What is Objectivism to You?

 Posted by on 15 July 2009 at 11:01 pm  Objectivism
Jul 152009

“What is Objectivism?” A couple of years ago, I asked this question shortly after reading The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Later, I would hear and read about future students of Objectivism asking the same question, and I often would assist them in finding the answer. For that question, Ayn Rand herself gave several answers of varying length and complexity, spanning from John Galt’s lengthy speech and a plethora of non-fiction essays, all the way down to single, concise sentences packed full of meaning.

My personal favorite of her answers is that Objectivism is “a philosophy for living on earth.” Honestly, the first time I read that sentence, I was simultaneously amazed and amused. Amazed, because I had never heard anyone advertise a set of ideas as being needed to live on Earth — that kind of thing was unheard of in my experience. Amused, because at the time I thought it was a silly thing to say or write down. (With the level of sarcasm-lovers in our postmodern society, I seriously doubt I was the only one who had that reaction to it.)

Of course, it’s not my favorite description of Objectivism because of my initial reaction to it — rather, it’s my favorite because as I learned more about it, amazingly enough, I started to believe that the sentence was true. By reading and talking about the philosophy over time, I became convinced that ideas and the subject of philosophy was important for everyone to learn about, and that Rand’s philosophy was the most important of all for people to recognize and consider. As I thought about the distasteful state of the world, and of the tenets of the philosophy, I came to personally believe that it was necessary in order to live in the world, almost as if my thinking were paying homage to her own.

As I start my third year as a student of Objectivism, I once again ask myself what Objectivism is. I think John Ridpath gave an interesting indirect answer, in the Q & A of his 1989 lecture “Religion Vs. Man”: “[Objectivism] is [a] really honest and serious attempt to understand the world and what the implications of all of our understanding are.” What he said is almost exactly how I would describe Objectivism now, and will probably do so for some time into the future.

And so now I ask: what is Objectivism to you?

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