Monday, March 17, 2008

Introductory Thoughts

As the title of this blog indicates I intend to take a critical look at Objectivism from a friendly point of view. I’m not a Rand basher; I believe Rand offered some important ideas. The core concepts are:

  1. that an objective reality exists (metaphysics),
  2. that we have the right to live our own lives and pursue values for our benefit (egoism),
  3. and that the free market operating within the framework of a limited government that protects our rights is needed to give us the freedom and opportunity to pursue our happiness (politics and economics).

Over time I plan to raise questions and offer suggested answers for some of them. I’ll admit up front that there are some subjects for which I definitely don’t have answers, such as resolving quantum mechanics with Objectivism. I’m hoping someone out there might have some input.

I believe Rand and many of her fans make the same mistake of other “isms.” They latch onto a kernel (or kernels) of truth then claim these kernels represent the whole truth. Ken Wilber, one of my favorite writers, likes to say that no one is so brilliant that they’re 100% wrong. I like to reverse it and say no one is so brilliant that they’re 100% right. In Rand’s case I think she didn’t have the patience or temperament to think through the nuances, implications and potential weaknesses of her positions. I like to describe my position as Objective-BUT-ism, meaning I agree with a certain premise or conclusion BUT with a caveat or a modification.

In essence, I feel reality is much more complicated than Rand acknowledged and therefore her philosophy needs to be more nuanced. The final result of addressing these nuances might end up with conclusions that Rand and her followers would not label “Objectivism.” So be it. I prefer to take the approach Anthony Flew recommends: follow where the evidence leads. It’s more important to me if a given conclusion is true than if it is deemed “Objectivist.” (This also gets us into the debate whether Objectivism is an open or a closed philosophy. Obviously, I’m in the “open” camp.)

Below are some brief examples which I hope to explore as this blog develops.


  • How does quantum mechanics and relativity theory square with Rand’s positions?
  • Intelligent design. Is ID merely the ranting of whim worshipping mystics or do they ask questions worth investigating?
  • How does Objectivism deal with the Big Bang theory?


  • Do ALL acts have to serve one’s self-interest?
  • Are there appropriate acts which don’t necessarily threaten your survival that benefit someone else?
  • How does an ethic of self-interest help us decide between two choices, neither one of which threatens our survival? What criteria do we use? (This was the subject of my paper Is Self-Interest Enough?)
  • Exactly how does parenthood further my survival?


  • Do we observe the rights of others strictly because it’s in our self-interest? Can there be another legitimate reason?
  • Do rights come with responsibilities?
  • Should the government NEVER help people? What about those who simply do not have the means to support themselves thanks to the lottery of birth such as those born with severe defects?
  • Speaking of birth, are ALL abortions OK? Even late in the third trimester? What about partial birth abortions?
  • Is altruism the only or even the primary reason why politics in the U.S. is constantly drifting to the Left?

This gives a taste of the kind of issues this blog will discuss. I don’t claim to have answers to all (or even most) of the questions. My goal is to spark thought and discussion.

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