Frequently Asked Questions about Objectivism

1.  What are the virtues of Objectivism?

There are seven, of which rationality (acceptance that reason is the only source of knowledge) is the most fundamental; all other virtues are derived from its consistent application.  The other virtures are honesty (making sure to never evade the facts of reality), integrity (never sacrificing your principles to the whims of others), independence (living by the dictates of one's own best judgement), justice (never seeking or granting the unearned), productivity (rationality applied to action), and pride (dedication to the achievement of one's moral perfection).

2.  Why atheism?  Can't you be an Objectivist and a theist?

The existence of god would imply that there exists a being capable of suspending the laws of nature by sheer act of will.  This contradicts two important premises of Objectivism:  the primacy of existence and the Law of Identity.

The primacy of existence holds that existence exists independently of anyone's desires, whims or wishes.  Existence is not dependent on nor controlled by any sort of conscious entity, including any "supernatural consciounsness," such as any form of deity, pixie, or leprechaun.

The Law of Identity states that things are what they are, that A cannot be A and non-A at the same time.  As a corallary, the Law of Identity, when applied to the actions of an entity, is the basis of the Law of Causality. The existence of a god would mean there exists a being who is capable of suspending the Law of Identity.  After all, that's what miracles are--temporary suspensions of the Law of Causality, and therefore, more fundamentally, the Law of Identity.

Additionally, Objectivists are atheists for epistemological reasons.   We do not believe in god because we recognize no evidence for his/her/its existence. As a philosophy of reason, Objectivism only considers valid those things that can be traced back to the facts of reality.  The concept "god" does not refer to any known facts of reality, and is therefore considered arbitrary.

3.  Does Objectivism encourage emotional repression?

Objectivism does state that emotions are not tools of cognition, but it does not encourage emotional repression.  Humans are not Vulcans.  We can not properly live life without feelings.  In fact, one's emotional responses to a context are extremely important.  Emotions are lightning quick assessments carried out by the subconscious, and these assessments are based on the premises that the subconscious has integrated.  These assessments can provide tremendously useful data with regard to one's context.

Additionally, Objectivists consider their positive emotional states rewards for their moral actions.  Happiness, for example, is the proper end of an individual's existence.  One cannot be emotionally repressed and properly achieve this end.

What is important to remember is that when one experiences a certain emotion, and it is an unexpected or troubling reaction, one simply cannot ignore it and continue on in spite of it.  Objectivism holds that the mind and body should be in sync with one another--that the mind-body dichotomy is a false dichotomy.   Any split between the two indicates that the subconscious has integrated premises that are conflicting with consciously held premises.  It is one's responsibility to discover why the mind and emotions are in conflict, and resolve it.   To do otherwise would be repression, and is in conflict with the tenets of Objectivism.

4.  What would happen to the poor in an Objectivist society?

Since Objectivism holds that laissez-faire capitalism is the only moral political system, there would be no welfare or government backed unemployment benefits, nor would there be any food stamps, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, etc. The poor would have to rely on charity, that is, on the genuine benevolence of those who wish to donate their time, money, and possessions to the poor.

5.  What's Objectivism's take on "the living wage?"

Laissez-faire capitalism rests on the principle of employment at will.  Individuals contract, implicitally, if not explicitly, over job expectations and wages.  If a worker grows dissatisfied with his wage, he is free to renegotiate for higher wages.  He is even free to strike, if he deems it necessary.  What he does not have is a right to a wage that his employer is not willing to pay him.  And, should he strike, he should be prepared to be replaced.  After all, if an employee strikes, he has reneged on his promise to perform his job at the agreed upon wage.  Contrary to modern views of employee rights, an employee does not own his job.  Rather, his job exists at the whim of his employer.

6.  Does this mean an employer can fire people for no reason?

Yes.  Legally, an employer should be able to be as arbitrary as he wants with regard to the hiring and firing of his employees, so long as the employer abides by the terms of any contract between him and his employees.

7.  Objectivism has a lot to say about people like Howard Roark and John Galt, but what is the moral status of the average, working-class individual accoridng to Objectivism?

As long as a person's choice of occupation is rational (the person chooses to be, say, a truck driver, and not a hit-man), and the person performs to the best of his abilities, he is behaving perfectly morally, and he should not be put down merely because his job is blue-collar.  While he may not garner the universal respect and admiration of a Roark, the person deserves respect and praise in proportion to his rationality, productivity, and other virtues.

8.  What's the meaning of life?

This is, as it stands, a meaningless question.  The implication is that some grand designer started existence with some sort of great plan in mind.  Since there is no such designer, the question as applied to the totality of mankind has no meaning.  A more meaningful question would have been, "What is the end of an individual's life?"  Simply put, an individual's purpose is his own rational happiness.

9.  If, according to Objectivism, we are all to lead lives of reason and logic, doesn't that mean that everyone in an Objectivist society will be the same?  Won't logic lead everyone to lead exactly the same lifestyle?

What this question really boils down to is:  in an Objectivist society, won't all people value all things equally?  No, they won't.  Reason and logic will lead one to specific principles, like rationality and productivity, but one has to remember that principles are concepts of moral action applied in a context.

In the case of values, the context is you.  What makes you tick?  What do you like to do?  Once you've established that an activity is rational, e.g., that it's creative, not destructive, you need to consider your own emotional reaction to that activity.  According to Objectivism, certain values are optional.  Just because it can be rationally demonstrated that something is moral does not mean that you are immoral in not valuing it.  For example, Rand enjoyed stamp collecting.  There are many people who find that to be the most boring pasttime conceivable.  Neither Rand nor those who do not enjoy stamp collecting are behaving immorally because of their stance on the hobby.  They are merely identifying the effect on their happiness that it has.  Reason establishes the principle, but your feelings can be your guide with regards to specifics within the principle.

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