Mike Renzulli

More About: Philosophy: Objectivism

Libertarians Need Objectivism

I attended a Liberty on the Rocks function a short time ago in which one group of gentlemen gathered together during this affair to discuss philosophy. The discussion went from when one owns their body (using the drug war as an example) and then turned to the subject of rights.
 
During the discussion on this subject, I asked a libertarian participating in the exchange what an individual right was. He gave me a blank stare at first but after thinking about it said something you own. I politely explained the error in his answer pointing out what individual rights are and moved on elsewhere in the party.
 
The experience I have with libertarians being unable to answer specific questions about certain aspects of their philosophy is not unique. Unfortunately, in a general sense and many cases libertarians treat individual rights as some abstract, subjective concept. They can articulate individuals have rights but have little knowledge about the details and how they apply in specific instances. Some disregard a rights-based approach to liberty altogether and prefer consequentalist or semblances of utilitarianism.
 
Despite ultimately siding with the notion that people have rights libertarians know little about them, do not know or do not adequately articulate it leaving an inqusitive outsider with more questions than answers. Subjective claims or incomplete answers about individual rights or libertarian ideas stand no chance of winning over people already steeped in subjective, anti-individualist ideologies like religion, statism, skepticism, and radical environmentalism.
 
It should come as no surprise that critics refer to libertarians as Republicans who want to smoke dope or Democrats who like to own guns. The concept libertarians espouse is that of doing whatever one pleases without interference from government, society, collectives, etc. Yet this (albeit falsely) conjures up claims on the part of our enemies and opponents of people engaging in wild parties involving large amounts of drug use, orgies and other nihilistic activities. What is mostly ignored not just by our rivals but libertarians as well are heroic acts of rational, productive achievement and success on the part of individuals that have brought about all the benefits the Westernized world enjoys today.
 
It is true that the non-aggression principle that Ayn Rand articulated is the center piece of libertarian thought and action (i.e. no individual may initiate physical force against another). But, as Luke Setzer points out, this principle is neither an axiom nor a self-evident truth.
 
As Setzer rightly observes, Ayn Rand understood this and properly detailed a long chain of reasoning that led her from basic axioms of reality (existence, consciousness, and identity), through the necessity of reason as mankind’s means of survival. This, in turn, leads to the Aristotelian ethic of human life as the standard of values, the individual as an end in him or herself, and to the inevitable, logical conclusion that laissez-faire capitalism is the only moral social system.
 
He goes on to point out that, if taken objectively and logically, this line of thought leads to the non-aggression principle. It accepts that a this-worldly life is good ethic with reason as the method of obtaining and maintaining it. As a result, each person must be left free to follow his own mind without interference from government, society or collective consciousness.
 
Libertarians need an objective, moral basis for why individuals should have the right to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. Instead of reality, ethical subjectivism is the basis for libertarian ethics and many other facets of libertarian philosophy including how libertarians conduct themselves. In light of this it is not surprising that people hyphenate the word libertarian with other sets of belief systems such as christianity, anarchism or even come up with odd terms like conservatarian. Rights grounded in subjectivism will not win over the populace to full embrace liberty until and unless they are shown why claims to the contrary are immoral.
 
As Objectivist scholar Peter Schwartz points out in his essay Libertarianism the Perversion of Liberty, the absence of a rational, moral defense of individual rights would lead to the death of liberty. Such axioms are necessary foundations for any movement that advocates individual rights. That's why Ayn Rand created Objectivism to encompass many areas of philosophy to help people who study it not only to think but also to live and prosper.
 
To borrow from Setzer's wisdom, we all know that liberty is not license. However, the vision of a nation based on nihilism will not inspire the average person or win over people normally on the fence on certain social or even economic issues. The idea of a world filled with rational, healthy, productive people who trade freely with others like them will. Inspirational role models populate the pages of Ayn Rand’s fantastic fiction novels continue to enjoy strong sales decades after their first printings and that Ms. Rand's ideas continue to survive and thrive even to this day.
 
What American culture and the libertarian movement needs is another Renaissance that embraces a widely renewed respect for reason and achievement in this life and on earth. Emulating Rand's charachters is an excellent way to start and, in my view, Objectivism is the best philosophy to help achieve this with the beauty of libertarian thought and ideas to help compliment it.
 
If you would like an example of success in a venue Objectivists and libertarians both appreciate (the market place) you need look no further than the banking giant BB&T and Koch Industries. BB&T has established Objectivism as its official corporate philosophy while Koch Industries uses Austrian Economics as the basis for the company's corporate philosophy known as market-based management. CEO Charles Koch touts his company's philosophy as contributing to its success. He has not only written a book on the subject but has funded a think tank to culminate and expand upon Charles Koch's approach in hopes of influencing other companies to adopt it. As a result their success as organizations both BB&T and Koch continue to grow.
 
I also echo Luke Setzer's sentiment that if Objectivism is good enough to drive the success of multi-billion dollar companies, it also makes sense to use it to drive the success of a political philosophy and groups erected to further it.

7 Comments in Response to

Comment by Anonymous
Entered on:

 See how messed up are the texts in those comments below? These came out in different colors, font and sizes. Can anybody from the editorial staff help or explain or at least clean this up?

Comment by Anonymous
Entered on:

 When you submit a letter to the editor and it does not print and it says "Check Letter to the Editor" but does not say how -- what the heck does this mean?  Anybody from the editorial board?

Comment by Anonymous
Entered on:

I sent a letter to the editor in response to this article. But when I submitted it, it did not print! It says Confirm Letter to the Editor, but it does not say how.  So if you can't read it in the front page, you can read it here.

Objectivists Cannot Fault Libertarians When Ayn Rand Turns Out To Be Joke!

Ayn Rand’s Objectivism is a joke! One is out of his/her mind to fault Libertarianism just because the philosophy of Ayn Rand happens to be faulty if not maliciously incongruous. There is no point for me to extol the virtues of being a Libertarian of Reason because we all know that Libertarianism anchors on our basic concept of liberty and freedom, and mind you, this is indestructible. True there are those Libertarians in extremis that embarrass the fundamental principles of Libertarianism, but otherwise … to pull down the whole house is definitely an act of lunacy.

Ayn Rand’s Philosophy of Objectivism is one of the most flawed contemporary philosophies that I have come across since I started life in the academe some four decades ago. While working for my first degree in Philosophy & Letters as a Litterateur of arts and philosophy, I have written several reviews of many of Ayn Rand’s works as a novelist-ideologue before I branched out to higher studies and learning.

The first contradiction – and there’s a lot of them -- that will strike the mind of any inquisitive scholar who studies Ayn Rand, alias Alissa Rosenbaum, and her philosophical objectivism is her obsessive reliance on "external realities rather than beliefs or feelings in literature or art …"

The principal attraction of that philosophy is this fanatical conviction that locked Rosenbaum, a.k.a. Rand out of her own metaphysical realism – compulsive faith, if you may -- in the existence of the so-called "independent truth". She elaborated this fixation – and it was not even original – when she subsumed her mind into that of celebrated realists such as Michael Dummett, and even Mark Twain in literature … metaphysical objectivists who posited that "moral truths or external objects exist independently of the individual mind or perception." This brand of thinking that inquires into what in fact is the "truth" is as common as a roll of toilet paper a shopper [researcher in the library] would find at a grocery store. Its falsity is a trap from which hardly impaled philosophers escape.

The problem here is this: Objectivists who demystify the mind and discredit perception cannot help but use their mind and perception to know first hand that moral truths or external objects exist independently of themselves. Otherwise if they don’t use their mind and perception they won’t know. And how can they declare with such blinding audacity that moral truth or external objects exist independent of their thinking – when they don’t know? This magnified contradiction is no longer apparent but real passed the flesh, and down deep to the bone.

As to "independent truth", it does not exist outside of the mind and perception. The dispute between the Realist and Idealist and the quarrel between the Godless and Believer on this matter has no end. The "… conception of truth hinges on reactions to the epistemic accessibility (knowability, graspability) of facts …" which, by the way, is the function of the mind.

This explains why in the academe, this kind of elementary objectivism that agnostics profess as it appears on and off in this website, turns me off.

In many of her writings, notice that Rand truly believed that the "independent truth" is the only truth in the Universe. And also notice how she vehemently rejected "belief". Since she grew up in Russia she had fought for her "beliefs" tooth and nail. And yet see how she philosophically distances herself from "belief" … how she rejected her strong "faith" that out there exists the "independent truth" outside of what she thinks! This is another sad contradiction.

Reason, then, was the only correct basis for intellectual and moral judgments …Rational selfishness is the only appropriate motive for living. Ayn Rand on Laissez-Faire Capitalism.

This "philosophical belief" is very unrealistic to say the least, if not downright incongruous. In the real world, greed and selfishness have no place in free-market capitalism. The built-in rule in free-market capitalism every market player must observe is "fair competition". Either market competitors will target you out or government regulatory intervention will yank you out of the competition to restore equilibrium once the market is disturbed by greed and monopolistic selfishness or economic egocentricity of entrepreneurial bullies. Take an advance study in Economics and you will have a fairly good idea what I am talking about.

This is another sad contradiction.

accessibility (knowability, graspability) of facts …"
which, by the way, is the function of the mind.

that This brand of thinking that inquires into what in fact is the "truth" is as common as a roll of toilet paper a shopper [researcher in the library] would find at a grocery store. Its falsity is a trap from which hardly impaled philosophers escape.

that This brand of thinking that inquires into what in fact is the "truth" is as common as a roll of toilet paper a shopper [researcher in the library] would find at a grocery store. Its falsity is a trap from which hardly impaled philosophers escape.Ayn Rand on Laissez-Faire Capitalism.

Reason also contradicts Ayn Rand’s moral life. And to me this is the worst inconsistency anyone could stumble upon when studying Rand’s contradictions. For some "reasons" of her own, this Russian-born phiosopher and her husband Frank O’Connor agreed that she becomes the mistress of her student named Nathaniel Branden [who years later became a rabid advocate of Ayn Rand’s philosophy]. To live an immoral life is justified under her philosophy of "Rational Selfishness". To be sexual or erotic or immoral is solely her own "rational selfishness"… i.e., it is no one else’s business to question. Of course when she learned later on that Branden had another mistress, she ostracized Branden -- an immoral human being not fit for her love and affection.

A whole book of contradictions can be written about Ayn Rand’s surviving philosophies and beliefs. When objectivists model her rationality as a philosopher and a dreamer [she is a fiction writer in Hollywood], our study and understanding of Objectivism as a way of life becomes not only a total mess but also an intellectual joke.

Bakadude

Branden -- an immoral human being not fit for her love and affection.

Comment by Cronus de Gaia
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To the rational mind, the need for an objective moral compass is indisputable. For a scientifically based take on this subject, I recommend a visit to <a target="_blank" href="http://titanians.org/ethics-law-government">titanians.org</a> where you will find an in-depth discussion of the nature of ethics, how to analyze the validity of an ethic, the logical application of valid ethics to the formulation of law, and a specific methodology for humanity to evolve an ethical system of law - IN THE ABSENCE OF GOVERNMENT.

This article is a <b>must read</b> for anyone fed up with the depredations of governments - but fearful that the absence of government would result in chaotic anarchy. It demonstrates that anything worthwhile that a government can do could be done better, more cheaply, and more creatively without the "help" of government.

Comment by Anonymous
Entered on:

 

     Ayn Rand’s Objectivism is a joke!

 

 

     Ayn Rand’s Philosophy of Objectivism is one of the most flawed contemporary philosophies that I have come across since I started life in the academe some four decades ago.  While working for my first degree in Philosophy & Letters as a Litterateur of arts and philosophy, I have written several reviews of many of Ayn Rand’s works as a novelist-ideologue before I branched out to higher studies and learning.

 

       The first contradiction – and there’s a lot of them -- that will strike you if you study her philosophical objectivism is her obsessive reliance on “external realities rather than beliefs or feelings in literature or art …”  The principal anchor of her belief in the so-called “independent truth” is that “moral truths or external objects exist independently of the individual mind or perception.” The question here is that she has to know first hand that moral truths or external objects exist independently of her mind and perception. But she would never know in any way possible except by using her mind and perception to know that out there are moral truths or objects that exist.  The contradiction is not just apparent but real.

 

      In many of her writings, she truly believed that the “independent truth” exists in real life. And notice how she vehemently rejected “belief”. Since she grew up in Russia she had fought for her “beliefs” tooth and nail.  And yet see how she philosophically distances herself from “belief” … how she rejected her strong “faith” that out there exists the “independent truth” outside of what she thinks! 

 

       Reason, then, was the only correct basis for intellectual and moral judgments …Rational selfishness is the only appropriate motive for living.  Ayn Rand on Laissez-Faire Capitalism.

 

      This “philosophical belief” is very unrealistic to say the least, if not downright contradictory. In the real world, greed and selfishness have no place in free-market capitalism. The built-in rule in free-market capitalism every market player must observe is “fair competition”. Either market competitors will target you out or government regulatory intervention will yank you out of the competition to restore market equilibrium once disturbed by greed and monopolistic selfishness or economic egocentricity of entrepreneurial bullies. Take an advance study in Economics and you will have a fairly good idea what this is all about.

 

      Reason also contradicts Ayn Rand’s moral life. For some “reasons” of her own, she and her husband Frank O’Connor agreed that she becomes the mistress of her student named Nathaniel Branden [who the following years later became a rabid advocate of Ayn Rand’s philosophy]. To live an immoral life is justified under her philosophy of “Rational Selfishness”. To be sexual or erotic or immoral is solely her own “rational selfishness”… i.e., it is no one else’s business to question. Of course when she learned later on that Branden had another mistress, she ostracized Branden as an immoral human being not fit for her affection.

 

      A whole book of contradictions can be written about Ayn Rand’s surviving philosophies and beliefs. When objectivists model her rationality as a philosopher and a dreamer [she is a fiction scriptwriter in Hollywood], our study and understanding of Objectivism as a way of life becomes not only a total mess but also an intellectual joke.

 

 

 

Comment by Mike Renzulli
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David, Rand never met the Rothchilds and was not one of their mistresses. Even if she did meet them (which she did not even know them), so what? This is totally false and shows how willing you are to jump to conclusions with little to no thought. Ethical subjectivism if you will. Who is the source of your claim? Alex Jones? David Icke?

Comment by David McElroy
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Funny you should say this, Mike. The savagery meeting any discussion of Christian morals on this site, whose publisher, Ernie Hancock, first caught my attention with the slogan "Jesus is a libertarian" is appalling.  While I agree many religious institutions, clergy, and individuals have behaved shamefully, this does not negate Christ's virtues and principles in any way.

I also find it strange Objectivists worship at the shrine to Ayn Rand and find spiritual solace in their holy writ, "Atlas Shrugged". Rand was one of Rothschild's mistresses, and Rothschild was her patron supporting her work. Why libertarians would want to follow such a tool of the Earth's leading robber baron is beyond me!

David McElroy - www.OnlyWay.com

 


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