Some terms used in the MonoRealism site may be ambiguous or have generated a number of queries. Identified “problem” words are defined here in alphabetical order.
Those interested in more wide-ranging definitions might wish to consult the Glossary of Objectivist Definitions (ed. AT Kunze & JF Moroney, 1999).
He, She, Man, Woman
General philosophy applies to any rational being, whatever their sex, race, or even species (should other rational creatures be discovered or created). In most of the philosophy described here, the terms “he”, “him”, “his” etc are used in the genderless sense to refer to either sex, or for that matter sexless beings. Where the feminine gender is used, it also applies to any gender. The only exception is when the relationships between the sexes are discussed: as this is the only area where one’s sex is actually philosophically significant. Sometimes I write “he or she” just to remind readers that I mean both, but such usages are in fact redundant for the reasons stated.
Note that I reject the Feminist analysis of language which ascribes gender-bias and sexism to the use of so-called “masculine” terms.Where I agree with the Feminists is that gender-neutral terms should be used: and in English, “masculine” terms perform the double role of gender-nonspecific terms. Hence that is how they are used here. I discuss “sexist language” in more detail elsewhere, including the acceptability of the “plural” forms such as “their” as singular pronouns.
Objectivism is the philosophy developed by Ayn Rand. Some people subscribe to similar or derived philosophies and also call their philosophies “Objectivism”. This has caused a fair bit of basically unnecessary angst, with some people saying Objectivism must be limited to “the philosophy of Ayn Rand” and others saying that it should also refer to further “developments” of her philosophy.
I think that it is best to restrict the term “Objectivism” to Rand’s philosophy: hence I called my philosophy “MonoRealism” thought it is basically the same. However, the fact remains that other people do call their philosophy “Objectivism”. So to avoid confusion, where it is ambiguous I refer to Rand’s philosophy (as written by her and the Ayn Rand Institute) as “Official Objectivism”, and to variants as “Alternative Objectivism”. Where they agree, I generally just call it “Objectivism”. MonoRealism and Objectivism are discussed further elsewhere.
Rational & Rationality
I use “rational” in two senses:
- When referring to a voluntary quality, as in the virtue of rationality, it means “the recognition and acceptance of reason as one’s only source of knowledge, judge of values and guide to action” (as defined by Ayn Rand). This subsumes the implications/aspects of such rationality. e.g. justice and honesty.
- When speaking about an unchosen human characteristic, such as when defining Man as a “rational animal”, it is intended in the sense of “having the power of reason”. The actual use of that power to be rational in sense (1) is not implied: while having the power of reason is an essential part of being human, its use to achieve the virtue of rationality is entirely volitional.
As noted by Ayn Rand, the exact meaning of selfishness is “concern with one’s own interests.” As such, it is a virtue, not a vice. The turning of selfishness into a vice – and therefore of morality into an impossibility – by the proponents of altruism is based on one simple false dichotomy: that the choice open to man is either the sacrifice of others to self (“selfishness”) or the sacrifice of self to others (“altruism”). In fact, true selfishness, true concern with one’s own interests, requires rationality: which implies justice, honesty, integrity and productiveness. The rational person neither sacrifices his own interests to those of other people, nor other people’s interests to his own: but lives as a trader, a person who trades value for value, enriching everyone involved. The selfish person does not seek his life or values by exploiting other people, by threatening them with pain or destruction, or by sacrificing his own work and values to those who do not deserve them: but by offering them values to enhance their lives and happiness, in return for values to enhance his own.
Duality is central to MonoRealism but is not to be confused with “Cartesian Dualism” which imagines an inherent gulf between mind and matter. Rather, it is the simple recognition that there are two Absolutes that any human mind must know and use: that its own consciousness exists, and an external reality exists. The nature of both is, a priori, “up for grabs” and can only be learned from that Duality: and what we learn, is that our consciousness is a function of our brain and subject to external reality. That is, our consciousness derives from reality, not vice versa. At its root, Duality reflects the same principles as the Objectivist concept of objectivity as the recognition and consequences of the fact that we are conscious and what we are conscious of, is an independent reality.