Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Confrontation Of The Truth Is The Root To Happiness

Albert Camus, through his work The Myth Of Sisyphus, differentiated himself from leading philosophers who spoke about the absurdity of humanity. Camus defines the absurd feeling as the one when man is finally smacked with the innate truth that life is meaningless. He explains that this absurd feeling exists because people are looking or giving meaning to their life yet this meaning does not exist. Through his work, he explores the consequences of believing life has meaning but only to refute them. For example, he lists a number of truisms, not to deny them but rather show how there are consequences when you believe them are not reasonable. Camus also examines “the relationship between individual thought and suicide” (4). Every action says something and has consequences so the act of suicide says that life is not worth living. He believes that people who commit suicide are avoiding absurdity and would not have done what they did should they accepted that life has no meaning. He takes a different approach and examines the consequences of absurdities in life to the fullest extent to be able to arrive at a conclusion that allows us to live happily while accepting absurd existence.
Camus argues against philosophers who try to give meaning to life by “creating” an afterlife which rides on hope. Growing up in Algeria, a french colony, whose citizens are mostly muslims had an effect on this thought process. In 1954, Algerians fight for independence in the name of God. While the war didn’t actually start until eight years after he wrote the philosophical essay, there were a lot of tensions, especially religious ones. Therefore, Camus sought to refute philosophers like Kierkegaard who face the absurd by turning to God as their answer but it is not reasonable to. He says, “Thus, the very thing that led them to despair of the meaning and depth of this life now gives it its truth and its clarity” (37) . He argues that instead of finding a new path as the other philosophers should they are simply just making a U-turn which was not satisfactory for Camus. Camus brilliantly and thoroughly goes through all consequences that can occur should they use God as their purpose. Camus’ interesting take on the absurd feeling is simply to accept it instead of opposing it.
He says repeatedly that it is impossible to know the meaning of life and that life would be “lived all the better if it has no meaning” (53) . He proposes that you can be happy even though you’ve accepted that life has no purpose and if everyone would live that way, the world would be a better place. This philosophy is more contextualized through his literary work of The Myth of Sisyphus. In this philosophical essay, he examines the myth by Homer where Sisyphus is condemned by the Gods to a meaningless life pushing a rock to the top of a mountain that would inevitably fall all the way down. The Gods thought this was the ultimate punishment because it was a task he did over and over again that does not mean anything but Camus looks at it from a different light. He calls your attention to Sisyphus’ state of mind on his way down. At this point, Sisyphus knowingly goes down the mountain and is conscious of this situation. He says, “The lucidity that was to constitute his torture at the same time crowns his victory.” (121) . Although his fate seems tragic, Sisyphus is better off than most people that virtually do the same thing because he is at least aware.
Through his analysis of Sisyphus’ character, Camus envisioned that he was aware of his fate and accepted it. Camus says, “Sisyphus returning toward his rock, in that slight pivoting he contemplates that series of unrelated actions which become his fate, created by him, combined under his memory's eye and soon sealed by his death.” Sisyphus comes to own his fate and, in the same way, that humans should embrace their fate of death. Of course Camus also notes, “One must imagine Sisyphus happy” (123) . He wants his fellow Algerians to understand that actions done on the merits of an afterlife cannot be the answer and will harm them emotionally in the long run.
While Camus could have been used as a warning for Algerians, it was also consoling in the aftermath. There were so many casualties and deaths during The Algerian Revolution that everyone was just searching for meaning in all this tragedy. Camus is hoping that people would read his work and confront the only truth - there is no meaning in life. He is also providing the only real comfort - that accepting our absurd existence will lead to happier experiences.

Works Cited
Camus, Albert. The Myth of Sisyphus. London: Penguin, 2005. Print.

Response to Ayn Rand’s ‘Anthem’

Response to Ayn Rand’s ‘Anthem’

      Ayn Rand’s work entitled “Anthem” is representative of a society in which there is no individuality and any person’s attempt to express themselves as an individual is punished and labeled as a transgressor. Transgressors in this society receive severe punishments. In this work the society is under the control of what is referred to as the World Council. The World Council is a body of men who enforce the rules of society so that the World Council is the enforcer over transgressors who break the rules. The World Council holds complete power and control of the individuals living in society and is a power that is all-encompassing that makes decisions over every little aspect of the individual’s life. In this society no marriage takes place and there is no idea of ‘being in love’ since men and women are not allowed to even speak to one another and if such relationships are formed then the people forming these relationships are transgressors against their fellow society members. Children in this society are not raised by their parents and the only way that children are conceived is through being mated like animals once per year in a loveless union that is planned and prescribed by the World Council and for the sole purpose of reproduction of more workers in the society. It is hard for one to imagine how it must feel to be herded like cattle into a mating place and ordered to mate with an individual that is chosen by someone else and to do so without the presence of feelings or love for that person. This is a horror that is multiplied in the mind of this writer to imagine that this should happen and then as a woman that a child would be carried within the body of the woman for nine months only to be snatched away at birth. Then to live in a society where one would never know one’s own child or be allowed to provide care for the child is horrifying.  In this society as presented by Rand, individuals are not able to make their own choices about their work profession based on their interests, talents, or abilities but instead are forced to work in a profession that the World Council has chosen for them with no thought given as to whether that individual likes or is interested in that profession. The appalling aspect of this society is that within this society individual are not allowed to in any way question the authority of those imposing their life’s profession on them and the sad truth is that in this society that few individuals even conceive that perhaps the status quo should be questioned. Those in charge of this society are driven by egoism, or an inflated view of themselves as regards their worth in comparison to the others in society and this high level of self-worth compared to others makes them believe that they are ‘all knowing’ and hold the knowledge to decide what is best for everyone in the society. This society is one in which human beings are expected to have a ‘hive mind’ leaving no room for the individual in terms of thoughts, dreams, ambitions, longings or goals since to aspire to one’s individualism in any way is punished. The living arrangements in this society are destitute of any showing of individual expression with all persons living in cold institutional dwellings such as the home of infants when they are young and the home of students while they are school-age, then moving on to the home of the assigned vocation and ultimately the climax of life in this society is being moved to the home of the useless. The age and wise in this society are not only not treasured they are shoved aside like old banana peels that no longer have any designated purpose in society. This is so very tragic when one considers the invaluable wisdom of older people and the treasures of knowledge they have to provide to their families and to the entire world. This is a depressing thought that one should live their life in a meaningless way such as in this society as presented in the work of Rand and should simply go through the motions until the end of their life and ultimately be labeled as useless. In this society scientific developments in any form are shunned since the ‘powers that be’ are able to retain their strict hold over the lives of those in society and therefore fear any type of scientific advancements since this creates fear in those holding power that the status quo might be questioned and in turn that they would lose their power of the majority. Perhaps most tragic in this society is the fact that there is no spirituality, no higher calling. The absence of spirituality in Rand’s society is likely because such spirituality serves to inspire, motivate, enlighten, and to bring strength and growth to the individual and this is precisely what this society and the ruling powers fear and rigidly avoid. The Council of Scholars holds all knowledge in this society and as such as deemed that there is nothing left unknown and therefore no one in this society is motivated to research and attempt to learn because the Council of Scholars ‘knows all’. The society described by Rand in her work “Anthem” is one that is frightening and one in which the few rule with an iron rod over the many. Truly, this story strikes fear in the heart of the reader when attempting to imagine living in such a world.
       The reader of this work proposes that Ayn Rand was attempting to demonstrate what would happen in the case of a society where only a few ruled the majority or in other words, a society in which there was a death of individuality. Individuality in society makes life colorful and rich in its flavor. Individuality in society results in beautiful music compositions, creation of beautiful works of art. Love in society results in highly bonded families and communities and cohesion among groups of people with similar beliefs. Spirituality in society results in power in the lives of people that serves to motivate them and sustain them through hard times and that brings unity. The many things missing in “Anthem” are those very precious things that make life worth living. Ayn Rand in her work “Anthem” illustrates how the rule of the few will result in a world that in reality would leave the individual no reason to live.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Response to Ayn Rand's Anthem

           Ayn Rand’s Anthem portrays the ideology of a collectivist society, where people are forced to act in similar fashions. There is also no ideal sense of individuality which causes the society to lack creativity or the opportunity to value their own opinions. Through this novel, we are able to make distinct comparisons between the societies portrayed in Anthem as opposed to our societies today. The main function of a collectivist society is to have things flow in a certain order without creating any disputes or differences and allowing people to abide by that mentality. It also enforces people to put the “good of society” before themselves meaning whatever is claimed to be beneficial to the society as a whole matters more than what would be beneficial towards an individual being.
Collectivism displays controlling matters where people must go by what their authority tells them to do or they will get severely punished. It is to allow society to follow a collective structure where they feel it will be maintaining order. It is believed that once everyone have their own individual opinions and do what they want to do it will cause conflict within their society. For example, in Anthem, the Transgressor of the Unspeakable Word, was executed by being burned alive for stating their unspeakable word which is “I”. This word seems to always cause an uproar in their society because it hinders them from displaying that form of individuality. In comparison to our modern day society, people use the term I when they describe themselves and elaborate on unique characteristics about themselves or things that they do. When you are addressing yourself, you don’t speak for everyone else. One unique thing about our society, specifically in reference to America, you see uniqueness and so much creativity and diversity of things all around you. Each time you turn around you find something different that you never knew of which allows life to be spontaneous and worth living for. When you are constricted to specific regimen for the rest of your life, it becomes dull and boring, because it is like you are brainwashed into believing that this is the way that things are supposed to be. When you are forced to do something or be something that you do not want to be, it would make a person feel miserable because they are not content with the life they are living, however they must find a way to go along with it regardless because of severe punishment that follow behind it.
The protagonist of the novella, Equality 7-2521, elaborates on how he does not agree with structure of his society and feels that people should have their own individual mindsets instead being under such strict rules that doesn’t give people their own identity. He has a deep passion for finding his freedom and releasing himself from the constraints of his society. The biggest turning point for his revolt was when he discovered the light bulb and the Council threatened to destroy it and exiled him as well. He knows that he does not want to be like them and the fact that he created something so different that they are not used to, really got to them and wanted them to get rid of Equality 7-2521.
A person would go to any extent to make themselves happy. This is what draws us to the concept of rational egoism. Where a person would do anything that would be beneficial to themselves. Once Equality 7-2521 became a free man, he was able to explore himself and discover unique traits that he never knew existed. He was able to kill and enjoy is own food, as well as explore his manhood and do things that he never thought he would have the chance to do. When he finally discovered the true meaning of “I” it becomes an eye opener for him that it is only you that can perceive how you view the world, and you can’t do it through anyone else. Everyone will not see things in the same manner, so when we say ‘I” it gives so many different viewpoints.

 One can think when someone constantly refers to themselves, it brings out a selfish attitude and causes the person’s ego to expand. However, we don’t live life for another person, you are only living life for yourself. Sometimes you may want to take that extra mile to do something especially if it would have a great benefit for you. And there is a great possibility that your actions can also play a major role in the life of someone else and giving them a chance to explore and find that uniqueness within themselves. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Response to Anthem

The story Anthem, are diary entries written from the perspective of a man labeled as Equality 7-2521. It is very distinct from other diaries in which that “I” was not present in the dairy, but rather “we” which indicated an attempt to eliminate sense of self. Equality 7-2521 lives in a collectivistic city, where the people are divided into different factions and have designated jobs appointed by the Council.  Equality 7-2521 is a Street Sweeper of the society, having his profession chosen by the Councils of the city. Equality, curious in nature is being suppressed of his thirst for knowledge.  His natural talent for comprehension of different materials was undoubtedly faster than his brothers, which was a sin in a society that preaches equality among individuals. One day while sweeping, he coincidentally discovered an underground tunnel and there he secretly experimented and educated himself about nature. Following this, he met Liberty 5300, who he found himself attached to and in turn ignited his hatred toward his brothers and the society. As the story progressed, Equality 7-2521 was caught secretly studying about nature, plotting his rebellion against the city all while he was struggling internally to rediscover individualism.
            Throughout Rand’s writing, she introduced and expresses her idea of rational egoism. Rational egoism is the principle that one’s action is rational only if it maximizes one’s best interests; meaning if the action will result in non-beneficial result, then the action is not rational.  She emphasizes the differences between collectivism and rational egoism, in which collectivism eliminates individuality while rational egoism acts according to one’s benefits. One may think that rational egoism is a potential cure for collectivism, but there are loopholes in her idea. Although rational egoism proposed that one should act for the benefits of selves only when the action is rational and moral, not everyone’s interpretation of rational or morals coincide. For instance, one may choose not to harm others simply because there are severe consequences. Since harming someone may result in imprisonment or fines, one can choose not to harm others, but what if a person who is living in poverty, who struggles to live every minute chose to commit murder in order to survive? For that individual, imprisonment may result in a better living environment than what they were living in previously and therefore one may commit murder. It still follows the idea of rational egoism but this in turn can create chaos in a society.

            I believe that both collectivism and rational egoism can be beneficial to a society, only when it is not amplified to the extreme. A good amount of collectivism in which everyone acts in the benefit of the whole, but still maintains their individuality would lead to a functional society. As for rational egoism, it can only be effective when most people share similar moral values and that’s living in a society with minimum poverty. Both collectivism and rational egoism have its benefits and flaws. Although collectivism acts to benefit the whole, but when enforced to extreme, it eliminates individualism. While rational egoism may sound like the optimal choice, it most likely won’t stand a chance to the unique environment and situations that each individual encounters.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Response to Anthem

Catherine Clark
Rand’s Anthem: Response
Utopia to Dystopia  

Rand’s novella, Anthem, leaves an impression on the reader emphasizing and embracing their individuality. Rand was born in Russia, which was taken over by the Bolsheviks, under the demand of Lenin during the October Revolution in 1917. The revolution caused most or all of Russian families to lose their livelihoods and homes to the government, who would later distribute them. I am sure that Rand was one of many forced to live a life that had been compromised in the name of communism. If so, it would certainly be exhibited through the characters in her writing. While extreme, Anthem illustrates the inner struggle to express individuality in a collective society. The character Equality 7-2521 would be a direct reflection of the feelings Rand might have had being a woman in communist Russia. As a woman, she was most likely assigned to futures and paths that she didn't want to be a part of, and she was most likely refused to go to school. This being said, I find it justifiable to write about this, even if it is in an extreme way.
Rational egoism could be considered a cure for collectivism, for the fact that it's the opposite. Egoism, of any kind, is the belief that the self should take priority in a community. I believe that the embrace of individualism is exactly what makes a community great, for with individual freedom, evolution and change can occur. Collectivism is good, too, in theory, but in practice it inhibits the members of its community from fulfilling their full potential. The cure for the problems of collectivism is found in Kant’s theory of morality. On page 58 of Anthem, Prometheus says, “Neither am I the mean to any end others may wish to accomplish. I am not a tool for their use”. This directly reflects Immanuel Kant’s theory of morality and ethics. Kant’s theory, to put it plainly, stated that People should never be used as means, and only as ends. Kant, like Rand, valued reason, and claimed that reason motivated morality. This goes hand-in-hand with the theory of rational egoism, for it essentially states that one should respects others’ reasoned motives as much as their own. For example, Kant would have argued that the scholars not allowing Prometheus to share his discovery of electricity or “the light”, was unethical. Whereas collectivists would argue that since it was not what the community wanted, it was morally sound.
The Rand’s Anthem was, of course, an extremity of collectivism. Rational egoism is the prioritization of self while not being extreme. The problem with rational egoism in practice is in the process of defining “rational”, or “too selfish”. In a collective society, there is a strict moral code, usually decided on by a designated group of people. In a world where people can act however they wish, who is supposed to say that an act of selfishness is too selfish? Also, in any decision there needs to be a stake, and if there was to be a community that didn't respect each other or valued one another and only themselves, there would end up being some sort of inequality or class based on those who win and those who lose. Kant’s would argue that by disregarding or disrespecting another person’s sense of self, one is acting unethically, which supports the application of rational egoism in a society.


Ayn Rand’s Anthem follows the life of Equality 7-2521 through his dystopian society. His society is based on collectivism, as in, everyone works for the betterment of everyone else and no one is looking out for themselves as individuals. The collectivist society is at such an extreme that even the civilians refer to themselves as “We” instead of “I” to show that they are all connected and not individuals. Rand clearly wrote this book to propagate anti-collectivism, although, I am not sure how well her point was received since she wrote about it to such an extreme. Rand is an advocate for rational egoism, a topic she writes about in most of her works whether directly, or indirectly.  She seems to believe that rational egoism is a cure for collectivism, however these are two extreme sides to the ideologies.
In Anthem, the society runs on collectivism and Rand portrays that in a negative way. However, her negative angle is only present because its portrayal is so exaggerated. In that society, it is unthinkable to see yourself as an individual. You are a part of your community and you work for the betterment of everyone around you except yourself. If that is the case, then no one is actually benefiting from your work. If you constantly believe that your job is to help your “brothers” for the better, then who is helping you, as a “brother”, for the better? Rand created a collectivist world to express how much collectivism does not actually work for the “betterment of your brothers”. She writes her hero, Equality 7-2521, start to exhibit the beginning of individualism throughout his life in this society, though he is not aware of why his behavior is different from his brothers even though he realizes that he is different. He views himself as better than everyone else even though he is not supposed to.
Throughout his life, Equality 7-2521 seems compelled to make himself a better person than to make himself more useful to his brothers. He asked more questions in school because he wanted answers and his teachers did not like him for being so curious. Curiosity is not helpful to a society. Following rules is helpful. He thought he had more value to society by being a scholar, although, he later realizes that he did not actually think he was more valuable to society, he just wanted to make his own life happier. Being a scholar would improve the quality of his own life which is not something that is allowed to be thought about in that society. Your only function in collectivism is to improve the quality of your society with your brothers, not as individuals. This is a great concept, but very dystopian when you put it to such an extreme that you are sacrificing your own happiness for the betterment of your world. For example, societies function better when everyone complies with the society’s rules, but complying with the rules might make life very unpleasant for you. As is the case with Equality 7-2521. His society is very compliant but the civilians seem to be pretty miserable for the most part. It’s just unrealistic to sacrifice yourself to such an extent.
Rational Egoism can most definitely be a cure for this society, but again, not to an extreme. If Equality 7-2521 were extremely rational egoistic, then he would not have thought about bringing the Golden One with him when he ran away from the society. She may have compromised his freedom if she was unfaithful in her intentions with him. He also wouldn’t have thought about bringing certain civilians into his new world of freedom because they might also compromise his freedom. If one of his fellow citizens joined his new civilization and was actually a spy for the collectivist society, they could create wars between the two societies and break what both societies strive for. Even so, Equality 7-2521 doesn’t seem to care about this concept, caring about it would make him more selfish about whether or not he should introduce people to individuality. He still has a collectivist mindset where he wants his brothers to be happy and he thinks they can achieve happiness through individuality. He is expressing both a collectivist mindset and an individualistic mindset.

Too much rational egoism makes you a very solitary person. Too much collectivism makes you a rug for people to step on for the betterment of others. Neither extreme is good on its own. However, if you practice a little bit of both, it makes the world and your individual life a lot more tolerable and creates a world more closely related to our current one. Although, it seems like Utopia lies somewhere in the right balance of these two extremes.