Re: Ayn Randian Ethics
OCCOM BILL wrote:
Damn Joe, didn't we just do this?
Well, yes, after a fashion. But it's a topic that is well worth revisiting.
I think Rand's conception is nothing more than a poor - and not very original - justification for economic liberalism.
That's certainly one view.
Seeing morality in the exclusive perspective of self interest is to forget that we live in a society and we are members of a specie and not a mere addition of individual entities.
Rand understood that, and her ethics reflect that fact. To understand her ethics, however, one must appreciate how her view of personal morality works on a societal level.
As I understand it, Rand's ethics works somewhat like Adam Smith's view of the marketplace. According to Smith, even though everyone in a free market is a capitalist, no one acts in the interests of capitalism. Rather, everyone acts in their own best interests and capitalism takes care of itself. In the same way, Rand thinks that a societal morality can exist even if no one is particularly interested in maintaining or advancing that morality, since everyone acting in their own self interest will lead to that morality just as everyone bargaining in the marketplace leads to capitalism.
When she says that the fulfilment of self interest must respect the self interest of the others, she destroys her own argument. If my self interest is to be rich and in order to accomplish that I steal money from my neighbour, how can both of us accomplish our self interest? Shall he steal from another neighbour, and so on?
And if all men and women on earth want to fulfil their self interests (being rich)? Should everyone steal? Then nobody would be able to fulfil self interest.
Rand, I imagine, would counter that no one who is rationally self-interested would steal, since it is in everyone's self interest to maintain the institution of private property. A self-interested Randian, therefore, does not steal, even if there is a perceived immediate advantage in stealing. As I've mentioned elsewhere
, in this Randian ethics resembles a Kantian categorical imperative, although there are immense differences between the two.
No moral or ethics can renounce to the idea of supra individual values. That, unless you accept that the only rule is the right of the strongest - but Rand has no courage to follow Sade or Nietzsche.
You're certainly not the first person to compare Rand's ethics with Nietzsche's (click the link above). But upon closer examination Rand's ethics bear the closest resemblance to Aristotle's. Rand, in effect, says that to be ethical means to live rationally, which is close to what Aristotle said in his Nicomachean Ethics. Granted, there are differences between Rand and Aristotle, but their general position is largely the same.