Objectivism for Dummies?

Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand by Leonard Peikoff

A more in-depth, book-length overview of Objectivism.

I find it a bit strange that one of the top Google auto-completes I see for “Objectivism” is “Objectivism for dummies,” considering that there is no “For Dummies” book on this topic. But what it indicates is that there is significant interest in a basic, understandable introduction to Objectivism, the philosophy of the novelist and philosopher, Ayn Rand.

If this is what you want, I’d like to recommend my Introduction to Objectivism page. Not only does it have a clear and straightforward presentation of the philosophy of Objectivism, but it also has a large number of links to resources for learning more.

Introduction to Objectivism

I’d also like to recommend reading Ayn Rand’s novels, such as Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainheadif you haven’t recently–to get a fuller feel for the type of person that Objectivism praises, and the type of life that it holds out as an ideal. As I like to caution, however, Rand’s novels are romantic novels, and they feature extraordinary and dramatic situations. The principles her ideal heroes live by are the ones she advocates, but one must be careful about being too literal, (or, in Ayn Rand’s terminology, “concrete-bound” or “anti-conceptual”) in applying those principles to real life.

Happy learning! 🙂

Sword of Apollo

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On This Memorial Day, Let Us Remember, Not “Sacrifice,” But Those Who Have Fought for Freedom

The U.S. Marine Corps Color Guard marches during pass in review during the closing of a Battle Color Detachment ceremony at Eisenhower High School, Rialto, Calif., on March 4, 2012.Every Memorial Day, we hear speeches from government leaders praising what they call the sacrifices of American soldiers. On Memorial Day 2013, President Obama said:

[N]ot all Americans may always see or fully grasp the depth of sacrifice, the profound costs that are made in our name — right now, as we speak, every day.

On Memorial Day 2014, Obama said this:

Early this morning, I returned from Afghanistan. Yesterday, I visited with some of our men and women serving there — 7,000 miles from home. For more than 12 years, men and women like those I met with have borne the burden of our nation’s security. Now, because of their profound sacrifice, because of the progress they have made, we’re at a pivotal moment. Our troops are coming home. By the end of this year, our war in Afghanistan will finally come to end. And yesterday at Bagram, and here today at Arlington, we pay tribute to the nearly 2,200 American patriots who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan. We will honor them, always.

But is it really “sacrifice” that we properly honor on Memorial Day? Or is it something else that we should be focusing on?

On September 11, 2001, 19 Muslim totalitarians boarded American planes and flew them into the World Trade Center buildings, the Pentagon, and the ground in Pennsylvania. What they did was a sacrifice of their lives for the sake of killing “the enemy” and defending what they saw as the sanctity, purity and salvation of their people against the “corrupting” influences of the “decadent” West. Was this act noble because it was a sacrifice? No?

Then it is not sacrifice per se that we properly honor on Memorial Day, since we do not honor all of those who sacrifice for any cause. Is it then the sacrifice of oneself for the sake of freedom? Is this what we properly honor?

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The Meaning of “Necessary” Versus “Contingent” Truth

Billiard balls ready to be brokenThere is a long history in philosophy of distinguishing between truths that are “necessary” and truths that are “contingent.”

A necessary truth represents a true statement whose negation must imply a contradiction in reality, such that the negation would be impossible.

So, if “One plus one equals two,” is a necessary truth, then the statement “One plus one does not equal two” will imply a contradiction. Given the meanings of “one” and “two,” we can immediately see that the addition of two “ones” (units) always does yield “two,” yet the statement “One plus one does not equal two,” contradicts this. It’s incomprehensible that one plus one should ever add to anything but two. So “One plus one equals two,” is commonly held to be a necessary truth, with its negation being impossible.

A contingent truth represents a true statement whose negation does not imply a contradiction in reality, such that the negation could have been the case.

So, if “John married Jessica last Sunday,” is a contingent truth, then the statement “John did not marry Jessica last Sunday,” could have been true, without implying a contradiction in reality. Since John could have chosen not to marry Jessica, or to have married her on a different day, we can see that this is indeed a contingent truth.

The Objectivist View on the Necessary/Contingent Distinction

Objectivism-The Philosophy of Ayn RandCausality (the Law of Cause and Effect) is the Law of Identity applied to action. This means that an entity’s actions follow from its nature. That is, the nature of the entity (its attributes, properties, etc.) causes the action it will take in any given situation. In any given context, there is only one action open to it: the one in accordance with its nature. Any other action would contradict its nature.

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