Saturday, November 26, 2016

Spreading Objectivism for a Free Society

In a Facebook posting, Thomas M Miovas Jr wrote "A brief note to the young Objectivists":

A brief note to the young Objectivists out there, many who tend to be very enthusiastic about spreading Objectivism for a few short years (less than ten), and then they grow wary of not getting many converts or not enough philosophical conversations, then they wane and go back to a more normal just posting what they want to post on FB and elsewhere.

While I acknowledge it can be easy to "get burned out" with tepid replies to a rational philosophical stance, it would actually be bad for your self-esteem to stop posting rational philosophical posts because rationality is man's motivator.

Just keep in mind that this is a long term project trying to convert a society to a certain philosophical view. And, as you already know, few are going to be as enthusiastic about reason as you are. So my recommendation is to keep at it, don't let your spark go out, as Ayn Rand put it.

We are up against a two hundred year change from The Enlightenment, and it is going to take a while to gain that attitude back into the culture.

So, don't get too frustrated that not much seems to happen for many, many years. Stick to your rationality and your rational values and continue to speak out when you can.

I have found that starting out with the thought of converting people will just lead to frustration. The best advocacy on any given issue is to just make your case as clear as you can. In other words, be Objectivist. Don’t preach Objectivism. In most cases, you don’t even have to mention Ayn Rand or Objectivism to advance Objectivism. Remember that Socialist Party presidential candidate Norman Thomas is said to have predicted that, though the American people will never knowingly adopt socialism, they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program until one day America will be a socialist nation without knowing how it happened. Whether or not Thomas actually said that, it turned out to be largely true. How did the Left accomplish it? They relentlessly framed their arguments in terms of socialism's moral foundation, altruism/collectivism.

Our task is harder, as the socialists simply exploited the well-established cultural acceptance of altruism. We need to fuel a moral revolution. But we have American’s implicit sense of individualism, however weakened since the country’s Founding. If you really observe, you’ll find that most people already live largely like rationally selfish individualists, even though they’ve never heard the term, including Christians. By relentlessly promoting liberty on a foundation of rational selfishness, we can emulate the socialists’ strategy, in reverse. Americans may not knowingly adopt Objectivism. But they can still adopt every fundamental principle of Objectivism, leading to a fully free society without most Americans even knowing that it was Ayn Rand who led them there. One thing we have on our side that the socialists never did; history and rationality.

Just be good at applying Objectivist premises—being rational—to real life issues. Teach by demonstration. Show by doing how Objectivist principles work; how they apply to concrete issues. Each time you do, you may be planting a mental seed in someone’s mind. A tepid or non-response to your philosophical argument probably means the person has confronted something he hasn’t encountered before. Don’t worry about immediate results. And it’s more fun that way. One of the best rewards you can receive is to have someone say simply, “I never thought of it that way.”

For example, in answer to the common practice of blaming selfishness for someone’s bad behavior, explain that selfishness is not the problem. The real problem is the person’s choice of values and/or his means of pursuing or advancing his values. A lack of rational selfishness, not selfishness as commonly understood, is the underlying problem. Always tie abstract ideas to reality. E.G.: Don’t let people get away with floating abstractions, such as “the common good.” Make them explain in concrete terms what they mean (that can get interesting!).

Remember, the philosophical battle is a street fight. You likely never going to hear, “Thanks to you, I’m now an Objectivist.”  It’s mind-to-mind combat, and it requires an army, of which each of us must do our part to the extent of our ability and mastery of Objectivism. I recommend reading and rereading Ayn Rand’s essay “What Can One Do?” in Philosophy, Who Needs It? Victory can only come one mind at a time.

Related Reading:

Introduction to Objectivism—The Ayn Rand Institute

John David Lewis, New Intellectual

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