The Principal Failure of Objectivism

The principal failure of Objectivism, which leads to rather glaring inconsistencies in its wielders' systems of views is the fundamental inability to distinguish between the natural and the social. Genealogically, it is obviously a result of following Aristotle's doctrine, which – in some of its views – takes inspiration from Plato.

The same Plato who rejected the division between the nature and custom first introduced by the Sophists.

Plato's caricature on this division was inherited by Aristotle and through him and some later authors – by Ayn Rand. And what baffles me is the rather uncritical adoption of essentialism and the idea of objective truth in the sphere of the social.

Of course, physics and biology that predicate our existence are totally subject to causality, and the systems which we observe are usually simple enough for us to wrap our heads around it. We can say that the law of gravity is an observation that reflects the objective truth about the matter, because no matter what you think about it, it works. We can say that heterosexuality is a biological norm, because it is the only way for the sexed species to reproduce (and even if not every being in the population is heterosexual, it does not matter on the evolutionary level).

However, there is no objective truth when it comes to social life. Here we cannot rely on the causation so easily because the intricate structure of the human mind and consciousness. If in physics we can have a picture of the causal links within the system, in psychology it is totally impossible, because:

  • a part of our thinking is done without using our self-awareness (see intuition, insight, educated guesses, etc.);
  • every human being remembers an immense amount of individual-specific information (with the as the upper limit of possible links between these bits);
  • all situations except the most simplistic ones are linked within the mesh of the individual's value system.

So, even if we have an experiment when most, or even 100%, of participants reproduce the expected action, we cannot be sure that they are reproducing it because of the same causal reasons.

The same goes for values – even if we take the individual's survival as the ultimate one, there are many ways to achieve that. If we take happiness as a value – we end up with our inability to quantify happiness and thus choose the ‘right’ option among the many ones available to us.

So, the fallacy the Objectivists fall for is taking one of the ways of living a life, one value structure, as the ‘objective’ standard and trying to rationalise away all the others as ‘irrational’.

It is not to say that Objectivism is a bad philosophy, though. I think it is as good a philosophy as many people it helps to live a fulfilling life. Yet, in its quest for integrity and cognitive security, it ironically strides away from the rationalist path it proclaims.

And, of course, whim-worship the Objectivist criticise is still a thing, and hardly one of the positive ones.