Among my most recent article updates is Objectivist Ethics, a Critique. I suspect it is unsettling to my many Objectivist friends, so I am offering them a chance to critique back. But my self-interest in the matter extends beyond preserving friendships. I want to make the article better. Ideally, it should persuade Objectivists to update their philosophy from merely following Ayn Rand — errors and all — to using her works as inspiration to produce something better.
As a start, I’d like to focus on making sure I am not doing a straw man argument. In the static article, I summarized her derivation of Objectivist ethics as follows:
- Existence exists.
- Living beings must act in order to exist. The plant seeks light, the cow chews cud, the tiger hunts, etc.
- Man is a rational animal.
- Reason is man’s basic tool for survival, just as claws are for a tiger, etc.
- Since man is not governed by instinct, he needs rules to live by. He needs ethics.
- Morals thus derive from self preservation, from self interest.
- However, rational self-interest is socially benevolent. To steal, mooch or be a useless playboy is to violate intellectual integrity, causing the mind to melt down like a computer in an old Star Trek episode. Rational self-interest produces a drive for productivity and trade. (But not necessarily for charity towards the disabled.)
Do I have this correct? Step 7 is perhaps the most problematic. Is the Star Trek reference too cute? Obviously, Rand did not claim an immediate mental meltdown results from rejecting rationality. The destruction claimed is considerably slower. So at the very least I intend to add “(only slower)” to the second sentence.
Also, can anyone give me a reference where Rand lays out her derivation of Objectivist ethics with all the steps intact. The first essay in The Virtue of Selfishness skips quite a few to say the least. If not, has anyone else written up such a derivation with citations of the relevant bits of Ayn Rand’s works?