Ayn Rand (1905-1982)
- First name pronounced (IPA) /aɪn/ (rhymes with ‘mine’)), born Alissa “Alice” Zinovievna Rosenbaum, Ayn
Rand was born in Russia and came to the United States in 1926.
- She either took her name from the name of a typewriter or from a Finnish novelist she hadn’t read.
- Her major works were The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957).
- Rand rejected virtually all other philosophical schools. She regraded most philosophers as foolish at best, and evil at worst. In particular, she condemned the work of Immanuel Kant.
- She was influenced by the work of Nietzsche, and some dialectical philosophers.
- Because she wrote most of her philosophy in the form of fiction, it was never seriously considered by “academic” philosopers.
- She believed:
- That humans should choose their values and actions through the use of reason;
- That the individual has a right to exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing self to others nor others to self; and
- That no one has the right to seek values from others by physical force, or impose ideas on others by physical force.
- Reality exists as an objective absolute—facts are facts, independent of man’s feelings, wishes, hopes or fears.
- Reason (the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses) is man’s only means of perceiving reality, his only source of knowledge, his only guide to action, and his basic means of survival.
- Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.
- The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others.
Rejection of Charity
Rand did not see charity as a moral duty or a major virtue and held charity to be proper only when the recipient is worthy and when it does not involve sacrifice. She did not, however, regard helping a friend in need to be “charity,” at all, but a selfish act. Rand opposed all forms of aid given by governments, just as she opposed any other government activity not directed at protecting individual rights.
Objectivism maintains that, alone among all the species of which we know, human beings do not automatically act to further their own survival. A plant seems to have no awareness of any kind and simply grows automatically; an animal that possesses a faculty of sensation relies on its pleasure-pain mechanism; an animal that operates at the level of perception can use its perceptions to muddle its way through its essentially cyclic life; but a human being, who at least potentially operates at the conceptual level, lives a life that consists of an integrated whole.
- Her philosophy was centered around the premise of a Randian hero, a man whose ability and independence leads others to reject him, but who who, nonetheless, perserveres.
- The Randian hero is an individual resisting the conforming power that institutions impose on us.
- He is described as posessing radical individualism, moral resolution, intelligence/aptitude, self-control, emotional restraint.
- Because the influence of society weakens us, the Randian hero (and we) must resist.
- Conventional morality of sacrifice and dependence on the state weakens us; the Randian individual offers a model for resistance.