Rebirth of Reason

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Friday, August 12, 2016 - 8:19pmSanction this postReply

I will admit that I don't consider myself an expert or a spokesperson for Objectivism (that is why, as a person who cares about Objectivism, I support people who I think truly understand and advance Objectivist Ideas like The Objective Standard, The Undercurrent and Just Right Media). However, being an active Objectivist for three years, I have some opinion about who the average Objectivist is.


The average Objectivist does not mean the most rational Objectivist, or the person who understands Objectivist the best, or necessarily shares my views. It only means the most common person who can be called an Objectivist (not just someone who calls themselves an Objectivist). So, in my experience, these are the common qualities of the average Objectivist:


-Has read all of Rand's fiction (who could be an Objectivist and have only read Atlas, but I think anybody truly interested in Rand's ideas is interested in reading at least all of her fiction).


-Does not call him/herself a Libertarian, Conservative or Liberal, or any other political label. But if he or she calls him/herself anything, It would be Classical Liberal.


-Admires free-market economists like Mises and Hayek, but rejects the Subjectivist, rationalist or empiricist elements of their Ideas.


-Does not support Clinton or Trump (could also be said for the average sane human being). But will probably vote for one or the other rather than "waste" their vote on a third party or independent candidate that they do not fully support anyways.


-Follows the ARI and Peikoff, but has no opinion of or is ignorant about the Peikoff/Kelley dispute, "open" objectivism, tolerance as a virtue, or the Atlas Society.


-Supports alternative right wing media such as Rebel Media in Canada or Breitbart in the United States.


-Believes that the Iran Deal was a mistake and that Iran is the West's major enemy.


-Supports Israel as the only true western-style nation in the middle east, while rejecting Zionist or Religionist views of Israel. -Engages with Libertarians, Conservatives and Libertarian or Conservative organizations while being careful not to sanction their irrational views.


-Opposes Islam and multiculturalism.


I could add much more, but I think these points paint a good enough picture of who I think the average Objectivist is.


Any thoughts?

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Friday, August 12, 2016 - 9:03pmSanction this postReply

-Does not call him/herself a Libertarian, Conservative or Liberal, or any other political label. But if he or she calls him/herself anything, It would be Classical Liberal.


I frequently call myself a libertarian (lower case 'L' - not the upper-case 'L' that denotes the political party as opposed to a political ideology).


It would make no sense to call myself an "Objectivist" when asked about my political views, since that wouldn't communicate much to most people and because that is the name of a philosophy, not just a political position.  I could call myself a "Capitalist" or a "Radical for Capitalism" but that would be confusing to most people and starts to mix up economics with political philosophy.


Here is the definition of a libertarian from Wikipedia: "Libertarians seek to maximize autonomy and freedom of choice, emphasizing political freedom, voluntary association, and the primacy of individual judgment."  That's not bad.



I could add much more, but I think these points paint a good enough picture of who I think the average Objectivist is.


I think that to be an Objectivist the person needs to understand the following:

- That reality exists, that it exists independent of our wishes or dreams.  That the purpose of our consciousness is to become aware of what exists and to understand it.  That reality is potentially understandable and that we have the capacity that makes that possible.

- That we have some form and degree of volition.  We make choices at some level.

- The difference between rational egoism and altrusim as ethical philosophies - with a strong emphasis on the understanding that any calls for sacrifice to others, or to groups/society/nations or any collective are immoral

- That each man's life is an end in itself.  That life is the standard of value.  That each person's happiness is their purpose for living.

- That individual rights are the moral foundation for political philosophy, and that they are not a gift from God or government - that they are derived from our nature as human beings and are the only basis for government and for laws.

- That the only way that individual rights can be violated is by the initiation of force against someone, or the threat to intiate force or the exercise of theft or fraud.

-That reason is the only means of grasping reality, and that any Objectivist would oppose any notion that faith or emotions can be tools of cognition.

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Friday, August 12, 2016 - 10:23pmSanction this postReply

I think that to be an Objectivist the person needs to understand the following: ...

All of the points you added are true, but I made clear that we are assuming the people we are talking about can be called Objectivists. I am only interested in making generalizations concerning positions and ideas not core to Objectivism. I am interested in this because of my interest in the Objectivist movement as a whole, where it stands today, and how to improve it.


I frequently call myself a libertarian

Do you call yourself a rationalist because you believe in reason? Libertarians (small l and big L) accept "liberty" as a floating abstraction (a value in and of itself), and to that extent engage in intrinsisism. Not all Libertarians are intrinsisists (you might be an example), but most are. I am talking about the average Objectivist, and most Objectivists I have meet or who I know at all distance themselves from Libertarianism. In some contexts I might call myself a Libertarian, just as I might call myself a Conservative or a Liberal in certain contexts, but usually It only confuses the situation (I will get asked nonsense questions like "Why do you hate the government?" or "Do you believe the government is always bad?" which I will not get asked If I identify myself as a Objectivist).


It would make no sense to call myself as an "Objectivist"...

Why not? If the person you are talking to does not know what Objectivism is, and It is a waste of time explaining it to them, why talk politics at all? Again, in some contexts one may need to Identify as more than an Objectivist, but I would say that in most cases you should either say your an Objectivist or not say anything.


That we have some form and degree of volition. We make choices at some level

Only some level? If I said that 99% of a persons actions are predetermined and only 1% are decided by him, should I be considered an Objectivist? What degree of free will does one need to believe in to be considered an Objectivist? I would set the bar a little higher then "some level", while acknowledging that 100% free will is probably impossible.



I don't want this thread to go too far off topic (while of course still giving you the chance to respond). I am more interested in how the average Objectivist sees and engages with the world, and focus on the why and on what Objectivist should do (for example, create new media outlets so that Objectivist don't have to depend on Conservative news, create a larger network of Objectivist organizations, etc.)


As an Objectivist who lacks the skills to significantly add to Objectivist thought, but who none the less wants to see the Objectivist movement grow, I take an interest in the non-philosophical challenges facing Objectivists. Why the interest in the average Objectivist? Not because I what to become a carbon copy myself, but because I want to discuss where the Objectivist movement stands and how to improve it (correct the "average" Objectivist where he or she is wrong, rather than waste time correcting the 0.01% of Objectivists who are wrong about some other issue).

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016 - 8:41amSanction this postReply

Liam, have you considered starting a local Ayn Rand Meetup?  I have run one for years here.  It is a great way to meet like-minded people.


As for how I characterize the average Objectivist, see my club brochure for details.


Finally, I encourage you to watch Ayn Rand in Her Own Words if you have not already as it offers excellent insights into the life and mind of Ayn Rand, literally, in her own words.


(Edited by Luke Setzer on 8/17, 11:39am)

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Saturday, August 20, 2016 - 6:01pmSanction this postReply

I am a member of an Objectivist meetup group in Toronto. We meet every second Sunday of the month.


Thank you for sharing the brochure, though the Freedom Party of Ontario also has similar material explaining the essence of Objectivism with the same basic points.


I didn't know an hour long video of Ayn Rand herself existed online. Thanks allot for sharing.

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Thursday, August 25, 2016 - 4:18amSanction this postReply

I am not sure what "the average Objectivist" is. The assumptions at the start just beg too many questions. Discounting the work of the Atlas Society as not being valid for the "average" Objectivist is suspect on inspection. 


More deeply, I accept the implicit statement that just because someone says that they are an Objectivist does not make them one.  We got a lot of that on Galt's Gulch Online as the Atlas Shrugged movies were rolling out.  It was a known fallacy from the earliest days of the NBI newsletters wherein they warned that not every passing virtue is an example of Objectivism.  In other words, some famous person says something quotable and someone enamored of Atlas Shrugged would try to label it as an example of "popular Objectivism."  That being as it may, how else do you begin to determine whether and to what extent someone is an Objectivist, except by first accepting their self-identification?


I also found it curious that this "poll" about "average" Objectivists is centered in Toronto.  It may be a nice place, but it sort of sounds like a known fallacy that the world's new intellectuals all come from one family in Winnipeg. 


It is an interesting question.  One way to approach it would be to poll all of the winners of the ARI Essay Contests. I forget the exact number, but to be 95% confident with 3% error, you need 1054 samples. You still would need a validated instrument. Steve is on the mark. But how do you frame the statements (T or F? Likert Scale?) to ask your subjects about their acceptance of the fundamental principles of Objectivism?


... and you can say anything. It is how you live your life that counts. And how do you measure that to find the "average" Objectivist.


(Just offhand, my observation since 1966 is that the "average Objectivist" is an engineer. You can find other professsions, but the "average Objectivist" is an engineer.  And then, there is the problem of "average."  Mean? Median? Mode? Normal? What is it to be within one standard deviation of "average" as an Objectivist? When it comes to pets, the average Objectivist has a cat.  Oh.... and on another point, the "average Objectivist" has no children....) 


(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 8/25, 4:26am)

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Monday, August 29, 2016 - 6:18pmSanction this postReply

Thank you Marotta for your reply,


I won't comment on the validity of the Atlas Society, but I will say that from my observations their views (among those who care at all) are in the minority among people I would consider Objectivists. I believe this because of two reasons; ARI's virtual monopoly on Objectivist writings and content and from the opinions on the issue I have read (majority of the respected writers I found on ORC agree with Pekioff, if only in the basic principles). If I had to put myself in a camp, I would Identify with SOLO, but I don't consider the issue to be a deal breaker on whether or not a person is an Objectivist per se. If any one has any reason why the ARI view might be a minority view (among true Objectivists, rather than people calling themselves Objectivists), I would be interested to know.


On your second point, going beyond self-identification is not easy. I would say that if someone says their an Objectivist, and there is no obvious reason to think that they are not (ex. president of the local Kant Society), then the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate how they are not an Objectivist. I don't have a complete answer, but I think Steve's and Luke's answers are pretty good starts for establishing a good standard.

My "poll" was not just concerning the people I have meet face to face (though they have had a big impression), but also those I respect and read. I admit, I am quite bias towards those I like to read and listen to and in no way do I claim that I have an authoritative answer. I only claim to have some experience and to have made my own observations. I would be curious to here the experience of others, who they have meet, who they have read and who they have listened to. Even if the person they name I don't consider real Objectivists.


A poll of ARI essay submissions is an interesting suggestion. Two problems: firstly ARI does not make being an Objectivist or even liking Ayn Rand's works a condition for submitting an essay (a rare thing for them), secondly I have meet one other essay writer (after she contacted me when she found my name on the list of top ten Atlas essay submissions for 2015) and while I enjoyed talking with her she was by no means an Objectivist. A poll among the winners would be better but the sample size would be too small for your desired accuracy.


I stick by all of my original points being the best characterization of the average Objectivist, but I would like to thank Steve, Luke and Michael for engaging me on the issue and leaving me with more to think about.

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