Wednesday, 16 November 2016

A question for Objectivists


A friend asked a question recently in which I thought a few of you may be interested, or have your own answer. This was mine:

Q: Many people have viewed/read Rand's works but they did not become Objectivists (Paul Ryan, Clarence Thomas, Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, Vince Vaughn, Sandra Bullock, Rob Lowe, etc). What was your journey to become an Objectivist and how do we best encourage people to truly learn the values of Objectivism?

A: For me, I took a year off after school to read everything I could get my hands on, to find answers to some of the questions to which we'd never even been introduced. But everything I read was disappointing -- even ideas that started well I could see take a wrong turn, then another, and then continue on this wrong course, becoming steadily worse and progressively more ludicrous and tangled.
Everything I read was disappointing, until I was introduced to Atlas Shrugged. I was 200 pages in before I realised I would have to start over. I'd missed most of it.
Instead of heading off track, or taking a twisting turning trail like so much else that I'd read, this felt immediately like someone taking a bold, direct line -- a straight, direct route that cut away all the bullshit. It was intoxicating!
And I couldn't answer it. I couldn't answer her at all, not on her fundamentals. So I read all the criticisms I could lay my hands on, but none of which went down to the root.
And I read all of her other books I could lay my hands on too. Which did.
I reckon it was Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology that finally locked it in for me.
I still reckon that one is the key.



  1. If I may add mine....

    When I was a kid my older sister bought a Mighty Mighty Bostones' CD. I listened to it constantly--because it gave me a lot to think about. In trying to find answers to those questions, I began to explore philosophy. Mom and Dad had the Encyclopedia Britinica's Great Books series, so I had ample resources. My parents also encouraged active debate among us kids, so I was able to cut my teeth both against the ancient philosophers and in live debate.

    What I found was that individualism is the only philosophy consistent with living as an adult human being. Only voluntary interactions were moral--and thus only capitalism was moral. No one can dictate ethics, but human nature demands we accept certain facts.

    I found Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series, and got a view of what the philosophy I was groping towards would look like. And more food for thought. I also found his forum (which is now defunct--the current version, if it still exists, is nothing like the glory days!), and continued to practice philosophical debate.

    Then in college I was loaned a copy of Atlas Shrugged. My reaction was "Finally--someone gets it!!" It wasn't that I agreed with Rand; rather, she agreed with me. She said better than I could what I had already been thinking. And went further.

    I then read everything I could get my hands on, and listened to Diana Hsieh's fantastic podcast. And while I may disagree with some things every Objectivist thinker says, it's always been in application, not fundamentals.

    I'm not sure when I decided to call myself an Objectivist, but it was mostly a question of being willing to use someone else's term. I'd agreed with the fundamentals since fifth grade; the rest was just new terminology.

  2. This is not really answering the question, but I think relevant to it. Whilst I consider myself an Objectivist, it doesn't trouble me in the slightest that someone can read Ayn Rand and get something from it, without becoming an Objectivist. I'm convinced that Ayn Rand developed a philosophy that is fundamentally right, but I've also learnt that recognising this explicitly, and living a live that is true to her philosophy implicitly are often two different things. History changes via incremental progression towards the right ideas, not via fully fledged conversions. Ultimately the survival and flourishing of the human race relies not on a majority of people labelling themselves Objectivists, but on reaching a stage where the majority of people apply Objectivist principles implicitly and regard it simply as common sense. Whether they call it Objectivism doesn't realty matter.


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