Sunday, April 15, 2012

Examining Ayn Rand's Paper: Part 4


As Ayn Rand started to explain the three virtues of her philosophy, I realized that they can be now taken into isolation; while it can be argued that the virtue of rationality is connected to Ayn Rand's espousal of reason, this particular virtue can hold up without having to invoke Ayn Rand's faulty analysis of the is-ought gap, her dubious assessment of animal psychology, among other things. In other words, these virtues can be said to be independent ideas; even if Objectivism doesn't exist, it is still possible for these ideas to make sense. Now, I will worry less about the logical coherence of the upcoming paragraphs, and instead focus on the desirability of these ideas; after all, ethics are intended to cater to the nature of man. 

The virtue of Rationality means the recognition and acceptance of reason as one’s only source of knowledge, one’s only judge of values and one’s only guide to action. It means one’s total commitment to a state of full, conscious awareness, to the maintenance of a full mental focus in all issues, in all choices, in all of one’s waking hours. It means a commitment to the fullest perception of reality within one’s power and to the constant, active expansion of one’s perception, i.e., of one’s knowledge. It means a commitment to the reality of one’s own existence, i.e., to the principle that all of one’s goals, values and actions take place in reality and, therefore, that one must never place any value or consideration whatsoever above one’s perception of reality. It means a commitment to the principle that all of one’s convictions, values, goals, desires and actions must be based on, derived from, chosen and validated by a process of thought—as precise and scrupulous a process of thought, directed by as ruthlessly strict an application of logic, as one’s fullest capacity permits. It means one’s acceptance of the responsibility of forming one’s own judgments and of living by the work of one’s own mind (which is the virtue of Independence). It means that one must never sacrifice one’s convictions to the opinions or wishes of others (which is the virtue of Integrity)-that one must never attempt to fake reality in any manner (which is the virtue of Honesty)-that one must never seek or grant the unearned and undeserved, neither in matter nor in spirit (which is the virtue of Justice). It means that one must never desire effects without causes, and that one must never enact a cause without assuming full responsibility for its effects—that one must never act like a zombie, i.e., without knowing one’s own purposes and motives—that one must never make any decisions, form any convictions or seek any values out of context, i.e., apart from or against the total, integrated sum of one’s knowledge—and, above all, that one must never seek to get away with contradictions. It means the rejection of any form of mysticism, i.e., any claim to some nonsensory, nonrational, nondefinable, supernatural source of knowledge. It means a commitment to reason, not in sporadic fits or on selected issues or in special emergencies, but as a permanent way of life.

You might look very awesome if you manage to pull this off, although won't it be quite exhausting if you force yourself to focus every waking hour? Won't it be tiring to consciously adhere to the provisions of the rational virtue? Most of all, won't this compromise your relationships with friends and loved ones if you remain preoccupied with adhering to this virtue? Do the benefits, if there are any, outweigh the costs? I do not intend to demean Ayn Rand's virtues; I'm merely considering whether such virtues are practical, not to mention doable, especially when Ayn Rand implies that Objectivist ethics is in accordance with human nature.

The virtue of Productiveness is the recognition of the fact that productive work is the process by which man’s mind sustains his life, the process that sets man free of the necessity to adjust himself to his background, as all animals do, and gives him the power to adjust his background to himself. Productive work is the road of man’s unlimited achievement and calls upon the highest attributes of his character: his creative ability, his ambitiousness, his self-assertiveness, his refusal to bear uncontested disasters, his dedication to the goal of reshaping the earth in the image of his values. “Productive work” does not mean the unfocused performance of the motions of some job. It means the consciously chosen pursuit of a productive career, in any line of rational endeavor, great or modest, on any level of ability. It is not the degree of a man’s ability nor the scale of his work that is ethically relevant here, but the fullest and most purposeful use of his mind.

I can agree to this virtue Ayn Rand espouses. However, I must clarify this part.

Productive work is the road of man’s unlimited achievement and calls upon the highest attributes of his character: his creative ability, his ambitiousness, his self-assertiveness, his refusal to bear uncontested disasters, his dedication to the goal of reshaping the earth in the image of his values, provided that such values will not interfere with other people's lives, and will not compromise nature itself.

The virtue of Pride is the recognition of the fact “that as man must produce the physical values he needs to sustain his life, so he must acquire the values of character that make his life worth sustaining—that as man is a being of self-made wealth, so he is a being of self-made soul.” (Atlas Shrugged.) The virtue of Pride can best be described by the term: “moral ambitiousness.” It means that one must earn the right to hold oneself as one’s own highest value by achieving one’s own moral perfection—which one achieves by never accepting any code of irrational virtues impossible to practice and by never failing to practice the virtues one knows to be rational—by never accepting an unearned guilt and never earning any, or, if one has earned it, never leaving it uncorrected—by never resigning oneself passively to any flaws in one’s character—by never placing any concern, wish, fear or mood of the moment above the reality of one’s own self-esteem. And, above all, it means one’s rejection of the role of a sacrificial animal, the rejection of any doctrine that preaches self-immolation as a moral virtue or duty.

The more proper term to be used for this virtue is "assertiveness," but whatever; who am I to talk? Although I must point out how amusing this part is: "by never accepting any code of irrational virtues impossible to practice" when adhering to the Virtue of Rationality alone can be a herculean task.

The basic social principle of the Objectivist ethics is that just as life is an end in itself, so every living human being is an end in himself, not the means to the ends or the welfare of others—and, therefore, that man must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. To live for his own sake means that the achievement of his own happiness is man’s highest moral purpose.

While Ayn Rand never proved the notion of life as an end in itself, it is a pretty good foundation to establish one's ethics; life as an end in itself as your axiom ensures that your ethics is life-oriented. However, this part does not logically follow: that man must live for his own sake.

One can remain alive but dedicate his life to charitable work without killing himself, out of his own volition, setting this course of action as his happiness. No life is lost, and the doer of the action is happy. How can Ayn Rand explain this phenomenon?

In psychological terms, the issue of man’s survival does not confront his consciousness as an issue of “life or death,” but as an issue of “happiness or suffering.” Happiness is the successful state of life, suffering is the warning signal of failure, of death. Just as the pleasure-pain mechanism of man’s body is an automatic indicator of his body’s welfare or injury, a barometer of its basic alternative, life or death—so the emotional mechanism of man’s consciousness is geared to perform the same function, as a barometer that registers the same alternative by means of two basic emotions: joy or suffering. Emotions are the automatic results of man’s value judgments integrated by his subconscious; emotions are estimates of that which furthers man’s values or threatens them, that which is for him or against him—lightning calculators giving him the sum of his profit or loss.

I see that Ayn Rand still recognizes the philosophy of hedonism. Anyway, the truth of this paragraph is contingent. What if a man is a psychopath and enjoys killing people? He feels happy, so he must be furthering his values. But not the Randian values, unless Ayn Rand means just the values of the man in question. However, in this scenario, emotions fail to calculate the psychopath's net profit/loss. He feels happy, so in his perspective, he had a moral profit. But in reality, he suffered a heavy moral loss; the law is on his tail and people hate him and want him dead. He actually put his own life in danger.

This is a counter-instance to the effectiveness of emotions as a moral barometer, making the truth of the hedonist philosophy contingent at best. Perhaps this is why Ayn Rand specified that emotions are estimates of whether you're on the right track. Precision is sacrificed, but at least she's safe from scrutiny. Nice save.

Man is born with an emotional mechanism, just as he is born with a cognitive mechanism; but, at birth, both are “tabula rasa.” It is man’s cognitive faculty, his mind, that determines the content of both. Man’s emotional mechanism is like an electronic computer, which his mind has to program—and the programming consists of the values his mind chooses.

I have not extensively studied the concept of tabula rasa, but, given its basic definition, I guess I can agree with Rand on this one. Know that tabula rasa won't be derived from her earlier arguments. Tabula rasa is an isolated concept.

But since the work of man’s mind is not automatic, his values, like all his premises, are the product either of his thinking or of his evasions: man chooses his values by a conscious process of thought—or accepts them by default, by subconscious associations, on faith, on someone’s authority, by some form of social osmosis or blind imitation. Emotions are produced by man’s premises, held consciously or subconsciously, explicitly or implicitly.

I agree with what this paragraph has to say.

Man has no choice about his capacity to feel that something is good for him or evil, but what he will consider good or evil, what will give him joy or pain, what he will love or hate, desire or fear, depends on his standard of value. If he chooses irrational values, he switches his emotional mechanism from the role of his guardian to the role of his destroyer. The irrational is the impossible; it is that which contradicts the facts of reality; facts cannot be altered by a wish, but they can destroy the wisher. If a man desires and pursues contradictions—if he wants to have his cake and eat it, too—he disintegrates his consciousness; he turns his inner life into a civil war of blind forces engaged in dark, incoherent, pointless, meaningless conflicts (which, incidentally, is the inner state of most people today).

I can agree that being irrational can hurt you as a human being, but how is being irrational "impossible"? Does Ayn Rand mean one cannot actually be irrational, because that would result to a contradiction? If that's the case, then all of us are actually rational beings! Perhaps this is vague word usage, but in philosophy, words matter largely.

Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values. If a man values productive work, his happiness is the measure of his success in the service of his life. But if a man values destruction, like a sadist—or self-torture, like a masochist—or life beyond the grave, like a mystic—or mindless “kicks,” like the driver of a hotrod car—his alleged happiness is the measure of his success in the service of his own destruction. It must be added that the emotional state of all those irrationalists cannot be properly designated as happiness or even as pleasure: it is merely a moment’s relief from their chronic state of terror.

How can you say that happiness follows from a man who values productive work? It would help if you could provide an explanation; it isn't my job to do so. Moreover, note that a man who values productive work, one who values hard work can also be a sadist or masochist. Also, how can you say that irrationalists can't feel happiness or pleasure? What basis do you have?

I quote from Galt’s speech: “Happiness is a state of non-contradictory joy—a joy without penalty or guilt, a joy that does not clash with any of your values and does not work for your own destruction. . . . Happiness is possible only to a rational man, the man who desires nothing but rational goals, seeks nothing but rational values and finds his joy in nothing but rational actions.”

If you put it that way, then John Galt is right. However, know that that is not the official definition of happiness.

The maintenance of life and the pursuit of happiness are not two separate issues. To hold one’s own life as one’s ultimate value, and one’s own happiness as one’s highest purpose are two aspects of the same achievement. Existentially, the activity of pursuing rational goals is the activity of maintaining one’s life; psychologically, its result, reward and concomitant is an emotional state of happiness. It is by experiencing happiness that one lives one’s life, in any hour, year or the whole of it. And when one experiences the kind of pure happiness that is an end in itself—the kind that makes one think: “This is worth living for”—what one is greeting and affirming in emotional terms is the metaphysical fact that life is an end in itself.

The first sentence is false. You breathe to maintain your life, but breathing is hardly a source of happiness. One can maintain his life without being happy, and one can be happy even in the verge of death (note that we use "happy" in the standard sense, not on Ayn Rand's perspective). The rest of the paragraph is up to psychologists; I don't claim to be one.

But the relationship of cause to effect cannot be reversed. It is only by accepting “man’s life” as one’s primary and by pursuing the rational values it requires that one can achieve happiness—not by taking “happiness” as some undefined, irreducible primary and then attempting to live by its guidance. If you achieve that which is the good by a rational standard of value, it will necessarily make you happy; but that which makes you happy, by some undefined emotional standard, is not necessarily the good. To take “whatever makes one happy” as a guide to action means: to be guided by nothing but one’s emotional whims. Emotions are not tools of cognition; to be guided by whims—by desires whose source, nature and meaning one does not know—is to turn oneself into a blind robot, operated by unknowable demons (by one’s stale evasions), a robot knocking its stagnant brains out against the walls of reality which it refuses to see.

So let me get this straight. One should treat his life as his primary and be rational if he is to be truly happy. The other instance cited in this paragraph is someone who set happiness as his primary then pursues an arbitrary goal. By Rand's argument, the second instance does not necessarily end up to a "good," which is a sound argument, but it also disproves her former statement, since a person (her own example) was able to become happy without setting his life as his primary and without being rational. Perhaps a clarification in word usage is in order. I do have to agree with her in saying that emotions are unreliable tools of cognition.

This is the fallacy inherent in hedonism—in any variant of ethical hedonism, personal or social, individual or collective. “Happiness” can properly be the purpose of ethics, but not the standard. The task of ethics is to define man’s proper code of values and thus to give him the means of achieving happiness. To declare, as the ethical hedonists do, that “the proper value is whatever gives you pleasure” is to declare that “the proper value is whatever you happen to value”—which is an act of intellectual and philosophical abdication, an act which merely proclaims the futility of ethics and invites all men to play it deuces wild.

Huh? But haven't you been using hedonistic philosophy to explain your own? Whatever happened to the pleasure-pain mechanism as a gauge of good and evil? This is what hedonism is all about; pleasure is a standard of good, while pain is a standard of evil. One can argue that Ayn Rand stressed that such mechanism can only know good and evil in their simplest forms; if that's the case, hedonist philosophy is still not fallacious, but incomplete. Ethical hedonists declare that you should value whatever gives you pleasure, yes, but isn't that what Ayn Rand is also saying a while back?

Ayn Rand argued that a value should be something that further's one's life. By her pleasure-pain mechanism argument, pleasure indicates what is good in its simple form; something that is good for our bodies.

The physical sensation of pleasure is a signal indicating that the organism is pursuing the right course of action. The physical sensation of pain is a warning signal of danger, indicating that the organism is pursuing the wrong course of action, that something is impairing the proper function of its body, which requires action to correct it.

Since pleasure tells us what's good for our bodies and hence our lives, isn't it good to value what gives us pleasure? This is the consequence of her argument, and this is what ethical hedonists tell us. Ayn Rand, could you have contradicted yourself once again?

The philosophers who attempted to devise an allegedly rational code of ethics gave mankind nothing but a choice of whims: the “selfish” pursuit of one’s own whims (such as the ethics of Nietzsche)—or “selfless” service to the whims of others (such as the ethics of Bentham, Mill, Comte and of all social hedonists, whether they allowed man to include his own whims among the millions of others or advised him to turn himself into a totally selfless “shmoo” that seeks to be eaten by others).

Ayn Rand can trash-talk all she wants, but she's just the same as everybody else; offering her subjective brand of ethics. This is because so far, it is shown that ethics can't be bound to facts of reality and can therefore never be objective. I find her usage of "allegedly rational code of ethics" in her rant, when philosophers already said that ethics is beyond reason, which is by itself an open admission that their ethics is not rational.

When a “desire,” regardless of its nature or cause, is taken as an ethical primary, and the gratification of any and all desires is taken as an ethical goal (such as “the greatest happiness of the greatest number”)—men have no choice but to hate, fear and fight one another, because their desires and their interests will necessarily clash. If “desire” is the ethical standard, then one man’s desire to produce and another man’s desire to rob him have equal ethical validity; one man’s desire to be free and another man’s desire to enslave him have equal ethical validity; one man’s desire to be loved and admired for his virtues and another man’s desire for undeserved love and unearned admiration have equal ethical validity. And if the frustration of any desire constitutes a sacrifice, then a man who owns an automobile and is robbed of it, is being sacrificed, but so is the man who wants or “aspires to” an automobile which the owner refuses to give him—and these two “sacrifices” have equal ethical status. If so, then man’s only choice is to rob or be robbed, to destroy or be destroyed, to sacrifice others to any desire of his own or to sacrifice himself to any desire of others; then man’s only ethical alternative is to be a sadist or a masochist.

This paragraph is agreeable, except for the part where Ayn Rand cited the tenet of utilitarianism (the greatest happiness for the greatest number) as an example of setting a desire as a primary. Nowhere in that concept says something about putting happiness as a primary; in fact, that concept is about setting happiness as a goal. I thought happiness is a sound goal?

The moral cannibalism of all hedonist and altruist doctrines lies in the premise that the happiness of one man necessitates the injury of another.

Not necessarily.

Today, most people hold this premise as an absolute not to be questioned. And when one speaks of man’s right to exist for his own sake, for his own rational self-interest, most people assume automatically that this means his right to sacrifice others. Such an assumption is a confession of their own belief that to injure, enslave, rob or murder others is in man’s self-interest—which he must selflessly renounce. The idea that man’s self-interest can be served only by a non-sacrificial relationship with others has never occurred to those humanitarian apostles of unselfishness, who proclaim their desire to achieve the brotherhood of men. And it will not occur to them, or to anyone, so long as the concept “rational” is omitted from the context of “values,” “desires,” “self-interest” and ethics.

Well, I can't verify nor falsify this bold claim; that people are beset with a crappy morality. I am not at liberty to confirm or reject this assertion. However, I stand by my conclusion; the formulation of an ethical code cannot have a rational basis. You can choose your ethics to have a rational nature, but the fact that you chose it cannot be supported by any rational means.

The Objectivist ethics proudly advocates and upholds rational selfishness—which means: the values required for man’s survival qua man—which means: the values required for human survival—not the values produced by the desires, the emotions, the “aspirations,” the feelings, the whims or the needs of irrational brutes, who have never outgrown the primordial practice of human sacrifices, have never discovered an industrial society and can conceive of no self-interest but that of grabbing the loot of the moment.

I'm quite irked by the way Ayn Rand uses "selfishness." Such a word has a negative ring to it, something supported by the English syntax. She could have just used the word "self-interest" and be more precise, rather than use a dubious word that will just elicit irritation and suspicion.

The Objectivist ethics holds that human good does not require human sacrifices and cannot be achieved by the sacrifice of anyone to anyone. It holds that the rational interests of men do not clash—that there is no conflict of interests among men who do not desire the unearned, who do not make sacrifices nor accept them, who deal with one another as traders, giving value for value.

The second sentence is ridiculously false. Simply consider two rational men selling the same product. They both desire having their products sold, which is rational, considering their profession. Since they sell the same product, people only need to buy from one of them; the customer which one seller desires can be taken away by the other seller. This example alone demonstrates that there can be conflict between the interests of rational men.

The principle of trade is the only rational ethical principle for all human relationships, personal and social, private and public, spiritual and material. It is the principle of justice.

A trader is a man who earns what he gets and does not give or take the undeserved. He does not treat men as masters or slaves, but as independent equals. He deals with men by means of a free, voluntary, unforced, uncoerced exchange—an exchange which benefits both parties by their own independent judgment. A trader does not expect to be paid for his defaults, only for his achievements. He does not switch to others the burden of his failures, and he does not mortgage his life into bondage to the failures of others.

Hm, looks pretty good. As an economics enthusiast, I like how Ayn Rand used the trader analogy to promote equality in society, while the soundness is not sacrificed. However, Ayn Rand must know that economics is not just about trading things of equal value. Sometimes, a rational trader will temporarily give more than the immediate expected returns. This is because sometimes, the mood of the market is good, and the returns from your investment will get better in the years to come.

In spiritual issues—(by “spiritual” I mean: “pertaining to man’s consciousness”)—the currency or medium of exchange is different, but the principle is the same. Love, friendship, respect, admiration are the emotional response of one man to the virtues of another, the spiritual payment given in exchange for the personal, selfish pleasure which one man derives from the virtues of another man’s character. Only a brute or an altruist would claim that the appreciation of another person’s virtues is an act of selflessness, that as far as one’s own selfish interest and pleasure are concerned, it makes no difference whether one deals with a genius or a fool, whether one meets a hero or a thug, whether one marries an ideal woman or a slut. In spiritual issues, a trader is a man who does not seek to be loved for his weaknesses or flaws, only for his virtues, and who does not grant his love to the weaknesses or the flaws of others, only to their virtues.

One can put it that way; I will just ignore how Ayn Rand makes her assertions look bad to read and cut to what she wants to say; we love people because we see the good in them; however, it also involves accepting their weaknesses and flaws. It doesn't mean we'll love them for their flaws; we're merely accepting them for who they are. I'm also starting to get irritated by how Ayn Rand uses the word "altruist."

To love is to value. Only a rationally selfish man, a man of self-esteem, is capable of love—because he is the only man capable of holding firm, consistent, uncompromising, unbetrayed values. The man who does not value himself, cannot value anything or anyone.

It is only on the basis of rational selfishness—on the basis of justice—that men can be fit to live together in a free, peaceful, prosperous, benevolent, rational society.

Let's recall the definition of rational selfishness.

"The Objectivist ethics proudly advocates and upholds rational selfishness—which means: the values required for man’s survival qua man—which means: the values required for human survival—not the values produced by the desires, the emotions, the “aspirations,” the feelings, the whims or the needs of irrational brutes, who have never outgrown the primordial practice of human sacrifices, have never discovered an industrial society and can conceive of no self-interest but that of grabbing the loot of the moment."

"Value" here is taken to mean "something or someone to be treasured." Earlier examinations will attest to this; after all, Ayn Rand was not able to prove any moral values from the facts of reality-- wait, if that is so... if "value" in this definition of rational selfishness is only "something or someone to be treasured," how can Ayn Rand insist that only a rationally selfish man can hold good moral values? You can tell that Rand is talking about "values" as "manners" there because of the words "firm," "consistent," "uncompromising," and "unbetrayed." How can Ayn Rand insist such a thing without a firm basis?

The same goes with the second part; how can Ayn Rand insist that only in a rationally selfish society can have good moral values (you can tell that by the adjectives used), when Ayn Rand has no firm basis?

The latter part of Ayn Rand's paper is mainly about the politics of Objectivism, which is capitalism; something I advocate. To this extent, I can agree with most of Ayn Rand's views. However, I support capitalism not because of Ayn Rand (whose faulty reasoning I shall explain later), but because of economists like Adam Smith, Friedrich von Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Frédéric Bastiat, Milton Friedman, among others.

Can man derive any personal benefit from living in a human society? Yes—if it is a human society. The two great values to be gained from social existence are: knowledge and trade. Man is the only species that can transmit and expand his store of knowledge from generation to generation; the knowledge potentially available to man is greater than any one man could begin to acquire in his own lifespan; every man gains an incalculable benefit from the knowledge discovered by others. The second great benefit is the division of labor: it enables a man to devote his effort to a particular field of work and to trade with others who specialize in other fields. This form of cooperation allows all men who take part in it to achieve a greater knowledge, skill and productive return on their effort than they could achieve if each had to produce everything he needs, on a desert island or on a self-sustaining farm.

But these very benefits indicate, delimit and define what kind of men can be of value to one another and in what kind of society: only rational, productive, independent men in a rational, productive, free society. Parasites, moochers, looters, brutes and thugs can be of no value to a human being—nor can he gain any benefit from living in a society geared to their needs, demands and protection, a society that treats him as a sacrificial animal and penalizes him for his virtues in order to reward them for their vices, which means: a society based on the ethics of altruism. No society can be of value to man’s life if the price is the surrender of his right to his life.

The basic political principle of the Objectivist ethics is: no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. No man—or group or society or government—has the right to assume the role of a criminal and initiate the use of physical compulsion against any man. Men have the right to use physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use. The ethical principle involved is simple and clear-cut: it is the difference between murder and self-defense. A holdup man seeks to gain a value, wealth, by killing his victim; the victim does not grow richer by killing a holdup man. The principle is: no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force.

I agree with most of what these paragraphs has to say. However, I must clarify two important things.

1. Ayn Rand used the concept of altruism to initiate a false dichotomy. I shall explain this later.
2. One must recognize the necessity of government taxation to a certain extent in the maintenance of crucial but unprofitable components of society (public roads, traffic lights, prisons, courts, space exploration, etc.) This is a basic economic principle. This must be clarified because Ayn Rand makes it look like absolutely everything must be done according to choice; in specific cases, it is more practical and cost-efficient to implement taxation at just the right degree.

The only proper, moral purpose of a government is to protect man’s rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence—to protect his right to his own life, to his own liberty, to his own property and to the pursuit of his own happiness. Without property rights, no other rights are possible.

Refer to number 2 above.

I will not attempt, in a brief lecture, to discuss the political theory of Objectivism. Those who are interested will find it presented in full detail in Atlas Shrugged. I will say only that every political system is based on and derived from a theory of ethics—and that the Objectivist ethics is the moral base needed by that politico-economic system which, today, is being destroyed all over the world, destroyed precisely for lack of a moral, philosophical defense and validation: the original American system, Capitalism. If it perishes, it will perish by default, undiscovered and unidentified: no other subject has ever been hidden by so many distortions, misconceptions and misrepresentations. Today, few people know what capitalism is, how it works and what was its actual history.

It is quite pompous of Ayn Rand to claim that Objectivism is the moral base needed by an ideal political system, when its principles aren't exactly original; several economists have already thought of the concept of free markets and minimal government. That is my only issue here.

When I say “capitalism,” I mean a full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism—with a separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church. A pure system of capitalism has never yet existed, not even in America; various degrees of government control had been undercutting and distorting it from the start. Capitalism is not the system of the past; it is the system of the future—if mankind is to have a future.

Refer to my comment before this, as well as number 2 from a while back.

Ayn Rand then made a little advertisement for her book, For the New Intellectual, before proceeding to her ending statements. Not that I find any issues with it.

The present discussion has to be confined to the subject of ethics. I have presented the barest essentials of my system, but they are sufficient to indicate in what manner the Objectivist ethics is the morality of life—as against the three major schools of ethical theory, the mystic, the social, the subjective, which have brought the world to its present state and which represent the morality of death.

These three schools differ only in their method of approach, not in their content. In content, they are merely variants of altruism, the ethical theory which regards man as a sacrificial animal, which holds that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value. The differences occur only over the question of who is to be sacrificed to whom. Altruism holds death as its ultimate goal and standard of value—and it is logical that renunciation, resignation, self-denial, and every other form of suffering, including self-destruction, are the virtues it advocates. And, logically, these are the only things that the practitioners of altruism have achieved and are achieving now.

Observe that these three schools of ethical theory are anti-life, not merely in content, but also in their method of approach.

Here comes the gist of Ayn Rand's clever use of the false dichotomy fallacy. Hold your horses, Objectivists (if you're reading this). I'm getting to it. 

The mystic theory of ethics is explicitly based on the premise that the standard of value of man’s ethics is set beyond the grave, by the laws or requirements of another, supernatural dimension, that ethics is impossible for man to practice, that it is unsuited for and opposed to man’s life on earth, and that man must take the blame for it and suffer through the whole of his earthly existence, to atone for the guilt of being unable to practice the impracticable. The Dark Ages and the Middle Ages are the existential monument to this theory of ethics.

I'm not an expert in theology or the doctrine of Christianity, but the majority of Christian teachings reject the necessity of man to suffer, but only to confess his sins and try to live a happy but godly life. I do not intend to defend the merits of Christianity here; I just want to show that Ayn Rand needlessly put this kind of ethics in an unreasonably negative light by the usage of heavy words.

The social theory of ethics substitutes “society” for God—and although it claims that its chief concern is life on earth, it is not the life of man, not the life of an individual, but the life of a disembodied entity, the collective, which, in relation to every individual, consists of everybody except himself. As far as the individual is concerned, his ethical duty is to be the selfless, voiceless, rightless slave of any need, claim or demand asserted by others. The motto “dog eat dog”—which is not applicable to capitalism nor to dogs—is applicable to the social theory of ethics. The existential monuments to this theory are Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia.

Ayn Rand is wrong about "dog eat dog;" this adage means everyone is forced to fight one another for survival; meanwhile, her definition of social theory of ethics involves people willingly sacrificing themselves for the greater good; there's a stark difference between the two. Although I guess I can agree with her here; after all, I reject communism.

The subjectivist theory of ethics is, strictly speaking, not a theory, but a negation of ethics. And more: it is a negation of reality, a negation not merely of man’s existence, but of all existence. Only the concept of a fluid, plastic, indeterminate, Heraclitean universe could permit anyone to think or to preach that man needs no objective principles of action—that reality gives him a blank check on values—that anything he cares to pick as the good or the evil, will do—that a man’s whim is a valid moral standard, and that the only question is how to get away with it. The existential monument to this theory is the present state of our culture.

Ayn Rand, as was shown earlier, did nothing to prove that adopting a subjective perspective of morality is logically fallacious, that it rejects reality, that it rejects man's existence and stuff like that. In fact, she herself became subjective in the course of her discussion of her philosophy. She can call it bad all she wants (and become somewhat of a hypocrite), but that's it.

It is not men’s immorality that is responsible for the collapse now threatening to destroy the civilized world, but the kind of moralities men have been asked to practice. The responsibility belongs to the philosophers of altruism. They have no cause to be shocked by the spectacle of their own success, and no right to damn human nature: men have obeyed them and have brought their moral ideals into full reality.

It is philosophy that sets men’s goals and determines their course; it is only philosophy that can save them now. Today, the world is facing a choice: if civilization is to survive, it is the altruist morality that men have to reject.

I will close with the words of John Galt, which I address, as he did, to all the moralists of altruism, past or present: “You have been using fear as your weapon and have been bringing death to man as his punishment for rejecting your morality. We offer him life as his reward for accepting ours.”

Many Objectivists claim that Ayn Rand is the best champion of capitalism because she allegedly defended it on moral grounds. I dissent; yes, she praised capitalism by linking it to her philosophy (note that capitalism does not need Objectivism to be legitimate), calling the most just system, which is true, but what really substantiates her defense of capitalism is not how good capitalism is, but how bad the philosophy of altruism is, whatever she meant by "altruism." Altruism looks so bad, it makes capitalism look better by comparison. But what does altruism really mean?

Oxford dictionary defines altruism as follows:

1. disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others:

2. (Zoology) behaviour of an animal that benefits another at its own expense:
reciprocal altruism

(Source: Link)

It's a no-brainer that the second definition smacks of Objectivism. Ayn Rand says that altruism is a moral code where you sacrifice yourself for the good of others. But the second definition is in the context of zoology; does Ayn Rand consider us animals? But Objectivists can't assert that; Ayn Rand clearly distinguished man apart from animals in the earlier part of her paper.

Now, let's consider the first definition. Does the first definition logically imply that the altruist will sacrifice himself for the good of others? Perhaps... or perhaps not. It depends on the degree of selflessness. The only remaining thing that can settle remaining contentions is to inspect whether the philosophers Ayn Rand accuses of causing the gradual decay of our civilization do support altruism as Ayn Rand defined.

Auguste Comte who coined the term "altruism" did seem pretty extreme with his "selfless" morality.

[The] social point of view cannot tolerate the notion of rights, for such notion rests on individualism. We are born under a load of obligations of every kind, to our predecessors, to our successors, to our contemporaries. After our birth these obligations increase or accumulate, for it is some time before we can return any service.... This ["to live for others"], the definitive formula of human morality, gives a direct sanction exclusively to our instincts of benevolence, the common source of happiness and duty. [Man must serve] Humanity, whose we are entirely."

So Ayn Rand was right about the altruism part? Not really. Yes, Comte was the one who coined the term "altruism," but the following must be considered:

1. Comte is not just the only proponent of altruism. Besides, Ayn Rand said "philosophers of altruism," so she must have known about this. However, the known philosophers who advocate altruism at a certain extent does not even adhere to Ayn Rand's version of altruism.

The central point of Kantian ethics is duty, not altruism. According to Immanuel Kant, morality is present when you do things out of duty (e.g., a mother takes care of children because it's her job to do so), which clearly does not imply the necessity of self-sacrifice. Furthermore, he argues that man should be considered an end, not merely a means to the ends of others. (Third Formulation, Categorical Imperative)

Meanwhile, utilitarians like Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill merely promote the good for the greatest number; nothing more. Such a concept does not necessitate self-sacrifice. The fact that Ayn Rand associated her version of altruism with all the philosophers who advocate altruism to a certain degree is a crime against logic; this is hasty generalization, a strong misinterpretation of facts. But the chain of fallacies do not stop here.

Ayn Rand committed the fallacy of false dichotomy. Implying that man has to choose between the philosophy of altruism and her own philosophy, Objectivism, when a good number of in-between philosophies exist, is a vivid example of such a fallacy. Not only this misinforms the people, Ayn Rand also betrays the virtue of Honesty (which she herself advocates), and slanders the reputation of other philosophers as well. Ayn Rand has committed a grave mistake as a philosopher.


So I guess this is where my little philosophical scrutiny ends, since Ayn Rand's paper ends here. As you can see, I don't consider Ayn Rand as entirely bad; I agree with some of her points, I mostly agree with her politics, but what irks me is the way she derides other philosophers of being evil and irrational without logical proof. What irks me is her arrogant display of "objectivity," when she is as subjective as the philosophers she accuses of being so; at least the other philosophers acknowledge the limits of their reasoning.

If Ayn Rand did one good thing, perhaps it's that she helped renew humanity's interest in philosophy, which is usually dismissed as a boring subject. However, as far as her actual philosophy is concerned, well, it has a substantial amount of ambiguities, inconsistencies, incoherence, and even actual fallacies. Ayn Rand did help develop the realm of philosophy in her own way, but to deify her and treat her as if she is the best philosopher in the world, that she is the philosophical messiah or something, that is something I simply cannot accept. As an enthusiast of philosophy, I will do my best to expose injustices being perpetrated in the subject that I love.

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