Ayn Rand pulls out the self-righteous irritation from the collectivists. While they pretend to be against capitalism and free market individualism they enjoy the gratification of self that this society provides. Cheap gas and mobile phones.The truth is always in the middle isn’t it? Giving up the self for the collective isn’t freedom and unrestricted selfishness leads to oppression. How can both views be true?
Rand’s book on social philosophy “The Virtue of Selfishness” prompted one journalists to ask her why she chose such a title and she replied “for the same reason that you reject it.”
As a writer and intellectual she knew how to turn heads – get attention – isn’t a title supposed to do that?
But as a reader my job is to read and comprehend beyond titles. Digest meaning. Rand was an atheist. I’m not an atheist, I’m agnostic – influenced most by Buddhist thought – but I also understand some points from the field of philosophy in regard to metaphysics called dualism versus monism.
There are two realities ultimately for a human, this material reality and then one beyond, the spiritual reality so to speak. That’s dualism but the different shades of monism say there’s only one reality. From within this monistic division of metaphysical thought there are two: The materialists and the idealists – there is only matter or there are only ideas.
I’d say that I’m the latter, a monistic idealist. One philosopher from history that discussed this line of inquiry was Berkeley. I contemporary physicist working in the field of biology – theory of evolutionary biology – is Dr. Amit Goswami. His theory is that we have evolved by way of desire: how we want to become. Google for yourself if curious.
The point is I don’t think Ayn thought entirely the way I do but I can recognize the strength of her argument in the field she spoke to and that was political philosophy. Individualist versus collectivist philosophy.
If giving to charity were required is it still charity? What would it mean to require giving? So the dichotomy rand would have us looking at his control from the collective versus control from the self. Who’s in charge? Me or us?
An essay of hers I would recommend is the creator versus the parasite. It’s included in the book the new intellectual. It makes the creator in all of us feel powerful and important. The parasites are those who would create nothing on their own and reap reward anyway. We have to understand the kind of spectrum this would lay out. She said the conservatives are the worst in this regard because they are doing nothing to bolster the power of the individual and seemingly the job should belong to them.
The Liberals only want a monolithic collectivist utopia so their thought is clearly not suited for individualist philosophy.
And what would the Buddha say? Salvation is found in the self. He said don’t believe anything I tell you: find out for yourself.
When folks try to argue against Rand’s self-centered Objectivism with the philosophy of the Buddha’s selflessness they have to understand Rand was talking political philosophy not metaphysics. She was speaking to this material world only and I think that’s why the Buddha had the same attitude about the self. The self is all we have in this world and everything comes through it.