Ayn Rand: Her Life And Philosophy Essay, Research Paper
AYN RAND: HER LIFE AND PHILOSOPHY
Ayn Rand was a novelist and philosopher who influenced many people?s way of thinking in very profound ways. She was born in Russia in 1905 and came to America at the age of twenty-one where she published her first novel, We The Living, in 1936. The Fountainhead was published in 1943 and brought Ayn Rand international fame. Although she considered herself primarily a fiction writer, she realized that in order to create heroic fictional characters, she had to identify the philosophic principles which make such individuals possible. Later, she also expressed her philosophy in nonfiction form.
Ayn Rand named her philosophy ?Objectivism? and described it as a philosophy for living on earth. Objectivism is an integrated system of thought that defines the abstract principles by which a man must think and act if he is to live the life proper to man. Ayn Rand was once asked if she could present the essence of Objectivism while standing on one foot. Her answer was:
Metaphysics: Objective Reality
She then translated those terms into familiar language:
?Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.?
?You can?t eat your cake and have it, too.?
?Man is an end in himself.?
?Give me liberty or give me death.?
According to Ayn Rand, reality, the external world, exists independent of man?s consciousness, independent of anybody?s knowledge, beliefs, feelings, desires or fears. This means that A is A, that facts are facts, that things are what they are ? and that the task of man?s consciousness is to perceive reality, not to create or invent it. Thus Objectivism rejects any belief in the supernatural ? and any claim that individuals or groups create their own reality.
The theory of Objectivism also tells us that man?s reason is fully competent to know the facts of reality. Reason, the conceptual faculty, is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man?s senses. Reason is man?s only means of acquiring knowledge. Thus Objectivism rejects mysticism (any acceptance of faith or feeling as a means of knowledge), and it rejects skepticism (the claim that certainty or knowledge is impossible).
According to the theory of Objectivism, man is a rational being. Reason, as man?s only means of knowledge, is his basic means of survival. But the exercise of reason depends on each individual?s choice. According to Ayn Rand, ?That which you call your soul or spirit is your consciousness, and that which you call ?free will? is your mind?s freedom to think or not, the only will you have, your only freedom. This is the choice that controls all the choices you make and determines your life and character.? Thus Objectivism rejects any form of determinism, the belief that man is a victim of forces beyond his control (such as God, fate, upbringing, genes, or economic conditions).
Rationality is man?s basic virtue, and his three fundamental values are: reason, purpose, self-esteem. Man ? every man ? is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others; he must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself; he must work for his rational self-interest, with the achievement of his own happiness as the highest moral purpose of his life.
Objectivism rejects any form of altruism ? the claim that morality consists in living for others or for society.
Ayn Rand also describes the relationship between her philosophy and politics. She explains that, the basic social principle of the Objectivist ethics is that no man has the right to seek values from others by means of physical force ? i.e., no man or group has the right to initiate the use of physical force against others. Men have the right to use force only in self-defense and only against those who initiate its use. Men must deal with one another as traders, giving value for value, by free, mutual consent to mutual benefit. The only social system that bars physical force from human relationships is laissez-faire capitalism. Capitalism is a system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which the only function of the government is to protect individual rights, i.e., to protect men from those who initiate the use of physical force. Thus Objectivism rejects any form of collectivism, such as fascism or socialism. It also rejects the current ?mixed economy? notion that the government should regulate the economy and redistribute wealth.
According to Ayn Rand, ?Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist?s metaphysical value-judgments.? The purpose of art is to concretize the artist?s fundamental view of existence. Ayn Rand described her own approach to art as ?Romantic Realism?: ?I am a Romantic in the sense that I present men as they ought to be. I am Realistic in the sense that I place them here and now and on this earth.? The goal of Ayn Rand?s novels is not didactic but artistic: the projection of an ideal man as an end in himself ? not as a means to any further end.
Every book by Ayn Rand published in her lifetime is still in print, and hundreds of thousands of copies are sold each year, so far totalling more than twenty million. Several new volumes have been published posthumously. Her vision of man and her philosophy for living on earth have changed the lives of thousands of readers and launched a philosophic movement with a growing impact on North American culture.