Gaining knowledge through reason
Moral Purpose of Life
The philosophy of Objectivism is named after objective reality and was summarized by Ayn Rand in one sentence: “My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute”. The focus on individuals was what initially attracted me to the philosophy, which I first saw in The Foutainhead and Anthem. This includes your own happiness as the purpose of your life, selfishness (meaning simply concern for one's own interest), and and the full rights of every individual, as long as they do not interfere with the rights of another person. The philosophy, however, goes deeper than that. Ayn Rand developed the philosophy to rationally work from the ground up. Before gaining this knowledge, one must know how knowledge is obtained. Also, it is important to know that philosophy is not an optional part of life. If you do not use your mind, man's tool of survival, to find the truth, then you you will float around accepting whatever random statements from random philosophies as truth. Such a state of confusion and contradiction makes it hard to make moral decisions and will also make it hard for you to find happiness, and don't we all want that?
Current philosophies of knowledge hold that people either know certain statements are correct through feelings or faith, or that man’s mind is not capable of understanding anything at all. The former view is called mysticism, while the latter is called skepticism. Objectivism holds that man is able to understand the world around him, that man is capable of living without constant confusion, and that the only way to gain the knowledge to do this is through reason. Therefore, Objectivism rejects any belief in the supernatural, which contradicts nature and fails to be proven with objective reasoning based on facts. One cannot alter reality, but he can understand and know how best to respond to the reality surrounding him (Rand. Lexicon 407-410).
Another important aspect of Objectivism is its moral principles. “Man needs morality in order to discover the right way to live on earth” (Rand, Philosophy 79). Whereas socialists say the moral purpose of life is working towards the “common good” of all people, Objectivism says the moral purpose of man’s life is his own happiness. This is achieved several ways. First, produce for your own sake in a field that suits your ability and enjoyment. A person must have goals and strive to achieve these goals, feeling pride in their accomplishment. It also involves not contradicting your code of values. Such a man is in love with life, and not dependent on anyone else to make him happy. When one holds oneself so highly that he can romantically love another person, which other person’s values reflect in him, and their love becomes a celebration of life. This is the sort of life that is man’s purpose and results in happiness. As for specific morals, that which is “good” and “bad” can be determined by finding if it promotes life and happiness versus whether it promotes death and misery. "An organism's life is it's standard of value: that which furthers its life is the good and that which threatens it is the evil (Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness).
"I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man nor ask another man to live for the sake of mine" (Atlas Shrugged). A key building block of Ayn Rand’s philosophy is that of individualism. This deals with concern for one’s own interest, the Objectivist meaning for selfishness, and man's right to his own life. This is the opposite of all altruist, socialist and collectivist ideals: “Only on the basis of individual rights can any good, public or private, be defined and achieved. Only when each man is free to exist for his own sake - neither sacrificing others to himself nor being sacrificed to others- only then is every man free to work for the greatest good he can achieve for himself by his own choice any by his own effort. And the sum total of such individual efforts is the only kind of general, social good possible” (Rand, Lexicon 77). First of all, this means no individual has a duty to any other. He has a right to life because he is an individual person, not because he gains the right by giving his life to others. It also means man must use his ability to produce, and what he produces belongs to him. This is why Objectivism advocates capitalism, which means a free market, as the only political system proper to man.
Ironically, such a “selfish” system (capitalism= free market economy) actually results in abundance, while “selfless” systems result in scarcity. Traditional social theories claim that individuals must be made subservient to the needs of the collective. In a collectivist society, each man must produce, but everyone’s products are given out based on need with no man able to keep what he earns. This results in an abundance of demand and a severe lack of supply because no one wants to work hard when what they receive has nothing to do with how much they worked. When each man is free to produce for his own sake and receive what he earns rather than be forced to give to those who do not earn those benefits, then it follows that man will produce more.