Thursday, April 14, 2005

What I'm Hearing - Atlas Shrugged

I recently finished listening to the audio book of Ayn Rand's mammoth
Atlas Shrugged. The book is broken into three volumes (in other words, three month's worth of audible listener credits), with each volume broken down into three parts. Each part was around seven hours, so the total listening experience for all nine parts was well over sixty hours!

This book does have a plot, but it's almost beside the point. It would be better to consider this as a disertation on the philosophy of Objectivism rather than a fictional novel. Objectivism as laid out in this tome is fairly complex, but I'll try to capsulize it here and then give my thoughts on the matter. Basically, the philosophy begins with two tenets - existence exists, and man is a rational being.

The philosophy begins with existence, it does not make any attempt to explain how/why the existence came to be. In other words, there is no presupposition of a creator or a higher power. More on that in a minute.

The second key is that man is a rational being, and the rest of the philosophy grows from this fact. Man, being rational, has a moral duty to analyze and attempt to understand his surroundings (existence). According to objectivism, the rational being's highest objective is personal achievement. In fact, the catch phrase of objectivistm as repeated many times in the book is "I swear by my life and my love for it that I will never live for the sake of another or ask another to live for mine."

Personally I find a lot to like in this philosophy, but it certainly is not without its flaws. I very much like the idea of man analyzing existence for himself and drawing his own conclusions. Man's greatest gift is his ability to think critically and to understand - a gift which in my humble opinion is shamefully underutilized by most (myself included).

There are a couple of areas that I see as weaknesses in objectivism. Rather than "existence", I tend to think of the world around me as "creation". The term creation, in turn, presupposes a creator of some type. For all it's emphasis on rationality, objectivism makes no rational attempt to explain how "existence" came about.

A far greater shortcoming, in my opinion, is the philosophy's exclusive reliance on self-fulfillment. Objectivism promotes the individual's promotion of self to the exclusion of others. Decision making is therefore bases only on what is best for the individual - with no accounting for the benefit (or consequences) to family, social groups or society. I think that the best decisions can be reached only when all of the benefits and consequences for all stakeholders are considered.

1 comment:

'Thought & Humor' said...

Thought I would stop in to say, "Hi"!!!


'Thought & Humor'
Harvard Humor Club