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Writings based on Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand's most popular novels are Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, which present her philosophy, Objectivism, in vivid characterizations.

  Metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, esthetics, and  politics are the five main branches of philosophy that she identifies. Utilizing her methodology, one can be rational about all aspects of life. These essays present my understanding of Objectivism.

Older Essays

This is Your Mind

Independence Day Special 2005

Copyright Issues Statement

Independence Day Special 2011:

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Don't Blame Wall Street

Governments and Individual Rights

Anarcho-Capitalism rebuttal

Doctors and Individual Rights

Internet Freedom VS On-line Piracy

Laws Must be Specific to Preserve Freedom

To Students of Objectivism

Kant as Founder of Modern Art

Thinking in Terms of Principles

The Purpose of Art

On Objectivity -- The Method of Thought

Applications of Philosophy

Happiness by a Proper Standard

Morality and War

Induction and Anarchism

Immigration and Applied Egoism

Independence Day 2012:

  Losing the Battle

On Civil Society

Batman and Justice

Paul Ryan and Objectivism

Philosophy in the Workplace

Articulating Freedom

The Argument for Freedom


Black Friday Special, The Morality of Profit

Intellectual Property Rights

How The Internet Works

Carnegie Museum of Art and Natural History

The Morality of Copyrights and Patents


Freedom of Speech -- a Sacred Right

Objective Value

Teleological Measurements




Ayn Rand as a Moral Hero

Moral Integrity

On Dualism

Protest NSA Spying

The Objectivist Trilogy

The DIM Hypothesis

Tolerance and DIM

Individual Rights

How We Know



































Date: Sat, 12 Dec 1998
Greeks and Independence?
Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.

While it is true that the Ancient Greeks had no explicit concept
of "independence," if one understands they were well on their
way to concretizing *rationality* (beginning with the _Iliad_
and _Odyssey_), and that the Objectivist virtues are all aspects
of rationality, then one can say they were at least on the verge
of discovering the more specific virtues. Their virtues were a
sub-set of rationality just as the Objectivist virtues are, they
simply sub-divided the primary virtue in a different way. As
Gary points out in his series, virtue is one, so to have
rationality is to have all the virtues, even if they are not
called by the same name.

There is a sense in which one can say Achilles was savage, if by that one means
"setting oneself apart from one's society" (a concept of
savagery the Ancient Greeks had). However, setting oneself apart
is required by the virtue of independence. I'd say the Ancient
Greeks were mixed on this point. In some respects, they
understood that a reasonable man had to make decisions on his
own (to the extent they understood free will), which would be
independence; on the other hand, the Ancient Greeks knew they
were the only civilized people at the time, so there was the
implication that "setting oneself apart" meant to reject a
civilized means of living -- i. e. to become a savage. Many
centuries after the _Iliad, Socrates was offered the choice of
death or exile. He chose death because he knew the alternative
was far worse. I think you'd have to give more particulars in
Achilles' case to show he was a savage in current terminology,
meaning one who rejects reason.

I think Achilles' "decent into blood thirsty wrath" is the
aspect of the _Iliad_ that makes it a tragedy. That is, by
Achilles taking his stance, he placed his best friend into a
position of having to fight the Trojans without his help,
leading to his death. In the story, this drama is presented as
the punishment of the gods for Achilles rejecting "Greek honor."
By this I mean he had a choice of fighting for the honor of the
Greeks in the Trojan War, or his own personal honor in his fight
to have his prize (his lover) returned to him. Implicitly, the
message is that independence can come at a high price, which in
this case leads to tragedy (the loss of a loved one). As with
all Greek tragedies, the hero is placed in a desperate
situation, and he must chose accordingly. Personally, I admire
Achilles' choice; for what is the use of upholding the honor of
one's society, if one's own personal honor must suffer as a
consequence? Note the reversal here compared to the modern
(Christian based) conception of honor, where sacrificing oneself
is held to be more honorable than upholding personal integrity.
And it helps to underscore the fact that the Ancient Greeks were
quite rational.

Depending on exactly what you mean, I think the idea of
independence as an admirable personal character trait can be
traced all the way back to the Ancient Greeks -- especially
Achilles and Odysseus in _The Iliad_ and _The Odyssey. They may not have called it that specifically, but both men exhibited the
trait of independence.

Achilles, the most revered of the Ancient Greek warriors,
refused to fight the Trojans until he was paid the price he was
promised (it was a slave girl, but that is another issue). Even
after being admonished, threatened, bribed, and otherwise
cajoled, he stood his ground against all other men (and some
gods, if you want to include them). I'd call that independence,
though the Ancient Greeks called it honor.

Odysseus acted on his own independent judgment practically all
of the time against Poseidon (if you want to include him), his
crew, and the people he met in other lands. They called it
courage, but it still involved acts of independence.

Both characters where greatly admired in the Ancient Greek culture.

I don't know when the term "independence" specifically as a
character trait came into usage.

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