Sunday, February 15, 2009

Some Benefits of Objectivism for Me

I have decided to occasionally post on how the philosophy of Objectivism by Ayn Rand has improved my life and provided a certain peace of mind. This is not meant to be an in-depth analysis of philosophic principles, but only a brief mention of how some of them have helped me personally.

Perhaps the biggest thing it did was give me a complete, wholly integrated view of existence and my place in it as a human being. Everyone needs an overall view of reality. For most people, including me, this was provided by religion. But for me, religion left too many things that didn't make sense.

One of these was the idea of the unknowable, that which cannot be known. Now I had been raised Catholic and attended a catholic school. Some of the teachings were that god, heaven, hell and things in between were unknowable to us in this world. These and other teachings had to be accepted on faith. We would learn or understand them only when we left this world.

Objectivism taught me that while there is much in the universe that is unknown, there is nothing that is unknowable. The idea that all of existence is knowable and man's mind is capable of understanding any part of it, appealed to me. It made sense. It offered me a world view that was a sensible whole, a frame of reference against which I could clearly see my relationship to it.

Religion offered a world view that had too many unknowables. It was a frame of reference against which I could not clearly know my place in it. How can a person identify relationships between himself and things that are unknowable, i.e. can't be identified? Obviously one can't. To me its like a house with holes in it, but holes that cannot be patched, but which one can understand the why of this only when one steps out of the house and no longer needs it. This I rejected after I learned of Objectivism.

For me, there is a peace of mind that comes with knowing my place in reality rather than having to believe in one on faith. In fact this will be the subject of my next post: the difference between knowing something to be true and believing something on faith and why the former is much more satisfying.

So, benefit #1: no more unknowables.

4 comments:

Burgess Laughlin said...

Mike, thank you for starting this series. I look forward to later installments in this hierarchical series.

I am especially glad you brought up the principle that we live in a knowable universe, which is a principle that says something about the world in which we live and about us--that we have what it takes to get on in life.

I think of knowability this way: The universe is knowable on principle. That does not mean either that I do know everything or that I will know everything.

For example, as a long-term student of history, I know that I will probably never know some things--such as the exact nature of particular events in the distant past. I cannot know them for the simple reason that insufficient evidence exists. I do not draw the conclusion--an illogical one--that therefore I need a god to tell me what morality I should follow.

As another example, it might be true that one can never know the "ultimate constituents" of things. (See Ayn Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, pp. 290-295.) What matters, so to speak, is that I am able to know reality as my means of defining values and taking actions to acquire them. I was reminded of this view recently in studying Ayn Rand's "The Objectivist Ethics," in The Virtue of Selfishness, for Study Groups for Objectivists.

Mike N said...

Burgess:
"The universe is knowable on principle."

Exactly. No one person will ever be able to know everything. But that does not mean part of the universe is unknowable to him. It only means it is unknown to him.

You are right about my trying to make this a hierachical series but I don't know how successful at that I'll wind up being. But even trying is helping me see more clearly my own thinking.

John Drake said...

Mike, your post reminded me of my childhood. I too went to church (United Church of Christ) and found the unknowable to be a major problem. In high school, I flipped flopped between atheism and deep beliefs. By college, it looked like the latter was going to dominate my future. I even seriously consider going to seminary. Lucky for me, I happened to read a little American classic called Atlas Shrugged. It was then that I realized my desire to go to seminary was in part because I was not satisfied with the unknown. I wanted...needed to understand the world. Religion was the problem, not the solution. Needless to say, the rest is history.

Mike N said...

John:
While I never considered the clergy, I sure can relate to the rest of your comment.