O.P.A.R. – Chapter 8: Virtues (Independence)

“Nothing is given to man on Earth. Everything he needs has to be produced. And here man faces his basic alternative: he can survive in only one of two ways—by the independent work of his own mind or as a parasite fed by the minds of others. The creator originates. The parasite borrows. The creator faces nature alone. The parasite faces nature through an intermediary. The creator’s concern is the conquest of nature. The parasite’s concern is the conquest of men. The creator lives for his work. He needs no other men. His primary goal is within himself. The parasite lives second-hand. He needs others. Others become his prime motive. The basic need of the creator is independence. The reasoning mind … demands total independence in function and in motive. To a creator, all relations with men are secondary. The basic need of the second-hander is to secure his ties with men in order to be fed. He places relations first.”
Leonard Peikoff, “O.P.A.R.”, pages 251-252, citing Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead”.
(What else can I say?)
Image by Nicooografie from Pixabay.

Objectivism sees the virtuous man as one who follows reason at all costs. In this way, its main virtue is rationality, whose corollary is objectivity — adherence to reality through the rational recognition of facts. The rational man moves from the perceptual field of his moment-to-moment experiences to the conceptual field of abstract knowledge through the use of logic. The virtues show him in the form of principles the values he should pursue, and how to apply his rationality to the daily concrete choices he faces. Leonard Peikoff expounds the Objectivism’s main virtues in the same order they appear in John Galt’s speech in Atlas Shrugged; I follow a slightly different order which I consider a bit more logical.

To be rational is to adhere to reality (rationality) and to obtain your means of survival through your own thinking (independence). To think means also to act according to your convictions in a consistent manner (integrity) and to shape the world (productivity) and your own character (pride) according to your rational values. And you do so by never falsifying reality (honesty), nor your assessment of the character and conduct of men (justice).

Independence

Independence is “the acceptance of the responsibility to form one’s own judgments and to live by the work of one’s own mind.” It basically means orienting yourself to reality, not to other men. Others may, no doubt, offer you many values; they can not, however, become your means of survival or your basic frame of reference. You may like to receive the approval of others, but others can not be your source of self-esteem. You must estimate yourself by evaluating your own character, and only then appreciate (or not) the approval of only those whom you approve independently.

In fundamental terms, if you are independent you do not need others; you act among men in exactly the same way as you would away from them. In principle, you are as alone in society as on a desert island, a “self-sufficient ego.”

If you are independent you capture the distinction between the metaphysically given and the man-made. You understand that conformity with the metaphysically given is essential for successful action; the man-made can only be accepted if and when it reaches or flows from such conformity. Otherwise, you must oppose and fight the man-made in order to effect the changes you deem necessary.

Intellectual independence is thus the recognition of the fact that the mind is an attribute of the individual and that no one can think for another. If you are intellectually independent you process perceptual material by the use of your own rational faculty. In dealing with any question, wether of fact or value, end or means, philosophy or science, you follow the method of objectivity.

So you must accept the responsibility of implementing your conclusions in practice, that is, you must build your own path. You must be self-sufficient in the mental world and in the physical world. You must rely on your own creative power to survive. You count on the value of your work being recognized by rational men, not on receiving favors from any person or group. You are existentially independent, according to Objectivist ethics, if you support yourself in a rational field of enterprise, using your own intellect and creativity.

In short, you are independent if you live by the work of your own mind.

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7 thoughts on “O.P.A.R. – Chapter 8: Virtues (Independence)

  1. Just an expression of my own learning, as I am learning from your posts:

    It May not be clear from just the terms that people use, the various terms that philosophers use, that “the object “does not necessarily confer “objectivism”.

    Ayn rand is well known for her objectivism, but I think it should be noted that her philosophy doesn’t really concern the nature of objects, but rather concerns what I call “a philosophy of…”. Or a particular kind of attitude or belief system that one can have.

    To me she appears as someone who uses thought to come up with a way of viewing the world that seems most sensible or logical.

    But she’s not really talking about the nature of objects. She’s talking more about how one who is already thinking might come to some sort of view upon the world and then making some sort of argument about how this particular view might be preferable to another kind of view.

    I point this out just because you have brought up phenomenology.

    Phenomenology is kind of a different order of philosophy then Rand is talking about.

    Phenomenology, and what can loosely be associated with the continental school, has to do with the nature of experience itself.

    Rand is making an argument based upon a given of experience; and she calls this argument “objectivism”.

    Phenomenology Has to do with experience it self: The phenomenon that is the experience or awareness of reality in any particular way.

    So, I just wanted to note that if you hadn’t really understood that yet.

    Thx.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with you with respect to Ayn Rand’s philosophy, and I believe you with respect to phenomenology since I am not entitled to agree or not with so little knowledge about it.

      Rand’s motto is “Objectivism, a philosophy to live on Earth”, so it is clear her practical bent. She places enormous values in metaphysics and epistemology, but she never wanted to dwell on their details for the whole of her life and produce countless academic articles on them. She wanted to find the best way to live, and she had the clarity (which VERY FEW people have, including philosophy teachers) that she needed to understand philosophy for that.

      So, in a sense (no pun intended), her metaphysics is largely common sense. She looks at reality and she accepts it. Then, she goes on to epistemology and works on it with a bit more depth, but her metaphysics is plain and simple.

      I have begun an undergraduate course in philosophy six months ago and a masters in philosophy just now; I want to publish papers and I am glad to discuss any philosophical details about any subject, but I too want to understand philosophy in order to live better. The moment I find myself discussing the sex of the angels, I intend to have the clarity to slap my own face and get down to business again.

      Please, I am not saying that studying the nature of objects or phenomenology is like studying the sex of the angels; I am just giving you my take on Rand’s motivations and mine. I need to understand phenomenology even if just because current philosophy seems to be largely based on it. So I thank you for any help you can give me on that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Excellent! I am in a masters program for counseling. I thought about starting philosophy instead, but For one, have a family and at some point I’m going to have to have a decent income again, and I already have a pretty good basis of understanding and philosophy.

        And, I too am more interested in the practical than the ideal. And so counseling for me is the way to join those two.

        I also want to write papers, and actually amazingly, to my surprise, I did get my paper excepted to a conference up in Toronto. The end of the conference is a dabate between two philosophers who appeared to be at the extremes of the polemic of philosophy. Slavoj Zizek, Who is probably the most well known philosopher in the world, critical theorist, Marxist hey GaleWho Who is probably the most well-known philosopher in the world, critical theorist, Marxist Hegelian, left, and Jordan Peterson, psycho analyst, conservative.

        But my wife has a conference in New Mexico to go to that same week so I won’t be able to attend.

        So very great! I hope our conversation can continue and maybe we can help each other in our academic lives.

        Liked by 1 person

      • “For one, have a family and at some point I’m going to have to have a decent income again”
        Now, I am going to drink myself to death…. I am at the same situation: family and in need of a decent income again. AND I am studying philosophy during all my spare time instead of looking for that “decent income”.
        Goodbye, see you in the afterlife (because even if I don’t kill myself, my wife will after reading your comment).

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well it seems both of us have a heady task before us!

        While I have taken a route with slightly more financial security (slightly more: The world is filled with fucked up people that are going to need some counseling for sure!), in the end, I think you and I better make some pretty damn good theories , do some sort of talk tour, wanted lecturing some Ted talks, and or write some pretty damn good books!! 😆 you better be a damn good philosopher because the philosophy departments are filled to the brim with PhD’s that are trying to get a regular job.

        I think coming up with a killer theory that sells a lot of books and get you a lot of TEDTalks is the way to go. 🤘🏾

        Liked by 1 person

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