainly does want to help those legitimately in need, and we do what we can in that regard. But there are some -- usually politicians and recipients of hand-outs -- who argue that those who are against welfare are "greedy" or immoral. I argue it's exactly the opposite: those who want wealth they did not earn are greedy, and those who want to take money away from others by force are immoral.
I don't want to wax political in a religion and philosophy subforum. Rather, I would like to discuss the concept of pursuing rational self-interest versus the concepts pertaining to "social justice". Unfortunately, there are many Christian churches that embrace social justice.
While Objectivism rejects all religion, there are aspects of the philosophy that mesh perfectly with limited government and the foundation on which this country was based. Consider comments by some Founders:
"To take from one because it is thought that his own industry and that of his father?s has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association?the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it."
?Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.?
?A wise and frugal government ? shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.?
?I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.?
"Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.?
?If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the general welfare, the government is no longer a limited one possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one subject to particular exceptions.?
"I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I travelled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer."
These ideas are compatible with Objectivism. But rather than look at wealth redistribution programs as a legal issue, I'm looking at it from a moral perspective.
Social spending at the federal level outstrips all other categories of spending, including defense. Setting aside the legality, morality or necessity of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for now, if social spending were eliminated as it arguably should be, the rate at which we incur debt would drop significantly. Unfortunately, overspending has resulted in a colossal mess for our monetary system and many (myself included) believe we are headed for some very serious problems. Should the value of the dollar fall far and fast, what will all those who rely on social programs do? Many folks have been taught for generations that they are "entitled" to this money. They may still get the currency, but it won't help them if a loaf of bread costs $10. We are seeing significant inflation today -- wheat, corn, soy, cotton, oil and other commodities are costing more. Some of that is due to scarcity and demand, but the rising prices are also due to falling currency value.
By implementing social justice programs, the federal government has predictably overspent to the point where paying just the interest on our debt is getting to be a problem. State governments are in equally bad shape for the same reason.
The end result may be that everyone suffers. The policies that brought us here have been tried before in other countries and inevitably degrade the standard of living for all. These policies are therefore immoral.