Thought Makes Character

We are living in interesting times. Atleast I am. :)

Having learnt that economics and political sciences are based on the axiom that economic and political decision makers are motivated by self-interest the objectivist in me is tickled.

Philosophy as a study

Philosophy is nothing but man’s relationship to existence, how he should live his life. Philosophy as a study has five branches – 2 basic branches, 1 central branch and 2 derivative branches

  1. Metaphysics – Nature of the universe as a whole. What is real? Are there more than one reality?
  2. Epistemology – Theory of knowledge. How do you know you know? :)
  3. Ethics/Morality – Code of values to guide human choices and action. What should be the goal of my life?
  4. Politics – Nature of society and proper role of government. Should government spend on military?
  5. Aesthetics – Philosophy of art. What makes an art work good or bad?

You cannot escape from philosophy. You may do so consciously but your subconscious will pick up from the world around you. All men/women have a view on all these aspects of philosophy. These views shape our life and character.

The collective views of all men and women on these aspects shape human history. And this is why philosophy is important. And that is why I study philosophy J.

Objectivism as a philosophy

Though I have blogged about objectivism long ago, I have not done justice to my favorite philosophy (though I don't have clarity on politics). Plato’s philosophy was almost diagonal to objectivism while Aristotle’s was pretty close in many angles.

I have tried to capture objectivism as a philosophy

1. Metaphysics – Reality: Everything that you can sense exists. The collective of all that exists is reality. Things are what they are. If you broke your leg playing football, however unhappy you are about it, you broke your leg. You can wish, desire believe that your leg is fine. But reality is your leg is broken. Thus human conscious cannot change reality. Nor can any supernatural power. Thus the rejection of Subjectivism and God hypothesis respectively. The natural world operates by cause and effect. One type of cause is human will.

2. Epistemology – Reason: Logic rules. No non-sensory means of knowledge like mysticism, ESP etc. We also reject skepticism (belief that there are no absolutes). Reason has 3 central elements –

  1. Observation: Reason starts with the evidence of senses
  2. Concepts/Abstractions: Our way of organizing sensory data logical
  3. Logic: The method of reason. Nothing can be A and non-A at the same time. There are no contradictions

Every truth is an absolute, but we have to use reason to arrive at it.
Emotions follow from your convictions. Man should enjoy them as much as he can. But they are not means of knowledge.

3. Ethics – Rational Self-Interest: Each man lives by his own mind and for his own sake.From epistemology we learn that ethics can’t be based on whim. So let us reason it out.What gives raise to ethics? Man is a living being who needs to be selfish to keep him alive. You might ask then what the difference between man and animals is. Why does man need ethics while animals don’t? Animals don’t need ethics as they have no choice. They are programmed to support and keep themselves alive. But man can kill, commit suicide, etc. The primary virtue of objectivism is Rationality. Man survives by the use of reason. It’s a basic necessity. All progress that man has made is due to man’s ability to think. Other virtues are

  • Independence: of If you are not thinking independently you are not thinking!
  • Integrity: Acting according to what you think. Otherwise why think? J
  • Productivity: Using your mind to create physical wealth

You don’t sacrifice your life for others and don’t expect others (or coerce, force, kill) to sacrifice themselves for you.
If you practice this ethics there won’t be a dilemma between should I be moral or should I be practical. The only way to be practical is to be moral. The moral way to lead you life is to be practical.

4. Politics – Capitalism: Separation of government and economy. Foundation of the system is individual rights of life, liberty, property, pursuit of happiness. Not the right of job, free education, social security, m etc. What a man earns by his own effort is his. No one can snatch his belongings. Also the government offers him nothing. No subsidies and price controls. Pure market determined prices. The government has 3 functions and only 3 functions

  • Police – To protect life and property from domestic criminals
  • Military – To protect from foreign aggression
  • Judiciary – To resolve disputes among citizens in a civilized rational manner

Government controls will take something from one person (group) and give it to other(s). This is against our ethics.

5. Art – Value Oriented: Art should present world as it could be and as it should be. As it could be as we want to stand with reality. As it should be as art gives man inspiration to fight through life and lead a better. Art what gives you values, elevates and idealizes the human spirit, gives you inspiration is called romanticism. This form of art is timeless.

One of the most debated aspects of objectivism is Self-Interest, often misunderstood as selfishness. Questions I have often faced are

  • Why do you help a guy who just fell from his bike?
  • Doesn’t a man love his wife? Where is the self-Interest here?

And we objectivists have rational answers!

Man lives by his thoughts and ideas. And philosophy is one of his basic ideas.


Vipin said...


Ajitha said...

Good post!! Very thought provoking..
However I have a different view on politics. Though what you say about govt role is ideal in an ideal society.. how do we compensate for the inequalities in the society which are age old? What a man earns by his own effort is his.. very true.. but what about the inheritance issues and such??

Prajeesh Jayaram L said...

As I have indicated in the post I am in great dilemma as far as politics is concerned. Cant decide on that. I have been shifting left and right :)