Rand also delivered a version on radio and, in a separate radio program, answered questions on the subject. 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? I am the man who has asked that question.
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Answer: My morality, the morality of reason, is contained in a single axiom: existence exists—and in a single choice: to live. The rest proceeds from these. To live, man must hold three things as the ruling values of his life: Reason—Purpose—Self-esteem. Reason, as his only tool of knowledge—Purpose, as his choice of the happiness which that tool must proceed to achieve—Self-esteem, as his inviolate certainty that his mind is competent to think and his person is worthy of happiness, which means: worthy of living.
For thousands of years, people have been taught that goodness consists in serving others. Even the liberal Utilitarian philosophers, many of whom defended free market capitalism, taught that one should act always to attain "the greatest good for the greatest number. It seems loving our fellow man is a fine way to hate him. The Objectivist ethics rebuilds morality from the ground up.
To achieve happiness requires a morality of rational selfishness, one that does not give undeserved rewards to others and that does not ask them for oneself. Traditional moral codes have taught that social life is a war of dog-eat-dog and that people must restrain themselves through self-sacrifice and self-abnegation. It is the doctrine of "live and let live," to the full and in every way. Now how can such a harmony of interests exist? The answer is that human beings are not vampires, feeding on each other, nor need we live as hunter-gatherers, simply feeding on limited natural resources.
Where animals graze the land, humans can cultivate it. The human mode of living is production: the creation of value from the raw materials around us. Human beings see a rock, and we invent tools, smelting techniques, stone buildings, steel girders, paved streets, and so on and on.
We see a tree, and we make furniture, fuel, papers, books, construction materials, medicines, and so on and on. The application of reason to our problems allows us to create solutions. Thus we are not like dogs squabbling over meat or children sharing a pie; we are each creators, making new goods through our productive work, materially and morally. Material well-being is possible for everyone, and no one needs to make others poor to get rich.
Consider the fact that the richest people in America are entrepreneurs who created products that millions of people were glad to use. And since knowledge, ideas, and other non-material goods can be shared as widely as need be, we are not in fundamental competition with others for our spiritual needs, either. So, because reason is our means of survival, we stand to benefit from every discovery others make, every image or story they share, and every dollar they earn by production and trade.
The values of Objectivism are the means to a happy life. They include such things as wealth, love, satisfaction in work, education, artistic inspiration, and much more. We choose many of our values, such as what work we enjoy and who are our friends and lovers.
But we cannot choose the need for material goods or for friendship, if a happy life is what we seek. The ultimate choice open to us is whether we want life or not. Life is a choice we must make consciously and seriously, argues Rand, or else we may find that, by default, we have chosen the alternative: suffering and death. The cardinal values of Objectivism are Reason, Purpose, and Self.
Reason, because it is our means of gaining knowledge, and, through production, our means of survival. Purpose, because each of us has free will and must direct himself toward chosen goals, through a chosen course of life. Self, because without self-esteem, a self-motivating being cannot find the means to continue. The Objectivist ethics is a code that honors achievement and counsels the celebration, not the envy, of greatness.
It honors the creativity not only of artists and scholars, but of the producers on whose shoulders civilization rests: industrialists and engineers, investors and inventors. It holds that any work is spiritual that is well and thoughtfully done, no matter what the scale of achievement, from the factory line worker to the corporate CEO, and from the most unknown clerk to the most celebrated movie star.
The virtues of Objectivism, then, define principles of action that lead to the achievement of objective values, considered in the full context of human life. The key principle of the Objectivist ethics is rationality , as against mysticism and whim. The ethics is a code of benevolence and justice toward other people: holding evil-doers to account for their vices, but treating rational and productive people with good will and generosity.
It entails integrity , allowing no breach between our principles and our actions. A rational being practices honesty , loving the truth more than deception; and he lives first-hand, on the basis of his own judgment and effort, so independence is a virtue.
It is the code of a person who holds his head up with pride , in an objective appreciation of his merits and in aspiration to improvement in the future. Traditional ethics contrast the image of man as an animal with the ideal of man as an otherworldly monk. Man is by nature a ravening beast, on this view, and he must be taught self-denial and self-sacrifice to be angelic and meek. Objectivism holds that man lives best as a trader, acting rationally for his own sake and dealing with others by exchanging value for value.
Traditional ethics extol courage in the face of death as a virtue; Objectivism counsels integrity in the long-term pursuit of happiness. Traditional ethics extol charity as the mark of nobility; Objectivism extols productive achievement, because no one exists merely for the sake of others.
It is an ethic for those who want all life has to offer, consistently, over the full course of life.
I also found that she had misunderstood Hayek, and possibly Mill. The key difference I have with Ayn Rand in this particular essay is this: that while she agrees that life is of ultimate value, she then imposes her own views — "Reason, Purpose, and Self-Esteem" — as being key values. All I care is that you remain free to do whatever you wish to, so long as you are held to account for your contracts, your words, your deeds. That is the key: freedom subject to accountability.
The Objectivist Ethics
Answer: My morality, the morality of reason, is contained in a single axiom: existence exists—and in a single choice: to live. The rest proceeds from these. To live, man must hold three things as the ruling values of his life: Reason—Purpose—Self-esteem. Reason, as his only tool of knowledge—Purpose, as his choice of the happiness which that tool must proceed to achieve—Self-esteem, as his inviolate certainty that his mind is competent to think and his person is worthy of happiness, which means: worthy of living. For thousands of years, people have been taught that goodness consists in serving others. Even the liberal Utilitarian philosophers, many of whom defended free market capitalism, taught that one should act always to attain "the greatest good for the greatest number. It seems loving our fellow man is a fine way to hate him.