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Ayn Rand Versus Immanuel Kant

April 18, 2010

Ayn Rand, the most controversial philosopher of the past century, considered Immanuel Kant, one of the most influential

Ayn Rand: The greatest philosopher on earth.

Ayn Rand: The greatest philosopher on earth.

philosophers of the Western world, her intellectual enemy. If in the real world hostile nations clash against each other for world dominance, in the world of philosophy, some philosophers were engaged in a struggle to either destroy/distort or defend reason. And this was the underlying task of Ayn Rand as a philosopher- to save reason from the mystical philosophy of Immanuel Kant.

I wrote a blog in the past on why Ayn Rand believed that the greatest threat to reason and human civilization is the Kantian philosophy. She wrote several philosophical articles debunking the anti-reason works of Kant. It is not surprising that the philosophy of Kant has deeply infected the minds of most people today because of the mini-Kantian professors in our universities. In fact most people who haven’t heard the name Kant are practicing his philosophy.

Kant influenced a number of lesser known philosophers in the past century like Karl Poppers, who introduced his anti-logic, anti-induction Critical Rationalism, Karl Marx, and the anti-reason creators of positivism,deconstructionism, post-structuralism, structuralism, linguistic philosophy, critical theory, existentialism, phenomenology, and German Idealism, among others. Ayn Rand said that Kant is the destroyer of the modern age.

I quote Ayn Rand:

“The “phenomenal” world, said Kant, is not real: reality, as perceived by man’s mind, is a distortion. The distorting mechanism is man’s conceptual faculty: man’s basic concepts (such as time, space, existence) are not derived from experience or reality, but come from an automatic system of filters in his consciousness (labeled “categories” and “forms of perception”) which impose their own design on his perception of the external world and make him incapable of perceiving it in any manner other than the one in which he does perceive it. This proves, said Kant, that man’s concepts are only a delusion, but a collective delusion, which no one has the power to escape. Thus reason and science are “limited,” said Kant; they are valid only so long as they deal with this world, with a permanent, pre-determined collective delusion (and thus the criterion of reason’s validity was switched from the objective to the collective), but they are impotent to deal with the fundamental, metaphysical issues of existence, which belong to the “noumenal” world. The “noumenal” world is unknowable; it is the world of “real” reality, “superior” truth and “things in themselves” or “things as they are”—which means: things as they are not perceived by man.”

Now I encountered a very good reading online that tackled the intellectual battle between Ayn Rand and Immanuel Kant. Edward W. Younkins, an admirer of Ayn Rand, wrote an article entitled Immanuel Kant: Ayn Rand’s Intellectual Enemy.

Immanuel Kant: Ayn Rand’s Intellectual Enemy
by Edward W. Younkins

Ayn Rand considers Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) and his philosophy to be evil and condemns what she perceives as the intended goal, methods, and conclusions of his philosophical arguments. She accused Kant of hating life, man, and reason. Rand observed that, since Kant, the dominant trend in philosophy has been aimed at the destruction of the human mind and that a philosophy seeking to destroy man’s mind is a philosophy of hatred for man, his life, and all human values. In Kant’s teachings, Rand saw contempt and detestation of the strong, able, successful, virtuous, confident, and the happy. It follows that Rand’s own philosophical system was an attempt to exalt happiness and to answer and oppose Kant’s epistemology and ethical theory. It is no wonder that Tibor Machan called his chapter on Kant “Rand’s Moriarty” in his book, Ayn Rand. The purpose of this essay is to explain the reasons for Rand’s hatred of Kant. In order to do this, Kant’s ideas will be given a distinctly Randian interpretation in this paper.

Kant Answers Hume

The main philosophical issue as viewed by Immanuel Kant was to save science by answering skeptic David Hume (1711-1776),

Kant: The destroyer of the modern world.

Kant: The destroyer of the modern world.

who declared that man’s mind was only a collection of perceptions in which there are no causal connections. Hume argued that all knowledge is from experience and that we are incapable of experiencing causality. He explained that causality, as well as entities, are only true by association and customary belief. Causality is merely man’s habit of associating things together because of experiencing them together in the past. Necessary connections between objects or events are not implied by experiences of priority, contiguity, and constant conjunction.

Hume alleged that experience does not give us necessity or mustness. He said that things are contingently true, but that they could be otherwise. We can imagine them being different than what we have experienced in the past. Just because something occurred in a certain way in the past does not mean that it has to occur in the same way in the future. We cannot say with certainty that there are objects, identity, causality, order, and other laws of reality. Hume’s conclusion was that we are forced to be skeptics. Science is thus destroyed at its foundation because science deals with causal connections.

David Hume had contended that neither inductive nor deductive reasoning can supply men with real, certain, and necessary knowledge. He asserted that he has never seen “causality” nor experienced “self” or “consciousness.” According to Hume, men merely experience a fleeting flow of sensations and feelings. He also observed that the apparent existence of something did not guarantee that it would be there an instant later. Hume thus surmised that consciousness was limited to the perceptual level of awareness.

Desiring to refute Hume’s conclusions, Kant searched for the perceptual manifestation of necessity. In order to avoid the conclusions reached by Hume, it was essential for Kant to build a formidable philosophical structure.

The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy

Kant divided propositions into two types – analytic which are true by definition and synthetic which assert empirical facts. He said that analytic statements are logically true but provide no information about reality and that synthetic statements provide information about reality but cannot be logically proven. Analytic truths can be validated through an analysis of the meanings of its component concepts and synthetic propositions cannot be validated through an analysis of the definitions of its constituent concepts. Analytic truths are necessary, logical, and tautological whereas synthetic truths are contingent, unprovable and factual. According to Kant, one cannot irrefutably prove a synthetic proposition.

For Kant, analytical truths are logical and can be validated independent of experience. These propositions are a priori and non-empirical. On the other hand, he said that synthetic propositions or truths are empirical, a posteriori, and dependent upon experience in order to be validated. Kant contended that analytic propositions provide no information about reality and that synthetic ones are factual but are uncertain, unprovable, and contingent.

According to Rand, there is no basis upon which to differentiate analytic propositions from synthetic ones. Her theory of concepts undermines Kant’s idea of an analytic-synthetic dichotomy. For Rand, concepts express classifications of observed existents according to their relationship to other observed entities. Rand explains that a concept refers to the actual existents which it integrates including all their characteristics currently known and those not yet known. She argued that concepts subsume all of  the attributes of the existents to which they refer and not simply the ones included in the definition. Her objective theory of concepts is the tool she used to abrogate Kant’s analytic-synthetic dichotomy.

Kant’s analytic truths are in reality contingent upon what is included in the espoused “meaning” of a concept. The way Kant formulates his theory allows a person to validate a concept merely by including an attribute in the meaning of a concept. Choices are made regarding what characteristics are included in a definition and which are not. Depending upon whether or not a specific characteristic is included in the definition determines whether or not the characteristic is a necessary one or merely a contingent one!

The Nature of A Priori Knowledge

In his attempt to refute Hume, Kant declared that there were synthetic a priori categories or concepts built into the human mind. Kant argued that concepts are certain inherent features of human consciousness. Man’s basic concepts (e.g., time, space, entity, causality, etc.) are not derived from reality or experience, but instead stem from an automatic system of filters in his consciousness. These filters, which he called categories and forms of perception, dictate their own structure on his perception and conception of the external world thus making it impossible for him to perceive and conceive it in any other way than the one in which in fact he does perceive and conceive it. Empirical reality, according to Kant, conforms to the mind of man which lays down a “grid,” consisting of the categories and the intuitions of time and space, over “things in themselves.” Because men have no choice in whether or not they apply this grid to experience, it follows that people cannot know the real world and can only have appearances as our minds have created them.

According to Kant, the a priori includes what is in the mind before one has any sense experiences plus whatever judgments the mind is capable of making which are not based on sense experience. The forms of space and time and the transcendental categories are innate in the mind and comprise its structure prior to a person’s sense experience. He says that the common experience that everyone shares has the appearance and character it does because it has been given the makeup it has by the inherent structure of the human mind.

Phenomenal and Noumenal Reality

Kant attempted to demonstrate that the world that we experience is not the real world. The real world does not include our species concepts of space, time, entity, causality, and so on. He contended that the phenomenal world of appearances that we experience is metaphysically inferior to the noumenal world of true reality. The noumenal world is the world of things in themselves, higher truth, and real reality.

Kant explains that the phenomenal world is the world of earthly physical reality including man’s senses, perceptions, reason, and science. This phenomenal world, as perceived by a man’s mind, is a distortion or misrepresentation of the real world. Kant contends that the distorting mechanism is man’s conceptual faculty itself. He argued that that what the human mind perceives and conceives the world to be is not the world as it really is but rather as it appears to a specifically structured human reasoning faculty.

Kant’s Attack on Consciousness

Kant laments the fact that a person can only perceive and comprehend things through his own consciousness. He also explains that men are limited to a consciousness of a particular nature which perceives and conceives through particular means. For Kant, man’s knowledge lacks validity because his consciousness possesses identity. According to Kant, knowledge, to be valid, must not be processed in any way of consciousness. Kant’s criterion for truth is to perceive “things in themselves” unprocessed by any consciousness. For Kant only knowledge independent of perception is valid. Unfortunately, such knowledge is impossible!

He argues that human knowledge is subjective because it is not relevant to “things in themselves.” Real truth is unknowable because to know it a person would have to relate to reality directly without depending upon his conceptual mechanism. For Kant, the real is the object “in itself” out of all relation to a subject. This means that the consciousness or awareness of things cannot be mediated by any process or faculty whose nature affects the appearance of the object because any process or faculty would distort one’s perceptual awareness. According to Kant, everything is merely phenomenal that is relative and everything is relative that is an object with respect to a conscious subject. Kant is looking for knowledge that could be called absolute, unqualified, pure, or diaphanous.

Kant maintains that identity, which itself is the essence of existence, invalidates consciousness. Any knowledge attained by a process of consciousness is inescapably subjective and therefore cannot match the facts of reality, because it is processed or altered knowledge. Whereas all consciousness is a relationship between a subject and an object, it follows that for a person to acquire a knowledge of what is real, he would have to go outside of his consciousness. To know what is true a man would have to abandon his own nature, which is an absurd impossibility. In order to know true reality requires a consciousness not limited by any specific means of cognition. This is the criterion or goal of Kant’s argument.

Ayn Rand sees the Kantian argument as an attack on all forms of consciousness. Because consciousness exists, it possesses particular means and forms of cognition and thus is invalidated by Kant as a faculty of cognition. It follows that because men depend upon the type of mental constitution they have, that man’s mind is impotent, reality is unknowable, and knowledge is merely an illusion. According to Kant, if consciousness possesses its own identity, then it cannot grasp the identity of anything external to it. The Kantian argument thus divorces reason from reality. Reason, according to Kant, is limited, only deals with appearances, and is unable to perceive reality or “things as they are in themselves.” Reason is powerless to deal with the fundamental metaphysical concerns of existence which properly reside in the noumenal world which is unknowable.

Kant’s Gimmick

For Kant, the cognitive structure that all men have in common is what creates the phenomenal world. Man’s innate mental structure is what gives rise to the empirical world. Kant explains that man’s categories or concepts form a collective delusion from which no human being can escape. In essence, Kant’s gimmick involved switching the collective for the objective when he advanced the idea of common mental categories collectively creating a phenomenal world. He also reassigned the validity of reason from its place in the objective world to the collective delusional world. Reality as perceived by man’s mind is a distortion and man’s mind is a distorting faculty.

Kant’s concern is with judgments that can be known with certainty. He says that this disqualifies reason because of a priori limitations on what can be known via reason. Because the mind’s categories are limited to appearances, knowledge of the real world is foreclosed. The inability to know reality leads to relativism and skepticism.

Pure Reason, Duty, and Good Will

According to Kant, the deepest level of reality is inaccessible to human rationality. For him, rational certainty is impossible. He says that to “know” the other higher reality that is teleologically ordered and exempt from time, space, causality, etc., a man needs to turn to feeling, intuition, or faith that exists in the form of pure a priori judgments or intuitions. Kant’s solution was to try to demonstrate that the “real” and the “ought” rests in something called pure reason that is metaphysically intrinsic to all persons. He said that the “real” and the “ought” are different form what we know through experience. Kant contends that intellectual intuition (i.e., pure reason) has the function of accessing these a priori ideas.

Kant assigns one’s emotions the power to know the metaphysically superior “unknowable” noumenal world by indefinable means that he termed “pure reason.” Pure reason resides in a special inexplicable or incomprehensible instinct for duty. Duty is a categorical impulse that one “just knows.” Kant held that an action is moral only if a person performs it out of a special sense of duty. Morality is therefore derived through feelings from the noumenal dimension of reality. Duty involves inspiration supplied by, or emanating from, noumenal reality itself. Given his reliance on the noumenal realm, Kant makes morality appear to be mystical.

According to Kant, a person must act from duty which he views as an act of pure or abject selflessness. One’s duty is thus to sacrifice himself to duty which is a dictate of pure reason. Moral duties are categorical imperatives that hold for all rational beings with absolute certainty regardless of their desires, individual characteristics, and other contingent factors. Kant’s fundamental principle of morality thus binds a person independently of any particular ends or preferences he may have. Kantian morality pertains to actions that apply categorically and that are good in themselves. Duty is the requirement to act out of respect of the moral law rather than from one’s desires or inclinations.

Kant declared that his altruist morality was derived from pure reason. He said that only “knowledge” of the concept of duty from pure reason can succeed in deriving the moral law. Kant views morality as a set of rules embedded in pure reason. Pure reason or intellectual intuition is the means used to gain moral knowledge.

Kant maintains that a person should do what conforms to having a good will and that the ought is inherent in pure reason. For Kant the good will, the will acting from duty, is unconditionally good. He argues that the good will, separate from any consequences, is an end in itself.

According to Kant, morality has its basis in a law of the will. He says that an action is morally good if it flows form a good will. A will is unconditionally good when it acts purely and solely out of a sense of duty and for the sake of duty. A will thus acts for the sake of duty when it acts out of pure respect for moral law. A person’s good will is primary and acting for the sake of duty is the ultimate good.

Morality as A Priori

The ought proceeds from the a priori and is embedded in the structures of the mind. Kant explains that the function of one’s will is to force obedience to the a priori. In effect, Kant’s reliance on the a priori is an effort to circumvent the formulation of concepts from observation by regarding certain concepts (e.g., duty) as self-evident and not dependent on the causal context that exists in nature. Kant’s profession of the moral a priori necessitates a perversion of the human functions of cognition and evaluation.

Kant detaches morality from any concerns regarding man’s existence. For Kant, morality has no association with the material world, reason, or science. He states that an action is moral only if a person has no desire to perform it, but performs it totally out of a sense of duty and derives no benefit of any kind from it. Kant makes moral duty an obligation completely independent of a person’s desires and totally without any connection to factual considerations, including the facts of one’s human nature.

Kant’s Rejection of Self-Interest

Kant’s moral philosophy deprives self-interest of any and all honor. The rejection of self-interest is also a rejection of all human values and goals because to pursue one’s self interest means to pursue values and goals. For Kant, morality must bind a person independently of any specific desires, ends, or inclinations he may have. Kant’s idea of duty severs morality from both reason and values.

Kant says that an act is moral only if no benefit of any kind is derived from it. He excludes all personal desires and benefits from the realm of morality. To be moral, a man must perform his duty without reference to any personal goals, values, or effects on his own life and happiness. A benefit destroys the moral value of an action. Kantian moral theory can thus be viewed as act-centered and not as agent-centered.

What Kant has done is to allow man’s reason to conquer the material (i.e., the phenomenal) world but eliminates reason from the choice of the goals or ends for which men’s material achievements are to be employed. Kant assigned the unreal material world to science and reason but left morality to faith. Science and reason are limited and valid only as long as they are conceived with a fixed determined collective delusion. The higher reality, the noumenal world, dictates to man the rules of morality through a special manifestation, the categorical imperative, which involves a special sense of duty known through intuition or feeling.

Duty is the moral requirement to perform certain actions without regard to any personal values, goals, motives, intentions, or desires. These a man should sacrifice from duty as an end in itself. An action is moral only if a person has no desire to perform it but performs it out of a sense of duty and receives no benefit from it of any kind. Kant thus denied that anything done to secure one’s own well-being and flourishing can have any moral significance. For Kant, morality does not and cannot involve the virtue of prudence (i.e., practical wisdom). He sees a distinct division between prudence and morality.
Kant holds that the pursuit of a person’s own happiness or interest is of no moral worth whatsoever. He insists that we can never determine whether or not an action is good or right by considering its effect on one’s happiness. Kant explains that happiness is contingent upon conditions and factors outside of a person’s control and external to the human will. He contends that the ultimate purpose of human striving must reside in something that depends on the person alone and must be unconditionally good. It follows that the only unconditional and ultimate good is the good will.

According to Kant, a person is amoral when he acts to attain his values. For Kant, all ends (except for the specifically moral) are reducible to a person’s own happiness, are nonmoral, and are incapable of producing any categorical imperatives. For Kant, what is necessary for a legitimate moral philosophy are obligations that are categorical (i.e., moral duties). The ethical is therefore what everyone ought to do.

Kant contends that moral worth is intrinsic to the act and thus valuable in itself apart from any particular valuer. For Kant, a man’s natural end of happiness cannot be the foundation for moral motivation. Unlike Aristotle, Kant draws a sharp distinction between moral and nonmoral reasoning. Kant rejects any moral philosophy that holds a person’s happiness as his ultimate end and maintains that the determination of the moral is made without reference to a man’s desires and to the facts of his nature. For Kant, morality elevates man above the sensible world. He views prudence as nonmoral and self-interest as different from doing what is right to do.

Kant provides a test for determining the moral status of various actions. He says that a person who performs his moral duty in the teeth of his contrary inclinations exhibits moral worth. On the other hand, a person who helps other people and gains pleasure from such actions displays no moral worth. Similarly, if a person wants to be honest he deserves nor moral credit. An individual who does not have a natural desire to help others or to be honest but nevertheless does so from duty does display moral worth.

Rand’s Denunciation of Kant

According to Ayn Rand, Kant’s objective was to save the morality of altruism, self-sacrifice, and self-abnegation. Kant’s vision of morality consists of total, abject, selflessness. Kantianism sharply opposes the pursuit of happiness to the practice of one’s duty. Kant’s morality of duty restricts the importance an individual’s experiences and thought and teaches that morality depends on adherence to a priori truths and on ignoring the real world. Rand thus saw Kantianism as a grand rationalization for Kant’s hatred of reason and reality and his view of the supremacy of the emotions. She interprets Kant as assigning reason supremacy over the material world and giving faith, intuition, and feeling domain over the spiritual realm.  Rand views Kant and Hume as the two arch-destroyers of reason in modern history. In Rand’s view, Kant’s synthesis was responsible for espousing the idea that consciousness was ontologically prior to existence. Rand sees Kant as attacking both the efficacy of a man’s mind and objective reality at a metaphysical level. Rand’s perspective was that Kant was waging a war on the ability of the mind to comprehend the nature of reality. Rand vehemently disagrees with Kant’s defense of faith, intuition, and feeling as the valid means of dealing with the noumenal world.  In her writings, Rand challenges Kant at his very philosophical root and base by rejecting Kant’s belief that the mind imposes structures on reality. She also condemns Kant as morally evil and dishonest (not simply as philosophically in error) with respect to his mystical philosophical system and the gradual cultural erosion that followed the initiation of it.

  • This article was published on Rebirthofreason.com. Ed Younkins is Professor of Accountancy at Wheeling Jesuit University.He is the author of Capitalism and Commerce:Conceptual Foundations of Free Enterprise [Lexington Books, 2002]. Many of Ed’s essays can be found on line at his personal web page at www.quebecoislibre.org
23 Comments leave one →
  1. cho Nananene permalink
    April 18, 2010 3:38

    Hi Froivinber, how are you? I must admit I am still confuse and ignorant about philosophy. I guess that makes me normal? uptight? etc. etc etc…( I’ll write more next time) but what am I? I love to read your thread (struggling) although my other half tells me oh stop it! I guess I will keep on reading till I understand philosophy. I remember when I was growing up. My mother scold our katulong ” don’t be philosopo on me or else.

    You must be a smart kid.

    • April 18, 2010 3:38

      Hi Cho. I’m still learning. I don’t consider myself a smart kid. I just love ideas. I believe that when a person values ideas, it would be easier for him to absorb knowledge.

      • April 19, 2010 3:38

        @froivinber

        Have you actually read Kant? Positivism? Linguistic philosophy? (And boy, is linguistic philosophy a sea. An ocean, even.) If not, then why are you calling them “anti-reason”, “anti-induction” and “mystic”.

        Kindly read “Debunking Popper: A Critique of Karl Popper’s Critical Rationalism” by Nicholas Dykes. It’s published on a libertarian journal, if you mistrust everything “left”. Also, read Roger Scruton’s splendid tome “Modern Philosophy”; Scruton’s big book is one of the most detailed introductions to philosophy. In it, Scruton tackles all the big names in philosophy (but Rand’s not included, which is quite telling — and before you cry a “leftist conspiracy”, Scruton’s a very vocal conservative).

        And here’s a challenge. If induction is the way to attain knowledge in science, and if scientific theories cannot be final, then why is Rand certain and final on her view of human nature? Did she use pure deduction or did she incorporate inductive arguments in formulating her philosophy of man? If she did use inductive arguments, then what makes her so cocksure that altruism is evil and “anti-man”? Neuroscience, evolutionary psychology and sociobiology are all burgeoning field. The knowledge in these areas grow almost exponentially and by the day. Question again: how can you be so sure that none of the knowledge so far gathered from these fast-growing fields contradict Rand’s philosophy of man?

        The same questions can be asked of her economics. If economics is a science, then what makes Rand so cocksure that future events or rediscovery of past events will not prove her dogmatic devotion to capitalism wrong? If her arguments to support capitalism have an inductive aspect, then how can her “economic theory” be final?

        Being a fan of the scientist E.O. Wilson and sociobiology, of which he is one of the founders, I will tell you that the nature of man that emerges from the researches on the sociobiology front are very surprising. In fact, I believe they strike a death blow on all dogmatic views of human nature, including Rand’s, of course.

        If you value induction, I guess it’s time you value the virtue of self-doubt and skepticism. Once again, induction can never lead to final conclusions and cocksure results. On the contrary, induction will always lead to conclusions that must never be taken as the final say on the matter. With induction, I therefore pronounce Rand’s economic theory and philosophy of man superlatively unscientific.

      • April 19, 2010 3:38

        Long live induction! Long live science! Death to dogmatism!

      • April 19, 2010 3:38

        By the way, don’t take “self-doubt” and “skepticism” to mean that I am endorsing the “the world is just an illusion” and “it’s all just a dream” nonsense. None of that. Reality is objective, and saying otherwise would be to contradict oneself.

        However, we should not be certain where we could not be. Our belief in a certain proposition is only as good as the evidence supporting it. Therefore, open your eyes and ears to new evidence, and always be prepared to change your theories whenever you find strong evidence that you should. That’s what I meant by doubt and skepticism.

      • April 19, 2010 3:38

        The answer is better read Ayn Rand’s books. If you’re really good at logic and science, you’d discover why she considered altruism evil. It doesn’t take a genius to understand why altruism is evil, and I don’t see why the hell you don’t get it!
        Yes, I read Kant and his works are available here: http://www.grtbooks.com/ .

      • April 19, 2010 3:38

        Ayn Rand’s defense of capitalism shows that she understood reality better than any of her predecessors. She defined logic as “an art of non-contradictory identification,” which is an Aristotelian definition. This applies to everything else, particularly one’s understanding of philosophy and of man’s process of cognition.

        Your metaphysics should not contradict your epistemology, and both should not contradict your ethics, as well as politics. Altruism, coined by Auguste Compte, has an exact, definite meaning. If you read Kant, you’d know that the ethical system of his entire philosophy is devoted to the justification of altruism. However, Kant’s philosophical system don’t clash with each other. In fact they’re consistent with each other. His metaphysics distorted reality by introducing the phenomenal world and the noumenal world ( personally don’t know how he discovered them since he argued the noumenal world is unknowable); his epistemology distorted man’s cognition. He then introduced the analytic-synthetic dichotomy that’s invalid, metaphysically and epistemologically. His ethics is about abject, complete self-sacrifice or altruism. Now you should have a better understanding of what I’m talking about if you really read and understood Kant.

        Kant is one of the most influential philosophers in the Western world. In fact he influenced some of the people you mentioned. Their philosophical systems are somehow based on Kantian philosophy. If you admire E.O. Wilson, then you should know that he critiqued his ethics.

        All of my Capitalism Articles are based on Ayn Rand’s Objectivism and partly based on the Austrian Business Cycle Theory.

  2. April 19, 2010 3:38

    @ Pecier Decierdo.

    Since you doubt Ayn Rand’s view on human nature and other aspects, I suggest that you watch the YouTube video embedded in this blog post. In the video, Mr. John Allison, an Objectivist chairman of BB&T, the top 10th bank in the USA, explained Ayn Rand’s philosophy, her view on human nature, as well as other aspects as induction, concept-formation, deduction, concepts, etc. Mr. Allison practically applied the philosophy of Objectivism at BB&T, which started as a local bank in North Carolina with only over $4 million in asserts and which he expanded into a $143-in-assets company.

    Objectivism Teaches Honesty in Business

    • April 29, 2010 3:38

      Hi again Froi,

      Kindly define “altruism”. Because as far as my knowledge of Ayn Rand’s philosophy goes, I find her definition of altruism unfair.

      For example, in one interview, Ayn Rand says that she if she can prove that heaven exists, then she is willing to die just to defend and speak in behalf of her dead husband in front of St. Peter. And quite expectedly, Rand does not consider such an act altruistic. However for most people committing suicide in order to be able to tell St. Peter how good person your loved one is is an act of altruism.

      Another example. Ayn Rand clearly believes that a parent’s devotion to her offspring is not a act of altruism. To Rand, when a mother is willing to defend her child to the death, she is defending what is for her a thing of great value, and so, in effect, she is not an altruist when she lays down her life for her child. But everyone from the human sciences describe a parents’ devotion to her children an act of altruism. For example, scientists (such as E.O. Wilson) describe a mother’s willingness to go at great lengths in order to feed her young as an act that is altruistic. And I agree with such usage of the word altruism.

      However, as Rand defines it, such acts as I described above are not altruistic. For her, altruism is the giving of something that is of great value (such as one’s own life) in exchange for another that has for you little value (such as the life of someone you do not know). I do not accept such usage, and I maintain that it is unfair.

      By the way, I am aware of Wilson’s critique of Kant’s ethics. Personally, I do not adhere to Kant’s ethics. My ethical system is a virtue ethics. There are three main kinds of moral systems, and these are deontology, consequentialism and virtue ethics. Kant’s duty ethics is an example of a deontological ethical system. The moral systems of almost all religions, which are based on revelation, are also deontological. In a deontological ethical system, the morality of an act is judged according to abstract, predetermined and often absolute and unchanging moral standards and rules. In consequentialism, of which utilitarianism is an example, the morality of an act is judged according to its consequence. Virtue ethics is different from the other two in that it is not preoccupied with the action but with the agent. The main concern of virtue ethics is not the goodness of an action, but the goodness of a man. An example is Aristotle’s concept of man as an end in himself, and also his concept of the “great-souled” man.

      I agree with you that Aristotle’s ethical system is the best starting point, sine it deals not with actions but with human beings. It is in fact because of my virtue ethics and my belief that humans should strive towards self-perfection (Nietzsche’s virtue ethics, which is patterned from Aristotle’s) that has lead me to appreciate Rand’s defense of Romanticism as a school of literary criticism. I am a Romanticist myself. However, I do believe that Rand’s ethical system does not do Aristotle’s system complete justice. For one, I believe Rand’s system is a deontology, and not a virtue ethics. For all of Rand’s praise of man, in her morality she is preoccupied with the act itself and not with the agent of the act. And finally, Rand has placed the kernel of her moral system up in the ivory tower of abstraction, and not in the reality of the human condition. However, if humans are to strive for self-improvement and if they are to achieve moral progress, then I believe they must first understand human nature for what it really is. And this is where Rand made the fatal error. In order to grasp human nature, she turned to abstractions and pure logic. I do believe that the correct way to get an understanding of human nature is to turn to science and its helpers, observation and induction. The key to achieving the complete truth about human nature is not found in the armchair of the philosopher (although the philosopher’s ideas are certainly essential if we are to achieve the complete truth), rather it is to be found within the pages of an anthropologist’s field notes, and in the graphs of the sociologist, the social psychologist and the experimental psychologist, and in the theories of the evolutionary psychologists. Out there in the fields and in society, there lies the truth about human nature. And there lies the key to human improvement.

      • April 29, 2010 3:38

        Altruism is simply defined as is selfless concern for the welfare of others. The keyword here is “selfless.” Here’s the Wikipedia definition of altruism. Altruism is an ethical doctrine that holds that individuals have a moral obligation to help, serve, or benefit others, if necessary at the sacrifice of self interest. Auguste Comte’s version of altruism calls for living for the sake of others. One who holds to either of these ethics is known as an “altruist.”

        Ayn Rand strictly followed the standard definition of altruism. She wrote the following:

        “What is the moral code of altruism? The basic principle of altruism is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value.

        “Do not confuse altruism with kindness, good will or respect for the rights of others. These are not primaries, but consequences, which, in fact, altruism makes impossible. The irreducible primary of altruism, the basic absolute, is self-sacrifice—which means; self-immolation, self-abnegation, self-denial, self-destruction—which means: the self as a standard of evil, the selfless as a standard of the good.

        “Do not hide behind such superficialities as whether you should or should not give a dime to a beggar. That is not the issue. The issue is whether you do or do not have the right to exist without giving him that dime. The issue is whether you must keep buying your life, dime by dime, from any beggar who might choose to approach you. The issue is whether the need of others is the first mortgage on your life and the moral purpose of your existence. The issue is whether man is to be regarded as a sacrificial animal. Any man of self-esteem will answer: “No.” Altruism says: “Yes.”

        This is not my first time to address this issue so do not confuse altruism with charity. I stated the following in my earlier blog:

        ““What’s not to understand” is the shallowness, weakness, and dishonesty of his argument which is worse than floating abstraction and context-dropping. Ayn Rand never said that “socialism arises because of charitable impulses.” Now since this Libertarian-mystic is putting words into Ayn Rand’s mouth, he has now the burden to prove and explain what he means by socialism that arises due to charitable impulses. Based on my readings, it is NEVER the style of Ayn Rand to assert socialism is a result of “charitable impulses.” Anyone who genuinely and honestly understands Ayn Rand wouldn’t even attempt to make such a highly superficial and conceited evaluation of her view on charity and socialism. It is clear that this Libertarian-mystic, like all of the dishonest critics of Ayn Rand, is attacking a straw man. It is utterly wrong- a sign of laziness or even dishonesty- to say that you understand Ayn Rand philosophy by simply reading The Fountainhead and her “Virtue of Selfishness.” If this guy really read and understood Ayn Rand, he’d know that she rejected altruism because it’s not simply the moral base of not only socialism but also all kinds of collectivism, and because this morality of slavery and death is the very foundation of two destroyers of modern civilization: Faith and Force. The following Ayn Rand quotation explains it all: “If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject…” https://fvdb.wordpress.com/2010/02/08/libertarian-mysticism-versus-liberty/

        And here:

        “I’m not surprised that most people in this country will find it hard and “harsh” to accept that man’s ethical standard is self-interest. Most universities today preach the opposite, telling students that we must live for others— that we must sacrifice ourselves to others, and that it is our duty to serve the welfare and good of others. We have an educational institution in this country that seeks to perpetuate this goal with its philosophy of “men and women for others.” The morality behind this philosophy is that of altruism. The meaning of altruism is not simply kindness or generosity toward other people. Altruism means that man must serve others and that it is his duty to satisfy and fulfill the welfare of others. This kind of morality is not simply immoral; it is evil at best. It means that man must put the interests of others above his own. Altruism demands that man must do the impossible.” — https://fvdb.wordpress.com/2009/10/10/which-is-the-real-evil-self-interest-or-altruism/

        and this… “Whether they know it or not, the staunchest advocates of this anti-population bill are motivated by the morality of altruism that seeks to force the successful and the able to serve the poor and the weak. It should be understood that altruism does not simply mean kindness or generosity, because in reality this kind of morality makes it impossible for men to be kind and generous. Altruism demands that a man merely exists for others—that he is a sacrificial animal to be immolated for what they call the “common good.” Man cannot have sense of generosity, benevolence, and kindness if he is condemned by society to serve the interests and welfare of his fellowmen. Generosity and kindness can only be performed voluntarily and the one who performs it is fully aware of the nature of his action. An altruistic system only thrives in an irrational society run by collectivist-mystics and altruists. It has no room in a free or even semi-free society where objective laws do not demand the people to do something but limit the power and authority of the government. Voluntariness is part of the code of ethics in a free society. Observe that most developed nations like the United States of America volunteer to provide for the needs of poor nations. Observe that most successful men in the world today reach out to the poor through their charitable institutions.” — https://fvdb.wordpress.com/2009/12/23/the-psychology-of-the-anti-population-cult/

        You said: “However, as Rand defines it, such acts as I described above are not altruistic. For her, altruism is the giving of something that is of great value (such as one’s own life) in exchange for another that has for you little value (such as the life of someone you do not know). I do not accept such usage, and I maintain that it is unfair. For example, in one interview, Ayn Rand says that she if she can prove that heaven exists, then she is willing to die just to defend and speak in behalf of her dead husband in front of St. Peter. And quite expectedly, Rand does not consider such an act altruistic.”

        That’s why you have to read her books to understand what she meant when she said she was willing to die just to defend her husband and speak in behalf of him before St. Peter. Did you watch the entire interview? Altruism means you have to sacrifice your life to everybody regardless of their value. The keyword here is sacrifice. But when you give your life to the one you love- to someone you really value- that’s not sacrifice. That’s not altruism, which means sacrificing you life to a non-value.

        That’s why Ayn Rand said the following:

        “There are two moral questions which altruism lumps together into one “package-deal”: (1) What are values? (2) Who should be the beneficiary of values? Altruism substitutes the second for the first; it evades the task of defining a code of moral values, thus leaving man, in fact, without moral guidance. Altruism declares that any action taken for the benefit of others is good, and any action taken for one’s own benefit is evil. Thus the beneficiary of an action is the only criterion of moral value—and so long as that beneficiary is anybody other than oneself, anything goes.”

        I remember you identified the following as part of your ethical system: “A virtue ethics founded on humanity, love, ambition, honesty, the courageous search for truth and a healthy skepticism.”

        These are clearly Judea-Christian ethics. And I think they clash with each other. What you mentioned are not a systematized ethical system but floating abstractions. In fact they can be lumped into one ethical system: ALTRUISM. What do you mean by humanity? That we have to sacrifice our life to others? That we must live for others? What do you mean by love? That we should love one another regardless of other people’s value as commanded by Jesus Christ?

        By the way the ethical system of Aristotle is self-interest or man’s pursuit of happiness or Eudaemonia, which he defined as the highest good for human beings.

      • April 29, 2010 3:38

        May I ask: how can you stand this Justin Aquino. I think he’s despicable…

      • April 29, 2010 3:38

        @Froi

        Let me get to your defense of Rand’s use of the word “altruism” later. I still hold that it is unfair.

        Now, you said “I remember you identified the following as part of your ethical system: ‘A virtue ethics founded on humanity, love, ambition, honesty, the courageous search for truth and a healthy skepticism.'”

        Then, you added” These are clearly Judea-Christian ethics.”

        No, these are not Judeo-Christian values, these are classical pagan values. My ethics is way closer to Socrates than to Christ. Notice that I included skepticism. That’s not a Christian value, it’s anti-Christian. Also note my inclusion of ambition, another anti-Christian value. Another virtue I adhere to that I forgot to include is pride. Again, pride is anti-Christian. In fact, it is one of Christianity’s “mortal sins”.

        If you want to understand my virtue ethics, look at the Greeks and the Romans, for I am a pagan like them. (More specifically, I adhere to paganism minus the mysticism.)

        You also said “And I think they clash with each other. What you mentioned are not a systematized ethical system but floating abstractions.”

        You are yet to show that they clash with each other. Try to prove them contradictory, and I will show you that your argument is invalid. The virtues I listed above form a coherent whole. And they are not floating abstractions. The virtues I listed have standard definitions, and I used these definitions. I know that these words have been stripped of all their original meanings by cliches. That is very unfortunate. But when did the rabble know the value words? And what does the rabble know about meaning, anyway?

        For example, humanity is defined as “the quality or state of being humane”. And being humane means being “marked by compassion, sympathy, or consideration for humans or animals”. Kindly show how this virtue translates to “self-immolation”? Similarly, love is defined as ” (1) strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties, (2) : attraction based on sexual desire : affection and tenderness felt by lovers, (3) : affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests”. Now, where does the selflessness come into this? (All definitions have been taken from Mirriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary. The said Dictionary gave a definition of love that is Christian, in other words, self-immolating. I did not include this latter definition because I think it contradicts the former.)

        Then, you said “In fact they can be lumped into one ethical system: ALTRUISM.”

        The above statement is clearly a non sequitur. You are yet to show that the values I listed lead to selflessness. To make this exchange easier, let me make a claim so that you can try to assail it. The claim is this: the virtues I listed above are the virtues of a noble soul, a soul that love itself, that values its own existence, and that takes pride in what it is. The said virtues are also the virtues of a soul that is preoccupied with self-perfection or self-improvement.

        You asked me, “What do you mean by humanity? That we have to sacrifice our life to others? That we must live for others? What do you mean by love? That we should love one another regardless of other people’s value as commanded by Jesus Christ?”

        Kindly refer to the definitions I gave above. The definitions you suggested are far from the standard definitions, but more especially they are far from how I used the words.

        If you know me personally, you would know that I am the last person who would live for others, especially if those other people are of little value to me. And honestly, very few people are of value to me — I consider most of our countrymen of little value. Most Filipinos, most people in fact, belong to what Nietzsche calls the rabble. This does not mean that I can look at the suffering of most people and not feel pain. That would make me inhumane. Rather, it means that my humanity, my compassion and fellow-feeling towards the mass of humans does not extend to love. I only love those who deserve my love. And since my love is of great value to me, I will only give it to very few individuals.

        Remember Aristotle’s “man the hero”? Well, the virtues I listed, and the ones I adhere to but forgot to include (like pride, a sense of nobility, the urge towards self-perfection and self-improvement) are the virtues that I believe a hero should have. You just add the Dionysian spirit and lots of laughter, then I guess what you get is Nietzsche’s ubermensch.

  3. April 29, 2010 3:38

    Hi Pecier! My response is quite long again because of the nature of the topic. Please check it HERE.

    • May 6, 2010 3:38

      From my reading of your article, it seems to me that you were not able to comprehend my reply.

      I believe I said it quite clearly that I do not love unconditionally. I agree with Freud that there is no such thing as “unconditional love”. And humanity need not be love for everyone. I believe the dictionary definition of humanity that I gave above is clear enough – humanity is the fellow-feeling we have towards not only our fellow human beings, but towards all sensate, sentient and sapient creatures in the universe.

      The problem with you is that you always distort the position of your opponents so that they become easy targets to your name calling (“Kantian”, “self-immolating”, “socialist”, “evil”, “irrational”). Quite the name-calling and labeling. Attack my position as it is; do not attack it based solely on your narrow and false dichotomies.

      Let me end this brief reply with the following statement. I will stick to the scientific use of the word altruism (that is, on the operational definition of altruism in the human sciences: sociobiology, anthropology, evolutionary psychology, ect.). And in this scientific definition, a mother’s sacrifice for her beloved child is an act of altruism, and Rand’s hypothetical suicide is also an act of altruism.

      (See definition 2 of altruism in The Free Dictionary. It reads “2. Zoology Instinctive behavior that is detrimental to the individual but favors the survival or spread of that individual’s genes, as by benefiting its relatives.” I believe you just attack definition 1, which reads “1. Unselfish concern for the welfare of others; selflessness.” You’re suppressing the second definition. Why? You find it more difficult to attack? Will it make your name-calling and labeling falter? Are straw man positions the only ones you can attack?)

      • May 6, 2010 3:38

        I’ve addressed that in my blog On Ethics and Politics. Only the man who has self-interest and who values himself can love others, albeit not indiscriminately. It’s either self or others. It’s either self-interest or altruism. It’s either ego or otherism.
        But now I’d like to know what you think about altruism and why you think Ayn Rand’s use of the word is “unfair.”

  4. Franky permalink
    September 21, 2010 3:38

    Dude, do you realize just how much Kant sounds like a Hindu or Buddhist mystic??!?

    And that in fact, modern cognitive studies, seem to be pointing out pretty much the same “discoveries” (although of course, this could be affected by the prevailing Zeitgeist).

    What is ironic about me is that I emotionally connect with these Randian/Objective/Whatever beliefs, politically and economically I lean pretty right to pretty far right of center but intellectually I am fascinated by the Kantian stuff (and so *utterly* *utterly* *utterly* bored by Rand).

    Also I’m what you would probably consider an atheist/freethinker… lolz

  5. Franky permalink
    September 21, 2010 3:38

    “Kant assigns one’s emotions the power to know the metaphysically superior “unknowable” noumenal world by indefinable means that he termed “pure reason.””

    Ahem… is this REALLY what Kant said???

    I seriously doubt Kant was so incorrigibly sloppy… but if this is true, let’s just throw this obvious bathwater out and keep the baby, which is his main Critique.

    • September 22, 2010 3:38

      “The philosophy of Kant waged war on man’s mind and this is the reason why Ayn Rand called him his greatest intellectual enemy. As a philosopher, Ayn Rand understood the role of philosophy in destroying or improving man’s mind. Kant was indeed the “witch doctor” of the Middle Ages whose intention was to close the door of philosophy to reason. We have seen the influence of his philosophy today. His followers and the mini-Kantians of today are simply carrying on the destruction of man’s mind.”
      https://fvdb.wordpress.com/2010/03/23/no-they-cant/

      Kant’s analytic-synthetic dichotomy is nothing but an illogical concoction that aims to undercut man’s cognitive function. This dichotomy, characterized by equivocations and circumlocutions, naturally results in the specious precept that a factual proposition cannot be necessarily true, and that a necessarily true proposition cannot be factual.
      https://fvdb.wordpress.com/2010/04/16/in-defense-of-truth-part-ii/

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  1. Greatest Philosophers
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