Objectivism and its Logical Structure

I’ve decided to study Objectivism — the philosophy of Ayn Rand — for two reasons. First, the obvious: I agree with most of it. Moreover, I’ve had a disconcerting feeling while reading it: it seemed someone was expressing my own thoughts better than me.

But that’s a sort of understatement.

What happened was that just like most people, I didn’t think deeply about the facts of life. Just like the people Socrates began questioning after his meeting with the Oracle (see “Apology”), I didn’t give the necessary attention to my own convictions about life, I didn’t try to validate them or properly define them. And, just like those people, I couldn’t figure out why I’ve always felt a certain anxiety, a feeling that something is missing, that something is wrong. I couldn’t realize that all I did was absorb my own concepts from the medium around, as if they could come ready-made, as if processed by others.

They cannot.

And, to be honest, it was less reading Socrates than reading Ayn Rand that made me actually realize they cannot. And that’s why she does not express my own thoughts: I’ve never fully formed those thoughts in the first place. It is her merit to make me see, not to express what I already saw. The way she and her disciples present her philosophy is unique.

And that brings me to my second reason for choosing Objectivism above so many other philosophies: Objectivism has a fully-integrated logical structure. This means that every proposition can be reduced to its more basic premisses, eventually down to the level of axioms (self-evident truths). Such a self-consistent framework not only makes it easy to grasp any proposition, but it can also function as a base for evaluating any other philosophic ideas or even entire systems. The reason is that no concept can be a floating abstraction, i.e., it must be grounded on lower-level concepts and, eventually, on the perceptual level. If it can’t be, it should be rejected.

Even having read excellent histories of philosophy before focusing on Objectivism, it has been a singular experience to have an entire philosophy literally hanging on my wall (see figure). It is sheer pleasure to grab a cup of coffee and stand in front of the diagram, while tracking interesting propositions down to their ultimate roots, trying to understand, validate, and judge what I read.

The Logical Structure of Objectivism diagram has been created (and provided for free online) by Atlas Society, one of the two main online resources for learning Objectivism. The Atlas Society can be considered the “lighter” branch of Objectivism, founded by Dr. David Kelley. The other, say, more orthodox branch would be Ayn Rand Institute (ARI), led by her heir and greatest disciple Dr. Leonard Peikoff. Together, both institutions provide a wealth of essential educational resources which, I risk saying, could take a dedicated student to a high level of understanding. I myself am far from such understanding, but I intend to post my progress here.

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