Monorealism and Objectivism
This article will be of interest mainly to people familiar with Objectivism-based philosophies.
Objectivism is the philosophy of Ayn Rand. As noted elsewhere, the development of MonoRealism owes a lot to Objectivism. Indeed, Rand once said that the only philosophical debt she recognised was to Aristotle: and the only philosophical debt I recognise is to her.
So why did I bother developing MonoRealism? Why not just study Objectivism? That’s just not how my brain works. I had my own perspectives on the matter, and had to work it out from there. Of course, I studied and continue to study Objectivism as well, but my motive was not primarily to understand her philosophy, but to determine the truth in my own way. If anyone thinks this makes me less of an Objectivist – then they don’t understand Objectivism!
Often I would work something out, and find it reflected in Rand’s writings, not necessarily as her main thrust but covered nonetheless. Often, what she had written was so penetrating and correct that there was nothing I could dispute and nothing I could add. But in general, I started from where I was and followed where it lead me; it always (excepting some minor points) led me back to where Rand was. As, indeed, one would expect from philosophies based on reality!
As I worked my way through it, things of which I was not sure initially, where I hadn’t found the argument’s I’d read completely convincing (I could see “escape clauses” or counter-arguments), were resolved to my satisfaction.
The result is MonoRealism, which is fundamentally in agreement with Objectivism, but from different angles and putting it in a different perspective. I hope the difference in perspective and approach will be useful for all students of the philosophy of reason.
I have to say here that I have nothing but praise for Rand’s work. Her brilliance is inspiring, and the conceptual density of her work is awesome. I only wish I could have met her.
That leads me to variants of Objectivism. This discussion wouldn’t be complete without some comments on them.
There are a number of “objectivistic” philosophies. By definition, Objectivism is the philosophy of Ayn Rand, as that is the name she gave to the philosophy she developed. However, there are related philosophies that call themselves Objectivism or Objectivist. “Official” Objectivism is that propounded by Leonard Peikoff (Rand’s heir) and the Ayn Rand Institute. There are various other people and groups that are more or less in agreement with Objectivism (see my Links page to hunt these down), at least with some aspects of it. Since Objectivism was Rand’s development, I tend to agree with those who say the term should be kept to that, so we all know what we’re talking about. That is why I call mine “MonoRealism” despite considering myself an Objectivist as well!
Unfortunately there have been various expulsions from “official” Objectivism. I do not know enough about the issues to comment on the rights and wrongs here. I will say, however, that a lot of the criticisms I’ve read of Leonard Peikoff (for example, by Nathaniel Branden and Robert Bidinotto) don’t fit what I’ve heard from his tapes, read in his books, or judged in person. Not only do I find his analyses usually convincing, and at the least, challenging; but he appears to have a sense of humour and to be tolerant of genuine differences of opinion. The picture often painted of Peikoff (and to some extent the other philosophers associated with the Ayn Rand Institute) of a rationalistic, intolerant yet weak character are wide of the mark.
However, there are indications of an unfortunate level of intolerance within Objectivism. That is its biggest danger. Too often it seems to be carrying out what one could consider a prophetic passage from Rand’s novel The Fountainhead, a comment on the occasion when two of the major protagonists first met:
“Haven’t you any sense of the spectacular, Alvah? Don’t you like fireworks? If you want to know what to expect, just think that the worst wars are religious wars between sects of the same religion or civil wars between brothers of the same race.”
To paraphrase the old prayer: we need the courage to fight that which is wrong, the tolerance to agree to disagree on that which is different but honest and on our side, and the wisdom to see the difference. I have given my thoughts on the need for tolerance of genuine differences elsewhere.
And be that as it may, and given some of the horror stories I have heard about “vicious objectivists” who would turn anyone off: I have to repeat that as a group, Objectivists have been among the most pleasant people I have known.
Other Articles on Objectivism
- Objectivism as a cult: refutation of a skeptic’s claim that Objectivism is a “cult”
- Of Gods and Spaticons: criticism of the Objectivist view that the concept of “god” is necessarily metaphysically impossible
- Tolerance: thoughts on tolerance prompted by experience with intolerant “objectivists” who see every disagreement as evidence of evasion – in their opponents of course.
- Debates on quantum physics: comparison of my objective interpretation of quantum physics with proposals by Dr David Harriman and Dr Lewis Little.
- Links: selected links to and comments on Objectivist and related sites
- Articles published in Objectivist publications:
- Laundricare: a satire on public health “insurance” (Reality magazine)
- Subjectivism, reality and quantum physics (Reality magazine, in slightly modified form)