Philosophical Multicore

Sometimes controversial, sometimes fallacious, sometimes thought-provoking, and always fun.

Diving into Objectivism

Posted by Michael Dickens on August 22, 2010

More and more recently, I’ve been coming across Ayn Rand’s theory of Objectivism. Considering how widely influential it’s been, I’ve decided to look into it. Before I do, I have some preliminary thoughts that I’d like to put out in the world.

Objectivism is a cult. The more I learn about it, the more this seems to be true. The Ayn Rand Institute, which appears to be the definitive organization on Objectivism, has some very cultish properties. Their FAQ includes “Where can I read Ayn Rand’s view on . . . ?” and “Is [the Ayn Rand Institute] or anyone else formally vested with the right to speak on behalf of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism?” (the answer to which, by the way, is “no” because Ayn Rand is the Only True Authority on Objectivism).

I don’t want to learn about a person, I want to learn about a philosophy. For the most part, I couldn’t care less about Ayn Rand. I do think that the context of the development of the philosophy is important, but beyond that it doesn’t really matter who created Objectivism. What matters are the ideas.

I don’t want to learn about philosophy by reading fiction. I read the very beginning of The Fountainhead and it seems like a good book, but I don’t want to learn about Objectivism from it because it’s fictional, which means in the end its whole argument revolves around a made up story. You can make up a story to support any viewpoint you want. I would much rather learn about a philosophy from, oh, I don’t know, a book on philosophy. Like, nonfiction. Like this, or this. With actual straightforward arguments. It seems that such resources do exist, but Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead are by far the most commonly-turned to sources of Objectivist philosophy.

There are two main reasons why I want to look into Objectivism.

1. It looks like a pretty original outlook on the world, and I think new outlooks are always good to learn about. Even if I don’t agree, I like to look at things from a different perspective.

2. It has been extremely influential in recent decades. Knowing about Objectivism is just required to be a part of Western culture. (Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little.)

In short, I’m going to learn more about the non-cultish aspects of Objectivism, because it looks interesting. I’ll probably write an essay or two within the next year or so.

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2 Responses to “Diving into Objectivism”

  1. Larry said

    I don’t tend to agree with the cult idea, only because if I was going to dive into Aristotelianism, I’d ask where can I read Aristotle’s view on (whatever). I wouldn’t want Joe Blows view on what Aristotle wrote, I’d rightfully want his own texts.

    I don’t think there is anyone ‘formally vested with the right to speak on behalf of” Aristotelianism either. Perhaps there is and I’ve not heard of it. Regardless since the philosophy is one that holds individualism as primary, and since she is dead an there is no one to worship even if it didn’t, I don’t see how a cult is even possible, if Objectivists actually practice the philosophy.

    Just my .02, it’s early. 🙂

    • It’s true that one person may be the primary authority on an idea, but the nice thing about ideas is that anyone can have them. I think you make a good point though. Thanks for the comment!

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