Betsy Speicher

Objectivism: A Philosophy for Living

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Published in the New Statesman on September 17, 2007

The Faith Column

Every week a different believer gives the inside track on their religion or philosophy.

Objectivism. A philosophy for living?

by Onkar Ghate

Formally, Ayn Rand called her philosophy Objectivism but informally she called it “a philosophy for living on earth.” At the centre of her system of ideas is a new vision of morality, one that proudly advocates the virtue of selfishness .

What does she mean?

The source of good and bad, value and disvalue, benefit and harm, she argues, is the existence of living things. Is finding water good for the giraffe? Is breaking a leg bad for the cheetah? Is locating fruit in the trees a value to the monkey? Is a drought harmful to the elm? The answer is 'yes' in all these cases because of the impact on each living thing’s life. The organism’s life is the gauge or standard which determines what is good or bad for it, valuable or disvaluable, beneficial or harmful.

(Entire column)

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Betsy, thanks for posting this. I liked Onkar Ghate's piece, but I wonder what kind of effect it will have, being published in "The Faith Column". People who read the column regularly are probably not the type to be interested by straightforward, common-sense views of the nature of life; I think they must want something whimsical to believe in.

Did you look through some of the previous "Faith Columns"? Some really funny stuff there: Zoroastrians, Hindus, Druids, Apollo-worshippers.... I get the impression there's something fundamentally different between the faithful and people like us. When we say that we believe something, we mean that we think it is true. But they can "believe" stuff without thinking it's true. How else do you account for a grown man becoming an Apollo-worshipper, for example? It's like this joke I heard about two colleagues having a conversation over lunch. One asks the other,

"So, you really think Armageddon is coming before the end of the year?"

"Oh yeah, absolutely. The prophecies all indicate it."

"So, still contributing to your 401K?"

"You bet. I should have a nice nest-egg in 20 years."

They "believe" but they don't really believe it.

The nature of faith is so puzzling to me. I wonder if it just seems "fun" to them to "believe" in some mythology. "Hey, I know, I'll start worshipping Apollo. Maybe I can start a club and meet with other people who decide to start worshipping Apollo."

So, what do you think, Betsy? Will the faithful always want something whimsical to believe in, or can they be weaned away from it? Conversely, can some brain injury cause a previously sensible, non-spiritual sort like me to suddenly start spinning a Tibetan Prayer Wheel? :P

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Betsy, thanks for posting this. I liked Onkar Ghate's piece, but I wonder what kind of effect it will have, being published in "The Faith Column". People who read the column regularly are probably not the type to be interested by straightforward, common-sense views of the nature of life; I think they must want something whimsical to believe in.

For most that will be true; but there's bound to be some percentage of the readers who are teenagers looking for the "big answers" and that one pointer to Ayn Rand could change the rest of their lives. The nice thing about such editorials is that they are widely spread and one can never tell who they might reach.

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For most that will be true; but there's bound to be some percentage of the readers who are teenagers looking for the "big answers" and that one pointer to Ayn Rand could change the rest of their lives. The nice thing about such editorials is that they are widely spread and one can never tell who they might reach.

I think that the problem is that for every one teenager who discovers Ayn Rand , there are countless others that discover Astrology, Religion and Tarot instead...

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I think that the problem is that for every one teenager who discovers Ayn Rand , there are countless others that discover Astrology, Religion and Tarot instead...

Perhaps, but Objectivism has the enormous advantage that it is true, makes sense, and actually helps you to live a happy, successful life. I looked into religion and other philosophies before Objectivism, but once I found Ayn Rand, I stopped looking.

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Betsy, thanks for posting this. I liked Onkar Ghate's piece, but I wonder what kind of effect it will have, being published in "The Faith Column". People who read the column regularly are probably not the type to be interested by straightforward, common-sense views of the nature of life; I think they must want something whimsical to believe in.

People who read the column may also be those who really give a damn about values, being a good person, and doing the right thing and are not moral relativists, cynics, or nihilists. Such people may be very open to a system of values that makes sense and is on a firmer foundation than faith.

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What I like is that his piece got in there at all. And the negative comments (which are in the minority) stand for themselves in their shoddiness. While I don't contribute much more than money for Objectivism (meaning, at least at this time, I do not participate in public debate), my standard is: any venue, anytime, any way.

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Betsy, thanks for posting this. I liked Onkar Ghate's piece, but I wonder what kind of effect it will have, being published in "The Faith Column". People who read the column regularly are probably not the type to be interested by straightforward, common-sense views of the nature of life; I think they must want something whimsical to believe in.

People who read the column may also be those who really give a damn about values, being a good person, and doing the right thing and are not moral relativists, cynics, or nihilists. Such people may be very open to a system of values that makes sense and is on a firmer foundation than faith.

I definitely agree. According to the Baylor study on religion a year or so ago, of those people who say they are practicing a religion, 4% of Protestants, 8%of Catholics, and 17% of Jews are atheists! I suspect many of those people are in it simply to make business or social connections, while others are looking for are moral basis.

An interesting side note is that according to the study, you are more likely to find an atheist in a church or synagogue than outside one, as only 3.5% of the population at large is atheist.

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According to the Baylor study on religion a year or so ago, of those people who say they are practicing a religion, 4% of Protestants, 8%of Catholics, and 17% of Jews are atheists! I suspect many of those people are in it simply to make business or social connections, while others are looking for are moral basis.

An interesting side note is that according to the study, you are more likely to find an atheist in a church or synagogue than outside one, as only 3.5% of the population at large is atheist.

I can believe that because most of the people active in churches and synagogues I know from business and family are not very mystical. They regard their church as a very nice social club. Sunday morning services are a warm family affair with music, singing, and an inspiring sermon, there is a Nursery School and Sunday School for the children, Boy Scouts and dances for the teenagers, and a friendly and safe place for senior citizens to meet.

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