Comments on Eric Mack’s “The Fundamental Moral Elements of Rand’s Theory of Rights” – published in The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand

Mack’s piece did answer some of my questions and revealed that I had been incorrectly interpreting
Rand’s work, and was working from far too incomplete of an understanding of her idea of “self-interest.” My main problem with
Rand was my incorrect understanding of valid self-interest. The quote that Mack gives of her objectivist ethics “The fact that a living entity is, determines what it ought to do” does explain some concerns I had. A being’s purpose is entailed in its existence. The way in which this is used is to identify valuing in respect to life and living. Living, being the ultimate purpose of a man, is properly facilitated by valuing things correctly in respect to that goal. The thing about this that I admire is that
Rand finally has given some  grounding for her absolute-ish claims about ethics, or at the very least, the possibility of an objective view of ethics. This seemed striking to me for the reason that most of the views of ethics I’ve been accustomed with are subjective and relative. Even virtue ethics, which, if I had to choose my favourite, would be such, relies on relative conditions. Though, it would seem that
Rand might approve of Virtue ethics because it is trying to foster a perfectly rational self, while incorporating a rational happiness. It was this view that I had confused on my last comments, since I didn’t understand what you had said by
Rand disapproving of Trump’s hedonism. As I understand it, she only disapproves of hedonism as it would focus entirely on desiring happiness. Mack states that what
Rand would approve of is rational decisions that we desire something rationally, and upon getting it would result in a rational happiness that would be more fulfilling that the desire for “happiness alone.” But even Mack notices that not all human desires are based on rational judgement, and that even the values espoused by Rand of Rationality and Productivity could not have simply emerged from a tabula rasa. This is Mack’s main problem with
Rand, that our desires are so developed. Mack also notes that the basis for
Rand’s view on Rights is poorly developed.
Rand states that Man should act in a certain way, and because of that other men should not interfere with his decision to act in the correct way. This actually was a concern I had when reading
Rand’s essay, “Man’s Rights.” It does not seem that she protects a man’s right to act contrary to what is necessary for his survival. But this is not the concern I have at the moment. Mack says that the problem with this argument is that
Rand does not clearly illustrate the difference between a man ought-ing to do something, and that man therefore being guaranteed the right to do such a thing. I ought to eat, and work, but it is not because of the fact that I ought to do these things that secures my right to eat, and my right to secure employment, rather, if anything secures my right to do these things it is some notion where others recognize my right to those things. This is even a tricky issue for me to give an example to. But one thing that
Rand would seem to embrace, but doesn’t do so explicitly, is social contract theory, or at least the same idea that would go into a hobbesian view of social contract. My reasoning is this: If a man realizes the optimal way to live his life, he must realize that others are subject to the same ideas, that all individuals, to have an optimal life, must live similarly. This does not, in and of itself, require that he respect their “rights” to do so, so long as he lives his life optimally. In realizing this, he should see that others are subject to the same reasoning, and that they might take advantage of his rights that they may lead optimal lives or rationality and productivity. The only way to secure a stable society, is for all the members of society to agree that each person has the right to do as they will, so that they may as a whole and individually flourish as human beings. From such a viewpoint, a state would be erected that would secure these rights as a service to the people. The thing is that
Rand does say this, that it is the duty of state to do just this, but putting her arguments in the context of social contract theory seems to give a better justification for respecting the rational selfishness of others.
Also, I read Uyl and Rasmussen’s article at the beginning of the book explaining
Rand’s metaphysics. And I think she’s less crazy because of that too. She doesn’t do a very good job of explaining herself in why philosophers like Descartes, Hume, and Kant, are wrong to begin solely of the notion of our own consciousness. The reason for it, and I must say, I can understand how she would do this, is that
Rand sees it as common sense that existence exists. For consciousness is a relative state, that must relate the self to the outside world. This is pretty common-sensical, but
Rand still could have gone through the trouble to simply explain this a bit better. Having a bit better of an understanding of
Rand, I’ve decided that the best category to place her in among philosophers is in the Existentialist category. Sartre states the basic tenet of Existentialism as the notion that “Existence precedes essence.” This is what
Rand is all about. I don’t know if this connection has ever been drawn, but the more I read about Rand, and of
Rand, the more I see similarities between her denouncement of classical metaphysicians and existential criticisms. Also, her interpretation of Nietzche’s “supermen” is incomplete, and seems to derive most of her knowledge of him from “Will to Power” a book that was not actually compiled by Nietzche, but rather by his Nazi sister. Nietzsche, too accepts a sort of tabula rasa, but that from an early age we are embedded with culture and tradition that determines our character. I’m saying too much without knowing what I’m talking about entirely, so I’m going to go brush up on some Nietzche, and re-read “man’s rights” and “objectivist ethics”

Published in: on September 13, 2006 at 3:43 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Re understanding Rand, the “Journal of Ayn Rand Studies” has many important articles. You should be familiar with that journal.

    The September 2006 issue of the “Journal of Political Philosophy” has a series of articles on Sen/Nussbaum’s human capabilities approach. They use this approach to justify social democracy and equalitarian liberallism. Sen also uses it in for approaching welfare economics.

    Currently, I am finsihing a paper, “How NOT to Argue for Moral Knowledge” that I will be presenting at a conference at Bowling Green State University this Novermber. It challenges Hilary Putnam’s approach to the fact/value issue and metaphysics. It also has some critical things to say about the human capabilities approach. So, does Norms of Liberty by implication.

  2. Anonther reference: See also Foot’s “Natural Goodness”

  3. xgje xpbfl cbsewvhzq ydcwpts yrmv hsmtn wvfznig

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