Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand by Leonard Peikoff


Philosophy is not a bauble of the intellect, but a power from which no man can abstain. Anyone can say that he dispenses with a view of reality, knowledge, the good, but no one can implement this credo. The reason is that man, by his nature as a conceptual being, cannot function at all without some form of philosophy to serve as his guide.

Ayn Rand discusses the role of philosophy in her West Point lecture “Philosophy:Who Needs It.” Without abstract ideas, she says,
“you would not be able to deal with concrete, particular, real-life problems. You would be in the position of a new born infant, to whom every object is a unique, unprecedented phenomenon. The difference between his mental state and yours lies in the number of conceptual integrations your mind has performed.

You have no choice about the necessity to integrate your observations, your experiences, your knowledge into abstract ideas, i.e., into principles.”

Your only choice, she continues, is whether your principles are true or false, rational or irrational, consistent or contradictory. The only way to know which they are is to integrate your principles.

“What integrates them? Philosophy. A philosophic system is an integrated view of existence. As a human being, you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation—or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears, thrown together by chance, but integrated by your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single, solid weight: self-doubt, like a ball and chain in the place where your mind's wings should have grown.”

Philosophy, in Ayn Rand's view, is the fundamental force shaping every man and culture. It is the science that guides men's conceptual faculty, and thus every field of endeavor that counts on this faculty. The deepest issues of philosophy are the deepest root of men's thought (see chapter 4), their action (see chapter 12), their history (see the Epilogue)--and, therefore, of their triumphs, their disasters, their future.

Philosophy is a human need as real as the need of food. It is a need of the mind, without which man cannot obtain his food or anything else his life requires.

To satisfy this need, one must recognize that philosophy is a system of ideas. By its nature as an integrating science, it cannot be a grab bag of isolated issues. All philosophic questions are interrelated. One may not, therefore, raise any such questions at random, without the requisite context. If one tries the random approach, then questions (which one has no means of answering) simply proliferate in all directions.

Suppose, for example, that you read an article by Ayn Rand and glean from it only one general idea, with which, you decide, you agree: man should be selfish. How, you must soon ask, is this generally to be applied to concrete situations? What is selfishness? Does it mean doing whatever you feel like doing? What if your feeling are irrational? But who is to say what's rational or irrational? And who is Ayn Rand to say what a man should do, anyway? Maybe what's true for her isn't true for you, or what's true in theory isn't true in practice. What is truth? Can it vary from one person or realm to another? And, come to think of it, aren't we all bound together? Can anyone ever really achieve private goals in this world? If not, there's no point in being selfish. What kind of world is it? And if people followed Ayn Rand, wouldn't that lead to monopolies or cutthroat competition, as the socialists says? And how does anyone know the answers to all these (and many similar) questions? What method of knowledge should a man use? And how does one know that?

For a philosophic idea to function properly as guide, one must know the full system to which it belongs. An idea plucked from the middle is of no value, cannot be validated, and will not work. One must know the idea's relationship to all the other ideas that give it context, definition, application, proof. One must know all this not as a theoretical end in itself, but for practical purposes; one must know it to be able to rely on an idea, to make rational use of it, and, ultimately, to live.

In order to approach philosophy systematically, one must begin with its basic branches. Philosophy, according to Objectivism, consist of five branches. Two basic ones are metaphysics and epistemology. Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that studies the nature of the universe as a whole. (The Objectivist metaphysics is covered in the present chapter on “Reality.”) Epistemology is the branch that studies the nature and means of human knowledge (chapter 2-5). These two branches make possible a view of the nature of man (chapter 6).

Flowing from the above are the three evaluative branches of philosophy. Ethics, the broadest of these, provides a code of values to guide human choices and actions (chapters 7-9). Politics studies the nature of a social system and defines the proper functions of government (chapters 10 and 11). Esthetics stuides the nature of art and defines the standards by which an art work should be judged (chapter 12).

In presenting Objectivism, I shall cover the five branches in essential terms, developing each in hierarchical order, and offering the validation of each principle or theory when I first explain it.

The True, said Hegel, is the Whole. At the end of our discussion, to borrow these terms, you will see a unique Whole, the Whole which is Ayn Rand's philosophic achievement. You may then judge for yourself whether it is an important achievement—and whether it it True.

* * * *

Every philosophy builds on its starting points. Where, then, does one start? What ideas qualify as primaries?

By the time men begin to philosophize, they are adults who have acquired a complex set of concepts. The first task of the philosopher is to separate the fundamental from the rest. He must determine which concepts are at the base of human knowledge and which are farther up the structure—which are the irreducible principles of cognition and which are derivatives.

Objectivism begins by naming and validating its primaries. Ayn Rand does not select questions at random; she does not plunge in by caprice. She begins deliberately at the beginning—at what she can prove is the beginning, and the root of all the rest.


We begin as philosopher where we began as babies, at the place there is to begin: by looking at the world. As philosophers, however, we know enough to state, as we look at anything: it is. This ( I am pointing to a table) is. That (pointing to a person seated at it) is. These things (sweeping an arm to indicate the contents of the whole room) are. Something exists.

We start with the irreducible fact and concept of existence—that which is.

The first thing to say about that which is is simply: it is. As Parmenides in ancient Greece formulated the principle: what is, is. Or, in Ayn Rand's words: existence exists. (“Existence” here is a collective noun, denoting the sum of existents.) This axiom does not tell us anything about the nature of existents; it merely underscores the fact that they exist.

This axiom must be the foundation of everything else. Before one can consider any other issue, before one can ask what things there are or what problems men face in learning about them, before one can discuss what one knows or how one knows it—first , there must be something, and one must grasp that there is. If not, there is nothing to consider or to know.

The concept of “existence” is the widest of all concepts. It subsumes everything—every entity, action, attribute, relationship (including every state of consciousness)--everything which is, was, or will be. The concept does not specify that a physical world exists. As the first concept at the base of knowledge, it covers only what is known, implicitly if not explicitly, by the gamut of the human race, from the newborn baby or the lowest savage on through the greatest scientist and the most erudite sage. All of these know equally the fundamental fact that there is something, something as against nothing.

You the reader have now grasped the first axiom of philosophy. This act implies a second axiom: that you exist possessing consciousness, consciousness being the faculty of perceiving that which exists. Consciousness is not inherent in the fact of existence as such; a world without conscious organisms is possible. But consciousness is inherent in your grasp of existence. Inherent in saying “There is something—of which I am aware” is: “There is something—of which I am aware.”

The fact of consciousness is also a fundamental starting point. Even if biologists or physicists were someday to give us a scientific analysis of the conditions of consciousness (in terms of physical structures or energy quanta or something now unknown), this would not alter the fact that consciousness is an axiom. Before one can raise any questions pertaining to knowledge, whether of content or of method (including the question of the conditions of consciousness), one must first be conscious of something and recognize that one is. All questions presuppose that one has a faculty of knowledge, i.e., the attribute of consciousness. One ignorant of this attribute must perforce be ignorant of the whole field of cognition (and of philosophy).

Consciousness, to repeat, is the faculty of perceiving that which exists. (“Perceiving” is used here in its widest sense, equivalent to “being aware of.”) To be conscious is to be conscious of something.

Here is Ayn Rand's crucial passage in regard to the above:

“Existence exists—and the act of grasping that statement implies two corollary axioms: that something exists which one perceives and that one exists possessing consciousness, consciousness being the faculty of perceiving that which exists.

If nothing exists, there can be no consciousness: a consciousness with nothing to be conscious of is a contradiction in terms. A consciousness conscious of nothing but itself is a contradiction in terms: before it could identify itself as consciousness, it had to be conscious of something. If that which you claim to perceive does not exist, what you possess is not consciousness.

Whatever the degree of your knowledge, these two existence and consciousness—are axioms you cannot escape, these two are the irreducible primaries implied in any action you undertake, in any part of your knowledge and in its sum, from the first ray of light you perceive at the start of your life to the widest erudition you might acquire at its end. Whether you know the shape of a pebble or the structure of a solar system, the axioms remain the same: that it exists and that you know it.”

A third and final basic axiom is implicit in the first two. It is the law of identity: to be is to be something, to have a nature, to possess identity. A thing is itself; or, in the traditional formula, A is A. The “identity” of an existent means that which it is, the sum of its attributes or characteristics.

“Whatever you choose to consider, be it an object, an attribute or an action, the law of identity remains the same [writes Ayn Rand]. A leaf cannot be a stone at the same time, it cannot be all red and all green at the same time, it cannot freeze and burn at the same time. A is A. Or, if you wish it stated in simpler language: You cannot have your cake and eat it, too.”

Ayn Rand offers a new formulation of this axiom: existence is identity.” She does not say “existence has identity”--which might suggest that identity is a feature separable from existence (as a coat of paint is separable from the house that has it). The point is that to be is to be something. Existence and identity are indivisible; either implies the other. If something exists, then something exist; and if there is a something, then there is a something. The fundamental fact cannot be broken in two.

Why, one migh ask, use two concepts to identify one fact? This procedure is common in philosophy and in other fields as well. When men have several perspective on a single fact, when they consider it from different aspects or in different contexts, it is often essential to form concepts that identify the various perspective.

“Existence” differentiates a thing from nothing, from the absence of the thing. This is the primary identification, on which all others depend; it is the recognition in conceptual terms that the thing is. “Identity” indicates not that it is, but that it is. This differentiate one thing from another, which is a distinguishable step in cognition. The perspective here is not: it is (vs. it is not), but: it is this (vs. it is that). Thus the context and purpose of the two concepts differ, although the fact both concepts name is indivisible.

Like existence and consciousness, identify is also a fundamental starting pint of knowledge. Before one can ask what any existent is, it must be something, and one must know this. If not, then there is nothing to investigate—or to exist.

Inherent in a man's grasp of any object is the recognition, in some form, that: there is something I am aware of. There is—existence; something—identity; I am aware of—consciousness. These three are the basic axiomatic concepts recognized by the philosophy of Objectivism.

An axiomatic concept, writes Ayn Rand, is “the identification of a primary fact of reality, which cannot be analyzed, i.e., reduced to other facts or broken into component parts. It is implicit in all facts and in all knowledge. It is the fundamentally given and directly perceived or experienced, which requires no proof or explanation, but on which all proofs and explanation rest.”

Axiomatic concepts are not subject to the process of definition. Their referents can be specified only ostensively, by pointing to instances. Everything to be grasped about these facts is implicit in any act of adult cognition; indeed, it is implicit much earlies. “After the first discriminated sensation (or percept),” Miss Rand observes, “man's subsequent knowledge adds nothing to the basic facts designated by the terms 'existence,' 'identity,' 'consciousness,'...” Subsequent knowledge makes the explicit, conceptual identification of these facts possible. But the facts themselves—which are the data or constituents later to be integrated into the concepts—are present to and from the first such awareness. It is in this sense that a knowledge of axioms is “implicit' from the beginning. “It is this implicit knowledge,” Miss Rand holds, “that permits [man's] consciousness to develop further.”

Being implicit from the beginning, existence, consciousness, and identity are outside the province of proof. Proof is the derivation of a conclusion from antecedent knowledge, and nothing is antecedent to axioms. Axioms are the starting points of cognition, on which all proofs depend.

One knows that the axioms are true not by inference of any kind, but by sense perception. When one perceives a tomato, for example, there is no evidence that it exists, beyond the fact that one perceives it; there is no evidence that it is something, beyond the fact that one perceive it; and there is no evidence that one is aware, beyond the fact that one is perceiving it. Axioms are perceptual self-evidencies. There is nothing to be said in their behalf except: look at reality.

What is true of tomatoes applies equally to ranges, buildings, people, musics, and stars. What philosophy does is to give an abstract statement of such self-evident facts. Philosophy states these facts in universal form. Whatever exists, exists. Whatever exists is what it is. In whatever form one is aware, one is aware.

The above is the validation of the Objectivist axioms. “Validation” I take to be a broader term than “proof,” one that subsumes any process of establishing an idea's relationship to reality, whether deductive reasoning, inductive reasoning, or perceptual self-evidence. In this sense, one can and must validate every item of knowledge, including axioms. The validation of axioms, however, is the simplest of all: sense perception.

The fact that axioms are available to perception does not mean that all human beings accept or even grasp axioms in conscious, conceptual terms. Vast numbers of men, such as primitives, never progress beyond implicit knowledge of the axioms. Lacking explicit philosophic identification of this knowledge, they have no way to adhere to the axioms consistently and typically fall into some from of contradicting the self-evident, as in the various magical world views, which (implicitly) deny the law of identity. Such men stunt their minds by subjecting themselves to an undeclared epistemological civil war. The war pits their professed outlook on the world against the implicit knowledge on which they are actually counting in order to survive.

Even lower are the men of an advanced civilization who—thanks to the work of a genius such as Aristotle—know the explicit identification of axioms, then consciously reject them. A declared inner war—i.e., deliberate, systematic self-contradiction—is the essence of the intellectual life of such individuals. Examples include those philosophers of the past centuries who reject the very idea of the self-evident as the base of knowledge, and who then repudiate all three of the basic axioms, attacking them as “arbitrary postulates,” “linguistic conventions,” or “Western prejudice.”

The three axioms I have been discussing have a built-in protection against all attacks: they must be used and accepted by everyone, including those who attack them and those who attack the concept of the self-evident. Let me illustrate this point by considering a typical charge leveled by opponents of philosophic axioms.

“People disagree about axioms,” we often hear. “What is self-evident to one may not be self-evident to another. How then can a man know that his axioms are objectively true? How can he ever be sure he is right?”

This argument starts by accepting the concept of “disagreement,” which it uses to challenge the objectivity of any axioms, including existence, consciousness, and identity. The following condensed dialogue suggests one strategy by which to reveal the argument's contradictions. The strategy begins with A, the defender of axioms, purporting to reject outright the concept of “disagreement.”

A. “Your objections to the self-evident has no validity. There is no such thing as disagreement. People agree about everything.”

B. “That's absurd. People disagree constantly, about all kinds of things.”

A. “How can they? There's nothing to disagree about, no subject matter. After all, nothing exists.”

B. “Nonsense. All kinds of things exist. You know that as well as I do.”

A. “That's one. You must accept the existence axiom even to utter the term 'disagreement.' But, to continue, I still claim that disagreement is unreal. How can people disagree, since they are unconscious beings who are unable to hold ideas at all?”

B. “Of course people hold ideas. They are conscious beings—you know that.”

A. “There's another axiom. But even so, why is disagreement about ideas a problem? Why should it suggest that one or more of the parties is mistaken? Perhaps all of the people who disagree about the very same point are equally, objectively right.”

B. “That's impossible. If two ideas contradict each other they can't both be right. Contradictions can't exist in reality. After all, things are what they are. A is A.”

Existence, consciousness, identity are presupposed by every statement and by every concept, including that of “disagreement.” (They are presupposed even by invalid concepts, such as “ghost” or analytic” truth.) In the act of voicing his objection, therefore, the objector has conceded the case. In any act of challenging or denying the three axioms, a man reaffirms them, no matter what the particular content of his challenge. The axioms are invulnerable.

The opponents of these axioms pose as defenders of truth, but it is only a pose. Their attack on the self-evident amounts to the charge: “Your belief in an idea doesn't necessarily make it true; you must prove it, because facts are what they are independent of your beliefs.” Every element of this charge relies on the very axioms that these people are questioning and supposedly setting aside. I quote Ayn Rand:

“You cannot prove that you exist or that you're conscious,” they chatter, blanking out the fact that proof presupposes existence, consciousness and a complex chain of knowledge: the existence of something to know, of a consciousness able to know it, and of a knowledge that has learned to distinguish between such concepts as the proved and the unproved.

When a savage who has not learned to speak declares that existence must be proved, he is asking you to prove it by means of non-existence—when he declares that your consciousness must be proved, he is asking you to prove it by means of unconsciousness—he is asking you to step into a void outside of existence and consciousness to give him proof of both—he is asking you to become a zero gaining knowledge about a zero.

When he declares that an axiom is a matter of arbitrary choice and he doesn't choose to accept the axiom that he exists, he blanks out the fact that he has accepted it by uttering that sentence, that the only way to reject it is to shut one's mouth, expound no theories and die.

An axiom is a statement that identifies the base of knowledge and of any further statement pertaining to that knowledge, a statement necessarily contained in all others, whether any particular speaker chooses to identity it or not. An axiom is a proposition that defeats its opponents by the fact that they have to accept it and use it in the process of any attempt to deny it.”

The foregoing is not a proof that the axioms of existence, consciousness, and identity are true. It is a proof that they are axioms, that they are at the base of knowledge and thus inescapable. This proof itself, however, relies on the axioms. Even in showing that no opponent can escape them, Ayn Rand too has to make use of them. All argument presupposes these axioms, including the argument that ll argument presupposes them.

If so, one might ask, how does one answer an opponent who says: “You've demonstrated that I must rests on your axioms, which I don't choose to accept. Tell me why I should. Why can't I contradict myself?”

There is only one answer to this: stop the discussion. Axioms are self-evident; no argument can coerce a person who chooses to evade them. You can show a man that identity is inescapable, but only by first accepting the fact that A is A. You can shoe that existence is inescapable, but only by accepting and referring to existence. You can show that consciousness is inescapable, but only by accepting and using your consciousness. Relying on these three axioms, you can establish their position as the foundation of all knowledge. But you cannot convince another person of this or anything until he accepts the axioms himself, on the basis of his own perception of reality. If he denies them, it is a mistake to argue about or even discuss the issue with him.

No one can think or perceive for another man. If reality, without you help, does not convince a person of the self-evident, he has abdicated reason and cannot be dealt with any further.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Playboy Magazine interviews Ayn Rand

PLAYBOY: Miss Rand, your novels and essays, especially your controversial best seller, Atlas Shrugged, present a carefully engineered, internally consistent world view. They are, in effect, the expression of an all-encompassing philosophical system. What do you seek to accomplish with this new philosophy?
RAND: I seek to provide men—or those who care to think—with an integrated, consistent and rational view of life.
PLAYBOY: What are the basic premises of Objectivism? Where does it begin? RAND: It begins with the axiom that existence exists, which means that an objective reality exists independent of any perceiver or of the perceiver's emotions, feelings, wishes, hopes or fears. Objectivism holds that reason is man's only means of perceiving reality and his only guide to action. By reason, I mean the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses.
PLAYBOY: In Atlas Shrugged your hero, John Galt, declares, "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." How is this related to your basic principles? RAND: Galt's statement is a dramatized summation of the Objectivist ethics. Any system of ethics is based on and derived, implicitly or explicitly, from a metaphysics. The ethic derived from the metaphysical base of Objectivism holds that, since reason is man's basic tool of survival, rationality is his highest virtue. To use his mind, to perceive reality and to act accordingly, is man's moral imperative. The standard of value of the Objectivist ethics is: man's life—man's survival qua man—or that which the nature of a rational being requires for his proper survival. The Objectivist ethics, in essence, hold that man exists for his own sake, that the pursuit of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose, that he must not sacrifice himself to others, nor sacrifice others to himself. It is this last that Galt's statement summarizes.
PLAYBOY: What kind of morality derives from this, in terms of the individual's behavior?
RAND: This is presented in detail in Atlas Shrugged.
PLAYBOY: The heroine of Atlas Shrugged was, in your words, "completely incapable of experiencing a feeling of fundamental guilt." Is any system of morality possible without guilt?
RAND: The important word in the statement you quoted is "fundamental." Fundamental guilt does not mean the ability to judge one's own actions and regret a wrong action, if one commits it. Fundamental guilt means that man is evil and guilty by nature.
PLAYBOY: You mean original sin?
RAND: Exactly. It is the concept of original sin that my heroine, or I, or any Objectivist, is incapable of accepting or of ever experiencing emotionally. It is the concept of original sin that negates morality. If man is guilty by nature, he has no choice about it. If he has no choice, the issue does not belong in the field of morality. Morality pertains only to the sphere of man's free will—only to those actions which are open to his choice. To consider man guilty by nature is a contradiction in terms. My heroine would be capable of experiencing guilt about a specific action. Only, being a woman of high moral stature and self-esteem, she would see to it that she never earned any guilt by her actions. She would act in a totally moral manner and, therefore, would not accept an unearned guilt.
PLAYBOY: In Atlas Shrugged, one of your leading characters is asked, "What's the most depraved type of human being?" His reply is surprising: He doesn't say a sadist or a murderer or a sex maniac or a dictator; he says, "The man without a purpose." Yet most people seem to go through their lives without a clearly defined purpose. Do you regard them as depraved?
RAND: Yes, to a certain extent.
RAND: Because that aspect of their character lies at the root of and causes all the evils which you mentioned in your question. Sadism, dictatorship, any form of evil, is the consequence of a man's evasion of reality. A consequence of his failure to think. The man without a purpose is a man who drifts at the mercy of random feelings or unidentified urges and is capable of any evil, because he is totally out of control of his own life. In order to be in control of your life, you have to have a purpose—a productive purpose.
PLAYBOY: Weren't Hitler and Stalin, to name two tyrants, in control of their own lives, and didn't they have a clear purpose?
RAND: Certainly not. Observe that both of them ended as literal psychotics. They were men who lacked self-esteem and, therefore, hated all of existence. Their psychology, in effect, is summarized in Atlas Shrugged by the character of James Taggart. The man who has no purpose, but has to act, acts to destroy others. That is not the same thing as a productive or creative purpose. PLAYBOY: If a person organizes his life around a single, neatly defined purpose, isn't he in danger of becoming extremely narrow in his horizons?
RAND: Quite the contrary. A central purpose serves to integrate all the other concerns of a man's life. It establishes the hierarchy, the relative importance, of his values, it saves him from pointless inner conflicts, it permits him to enjoy life on a wide scale and to carry that enjoyment into any area open to his mind; whereas a man without a purpose is lost in chaos. He does not know what his values are. He does not know how to judge. He cannot tell what is or is not important to him, and, therefore, he drifts helplessly at the mercy of any chance stimulus or any whim of the moment. He can enjoy nothing. He spends his life searching for some value which he will never find.
PLAYBOY: Couldn't the attempt to rule whim out of life, to act in a totally rational fashion, be viewed as conducive to a juiceless, joyless kind of existence? RAND: I truly must say that I don't know what you are talking about. Let's define our terms. Reason is man's tool of knowledge, the faculty that enables him to perceive the facts of reality. To act rationally means to act in accordance with the facts of reality. Emotions are not tools of cognition. What you feel tells you nothing about the facts; it merely tells you something about your estimate of the facts. Emotions are the result of your value judgments; they are caused by your basic premises, which you may hold consciously or subconsciously, which may be right or wrong. A whim is an emotion whose cause you neither know nor care to discover. Now what does it mean, to act on whim? It means that a man acts like a zombi, without any knowledge of what he deals with, what he wants to accomplish, or what motivates him. It means that a man acts in a state of temporary insanity. Is this what you call juicy or colorful? I think the only juice that can come out of such a situation is blood. To act against the facts of reality can result only in destruction.
PLAYBOY: Should one ignore emotions altogether, rule them out of one's life entirely?
RAND: Of course not. One should merely keep them in their place. An emotion is an automatic response, an automatic effect of man's value premises. An effect, not a cause. There is no necessary clash, no dichotomy between man's reason and his emotions—provided he observes their proper relationship. A rational man knows—or makes it a point to discover—the source of his emotions, the basic premises from which they come; if his premises are wrong, he corrects them. He never acts on emotions for which he cannot account, the meaning of which he does not understand. In appraising a situation, he knows why he reacts as he does and whether he is right. He has no inner conflicts, his mind and his emotions are integrated, his consciousness is in perfect harmony. His emotions are not his enemies, they are his means of enjoying life. But they are not his guide; the guide is his mind. This relationship cannot be reversed, however. If a man takes his emotions as the cause and his mind as their passive effect, if he is guided by his emotions and uses his mind only to rationalize or justify them somehow—then he is acting immorally, he is condemning himself to misery, failure, defeat, and he will achieve nothing but destruction—his own and that of others.
PLAYBOY: According to your philosophy, work and achievement are the highest goals of life. Do you regard as immoral those who find greater fulfillment in the warmth of friendship and family ties?
RAND: If they place such things as friendship and family ties above their own productive work, yes, then they are immoral. Friendship, family life and human relationships are not primary in a man's life. A man who places others first, above his own creative work, is an emotional parasite; whereas, if he places his work first, there is no conflict between his work and his enjoyment of human relationships.
PLAYBOY: Do you believe that women as well as men should organize their lives around work—and if so, what kind of work?
RAND: Of course. I believe that women are human beings. What is proper for a man is proper for a woman. The basic principles are the same. I would not attempt to prescribe what kind of work a man should do, and I would not attempt it in regard to women. There is no particular work which is specifically feminine. Women can choose their work according to their own purpose and premises in the same manner as men do.
PLAYBOY: In your opinion, is a woman immoral who chooses to devote herself to home and family instead of a career?
RAND: Not immoral—I would say she is impractical, because a home cannot be a full-time occupation, except when her children are young. However, if she wants a family and wants to make that her career, at least for a while, it would be proper—if she approaches it as a career, that is, if she studies the subject, if she defines the rules and principles by which she wants to bring up her children, if she approaches her task in an intellectual manner. It is a very responsible task and a very important one, but only when treated as a science, not as a mere emotional indulgence.
PLAYBOY: Where, would you say, should romantic love fit into the life of a rational person whose single driving passion is work?
RAND: It is his greatest reward. The only man capable of experiencing a profound romantic love is the man driven by passion for his work—because love is an expression of self-esteem, of the deepest values in a man's or a woman's character. One falls in love with the person who shares these values. If a man has no clearly defined values, and no moral character, he is not able to appreciate another person. In this respect, I would like to quote from The Fountainhead, in which the hero utters a line that has often been quoted by readers: "To say 'I love you' one must know first how to say the 'I.'"
PLAYBOY: You hold that one's own happiness is the highest end, and that self-sacrifice is immoral. Does this apply to love as well as work?
RAND: To love more than to anything else. When you are in love, it means that the person you love is of great personal, selfish importance to you and to your life. If you were selfless, it would have to mean that you derive no personal pleasure or happiness from the company and the existence of the person you love, and that you are motivated only by self-sacrificial pity for that person's need of you. I don't have to point out to you that no one would be flattered by, nor would accept, a concept of that kind. Love is not self-sacrifice, but the most profound assertion of your own needs and values. It is for your own happiness that you need the person you love, and that is the greatest compliment, the greatest tribute you can pay to that person.
PLAYBOY: You have denounced the puritan notion that physical love is ugly or evil; yet you have written that "Indiscriminate desire and unselective indulgence are possible only to those who regard sex and themselves as evil." Would you say that discriminate and selective indulgence in sex is moral?
RAND: I would say that a selective and discriminate sex life is not an indulgence. The term indulgence implies that it is an action taken lightly and casually. I say that sex is one of the most important aspects of man's life and, therefore, must never be approached lightly or casually. A sexual relationship is proper only on the ground of the highest values one can find in a human being. Sex must not be anything other than a response to values. And that is why I consider promiscuity immoral. Not because sex is evil, but because sex is too good and too important.
PLAYBOY: Does this mean, in your view, that sex should involve only married partners?
RAND: Not necessarily. What sex should involve is a very serious relationship. Whether that relationship should or should not become a marriage is a question which depends on the circumstances and the context of the two persons' lives. I consider marriage a very important institution, but it is important when and if two people have found the person with whom they wish to spend the rest of their lives—a question of which no man or woman can be automatically certain. When one is certain that one's choice is final, then marriage is, of course, a desirable state. But this does not mean that any relationship based on less than total certainty is improper. I think the question of an affair or a marriage depends on the knowledge and the position of the two persons involved and should be left up to them. Either is moral, provided only that both parties take the relationship seriously and that it is based on values.
PLAYBOY: As one who champions the cause of enlightened self-interest, how do you feel about dedicating one's life to hedonistic self-gratification?
RAND: I am profoundly opposed to the philosophy of hedonism. Hedonism is the doctrine which holds that the good is whatever gives you pleasure and, therefore, pleasure is the standard of morality. Objectivism holds that the good must be defined by a rational standard of value, that pleasure is not a first cause, but only a consequence, that only the pleasure which proceeds from a rational value judgment can be regarded as moral, that pleasure, as such, is not a guide to action nor a standard of morality. To say that pleasure should be the standard of morality simply means that whichever values you happen to have chosen, consciously or subconsciously, rationally or irrationally, are right and moral. This means that you are to be guided by chance feelings, emotions and whims, not by your mind. My philosophy is the opposite of hedonism. I hold that one cannot achieve happiness by random, arbitrary or subjective means. One can achieve happiness only on the basis of rational values. By rational values, I do not mean anything that a man may arbitrarily or blindly declare to be rational. It is the province of morality, of the science of ethics, to define for men what is a rational standard and what are the rational values to pursue. PLAYBOY: You have said that the kind of man who spends his time running after women is a man who "despises himself." Would you elaborate?
RAND: This type of man is reversing cause and effect in regard to sex. Sex is an expression of a man's self-esteem, of his own self-value. But the man who does not value himself tries to reverse this process. He tries to derive his self-esteem from his sexual conquests, which cannot be done. He cannot acquire his own value from the number of women who regard him as valuable. Yet that is the hopeless thing which he attempts.
PLAYBOY: You attack the idea that sex is "impervious to reason." But isn't sex a nonrational biological instinct?
RAND: No. To begin with, man does not possess any instincts. Physically, sex is merely a capacity. But how a man will exercise this capacity and whom he will find attractive depends on his standard of value. It depends on his premises, which he may hold consciously or subconsciously, and which determine his choices. It is in this manner that his philosophy directs his sex life.
PLAYBOY: Isn't the individual equipped with powerful, nonrational biological drives?
RAND: He is not. A man is equipped with a certain kind of physical mechanism and certain needs, but without any knowledge of how to fulfill them. For instance, man needs food. He experiences hunger. But, unless he learns first to identify this hunger, then to know that he needs food and how to obtain it, he will starve. The need, the hunger, will not tell him how to satisfy it. Man is born with certain physical and psychological needs, but he can neither discover them nor satisfy them without the use of his mind. Man has to discover what is right or wrong for him as a rational being. His so-called urges will not tell him what to do.
PLAYBOY: In Atlas Shrugged you wrote, "There are two sides to every issue. One side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil." Isn't this a rather black-and-white set of values?
RAND: It most certainly is. I most emphatically advocate a black-and-white view of the world. Let us define this. What is meant by the expression "black and white"? It means good and evil. Before you can identify anything as gray, as middle of the road, you have to know what is black and what is white, because gray is merely a mixture of the two. And when you have established that one alternative is good and the other is evil, there is no justification for the choice of a mixture. There is no justification ever for choosing any part of what you know to be evil.
PLAYBOY: Then you believe in absolutes?
RAND: I do.
PLAYBOY: Can't Objectivism, then, be called a dogma?
RAND: No. A dogma is a set of beliefs accepted on faith; that is, without rational justification or against rational evidence. A dogma is a matter of blind faith. Objectivism is the exact opposite. Objectivism tells you that you must not accept any idea or conviction unless you can demonstrate its truth by means of reason
PLAYBOY: If widely accepted, couldn't Objectivism harden into a dogma? RAND: No. I have found that Objectivism is its own protection against people who might attempt to use it as a dogma. Since Objectivism requires the use of one's mind, those who attempt to take broad principles and apply them unthinkingly and indiscriminately to the concretes of their own existence find that it cannot be done. They are then compelled either to reject Objectivism or to apply it. When I say apply, I mean that they have to use their own mind, their own thinking, in order to know how to apply Objectivist principles to the specific problems of their own lives.
PLAYBOY: You have said you are opposed to faith. Do you believe in God? RAND: Certainly not.
PLAYBOY: You've been quoted as saying, "The cross is the symbol of torture, of the sacrifice of the ideal to the nonideal. I prefer the dollar sign." Do you truly feel that two thousand years of Christianity can be summed up with the word "torture"?
RAND: To begin with, I never said that. It's not my style. Neither literarily nor intellectually. I don't say I prefer the dollar sign—that is cheap nonsense, and please leave this in your copy. I don't know the origin of that particular quote, but the meaning of the dollar sign is made clear in Atlas Shrugged. It is the symbol, clearly explained in the story, of free trade and, therefore, of a free mind. A free mind and a free economy are corollaries. One can't exist without the other. The dollar sign, as the symbol of the currency of a free country, is the symbol of the free mind. More than that, as to the historical origin of the dollar sign, although it has never been proved, one very likely hypothesis is that it stands for the initials of the United States. So much for the dollar sign.Now you want me to speak about the cross. What is correct is that I do regard the cross as the symbol of the sacrifice of the ideal to the nonideal. Isn't that what it does mean? Christ, in terms of the Christian philosophy, is the human ideal. He personifies that which men should strive to emulate. Yet, according to the Christian mythology, he died on the cross not for his own sins but for the sins of the nonideal people. In other words, a man of perfect virtue was sacrificed for men who are vicious and who are expected or supposed to accept that sacrifice. If I were a Christian, nothing could make me more indignant than that: the notion of sacrificing the ideal to the non-ideal, or virtue to vice. And it is in the name of that symbol that men are asked to sacrifice themselves for their inferiors. That is precisely how the symbolism is used. That is torture.
PLAYBOY: Has no religion, in your estimation, ever offered anything of constructive value to human life?
RAND: Qua religion, no—in the sense of blind belief, belief unsupported by, or contrary to, the facts of reality and the conclusions of reason. Faith, as such, is extremely detrimental to human life: It is the negation of reason. But you must remember that religion is an early form of philosophy, that the first attempts to explain the universe, to give a coherent frame of reference to man's life and a code of moral values, were made by religion, before men graduated or developed enough to have philosophy. And, as philosophies, some religions have very valuable moral points. They may have a good influence or proper principles to inculcate, but in a very contradictory context and, on a very—how should I say it?—dangerous or malevolent base: on the ground of faith.
PLAYBOY: Then you would say that if you had to choose between the symbol of the cross and the symbol of the dollar, you would choose the dollar?
RAND: I wouldn't accept such a choice. Put it another way: If I had to choose between faith and reason, I wouldn't consider the choice even conceivable. As a human being, one chooses reason.
PLAYBOY: Do you consider wealthy businessmen like the Fords and the Rockefellers immoral because they use their wealth to support charity?
RAND: No. That is their privilege, if they want to. My views on charity are very simple. I do not consider it a major virtue and, above all, I do not consider it a moral duty. There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them. I regard charity as a marginal issue. What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue.
PLAYBOY: What is the place of compassion in your philosophical system? RAND: I regard compassion as proper only toward those who are innocent victims, but not toward those who are morally guilty. If one feels compassion for the victims of a concentration camp, one cannot feel it for the torturers. If one does feel compassion for the torturers, it is an act of moral treason toward the victims.
PLAYBOY: Would it be against the principles of Objectivism for anyone to sacrifice himself by stepping in front of a bullet to protect another person? RAND: No. It depends on the circumstances. I would step in the way of a bullet if it were aimed at my husband. It is not self-sacrifice to die protecting that which you value: If the value is great enough, you do not care to exist without it. This applies to any alleged sacrifice for those one loves.
PLAYBOY: Would you be willing to die for your cause, and should your followers be willing to die for it? And for the truly nonsacrificial Objectivist, is any cause worth dying for?
RAND: The answer to this is made plain in my book. In Atlas Shrugged I explain that a man has to live for, and when necessary, fight for, his values—because the whole process of living consists of the achievement of values. Man does not survive automatically. He must live like a rational being and accept nothing less. He cannot survive as a brute. Even the simplest value, such as food, has to be created by man, has to be planted, has to be produced. The same is true of his more interesting, more important achievements. All values have to be gained and kept by man, and, if they are threatened, he has to be willing to fight and die, if necessary, for his right to live like a rational being. You ask me, would I be willing to die for Objectivism? I would. But what is more important, I am willing to live for it—which is much more difficult.
PLAYBOY: In your emphasis on reason, you are in philosophical conflict with contemporary writers, novelists and poets—many of whom are self-admitted mystics, or irrationalists, as they have been called. Why is this so?
RAND: Because art has a philosophical base, and the dominant philosophical trends of today are a form of neomysticism. Art is a projection of the artist's fundamental view of man and of existence. Since most artists do not develop an independent philosophy of their own, they absorb, consciously or subconsciously, the dominant philosophical influences of their time. Most of today's literature is a faithful reflection of today's philosophy—and look at it! PLAYBOY: But shouldn't a writer reflect his time?
RAND: No. A writer should be an active intellectual leader of his time, not a passive follower riding any current. A writer should shape the values of his culture, he should project and concretize the value goals of man's life. This is the essence of the Romantic school of literature, which has all but vanished from today's scene.
PLAYBOY: Leaving us where, literarily speaking?
RAND: At the dead end of Naturalism. Naturalism holds that a writer must be a passive photographer or reporter who must transcribe uncritically whatever he happens to observe around him. Romanticism holds that a writer must present things, not as they are at any given moment, but, to quote Aristotle, "as they might be and ought to be."
PLAYBOY: Would you say that you are the last of the Romanticists?
RAND: Or the first of their return—to quote one of my own characters in Atlas Shrugged.
PLAYBOY: What is your appraisal of contemporary literature in general? RAND: Philosophically, immoral. Aesthetically, it bores me to death. It is degenerating into a sewer, devoted exclusively to studies of depravity. And there's nothing as boring as depravity.
PLAYBOY: Are there any novelists whom you admire?
RAND: Victor Hugo.
PLAYBOY: What about modern novelists?
RAND: No, there is no one that I could say I admire among the so-called serious writers. I prefer the popular literature of today, which is today's remnant of Romanticism. My favorite is Mickey Spillane.
PLAYBOY: Why do you like him?
RAND: Because he is primarily a moralist. In a primitive form, the form of a detective novel, he presents the conflict of good and evil, in terms of black and white. He does not present a nasty gray mixture of indistinguishable scoundrels on both sides. He presents an uncompromising conflict. As a writer, he is brilliantly expert at the aspect of literature which I consider most important: plot structure.
PLAYBOY: What do you think of Faulkner?
RAND: Not very much. He is a good stylist, but practically unreadable in content—so I've read very little of him.
PLAYBOY: What about Nabokov?
RAND: I have read only one book of his and a half—the half was Lolita, which I couldn't finish. He is a brilliant stylist, he writes beautifully, but his subjects, his sense of life, his view of man, are so evil that no amount of artistic skill can justify them.
PLAYBOY: As a novelist, do you regard philosophy as the primary purpose of your writing?
RAND: No. My primary purpose is the projection of an ideal man, of man "as he might be and ought to be." Philosophy is the necessary means to that end. PLAYBOY: In your early novel, Anthem, your protagonist declares, "It is my will which chooses, and the choice of my will is the only edict I respect." Isn't this anarchism? Is one's own desire or will the only law one must respect?
RAND: Not one's own will. This is, more or less, a poetic expression made clear by the total context of the story in Anthem. One's own rational judgment. You see, I use the term free will in a totally different sense from the one usually attached to it. Free will consists of man's ability to think or not to think. The act of thinking is man's primary act of choice. A rational man will never be guided by desires or whims, only by values based on his rational judgment. That is the only authority he can recognize. This does not mean anarchy, because, if a man wants to live in a free, civilized society, he would, in reason, have to choose to observe the laws, when those laws are objective, rational and valid. I have written an article on this subject for The Objectivist Newsletter—on the need and proper function of a government.
PLAYBOY: What, in your view, is the proper function of a government?
RAND: Basically, there is really only one proper function: the protection of individual rights. Since rights can be violated only by physical force, and by certain derivatives of physical force, the proper function of government is to protect men from those who initiate the use of physical force: from those who are criminals. Force, in a free society, may be used only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use. This is the proper task of government: to serve as a policeman who protects men from the use of force.
PLAYBOY: If force may be used only in retaliation against force, does the government have the right to use force to collect taxes, for example, or to draft soldiers?
RAND: In principle, I believe that taxation should be voluntary, like everything else. But how one would implement this is a very complex question. I can only suggest certain methods, but I would not attempt to insist on them as a definitive answer. A government lottery, for instance, used in many countries in Europe, is one good method of voluntary taxation. There are others. Taxes should be voluntary contributions for the proper governmental services which people do need and therefore would be and should be willing to pay for—as they pay for insurance. But, of course, this is a problem for a distant future, for the time when men will establish a fully free social system. It would be the last, not the first, reform to advocate. As to the draft, it is improper and unconstitutional. It is a violation of fundamental rights, of a man's right to his own life. No man has the right to send another man to fight and die for his, the sender's, cause. A country has no right to force men into involuntary servitude. Armies should be strictly voluntary; and, as military authorities will tell you, volunteer armies are the best armies.
PLAYBOY: What about other public needs? Do you consider the post office, for example, a legitimate function of government?
RAND: Now let's get this straight. My position is fully consistent. Not only the post office, but streets, roads, and above all, schools, should all be privately owned and privately run. I advocate the separation of state and economics. The government should be concerned only with those issues which involve the use of force. This means: the police, the armed services, and the law courts to settle disputes among men. Nothing else. Everything else should be privately run and would be much better run.
PLAYBOY: Would you create any new government departments or agencies? RAND: No, and I truly cannot discuss things that way. I am not a government planner nor do I spend my time inventing Utopias. I'm talking about principles whose practical applications are clear. If I have said that I am opposed to the initiation of force, what else has to be discussed?
PLAYBOY: What about force in foreign policy? You have said that any free nation had the right to invade Nazi Germany during World War II....
RAND: Certainly.
PLAYBOY: ...And that any free nation today has the moral right—though not the duty—to invade Soviet Russia, Cuba, or any other "slave pen." Correct?
RAND: Correct. A dictatorship—a country that violates the rights of its own citizens—is an outlaw and can claim no rights.
PLAYBOY: Would you actively advocate that the United States invade Cuba or the Soviet Union?
RAND: Not at present. I don't think it's necessary. I would advocate that which the Soviet Union fears above all else: economic boycott. I would advocate a blockade of Cuba and an economic boycott of Soviet Russia; and you would see both those regimes collapse without the loss of a single American life. PLAYBOY: Would you favor U.S. withdrawal from the United Nations?
RAND: Yes. I do not sanction the grotesque pretense of an organization allegedly devoted to world peace and human rights, which includes Soviet Russia, the worst aggressor and bloodiest butcher in history, as one of its members. The notion of protecting rights, with Soviet Russia among the protectors, is an insult to the concept of rights and to the intelligence of any man who is asked to endorse or sanction such an organization. I do not believe that an individual should cooperate with criminals, and, for all the same reasons, I do not believe that free countries should cooperate with dictatorships. PLAYBOY: Would you advocate severing diplomatic relations with Russia? RAND: Yes.
PLAYBOY: How do you feel about the test-ban treaty which was recently signed?
RAND: I agree with Barry Goldwater's speech on this subject on the Senate floor. The best military authorities, and above all, the best scientific authority, Dr. Teller, the author of the hydrogen bomb, have stated that this treaty is not merely meaningless but positively dangerous to America's defense.
PLAYBOY: If Senator Goldwater is nominated as the Republican presidential candidate this July, would you vote for him?
RAND: At present, yes. When I say "at present," I mean the date when this interview is being recorded. I disagree with him on a great many things, but I do agree, predominantly, with his foreign policy. Of any candidates available today, I regard Barry Goldwater as the best. I would vote for him, if he offers us a plausible, or at least semiconsistent, platform.
PLAYBOY: How about Richard Nixon?
RAND: I'm opposed to him. I'm opposed to any compromiser or me-tooer, and Mr. Nixon is probably the champion in this regard.
PLAYBOY: What about President Johnson?
RAND: I have no particular opinion about him.
PLAYBOY: You are a declared anticommunist, antisocialist and antiliberal. Yet you reject the notion that you are a conservative. In fact, you have reserved some of your angriest criticism for conservatives. Where do you stand politically?
RAND: Correction. I never describe my position in terms of negatives. I am an advocate of laissez-faire capitalism, of individual rights—there are no others—of individual freedom. It is on this ground that I oppose any doctrine which proposes the sacrifice of the individual to the collective, such as communism, socialism, the welfare state, fascism, Nazism and modern liberalism. I oppose the conservatives on the same ground. The conservatives are advocates of a mixed economy and of a welfare state. Their difference from the liberals is only one of degree, not of principle.
PLAYBOY: You have charged that America suffers from intellectual bankruptcy. Do you include in this condemnation such right-wing publications as the National Review? Isn't that interviews a powerful voice against all the things you regard as "statism"?
RAND: I consider National Review the worst and most dangerous interviews in America. The kind of defense that it offers to capitalism results in nothing except the discrediting and destruction of capitalism. Do you want me to tell you why?
PLAYBOY: Yes, please.
RAND: Because it ties capitalism to religion. The ideological position of National Review amounts, in effect, to the following: In order to accept freedom and capitalism, one has to believe in God or in some form of religion, some form of supernatural mysticism. Which means that there are no rational grounds on which one can defend capitalism. Which amounts to an admission that reason is on the side of capitalism's enemies, that a slave society or a dictatorship is a rational system, and that only on the ground of mystic faith can one believe in freedom. Nothing more derogatory to capitalism could ever be alleged, and the exact opposite is true. Capitalism is the only system that can be defended and validated by reason.
PLAYBOY: You have attacked Governor Nelson Rockefeller for "lumping all opponents of the welfare state with actual crackpots." It was clear from his remarks that among others, he was aiming his criticism at the John Birch Society. Do you resent being lumped with the John Birchers? Do you consider them "crackpots" or a force for good?
RAND: I resent being lumped with anyone. I resent the modern method of never defining ideas, and lumping totally different people into a collective by means of smears and derogatory terms. I resent Governor Rockefeller's smear tactics: his refusal to identify specifically whom and what he meant. As far as I'm concerned, I repeat, I don't want to be lumped with anyone, and certainly not with the John Birch Society. Do I consider them crackpots? No, not necessarily. What is wrong with them is that they don't seem to have any specific, clearly defined political philosophy. Therefore, some of them may be crackpots, others may be very well-meaning citizens. I consider the Birch Society futile, because they are not for capitalism, but merely against communism. I gather they believe that the disastrous state of today's world is caused by a communist conspiracy. This is childishly naive and superficial. No country can be destroyed by a mere conspiracy, it can be destroyed only by ideas. The Birchers seem to be either nonintellectual or anti-intellectual. They do not attach importance to ideas. They do not realize that the great battle in the world today is a philosophical, ideological conflict.
PLAYBOY: Are there any political groups in the United States today of which you approve?
RAND: Political groups, as such—no. Is there any political group today which is fully consistent? Such groups today are guided by or advocate blatant contradictions.
PLAYBOY: Do you have any personal political aspirations yourself? Have you ever considered running for office?
RAND: Certainly not. And I trust that you don't hate me enough to wish such a thing on me.
PLAYBOY: But you are interested in politics, or at least in political theory, aren't you?
RAND: Let me answer you this way: When I came here from Soviet Russia, I was interested in politics for only one reason—to reach the day when I would not have to be interested in politics. I wanted to secure a society in which I would be free to pursue my own concerns and goals, knowing that the government would not interfere to wreck them, knowing that my life, my work, my future were not at the mercy of the state or of a dictator's whim. This is still my attitude today. Only today I know that such a society is an ideal not yet achieved, that I cannot expect others to achieve it for me, and that I, like every other responsible citizen, must do everything possible to achieve it. In other words, I am interested in politics only in order to secure and protect freedom.
PLAYBOY: Throughout your work you argue that the way in which the contemporary world is organized, even in the capitalist countries, submerges the individual and stifles initiative. In Atlas Shrugged, John Galt leads a strike of the men of the mind—which results in the collapse of the collectivist society around them. Do you think the time has come for the artists, intellectuals and creative businessmen of today to withdraw their talents from society in this way?
RAND: No, not yet. But before I explain, I must correct one part of your question. What we have today is not a capitalist society, but a mixed economy—that is, a mixture of freedom and controls, which, by the presently dominant trend, is moving toward dictatorship. The action in Atlas Shrugged takes place at a time when society has reached the stage of dictatorship. When and if this happens, that will be the time to go on strike, but not until then.
PLAYBOY: What do you mean by dictatorship? How would you define it? RAND: A dictatorship is a country that does not recognize individual rights, whose government holds total, unlimited power over men.
PLAYBOY: What is the dividing line, by your definition, between a mixed economy and a dictatorship?
RAND: A dictatorship has four characteristics: one-party rule, executions without trial for political offenses, expropriation or nationalization of private property, and censorship. Above all, this last. So long as men can speak and write freely, so long as there is no censorship, they still have a chance to reform their society or to put it on a better road. When censorship is imposed, that is the sign that men should go on strike intellectually, by which I mean, should not cooperate with the social system in any way whatever.
PLAYBOY: Short of such a strike, what do you believe ought to be done to bring about the societal changes you deem desirable?
RAND: It is ideas that determine social trends, that create or destroy social systems. Therefore, the right ideas, the right philosophy, should be advocated and spread. The disasters of the modern world, including the destruction of capitalism, were caused by the altruist-collectivist philosophy. It is altruism that men should reject.
PLAYBOY: And how would you define altruism?
RAND: It is a moral system which holds that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the sole justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, value and virtue. This is the moral base of collectivism, of all dictatorships. In order to seek freedom and capitalism, men need a nonmystical, nonaltruistic, rational code of ethics—a morality which holds that man is not a sacrificial animal, that he has the right to exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others, nor others to himself. In other words, what is desperately needed today is the ethics of Objectivism.
PLAYBOY: Then what you are saying is that to achieve these changes one must use essentially educational or propagandistic methods?
RAND: Yes, of course.
PLAYBOY: What do you think of your antagonists' contention that the moral and political principles of Objectivism place you outside the mainstream of American thought?
RAND: I don't acknowledge or recognize such a concept as a "mainstream of thought." That might be appropriate to a dictatorship, to a collectivist society in which thought is controlled and in which there exists a collective mainstream—of slogans, not of thought. There is no such thing in America. There never was. However, I have heard that expression used for the purpose of barring from public communication any innovator, any non-conformist, anyone who has anything original to offer. I am an innovator. This is a term of distinction, a term of honor, rather than something to hide or apologize for. Anyone who has new or valuable ideas to offer stands outside the intellectual status quo. But the status quo is not a stream, let alone a "mainstream." It is a stagnant swamp. It is the innovators who carry mankind forward.
PLAYBOY: Do you believe that Objectivism as a philosophy will eventually sweep the world?
RAND: Nobody can answer a question of that kind. Men have free will. There is no guarantee that they will choose to be rational, at any one time or in any one generation. Nor is it necessary for a philosophy to "sweep the world." If you ask the question in a somewhat different form, if you say, do I think that Objectivism will be the philosophy of the future, I would say yes, but with this qualification: If men turn to reason, if they are not destroyed by dictatorship and precipitated into another Dark Ages, if men remain free long enough to have time to think, then Objectivism is the philosophy they will accept. PLAYBOY: Why?
RAND: In any historical period when men were free, it has always been the most rational philosophy that won. It is from this perspective that I would say, yes, Objectivism will win. But there is no guarantee, no predetermined necessity about it.
PLAYBOY: You are sharply critical of the world as you see it today, and your books offer radical proposals for changing not merely the shape of society, but the very way in which most men work, think and love. Are you optimistic about man's future?
RAND: Yes, I am optimistic. Collectivism, as an intellectual power and a moral ideal, is dead. But freedom and individualism, and their political expression, capitalism, have not yet been discovered. I think men will have time to discover them. It is significant that the dying collectivist philosophy of today has produced nothing but a cult of depravity, impotence and despair. Look at modern art and literature with their image of man as a helpless, mindless creature doomed to failure, frustration and destruction. This may be the collectivists' psychological confession, but it is not an image of man. If it were, we would never have risen from the cave. But we did. Look around you and look at history. You will see the achievements of man's mind. You will see man's unlimited potentiality for greatness, and the faculty that makes it possible. You will see that man is not a helpless monster by nature, but he becomes one when he discards that faculty: his mind. And if you ask me, what is greatness?—I will answer, it is the capacity to live by the three fundamental values of John Galt: reason, purpose, self-esteem.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Saturday, March 21, 2009

What is a pinoy objectivist?

A person from Philippines who advocate the philosophy of Objectivism. A philosophy discovered and explicitly originated by Ayn Rand. Before one can become an objectivist, he must understand fully the philosophy and practice it in his own life.