Introduction to Objectivist Philosophy

Cassette cover text: Why this tape?
1. Because it presents an alternative to various failed Socialist programs so far in Australia.
2. Because I am concerned enough to do something about it.
3. Because I am programmed for survival.
Ron Manners 1975

Audio:

Transcript:
The following selections are included only as a brief background to the Objectivist philosophy. A ten lecture series is currently being conducted in several Australian centres. And the twenty cassette Nathaniel Branden set, titled Principles of Objectivism, is also available on sale or a hire basis. This cassette set is recommend to anyone who is curious to know why Objectivism is known as the philosophy of reason, of self interest, of individualism.

In many ways, Objectivism stands in complete opposition to the dominant ethical, social, political and religious beliefs of our conventional culture. Objectivism is the philosophical basis and justification for capitalism. The basis that capitalism never had before, which is why capitalism has never fully flowered and has been misrepresented and misconstrued by its opponents.

Today can be seen a frightening parallel, between the conventional philosophical compromise and the politico-economic compromise, known as the mixed economy, which is a sort of socialised capitalism as we are currently operating in Australia, with the resultant economic chaos. Equally with philosophy, the same treatment results in similar chaos.

Conventional morality appears to have three basic tenets:

  • One, man is evil.
  • Two, existence is evil.
  • And three, happiness is evil.

These are in direct opposition to the Objectivist morality. The ethics of Objectivism can be listed as follows:

  • One, a commitment to the principle that one’s desires and goals have to be held in the full long-term context of one’s life.
  • Two, that one has to function by means of long-term principles as a human being, not as an animal whose foresight can’t extend beyond the next half-hour.
  • Three, never allow the range of one’s action to exceed the range of one’s thought.
  • Four, when one acts one must know what one is doing.

In this brief introduction to Objectivism, we’ll touch on three major headings where Objectivist ethics do not coincide with conventional ethics or morality. The three headings are:

  • Firstly, justice.
  • Secondly, selfishness and altruism.
  • And thirdly, integrity.

To cover justice, we quote from Nathaniel Branden:

The cause of the most savage attacks which you may have heard levelled against Objectivism — attacks which are hidden behind a smokescreen of the alleged issue of selfishness — in fact all hang on the virulent animosity toward the principle of justice, as presented in the Objectivist literature.

There are too many examples in Ayn Rand’s novel of the enormous magnanimity and generosity which the heroic characters in the novels show toward the innocent good, for anyone to call such characters heartless or cruel or any other adjectives at that kind.

When they call them heartless or cruel, what the critics will never tell you, what in fact you may know to be a fact, that, what is bothering them is not their lack of compassion or kindness, or generosity towards the innocent, suffering good, it is their lack of such compassion toward the evil.

It is precisely her heroes compassion for man the victim, the hard working individual, that makes us so ruthlessly unsympathetic towards man the killer, the parasite.

Either you feel sympathy for the innocent or you feel sympathy for the guilty. If you feel sympathy for the guilty, you can only feel it at the expense of the innocent — that is, anything is to be forgiven except justice.

That, more than any other issue, is what the Objectivist literature is attacked for and criticised for, and that is central to its war with the prevailing culture.

Ron again: The following quotation illustrates the rethinking necessary concerning the concepts of selfishness and altruism:

Selfishness: to be concerned with one’s own interest, to live for one’s own sake, by one’s own mind. Selfishness does not mean the sacrifice of others to self. It is here that the Objectivist concept of selfishness differs from the conventional concept. In conventional morality, man is confronted with only two moral alternatives: either to be selfless and sacrifice himself to others, or to be selfish and sacrifice others to himself.

All the different ethical systems that have dominated world history have one point of basic agreement: that is, the sacrosanct nobility of the concept of self-sacrifice. They all teach one variety or another of the doctrine of self-sacrifice — that is, that man has no right to exist for his own sake, but the moral purpose and justification of his life, is service to others and that self-sacrifice is the noblest, the highest virtue that man can reach, and that it is his foremost duty. Man is to be sacrificed either to the glorious tribe, king, proletariat, state, society, etc.

It has always been held that selfishness is a synonym for evil and that virtue consists of serving some allegedly higher ideal outside and beyond the interest of the living individual involved.

In the 19th century, a totalitarian collectivist, Auguste Comte, coined the name which best designated this whole approach to ethics: namely, the term altruism. Altruism is the moral code which teaches, which holds, that man has no right to exist for his own sake; that the moral purpose of his life is service to others; that self-sacrifice is his highest virtue and foremost duty.

In modern times, of course, the chief beneficiary of human sacrifice has been represented as being society, the nation and the state. In effect, the mystical creed of self-sacrifice has become secularised. Society has replaced God on the altar before which men, as individuals, are to be sacrificed.

The average man does not really accept any systematic code of ethics or morality. Morality is, to him, something of a bore, something associated with duty; it has nothing to do with the job of getting along with living.

What men do not realise, is that they cannot live without some values to guide them; that they cannot live without some principles to guide their actions; and that the morality of altruism has left them in a devastating kind of moral vacuum.

Altruism has left him in a moral wilderness, where he never knows what to do, when to sacrifice, and when to collect someone else’s sacrifices; what he can claim as his right; what he can only ask as a favour; what he can achieve only by someone else’s sacrifice. When is the time to take and when is the time to give? When is he to be the victim of altruism and when is he to be the profiteer?

So for the most part, he tries to live his life by a kind of, at best, common sense code of fair play, which usually breaks down on all the crucial issues when major decisions have to be made. At these times, sensing the solemnity of the task of passing a major moral decision, and having no well-thought-out moral code, he almost invariably falls back into his helplessness upon an appeal to, and an acceptance of, the conventional ethics of altruism. In effect, in big issues, when in doubt, sacrifice yourself; you’re sure to be moral if you do that. That is really the operating principle by which he lives.

Ron again: We quote again from Branden to clearly state the basis of integrity, which is held to be the key to Objectivism:

If personality and independence demand that you think, then the virtue of integrity demands that you remain loyal to your thinking in action.

This means that it demands that you not betray the judgement of your own mind. To practice integrity means to be integrated, to allow no split between theory and practice, no split between one’s convictions and one’s actions.

According to the conventional altruistic view of morality, integrity is a virtue because of this. It requires a sacrifice of one’s self interest to one’s moral principles. This view of course based on a prior premise, the premise that one’s moral convictions have nothing to do with one’s self interest, or with reality or with reason; that one’s practical self-interest would … act in contrary to one’s moral conviction.

It rests on the premise that the good in theory is the destructive in practice, that man’s mind and body are two … elements; that the spirit required that which would make physical survival and well-being impossible. It assumes a split between the moral and the practical. But if reason, not faith, is the standard by which one forms one’s concept of good and evil, then there is no split between theory and practice, between the moral and the practical.

The rational and the moral is that which serves man’s self interest and his survival and well being on earth, both subjectively and in fact. If one’s convictions are rational, then integrity, meaning loyalty to one’s judgment, to one’s mind, to one’s convictions, is a practical necessity of human survival. The meaning of integrity, as applied to consciousness, is confidence, the knowledge that the judgement of one’s mind is valid. The meaning of integrity, as it applies to action is courage, the knowledge that to act on the judgement of one’s mind is practical.

If life on earth is the standard, then to to quote John Rawls. Courage and confidence are practical necessities. Courage is the practical form of being true to existence, being true to truth and confidence is a practical form of being true to one’s own consciousness.

To sacrifice one’s convictions to the wishes of other men, is an act of self-denunciation and self-destruction, and that is both impractical and immoral.

If, for example, we know that individualism and capitalism are good, because they make human survival possible. But you pretend to be sympathetic or tolerant of collectivism and socialism, because it is popular. You are betraying your own consciousness, your own judgement and supporting that which you know to be evil.

You are not acting practically; you are paving the way for your own destruction, and you will have deserved it. If in your work, you hold high standards, which you betray, in order to gain the approval of men, whose judgement you don’t respect, you will destroy any … your work will give you.

You will undercut and invalidate the motive that made you choose your work. You will perceive every compliment and every success as a reproach, and a source of guilt, and you will be right.

Integrity requires of men, among other things, that they assume responsibility for the consequences of their own chosen actions. And this, of course, a class of the previous responsibilities, that when they act, they should be concerned to know what will be the consequences of their actions.

Ron again: Another concept pertinent to Objectivism is that of the trader. Dr John Whiting of Adelaide in his book Wake Up, Mate covered this concept as follows:

The most basic of all human principles is that, to survive, man must be a successful trader. Whether he be a manufacturer, butcher, clergyman, lawyer, labourer or doctor, man is a trader. The businessman knows this, and accepts his role without humbug. The doctor, the clergymen and the lawyer, would probably resent the term, steeped as they are in the high-sounding phrases of their professions.

When a client consults a lawyer, he trades by offering a monetary token in exchange for the knowledge and learning of the lawyer.

When the clergyman contemplates entering a new parish, he discusses with the elders of the church the terms of the contract. His stipend, house rental, size and make-up of the congregation, and all the other matters that he feels will satisfy both his worldly and his spiritual needs. If he is satisfied with the terms, he agrees in return to conduct church services, work to pay off the church mortgage, and help to save the souls of the parishioners. The size of the stipend does not necessarily have to be the prime factor in the contract. Whether it is, or is not, depends entirely on himself. He is, nonetheless, a trader.

The doctor likewise is a trader, who trades his knowledge, his learning, his experience and his technical ability, with another who is need of these skills. There is nothing evil, or crude, or undignified, or indecent, or corrupt in being a trader, for all men are traders.

Some professional traders have yet to learn the lesson, long understood by non-professional traders, that a deal, if it is to create the maximum benefit, must be advantageous to both parties to the contract. Those who are honest with themselves get on with their jobs, acting out their roles without humbug or insincerity, claiming to be no more and no less than what they are: traders.

Ron again: Well, I guess that indicates that all productive men are traders. And that it could be difficult for a parasite to be a trader. Ayn Rand in her book Atlas Shrugged described the trader as follows:

The symbol of all relationships among such men, the moral symbol of respect for human beings, is the trader. We who live by values, not by loot, are traders, both in matter and in spirit. A trader is a man who earns what he gets and does not give or take the undeserved. A trader does not ask to be paid for his failures, nor does he ask to be loved for his flaws. A trader does not squander his body as fodder or his soul as alms. Just as he does not give his work, accepting trade for material values, so he does not give the values of his spirit, his love, his friendship, his esteem. Accepting payment and then trade for human virtues, and payment for his own selfish pleasure, which he receives from men he can respect.

The mystic parasites who have throughout the ages reviled the traders and held them in contempt while honouring the beggars and the looters, have known the secret motive of their sneers. A trader is the entity they dread, a man of justice.

Ron again: Objectivism, for many years, has been ignored by the philosophical establishment, but it’s now gaining momentum in the marketplace of ideas. Objectivism has formed the basis of political movements such as the libertarians, the various movements for limited government, and the Workers Party in Australia of course. It provides a basic set of standards by which we and our political rulers can be measured. And in concluding these comments on Objectivism, I might mention that there is of course no compulsion to study of Objectivism but it is accessible to any volunteers.

POSTSCRIPT
Well, this could be regarded as a PS because it is a pity to waste the remaining tape on this cassette, so I’ll drop on a few comments and then just a few thoughts on Australia, 1975. I hope the comments help reinforce the case for restricting or limiting the power of government and reverting to some basic freedoms for individuals.

The self-styled Australian government has generally created a fear of government by providing so many examples of abuse of position and power.

When people once felt that government was good, we now see the predatory instincts of some men, which government is designed to suppress, now appearing in the agents selected to do the suppressing.

As a private citizen, the predatory person is only one among millions; as an agent of government, he becomes one over millions. If there are criminals amongst us, what is to keep them from gaining and using the power of government?

Government through it’s successive taxation and enthusiastic promotion of inflation, by printing this paper money to finance its deficits, is emerging in its true guise as an agent of plunder.

In calling for urgent limitations of government, it is well to bear in mind that the principle that: man tends to satisfy his desires along the lines of least possible resistance. There are two ways, economically speaking, to satisfy desires: the economic means; and the political means. By the economic means is meant: the satisfaction of desires with the fruits of one’s own labour. By the political, it is meant: the satisfaction of desires with the fruits of the labour of others.

It could be said then that Workers Party, in particular, are promoting the case for private enterprise and self-reliance of the individual, as the moral alternative to breeding a race of permanently dependent welfare recipients.

Whilst it is acknowledged that, in every country, there is a small number of people who will require special assistance, it is generally becoming apparent, that the productive sector is becoming unwilling to continue to carry the load of the new battalions of recent recruits to the welfare scene.

In creating this class of people who are permanently dependent, the government has proved that the free market law of supply and demand applies to their compulsory welfare programs. That is, if you supply the demand for welfare recipients, the supply of welfare recipients will rise to fill that demand. The alternative to this situation is the free society, which is the society in which each individual voluntarily says, “I am my own responsibility.”

Our present tendency to call upon the government for the solutions of all the problems of life shows how far we have abandoned the doctrine of rights and its correlative of self-reliance.

It is as though our quality of responsibility has atrophied, and the government has run in fear from its responsibility of saying to the voters, “No, your unreasonable demands are economically impossible.”

It is often said that we only get the kind of government we deserve and vote for. This may be true, but equally true is the fact that government educational programs are breeding a race of voters who sincerely believe in the morality of living at someone else’s expense. These people will always vote for a government that promises the world and pays for the promises by looting and plundering the rapidly diminishing ranks of hard working, industrious individuals.

Watching a socialist government in action is like witnessing a trader, who for the sake of popularity, continues to sell all his wares below cost. The end is inevitable and the longer it is allowed to continue, the more individuals, suppliers, creditors and contractors will be taken down with him. The longer he is allowed to act irresponsibly, the greater will be the crash.

Similarly, the ultimate end of all irresponsible, irrational governments is in economic chaos. The real tragedy is that millions of Australian voters are aware of this and are so preoccupied with their own economic survival that they are remaining silent. Quietly financing their own defeat by obediently paying their taxes right on the due date.

History shows however that when similar oppressive situations develop, large numbers of normally productive people drop out of the treadmill, no longer prepared to work as slaves under a system where they receive only a small percentage of their total pre-tax earnings.

These people are exercising their right to go on strike, and they will return to productive service only on their own terms.

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