Objectivist group talks Ayn Rand

Fourteen students gathered in the fourth floor of Bracken Library on Wednesday night to discuss one question, "Who is John Galt?"

The president of the as-yet-unofficial Ball State Objectivism Club answered that question at her group's first meeting, held days after signs posing the question were posted at mysterious heights in the Art and Journalism Building.

"John Galt is the apex of [Ayn Rand's] philosophy, which means he is the perfect example of what she would like people to strive to be," Lauren Rumpler, a senior political science major, said at the beginning of the meeting.

Galt is a character and the embodiment of a theme in the novel "Atlas Shrugged," a more than 1000-page work written by philosopher Ayn Rand and published in 1957. Rand created the philosophy of objectivism, a belief system that focuses on the reality of existence, the importance of man and individualism.

It's a belief system that Rumpler said changed the course of her life, from the moment she read her first Rand book during her sophomore year of college.

"I came in [to class] one day really just frustrated with everybody, just irritated that things were going the way that they were," Rumpler said. "I was fed up with things. [My professor] said, ‘You should read this book; this may solve all the problems you're having.'"

It did. Rumpler said she had never read anything so flawless — something that annoyed her at first — and that she rushed to read other works by Rand.

After familiarizing herself with Rand's philosophy, Rumpler said she changed her major from journalism to political science and went from being Catholic to founding the Atheist, Agnostics, and Non-believer Student Society on campus. Rumpler also said she found purpose in her life. After graduation, she said she wants to work at the Ayn Rand Institute.

Rumpler said she started the objectivism club because Rand's philosophy is one that is more effective when all people believe and follow it. She described the philosophy as emphasizing "rational self-interest," the idea that each person should do what is best for him and her. In Rand's ideal objectivist world, Rumpler said, a wholly free laissez-faire capitalism system would be the economic norm, and government would exist solely to preserve individual rights.

One of the club's members, Ivy Tech sophomore Andrew Petty, said he's a Quaker and doesn't agree with parts of the objectivist philosophy. But he said he's a friend of Rumpler's and will attend objectivist club meetings for the same reason he went to AANSS meetings, because he considers himself a philosopher and believes every voice needs to be heard.

"I don't agree with it as a whole, but ... it's a fascinating set of beliefs and philosophies," Petty said of Rand's ideas. "Her beliefs have shaped the world."

Petty mentioned the idea of rational self-interest, something that is sometimes also called egoism or selfishness in connection with Rand's ideology. While this is an idea that is often criticized by modern society, Petty defended it.

"People are selfish by nature," Petty said. "[Part of the belief is that] we need to embrace our ego and embrace a little bit of our own self-serving [quality]. That part I can agree with, a little bit. I think everyone needs to be a little selfish every once in a while."

Freshman Amber Janzen said she came to the meeting having only read the first part of "Atlas Shrugged."

"I want to have a better understanding of the philosophy and maybe use that to better my life — to make me a better person," Janzen said. "It's all about your own personal happiness."

Rumpler said she hopes as many people as possible attend the club's meetings, which will be every Wednesday from 7 to 9 p.m. in the library. She said she looks forward to discussing, debating and sharing the philosophy that has brought her so much happiness.

"These books really made me care about who I was," Rumpler said. "It wasn't that they taught me who I was, because these books really can't teach you who you are; these books just empower you to want to know yourself, and know what you want, and go for what you want. These are the most motivating books I've ever read in my life." 


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