Objectivism's View of the World

Objectivism, like all philosophies, has to have a theory about what the nature of the world is like, and how we gain knowledge about it. This theory is not very different from what most people already understand. It says that the world we see around us is real. There really are cars and buildings and other people walking around. The computer in front of you is real, and you really are reading this. Additionally, it works like we normally think it does. Things happen by cause and effect. If you drop a coin, it falls because of gravity.

Objectivism says that everything has a specific nature. When an object reacts in a specific way, it's because of that nature. A piece of paper will burn when exposed to fire because that's what paper does. Water freezes at a particular temperature because that's the nature of water. Scientists can explore the nature of things to figure out how they react, and even why. We can learn that paper burns because certain chemicals that make it up can react with oxygen when enough heat is applied.

There's nothing particularly surprising here. It's the same ideas that are the basis for the scientific method. Science regularly relies on these ideas. And so do we. Countless times every day, we make assumptions about the nature of the world based on what we know, and we act on that information. If the roads are icy, we drive more carefully so we don't slip. We wash our hands when they get dirty or before eating. If something valuable starts falling over, we try to stop it so it doesn't break.

We gain knowledge about the world in the same way that scientists do. We observe the world, and form conclusions about what we see. We make predictions based on our conclusions, and we check to make sure they're right. If we find that the ideas don't work, we try to figure out why and correct them. All of this is based on an understanding that the world works by cause and effect, and that we can learn why the causes lead to those effects.

It's through our reasoning minds, and the information we get from the world, that we understand the world. We use logic to sort out any contradictions in our ideas. We try to remain objective, so we can see the world for what it really is, and not just how we want it to be. Reason and thinking, coupled with experience, is the way we learn about what the world is so we can live in it.

This view of the world isn't controversial itself. We all accept this theory of the world throughout most of our daily lives. Where Objectivism is more radical is how far it takes these ideas. It dismisses exceptions to the cause and effect view of the world. It rejects magic, the supernatural, miracles, divine intervention, fate, or anything else that violates this view. It says the whole world works this way.

Objectivism also says that reason is the only way to gain knowledge about the world, and we should only accept that which we are convinced is true by a careful process of reasoning. That means we don't accept arbitrary ideas, which are ideas that we don't have a solid reason for believing in. We don't accept faith, which is a belief in something without good reason, or in spite of it. We don't believe our emotions are some mysterious source of truth. The only way to gain knowledge is old-fashioned thinking. Look at the facts and make sense of them.