The Foundations of the Objectivist Ethics: Egoism and the Nature of Value

1. Values and the requirements of life

This is Leonard Peikoff speaking in the Fall of 1990. The following lecture is part of a course originally given in 1976 with Any Rand's endorsement and in her presence. As of 1991 however, the course will be superseded by my book Objectivism, the Philosophy of Any Rand. My book recapitulates the 1976 course, but its formulations and logical structure are immeasurably superior. Despite this fact, I am making the original course available for purchase for several reasons. Students may find it profitable to compare the course to the book and discover for themselves the differences. Also the 1976 course is the only recorded statement to the entire content of Objectivism. My new taped course on Objectivism is selective, taking for granted a knowledge of the philosophy. Finally, Any Rand, herself, took part in most of the question periods in 1976, and I do not want her recorded comments to disappear from the Objectivist scene. To all of you now, who are about to hear this lecture, let me stress at the outset that I myself—speaking some fifteen years later—regard my new book and not this course as the definitive statement of Objectivism. Thank you.

Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen. We began this course with a discussion of man's metaphysical nature. Thereafter, we spent weeks providing the base of the Objectivist view of man. Now we're prepared to move in the other directions. to implement our view of man's nature, to apply it to practical issues and questions. Now we know that man is a certain kind of entity, living in a certain kind of universe, acquiring knowledge by a certain kind of method. And we go on to ask, what follows in action? How should man live? In other words, we reach ethics or morality, the branch of philosophy which in Ayn Rand's definition

"provides a code of values to guide man's choices and actions—the choices and actions that determine the purpose and the course of his life."

Now in discussing ethics, it's crucial to start at the proper point. The first question of ethics is not what particular values should man accept, because there is a logically, prior question. Does man need a code of values at all, and if so, why? Is ethics or morality necessary? And this is where Miss Rand beings her analysis. She does not take values as a given to be accepted without explanation. She begins by asking, what are values, and what is the metaphysical basis of values, i.e. the facts of reality that underlie and make possible such a phenomenon. Ayn Rand defines value as:

"that which one acts to gain, and or keep."

—that which on acts to gain, and or keep. Value means the object of an action, an action which is directed to acquiring or preserving, for instance food, shelter, health, knowledge etcetera. Observe at the very outset, two interrelated conditions, which must be fulfilled if the pursuit of values is to be possible. One—value presupposes a valuer, an entity to whom the object in question is of value, an entity capable of acting to gain or keep objects. This means value requires a certain kind of entity, one capable of generating action in the direction of an end or goal. If all entities were passive reactors to random external stimuli, like the mechanistic billiard balls we discussed last time, there could then be no pursuit of values, no such phenomenon as values.

Two—value presupposes an alternative. In the face of which action is necessary, if the value is to be attained. Now alternative here does not necessarily imply choice or free will. It means that different outcomes are possible in a given situation, and that the entity's action toward a certain end makes a difference, or to put the same point otherwise, a thing is outside the concept value, if action is irrelevant. If you are guaranteed to have, or not have X, not matter what actions you do or do not take, then it is not a thing you must act to gain or keep. There's no alternative. It's not of value. You take for instance, the Law of Gravitation—now not the knowledge of the law—that you have to take action to gain, but the fact of gravitation itself. As a metaphysical fact, this is a phenomenon outside your power to alter by action. Accordingly, you cannot evaluate the Law of Gravity. There is no alternative. You cannot ask, is it worth pursuing. It's not open to pursuit. You cannot ask, should I avoid it. No avoidance is possible. You cannot judge the fact as good or evil, as desirable or undesirable. It just is. The concept of value is possible because there are things not like this—things which one must act to attain. It's possible only where the valuer is confronted by an alternative, the outcome of which depends on its action.

All right, the next step. What kind of entities fulfill these two conditions and thereby make possible the phenomenon of value? And Objectivism answers, living organisms. These alone are capable of self-generated goal directed action, i.e. of being valuers, and these alone are confronted by a fundamental alternative, in the face of which they must act. Now let's look at each of these points in order. First, the issue of self-generated goal directed action. One of the fundamental differences between living organisms and inanimate matter is the fact that the actions of living organisms are self-generated and goal directed. A living entity does not necessarily have choice. That's not the point here. It may function exclusively as it is necessitated to by its nature without any volition—for instance a plant. But what if nature necessitates in such a case, is that it acts to sustain itself. In other words, the given whatever external conditions are required, what it do in response is initiate the kind of action that will preserve and sustain its life. In this fundamental manner, a living organism is not like a billiard ball. It is not metaphysically a passive or indifferent reactor to external stimuli. Its essence is self-generated goal directed action. and the goal is self-sustenance. Now observe that goal directed in this context does not mean purposeful, which is a concept applying only to the acts of conscious beings. Goal directed here, and I quote from a footnote of Miss Rand:

"designates the fact that the automatic functions of living organisms are actions whose nature is such that they result in the preservation of an organism's life."

In other words, living organisms generate a consistent pattern of action with a consistent result. In that sense, their action is organized around a goal and can be described as goal directed, not in the sense that they all consciously define or pursue a purpose.

Now consider the issue of values implying alternatives. Only living organisms are confronted by a fundamental alternative in the face of which they must act. And here I want to quote an extremely critical passage from Galt's speech:

"There is only one fundamental alternative in the universe—existence or not existence—and it pertains to a single class of entities—to living organisms. This existence of inanimate matter is unconditional. The existence of life is not. It depends upon a specific course of action. Matter is indestructible. It changes its form, 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 the process of self-sustaining and self-generated action. If an organism fails in that action, it dies. Its chemical elements remain, but its life goes out of existence."

Now this passage is fundamental to understanding the nature of life and the source of value. A living entity must act in order to survive. It must perform a specific kind of action in the form of a constant process of self-preserving behavior in accord with its specific means of survival. Or, if it fails, defaults, stops, it will die. In this sense as Miss Rand observes, life is motion. a certain kind of motion. And the antithesis of life is stillness. Observe that death does not involve action. Death is the state where vital action has ceased. It is the absence of pro-life action. To achieve death, simply refrain from acting. Sit still, don't move, don't eat—that's all that's required.

Now observe that Galt describes the alternative of life or death, or existence versus non-existence as the only fundamental alternative in the universe. What is meant by fundamental, here? Well in general means, that upon which everything else in a given context depends. To say therefore, in a value context, that the alternative of life or death is the only fundamental alternative, is to say if that alternative didn't exist, not other value generating alternative would be possible. Or to put it another way, everything in this field rests on that one alternative. If an entity were not confronted with the alternative life or death, if it were literally immortal and indestructible, if existence were guaranteed to it, so that no action on its part was necessary to sustain it, then it would be impossible for that entity to pursue any goal, or object or end. No matter what other kinds of alternatives still confronted that entity, none could be value generated. That's what we mean by life versus death is the fundamental alternative.

Now the simplest way to see this concretely is Miss Rand's example of the robot presented in the Objectivist ethics. Imagine for a moment, that an indestructible robot existed, which could somehow act in a goal directed manner. What could it act for? What could it value? Always remember, we're assuming that it is indestructible. Its existence is guaranteed no matter what it does, or what any of its constituents do, or what happens to it. And now let's say you're giving advice. You're giving suggestions to it. values to it. Well, which ones? Could you tell it for instance, to satisfy its hunger, to value food, to eat. Obviously, not. It has no need of any action to sustain itself. Therefore no need of eating, no need of taking in food, no mechanism of ingesting or digesting food—no hunger, no interest in the subject. Could you tell it to go to the dentist to avoid a toothache? Well, it couldn't have a toothache. It has no need of any action on any level. There's no possibility of decay or of pain, which is a signal of harm or threat to an organism's life, and no possibility of pleasure, which on the physical level is an accompaniment of pro-life actions or conditions. Remove the alternative, of life or of death and you remove the possibility of pain or pleasure, of need, of want, of satisfaction of action.

But, you might say to me, what about the psychological level, assuming this robot has such faculty for the moment. Could this robot conceive desires that were not dependent on biological or physical needs? Well, what? And why? Is knowledge a value to him? The immediate question would be, what for? He doesn't need any guidance for his actions. He doesn't need to act. Is money a value to him? To buy what? He doesn't need anything. Is a trip around the world of value to him, as relaxation and rest, for instance? Well, he doesn't work. He has no need of action, remember. So he has no need of relaxation or rest. No context to make it a value. Is happiness a value to him? That is begging the question. Happiness is an emotion which proceeds from achieving one's values. So, before you can tell this creature to pursue happiness, you must first tell him what to value. And you can't. In other words on both the physical and psychological levels, and by the wildest stretch of imagination, this robot would be desireless, unable to initiate a step in any direction. Nothing would or could make any difference to him. Why not? Because the fundamental alternative does not apply in his case. The only one that makes possible the pursuit of value, the alternative of life or death. Now I quote a formulation of incalculable importance from Galt's speech:

"It is only the concept of life that makes the concept of value possible."

It is only the fact that there are living organisms confronted by the alternative of existence or non-existence, entities must act to sustain themselves, otherwise they perish. It is this fact which makes the pursuit of values possible and necessary. A universe of inanimate entities, or of indestructible immortal ones could have neither the need, nor the ability to generate value directed action. And thus, the formal conclusion—any code of values must have life as a fundamental standard of value. That which furthers an organism's life is the good, that which threatens or undermines it is the evil. Now please note that the Objectivist view is not that life is a value. The Objectivist view is that life is the fundamental value. We do not simply say that man must remain alive in order to pursue values, therefore, life is a value as a means to an end. This would be an empty bromide. Anyone of any school can say, you must be alive in order to act. That per say leaves the subject of ethics wide open. What should you act for in such a case? The welfare of others, or God, or what? The Objective view contained in the whole argument that I've presented is, if you choose to live, life cannot be a means to any other end. It is the standard of value. We are saying a living entity must pursue values in order to live. Life is the ultimate goal, the term setter, the end in itself, in relation to which everything else is a need.

Now do you see the role of epistemology in reaching this conclusion? And I am thinking now of the hierarchical structure of concepts. Value is a higher level concept, with complex genetic roots. Because of her epistemology, Miss Rand did not take it as irreducible. She'd reduce it as we reduced friendship, some lectures ago. And that showed her that life is an antecedent concept, making the concept of value possible. And this in conjunction with other knowledge pointed the direction to take. It's by refusing to take value as a floating or stolen concept that Ayn Rand was able to define for the first time and objective proof of a standard of value. And of course you can easily see, without an understanding of the relation of concepts and reality, this kind of reduction and analysis would not be possible, or defensible. So you see on the Objectivist epistemology, so you see, I mean here not only the broad advocacy of reason, but the technical theory of concepts as essential if you are to have a full-fledged defense of the Objectivist ethics.

Now I assume that you can see the error of specifically the stolen concepts involved. In any question such as, why is life of value? Once you have said, value, if you've followed so far, once you have made use of that concept or any of its synonyms or derivatives, you have already by logical implication granted that life is the standard of value. It's only the concept of life that makes the concept of value possible. 

Now we haven't yet reached ethics or morality. So far we've had a more abstract discussion of values as such. Let's now see how the points that we made so far apply to lower organisms. By their nature, plants and animals take those actions which their life requires. They can encounter adverse conditions outside of their power to cope with, for instance, extremes of temperature or draught, etcetera. Or in the case of animals, their sensory knowledge may prove inadequate, for instance the lemmings, who unwittingly swim out too far and perish. But the point is, whatever the conditions and whatever an animal's knowledge, there is no alternative in the functioning of these organisms. They act automatically, within their ability or knowledge to further their own life. Implicitly, life is the standard of value guiding their actions.

Man, however, is the living being of volitional, conceptual consciousness. And that means a profound difference on this issue from the lower species. Man has no built-in pre-programmed standard of value. He has no automatic code of survival or course of action or set of values. Now I'd like you to note parenthetically, that this statement includes among other things the fact that man has no instincts—a point that is discussed in Objectivist literature—including no instinct of self-preservation. To want to live, and to learn and know how to do it, is an achievement, not an innate endowment. And that is what finally brings us to morality.

Man does not value his life automatically, but he must choose to do so, if he is to live. He does not know automatically what actions his life requires. Yet he must know it if he is to sustain his life. He is an entity of a specific nature. He must follow a specific course of action in order to survive, but he is not born knowing what that course is. He has to discover it, and then accept and act on the proper code of values by choice. How is he to know what is the proper, in other words pro-life, code of values? That precisely, is the purpose and the subject of ethics. Man needs ethics or morality in order to live.

Plants and animals pursue values, but not moral values. They have no ethics or morality. Moral values are a sub-category of values, a sub-category defined by two attributes. Moral values are values accepted by choice, point one, and point two they are fundamental values, in other words values which shape the whole character and life course of a man as against narrower or more specialized values.

What then is the standard of moral value? A valid code of morality, a code based on reason and proper to man, must hold man's life as its standard of value.

"All that which is proper to the life of a rational being, is the good. All that which destroys it, is the evil."

Now please understand what we mean by saying that man needs a code of values in this context. We mean actually three interrelated aspects, non-contradictory set of principles which will enable a man to plan and act long range, as against a contradictory hash of short range concrete-bound desires. Why must man's values be non-contradictory? Because A is A and contradictions cannot exist in reality or be achieved. Why must man consider the future? Why must he act long range? Because man has a specific identity, and he can only survive accordingly. Unlike the animals, man cannot just act. He has to choose his actions deliberately by reference to a conscious standard. He has to plan and integrate his course if it is to be self-sustaining. He has to consider any potential actions, contributions to, and future consequences on his life. Why must man act in terms of abstractly formulated principles rather than on concrete-bound desires? Because reason is man's means of survival and his only way to know which actions are pro-life and which are anti-life. His only way to know it is by thought, by conceptual knowledge, which means in the form of abstract principles.

When we say man needs morality in order to live, we mean he needs to discover the consistent integrated set of abstract principles, that if he accepts and acts on them will protect and preserve his existence long range, across his whole lifespan. Now you see here that it is not enough simply to say man needs ethics because he has free will and must choose some goal. If that were all that was involved, a person could say, well I'll choose goals okay by whim or arbitrary decisions. The issue here is that man needs a code of values, as I've just characterized that—a morality as distinct from a heap of range-of-the- moment random urges. He needs it if he is to sustain his life.

Observe that the standard inherent in the whole argument is therefore, man's life. Not so called survival at any price, but life in accordance with man's means of survival, i.e. life as a rational, productive being. This is the only way man can survive as man. The alternative is self-destruction, fast or slow, immediate or in the form of a drawn out process of agony and failure. Man's life or man's survival qua man, that is the standard, and means—I quote from Miss Rand:

"the terms, methods, conditions and goals required for the survival of a rational being through the whole of his lifespan, in all those aspects of existence which are open to his choice."

We'll say more on man's life as we proceed. All right, I have now given you a formal proof of the proper standard for a moral code. And I would like you to observe that in accordance with the base of the Objectivist Philosophy, this is a moral code which expresses the primacy of existence. The facts of reality, I've said, the nature of man, the requirements of his survival demand a certain course of action, if man is to survive. Morality is not a luxury, but a necessity, and amorality is the crudest impracticality.

Now contrast this with all the moralities in history based on the primacy of consciousness in one version or another. The supernaturalist types, say God demands we act a certain way. He issues commandments which rest on nothing but his arbitrary will, and this is the source of ethics. If you epitomize in Dostoyevsky's famous line: if there is no God, there is no morality. Anything is permitted.

The social version of the primacy of consciousness says, society demands that we act a certain way. Other men issue arbitrary commandments, and that is the source of ethics. And on this view, you get the bromide that there is no ethics on a desert island, because there is no society or no social authority there. This desert island bromide, as you can see, is simply the secularization of the religionist viewpoint. And then finally, is what you can call the personal version, what we've been calling the personal version of the primacy of consciousness, and that says, I feel like acting a certain way. I have emotions and the good is whatever I feel. Now as against all of these, Objectivism says morality does not arise from the arbitrary content of any consciousness. Or to put the same basic point otherwise, values are not intrinsic or subjective, but objective. Now let's development this point.

In traditional philosophy in regard to value as to concept, the two standard views are the intrinsic school and the subjective school, which pose of course as the only two possibilities, and as mortal enemies of each other. In regard to value, the intrinsic school claims that value attributes are intrinsic features out there in the world, on the order, the same category as a thing's length or atomic structure, in other words values are attributes of things or actions apart from any relationship to living entities or to man. And here the most famous representative is of course—Plato, with his, form of essence of goodness, which is a separate entity shining out into material objects, making them good in so far as they contact or share in. If you were to destroy all living and conscious beings for Plato, goodness with a capital G, never-the-less would go on unaffected and untouched. If you ask Plato, what is the form of good, good for? There would be no answer, because value to him is divorced from living entities, from purpose, from goals, from consequences. If you ask him, to whom, or to what is the good, good? Again, no answer. Value is divorced from beneficiary or valuer. How, according to Plato do you grasp this intrinsic good? Well it comes down to you passively expose yourself after years of a mathematical and esthetic preparation. You passively expose yourself and this entity will automatically act on you and imprint the moral truth on your soul. How? Well it comes down to intuition, revelation, etcetera. In other words the intrinsicist view as always ends up in mysticism. And this is the real source of the supernaturalist, primacy of consciousness in ethics, in other words, the divine commanding view, which is merely an overtly religious version of Plato's more abstract mysticism.

Against the intrinsicists there are the subjectivists, who declare that value is divorced from reality or existence. That is an arbitrary creation of man's consciousness, of his desires, urges, etcetera, that facts are irrelevant to ethics, which is strictly the domain of feeling, for example, every contemporary school of philosophy, pragmatism, existentialism, the works. The intrinsicist says, the only way to know what you ought to do, is to get a revelation, or the equivalent from some supernatural entity. The subjectivist says, I don't get any revelation, so he concludes, there is no way to defend any claim as to what man ought to do. You can't, he says, derive an ought from an is. In other words, you can't defend a value judgment by reference to any factual basis. Ethics, he concludes is subjective, a function of the arbitrary social consensus, the social version, or of each man's arbitrary personal feeling. That's the personal primacy of consciousness.

Now as against both you can see the distinctiveness of the objective view of value. The good—and I think, throughout here, moral values—values as, in so far as they must be chosen by man—the good in not intrinsic. It is not a mystic packet in things or actions. The good is good to man. He is the valuer and the beneficiary without which there would be no such thing as good. And the good is good by a certain standard to reach a certain goal, the goal of maintaining man's life. That's as against the intrinsic view. But the good is also, not subjective. The issue of good and evil arises because man lives in reality, and reality demands a specific course of action, if he is to survive. So moral value in sum, arises because a certain kind of living organisms, an organism with a certain kind of consciousness having a certain relation to external reality. Both man's consciousness and reality are essential here, and the good derives from their relationship. And I quote Miss Rand from Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal:

"The Objective theory holds that the good is neither an attribute of things in themselves, not of man's emotional state, but an evaluation of the facts of reality by man's consciousness according to a rational standard of value. Rational in this context means derived from the facts of reality and validated by a processes of reason. The Objective theory holds that the good is an aspect of reality in relation to man and that it must be discovered, not invented by man."

Now you see that it is the same issue that we discussed in regard to concepts. The one school says, expose yourself to intrinsic universals, or the intrinsic values, and you'll know the truth, automatically. The other school says, I expose myself and I can't find these entities, so there is no truth. The Objective approach says, you cannot just passively expose yourself. You must process the data. You must integrate it and in ethics, evaluate it, according to human method, a method based on the facts of reality and the nature of man, and then you will reach objective concepts of objective values. Then you will see how facts lead to and necessitate values—how facts decide ethical questions, just as they do in every cognitive field. You will see how the ought proceeds in short from the is.

2. Rationality as the primary virtue

All right, now we know the standard of value of an objective moral code. That's our foundation, but it's just the beginning of ethics. To be fully meaningful to you, it requires an elaboration. If man's life is the standard, how then should man act? What is his primary virtue? Value, as we said, is that which one acts to gain and, or keep. Well virtue is correspondingly defined as action by which one acts and keeps it. In other words, virtue for Objectivism is not an end in itself, or its own reward, it is the means to the achievement of value. Virtue designates the kinds of actions which are required by a man's nature and reality, if the proper values are to be gained and kept. Just as according to Objectivism there's one fundamental value, that's life, so there is one fundamental virtue, necessitated by man's life, one primary virtue in relation to which all other virtues are derivatives or expressions. And that virtue is the unbreached exercise of man's basic means of survival, i.e. his conceptual faculty of reason. If life is the standard, the primary virtue must be rationality. Consciousness, as Miss Rand points out, any living organism possesses it, is indispensible to its survival, because consciousness is the means of grasping reality, also of guiding its actions. An animal automatically grasps reality within its ability. But the essence and issue of human virtue stems from the fact that man doesn't. He has to choose to grasp reality, in the human conceptual sense.

"But he shares with other species the penalty of unconsciousness—destruction. For an animal the question of survival is primarily physical, for man primarily epistemological."

Now observe the role of Objectivist free will in this issue. Virtue on any code must consist of actions open to man's choice. There's only one fundamental choice that man has according to Objectivism—we've seen in many lectures—to activate one's reason or not. And therefore there can only be one fundamental virtue—to exercise and rationality. By the same token, there is according to Objectivism, there is only one basic vice, which is the root of all other human evils—irrationality, the rejection of reason, the deliberate suspension of consciousness, which is accomplished epistemologically by the act of evasion, by unfocusing one's mind, by refusing to grasp or to think, either generally and across the board, because one resents the effort involved, and, or on some specific area or topic because reality conflicts with one's feelings. The under-focused mentality still grasps sensations and percepts, but then he cuts off conceptual identification, integration. He is not conscious in the human sense of the term. In that sense, you can say vice is unconsciousness, deliberately induced, willful unconsciousness, while one continues to move around and function and act.

Now observe that reason on the Objectivist ethics, reason is itself a value, a supreme and ruling value in Galt's words. Now get the relationships here. Epistemology tells us, reason is a value. It is man's tool of cognition, his only source of knowledge, and therefore his basic means of survival. Ethics though thinks this is so, if one wants to live, one must then hold the mind as a supreme value, with life-long action required to gain and keep this value, i.e. to develop, to preserve, and expand one's mind. And the action that does this corresponding virtue is rationality.

Now this is one central key to understanding the Objectivist ethics and, I might add, the Ayn Rand kind of a hero. The Objectivist does not accept and follow reason dutifully, disinterestedly, or indifferently, as though he were in effect saying, while reason means nothing to me personally, one way or the other, but since A is A, I guess I won't hold contradictions. No. The Objectivist is a man, who grasping the role of the mind in human life, in his own life, incorporates reason into his values structure. He is the man who is reverently dedicated to reason, the man who is passionate about the mind, the man who is emotionally aroused by dry objectivity, the man who accepts the fact that:

"the noblest act you have ever performed, is the act of your mind in the process of grasping that two and two make four."

All of this magnificent unprecedented fire in the Objectivist ethics, the profound value it places in the heroic man, on creative work, on individual freedom and the rest. All of it depends on and expresses this primary issue, the value Objectivism places on reason. Rationality as Objectivism conceives it is really the recognition of this fact. In other words it's the commitment to reason, not only as a valid, but also as a ruling value. And this means a commitment to reason across the board, its application to every aspect of one's life term and existence, one's ideas, one's value judgments, one's goals, one's actions. It means there are no exceptions, no compromises on this issue, no questions of any kind exempt from rational judgment. It means the acceptance of reason, the rejection of evasion as an absolute.

 The fact is you cannot delimit or localize a policy of evasion. Human knowledge, as we've covered, is, and must be an integrated whole at any stage of development. And everything in reality is interconnected. To sustain an evasion on just one point, therefore, you would necessarily have to expand the scope of your blindness further and further, until ultimately, if you were consistent, you would cut yourself off from reality altogether. For instance, suppose you decide to evade on the question of God. You say, I don't want to apply reason to just this one issue. I want to believe without thinking on just this one question. What in pattern would happen to your mental processes? Can you remain, for instance, completely open and rational in regard to the rest of metaphysics, including such questions as the primacy of existence versus the primacy of consciousness, or the eternity of the universe, or the impossibility of miracle. Obviously, not. Any one of these subjects raises questions, which if you were to face fully, would threaten to collapse your evasion. So, to sustain it, you must evade on these questions, also. What about epistemology, for instance, reason versus faith? What about ethics, God's supposed moral laws? What about biology and the Bible versus science, etcetera?

A policy of evasion on one issue, in short, if adhered to consistently, would end in complete blindness. Now, of course, most evaders try to escape this sort of extreme, by abandoning the attempt at integration, or at relating their mental content. They accept undigested, unprocessed, random, baseless pieces of ideas. They live in what Galt calls a censored reality or a splintered reality, where the bits they choose to see, as he put it, are floating among the chasms of those they didn't. And the result is all of their cognitive processes are subverted, all of their conclusions are undercut and invalidated, and that's again they reach a kind of all encompassing blindness or disconnection from reality.

If you understand why the arbitrary is the antonym of cognition—we discussed last time—then you can understand why the evader wrecks his own cognition, because it becomes the same issue, the introduction into the mind of the capricious, of that which cannot be integrated into a non-contradictory whole. The result is to destroy a man's ability to be certain of any of his conclusions, because he has in effect, disintegrated his mind, and thereby detached its content from reality. A man can no more tolerate a little evasion or an occasional irrationality than he can tolerate an occasional malignancy, both once introduced start to consume healthy tissue. The fact is, there is no such thing as accepting reason non-absolutely. Either you live by the guidance of reason, or not. There can be no third alternative.

Now in previous lectures we've already said a great deal about what rationality is, and as a virtue it includes, rationality includes functioning according to all the metaphysical and epistemological tenets we've discussed so far. And I have to count on your prior understanding of these points. There are a few issues, however, pertaining to rationality, which, although we've covered them in essence in earlier lectures, I never-the-less, want to single them out for an additional mention with a somewhat different aspect, because of their importance, specifically to ethics. The first issue is rationality in regard to the subject of emotions. In epistemology we stress that emotions are not tools of cognition. The corollary in ethics is that they are not a guide to action. Rationality consists of acting on one's perception of reality. Or to put the point negatively, it means the rejection of whim. Acting on a whim is to ethics what mysticism is to epistemology, the substitution of blind emotions for reason. Now, let's be sure here that we understand what is meant by whim. Ayn Rand defines it as:

"a desire experienced by a person who does not know and does not care to discover its cause."

In such a case, the person does not know what premises his desire comes from. He has no intention of introspecting to try to identify the value judgment underlying his feelings. He has no idea if the underlying premises conform to reality or represent gross errors or confusions on his part, and he does not want to know. He wants X, whatever it is, because he feels like it, period. This is the naked assertion of the arbitrary, the wanton, the capricious, on the premise, to hell with reason and reality. This is the I wish over the it is. This is what we mean by whim worship. And this is what a man cannot ever do if expects the virtue of rationality.

Now the alternative to whim worship is not that a man should ignore or repress his emotions. It doesn't mean a policy of turning off emotions, acting in an unfeeling, dutiful, disinterested manner. The Objectivist morality after all does advocate happiness, which is an emotional state. The emotional mechanism makes possible a man's enjoyment of life. Objectivism is certainly not, "anti-emotion". If you remember the Objectivist view of the nature of emotions, you will have no trouble with these kinds of questions. Emotions, we've seen proceed from a man's premises, his ideas and value judgments, explicit or otherwise. As such, emotions are important to a man and to his life. They're important, among other things, as a means of checking on his own state, i.e. on the state of his ideas and value judgments. If a man characteristically and repeatedly experiences a clash between his stated ideas and his emotions, then he has evidence that he is in trouble, that he holds an intellectual contradiction, and he has the warning that he must investigate, identify the premises underlying his emotions, and resolve the clash by removing the contradiction, rejecting the aspect which his reason tells him is invalid or false. If you do this, in other words you identify your emotions as a matter of policy, you can state from what premises they come, and you hold no contradictions among your premises, then you will have no clash between your ideas and your emotions. And this is a rational man's goal on this issue, to achieve full integration, full harmony between his reason and his emotions.

Obviously, when such harmony exists, a man's feelings are the opposite of whims. They are the consistent expressions of a rationally understood and approved value. And obviously, such a man does not repress or deny his feelings. On the contrary, he acts on his value judgments, the same value judgments which generate his emotions. There is no clash, he is a unified entity.

Now you may ask, what do you do if you have a clash between ideas and emotions, which you cannot resolve immediately, because of the complexity of the analysis required? The answer is, if possible don't act in that issue until you've been able to resolve the clash. You man then find, that your emotions proceeded from a subconscious premise that you actually don't accept, rationally speaking, so that the feeling was urging you to an improper course. Or, conceivably there are cases where the emotion derives from a subconscious idea which is actually better than the person's conscious viewpoint, which might be mistaken. So, the clash in that kind of case, would be resolved in favor of the subconscious idea, once it was identified and seen to be the rational one. It's always best if there's a clash between the two, not to act on the issue, until the conflicting premises can be identified explicitly and then judged rationally. However, if its an emergency and action cannot be postponed, then of course you choose your conscious intellectual judgment, in other words, your best understanding of what is rational and consonant with reality. You act, in such a case, on your mind, on your explicit conclusions with a mental note to yourself, I don't yet know the source of my feeling, and when the immediate crises is past, and I have the time, I'll work to untangle the issue.

Now the next thing I want to stress in regard to rationality, is that rationality involves a systematic mental activity. It consists of functioning on the conceptual level of consciousness, and this is more than merely forming enough concepts to learn how to speak or read the newspapers. Rationality involves what Ayn Rand described in The Objectivist Ethics as conceptualizing, to quote a brief excerpt from her description:

"It's an actively sustained process of identifying ones impressions in conceptual terms, or integrating every event, and every observation into a conceptual context, of grasping relationships, differences, similarities in one's perceptual material, abstracting them into new concepts, of drawing inferences, of making deductions, of reaching conclusions, of asking you questions and discovering new answers, and    expanding one's knowledge into an ever growing sum."

A man does not qualify as rational if he generally walks around in a daze. And periodically when someone tells his that two plus two equals four, he comes to long enough to say, okay, I'll accept it and then relapses again. Rationality means a process. It means the exercise of reason. And the best concretization of this method of functioning that you could have is to be found in the mental processes of Ayn Rand's heroes in her novels. Take as a simple example, Roark at the beginning of The Fountainhead, and is in counter with the Dean who tells him that he has to blindly obey tradition. Now Roark does not understand the Dean's psychology or attitude at that point, but he doesn't shrug and drop the issue. He's not a psychologist. The field doesn't interest him in particular, but on the other hand he deals with men. He knows that there are many people like the Dean and he is on the premise of understanding what he deals with, so he identifies the issue and the terms available to him at that stage. He said, there's something opposite here to the way I function, some principle of human behavior. He calls it, the principle behind the Dean, and he files it in his subconscious with the statement in effect, be on the lookout for any data connected to it, or relevant to it. And thereafter, when new information becomes available, he recognizes and integrates it. And by the end of the book he reaches the concept of the second-hander, and by contrast of the kind of man he represents and advocates, and he sees what the issue is on which the fate of the world rests. Whatever Ayn Rand's heroes deal with, if it's within the field of their interest, their concerns, their actions, whether the specific subject is people, or art, or politics, or philosophy or their professions, or romance or whatever, they want to understand it to connect to what they know to define what they do not know and find out, to think. And this is why her heroes are such giants, mentally speaking is one reason. And it's one crucial reason why they characteristically achieve their goals. Because this kind of thing leads into a sustained growth of knowledge which maximizes the possibility of successful, value achieving action.

Now I'm not saying that rationality requires that you come to new philosophical conclusions when you think, as Miss Rand's heroes very often do. The exercise of reason applies within each man's knowledge, concerns and abilities. The point here is to grow, to be mentally active and expands one's knowledge, whatever one's intelligence and profession. And this is possible on some scale to everyone with an intact brain. It requires, however, the expenditure of effort, which brings me to the last point I want to mention tonight in regard to rationality.

Thinking as we said in discussing free will, is work. It requires volitional initiation and maintenance at every moment. And it's a process with risks in the sense that man is not infallible, he can make errors, bog down in confusion or difficulties at any time. Rationality is a lifelong commitment, means therefore, a lifelong commitment to the expenditure of this kind of effort. Now effort does not mean suffering, or duty, or forcing one's self. It means struggle, if you want to call it that, but in the legitimate human sense, struggle in the sense that neither knowledge, nor value comes automatically. You have to work for them, above all by staying mentally active and in focus.

Now as against this is what we call the anti-effort type of mentality, the kind of man who resents free will, who resents the nature of human consciousness, and seeks an existence where he can coast passively, with the knowledge that the values he requires will somehow be there when he wants them. Now this attitude represents a profound rebellion against man's nature. It's the subversion of virtue at the root. It's resentment of the fact that virtue, in other words, thought is necessary. And the best symbol here is the Garden of Eden, which religious ethics projects as an ideal. It represents an effortless state of existence. No action is necessary, no thought, no work. Just be obedient, sit back and munch fruit. Now for further discussion of the anti-effort mentalities, I refer you to two essays in particular by Ayn Rand: the title essay of For the New Intellectual describing Attila and the Witch Doctor, and The Missing Link in The Ayn Rand Letter. If you did your homework if you studied The Missing Link article as I asked you to do for this evening, you will have no difficulty grasping the kind of passivity and stagnation which is the opposite of the pro-effort premise. And you will understand in further detail why the anti-effort, the anti-conceptual, is the anti-life. Now we will be studying further aspects of rationality as we proceed. All of ethics is really an elaboration of what rationality consists of—all of the Objectivist ethics. But for now, let's take our break.

3. The case for egoism

All right, so far we have discussed the standard of value and the primary virtue. Now let's turn to the question of the purpose of ethics. Man's life according to Objectivism is the standard of value, but his own life is the proper purpose of every individual man. A standard, Miss Rand explains means in this context, and I quote:

"an abstract principle that serves as a measurement or gauge to guide a man's choices and the achievement of a concrete specific purpose, that which is required by man qua man, is an abstract principle that applies to every individual man. The task of applying this principle for a concrete specific purpose, the purpose of living a life proper to a rational being, belongs to every individual man, and the life he has to live is his own."

In other words, each man must choose his actions and values by the standard of man's life, in order to achieve the specific purpose of maintaining and enjoying his own life. And thus we've reached the point that Objectivism advocates egoism, the pursuit of self-interest, the virtue of selfishness.

Now let's develop this topic, focusing on the nature of selfishness, as Objectivism defines it, and above all, on its philosophic roots and validation, including the principle of

egoism in the logical hierarchy of the Objectivist ethics. There are two essential questions involved in any code of ethics: one, is what are the proper actions and values for man. A second is, who should be the beneficiary of those actions and values? Egoism, as the term is used in philosophy, applies to the second of these questions, to the beneficiary issue. As an abstract doctrine, egoism upholds selfishness, or a concert with one's own interests. This does not specify yet, what values a man should pursue. It does not tell you how a man should define his welfare or his interests or his fulfillment. Or, by what means he should achieve values. On all these points there are profound differences among egoists in the history of philosophy. What egoism abstractly says is, a man's primary moral obligation is to achieve his own welfare. Each man must live for his own sake, whatever the code of values that defines his welfare. He should ultimately be the beneficiary of his own actions, and is contrasted to the view that man's duty is to subordinate or sacrifice his welfare for the sake of something outside of, or apart from himself.

The advocacy of selfishness by itself, therefore, outside the context of an ethical theory which defines a specific code of values, the advocacy of selfishness by itself offers no specific guidance or direction to a man. It is useless to tell a man to pursue his welfare if he has no idea of what it consists of. When you hear, therefore, that Objectivism or any philosophy advocates selfishness, you must immediately ask, what is selfishness as you construe it. What kinds of actions does it involve, in order to achieve what kinds of values? And you should ask, why should man be selfish? How is the principle validated? Now according to Objectivism the answers to these questions proceed from the same fact, that man needs an ethics in order to survive.

The issue of egoism in short, both its proper definition and its validation is, if you remember the term, a corollary of life as a standard. The whole issue here is contained in one crucial line from Galt's speech:

"Since life requires a specific course of action, any other course will destroy it."

Now let's elaborate. The course of action which life requires, for any living organism now, including man, that course is continuous, full time, all embracing. It includes every aspect of an organism's actions. It's not merely an occasional action that's necessary, or a partial commitment in some circumscribed realm, but a constant all inclusive process without contradictions. You are not safe, for example, if you eat good food most of the time and take poison only rarely. One dose of poison can wreck or threaten your life even if you have years of good eating behind you. The same is true of every aspect of pro-life action. Every action you take bears on your life directly, or indirectly. Every action is in accordance with what life requires or it is not. It is for your life or against it. To a living entity, no action it takes is neutral or indifferent.

This is true, for example, even so innocuous an act as lying down taking a nap. In one context if a man is tired or needs to rest, or unwind, this kind of action is beneficial to him. It can be described as pro-life. In a different context, for example, if he does it on his employer's desk on the first day at a new job, or to make it more realistic, if he does it when trapped in a blizzard in the far north, it's obviously, a harmful action to his goals and values. In no case, however, is an action or at least the principle it represents, neutral or indifferent. Life, we said, is motion, and the motion is either self-preserving or self-destroying. Now if an action is anti-life of course, that does not mean—I've already indicated this—it doesn't mean that it is necessarily and immediately fatal. The possibility exists of a slow drawn out destruction, of living for a while in a threatened, or impaired, or diseased, or atrophying condition. And there's also the possibility of reversible damage. Now is in certain cases you can decide to counteract and correct irrational actions of the past, if you catch it before it is too late. The issue here is in the long run and in principle. The requirements of life do not exclude any aspects of man's actions. Life as the standard mandates full-time consistency. This is why his own life must be the ruling purpose of a man's actions. To achieve and sustain his life is a full-time job, which excludes the pursuit of any other purpose.

Talk this point negative. You cannot in logic say, I choose to live, but merely as a means to serving God or others or whatever. Any such end, whatever it's nature is antithetical to what life requires. If you choose to live, then self-sustenance must be the all inclusive purpose, which determines the rest of your actions and values. You cannot live, in a word, if you place something higher than your life, because life requires a specific course of action, and any other course will destroy it.

By the nature of life, if a man's actions are not for his life, then he is implicitly if not explicitly pursuing a course of self-destruction. This is applicable to every aspect to a man's actions, but it is particularly blatant on the issue of egoism, which pertains after all to the over all goal of a man's existence—his ultimate purpose. To accept any alternative, on this kind of an issue, i.e. of any kind of self-sacrifice or self-abnegation as one's ultimate goal means to accept an ultimate purpose fundamentally opposed to what your life requires, and therefore, to set all of your actions in principle against yourself and your life. And thus, the rest of the paragraph from Galt following the sentence I've been quoting:

"A being who does not hold his own life as the motive and goal of his actions, is acting on the motive and standard of death. Such a being is a metaphysical monstrosity struggling to oppose and negate and contradict the fact of his own existence, running blindly amok along a trail of destruction capable of nothing but pain."

Egoism in short is not a new or independent issue. It is the corollary of life as the standard. It is a metaphysical or biological, if you will, requirement of man's survival. Now the Objectivist concept of the nature of egoism follows directly from this validation. What does man's self-interest or well being consist of according to Objectivism? Well, life we know, man's life—not survival at any price—man's life is the standard of value, and therefore life, man's life and the values it requires is the standard of self-interest, too. By what means should the selfish man achieve his interests according to Objectivism? Well, by what means does man achieve to even sustain his life? By reason. Rational selfishness. In other words, selfishness with life as the standard and rationality as the ruling virtue. This is the Objectivist concept of selfishness. And you see, the rational and the selfish have the same moral validation. Both are mandated by life as the standard.

Now you see why Ayn Rand states that the issue of egoism or altruism, in other words the issue of the beneficiary, is not the same as the whole field of ethics. And it's not a primary, and it's not self-evident. It's one aspect of an essence, which depends for its definition and validation on the basic premises of an ethical system. You must always remember the hierarchical position of the principle of egoism. By the time you get to this issue, you are high up the structure and you mustn't forget the roots of the concept. Egoism according to Objectivism follows from the metaphysical nature of man as a being who survives by a certain method, and from the role of values in human life. That's the basic validation. And therefore, the very reason which leads to egoism excludes every irrational version of egoism by the same token. Concern with one's own interest in sum is the essence of a moral existence, so long as one knows and can demonstrate objectively, what one's interests are, and why.

4. False versions of egoism

Now you can judge the countless warped and irrational versions of egoism that have dominated the history of philosophy, and that occupy most people's minds when they discuss the issue. Now we're going to look at the warped versions of egoism. The source of these, I may say, is the fact that egoism has been advocated almost exclusively in the past two thousand years by representative of the primacy of consciousness in the personal versions. That would include the sophists in the ancient world, and the Nietzscheians in the modern. And on this kind of view, egoism comes out as, the good is whatever I feel is good for me, murder not excluded. And of course anti-egoists, and above all the religionists who are the real source of primacy of consciousness metaphysics, and therefore, are the real source of this warped view of egoism. Anti-egoists, I say, have a vested interest in promoting this view of egoism in order to blacken the concept and make it synonymous with every kind of crime. Now Objectivism rejects all of these versions. It rejects them for the very reason that it accepts egoism by the standard of man's life and it's requirements.

I want to indicate the worst, most offensive distortions on this subject and the answers, too—briefly. For the record, so that you have an overview of all the main errors and the corresponding truths in one place. And for convenience, I numbered these.

1. Egoism according to Objectivism does not mean doing whatever you feel like doing. It is not a synonym for, it ruthlessly excludes whim worship, the arbitrary in action, irrationality. The fact that a man feels like taking a certain action, does not per say, make it an action which advances his self-interest. On the contrary, a man can avidly desire and pursue neurotic, harmful, self-destructive actions. If life is the standard, then the selfish man is the one who acts to achieve the values his life requires, by practicing the necessary virtues, above all, rationality. Any default on rationality is necessarily harmful to one's interest, assuming that you define your interests by the appropriate standard. Such a default would mean an evasion of reality. A course of action in defiance of fact which must be ultimately self-defeating and self-destructive.

2. As a quick corollary, egoism does not mean acting on the range or spur of the moment, regardless of principles or consequences. If life requires principled long-range action, and a full recognition of cause and effect, so does egoism, by exactly the same token. The selfish man, according to Objectivism is therefore, aware that his choices and actions have consequences, and he's fully prepared to accept them and he acts accordingly. He is long-ranged and self-responsible as an essential part of being selfish.

3. Egoism is not subjectivism. And I'm thinking here of the type of mentality who says, a scientist seeking truth is selfless, because only a disinterested person can be objective. An interest in a question, a personal motive of any kind is an agent of distortion. That's the view. Now the underlying premise here is that reality is an enemy of values. And therefore, either you seek truth or values, but not both. And the Objectivist answer is, values, if they are rational are not at war with reality, they are based on reality, and they require recognition of reality in order to be achieved. It is objectivity, therefore i.e. conforming to reality that is the selfish policy, and it is derailment into subjectivist fantasies that is harmful and self-destructive. Put it this way. If your selfish motive, as it is for an Objectivist, is a desire to know and act on the facts of reality, in order to achieve your goals in reality. Then your motive, so far from being an agent of distortion, is the engine and incentive to ruthless objectivity, because you would know that ignorance is not bliss. On the other hand, if you are truly selfless, and you have no personal motive at all in regard to a given issue, what is going to prompt you to put forth the effort and work of being objective? Such selflessness is an obstacle to, or enemy of objectivity, not its pre-condition or ally.

4. Egoism does not mean sacrificing others to oneself. It does not mean the policy of a brute who seizes by force the values that other men have created, or violates their rights to satisfy his own blind craving. Why not? Because this course of conduct is antithetical to the requirements of life. It's destructive, not only to the victim, but also to the perpetrator. And as such, by the standard of life, it is the opposite of what selfishness requires. Man, we said over and over, survives by thought and production, not by seizing what he happens to find preformed and waiting in nature. As a rational being, a man must live as an independent individual, by his own mind, and his own creative action, dealing with others when he chooses to, by trade, each party trading value for value by mutual consent, mutual advantage when both parties agree, neither being sacrificed to the other.

Now a full and proper development of this issue would require us to cover the rest of the Objectivist ethics. For now I merely want to dissociate Objectivism unequivocally from the conventional view on this point. And the best single formulation to cover this is Galt's oath:

"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."

Observe that both parts of this oath proceed from the same premise, that man, each man is an end in himself. And that human sacrifice, therefore, as such is evil, in either direction, whether of oneself to others or of others to oneself. If a man rejects this principle, it makes no difference what side he comes down on, whether he says, sacrifice yourself to others or sacrifice others to yourself. In either case he's saying, life requires that some men be sacrificial animals. It requires that some men be means to the ends of others. Somebody's throat has to be cut, and the only question is, yours for them or theirs for you. Now Objectivism holds that life is incompatible with throat-cutting, and therefore that both of these views are out for the same reason, or as Roark put it, Objectivism rejects masochism and sadism, submission and dominance, making sacrifices and collecting them. It stands for independence and individualism. As to the question, but isn't some kind of sacrifice inescapable? What about the conflicts of interest among men, where someone has to be sacrificed? I think you know the Objectivist answer to this question. In one sentence only, it is that there are no conflicts of interest among men, not among men who accept reason, who live by production and trade, and who do not regard one another as sacrificial animals. On this question, I refer you to Miss Rand's article in The Virtue of Selfishness, which you were supposed to have read for this evening, Conflicts of Men's Interests, which explodes once and for all the myth of inescapable human conflict, whether at work, romance or any other area.

5. I'm doing this now for the record, so you'll have all the mistakes in one place. at least all the widespread ones. It's often asked, can an egoist have friends? Or can he love another human being? The implication being, that an egoist is, if not a psychopathic brute, at least a withdrawn hermit indifferent on principle to all men. And of course the answer to it is Roark's statement, to say I love you, one must know first how to say the I.

Love is a response to values, to personal values which one holds intensely and which one finds reflected or embodied in the character of another human being. To ask, can an egoist love? Is therefore to ask, can he hold passionate personal values. and respond to others accordingly? And the answer is, only an egoist can do it. Quote from Miss Rand:

"Love and friendship are profoundly personal, selfish values. Love is an expression and assertion of self-esteem, a response to one's own values in the person of another. One gains a profoundly personal, selfish joy from the mere existence of the person one loves. It is one's own personal selfish happiness that one seeks, earns and desires from love. A selfless disinterested love is a contradiction in terms. It means that one is indifferent to that which one values."

It follows of course that if a man acts to help a person he loves, even to the point of risking his life in cases of danger. This in not a sacrifice on his part. It is an expression of egoism and selfishness. If he truly loves the person—this is his wife—then it makes a crucial difference to him personally and selfishly what happens to her. If it doesn't, then whatever the name of his feeling, it's not love.

6. This is the last one I'm going to go into. It's a related confusion. And this one is involved in the question, is it ever proper for an egoist to help others who are in trouble?

Now I'm leaving aside now, cases of love or close friendship, which we've already mentioned. Now on this I refer you to the ethics of emergencies in The Virtue of Selfishness. A brief answer would be, yes, it can be proper to help others if one does it egoistically, which involves at least four main points. A. You and the beneficiary of your help—always remember that if you choose to help someone, it's an act of generosity on your part, not a moral duty you owe to the recipient. His need per say, is not a lean on your time, money or life. B. It's proper if you help a man who suffers from a misfortune that he is not responsible for. And you help him in the name of values you see in him, even if it's only the potential value of a fellow human being of whom you know nothing evil. But as an egoist, you do not help men who are evil. Do not allow them by your aid to escape the consequences of their own chosen vices. C. You never help if it involves a sacrifice on your part, which is always immoral and wrong, according to Objectivism. You must judge the time, the effort, the money that is appropriate given the position of the person in your hierarchy of values, and you act accordingly. D. You always remember that the issue of helping others is peripheral to ethics. It is not the essence of morality or the proper source of self-esteem. Your self-esteem according to Objectivism must arise from your achievements and the work of your mind, not from your acts of assistance to others.  

Helping others in emergencies is an entirely marginal issue. It is not an essential. If catastrophes, fires, floods, etcetera were the norm, that would mean that human beings couldn't survive. If man wasn't equipped to live, and if so, we would have all perished long ago and ideas would be irrelevant.

All right, you have before you in essence the Objectivist concept of the selfish man, and you see how it follows from the basic premises of the Objectivist ethics. To summarize, the selfish man is the man whose purpose is his own life and happiness, which he achieves by being rational, self-responsible, independent, productive, He is the man who trades value for value in his dealings with others, who chooses his friendships and his loves according to his values, and who chooses his values and conclusions by a process of ruthlessly objective cognition. This is what Objectivism means by the selfish man, or the egoist. Now you can judge the claim made by some philosophers, that it is pointless to tell man to be selfish, since men are selfish by nature anyway. Now this claim is false as such, on any theory of selfishness, because men have free will—they're not determined—but it is particularly bizarre on the Objectivist view of selfishness. Selfishness as Objectivism construes it is an enormous achievement, not an innate attribute.

Now I'm not going to present to you the arguments against the opposite code of ethics, the ethics of self-sacrifice, neither the form in which you sacrifice to God, nor in the form of the doctrine of altruism, that one should sacrifice to others. I do assume parenthetically, that this audience understands that altruism is not a synonym for kindness, generosity, good will or the like, but is an ethical theory holding that man should place others above himself, and that his foremost obligation and highest virtue is self-sacrifice in their battle. Now as I shall say, I will not go into refuting these self-sacrifice doctrines, because Ayn Rand's writings, including Galt's speech, discuss this subject extensively, in theory, in practice, in history, from every aspect and with innumerable applications and examples. I, therefore, merely summarize in one paragraph, what Ayn Rand demonstrates in detail.

The code of self-sacrifice in any version is an anti-life code. It is by its nature what Galt calls the morality of death. It's incompatible with every virtue, value, attitude, premise and policy that human life requires. It's incompatible with the pursuit of value; it demands renunciation, not achievement. It is incompatible with the independent mind; it demands that man sacrifice his own rational judgment in order to pander to the wishes of others. It is incompatible with justice; it urges the sacrifice of the virtuous in order to reward those who fail the task of living—reward them because they fail. As an ideal, it holds out to man, not mere death, but as Galt demonstrates, death by slow torture. The ancient Greek philosophers, or at least the Aristotelians among them, did not accept the ethics of self-sacrifice, although they did not know how to formulate or defend an Objective code of ethics in its place. But every other school in philosophic history has accepted the basic premises of the code of self-sacrifice, in one form or another. And today as you know, it has reached its climax and is destroying the world. Ayn Rand was the first thinker in western history to say to the advocates of self-sacrifice—as Galt put it— good by what standard? Her unprecedented achievement is that she has challenged the moral dogma of the millennium. She has demonstrated what that dogma is and means, and she has defined and proved the alternative. Her achievement on this issue is an historic turning point, because it means mankind's moral liberation, i.e. the liberation of man from the man destroying morality of the ages, it means the rescue of morality, its liberation from the senseless, age-old association with misery, pain, suffering, and unrewarded duty. It means in short the possibility of man's life on earth, unblemished and unbreached, fully and consistently, for the first time.

5. Egoism, causality and duty

Now you have the fundamentals of the Objectivist ethics, the ultimate value, the primary virtue, the proper beneficiary, which leaves one more question for tonight. Does Objectivism say that it is your duty to pursue life, your duty to be rational, or your duty to be an egoist? The answer is, Objectivism repudiates the concept of duty as such. It's a concept out of the code of self-sacrifice. What is duty? Now I refer you on this whole topic to Miss Rand's article Causality Versus Duty in The Objectivist, July 1970. I quote her definition of duty, there:

"the moral necessity to perform certain actions for no reason other than obedience to some higher authority without regard to any personal goal, motive, desire, or interest."

The central idea is, there are certain things you must do—the idea of a duty approach—there are certain things you must do, whether it's go to church, tell the truth, or whatever. Why? Because you must. Because some higher power like God, or society, or parents, or whichever, some higher power says you must, period. What about your own goals and values? They're irrelevant. If you act to achieve personal goals, said the arch advocate of duty, Emmanuel Kant, to that extent you are amoral and deserve no moral credit. Morality, he said, demands selflessness, selflessness and, on the duty approach, obedience to authority.

You see the two elements the concept of duty reject, values—you must be selfless—and reason—you must obey some kind of rules for no stated purpose, without rational explanation. Now the duty approach to ethics is a product obviously of the intrinsicist school. It's morality without beneficiaries or purpose. It's the idea of certain acts being good in themselves, intrinsic, regardless of the questions of good to whom? and for what?

Now the principle that replaces duty in the Objectivist ethics is causality, in the sense that certain means are necessary in order to achieve certain ends, so that if you want a certain effect, you must enact the cause. According to Objectivism there are many things you must do, if, and I quote Miss Rand:

"Reality confronts man with a great many musts, but all of them are conditional. The formula of realistic necessity is you must, if. And the if stands for man's choice, if you want to achieve a certain goal. You must eat, if        you want to survive. You must work, if you want to eat. You must think, if you want to work. You must look at reality, if you want to think, if you want to know what to do, if you want to know what goals to choose, if you want to know how to achieve them."

Remember the Spanish proverb, that Miss Rand quotes in the article: God said, take what you want, and pay for it. In other words, you make the choice. You choose what you want, and then reality determines the price. In other words it sets what actions are required, what causes are necessary to achieve the goal, and it sets the results—the consequences that will flow from your action. So you act as you choose, if you are prepared to pay the price to enact the cause and fully accept the effects. And if you choose to live, then you must enact the principles that choice requires, which as you've see for the whole evening, includes a whole code of rational values and virtues.

I call your attention in this connection to a crucial statement of Galt:

"My morality, the morality of reason is contained in a single axiom, existence exists, and a single choice, to live. The rest proceeds from these."

In other words, there is no commandment saying, thou shalt live. There is no duty here. There is only the alternative of life or death, and your choice. Since existence exists, then, if you choose to live, you must act a certain way. The choice to live, however—that basic choice as such—is not itself a moral choice. It precedes morality. It is what gives rise to the issue of morality. It is because man chooses to live that he needs a morality. Morality, in short, is not intrinsic—and we really mean that. It rests in this respect on man's choice of a fundamental goal. Now of course I have to add immediately in today's world, the fact that morality is not intrinsic, does not mean that it is subjective. When we say that musts are conditional, that does not mean, that does not mean that the choice on which they depend can be described as arbitrary or causeless or an issue of whim. And the best thing here, is to put the question as I'm asked by philosophy students frequently. They say something like this: If there's no duty, if the choice to live precedes morality, what would be the status of someone who chose not to live? Is his choice legitimate, so long as he acts on it? That's the question I hear frequently.

In other words, this question asks about a hypothetical person, who willfully chooses death as his basic goal, and then commits suicide, not because of any tragedy in his life or any existential problem, but simply to make a philosophic point in effect, as a kind of person who says, I choose not to live as a primary. And since choice precedes ethics there can't be any right or wrong in regards to the basic choice itself, and so my choice is as good as yours, and ethics, therefore, is subjective. Now the answer to this fantastic construct is, no. The choice to live means the commitment to accept reality, to remain in the realm of reality. The choice to die in this context is the decision to reject reality, to reject it altogether, to decide to move into non-existence. Now you must remember that non-existence is not, it is not a competitor to existence. It has no advantages over existence. It isn't. Only existence exists.

Reason by its nature operates within and on the side of existence—reality, what is— and any values or reasons of any kind are possible only within the realm of reality. You can demand, or offer a reason for a choice only if you accept and stand within the framework of existence. If a person complains, there's no reason to choose existence, in what dimension is he standing while he claims it? What alternative to existence does he envision, and where did he get the term reason, which is a faculty exclusively of, by and for existence. A person who would claim that the choice to die, is as good as the choice to live, would be guilty of the worst stolen concepts. Where for instance, did he get such a concept as good? Where does he get any evaluative concept, if his primary choice is death? He's using an ethical concept in order to deny the very need and possibility of such a field as ethics.

Now if you took this straight. A man who would arbitrarily throw away his life, who would reject reality as a matter of principle, who would choose not to exist as an end in itself, would be an incredible whim-worshiper of the lowest order. And his action would indicate such a deficiency of self-esteem and self value, that he would have to be dismissed by any human being as the monster beyond discussion or debate, a monster who had consigned himself to a permanent void, the void of the a-moral, the a-rational, the non-existent. To summarize: to ask, is there a reason to choose life, in that basic sense is an invalid question. Once you ask for reasons, you have already accepted life and reality. The choice to live is a primary, which precedes and makes possible the giving of reasons, and if you do not make that choice, you cannot talk, argue or make any further sounds. Such a man becomes by his own decision, a walking corpse as soon as he utters his decision, and others have no option but to treat him accordingly. To repeat the broader point in sum, value is not intrinsic, but that does not mean it is subjective. It is objective. We'll continue the subject of Objectivist ethics next time. Thank you.

6. Question period

I've had a number of questions about the Presidential election. So as to allay your anxiety, Miss Rand has agreed to discuss, or answer that briefly at the end of the question period.

All right Ladies and Gentlemen, let's begin. Now there are two people, whom I very heartily approve of who reminded me, but I knew it anyway, that I had said in Lecture 5, that the next question period I would discuss the implications of the contextual nature of knowledge for asking questions, and then I was sick and wasn't here. I had intended to do it anyway, but I—that sort of thing, I approve of being held to, so—let's look at that first, briefly, and then some left over from last week, and then we'll get to the ones from this evening, as many as we can.

The only point I wanted to see if you could guess or work out yourself, was the issue that every question a person asks rests on a certain context. Newborn babies don't ask questions, not until they reach a certain stage of cognitive development. And the practical significance of this is that it's not true that every question that occurs to anyone is a legitimate question. It all depends on what is the context of the question. Now there are people who ask questions strictly on the spur of the moment, growing out of no definable context, questions based on nothing, you could say, or at least on nothing that is clear to the questioner. For instance, you may meet someone who would say, I hear that you're a student of philosophy. How does one think philosophically? Now your first reaction in such a case should be, what do you mean? Because, as a question, that is open to a dozen different answers or none, depending on what gives rise to it. What's it's context? Is he trying to compare philosophy to science, then you would stress thinking philosophically means thinking in the broadest abstractions. Is he trying to contrast philosophy to religion, then you would stress thinking philosophically means thinking rationally, etcetera. But if there is no specific context, it's simply unanswerable. Now please take that to heart. When you ask a question of anybody, including me, you have to know what facts give rise to the question. Or to put it another way, what kind of knowledge are you seeking? What would you take as an answer? And of course, you not only have to have a specific context, it has to be a justified context. It can't consist of falsehoods, and unwarranted assumptions. You know, have you stopped your wife, or who created the universe. If your question presupposes a false context, then it's out right there. So to summarize, you have to ask questions on the basis only of justified assumptions within a clearly specified or implied context, and you must know what you would take, at least in principle, for an answer. Otherwise you are asking an improper, un-contextual question. The moral of this is that there have to be rational grounds for what every human being does, even to them asking questions.

Now let's look at some questions, where either the context was stated or I could guess it.

These are still left over from earlier times.

Q. What are empiricism and rationalism and how are they related to the intrinsic/subjective dichotomy?

A. I will not repeat what is empiricism and rationalism. because this was handed in some weeks before that lecture, so I assume the person, now understands it, since I covered that in the lecture. But I will discuss in a word the relationship of these two schools to the intrinsic/subjective dichotomy, in a word. The rationalists are the intrinsicists. The empiricists are the subjectivists in so far as they follow out their basic premises. And it works out that way as follows. The rationalists in principle deny the senses, which means that they are forced to regard concepts as something other than an integration of sensory data, which ultimately puts them in a position of some kind of Platonic entities in another dimension, which act on it, and that means the intrinsicist. The empiricists on the other hand claim to go by the senses, but deny, what it amounts to, they deny concepts. Well, in spite of this they're human beings. They cannot function only as animals on the sensory level, they have to interpret sensory data conceptually. Yet, by their view, there's no basis whatever for conceptual interpretation, and consequently they come forth with arbitrary subject interpretations and a dead end of an example is Hume—nothing whatever is knowable and its all a matter of taste. In that sense, Plato is the perfect example of the rationalist/intrinsicist, and Hume as the empiricist/subjectivist.

Another one from last time.

Q. What is the difference skepticism and agnosticism?

A. Well, sometimes of course, agnosticism is restricted to the religious question. And sometimes these two terms are used synonymously. But in general you can make this differentiation. The agnostic says, I don't know, or man doesn't know, in regard now to an arbitrary claim—because you simply don't know about a question which is legitimate to consider, but you don't have the evidence, you're not an agnostic—you simply don't know. But agnosticism as a viewpoint consists of allowing an arbitrary claim in, and then saying, I don't know, or man doesn't know, but maybe someday we'll find out, as against the skeptic, who is the militant on this point, who says, not only do we not know, we'll never know. Knowledge as such, is impossible to anyone on anything, and I know it.

Now you could ask, how does an agnostic think he will ever even in theory, once he accepts the arbitrary, and that's his whole method. And of course he doesn't try to answer that question. As a consistent agnostic, he'd have to say, I don't know.

I'll try to answer this one briefly. It's about Lecture 5.

Q. You stated that Aristotle believed universals existed only in things, although they could be recognized by our consciousness. Is this use of the term universals, the same as Aristotle's use of the tem essence?

A. Now to be very brief here, universal as it's used in the philosophic tradition, is the broader term. It stands for whatever is common to a group of particulars. Essence is one subdivision within universal. It's those specific qualities which come in the definition. So, for instance, the universal man, for the tradition would include all sorts of characteristics and only rationality and animality are essentials, so it's not true that those terms are synonymous. And then the questioner goes on:

Q. How does Aristotle's use of the term essence differ from Objectivism's view? Does not Objectivism believe that each entity possesses a form or essence which gives that entity its characteristic nature?

A. No, is the answer.

Q. Could you please you please clarify these terms.

A. Don't confuse identity and essence as concepts. Identity is a metaphysical term, and it means, identity means the sum of its characteristics or attributes, including all of its characteristics. So, if for instance, part of the identity of man is that he has two legs, he has a heart, he has no hair, etcetera. Essence is not synonymous with identity. Essence as Objectivism uses it, is specifically an epistemological term. It involves a selection made by a conceptual consciousness at a certain point of its cognitive development, a selection of certain characteristics to enable that consciousness to keep its concepts distinct from one another         and tied to specific reference in reality. And as we saw, the characteristics that do that at one stage of knowledge, may not in another, and therefore, the essence at the one point may vary from the essence of another point. Now this is very different from Aristotle's view because, he, along with that whole tradition regarding essence of the essential characteristics as intrinsically marked out by reality. So, he would say, for instance, rationality and animality are dictated by reality as being the essence of man, and having a heart is dictated by reality as not being part of the essence of man. And that is a metaphysical distinction independent of us. Well, of course, if you put it that way, you're wide open to the question, how do you know? After all, having a heart is as important—it wouldn't be man without a heart anymore than he would be a man without a brain or a rational faculty. So, how can you in effect, discriminate, and say reality says this characteristic counts, so this doesn't. Now of course the Objectivist answer is, we're not saying that a heart is not part of man's identity, we're simply saying, when we say, its not part of the essence, that, that characteristic in a given context, does not distinguished man from other creatures, although it exists as part of his nature, whereas, having a rational faculty does distinguish him. Now you see the difference. Objectivism can establish essence simply by observing facts in a certain cognitive context. The Aristotelian and Platonic view, even more, by regarding essence as marked out by reality as synonymous with identity in effect, and being just part of an entity, has reduced, it falls back to intuition as the means of determining what is essential, and of course that is a hopeless viewpoint.

Now a couple of questions on ethics that were handed in weeks ago, in which I conscientiously saved for tonight, because tonight was the first one on ethics.

Q. How do you reply to this sort of statement? Granted that your ethics describes what man must do to live up to his full potential, still, can you give me a reason why I should care to live up to mine? I don't do anything without a good reason, so you must give me a reason why I should adopt your code of ethics.

A. Now the only excuse for this question is that it was asked weeks ago. But it must mean that he did not read Miss Rand, because he is obviously assuming that the Objectivist—I say he, but it could be a she, on her head be it. The questioner is obviously assuming that all Objectivism has to say is actualize your potentiality. Well there are some schools in history, which have had nothing more than that to say, and then of course it is very easy to say, why should I actualize my potentiality just because I have it. And you know the standard junky arguments I have as a potentiality for leaping out the window. Should I actualize it just because I have it, etcetera?

Now it's very doubtful that any philosopher ever said such a thing—it's only the modern analysts who find those sentences—but Aristotle did not. He did not give a complete correct answer to why you should actualize your potentiality for reason. But he did not say, you have it, so go out and actualize it, either. He had a whole metaphysical basis for it. In any event, Objectivism is not in the actualizing potentiality school. That is—I better clarify that—the principle of Objectivist ethics the primary is not actualize your potentiality, or even you potentiality for thought as an end in itself. The primary is life is the standard for the reasons I gave, and therefore, actualize your potentiality, one very specific potentiality, your potentiality, for reason, for thought. Why? Because the alternative is, you cannot survive. It's in other words, if you choose to live, you have to act a certain way, and if you want to use that terminology, actualize your potentiality, but you don't actualize your potentiality as an end in itself. This is therefore assuming that Objectivism is nothing but a rehash of some kind of second grade Aristotelian, which is not true.

Now this one came in weeks ago, and I saved it for this evening.

Q. What is the Objectivist view of the appropriate mental activity when one is pursuing a physical activity which does not require one's full mental attention? For example, walking to a store, or shaving, driving a car. Is it ever appropriate to daydream, to let your mind drift passively by random association?

A. Now here you have to define your terms. What do you mean by daydream? It can be appropriate to daydream, if you define what you mean. If daydream means that you let your subconscious take over and make connections, for instance, as one does very often in creative activity, and you are merely observing the process. You're not critical, you're not stopping it. You're giving freedom to the subconscious to function. That's okay, and that can be very valuable as long as you are in focus. In such a case you're still purposeful, bound by a purpose. You're alert, you're aware of what's going on. It's as if you write a rough draft, and you just let it out as fast as it will come. You don't stop and censor it in the process. Well, you can call that, you're giving the subconscious freedom. You're letting it take over and make the connections and you're just getting it out as fast as you can. If you want to call that daydreaming, okay. But, what this questioner asks about is, let your mind drift passively by random association. Now, if I take that literally, he means a state of being out of focus, and that is never appropriate according to Objectivism. That would be you're walking down the street, and you think it's a nice day, and that makes you think there's seven days in a week, and that makes you think, the weak have no chance under capitalism, you know, etcetera. Now, that is letting your mind drift passively. That is random. It is not purposeful. It's not self-aware. It's simply concrete bound accident. Now the Objectivist view is that consciousness must know at all times what it is doing. Does this mean, you can't rest? Of course you can rest. You can even drift in the sense of move from topic to topic so to speak in brief spurts or brief units as long as you do it by deliberate choice. For instance, you remember something and then you decide to contemplate some future action, then you decide what outfit to wear tomorrow, and then you watch TV or whichever. Now that's a different and much less demanding mental state, then starting systematically to solve a problem, but it's still not unconscious random association. It's still the case that you know what you're doing. It's purposeful. You're self-aware, in focus. Now I can't lay down rules for shaving and walking to the store. In regard to driving a car, I do not think you should do that with only part of your attention. But in regard to shaving, that depends on how well you do it, and to what extent it's automatized. How much attention it requires. If it doesn't require your full attention, you can focus partly on something else, and the same is true for going to the store. The absolute at all times, is that when you are awake, you have to be awake.

All right now, I have an enormous number that came in this evening. And let's see if we can pick out some of them. I had them in order, and they're all mixed up now. So, I'll take them as they happen to be.

Q. Would an elaboration of how to combat rationalism depend heavily on the individual's psychology of the rationalist? Or can you give principles as you did in how to combat the tendency to rewrite reality?

A. Well that of course is more of a psycho-epistemological question. Of course everything I said with regard to how to combat the tendency to rewrite reality is irrelevant to how to combat rationalism, because rewriting reality is the fallacy par excellence of rationalism. Now you could answer this therefore, by either a twenty lecture course on the proper psycho-epistemology, which I'm not going to give and couldn't, or one good point, which I'm going to restrict myself to, If I could give one piece of advise to avoid rationalism, I would say, avoid authoritarianism. By authoritarianism, I mean blindly accepting some statement for which you don't actually know or see the reason for, because some authority said it to you, and then juggling arguments in order to make it come out to his pre-set conclusion. Now that is the commonest motivation behind rationalism. And the arch example of it is the scholastics in the Medieval period, officially and explicitly. God gave them the revelations. They knew in advance what the truth was. Then they said, the purpose of argument is to in effect juggle your premises—they didn't use that word, but that's what it amounts to—organize your premises in such a way that starting from something more or less plausible you could end up with the revelation that you knew in advance was true, anyway.

Now of course, by such a method, they don't look at reality. They know the pre-set conclusion from their authority. So, they just attach to whatever premises they think are

plausible, and they juggle ideas in a vacuum detached from reality. Now the only—let me add one other thing. Unfortunately, there are people I have met who are students of Objectivism, who treat Objectivism in this manner. That is they take some conclusion out of context and they say, well, this is the Objectivist view, and now how do I argue for it, and they ignore reality and they juggle in their minds some hash of premises that seems plausible to them or they heard somewhere or whichever. They jigger the argument so it will come out to the pre-set conclusion. What comes out is a fantastic construct that is refuted by the most elementary facts, and they're amazed, and the reason is their concern was not on reality, but on establishing a pre-set conclusion.

Q. Now does this mean that I am advocating "independence"?

A.  No, not in the phony sense of, you make up your own ideas. I'm advocating as a key to solution to rationalism, the crucial thing is to focus on reality. And if you do, you will not have to juggle arguments to come to conclusions, and you can learn from anyone who knows, who has an argument. Keep always, no breach between your mind and facts. That's the best single principle I can give you. Now this questioner goes on:

Q. Does your statement every man rebelling against reason in reality, does so ultimately, because of an emotion reality doesn't permit him. Does that mean that [can't read it] such policies as rationalism in rewriting reality are never solely errors of knowledge which are morally blamed?

A. No, I did not mean that. In today's world particularly, in today's colleges, you can become trained in rationalism without even knowing the issue. You can have the best will in the world, and you are actually brainwashed, and you are in that sense, you can be completely a victim on this issue, and it can be very hard for you to understand it, but the

test of whether it's honest or not is when you get a glimmer, do you try to fight, or do you like that rationalist method and hang on to it and defy reality. It's not rebelling against reality, but by his knowledge he may think that's logical, that's rational, he's giving up arguments, and it comes as news to him very often, particularly if he's gone to today's colleges. Then what he's doing is rationalism. So you cannot assume. If he's Kant or Hegel it's pretty safe to say it's not an error of knowledge. But that's not the point.

Now, I'll try to be more brief.

Q. Once the process of evasion is initiated by an individual can it be stopped? Is there a point of no return? What is it?

A. Well, of course it can be stopped, if, that is to say, the choice to evade is volitional. Is there a point of no return? I don't know of one, unless it would be that you reach a stage of such evasion, evasion compounded on evasion, such blocks, and such mental chaos that you actually go crazy and lose control over the mind. Now not a great deal is known about the actual causes of psychosis, whether or to what extent it's premises, and or to what extent it's physiological. But if it is mental functioning that contributes to it and in certain cases it certainly seems to be, then obviously it would primarily be an issue of consciousness which arranges itself from reality. And that would mean evasion in that sense, conceivably under certain conditions can reach the point of insanity, but assuming we're not talking about that, just kind of the normal daily evader. Yes, it certainly can be stopped, but that does not mean that you don't pay the price for it, because in direct proportion as you evaded, you are giving yourself a legacy of confusion, and contradictions, and blindness, and disintegration, and difficulty in mental functioning, and reluctance to function. You have your work cut out. You have to pay the price in reverse, then. You have to uproot those evasions and establish the right method. It may involve a long, complex, difficult, process, but in principle certainly it can be stopped.

Now the same questioner asks:

Q. Must a man, if he is to choose to live, choose to be heroic, explicitly, or does he accept that it implicitly?

A. Now I did not say anything about heroism as a virtue. There is no such thing as choosing to be heroic. What you choose is to live, and then you enact the virtues necessary and achieve the values necessary. And if you have great stature, and you achieve something enormous and out of the ordinary, then from a different perspective, you could say, or more likely someone else could say, what a heroic individual, or what a heroic action. But normally a person does not have that perspective about himself. He's not going around saying, how heroic I am. He does not seek heroism. He seeks the truth, or to learn the answer to a certain question, or to achieve a certain goal, and it's only the sum of that in certain cases leads to heroism. Heroism is not something that you set your attention toward as the goal.

Q. How can man [This is another question] How can man have no instincts? Given that the concept of life precedes the concept of value, and that life is the standard of value, life itself, can only be a value if man innately feels it. Why is life a value? Define instinct.

A.  Now this is a very confused question. How can man have no instinct? To that I counter, how could he have them? Let's start by taking the end of the question and define instinct.

Now remember, instinct is a distinct concept, or alleged concept as applied to human beings. It's not the same as desire, it's not the same as sensation, it's not the same as action, it's not the same as thought or reflex. All of those concepts are distinctive. They name something specific. What is instinct supposed to name—an innate, unchosen, unlearned pattern of action—to reflex, or in particular cases, but the whole entity is acting—man. And it was something that was innate, unlearned, unchosen. That's what instinct designates. Now this is exactly what man doesn't have. You could say about lower animals if you use the term simply descriptive. They function by repeating certain patterns of action are built into them. They are programmed a certain way. They don't have to choose. They don't have to learn. They're built a certain way, because they act only on the sensory perceptual level. But the whole point about man as we've stressed over and over that he can act only by the guidance of his form of consciousness, which is the conceptual level and which is volitional. And concepts and value judgments have to be learned. Instinct for man would require innate ideas. That's what would be necessary for there to be innate, unlearned modes of action—of human action. And therefore, since there are no innate ideas, instinct is out.

Now if you use terms literally, a person talks about the concept of life. How can life be a value unless man innately feels it. Now there are no innate feelings. There is not even such a thing as an inbuilt automatic desire to remain alive. And the obvious evidence of this is not only deliberate suicide, but the indifference or hostility of a great many men to the very values upon which their lives blatantly and obviously depend. Now you could not account for that phenomenon by saying that they're born with a passion to live, they just didn't realize it—that Buchenwald or Soviet Russia, etcetera, are anti-life. That is not possible, and therefore you cannot ascribe such people inbuilt automatic desires to live, and of course obviously there's no automatic knowledge to live, as that is evidenced by human history. And therefore, you cannot—there's no meaning to an instinct to self-preservation. As to his question, why is life a value. I've covered that explicitly in the lecture. I won't repeat what the stolen concept is in that question. Life is the standard of value, and until you value your life, you cannot reach such a concept such as that.

Q. What is the difference between illegal and immoral. Can a person live outside the law and still be moral?

A. Well, of course those are two completely concepts. Legal means in conformity with the laws, the statute laws, the laws on the books in a specific country. Moral, means of course, conformity with the principles of morality. Of course for Objectivism that means Objectivist morality. Now the relation between those two depends entirely upon what country's laws your talking about. In certain countries it is illegal to take the most obviously moral, self-sustaining, rational actions. And in that sense, morality and legality are exactly opposite to each other. Now the ideal would be to have a society where the laws rest on a proper code of morality, and do not prohibit the good, or demand the evil. But per say, if you simply take those two concepts, certainly a person can live outside the law and still be moral, if the law mandates immorality. Of course it depends entirely on what sort of legal system you are talking about, but there's nothing to say you must obey the law, nothing except know what you are doing. If you disobey the law, if it is an immoral law, you have to be prepared to take the consequences if you're caught.

Q. Now this questioner goes on: the brilliant noble criminal is an appealing character in fiction. What would be the proper moral reaction to a real life version of this character.

A. Miss Rand actually answered this in the introduction to The Romantic Manifesto, and the point is that the noble crook is not literally valid in a free society, because it's not necessary. Such a person in a free society would be wrong. In a dictatorship or controlled society, it depends altogether on what kind of crook you regard this noble, and what is he doing in that society. You couldn't pass a rule; it's too generalized a category— the noble crook. And the questioner goes on:

Q. Can such a person be happy?

A. Leave that to the implication of our discussion of happiness next time.

Q. Please clarify: when we say that evasion constitutes the rejection of reason. Do we mean that it is not possible for one to consciously, knowingly, deliberately reject reason with full awareness of the implications and consequences? [That's okay, there's a question, because he goes on]: Comment, if you care to on the Aristotelian claim that no man knowingly commits evil. I have in mind of course someone like Ellsworth Toohey, or perhaps Kant. [ you can leave the perhaps out.]

A. But now the question here is, can a man knowingly commit evil? And it derives from the classic view, actually Socrates is the better one to quote here rather than Aristotle, that no man can know the good fully, and go against it. Because, said Socrates, if you know the good fully, you end up using an Objectivist term here, you've integrated thoroughly that good course of action is for your own welfare. And you want to achieve your own welfare, to do the evil, would be like deliberately stabbing yourself and no one, he thought, would do that. Well this of course is a mistaken view in the sense, that Socrates had a naively benevolent view of the potentialities in this respect.

It is possible for people knowingly to commit evil, not to value their own lives, to know that something is harmful and self-destructive and do it anyway. Socrates did not see the Christian era and what came after it. If he had he wouldn't have held the view that knowledge is virtue, and that if you know the good you can't go wrong. There is, however, this much truth in the Socratic view. If and to the extent that a man fully knows that a given course of action is evil, and he keeps all the facts in his mind in focus. And he keeps his mind on that fact with its implications and doesn't evade, he cannot act against it. You cannot, literally, act against your knowledge in that sense, not as long as that knowledge is kept fully clear to you. What therefore do you have to do? You can know the good and act against it. So, Socrates is wrong. But, why? Because the shear fact that you know it does not mean that it will apply itself in any particular case. You can evade. You can disintegrate your consciousness. You can refuse to focus on what you know. And thereby you can know, and never-the-less contradict it and act against it. So, he's right only in the sense that you have to evade your knowledge in order to act against it. But he's wrong in the sense that evasion, unfortunately, is possible, and therefore, it is certainly possible for a person to know the good and willfully, deliberately, blind himself to it. That is willful deliberate evil, not simply ignorance. It's self-made ignorance.

Now let's see if I can take a couple of quick ones. If there's any very short ones before I ask Miss Rand to come up.

Q. Please differentiate between egoist and egotist.

A. I don't use the term egotist. I once had a professor who told me that the difference was and egoist advocates selfishness, and an egotist just does it obnoxiously. But that is ridiculous to have a concept and named such a thing, and then there should be such a thing as a person who advocates altruism and an altrutist who does it obnoxiously. So, I do not use any such term.

Q. Is the only cause of evasion the desire to avoid effort.

A. No. There can be a person, as one of several possibilities, who doesn't want to avoid effort in particular. He wants to avoid a specific fact, which he finds very painful. So, he evades. He's quite willing to work on some other problem or exert effort. He just doesn't want that particular thing to be true, and he won't look at it. That's evasion.

Uh. I actually answered that one. Let's see if I can find one last short one. All right, I'll use this.

Q. In your description of Miss Rand's achievements, why did you make the qualification of 'the first thinker in the western world'?

A. Two. I don't even consider the eastern world worth discussing. It is no compliment to say the first thinker in the eastern world to do something.

All right, I will now ask Miss Rand to come up, if you would, and comment on the Presidential election.

Can everybody hear me? In the back? All right. Now, what's the matter. Oh, before I start on the political questions, I want to make a slight correction. Dr. Peikoff said that my discussion of the noble crook is in the introduction to the Objectivist, to The Romantic Manifesto. It isn't. It's in my introduction to The Night of January 16th. The play. You'll find a big discussion of Bjorn Faulkner there.

Now we'll go to politics. There are three question here. They all deal with the election and I'll take them in order.

Q. Do you have any comment to make on the result of the Presidential election. Why did Ford loose?

A. I have a comment, which I'm making now. And he lost because, as one of the other questioners said, correctly, he didn't say anything. The Ford campaign was morally—I don't want to be bitter, if I were I would say—disgracefully, devoid of any ideological context. Mr. Carter raised the issue of , please, trust him. He made the whole issue one of trust and competence. That's Carter. So that's all Ford talked about, his own competence and experience and his trustworthiness, with the grotesque result that in the post-election polls, Mr. Carter won on the economic issue. More voters believed that he would be able to solve economic problems, particularly, inflation and unemployment. More voters believed that Carter would, than they believed that Ford would. On the other hand, a very large percentage more voters said they trusted Ford more and believed that he was better experienced and would be more competent. So, that really is the essence of the whole election. Ford, who did make a remarkable step toward curing the worst problem of all, economic inflation, never spoke about it properly, that is intellectually. Never made it clear to the people, never explained why he refrained from any action, and why that was the only, most heroic thing to do—not to take any more economic action, controls and above all, spending. He never made that clear. Therefore, the people trusted Carter, because Carter said he would put an end to all that. Ford didn't say that his policy was putting an end to it, and why he was doing so. Yes, he say, we're on our way to beat inflation, things like that. He never made it clear. He never let the people in on the secret of his policy in effect.

He lost, because he never tried to fight on issues. Now whether that was his personal fault. Personally, I don't think so. I think it was the fault of the usual Republican campaign advisors. That's an evil that seems to be inherent in the Republican Party. They will fight on anything, but not on the field of ideas. That's why he lost.

Now the next question:

Q. Can it be, that the sense of life reactions of the voters have changed so much over four years, or is mostly a hundred percent fault of Gerald Ford for evading the basic issues? Will the Republican Party have any role to play in defending Capitalism or must the issue be fought entirely on the campuses, newspapers and in the professions?

A. For the issue, above everything else fought on the campuses and in publications generally in the intellectual field, not the newspapers only, in television, radio, all communications, books. The issue has to be fought just as it had to be fought before the election. That has not changed. Will the Republican Party have any role to play in defending Capitalism? I doubt it. But that's all we have. The alternative to the Republican Party is totally unspeakable. If you want to think of the Conservative party, or the Libertarian party, I would say, join the Communist party. You will be cleaner—intellectually, at least. Certainly, the trump parties did their best to undermine the possibility of anyone defending Capitalism. The more they make themselves heard, the more they disgrace Capitalism, so what can we do? Infiltrate the Republican Party. American parties you know, are not an issue of card carrying belonging. Join the Republican Party and to the extent you can, influence them in the right direction, towards Capitalism and above all away from conservatism, so that one very good result of the election is that Mr. Buckley got defeated and Moynihan got in Strictly, not because Moynihan is so great but because he got the conservative out of the Senate, where Buckley got in on a fluke and never belonged there. You may trust the conservatives to raise the issue of abortion, and you know what they made of it. It's a shameful disgrace in the Twentieth Century, unless it's a clear indication that we're on the way back to the dark ages where the Catholic Church in politics wants us to be. The conservative party is not an American political party. It's a religious party. That's a phenomenon which is, strictly speaking, forbidden by the Constitution. You are free to have any religion you wish, you are forbidden to bring it into politics, i.e. to use it by force, to establish it by force on other people. There can be no such thing as a religious political party, but at least not officially.

All right the best thing you can do for Capitalism is defend it against religion, because religion fundamentally, philosophically, theologically is the thing that destroyed us in the first place. Protect Capitalism as much as you can—and the only weapon that is intellectual—and protect it specifically from the conservatives.

Worse than Mr. Buckley, in a way, as a public figure, is Mr. Reagan, that cheap Hollywood ham, who never was much good. He wasn't even a star, you know. If you ever. . it would be a good idea, incidentally, to see some of his old movies that they still show on TV extremely late, but it might be at least once worth staying up for. He always played idiotic parts in very cheap grade B movies. Now that isn't of course the fault of an actor, but the lesson there is this. He fitted those movies. He wasn't a victim cowering over his material. He fitted right in so that if you want to see the soul of that man, see his early movies when he was young. It is disgusting what he has permitted himself to do in this election. First, there are many reasons for Ford's defeat of course, and the basic one I named—the philosophical issue. But, if we talk journalistically, let's start talking about people and pressure groups. Everybody is now taking credit for Carter's victory, which is fine. He boasted so much that he is not beholden to any man. Let's collect the debts now which have started already making their claims before he is even inaugurated. But if we talk on that level, of any group, or person responsible for Ford's defeat, I would pick Reagan, because by the tone of his campaign, by that ugly fight at the convention—the Republican Convention—ugly on the part of Reagan and his associates—not Ford. Ford didn't do anything. He behaved like a gentleman, under very trying circumstances. Reagan, lost it then proceeded to say particularly he will stand by Ford, and he did not. He refused to campaign in the important states, where I . . .giving the American people, I don't think they would have gone for Reagan very much, but at least as a moral performance and an initial keeping his word. Reagan should have campaigned in certain states where he allegedly had a following, particularly Texas, North Carolina and some say Tennessee, but the states which Ford lost. It's specifically those states Reagan never went to. He obviously, wanted Ford to loose, and the first squeak that comes out of him the day after the election, he doesn't rule out the possibility of running in 1980 already. Ladies and Gentlemen, if any of you in 1980, if this happens—I don't think it will happen—but should that monster succeed, any of you who would compromise with him or help him, or vote for him, and I hope to be dead by then, because I wouldn't want to see such a day, but let me tell you, I will place on you the equivalent of what a religious person would call a damnation. Unfortunately, there is no such equivalent Objectivism accepts except moral damnation. What he has done should not be forgiven, because it's you, who will be the victims. The next four years will probably be hell. I dread to think in what form. And this is the time, and I've heard people say—and I join them in feeling—I'm glad to be old. I am glad I won't have to see too much of the kind of world that Mr. Carter will attempt to make. But you are young enough and you don't want that kind of unspeakable, cheap, small town peanut, power luster to rule your life—a man who is already talking about ah, how he was looking forward to the, you know, Air Force Number 1. He sees himself flying in that. That's the man who says he has the vision of rebuilding America, and great leadership, and moral rebirth. The contempt for people, that man shows is something totally new in American politics. He really doesn't believe that people can remember his statements from day to day, and that he can lie his head off, sit on every fence and nobody would notice. Well, this brings me to the beginning of this question.

Q. Can it be that the sense of life of the voters has changed so much over forty years?

A. No. The country going to the right—in the right sense of the word—towards Capitalism, that Carter was 'me-tooing' Ford and the Republicans throughout the campaign. He was accepting, agreeing with every crucial statement that anyone on the right made, and his goal was what? To prove to the country that he's not a liberal. There is a strong body of evidence to the fact that he lost. His enormous lead, the thirty point lead that he had over Ford, because people were convinced that he is too liberal, since he chose Mondale and a few other statements, so he made his best to sound conservative. In some of his statements you couldn't tell him from the Republicans. Therefore, the people by means of sense of life, cannot differentiate an issue like that. I'm sure you've all read that many people said they are uneasy about Carter. They don't trust him. They know where he stands. But since there's no leadership to oppose him, and then an enormous campaign in his favor, they voted for him. The majority, I think voted, at least according to the polls taken since, they said they voted for their party. Since the Democrats are a majority party, a great many people voted for this candidate, who was less obvious, less offensive politically than the one four years ago. He was left, less than McGovern, at least in his explicit statements. By implication, he's just as bad, except that he's more of a pragmatist, that if somebody holds his own party holds him in check while bowing and treating him like an emperor, you can lead him by the nose, but who will succeed at that, I don't know. The man is all, touchy, cheap, vanity. He is the kind of man who will do something out of shear stubbornness, if he thinks that Congress offended him. But if they flatter him, they will prevent the country from collapsing. At least I hope so. However, you cannot blame the people for not seeing through Carter as a sociable McGovern. The sense of life hasn't changed, but—and here is a good example—of the fact that the sense of life is not a substitute for a conscious philosophy or conscious convictions. You cannot by means of it recognize with certainty, who are your friends and who are your enemies.

And this is the third question on the same subject:

Q. What signs should we watch for in the Carter administration in terms of the more dangerous policies he might adapt, and what do we do now?

A. Well, what do we do now is what we did before. Fight for the right ideas, and when the disasters come, let your Congressmen hear from you. That's still the best way to keep them under some kind of minimal check. As to what to look for in Carter's administration? It's hard to tell, because I don't think he knows. How can you tell anything about a man, who has been on both sides of every key issue? However, in terms of some of the more dangerous policies, the most dangerous is of course, spending. That will be the make work, which we probably won't be able to stop, in public jobs, WPA, all that sort of stuff. The rising inflation is, out of government spending, will be the most dangerous trend, but we might survive that. All I say, unfortunately, I cannot be too hopeful. I look at it this way. It would be wonderful if the mere sense of life of the country had saved us the next four years, but we have no right to expect it. Without philosophy nothing can be done. Evil wins by default, and it did this time, so let's see if we can survive. I will wish all of you and the country the best premises. Thank you.

Notice: Transcripts are provided as a study aid for a student’s personal use while taking the course. Transcripts may not be downloaded, printed, copied or otherwise shared. ARI Campus reserves all rights with respect to course transcripts. Transcripts may vary slightly from the audio or video.