Learn Objectivism

This site isn’t finished yet. It has a close reading of part of Atlas Shrugged chapter 1, and a rough draft summary of Objectivism.

Objectivism is the philosophy of Ayn Rand. It focuses on reason, reality and self-interest. Rand’s books include Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. The goal of this website is to help you learn about Objectivism.

Objectivism says that absolute, objective reality exists and that man can use reason to create knowledge about reality. And people should think objectively, which requires rational, logical, reality-oriented methods that avoid bias, subjectivity, mysticism, whim or authority.

Objectivism rejects both intellectual and political authority. Men should be free to live by their own judgement. This implies laissez-faire capitalism and a limited government, which protects men’s rights and stops there.

Life is complex and ideas are our most important tool for living. So we must organize our knowledge into a structure that doesn’t have any contradictions. This involves creating concepts which combine multiple prior concepts into one unit. Several more advanced concepts can then be combined into an even more advanced concept. Our knowledge has layers of abstraction.

We could only actively think about a handful of things at once. That’s one of the reasons for combining concepts. We can also work with more concepts by omitting irrelevant parts – e.g. we can think of a table without specifying some quantities like its length and weight. And we can automate using many of our ideas so they don’t require conscious thought.

Man is fallible, but omniscience isn’t the standard of knowledge. Knowledge is contextual; learning something new doesn’t invalidate your previous knowledge in your previous context. You should consider the best thing to do in the current situation, given what you know, not what an omniscient God would do. If an answer to a question is correct now (e.g. what to do in a particular situation), then it’s always correct, though we can move on to asking new and better questions.

Objectivism says morality is practical. Men should live for their own selfish benefit and pursue their values, but it’s never beneficial to initiate force. Everyone can win – but only if they look out for their own individual interests. Objectivism lists seven virtues:

  • Rationality: Use reason.
  • Honesty: Don’t think or act contrary to reality.
  • Integrity: Be consistent, live by your values and ideas, and don’t let anything fake in your mind.
  • Productivity: Act to produce your values.
  • Independence: Think and live for yourself. Use your own mind instead of other people’s opinions.
  • Pride: Value yourself and earn that self-esteem. Ambitiously pursue moral perfection.
  • Justice: Judge other people according to reason.

Objectivism says the ultimate sin is refusing to think. Ideas rule the world. You live by a philosophy, whether you think about it or not. You should think about it and try to improve it. Look at the sidebar and below to learn more.

more on selfish/altruism firsthanded/2ndhanded

Atlas Shrugged Close Reading

I did a close reading of Atlas Shrugged chapters 1-4. Read the whole book first; there are spoilers.