In the video above, Steve Shives claims that Objectivism is an apology for narcissism. In case you don't want to simply watch the video, I will explain what he says.
He says that she presents her philosophy in her novels in this fictional world that she created explicitly for the purpose of showcasing that philosophy. When you remove it from its native fictional home and try to apply it to the real world, it fairly quickly becomes obvious for what it is, which is an apology for narcissism.
He says Rand believed that society reduced down to the individual, and that the individuals participation in society should never be compulsory, it should always be voluntary. He says the problem with that, is that is not how societies work. Societal participation is never truly voluntary. It never can be. What other people do effects you, what you do effects other people. Plus without society, an individual is powerless. And in the absence of society, sacrosanct Randian concepts like private property rights have no meaning whatsoever. He says there is no such thing as a true, absolute Randian individualist. Some people need less help than others to get where they are going, some people need more.
He says in your business, in your education, in your personal life, you did not get there all by yourself. You needed help from someone, somewhere along the line.
How would you answer all that?
Objectivism doesn't apologize for anything. Objectivism is a completely non-apologetic philosophy. Call that pride if you want; Objectivism regards pride as a major virtue, one of the essential corollaries of rationality. Objectivism advocates rational self-interest -- not just self-centeredness, but specifically rational self-interest -- and Objectivism advocates it proudly.
Regarding the relation between Ayn Rand's philosophy and Any Rand's fiction writing, the question gets is backwards. The goal of projecting an ideal man came first, but Ayn Rand soon found that it couldn't be done without considering the underlying philosophical issues and principles. It wasn't until the completion of Atlas Shrugged that Ayn Rand finally had a complete philosophy to show what is morally ideal and why. There were many steps along the way, such as her emphasis on purpose and integrity in her play, Ideal, then independence in The Fountainhead, and finally reason and the role of the mind in man's existence as portrayed in Atlas Shrugged. The term "Objectivism" was first announced publicly by Ayn Rand (to my knowledge) in 1960 at the end of the Preface to her first nonfiction book, For the New Intellectual.
The questioner's description seems to assert (partly implicitly) that self-interest has no chance in the "real" world, not even rational self-interest. Adherents of such a view probably have little understanding of man's actual history and the role of his philosophical presuppositions in shaping his history, from Ancient Greece to the present. There is much to be learned from Ayn Rand's many invaluable insights on the subject of philosophy in history.
Objectivism certainly recognizes the enormous value of living in the right kind of society. In "The Objectivist Ethics" (TOE), Ayn Rand explains (pp. 35-36 in the Signet paperback edition of VOS):
Can man derive any personal benefit from living in a human society? Yes -- if it is a human society. The two great values to be gained from social existence are: knowledge and trade. Man is the only species that can transmit and expand his store of knowledge from generation to generation; the knowledge potentially available to man is greater than any one man could begin to acquire in his own lifespan; every man gains an incalculable benefit from the knowledge discovered by others. The second great benefit is the division of labor: it enables a man to devote his effort to a particular field of work and to trade with others who specialize in other fields. This form of cooperation allows all men who take part in it to achieve a greater knowledge, skill and productive return on their effort than they could achieve if each had to produce everything he needs, on a desert island or on a self-sustaining farm.
The TOE discussion continues with a more specific overview of the kind of politico-economic system that proceeds from Objectivism's ethical defense of reason, purpose, self-esteem, freedom of production and trade, division of labor, separation of state and economics, and individual rights (defining and sanctioning man's freedom of action in a social context). The TOE discussion concludes with an overview of the three major opposing schools of ethical theory -- the mystic, the social, and the subjective -- and how they represent the morality of death. Objectivist morality, in contrast, represents the morality of life, not just for some, but for all who seek to sustain and strengthen their own lives. Objectivism's three cardinal values (reason, purpose, self-esteem) and their corresponding virtues (rationality, productiveness, pride, independence, honesty, integrity, justice) are for everyone, not merely a few "super-human giants."
It's true that Ayn Rand's fiction works focus most centrally on the giants, the towering high-achievers and top producers. She wanted to project man at his self-made best. That can be highly exhilarating to see concretely portrayed in striking works of art. Anyone can strive to achieve whatever degree of greatness he may be capable of, if he is left free to strive for it; he can regard the vision of greatness as inspiration rather than as some kind of threat or reproach. Objectivism is fundamentally the philosophy of freedom, of man's liberation from the chains of bondage imposed on everyone by traditional philosophical doctrines. Objectivism breaks the chains, in total opposition to traditional philosophies that seek to keep the chains firmly in place.
Does anyone seriously believe that widespread prosperity and well-being can be achieved by man without thinking and productive work? Those are the two essentials that Objectivism identifies as necessary for man's life qua man. Does anyone seriously believe that unthinking and unproductive non-working can bring about better conditions of existence for man? Objectivism identifies private ownership of all property as essential for thinking and productive work, including the right of individuals to engage voluntarily in trading some of their property with others for mutual benefit if they so choose -- or to refrain from trading if they do not see a net benefit to themselves in specific trade opportunities. Trading, in turn, means paying for whatever one receives from others in some way that is mutually acceptable to both parties in the trade, thereby acquiring ownership of the values thus received after one has paid for them -- and rejecting any demand to donate values to others as a duty to them, without payment, i.e., self-sacrificially. Rejection of self-sacrifice doesn't mean that one can never benefit from others, since trading and payment do not require self-sacrifice. Rejection of self-sacrifice doesn't preclude modest voluntary charity, either, if it is regarded as completely voluntary and is properly appreciated by the recipients, not as some kind of broad "duty" to "humanity." TOE observes:
The Objectivist ethics proudly advocates and upholds rational selfishness -- which means: the values required for man's survival qua man -- which means: the values required for human survival -- not the values produced by the desires, the emotions, the "aspirations," the feelings, the whims or the needs of irrational brutes, who have never outgrown the primordial practice of human sacrifices, have never discovered an industrial society and can conceive of no self-interest but that of grabbing the loot of the moment.
This leads into TOE's discussion of "the principle of trade," its relation to the virtue of justice, and the value of living in a human society (quoted above).
answered Jul 09 '14 at 23:34
Ideas for Life ♦