This is a guest post by my dear friend Nitesh. After 20+ years of our friendship and 5 years of this blog, I have finally convinced him to do a post on Objectivism. A topic close to both of us. Read on…
Objectivism is a philosophy grounded in rationality. Fundamentally, it says that man is better off if he is grounded in what is real, what exists, as opposed to his sense of what ought to be. To break it down even further, it says that:
- There are things in this world that are constant.
- There are characteristics of human nature that are constant.
- The best way to live is with respect for these constants, whether or not they seem fair and just. It is only then can man, and in turn, society, reach his highest potential.
Now, let’s look at what the philosophy specifically says. There are four tenents of objectivism:
Wishing won’t make it so
Facts are facts, independent of man’s feelings, hopes, wishes, or fears.
You can’t eat your cake and have it too
Reason is man’s only means of perceiving reality, his only source of knowledge, his only guide to action.
Man is an end in himself
Man must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral-purpose of his life.
Give me liberty or give me death
The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another as traders by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. There should be a complete separation of state and economics. The government only exists as a policeman that protects man’s rights.
Still following? I know objectivism can be a brainful. So let’s look at some examples of objectivism in real life.
Your girlfriend/boyfriend breaks up with you. Even if you wish it weren’t so, the fact would still remain. Your wishes, hopes won’t change the fact that he/she has broken up with you.
If you jump from an 85 storey building onto hard concrete, what’ll happen? The laws of physics dictate that you’ll be dead. But, if you believe in Spiderman, another answer could be that he’ll protect you. The laws of physics are proven, the existence of Spiderman isn’t. So objectivism recommends not jumping. Act on logic, not your faith in superheroes.
You are a fresh mechanical engineering graduate. You have the choice of joining Ferrarri as their next hotshot engineer. You also have the choice of working on UNICEF’s child vaccination awareness program. You really want the Ferrarri job, but your parents want you to join UNICEF. Which one should you choose? If you’re an objectivist, you’ll just do what you want.
Let’s say you are indeed hired by Ferrarri. Should the government dictate what your salary should be, or should you and Ferrarri be free to negotiate it? Per objectivism, it should be latter. Governments should allow free, voluntary trade between individuals and institutions.
Does it make a little bit more sense?
Now, of course, the big question is – how good is objectivism as a philosophy. More importantly, is it my philosophy of choice? Well, that’s for another day, maybe. For now, I would like the readers to form their own opinions on objectivism. To help them with this process, I pose the following questions:
- What does objectivism mean for religion?
- Is the progress that we have made as a society (assuming we have) a function of altruism or self-interest of individuals?
- What happened to countries that are/were not capitalistic?
- Can man really think rationally?
- What is self-interest?
Answers to these questions are necessary to debate the pros and cons of objectivism and conclude if it should be the philosophy of choice for our society. So, start thinking!