No Room For God?
Objectivism: the brainchild of famed philosopher and playwright, Ayn Rand. To understand my thoughts on Objectivism, one must understand the philosophy. Objectivism in its most basic form can be broken down into four concepts: reality, reason, self-interest and capitalism.
Rand’s concept of reality is cut and dry. She simply states, “Wishing won’t make it so.” Rand believes that human beings must discover the reality of nature in order to lead a successful life. Instead of trying to ignore the facts or plead with whoever is up there, she advises us to accept that reality just exists and to leave it at that. Rationality, she explains, is the only factor people should use in making decisions. I find this incredibly limiting because while some decisions can be made based on pure rationality, we often need to draw upon concepts that lie outside of it, for example, human empathy, to make the right choice.
Next, there is Rand’s concept of reason. The most universally understood way to portray this concept is through a classic proverb: “You can have your cake, and eat it too.” To this Rand would say, “Absolutely not!” She would argue that in the most literal sense, one simply cannot have a cake and expect to be able to eat it too. You either have the cake, maybe in your fridge, or you eat your cake, and off into your digestive system it goes. Rand’s definition of reason, in her own words, “is to reject emotions, faith or any form of authoritarianism as guides in life.” Rand clearly believes that the power of positive thinking is a hoax. Just because you think you can have your cake and eat it too doesn’t mean that it’s possible. She explains that in order to make progress in life, one must accept all events in a logical manner, good or bad.
Self-interest is the most widely disputed piece of Rand’s philosophy. Rand very much endorsed being selfish. While she did not mean that we should exploit others for our own personal gain, Rand insists that one’s highest moral purpose should be the pursuit of one’s own happiness. This isn’t really what our society defines as selfishness though; we would probably define this as independence. What might be more difficult to swallow is that she explains that altruism is glorified and idealized, and has no real value. Rand does not believe that one should concern oneself with others’ happiness.
Finally, there is capitalism. Rand idealizes laissez-faire capitalism. This means that she believes in “a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.” Rand doesn’t approve of a mixed economy, like ours today, in which the government is involved.
To sum up Objectivism as a whole, “If man is to live on earth, it is right for him to use his mind, it is right to act on his own free judgment, it is right to work for his values and to keep the product of his work. If life on earth is his purpose, he has a right to live as a rational being: nature forbids him the irrational.(Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged)” While this philosophy of egoism and keeping the products of one’s work may be appealing to those able to support themselves, this republican-esque way of thinking does not account for the disabled or the underprivileged human beings in our population who may not be able to support themselves. This opens a whole new line of questioning, and leaves me wondering: does Rand believe in survival of the fittest? Does she believe that taking away from someone’s ability to reach their highest potential level of happiness is the root of evil in society?
Rand is admirably sure of her philosophy, for there is no room for doubt in a life rooted in fact. In my view, Objectivism may be one of the most comforting philosophies I’ve ever encountered. I tend to take comfort in fact and logic, so living my life with such a set, narrow path seems like it could have the potential to be incredibly fulfilling and advantageous. Rand’s concepts are undoubtedly core truths of human existence. But, if Objectivism was a cake batter, having mixed in all of the ingredients (reality, reason, self-interest, and capitalism), the mixing bowl would be absolutely filled to the brim, leaving no room for one of the most crucial ingredients for me: Judaism. Now, I am not an incredibly religious person, but it disturbs me that there is no G-d in Rand’s world of concrete reality. I believe that there has to be someone up there.
It is more difficult, in my opinion, to believe in something that you can’t hold in your hand than it is to live a life strictly governed by accepting the world around you at face value. It goes against human nature, however, not to long, wish, or hope. So maybe it is my human nature at work, but I cannot accept a life of only reason and reality. These concepts are present in my life, but at this moment in time I simply will not accept a life that is void of some kind of higher purpose. I find comfort in Objectivism, and hope that one day I can reach a level of understanding about the world around me to be able to declare this philosophy right or wrong. At least for now though, I’m pretty happy in the grey area.
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.
How to cite this page
Franks, Maya. "No Room For God?." 13 November 2015. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on July 15, 2020) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/no-room-for-god>.