Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ayn Rand: Objectivism

Selfishness. Our society defines it, and deems it, morbid and repulsive. Selfishness exists in two forms. The first, selfishness to instincts, where, one acts arbitrarily based on their natural tendencies to eat food, acquire money, have sex, etc. Selfishness in this sense is foolish and pitiful. People bound by this selfishness act only to please their fluctuating whim and opinion. The second form of selfishness is truer to the word's inherent meaning. Selfishness in the refined sense is a quality of existence in which one acts only to please oneself, but on a higher level than instincts only, and with a fully involved conscious. It is this selfishness that Ayn Rand exposes as essential to the life of man.

Ayn Rand professes that men be selfish- selfishness, to her, becomes a virtue. Capitalism is then the ultimate economic actualization of this viewpoint under which all men strive towards furthering themselves in society. I am reading Atlas Shrugged, and have already completed The Fountainhead, and I find Ayn Rand's philosophy intriguing. I am enthralled primarily because it seems to connect with me on a deep level. The characters that embody Ayn Rand's virtue of selfishness in her novels are characters that engage their humanity fully, and live for whatever pleases them.

You have Howard Roark, an architect, whose sole purpose is to build- create- design. Through this work Roark finds ultimate fulfillment and joy, and as such he pursues it fully. A man with a purpose- that is the goal of a life. Objectivism advocates that men that live to their purpose become complete. These men are uncompromising, and the opinion that matters to them the most is their own. That is one aspect of Objectivism that I find very sensible. So many people corrupt themselves by living off others- "secondhand opinions" Ayn Rand labels them. So many people go shopping for clothes, asking themselves, "How do I look in this- what would other people think?" Very few people trust their own selves enough to abandon the worrisome question of "What do other people think."

In its essential meaning, selfishness is incredibly attractive. Ultimately, all men are separate. There should not be and seems not to be any force that commands men to be charitable in any way to their kinsmen. We are all individuals. Remaining true to oneself seems obvious, and is reflected in the multitude of people who pander their own instincts daily, addicted to the first form of selfishness. So why not extend this natural tendency to its true form- to dedicate our actions to really gratifying what we want. If you are interested in cooking food, learn it and open a business, recoil and hide at nothing that tries to stop you. It is not for the money, but for the unparalleled satisfaction that cooking gives yourself. Everyone has certain activities that in some way take them out of the world through the medium of the interest put in it. It is these activities that men should be truly devoted to- as Roark is with architecture.

Primarily, what I find in Ayn Rand's work is a complete form a man. Man as he is meant to be. That is appealing, and as much as I find myself naturally compelled to it, I am left with an apprehension that I will confront in another post in the next few days.

Also, who is John Galt?