Question: What is Objectivism?
"My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute."
— Ayn Rand, Appendix to Atlas Shrugged
is the philosophy of rational individualism founded by Ayn Rand
(1905-1982). In novels such as The Fountainhead
and Atlas Shrugged
, Rand dramatized her ideal man, the producer who lives by his own effort and does not give or receive the undeserved, who honors achievement and rejects envy. Rand laid out the details of her world-view in nonfiction books such as The Virtue of Selfishness
and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal
holds that there is no greater moral goal than achieving happiness.
holds that there is no greater moral goal than achieving happiness. But one cannot achieve happiness by wish or whim. Fundamentally, it requires rational respect for the facts of reality, including the facts about our human nature and needs. Happiness requires that one live by objective principles, including moral integrity and respect for the rights of others. Politically, Objectivists advocate laissez-faire capitalism. Under capitalism, a strictly limited government protects each person's rights to life, liberty, and property and forbids that anyone initiate force against anyone else. The heroes of Objectivism
are achievers who build businesses, invent technologies, and create art and ideas, depending on their own talents and on trade with other independent people to reach their goals.
is optimistic, holding that the universe is open to human achievement and happiness and that each person has within him the ability to live a rich, fulfilling, independent life. This idealistic message suffuses Rand's novels, which continue to sell by the hundreds of thousands every year to people attracted to their inspirational storylines and distinctive ideas.
The answers to the questions in the Q & A section of this website provide a summary of the core ideas of Objectivism
and the relationship between those ideas within a philosophical system. So we must first consider what philosophy is, and why it must be systematic.
William R Thomas has written on topics in politics, ethics, and epistemology, and has spoken internationally on the theory of individual rights and Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. His works include Radical for Capitalism, and, as editor, The Literary Art of Ayn Rand. He is the director of programs for The Atlas Society. Thomas is currently a lecturer in the Department of Economics of the University at Albany.