Defined by Ayn Rand as a “philosophy for living on earth,” [1] objectivism is based on “objective reality” [2] and is considered a conservative philosophical theory with branches in the moral, cultural and political philosophical systems. According to Rand, the best representative of her objectivist theory is John Galt the main character in her fictional novel Atlas Shrugged.

Rand’s objectivist theory stems from her believe that when attempting to define his ethics the first question man must ask himself is not what values should guide his life, but rather “why does man need a code of values?” [3]

The theory of objectivism is based on four elements:
  1. The external world is absolute. Individuals do not create their own reality. It is independent. In her own words, Rand simplifies this as “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed” [4] or “Wishing won’t make it so.” [5]
  2. Reason is how an individual perceives reality. It is through reason that people gain knowledge. “You can’t eat your cake and have it, too.” [6]
  3. Every individual must exist for their own sake. One must not sacrifice oneself to others or others to him or herself. Physical force ought not to be a part of human relationships. “Man is an end in himself.” [7] This element in itself is further developed into the theory of egoism.
  4. (Laissez-faire) Capitalism is the ideal, yet unachieved, political-economic system. Government’s function is to protect an individual's rights to self protection, and protection of property. “Give me liberty or give me death.” [8]

- Anything beyond an individual's control
For example, religion, weather, sex of a child.

- The reliance on another to fulfill ones happiness or the sacrificing of oneself for another’s happiness
Each person must make their own happiness by choosing and carrying out only that which makes them happy.

- Bringing harm to another man
Violence is not an option unless it is in self-defence.

- Altruism
Living ones life for the good of others.

- Concerning oneself with another
Living ones life because of another person, and not in the best interest of the self.

- Any love placed above the love of oneself
The love of other individuals is necessary, but one should never love another more than oneself.
Although both are rooted in knowledge, one of the opposing theories of objectivism is constructivism. Developed by Jean Piaget,
constructivism is based in the theory that knowledge cannot be simply transferred, but rather it must be interpreted through experience. [10]. In order to learn, an individual must learn by doing.

Today’s relevant issues such as ethics and religion emenate from man’s perception of the world in which he lives [11]. Rand’s theories, including objectivism, continue to be cited in relation to current events.

During the 2012 United States Presidential campaign, Republican Congressman and Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s appreciation for Ayn Rand and her objectivist theory became a topic for debate. Despite his denial, Ryan was unable to convince media he was neither a Capitalist (as Rand is known to be) nor an egoist (lives only for himself), mainly because of his presentation at a 2005 Atlas Society convention when he claimed to have been “inspired” [12] by Rand’s writings.

Clubs and organizations exist around the world in support of objectivism and its teachings. As well, the Ayn Rand Institute has its own clubs, lectures, events and calls to action to continue to advance the theory of objectivism.


[1] Essentials of objectivism. The Ayn Rand institute. Retrieved from

[2] Wallace, M. (1959, February 25). Ayn Rand: Objectivism vs. Altruism [Video File]. Retrieved from

[3] Rand, A. (1964). The Virtue of Selfishness. New York, NY: Penguin Group.

[4 to 8] Rand, A. (1962). Description of objectivism. Ayn Rand Institute. Retrieved from

[9] Wallace, M. (1959, February 25). Ayn Rand: Objectivism vs. Altruism [Video File]. Retrieved from

[10] Joyce, R. (2009) Moral Anti-Realism, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from

[11] Biddle, C. (n.d.) What is objectivism? The Objectivist Standard. Retrieved from

[12] Stephen, R. (2012, August 30). Paul Ryan’s Ayn Rand reference. Forbes. Retrieved from