Could someone briefly explain Ayn Rand's philosophy; objectivism?

I've read "Atlas Shrugged" and would like to attempt "The Fountainhead" soon, but before I do I would like a better understanding of what Objectivism is. Could someone briefly describe the main tenets of that philosophy?

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Is Google broken?

In her own words. 

1. “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed” or “Wishing won’t make it so.”
2. “You can’t eat your cake and have it, too.”
3. “Man is an end in himself.”
4. “Give me liberty or give me death.”

In more depth (also her own words)

My philosophy, Objectivism, holds that:

  1. Reality exists as an objective absolute—facts are facts, independent of man’s feelings, wishes, hopes or fears.
  2. Reason (the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses) is man’s only means of perceiving reality, his only source of knowledge, his only guide to action, and his basic means of survival.
  3. Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his ownhappiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.
  4. The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. The governmentacts only as a policeman that protects man’s rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders. In a system of full capitalism, there should be (but, historically, has not yet been) a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.

http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=objectivism_intro

Does conveniently disregard the practical realities of things, and is a bit high on hyperbolic straw-men, but there you go. 

Thanks!! Great summary.

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.  - John Rogers

I find it funny how all the heroes in atlas are noble, brave, honest, etc and all the bad guys (basically anyone in government or working with them) is completely without good traits. The only area where the heroes deviate from our norm of good is that they all like a bit of rapey adulterous sex. I wonder. If this has less to do with making the heroes more in line with objectivism and more in line with Telling us a little too much about Ayn's own sex life.

Rand was not writing a story, she was delivering a message.  As such, there are no characters, only types.  The champion of radical individualism and selfishness herself portrayed no individual characters, only talking viewpoints.

Ms. Rand was a Russian, who grew up during the time of the revolution. She saw what was happening. I agree with Sean, this is a message. It is not really meant to entertain.

Consider this was written by someone who had lived in the USA for less than 20 years, whose native language was Russian and not English. Then consider the precision in which all the words are used. That is another marvel.

One of the reasons why her villains have no redeeming traits is she is trying to point out that a man's philosophy of life makes him who he is...and if you have a philosophy that leads to death and destruction, you are not going to have many redeeming characteristics!

When I lived in an uber lefty area, folks saw Jim Taggart as rather a hero.

Liam, I'll be quoting that frequently. ;)

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life...

That is truly a good one.

And this is the characteristic of individuals and groups who find different ideas to be a threat: denigrate and minimize them, in the hopes this will discredit them.

The writing style was stilted. But less stilted than we would think today. Styles of writing have changed over the years.

And this is the characteristic of individuals and groups who find different ideas to be a threat: denigrate and minimize them, in the hopes this will discredit them.

Mockery is a valid form of critique, especially to display contempt for unserious efforts at a thing which we are then asked to take seriously. Not a sign of feeling threatened. It is not an attempt to discredit, or disprove. 

I find mockery to be powerful and sometimes fun, but not logically valid, and I think it generally serves the interest of the side that's wrong.  (The side that's right has more substantive comments.)  It's a logic-free way of "winning" an argument, and I find that to be a problem.

I'll think abt Liam's comments about not taking seriously that which doesn't deserve it (and wonder when it's appropriate).

And I was one of those laughing at this.  I still like it.  I was a little ashamed to, but it's the truth.

If I could find a comm class at my college that could explain either how rational argument could win over sneering, or how you use sneering and still be on the side of the angels, I'd sign up in a heartbeat!

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