Dr. Gregory Sadler of Marist College recently discussed Ayn Rand’s The Virtue of Selfishness in his Spring 2013 Ethics class and posted the video to YouTube:
Dr. Sadler is not an Objectivist, but he gives what is, in my view, a good introductory presentation on Rand’s ethics. I encourage anyone interested in the broader study of Rand in academia, to watch this video (at least in part) and leave polite comments on the YouTube video page.
My main critiques of Dr. Sadler’s presentation have already been voiced in the page comments. They are the following:
Overall, this is a very good presentation of Rand’s ethics. Thank you, Dr. Sadler.
Just a few points: Contrary to 52:48, Rand wouldn’t say the choice of friends is arbitrary, but ought to depend on their objective virtues/values. Vicious people harm one’s own life when you’re involved with them; virtuous people typically benefit one’s own life.
Also worth emphasizing: Man *creates* wealth/values (material and spiritual) by acting on proper reasoning. There isn’t a fixed “pie.”
Also, Rand regards virtues as eminently practical. A breach of integrity has very real, self-destructive consequences in the long-term. There is no gap between morally principled action and practical action. (Practical for achieving long-term flourishing.)
In mainstream discourse in the US, “equality of opportunity” is taken as an uncontroversial rallying cry for both “conservatives” and “modern liberals.” It’s typically seen as a more reasonable alternative to the openly socialist “equality of results.”
Don Watkins, of the blog, LaissezFaire, has written two posts exposing the fact that “equality of opportunity,” taken literally, is just as irrational and unjust a notion as “equality of results.” (If it’s not taken literally, then it’s an extremely vague term and shouldn’t be used.)
What matters for the justice of a society is not “equality of opportunity” but the absence of initiated coercion.
There are many people in the world who will say that values are subjective. You may or may not be one of them. For many, the reasoning behind this stance is that they see that different people value different things, and they think that if values were objective, then everyone would value the same things. So they conclude that all values are the opposite of objective, which is subjective.
This article will give evidence and argument that this view is mistaken; that this reasoning is based on a confusion about what it means for values to be objective.
First, let’s consider a simple physical situation: Two men are standing on opposite sides of a pole, as shown in Case 1 of the figure below. We are looking down on them, and they are both facing upward. For Person A, the pole is on the right. For Person B, the pole is on the left. Does this mean that the position of the pole is subjective? No. Both men can look objectively at the relationship of the pole to each one. If they specify whose relationship to the pole they are talking about, they can both agree on the fact of the relationship.
When Person A observes that the pole is on his right, Person B can observe that Person A is correct: relative to Person A, the pole is objectively on the right. They can also both agree that, relative to Person B, the pole is objectively on the left. The position of the pole is objective, but its physical relationship with Person A is different than with Person B. Continue reading →