Thursday, April 06, 2006

Let's Be Objective, Shall We?

Recently Gregg100 suggested that I investigate some of the work of Ayn Rand and her system of Objectivism. I related to him that I had, in fact, read some of Rand's work, namely her novels The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged and possibly either We the Living or Anthem. But that was back around 1970 while I was living in NYC. Frankly, I remember little of any of it. I indicated that I would revisit some of those works, and Gregg said that her novels do not clearly reveal her philosophy. Rather, he suggested that I investigate some of the work of Leonard Peikoff, Rand's protege', devotee and, as it happened, her actual and literary heir.

I took Gregg's advice and have just begun reading Peikoff's Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. Upon studying Gregg's posts, it is clear to me now that a goodly portion of his thinking is more or less aligned with Rand's. (Gregg, correct me if I'm wrong.)

Over the years I recall that many people hotly rejected Rand as being far too imbued with her objective view of what it is to be human. That her position was much too cold and shackled our capacity for imagination and was intolerant of human emotion and acts of altruism. Perhaps too "Mr. Spockish" for some tastes. At this juncture I cannot make any cogent arguments on bahalf of Objectivism or Ms. Rand's work and philosophy. I've only read about 22 pages of Peikoff's book.

But right off the bat I was taken with a short quote of Ms. Rand's which I will reprint here. It is her definition of a philosophic system. As follows:

"A philosophic system is an integrated view of existence. As a human being, you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation--or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears, thrown together by chance, but integrated by your sub-conscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single, solid weight: self doubt, like a ball and chain in the place where your mind's wings should have grown."

Unfortunately, far too many of us have not made an effort to truly define our philosophy of existence. We (myself included) all too often randomly select notions, ideas and ideals that may sound good or right to us at a particular moment in time, and throw them up onto our "sub-conscious junk heap." The result, as Rand indicated, is an inconsistent, often contradictory mishmash of concepts and opinions that leaves us mentally and emotionally unprepared when it comes time to truly define and defend what we believe. Most of us think we know what we're all about, but more often than not our overall philosophy is largely incoherent, and, therefore, indefensible.

I don't know what or how I will feel about Rand or Objectivism when I finish Peikoff's book and presumably other sources on the subject. But, I hope it will help me to logically and more completely define who I am. Perhaps the effort will enable me to at least clear out some mental cobwebs or to evacuate my mental sinuses like Habanero salsa.


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