Objectivism as a Mascot

Yesterday I posted about our cultural “mascots”–people, ideas, institutions, and terms which rally ideologies under an umbrella of dogma.  I posted some reasons I think those “mascots” are harmful in our search of truth, but I’d like to talk about a specific mascot I’ve come across in my life, and some of my specific experiences in dealing with it:

Objectivism

Although the novelist “Ayn Rand” considered herself to be a philosopher, I’m not sure how accurately she fit that description, unless someone like myself could also be described using the same definition, which is, a lover of wisdom.  But if using the word “Philosopher” to describe someone who is well versed in the intricacies and subtleties of logic and reason and their application to solve specific problems, I’m not so sure she fits the bill.

For any who aren’t familiar with Ayn Rand, I’ll give a brief primer:

She had some interesting opinions about humans and what makes a life meaningful, and wrote some novels in which none of her main characters ever seem capable of making mistakes as long as they followed her “methods”.  She then used these novels as a type of proof of her methods, which she called objectivism.  Unfortunately, she believed her ideas to be so unique and original that she couldn’t be bothered to actually read the writings of philosophers who had come before her and had argued similar things, but instead steamrolled everyone into a single group of “wrong”, and set herself up as a new mascot for “objectivism”.

Too harsh?  Of course, the whole story is much more nuanced and complex than that, but after having drudged through the valley of objectivism myself, this is the best way I can describe Ayn Rand in a nutshell.  Of course, I’m no professional philosopher or anything–just a humble seeker of truth wherever I can find it.

I would like to post some interesting resources that offer counter-arguments and valuable insight  to the objectivist viewpoints, however:

1)  The Partially examined life did a podcast on Ayn Rand and living rationally.  I think they did a fantastic job of describing in great detail both sides of many of her most important ideas.  Essentially most of them agreed that her ideas weren’t all horrible, but that many of the ideas she had were first proposed by the philosophers whom she had criticized.

For a link to said podcast, click here.

As an interesting side-note regarding mascots, if you look down below at the comments section of the podcast, you will see a case-in-point of what the podcast panel describes in the first few moments of the program, which is that for one reason or another, many adherents of “Objectivism” tend to treat their tenets as less of a collection of ideas, and as more of a catechism of sacred rites and tokens.  Instead of engaging in edifying discussion regarding the flaws and virtues of their system of belief, very often discussions devolve into radical feats of logical fallacies unheard of outside of religious circles.  It is a fantastically interesting thing to watch happen almost any time criticism of objectivism occurs.

2)  Adam Lee (one of my favorite atheist writers) is currently in the process of writing a detailed overview of his thoughts and reactions to Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged”.  He hits many of the criticisms directly on the head, and does it much better than I could ever hope to:

For a list of posts in his series on Atlas Shrugged, click here.

If you are even vaguely interested in the ideas surrounding objectivism, I recommend checking out both of these resources, at the very least.  And although I love hearing comments from people who disagree with me, if you feel the need to do so, please take the time to at least browse the information presented in the links I presented above before unloading on me!  If you do so, I believe you, too, will agree that objectivism is less of a “one-stop-shop” for truth, and is more of a waypoint along the path!

Perhaps I’ll write a little more on the subject at a later date.

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