Exciting day! (But since there isn't much excitement in my life, I get excited about small things.)
This afternoon I had a pleasant talk with somebody I'd never met before. Doesn't matter where or how. I'll focus on the what of our conversation.
After some introductory chit-chat, this guy said "I'm an objectivist."
"Tell me about it," I said, having a vague memory that this had something to do with the philosophy of Ayn Rand, but not being sure.
Perhaps because I'd mentioned working in health planning back in the 1970s and 80s, he told me that objectivists aren't big on government intervention in people's lives.
Sounds like libertarianism, I replied.
He sort of agreed, adding that objectivists are disliked by both Republicans and Democrats, which fits with how the Libertarian Party is viewed by the major political parties.
"Every election I get excited about how well Libertarians are going to do," he said. "Then they end up getting one or two percent."
I told him that our two-party system makes it tough for third parties to get a foothold. A parliamentary system, as in the United Kingdom and Germany, allows for minor parties to win some seats, then negotiate power-sharing deals with larger parties.
At about this point in our conversation I said, "Wasn't Ayn Rand an objectivist?" Yes, he told me, she was.
I've never read Ayn Rand. I don't have a positive view of her philosophy. But rather surprisingly, this guy and I found quite a bit of common ground.
For example, he favors looking upon other people as the individuals that they are, rather than as members of a cultural group. I said that Bill Maher tends to agree with him, often telling Black guests on his show, "Why does everything have to be about race? Can't we just talk as human beings?"
Regarding race, I said that I'd just finished reading a book called "Unique." It's about genetics, and the other factors (such as experience) that make us who we are.
The final chapter echoed what this objectivist said: "There are bigger differences between individuals in a racial group than between racial groups."
In fact, I told him, the book says that the whole concept of race is problematic. I said that the author noted that DNA tests, such as through AncestryDNA, which I've used, have a time horizon of 300-400 years or so.
This allows results to say things like, in my case, your heritage is 41% Baltic States and 27% Germanic Europe. But over a longer time horizon, I started to say... "We were all African" -- the guy interjected, finishing my thought.
Exactly, I said. Two hundred thousand years ago every human was African. Race isn't really anything objective, but a cultural viewpoint.
We also agreed on the sorry state of political divisiveness in the United States.
There's so much more that unites us, I told him. If someone has a serious health problem, or suffers an accident, we feel for them as a fellow human being, their political affiliation being irrelevant.
I added that though I'm a progressive, I know that most of those who voted for Trump are decent people, not fascists or authoritarians. However, I've heard that these days many people won't go on a date with someone who doesn't share their political outlook, which is unfortunate.
Showing my age, I told him that in my high school days in the 1960s, segregation still was common in the southern states. So our country has come a long way on that front.
Near the end of our conversation, he said that capitalism is the best way to run an economy. I basically agreed, observing that even China and Russia are largely capitalist, albeit with a big dose of oligarchy, especially in Russia.
I didn't have a chance to talk with him about the more philosophical side of objectivism and Ayn Rand's worldview.
I've always thought that little about it would appeal to me. However, when I perused the Wikipedia article on objectivism, the metaphysical side of this philosophy seemed congruent with my outlook.
Namely, "existence exists" is a foundational truism; reality exists independent of consciousness; we have direct contact with reality through sense perception. I'd disagree, though, that objective knowledge is possible.
I don't think a view from nowhere is feasible. Humans see reality differently than a cat or dog does. Or, as a space alien would. Yet these beings have a valid knowledge of reality, though that knowledge differs widely.
We all look upon the world through an individual consciousness. Also, a species-specific consciousness. So the very idea of objectivism strikes me as problematic.
I believe reality exists whether or not a consciousness is aware of it. But it's impossible to say what that reality consists of absent conscious awareness. Thus subjectivism seems more valid to me than objectivism.
That said, I can understand why this guy, and many others, are attracted to Ayn Rand and objectivism.
And given how crazy the Republican Party has become, it was refreshing to talk with a thoughtful, reasonable, well-spoken person whose libertarian leanings have a decent philosophical grounding -- something Trump and Trumpian members of the GOP lack.