Introduction | Key Tenets of Objectivism | Types of Objectivism
Objectivism is the view that there is a reality, or realm of objects and facts, which exists wholly independent of the mind. Thus, Objectivism holds that there is only one correct description of reality, whether we have any knowledge of it or not. Therefore, existence takes primacy over consciousness, in that existence exists independently of consciousness, and the essential function of consciousness is the grasp of existence, and the underlying objective reality can be perceived in different ways.
In broader terms, objectivity is the strict adherence to truth-conducive methods in one's thinking, particularly taking into account all available information, and avoiding any form of prejudice, bias or wishful thinking. The term "objective" can be applied to methods used in this process, or results produced by it.
An objective fact means a truth that remains true always and everywhere, independently of human thought or feelings (e.g. it is true always and everywhere that '2 and 2 make 4'). A subjective fact, on the other hand, is a truth that is only true in certain times or places, or for certain people (e.g. 'That painting is good' may be true for someone who likes it, but it is not necessarily true that it is a good painting pure and simple, and would remain so always, no matter what people thought of it).
It is a metaphysical and ontological doctrine in that it deals with the existence of things rather than the truth or falsity of things (objects in themselves cannot be said to be "true" or "false", although references or statements about objects may be). It is a matter of dispute among philosophers to what degree objectivity can be applied to Aesthetics, Ethics and Epistemology.
Plato's Realism, for example, is a form of metaphysical objectivism, holding that Ideas or Forms exist objectively and independently. Berkeley's Idealism, on the other hand, could be called Subjectivism in that it holds that things only exist to the extent that they are perceived.
Objectivism as it is known today that finds its origins in the early 19th Century epistemological and metaphysical work of Gottlob Frege. The doctrine is, however, most closely identified with the 20th Century philosopher Ayn Rand (1905 - 1982) and her overarching (and sometimes controversial) concept of Objectivism, expressed through her novels as well as non-fiction works, encompasses positions on Metaphysics, Epistemology, Ethics, Politics and Epistemology. Rand descibes her formulation of Objectivism as a "philosophy for living", and it has spawned multiple organizations that promote the philosophy, as well as academic journals, conferences, societies, online forums, websites, books and lectures. It has also generated much criticism, partly due to Rand's forcful denunciations of other philosophers and doctrines, partly due to its unplalatable political overtones, and partly due to its "popular" and somewhat unrigorous approach.
Rand's objectivist metaphysics rests on three key tenets, which are held to be axiomatic (self-evident and undeniable):
- The Primacy of Existence (that reality exists independently of human consciousness).
- The Law of Identity (that anything that exists has a fixed, specific and finite nature or identity), and its corollary the Law of Causality (that things act in accordance with their nature).
- The Axiom of Consciousness (that consciousness is irreducible and cannot be analyzed in terms of other concepts).
- Metaphysical Objectivism is the view (as described above) that there is a reality, or realm of objects and facts, which exists wholly independent of the mind.
- Ethical Objectivism (or Moral Objectivism) holds that the truth or falsity of moral judgments does not depend upon the beliefs or feelings of any person or group of persons, and that they describe (or fail to describe) a mind-independent reality. Therefore, certain acts are objectively right or wrong, independent of human opinion. A related, but slightly stronger, position is that of Moral Absolutism, and the opposite position is that of Moral Subjectivism or Moral Relativism.
- Neo-Objectivism covers a large family of philosophical viewpoints and cultural values derived from, but not necessarily in agreement with, the Objectivist philosophies of Ayn Rand.