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Individualism—Not Objectivism

In my articles on individualism, "Atlas Shrugged: A Model for Individualist Revolution" and, my latest, "Ayn Rand—Autonomist" I noted that both by example and, in her own words, Rand demonstrates that individualism is "the only aim," of all her writing and was, in fact, her, "mission in life."

It is widely believed that Ayn Rand's primary aim was the promotion of Objectivism. Based on that view, there are many organizations and Internet sites today that call themselves Objectivist this, that, or the other thing, with the sole intention of promoting what they call "Objectivism." Ayn Rand was very particular about the use of the name Objectivism, however.

"If you wonder why I am so particular about protecting the integrity of the term 'Objectivism,' my reason is that 'Objectivism' is the name I have given to my philosophy—therefore, anyone using that name for some philosophical hodgepodge of his own, without my knowledge or consent, is guilty of the fraudulent presumption ... of trying to pass his thinking off as mine.... What is the proper policy on this issue? If you agree with some tenets of Objectivism, but disagree with others, do not call yourself an Objectivist; give proper authorship credit for the parts you agree with—and then indulge in any flights of fancy you wish, on your own." [Ayn Rand, "To the Readers of The Objectivist Forum,” The Objectivist Forum, Vol. 1, No. 1]

With possible exceptions, most so-called Objectivist sites and organizations dishonestly, or in Rand's terms, fraudulently, use the name Objectivist. They state plainly they do not totally agree with Objectivism, or that Rand made mistakes, while promoting ideas which are inimical to Objectivism. There is no reason anyone has to agree with every written word of Ayn Rand, but there is every reason to call anything that passes itself off as Objectivism, but is actually something else, a fraud.

Worse, most of these sites promote their versions of, "Objectivism," as "an ideology to be embraced," a "life style to be adopted," or "a movement to be joined." Rand emphasized Objectivism is a philosophy, not an ideology, not a life style, and not a movement. She made it, "emphatically clear that Objectivism is not an organized movement and is not to be regarded as such by anyone." [Ayn Rand, The Objectivist, June 1968, "A Statement Of Policy, Part I."] It was not Objectivism, Rand promoted, it was individualism.

Objectivism is a philosophy of individualism, but just embracing and following Obejctivism does not and cannot make someone an individualist—it does the very opposite, it makes one a follower, a convert, or "member" of the "church of Objectivism." An individualist does not follow anything.

Only For Individualists

Except to an individualist, Objectivism is no better than any other ideology, probably worse, because Objectivism does not tell someone how to live their life. Objectivism is a philosophy of the individualist, whether he calls it by that name or not, but the attempt to "be an Objectivist," by anyone except an independent individualist is disastrous.

It is because Objectivism is a philosophy, and not an ideology that it cannot and must not be "followed." It is not a, "guide for living," it is the deliniation of principles by which the most fundamental aspects of reality can be understood, particularly, our own natures and the nature of the world in which we live.

Ayn Rand did say, "Formally, I call it [her philosophy] Objectivism, but informally I call it a philosophy for living on earth. [Emphasis mine.] [The Ayn Rand Letter, Vol. III, No. 8 January 14, 1974, "Philosophy: Who Needs It" (She later compiled a book with the same title as this article.)] A, "philosophy for living," is exactly what it is. Not a guidebook or set of instructions, but the principles by which one determines what one must think and do in every aspect of a specific life.

Objectivist epistemology explains what knowledge is and why man's nature makes knowledge both necessary and possible. It provides the principles by which one can determine what is true knowledge, what is not, and how to use one's reason to determine the difference. It does not tell someone what knowledge they should acquire or what choices they should make based on that knowledge in their own lives.

Objectivist ethics explains the basis of values in terms of man's nature (a man's own life is the ultimate value and freedom to reason and act is required because reason is man's means to life) and the nature of the world he lives in (since nothing required for human life is provided by nature, a man must produce everything he needs and desires by his own rationally guided effort) and that the ultimate purpose of an individual's life is his enjoyment of it. But Objectivist ethics does not tell an individual what they will enjoy or how to acquire or achieve it.

No philosophy, including Objectivism can tell any individual how to live one's life, but Objectivism does delineate the principles by which an individual can determine for themselves how to live it, but only if they are an independent individual. Only an individual who does not need someone else to tell them how to earn a living, how to relate to other people, and how to enjoy themselves can use the principles of Objectivism in the pursuit of their life. Only an individual who does not care what anyone else thinks of them, does not require anyone else's support or agreement, and is not interested in influencing and manipulating others can use the principles of Objectivism to succeed and enjoy their life.

Those who need the agreement and reassurance of others before they will act, those who need to know others think as they do before they can be certain they are thinking correctly, those who are willing to bend their will or curb their behavior, or to compromise in any way, to "get along," and feel they are part of the group, will not find anything in Objectivism to help them.

Joining and Accepting is Collectivism

Joining groups, supporting programs, promoting campaigns, being involved in organizations are all forms of collectivism, which turn Objectivism from a philosophy into an ideology

The objective and what is needed in the world are independent individualists who think for themselves and will act on what is right without anyone else's agreement or approval. It is not possible to live in any collectivist, group-think way, consistently with Objectivism. The promotion of Objectivism, as an end in itself, produces a new kind of collectivism which submerges individualism in collectivist muck.

Simply "accepting," or "embracing" Objectivism is contrary to the nature of Objectivism itself. Agreement with any aspect of Objectivism must be based solely on one's own understanding of that aspect. To accept any aspect of Objectivism on any authority, Ayn Rand's, some other Objectivist, or Objectivist literature, is faith and credulity, and contrary to Objectivism itself.

Independent individualist cannot be produced in this world by promoting Objectivism (or any other philosophy or ideology)—the opposite is the result. Promoting Objectivism produces "converts," or "proselytes," or "disciples," not individualists. Independent individualists frequently discover Objectivism, and frequently become better individualists because of that discovery, but no collectivist becomes an individualist by studying or being taught Objectivism.

[NOTE: I am not an Objectivist. My own philosophy is different in many respects from Ayn Rand's, but most of those differences are technical or concern the expansion of some essential principles about which we otherwise totally agree. I also agree with Rand more than most of those who fraudently call themselves Objectivists, including those at ARI and the Atlas Society, for example.]

—(03/27/06)