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Ayn Rand: Her Life and Philosophy

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Ayn Rand was a novelist and philosopher who influenced many people's way of thinking in very profound ways. She was born in Russia in 1905 and came to America at the age of twenty-one where she published her first novel, We The Living, in 1936. The Fountainhead was published in 1943 and brought Ayn Rand international fame. Although she considered herself primarily a fiction writer, she realized that in order to create heroic fictional characters, she had to identify the philosophic principles which make such individuals possible. Later, she also expressed her philosophy in nonfiction form. Ayn Rand named her philosophy "Objectivism" and described it as a philosophy for living on earth. Objectivism is an integrated system of thought that defines the abstract principles by which a man must think and act if he is to live the life proper to man. Ayn Rand was once asked if she could present the essence of Objectivism while standing on one foot. Her answer was: Metaphysics: Objective Reality Epistemology: Reason Ethics: Self-interest Politics: Capitalism She then translated those terms into familiar language: "Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed." "You can't eat your cake and have it, too." "Man is an end in himself." "Give me liberty or give me death." According to Ayn Rand, reality, the external world, exists independent of man's consciousness, independent of anybody's knowledge, beliefs, feelings, desires or fears. This means that A is A, that facts are facts, that things are what they are Ð'-- and that the task of man's consciousness is to perceive reality, not to create or invent it. Thus Objectivism rejects any belief in the supernatural Ð'-- and any claim that individuals or groups create their own reality. The theory of Objectivism also tells us that man's reason is fully competent to know the facts of reality. Reason, the conceptual faculty, is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses. Reason is man's only means of acquiring knowledge. Thus Objectivism rejects mysticism (any acceptance of faith or feeling as a means of knowledge), and it rejects skepticism (the claim that certainty or knowledge is impossible). According to the theory of Objectivism, man is a rational being. Reason, as man's only means of knowledge, is his basic means of survival. But the exercise of reason depends on each individual's choice. According to Ayn Rand, "That which you call your soul or spirit is your consciousness, and that which you call Ð''free will' is your mind's freedom to think or not, the only will you have, your only freedom. This is the choice that controls all the choices you make and determines your life and character." Thus Objectivism rejects any form of determinism, the belief that man is a victim of forces beyond his control (such as God, fate, upbringing, genes, or economic conditions). Rationality is man's basic virtue, and his three fundamental values are: reason, purpose, self-esteem. Man Ð'-- every man Ð'-- is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others; he must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself; he must work for his rational self-interest, with the achievement of his own happiness as the highest moral



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