Mudita Journal

A personal statement on Ayn Rand

January 4, 2014 · Filed under: Atlasphere, Individualism, Intellectual, Objectivism, Personal

The topic of Ayn Rand’s personal life, how it could have affected her philosophy, and whether her overall philosophy is truly valid, has come up regularly lately on my Facebook timeline.

And for good reason. Many who go through a phase of identifying closely with Ayn Rand’s philosophy later come to disavow the term “Objectivist.” Often one factor in their decision is simply that they can’t stand the moralistic-antagonistic antics of those in the orthodox branch of the Objectivist movement, even though they still agree with the basics of Rand’s philosophy.

Others stop calling themselves “Objectivist” for more substantive reasons. Some of my closest Rand-influenced friends have, through their explorations of personal and spiritual growth, come to advocate something like subjectivism. They no longer appreciate Rand’s perspective on the role and value of reason.

In that vein, I would like to offer a very brief summary of where I stand, including what I value most in Rand’s philosophy, where I see room for improvement, and why I do still consider myself an Objectivist, broadly defined.

In a nutshell, I tremendously value and appreciate Rand’s application of the intrinsic/objective/subjective trichotomy to the fields of metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics.

While I would enjoy seeing even better solutions to the is-ought problem, for example, I think she was essentially right about both the existence and nature of an objective approach to reality, to knowledge, and to ethics.

I would love to see someone offer even better formulations in these areas, and I believe there is room to do so, especially in the analysis of virtue and its practice, if only because of the complexity of human nature and society. But to me, both subjective and intrinsic views are a dead end. So I appreciate her work to present objective theories in each of these areas.

To me, improving upon her philosophy would consist of formulating more objective understandings — including ones reflecting a more subtle and comprehensive understanding of human nature, especially in the areas of emotion, intuition, empathy, love, and community — rather than jettisoning objectivity, per se.

On an even more personal note, though, I am deeply curious about the tremendous psychological value of acceptance, and what implications that has for a philosophy of reason. I would love to explore this more in a future posting.

  • Carrie-Ann Biondi

    I, too, consider myself an Objectivist, though there are some in the orthodox branch who insist that I am not entitled to do so. However, I am one (for reasons similar to the ones you note above, Joshua), whether anyone else thinks so or not or likes that or not. It’s exciting to know that you plan to develop parts of the theory and to refine/revise others. Too many seem too quick to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

    Recently, I was part of a stimulating conversation with some people at The Atlas Society (as part of their monthly online discussion seminar), where we examined Objectivism’s view of “the self” (based on passages from various of Rand’s writings) in conversation with a couple of book chapters in academic philosophy on that topic (one by Richard Sorabji and one by Jerrold Seigel). As a result of that great discussion, several of us may pursue a joint research agenda/conference that tackles the issue on a number of levels. This sounds consonant with your hope to explore the value of acceptance (presumably of self and others?). So much wonderful work to be done!

    By the way, I love the meaning of the name of your site. 🙂

    • Thank you, Carrie-Ann. My own contributions are more likely to fall into the realm of psychology than philosophy, but I think you and other sensitive readers will recognize that I’m returning to these familiar topics, when I do.

      I would love to learn more about the research agenda/conference you describe, and will contact you back-channel for more information.

      I agree, so much wonderful work to be done!