Rated: E · Essay · Philosophy · #2287089
Objectivism is more than a simple philosophy. It can be a template for living a good life.
Objectivism – An Overview
The words I present here are for those that may have anything from a passing interest to an insatiable desire to understand the concepts and philosophy of the ideology of Objectivism through the perspective of what you might interpret as a seeker of knowledge, one who poses questions to himself, those around him, and to the cosmos in general. Someone who at one time knew how little he actually knew, through a long time when he thought he knew more than most, only to return to a time where he truly comprehends just how little he ever understood.
You might not be interested in my perspective, and that is your right. You may have little respect or interest in Ayn Rand and objectivism, and that would also be your right. But, if you are also one who questions existence and is looking for a path to that knowledge, you may be interested in something many of us call philosophy. Objectivism is little more than a suggestion or an alternative, but one that I have found both instructive and at times profound.
I fully realize that it is going to sound like it at times, but I did not put these essays together to simply tell anyone that they are wrong in their perception of life or that I have found the answer that has intrigued and frustrated so many over the millennia. The human condition has inspired a multitude of profound questions, and it is somewhat surprising that, as a group, we have found so few definitive answers. All of the great minds that have contemplated the great philosophical imperatives, such as our purpose in relation to the world around us, those other individuals that we come in contact with, and of course the concepts of self, identity, consciousness and existence itself. We continue to search, each in our own way, for answers that will give us some sense of the ‘who’ and ‘what’ and ‘why’ of life.
Some of us have devoted a great deal of time and effort in the quest for these answers, and have come to be known as ‘philosophers’. Many believe that to be a philosopher it is necessary to be recognized by formalized groups that give out diplomas and accolades, and only those that do so can be truly accepted as philosophers, but we must remember that those we consider the founders of the discipline of philosophy had none of these things. They simply looked at the world around them and attempted to make sense of an existence that often makes little sense at all. They were the essence and the genesis for what we today call philosophy, but, to be honest, anyone that can think is a philosopher. We all have to make our own way through life, accepting and rejecting concepts and ideas as we encounter them, finally coming to conclusions that determine how we think, and how we act. We all have to create and develop our own personal perspectives, and our own philosophies, and they direct and determine exactly who and what we are. No one can do that for us.
Some of these philosophers are better than others, more thoughtful and insightful, possibly more perceptive, and while some attempt to absorb everything that has come before, still others wrestle with ideas that have yet to make an impact on those that do not have the ability to see what some call ‘outside-the-box’. My experience is that many of those formalized philosophers get hopelessly caught up in a world of structure and dogma, as evidenced by all of the schools of thought that exist, but it is also evident that this is not the only reality, simply by the fact that I have yet to find a single ‘great’ philosopher that does not have as many detractors as supporters. This does not suggest that they actually found any of those proverbial great ‘truths’ that many speak of, but rather only some intriguing and fascinating possibilities. But is that not what philosophy is, a realm of ‘what-ifs’? I find that to be closer to the truth than anything else.
We are all assigned the task to determine our own destinies. We can follow another, but that is woefully unsatisfying, at least from my point of view. When we follow, we can never be sure if we deserve credit for our successes nor blame for our failures. We also never fully understand why our actions failed or succeeded, and that does nothing to instill confidence and competence in our own beliefs. Some people are afraid to make decisions, and I can empathize with the burden of responsibility and obligation that goes along with every decision we make, but nothing can compare with the knowledge that we did the right thing for the right reasons, that we did what was beneficial for ourselves and for others, and that it was done through reason and was legitimate, and was a conclusion that was made by us, and no one else, through deeply considered thought and based on a well-constructed and credible set of beliefs, or what we call our own personal philosophy.
This, of course, demands that we can actually determine, define and understand exactly what these ‘right’ things are, and conversely, what constitutes a ‘wrong’. These are not a ‘given’, but must be discovered by each individual in their own way. It takes an inordinate amount of time and effort, and a focus and dare I say, an obsession, with the path to that understanding. If there exists no motivation or incentive, the end result will inevitably be one of frustration and confusion. There are no free lunches. It sounds so easy when one talks of right and wrong, and most believe they are self-evident and an objective concepts, when nothing could be further from the truth.
This brings us to many of the concepts that I will try to cover with my essays. Right and wrong are so fundamental and so instrumental in the creation and development of a philosophy, and if these issues are not determined in a credible and legitimate and ‘reasoned’ way, then the entire philosophy will forever be mired in contradictions and confusion. I found, from an early age, that Ayn Rand had an insight that was difficult to dismiss, and a philosophy that handled much of what I will present in a way that came across as comprehensive, consistent, and completely reasonable, at least for me. I hope that I can offer some insight into some of her thoughts and words. I am not sure how well I represent her positions since I know going into this that I disagree on many issues that she has been quite specific about, and this may disqualify me in the eyes of many, but I am hopeful that many will open their minds to listen for the very same reason. If the only way I can entice someone to listen is to completely condemn and denounce her work, then it would seem that we start from a point of irreconcilable differences and will not have much to share and there will be little if any learning or growth for either of us. That is the case all too often, and a primary reason for the writing of these presentations.
I am not writing these essays to tell anyone that they are wrong, although I do believe that I have come to valid conclusions over the years. With every determination made, I am aware that it may in fact be wrong, or at least faulty in some respect. I force myself to question those same conclusions for that very reason. The fact remains that those things that I have come to believe are the most credible perspective I can accept based on the information that I have been able to experience throughout of my life, and can be impacted by new data and information with each passing day. Things change, and perspectives can change as well, but not simply because someone possesses an opposing opinion or wants it to change, but because ‘reason’ tells me that there is a need to re-evaluate, and possibly adjust or even completely change my positions. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen, and that fact flavours the evolution of my own philosophy. One has to realize that it has now taken over fifty years of focused considerations to reach this point, and many have refuted much of what I believe to be true. I continue to welcome respectful, insightful and reasoned argument and will continue to search for what passes as truth, in everything I do. I have little respect for personal ad-hominem attacks, poorly cited and researched commentary, rumours and gossip and for want of a better word, ‘fake-news’. I have proven, at least to myself over the years, to be open to persuasion and criticism, and have been convinced of weaknesses in my perspective at times. I have no problems with disagreement, and I appreciate and admire passion and insight while finding invective and demeaning comments beneath reasonable conversation. Having said that, I find little that cannot be debated if the players are willing.
I do not expect anyone to be swayed or persuaded to change their long-held beliefs. I would welcome the eventuality but understand the realities. Many of my own changes in perspective have come about well after the initial comments were made, and often from a time or person not clearly remembered, and that prevents me from acknowledging them at times, but do we make our arguments for immediate recognition, or for the legitimacy of what was discussed? I can only acknowledge that it happened, and so have no expectations that it would be anything different with this presentation.
My intentions are at least from my own point of view, completely honorable and my only expectations would be that the reader simply makes an attempt to clear their minds of pre-conceived notions of Ayn Rand and her ideology and philosophy of Objectivism. I realize just how difficult that probably will be, but anything else will be counterproductive to any chance of being able to communicate my own personal perspective.
I understand that you may well believe her work to be fantasy and without merit, and you of course have the right to your own opinions, but my objective is only to share information and to present a perspective of Rand and Objectivism that may not receive a seal of approval from any of the entities that promote and support Rands work, but it is a lifetime of thought and experience that I was hoping would be instrumental to those that have an honest interest in understanding more about what Objectivism is all about. This is not particularly for those that have an obsessive angst and anger towards her work, and normally have very little to offer in any discussion on her work or even what ‘they’ may believe. My attempt is for an honest and as objective as possible interpretation of my own conclusions as to what she was attempting to offer to those that are looking for answers as to why our own lives, our societies, and our planet are having an undeniably difficult time in coming to grips with what can only be called ‘reality’.
It is about the concept and the ability of being able to live with all of those around us, after not years or centuries, but millennia of an obvious failure in understanding one another and being able to live in peace and harmony, directing our own actions towards learning, growth, success and satisfaction in becoming a good person, and living with those others, and allowing them to do the same. To allow them to be free from coercion and oppression or force or any kind, and even help them when we are able, not because some ideologues or self-absorbed politicians and globalist corporate entities say so, not because some religious faction believes in some higher power that has all the answers, but only talks to them, when we are all available for ‘enlightenment’ at any time, but because we have decided, we have come to the conclusions that we wish to do so, as an integral part of our own evolution into the best person that we could possibly be, based on our own experiences, our own contemplations, our own decisions which lead to our own personal conclusions contained in our own personal philosophy. It all comes down to whether we live according to our own determinations, or those of another. I don’t even find the question of which one is more beneficial or legitimate worth consideration. Only one is desirable.
I passionately believe that we do not need other individuals to give us direction as to proper thoughts and actions. It does not require a Ph.D. to be able to think, to know the difference between right and wrong, and to come to conclusions that are in our best interests while doing nothing whatsoever to bring harm or disadvantage to others. This is not a journey that takes place in the blink of an eye, but it is something that every individual on the face of the earth is capable of doing with whatever abilities are available to them.
I have found that Objectivism is something that can be instrumental in the process of finding answers to some of those questions that you may be asking. I do not present Objectivism as some magic formula that will direct you anywhere in particular, but only as a tool, like so many other things, that may give you some insight into a unique set of concepts and perspectives that will allow you to do so on your own, at your own pace, with your own expectations and goals, and with the knowledge that if you put in the effort, you will find a certain amount of peace and contentment. I know how campy and lame this may sound, because I have heard it before, from a thousand different directions. Politics, ideologies, religious belief systems, personal disciplines, self-help gurus and a whole host of charismatic and self-proclaimed holders of ‘secret knowledge’ that only they know, and you ‘need’ them if you ever hope to find any answers whatsoever. The fact is that you don’t need them, but you will not get them handed to you either.
What I offer does not come with a manual, but you may want to read some books, and you may want to spend quite a bit of time in contemplation about concepts and ideas that you may never have considered before. There is no template, no dogmatic scriptures, which can be very tempting at times to embrace and adopt as your own, only to find out at some point that they were only the hopes and dreams of others, who may or may not have had your interests at heart, but did not really have any answers either. You can find your way through these other alternatives, but ultimately, you will inevitably end up having to make your own decisions, come to your own conclusions, and take your own actions based on what you have come to know and to believe. You can always follow someone else, never knowing if what you did right, or wrong, was because of who and what you are becoming, or because you trusted completely in the abilities of someone else, and even when successful, never fully understanding what it was that made it ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ to begin with, and you are confused and frustrated because you are never sure exactly what it was that you did, whether you deserved some credit for your success, or some blame for your failures, because you simply followed the directives of others, blindly, and you have put yourself into the position that you will have to continue to do so, possibly forever, until you decide that you can do so without the help of those others. At that point, you take control of your life and determine your own destiny.
That is all that I ever interpreted the work of Ayn Rand and Objectivism to be, simply a ‘nudge’ in the right direction. A ‘suggestion’ on some things that ‘revealed’ some fundamental concepts and ideas that turned out to be instrumental in the formation of my own personal philosophy, and the ability to address and confront almost any circumstance, and to act according to my own best interests. And you know what? It actually worked. Not all the time by any means and there were frustrations and confusion in abundance, but much more success and satisfaction than what I had been experiencing. Nothing magical, but verifiable and demonstrable. But that depends on what you want to do, and how much effort you wish to ‘invest’ in some future version of yourself that is beneficial and preferable to who and what you are today.
I have to make a few things perfectly clear as to my presentation. I am ‘not’ attempting to proselytize here, but to inform the reader of my own perspective on the issues contained within Objectivism, nothing more. I am not trying to ‘change’ your mind in any way, but I unashamedly and unabashedly would welcome inspiring or enticing them to investigate further into the concepts Rand attempted to render into a comprehensive ideology that could possibly enhance the individuals' opportunity to learn, and more importantly, to understand.
I am not looking for an argument, but if that is the only alternative then I would welcome that as well. I have wanted, for quite some time now, to clarify and enhance my own positions and beliefs, for my own benefit as well as being able to share with others, and thought it an appropriate time and venue to articulate these insights, for what they are worth, with others that wish to understand the philosophy of Rand as well as my own that stands as an example of conflict as well as agreement with Rand, with the result that has culminated in a hybrid that, from my perspective, is every bit as valid and legitimate as her own. It illustrates that an individual does not have to be a ‘cult’ member or some mindless sycophant to gain benefit from what she has offered, as well as the opportunity and ability to make it something even stronger and credible, at least to that individual. In my case, that is what happened, after fifty years of contemplation, considerations, and experiences based on what has come before. Anyone can do so if they so wish. If one does not, that really does not impact my own decisions in any way, except perhaps to make me question why some put so much time and effort, and emotion, and unfortunately, hatred and enmity into conflict and confrontation, instead of creating a personal philosophy that they can be proud of, and have confidence in. To have expectations that not only will their own lives be better than they were yesterday, but the benefit that can be brought to others can expand and develop into something superior as well. Condemning and vilifying something that one does not even superficially understand brings nothing of substance or value to anyone around us, so that should be the focus of one’s attention. Ironically, the strongest voices against Rand are demanding that we all love one another, help one another, and make the world a better place for every one that exists, while they invest all of their efforts into a conflicting, combative, and oppressive philosophy of behaviour. It hurts us all, but themselves most of all. A really sad state of affairs, if you must know. They rarely know not what they do.
I am making this attempt for a number of reasons, but first and foremost it would be to strengthen and enhance my own philosophy and perspective, and make it more palatable, consistent and understandable, which of course makes it easier to share and discuss. Like Objectivism, it does not only have to be about my own intent and advantage, because it also can be of value to others, and this conflicts with the ‘conventional’ interpretation of that rational self-interest that is consistently mischaracterized. It is never ‘just’ about self, but about self as a primary, and if everything is done for the right reasons, it invariably results in being advantageous for others as well. Is this not helping others? Is this not a more ‘enlightened’ version of altruism that in the end hurts no one, and actually makes the world just a little bit more endurable and perhaps even ‘happier’ than before? There is no ‘single’ person that can change the world. We can only change ourselves, and by extension, we then come in contact with others which perhaps is instrumental in making changes for them as well. Does this not sound like a recipe for success, for living together in peace and harmony, with an opportunity to help those that actually need help? Not just those that ‘you’ think need help, but those that we all agree actually need help? If we disagree, there is nothing in ‘my’ philosophy that demands, or even suggests that you do anything in particular, but it certainly does not prevent you from doing whatever you deem appropriate with your own thoughts and actions and resources. I question exactly what it is that you attempt. To help those unfortunates that have fallen on hard times, or to manipulate and coerce and oppress those that do not agree with you on any particular issues or concept? I find the question extremely appropriate, and the answer possibly profound.
The following is my own particular journey through Objectivism. I hope that you can find something of value. It is the only true value that I can offer you.