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30


THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 30, June 15, 1997

Philosophical Systems Part One: Objectivism

By John Cornell
102122.3062@compuserve.com

Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise

         Ayn Rand was once asked to stand on one foot and explain her philosophy of Objectivism. She balanced herself and replied: "1. Metaphysics: Objective Reality; 2. Epistemology: Reason; 3. Ethics: Self-interest; 4. Politics: Capitalism." The table at the end of this article expands this progression.
         Rand was a proponent of the theory that the two basic branches of philosophy, metaphysics (fundamental principles we use to explain reality) and epistemology (the study or theory of the nature of knowledge) and the beliefs or assumptions we hold in these realms determine the ethical, political, and eventually, economic and aesthetic values and systems we establish. Failure to think logically according to such a framework still leads to the creation of such institutions and other concretes in our political, economic and artistic environments, but with the irrational, perverted establishments we have had historically. Man needs a guide for life, and reason is the only appropriate guide, as man is a being existing in a universe with natural laws. A logical philosophy will lead to logical political and economic institutions. Religion, tribalism, pragmatism and all forms of collectivism and statism are derived from faulty metaphysical assumptions and failures to think.
         In "Introducing Objectivism" in The Voice of Reason, Rand expanded on her balancing act: "1. Reality exists as an objective absolute"; "2. Reason...is man's only means of perceiving reality"; "3. Man...is an end in himself...[and] rational self-interest...is the highest moral purpose of his life"; "4. The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism."
         The metaphysical assumptions of Objectivism, besides believing in objective reality, also support belief in the existence of the human mind, but deny the existence of a god. The universe consists only of that which man can perceive with his senses and interpret with his reasoning mind. Negatives, or nonexistence, such as religious or spiritualist conceptions of heaven, hell, an afterlife or other worlds, cannot be proven, and therefore do not exist. The only existence is that which you can prove or detect with your physical senses and interpret with your reasoning mind. Therefore, all other notions of gods, ghosts, angels, demons, trolls, spirits, leprechauns, etc., are mystical nonreality. Additionally, everything in our physical world has an identity and is equal to itself; something cannot be itself and yet not itself nor something else. Rand summed this Aristotelian logic of "A equals A" as her axiom "existence exists." This is the logic of natural, physical laws.
         Such a system, holding objective reality as supreme and all that exists, and accepting the existence of the mind within that reality, demands that reason be our highest means of constructing any framework for day-to-day existence. Logic dictates that, in proper cause-and-effect form, man is free to interact with nature and with other men, and every human action must reap its consequences, or rewards and punishments. Such a belief holds that every man is responsible for his own life and should respect the lives of others. This is the moral and logical basis of human rights: man having the right to live for his own sake and pursue his self-interest. Man's self consists of his mind and body, as well as property he acquires -- as long as it is constructed or acquired without the use of force against others or their property. Any interference with another man's free actions or his property would be an initiation of force against that man. Thus, we derive the principle of Objectivist and libertarian thought of opposing the initiation of force.
         Such a belief in individualism leads to a political system of self-rule and an economic system that is laissez-faire. This was approached for the first time in reality, but not fully attained, in the nineteenth century in America. Additionally, in the arts, a philosophy of individualism leads to the glorification of the free, rational man of volition depicted in Romanticism -- showing (as Rand quoted Aristotle defining fiction) things in life as "they might be and ought to be." This was also approached in the nineteenth century, and achieved by Rand in her novels in the twentieth.
         A key factor Rand noted in her analysis of philosophical systems other than Objectivism was the common notion that man's being is divided into two realms of existence: the physical (or concrete) and the spiritual (or abstract). Rand was a proponent of the concept that man can and should lead a life based on the integration of his physical and "spiritual" natures: his body and his mind, his reasoning faculties and his emotions. (Keeping in mind the denial of other worlds or some sort of afterlife or higher dimensions, in the Objectivist context, Rand means thought or psychology when she uses the term "spiritual.") Rand asserts that most people fall into a trap of emphasizing one side or the other of their existence while shunning or denying the other. This has led to the philosophical errors behind the failures of man's usually irrational institutions throughout history and his failed political and economic systems, including monarchy, feudalism, socialism, communism, theocracy, mercantilism, and essentially everything else. Thus the schizophrenia of traditional liberal and conservative philosophies, as the former emphasizes abstract value-formation and thought-processes but disregards practical output, while the latter focuses on results but generally disregards ethical processes or conveniently plugs in religious morality as the supposed validation for its actions.
         And thus the opposition of Objectivism to both of these philosophies, as it is consistent in its interaction with the reality of natural laws, and by the logic of its internal integrity.
         Part Two will examine the philosophical systems behind liberalism and conservatism and compare them to each other and to Objectivist and libertarian philosophy.


John Cornell is a finance professional whose personal goal is to spread rational, Objectivist and libertarian ideas by writing and publishing libertarian science fiction and literary novels, stories and articles and occasional pieces of political satire and humor.


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