A Defense of Ethical Egoism_2

A Defense of Ethical Egoism_2 - q 1 J r e great LEV'IATHAN...

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Unformatted text preview: q 1 J r e great LEV'IATHAN as) ‘he immortal God, by this authority, man in the com- if so much POWer m) that by terror Form the wills of and. mutual aid And in him can- nwealth; which, to acts a great muln‘- with another; have ' tthor; to the end he of them all, as he beace and common on, is called SUV: reign power; and , ntly, of that mafia; :_ {ha/MOE . n Rand (1908—1982) wrote several philosophical web, including The Fountainhead ( I 943) and as Shrugged (I 95 9), from which this selection is en Her work sets forth a version of ethical egoisrn hot she called “ohjectioism,” 'the theory that ra— ‘onal beings ought to pursue their own happiness ml that altruism and ref—sacrifice are incompatible i ith rational morality. In this selection she criticizes hiltruistic morality (“the morality ofsamfice’fi) and raises the morality of sebishness. “. . . Yes, this is an age of moral crisis. Yes, you re bearing punishment for your evil. But it is not an who is now on trial and it is not human J, nature that will take the blame. It is yOur moral '.code that’s through, this time. Your moral code 5_ as reached its climax, the blind alley at the end j‘of its course. And if you wish. to go on living, what y0u now need is not to return to morality—you who have never known any—but to discover it. “You have heard no concepts of morality but the mystical or the social. You have been taught that morality is a code of behavior imposed on you by whim, the whim of a supematural power or the whim of society, to serve God’s purpose or your neighbofs welfare, to please an authority beyond the grave or else next door—but not to serve your life or pleasure. Your pleasure, you have been taught, is to be found in immorality, any moral code must be designed not jbr you, but against you, not to further your life, but to drain it. “For centuries, the battle of morality was fought From Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Published by Ran— dom House, Inc. Reprinted by permission of the ex- ecutor of the Estate of Ayn Rand. your interests would best be served by evil, and 7 ,A Defense of Ethical Egoism AYN RAND ‘ between those who claimed that your life belongs to God and those who claimed that it belongs to your neighborshbetween 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. “Both sides agreed that morality demands the surrender of your self-interest and of your mind, that the moral and the practical are opposites, that morality is not the province of reason, but the province of faith and force. Both sides agreed that no rational morality is possible, that there is no right or wrong in reaSOn—that in reason there’s no reason to be moral. ' “Whatever else they fought about, it was against man’s mind that all your moralists have stood united. It was man’s mind that all their schemes and systems were intended to despoil and destroy. Now choose to perish or to learn that the anti— mind is the anti—life. _ _ 9 “Man’s mind'is his basic tool of survival. Life is given to him, survival is not His body is given to him, its sustenance is not. His mind is givento him, its content isnot. To remain alive, he must act, and before he can act he must know the nature and purpose of his action. He cannot ob- tain his food without a knowledge of food and of the way to obtain it. He cannot dig a ditch—or build a cyclotron—without a knowledge of his aim and of the means to achieve it. To remain alive, he must think. i . “But to think. is an act of choice- The key to what you so recklessly'call ‘human nature,’ the open secret you live with, yet dread to name, is the fact that man is a being of volitional conscious— - nets Reason does not work automatically; think— 53 54 ing is not a mechanical process; the connections of logic are not made by instinct. The function of your stomach, lungs or heart is automatic; the function of your mind is not. In any hour and issue of your life, you are free to think or to evade that effort. But you are not free to escape from your nature, from the fact that reason is your means of survival—so that for you, who are a human being, the question ‘to be or not to be’ is the question _‘to think or not to think.’ “A being of volitional consciousness has no au— tomatic course of behavior. He needs a code of values to guide his actions. rValue’ is that which one acts to gain and keep, ‘virtue’ is the action by which one gains and keeps it. ‘Valuc’ presupposes an answer to the question: of value to whom and for what? rValue’ presupposes a standard, a pur— pose and the necessity of action in the face of an alternative. Where there are no alternatives, no values are possible. “There is only one fiindamental alternative in the universe: existence or non—existence—and it pertains to a single class of entities: to living or— ganisms. The existence of inanimate matter is unconditional, the existence of life is not: it de— pends on a specific courSe of action. Matter is indestructible,‘ it changes itsforms, but it cannot cease to exist. It is only a living organism that faces a constant alternative: the issue of life or death. Life is a process of self—sustaining and self—generating action. If an organism fails in that action, it dies; its chemical elements remain, but its life goes out of existence. It is only the concept of ‘Life’ that makes the concept of ‘Value’ possi— ble. It is only to a living entity that things can be good or evil. “A plant must feed itself in order to live; the sunlight, the water, the chemicals it needs are the values its nature has set it to pursue; its life is the standard of value directing its actions. But a plant has no choice of action; there are alternatives in the conditions it encounters, but there is no alternative in its function: it acts. automatically to further its life, it cannot act for its own de- struction- ‘ Ayn Ra “An animal is equipped for sustaining its ’ its senses provide it with an automatic code a; action, an automatic knowledge of what is ; i for it or evil. It has no power to extend its know edge or to evade it. In'condilions where its knowl edge proves inadequate, it dies. But so long as ', lives, it acts on its knowledge, with automan safety and no power of choice, it is unable .- ignore its own good, unable to decide to ch00 the evil and act as its own destroyer. ‘ “Man has no automatic code of survival. particular distinction from all other living speci is the necessity to act in the face of alternatives means of volitional choice He has no auto" knowledge of what is good for him or evil, w- values his life depends on, what course of acli it requires. Are you prattling about an instinct self—preservation? An instinct of self-preservafia is precisely what man does not possess. An stinct’ is an unerring and automatic form knowledge. A desire is not an instinct. A desire live)does not give you the knowledge required ' living. And even man’s desire to live is not an matic: your secret evil today is that that is ' desire you do not hold. Your fear of death is not love for life and will not give you the branded needed to keep it. Man must obtain his 'kn edge and choose his actions by a process of '- ing, which nature will not force him to perfo Man has the power to act as his own destroyer and' that is the way he has acted through most _ his hismry. - “A living entity that regarded its means of s viva] as evil, would not survive. A plant that so’ui gled to mangle its roots, a bird that foul to break its wings would not remain for long", the existence they affronted. But the histo “-Man has been called a rational being, but tionality is a matter of choice—and the alte suicidal animal. Man has to be man-uby choi'fl he has to hold his likes a value—by choice; _' has ‘to learn to sustain it—by choice; he haS‘ ”a,” " a' ' l' ,' sustaining its {as automatic COde 5 ”J Luna-up 1‘50”!!! 55 er the values itrequires and practice his H cholce. of reality and tlihnature of"lifé,'"nian;evéry ' ' man—isan end in himself, he exists for his own a {e ofwhat is go_ code of valuiis accepted by choice is a code 1 extend its know - . *5 where its know: . But so long as i, with automa 3, it is unable decide to chaos 1 am‘ speaking to whatever living remnant is uncorrupted within you, to the remnant of ality of reason, a morality proper to man, and YCI- gift; '5 Lifleis its standard of value. 0f Survival ' All that which is proper to the life of a ra— l'lEJ' living SPECIq as no automatj im 01' evfl: Wha course of actio at an instinct o. elf—preservation; rossess. An ‘in—' matic form of, net. A desire to] ge required for _' ce, since there’s only one price that pays for man’s survival: reason. I ‘Man’s life is the standard of morality,- but your wn life is its purpose. If existence onlcarth is your , '21, you must choose your actions and values by e standard of that which is proper to man—for tile purpose of preserving, fulfilling and enjoying _e irreplaceable value which is your life. in ms kHOWl- ' “Since life requires a specific course of action, cess of think— pr other course will destroy it A being who does :1 to P33601111— Jriot hold his own life as the motive and goal of his u de'St-WYETE ‘ Vj attions, is acting on the motive and standard of ' Jugh most of _r death. Such a being is a metaphysical monstrosity, {3' struggling to oppose, negate and contradict the H fact of his own existence, running blindly much 'I that Strug- ' on a trail of destruction, capable of nothing but that fought , pain. for long in 7% “Happiness is the successful state of life, pain 3 hlsmry 0f t is an agent of death. Happiness is that state of i to (13530)! ‘ unconsciousness which proceeds from the achieve— ment of one’s values. A morality that dares to tell “g! but 1'3- 1‘ you to find happiness in the renunciation of your 56 altema- happiness—to value the failure of your values—is I being 01‘ an insolent negation of morality. A doctrine that by Choice gives you, as an ideal, the role of a sacrificial Choice; he animal seeking slaughter on the altars of others, he has to is giving you death as your standard. By the grace sake, and the achievement of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose. “But neither life nor happiness can be achieved by the pursuit of irrafional whims. Just as man is free to attempt to survive in any random manner,- but will perish unless he lives as his nature re- quires, so he is free to seek his happiness in any mindless fraud, but the torture of frustration is all he will find, unless he seeks the happiness proper to man. The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy your- self and love. “Sweep aside those parasites of subsidized class- rooms, who live on the profits of the mind of others and proclaim that nfan needs no morality, _ no values, no code of behavior. They, who pose as scientists and claim that man is only an animal, do not grant him inclusion in the law of existence they have granted to the lowest of insects. They recognize that every living Species has a way of survival demanded by its nature, they do not claim that a fish can live out of water or that a dog can live without its sense of smell—but man, they claim, the most complex of beings, man can sur— vive in any way whatever, man has no identity, no nature, and there’s no practical reason why he cannot live with his means of survival destroyed, with his mind throttled and placed at the disposal of any orders they might care to issue. “Sweep aside those hatred-eaten mystics, who pose as friends of humanity and preach that the highest virtue man can practice is to hold his ‘own life as of no value. Do they tell you that the purpose of morality is to curb man’s instinct of self-preservation? It is for' the purpose of self— preservation that man needs a code of morality. The only man who desires to be moral is the man who desires to live. 7 “No, you do not have to live; it is your basic act of choice; but if you choose to live, you must live as a man—by the work and the judgment of your mind. “No, you do not have to live as a man: it is an 56 act of moral choice. But you cannot live as any- thing else—and the alternative is that state of living death which you now see within you and around you, the state of a thing unfit for exis- tence, no longer human and less than animal, a thing that knows nothing but pain and drags itself through its span of years in the agony of unthink- ing self—destruction. “No, you do not have to think; it is an act of moral choice. But someone had to think to keep - you alive; if you choose to default, you default on existence and you pass the deficit to some moral man, expecting him to sacrifice his good for the sake of letting you survive by your evil. . . . “This much is true: the most selfish of all things is the independent mind that recognizes no authority higher than its own and no value higher than its judgment of truth. You are asked to sacrifice your intellectual integrity; your logic, your reason, your standard of truth—in favor of becoming a prostitute whose standard is the great- est good for the greatest number. “If you search your code for guidance, for an answer to the question: r\l‘fhat is the good?’-~the only answer you will find is The good of others.’ The good is whatever others wish, whatever you feel they feel they wish, or whatever you'feel they ought to feel. ‘The good of others? is a magic formula that transforms anything into gold, a for— mula to be recited as a guarantee of moral glory and as a fumigator for any action, even the slaughter of a confluent. Your standard of virtue is not an object, not an act, nor a principle, but an intention. You need no proof, no reasons, no suc— cess, you need not achieve in filcr the good of others—all you need to know is that your motive was the good of others, not your own. Your only definition of the good is a negation: the good is the ‘non-good for me.’ _ “Your code—which boasts that it upholds eter— nal, absolute, objective moral values and seems the conditional, the relative and the subjective— your code hands out, as its version of the abso— lute, the following rule of moral conduct: If you wish it, it’s evil; if others wish it, it’s good; if the motive of your action is your welfare, don’t do it; Ayn Rand if the motive is the welfare of others, then any- thing goes. " . “As this double—jointed, double-standard mo- ' rality splits you in half, so it splits mankind into two enemy camps: one is you, the other is all the rest of humanity. Km are the only outcast who has no right to wish or live. him are the only servant, the rest are the masters, you are the only giver, the rest are the takers, you are the eternal debtor, the rest are the creditors never to be paid off. You must not question their right to your sacrifice, or the nature of their Wishes and their needs: their right is conferred upon them by a negative, by the fact that they are ‘non—you.’ “For those of you who might ask questions, your code provides a consolation prize and booby- trap: it is for your own happiness, it says, that you must-serve the happiness of others, the only way to achieve your joy is to give it up to others, the only way to achieve your prosperity is to sur- render your wealth to others, the only way to pro— tect your life is to protect all men except your- self—wand if you find no joy in this procedure, it is your own fault and the proof of your evil; if you were good, you would find your happiness in providing a banquet for others, and your dignity in existing on such crumbs as they might care to toss you. “You who have no standard of self—esteem, ac- cept the guilt and dare not ask the questions. But you know the unadnu'tted answer, refusing to ac— knowledge -what you see, what hidden premise moves your world. You know it, not in honest statement, but as a dark uneasiness within you, while you flounder between guiln'ly cheating and grudgingly practicing a principle too vicious to name. “I, who do not accept the unearned, neither in .values nor in guilt, am here to ask the questions you evaded- Why is it moral to serve the happi- ness of others, but not your own? If enjoyment is a value, why is it moral when experienced by oth— ers, but immoral when experienced by you? If the sensation of eating a cake is a value, why is it an immoral indulgence in your stomach, but a moral goal for you to achieve in the stomach of others? . stunner-3.1- has. '.« w.-.u' v.1 ' :r We»; ‘ 'd.|3|u-i-'<-"- it... -t '. K‘i Hunt.- no nus- :i ”Mi 1:“ J!“ “at?" s't'i he “5f 'iLJ: " -:-:.a.a-.M‘_ua,w.:t.—, am 1 ... ram 1': “unit-— '1 .l‘r- 'mwt inns ’ ' . Mi: ,5. "in LS- ‘ 1k ' Aim Rand t )tliers, then any— )le—standard mo- lits mankind into ie other is all the July outcast 'who film are the only , you are the only a are the eternal never to be paid it right to your wishes and their upon them by a ‘nonuyou.’ it ask questions, prize and booby- ;, it says, that you ers, the only way up to others, the perity is to sur- only way to pro— ien except your- is procedure, it is your evil; ifyou . ~ur happiness in and your dignity ray might care to 7 self—esteem, ac— 1e questions. But r, refusing to ac— hidden premise t, not in honest ness within you, tily cheating and ' le too vicious to armed, neither in sk the questions serve the happi— ? If enjoyment is erienced by oth— ed by you? If the due, why is it an - iach, but a moral imach of others? A Defense of Ethical Egaism Why is it immoral for you to desire, but moral for others to do so? Why is it immoral to produce a value and keep it, but moral to give it away? And if it is not moral for you to keep a value, why is it moral for others to accept it? If you are selfless and virtuous when you give it, are they not selfish and vicious when they take it? Does virtue consist of serving vice? Is the moral purpose of those who are good, self-iiinmolation for the sake of those who are evil? . . . “Under a morality of sacrifice, the first value you sacrifice is morality; the next is self-esteem. When need is the standard, every man is both victim and parasite. As a victim, he must labor to fill the needs of others, leaving himself in the position of a parasite whose needs must be filled by others. He cannot approach his fellow men except in one of two disgraceful roles: he is both a beggar and a sucker. ' “You fear the man who has a dollar less than you, that dollar is rightfully his, he maltes you feel like a moral defrauder. You hate the man who has a dollar more than you, that dollar is rightfully yours, he makes you feel that you are morally defrauded. The man below is a source of your guilt, the man above is a source of your frustra— tion. You do not know what to surrender or de— mand, when to give and when to grab, what plea- sure in life is rightfully yours and what debt is still unpaid to others—you struggle to evade, as ‘theory,’ .the knowledge that by the moral standard you’ve accepted you are guilty every moment of your life, there is no mouthful of food you swal- low that is not needed by someone somewhere on earth—and you give up the problem in blind re— sentment, you conclude that moral perfection is not to be achieved or desired, that you will muddle through by snatching as snatch can and by avoid— ing the eyes of the young, of those who look at you as if self—esteem were possible and they ex— pected you to have it. Guilt is all that you retain within your soul—and so does every other man, as he goes past, avoiding your eyes. Do you won» der why your morality has not achieved brother- hood on earth or the good will of man to man? “The justification of sacrifice, that your moral— 57 ity propounds, is more corrupt than the corrupt— ion it purports to justify. The motive of your sacrifice, it tells you...
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