Objectivism is a philosophy designed by Ayn Rand, a Russian-American writer. The name derives from the idea that human knowledge and values are objective. These ideologies were first expressed in Rand's fictional works, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.
Ayn Rand was born Alisa Rosenbaum in Tsarist St. Petersburg, Russia in 1905. Having been subjected to the Russian Revolution, she considered communism to be immoral and fled to the United States. Changing her name to Ayn Rand, she went on to write a series of successful novels, including her first bestseller, The Fountainhead, featuring an egoistic central character. Her subsequent book, Atlas Shrugged, fully defined what would become the four tenets of objectivism: reality, reason, self-interest, and capitalism.
Rand eventually selected philosopher Leonard Peikoff as her "intellectual heir" and he formalized objectivism's structure, stating that it is a closed system and not subject to change. Rand passed away in 1982, but her philosophy continues to be passed down to others in her writings, on her website, and through ongoing courses which study objectivism.
Objectivism is a multi-faceted philosophy. The premise essentially revolves around "looking out for yourself". It maintains that if it is done properly, and practiced by everyone, the entire world could be a better place. Objectivism endorses several different ideals. The essentials are: reality, reason, self-interest, and capitalism. Let's take a look.
You've heard the expression "mind over matter" before. Basically, if you think positively, positive things will come your way - at least they're more likely to, anyway. Rand states that, "No amount of passionate wishing, desperate longing, or hopeful pleading can alter the facts... Reality is not to be rewritten or escaped, but, solemnly and proudly, faced."
This theory rejects supernatural or mystical powers, including the existence of God. Objectivism attributes all of life's occurrences to reality, and that is not something that can be changed, only endured.
Rand's theories regarding reason intertwine with the intellect. Objectivism requires people to "activate" their minds, understand all the facts of the current situation, and perform the required "next steps". Rand argues, "To follow reason is to reject emotions, faith, or any form of authoritarianism as guides in life." She considers emotion to be unstable.
Rand professes that, just because we block something out of our minds, does not make it go away. This is merely an escape from the responsibility. Rather, we must face what is with strength and dignity.
Ayn Rand focused all her writings on one basic tenet: be selfish. Selfishness has a negative connotation, however. Feelings of thoughtlessness and greed spring to mind. Rand, however, states that such negative acts are not in your self-interest. According to aynrand.org, to be selfish means:
Rand believes that humans are not born with an inherent sense of good vs. evil. She teaches her followers that, "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."
A social system that places priority on individual freedom, such as a laissez-faire capitalist society, is the only one supported by objectivism. A society free from government control lines up with objectivism's philosophy.
Rand professes, "An individual who eagerly faces reality, who embraces his own rational mind as an absolute, and who makes his own life his highest moral purpose will demand his freedom. He will demand the freedom to think and speak, to earn property and associate trade, and to pursue his own happiness."
The common denominator in these scenarios is the idea that the greatest good in the world is to be happy. If each individual is happy, then the overall state of the world improves. However, that happiness cannot be achieved at the expense of another person or persons; that would not provide you with ultimate happiness.
While some of the ideologies surrounding objectivism may seem a bit abstract, they tend to have one common theme. While self-interest is supported, violent acts are not. Emotions are irrational, but an acceptance of reality is not. In a society dominated by religious and political structures, objectivism is frequently misunderstood and, oftentimes, downright rejected. What will you choose?