RRD:At this point the alert(or conscious) reader may ask:How can a ignoramus deal a death blow to a philosophy of which they are ignorant of?
Before continuing I wish to state that I am not any kind of “official” spokesperson for Objectivism,that what follows is My presentation of certain aspects of Objectivism as I understand the philosophy.
As always a detailed,serious study of the primary source material is needed to understand any philosophy,and I would refer the reader to Ayn Rand’s corpus of writings,which flesh out and apply her views,and answer criticisms raised against Objectivism.
Victoria Bekiempis,a ignoramus(or liar)–who claims to be a ex-Objectivist–published a column in The Guardian in which she cited a article entitled “Psychological Egoism and Ethical Egoism” written by another ignoramus (or liar),
named Sandra LaFave.
Bekiempis’ article is here:
Confessions of a recovering Objectivist | Victoria Bekiempis | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk
Bekiempis asserts that her own categorical assertion about unnamed ”experts”(below)
when taken together
with LaFave’s article(excerpted later),serve to illustrate “foundational problems” in Objectivism.To this she adds that it would be “generous” for Bekiempis and LaFave to “concede” that they do not deal a “death-blow” to Objectivism.
I will first critique Bekiempis,then LaFave.
”Another key concern is that psychological egoism might not be final stage of an individual’s ethical development. We start off selfish, say some theorists, but we must move beyond convention and toward post -conventional social contract and conscience for true moral growth. ”
Do they have names?
Are their names unmentionable?
If they are mentionable,what are they?
What evidence or arguments do they have to back up their claims?
What counter-arguments are there from Rand or others?
Isn’t it begging the question to say: “but we must move beyond convention and toward post -conventional social contract and conscience for true moral growth”
Doesn’t that presuppose that ”selfishness” (aka ”convention”) is bad & that this ”post-conventional social contract and conscience ” is good?
If so it is not a argument,it is a assertion.
What–specifically–does it mean to “move beyond convention and toward post-conventional social contract and conscience”anyway & what are the arguments for doing this?
What are the counter-arguments?
Why is this so-called “true moral growth” supposedly moral?
Does Bekiempis expect us to research & assemble her argument for her?
Ayn Rand herself produced over two thousand pages of writing explaining her philosophy in great detail.
Those interested can find her full list of works at the Ayn Rand Bookstore,along with lectures & books by other Objectivists.
Ayn Rand Bookstore
Now let us turn to the arguments of LaFave which were cited by Bekiempis’.
Psychological Egoism and Ethical Egoism
”In fact, people who think psychological egoism is true (such as Thomas Hobbes and Ayn Rand) often use it as a premise in an argument to deny the validity of traditional ethics altogether”
…”The ethical egoist thinks we should pursue self-interest because we can’t help but do so. But if we must pursue self -interest, as the premise states, then what’s the point of saying we should ? If psychological egoism is true, we can’t act any other way. In other words,ethical egoism only makes sense if psychological egoism is false, i.e., if we have a genuine choice. ”….
RRD:There can be no doubt but that these are the people and wisdom shall die with them(paraphase of Job 12:2)
“But what’s wrong with their argument?”
What’s wrong with it is that Ayn Rand was not a adherent of the idea “that we should pursue self-interest because we can’t help but do so”,nor did she believe that ”all acts were selfish”.
Those of us who have actually read her works(or even just her novel Atlas Shrugged) are aware that she was not a advocate of these views,because of the very subtle hints she would drop from time to time in her writings.
Subtle hints like:
“Instinct” — Ayn Rand Lexicon
Galt’s Speech,For the New Intellectual , 121
..”An instinct of self-preservation is precisely what man does not possess. An “instinct” is an unerring and automatic form of knowledge. A desire is not an instinct. A desire to live does not give you the knowledge required for living. And even man’s desire to live is not automatic . . . Your fear of death is not a love for life and will not give you the knowledge needed to keep it. Man must obtain his knowledge and choose his actions by a process of thinking, which nature will not force him to perform. Man has the power to act as his own destroyer—and that is the way he has acted through most of his history.”….
RRD:And hints like:
The Ayn Rand Institute: The Objectivist Ethics, by Ayn Rand
(Ayn Rand quoting Galt’s speech her novel Atlas Shrugged part 3 chapter 7 ”This is John Galt Speaking” )
…“Through centuries of scourges and disasters, brought about by your code of morality[RRD:Altruism fn1] you have cried that your code had been broken,that the scourges were punishment for breaking it, that men were too weak and too selfish to spill all the blood it required.You damned man, you damned existence, you damned this earth, but never dared to question your code. . . . You went on crying that your code was noble, but human nature was not good enough to practice it. And no one rose to ask the question: Good ?—by what standard ?”..
“Yes, this is an age of moral crisis. . . . Your moral code has reached its climax,the blind alley at the end of its course. And if you wish to go on living, what you now need is not to return to morality . . . but to discover it.”
…”[Rand] I quote from Galt’s speech: “Man has been called a rational being, but rationality is a matter of choice—and the alternative his nature offers him is: rational being or suicidal animal. Man has to be man—by choice; he has to hold his life as a value—by choice; he has to learn to sustain it—by choice; he has to discover the values it requires and practice his virtues—by choice. A code of values accepted by choice is a code of morality.”….
Next Ayn Rand spoke directly in
The Objectivist Ethics.
“Man has no automatic code of survival. He has no automatic course of action, no automatic set of values. His senses do not tell him automatically what is good for him or evil, what will benefit his life or endanger it, what goals he should pursue and what means will achieve them, what values his life depends on, what course of action it requires. His own consciousness has to discover the answers to all these questions—but his consciousness will not function automatically . Man, the highest living species on this earth—the being whose consciousness has a limitless capacity for gaining knowledge—man is the only living entity born without any guarantee of remaining conscious at all. Man’s particular distinction from all other living species is the fact that his consciousness is volitional .”…
….”But man’s responsibility goes still further: a process of thought is not automatic nor “instinctive” nor involuntary—nor infallible. Man has to initiate it, to sustain it and to bear responsibility for its results. He has to discover how to tell what is true or false and how to correct his own errors; he has to discover how to validate his concepts, his conclusions, his knowledge; he has to discover the rules of thought, the laws of logic ,to direct his thinking. Nature gives him no automatic guarantee of the efficacy of his mental effort.”
…”He cannot achieve his survival by arbitrary means nor by random motions nor by blind urges nor by chance nor by whim. That which his survival requires is set by his nature and is not open to his choice. What is open to his choice is only whether he will discover it or not, whether he will choose the right goals and values or not. He is free to make the wrong choice, but not free to succeed with it.” …
Original Sin — Ayn Rand Lexicon
Galt’s Speech, For the New Intellectual , 136
…”The name of this monstrous absurdity is Original Sin.
…”A sin without volition is a slap at morality and an insolent contradiction in terms: that which is outside the possibility of choice is outside the province of morality. If man is evil by birth, he has no will, no power to change it; if he has no will, he can be neither good nor evil; a robot is amoral. To hold, as man’s sin, a fact not open to his choice is a mockery of morality. ”…
…”Do not hide behind the cowardly evasion that man is born with free will, but with a “tendency” to evil. A free will saddled with a tendency is like a game with loaded dice. It forces man to struggle through the effort of playing, to bear responsibility and pay for the game, but the decision is weighted in favor of a tendency that he had no power to escape. If the tendency is of his choice, he cannot possess it at birth; if it is not of his choice, his will is not free.”…
And Ayn Rand on Tabula Rasa.
Tabula Rasa — Ayn Rand Lexicon
“The Comprachicos,” Return of the Primitive: The Anti -Industrial Revolution, 54
…”At birth, a child’s mind is tabula rasa; he has the potential of awareness—the mechanism of a human consciousness—but no content. Speaking metaphorically, he has a camera with an extremely sensitive, unexposed film (his conscious mind), and an extremely complex computer waiting to be programmed (his subconscious). Both are blank”…
…. To focus his eyes (which is not an innate, but an acquired skill), to perceive the things around him by integrating his sensations into percepts (which is not an innate, but an acquired skill), to coordinate his muscles for the task of crawling, then standing upright, then walking—and, ultimately, to grasp the process of concept -formation and learn to speak—these are some of an infant’s tasks and achievements whose magnitude is not equaled by most men in the rest of their lives.”…
Atlas Shrugged – Wikiquote
“Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. When money ceases to be the tool by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of men. Blood, whips and guns –or dollars. Take your choice – there is no other – and your time is running out.”
Francisco d’Anconia to Hank Rearden
“When you felt proud of the rail of the John Galt Line,” said Francisco, the measured rhythm of his voice giving a ruthless clarity to his words, “what sort of men did you think of ? Did you want to see that Line used by your equals—by giants of productive energy, such as Ellis Wyatt, whom it would help to reach higher and still higher achievements of their own ?” “Yes,” said Rearden eagerly. “Did you want to see it used by men who could not equal the power of your mind, but who would equal your moral integrity—men such as Eddie Willers—who could never invent your Metal, but who would do their best, work as hard as you did, live by their own effort, and—riding on your rail—give a moment’s silent thanks to the man who gave them more than they could give him?” “Yes,” said Rearden gently. “Did you want to see it used by whining rotters who never rouse themselves to any effort, who do not possess the ability of a filing clerk, but demand the income of a company president, who drift from failure to failure and expect you to pay their bills, who hold their wishing as an equivalent of your work and their need as a higher claim to reward than your effort, who demand that you serve them, who demand that it be the aim of your life to serve them, who demand that your strength be the voiceless, rightless, unpaid, unrewarded slave of their impotence, who proclaim that you are born to serfdom by reason of your genius, while they are born to rule by the grace of incompetence, that yours is only to give, but theirs only to take, that yours is to produce, but theirs to consume, that you are not to be paid, neither in matter nor in spirit, neither by wealth nor by recognition nor by respect nor by gratitude—so that they would ride on your rail and sneer at you and curse you, since they owe you nothing, not even the effort of taking off their hats which you paid for? Would this be what you wanted ? Would you feel proud of it?” “I’d blast that rail first,” said Rearden, his lips white. “Then why don’t you do it, Mr. Rearden ? Of the three kinds of men I described—which men are being destroyed and which are using your Line today ?” They heard the distant metal heartbeats of the mills through the long thread of silence. “What I described last,” said Francisco, “is any man who proclaims his right to a single penny of another man’s effort.”
“I swear by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”
“There is only one kind of men who have never been on strike in the whole of human history. Every other kind and class has stopped, when they so wished, and have presented demands to the world, claiming to be indispensable – except the men who have carried the world on their shoulders, have kept it alive, have endured torture as sole payment, but have never walked out on the human race. Well, their turn has come. Let the world discover who they are, what they do and what happens when they refuse to function. This is the strike of the men of the mind, Miss Taggart. This is the mind on strike.”
“We’ve heard so much about strikes, and about the dependence of the uncommon man upon the common. We’ve heard it shouted that the industrialist is a parasite, that his workers support him, create his wealth, make his luxury possible – and what would happen to him if they walked out ? Very well. I intend to show the world who depends on whom, who supports whom, who is the source of wealth, who makes whose livelihood possible and what happens to who when whom walks out.”
“The businessman who wishes to gain a market by throttling a superior competitor, the worker who wants a share of his employer’s wealth, the artist who envies a rival’s higher talent -they’re all wishing facts out of existence, and destruction is the only means of their wish. If they pursue it, they will not achieve a market, a fortune, or an immortal fame – they will merely destroy production, employment and art. A wish for the irrational is not to be achieved, whether the sacrificial victims are willing or not. But men will not cease to desire the impossible and will not lose their longing to destroy – so long as self -destruction and self -sacrifice are preached to them as the practical means of achieving the happiness of the recipients.”
Chapter Seven: This is John Galt Speaking
“For centuries, the battle of morality was fought between those who claimed that your life belongs to God and those who claimed that it belongs to your neighbors – between those who preached that the good is self -sacrifice for the sake of ghosts in heaven and those who preached that the good is self -sacrifice for the sake of incompetents on earth. And no one came to say that your life belongs to you and that the good is to live it.”
And for those who still didn’t get it Ayn Rand published a essay in 1962 explicitly rejecting the claim that “all actions are selfish”.It was called “Isn’t Everyone Selfish” it was written on her behalf by Nathaniel Branden.
(Ayn Rand broke off relations with the Brandens and does not regard anything that they wrote after the break,or anything that they wrote which she did not oversee,to be part of her philosophy ) (fn2)
So far as I can tell the text of the article is not online,but it is hardly obscure.
It was included in the Virtue Of Selfishness Which is one of her more popular non-fiction books.(fn3)
But at this point you may say:”Aha!But Nietzche believed in ”blood” and instincts and Rand was a Nietzchean!”
It is true that Rand was heavily influenced by Nietzche when young(during what would later be called her Nietzchean phase),but her view of Nietzsche became progressively more negative as she became increasingly more “Neo-Aristotelian” in her outlook. (“Neo-Aristotelian” is how the academic community would term it,it was not her term)
In her Introduction to The Fountainhead she wrote:
Nietzsche, Friedrich — Ayn Rand Lexicon
“Introduction to The Fountainhead,” The Objectivist , March 1968, 6
”Philosophically, Nietzsche is a mystic and an irrationalist. His metaphysics consists of a somewhat “Byronic” and mystically “malevolent” universe; his epistemology subordinates reason to “will,” or feeling or instinct or blood or innate virtues of character. But, as a poet, he projects at times (not consistently) a magnificent feeling for man’s greatness, expressed in emotional, not intellectual, terms.
Selfishness — Ayn Rand Lexicon
“Introduction,” The Virtue of Selfishness, ix
..”The Objectivist ethics holds that the actor must always be the beneficiary of his action and that man must act for his own rational self -interest. But his right to do so is derived from his nature as man and from the function of moral values in human life—and, therefore, is applicable only in the context of a rational, objectively demonstrated and validated code of moral principles which define and determine his actual self -interest. It is not a license “to do as he pleases” and it is not applicable to the altruists’ image of a “selfish” brute nor to any man motivated by irrational emotions, feelings, urges, wishes or whims.
This is said as a warning against the kind of “Nietzschean egoists” who, in fact, are a product of the altruist morality and represent the other side of the altruist coin: the men who believe that any action, regardless of its nature, is good if it is intended for one’s own benefit. Just as the satisfaction of the irrational desires of others is not a criterion of moral value, neither is the satisfaction of one’s own irrational desires. Morality is not a contest of whims . . . .
RRD:Note that she is referring to ethics.In a Objectivist society people would be legally free to act in a way that Objectivists regard as irrational, so long as they did not violate individual rights. (fn4)
Since Ayn Rand is not a advocate of the ”we’re all selfish” view
everything that follows from the false premise that she is,is a straw man & invalid.
LaFave also makes other straw man arguments, which I will address in a later post.
Altruism — Ayn Rand Lexicon
Selfishness — Ayn Rand Lexicon
”I want, therefore, formally to state that the only authentic sources of information on Objectivism are: my own works (books, articles, lectures), the articles appearing in and the pamphlets reprinted by this magazine (The Objectivist , as well as The Objectivist Newsletter), books by other authors which will be endorsed in this magazine as specifically Objectivist literature, and such individual lectures or lecture courses as may be so endorsed. (This list includes also the book Who Is Ayn Rand ? by Nathaniel Branden and Barbara Branden, as well as the articles by these two authors which have appeared in this magazine in the past, but does not include their future works.)
– “A Statement of Policy, Part 1” The Objectivist (Jun 1968/7:6, but written and sent out later)
The Ayn Rand Institute: The Virtue of Selfishness
Freedom — Ayn Rand Lexicon
Individual Rights — Ayn Rand Lexicon