Andrew (perspectivism) wrote,

Why I Am Not An Objectivist, Part 1

In 1991, something freaked me out. I was an Objectivist who knew that a lot of very smart people had "left the fold" without a trace.

I sometimes knew where they had gone, but never really why they had gone — and that was freaky because I feared that they were losing their minds in subtle ways as they aged.

These ex-O's had issued some statements I thought vague and touchy-feely and non-rigorous (like Therapist, Beggars in Spain, and "The Benefits and Hazards..."), but nothing directly and sweepingly philosophical. I realized there were no good published critiques of Objectivism as a whole, because I'd looked hard for any critiques I could respect. An enthusiastic philosoraptor, I wanted to find intellectually original opposition, but it existed only on narrow topics (like "On the Randian Argument" or "An Open Letter to Ayn Rand") where I agreed more work should be done.

At its heart, Objectivism the philosophy was so clear, so true, to me back then, that I could not imagine abandoning it without knowing exactly why to nine decimal places. Yet, I knew of many smart people who had done just that after feeling that way. And that was an unsettling great mystery for me: How were smart people changing their minds without recording how and why? For themselves, and for the rest of us.

I've gone from O to neo-O to post-O to ... one of those mysteries to be explained!

Hi. Why haven't I left a good fossil record?!

The shortest possible answer: I didn't change my mind. I changed my focus. That in turn changed my mind about what kind of thing a philosophy is and should be.

Rand's most seductive errors were neither the elephants she swallowed in "The Objectivist Ethics" nor her infamous vitriol toward competing products. Rather, her best puffery went toward selling One Size Fits All philosophy as such. "Philosophy: Who Needs It?" (full text!) is the hardest essay for most recovering O'ists to reject.

Millions never get caught by it, thousands unreflectively get past it, and only some few can tell its tale inside and out. For the most part, we're not talking. Once you've consciously rejected philosophy-as-universal, you just don't have much to say to everyone.

Questions for next time: What facts of reality give rise to the concept of 'philosophy'? What does a philosophy do, really? Who needs one, and when?
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