A look at Lawrence’s Objectivist Club

Zach Eustis

Are you tired of day after day of painful self-sacrifice? Sick of devoting your life to someone that supposedly died for your sins roughly 2,000 years ago, someone who you’re still not entirely convinced actually existed? Then the LU Objectivist Club may be the place for you. Every week, the Objectivist Club meets to discuss life, ethics, and morality.
After several years of inactivity, the Objectivist Club was revitalized in the fall of 2002 under the direction of then-freshman Eric Lanser. He became interested in objectivism after reading Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” during his junior year of high school.
“Objectivism has very distinctive ethics,” said Lanser. “You should live for your own life and for your own happiness. However, that does not and should not take away from anyone else’s happiness.”
Objectivism is traditionally at odds with more altruistic ethic theories, which are based on self-sacrifice for the benefit of a larger group, or in many instances, for deities such as God. According to Lanser, “Your values are important. If your whole life is sacrifice, you will have a negative, cynical outlook on life. In these cases you’re supposed to give up your happiness for the group.”
To help promote objectivism and the Objectivist Club, Lanser and the rest of the group create and put up posters around campus, invite objectivist speakers to Lawrence, and write occasional op-eds in the Lawrentian. The ethics of objectivism have stimulated a lot of debate on campus. According to Lanser, this was one reason why he spearheaded the group’s revival, “I wanted people to know about [objectivism]. However, I also wanted to cultivate a place where I agree with people. Arguing is okay, but it’s also nice to have a place where you know your values are in agreement with everybody else.”
When asked about the objectivist attitude toward war, Lanser was hesitant to say that there is one specific doctrine by which all objectivists live. To summarize his own views, Lanser chose to paraphrase Pericles: “You’d be a fool to go to war if your life or values aren’t in danger; but if they are, then you’re a coward not to.” While he does not agree that Iraq was the correct target for a U.S. attack, Lanser went on to say, “I think terrorists are a threat [to my life and values]. I’m in favor of eliminating states that sponsor terrorism.” For example, Lanser considers Iran much more of a threat to the United States than Iraq.
Lanser is a junior philosophy major who will graduate next year. The group will not be departing with him, however. As Lanser stated, “The Objectivist Club members consist of some very devoted freshmen and sophomores who will be ready to take over leadership of the club after I graduate.” Objectivist Club meetings are Sundays at noon in Downer F and are open to the public.