Symposium: A Dialogue on Ayn Rand's Ethics

This issue is dedicated to the memory of R. W. Bradford, Joan Kennedy Taylor, and Christopher Ronald Tame



Volume 7, No. 2 - Spring 2006 Issue #14

TABLE OF CONTENTS

BILL BRADFORD, AYN RAND, AND CONEY ISLAND, pp. 251-54

CHRIS MATTHEW SCIABARRA

This essay offers a tribute to R. W. Bradford, one of the founding co-editors of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, who passed away on 8 December 2005. It also marks the passing of two other writers who have contributed to Rand studies: Joan Kennedy Taylor and Chris Tame.

REPLY TO DOUGLAS B. RASMUSSEN AND ERIC MACK: RAND AND CHOICE, pp. 257-73

TIBOR R. MACHAN

Rand's metaethical objectivism consists not in the intrinsicist view that values lie outside of us, in an independent reality such that we can identify them or fail to do so. Rather, Rand's conception of "objectivity" regarding the foundation of ethics is what is often called "agent-relative" but not subjective. Or, as Rand states, ethical claims are "objectively conditional" (in her essay "Causality versus Duty"). In elaborating this perspective, Machan shows that it suffices to avoid the dreaded charge of subjectivism contained in both Rasmussen's and Mack's discussion of her views.

REPLY TO ERIC MACK: DID AYN RAND DO THE SHUFFLE?, pp. 275-86

FRANK BUBB

This paper criticizes Eric Mack's contention that Rand engaged in a "shuffle," focusing on the core issue of how Rand moved from her metaethical argument that, because existence or non-existence is every organism's fundamental alternative, the standard of value for each organism is its life, to her ethical prescription that each person live as "man qua man," given that continued existence often requires so much less. Bubb argues that Rand did not engage in a "shuffle," but was instead operating on the basis of premises implicit in the theme of Atlas Shrugged and in her other writings.

REJOINDER TO TIBOR R. MACHAN AND FRANK BUBB MORE PROBLEMATIC ARGUMENTS IN RANDIAN ETHICS, pp. 287-307

ERIC MACK

Frank Bubb and Tibor Machan raise objections to Mack's "Problematic Arguments in Randian Ethics." Bubb argues that a universalization test allows Rand to condemn every parasitic action—even ones that serve the agent's survival. But this universalization test is faulty; it calls upon individuals to act as would be rational if the world were not as it is. Machan argues that Rand can hold that the fundamental choice between life and death is ungrounded without being a subjectivist. But Machan does not successfully differentiate the putatively ungrounded choice between life and death from other choices that he admits are arbitrary.

REJOINDER TO TIBOR R. MACHAN REGARDING CHOICE AND THE FOUNDATION FOR MORALITY: REFLECTIONS ON RAND'S ETHICS, pp. 309-28

DOUGLAS B. RASMUSSEN

This essay examines the relationship between human choice and Rand's ethical standard for moral goodness and obligation. It shows that the neo-Aristotelian interpretation of Rand's ethics—an interpretation that does not accept the doctrine of "premoral choice" but instead claims that flourishing as a rational animal is the telos of human life and choice - is crucial to the viability of her ethical theory. The defenders of premoral choice confuse the conceptual order with the real and, despite their intentions, make Rand's ethics into a voluntarist ethics, that is, an ethics in which reason is subordinate to will.

EGOISM VERSUS RIGHTS, pp. 329-49

ROBERT H. BASS

Rand's commitments to egoism and to libertarian rights are meant at least to be well-suited to fit together as parts of a comprehensive moral and political theory. After examining and rejecting arguments that ethical egoism is presupposed by libertarian rights, Bass develops an argument that the two theses are incompatible, that if egoism is true, then there are no rights, and that if there are rights, then egoism is not true. Then, he considers and responds to objections, and concludes with a challenge for theorists still inclined to suppose that the two are compatible.

REPLY TO ROBERT H. BASS: EGOISM AND RIGHTS, pp. 351-56

CHRIS CATHCART

Robert H. Bass's proposed opposition between egoism and rights misses its mark insofar as it targets Rand's egoism. Rand's egoism is not consequentialist. Her egoism falls into the "moralized interest" camp, meaning that her understanding of egoism presupposes other moral concepts. There are sound reasons for calling her ethics egoistic based on the characteristics of her ethics. Far from being separate poles of moral thought, her egoism and her rights theory express a unitary moral principle centering around the requirements of man's life qua man.

REPLY TO ROBERT H. BASS: ALTRUISM IN AUGUSTE COMTE AND AYN RAND, pp. 357-69

ROBERT L. CAMPBELL

In response to Robert H. Bass's charge that no significant moral thinker ever advocated altruism as Ayn Rand defined it, Campbell points to the writings of Auguste Comte, who invented the word. For Comte, altruism meant living for others, repressing one's "personality," and subordinating oneself to "the Great Being, Humanity." Rand's own conception of altruism was thoroughly Comtean. What's more, her decision (made in 1942, while completing The Fountainhead) to use "altruism" as her primary term for the moral tendencies that she opposed was plausibly occasioned by an encounter with Comte's ideas.

REJOINDER TO CHRIS CATHCART AND ROBERT L. CAMPBELL DEFENDING THE ARGUMENT, pp. 371-81

ROBERT H. BASS

Robert L. Campbell and Chris Cathcart offer several objections to Bass's essay, "Egoism versus Rights." In response to Campbell, Bass argues that no adequate reason has been given for defining "altruism" in the way that Rand did, since that formulation does not accurately describe most altruists. In response to Cathcart, Bass argues that since Cathcart accepts the incompatibility of rights and consequentialism, the question of the compatibility of rights and egoism turns out to be the question of whether egoism can be non-consequentialist. Bass argues that it cannot. Thus, neither reply succeeds in overturning Bass's central arguments.

OMISSIONS AND MEASUREMENT, pp. 383-405

MERLIN JETTON

Ayn Rand said that measurement omission is an essential part of concept formation. This essay argues that something else is omitted much, even most, of the time. The nature of measurement is explored in order to support the argument. The author agrees with Rand's more general claim that concepts are grounded in similarities and differences. However, he argues that her theory is partly flawed in claiming that all differences between similar existents are ones of measurement.

IMAGE AND INTEGRATION IN AYN RAND'S DESCRIPTIVE STYLE, pp. 407-19

PETER SAINT-ANDRE

Saint-Andre diverts attention from the ideological content of Ayn Rand's novels to focus on their sometimes startling literary qualities. In particular, Saint-Andre analyses Rand's use of traditional stylistic and rhetorical devices (metaphor, simile, word choice, assonance, alliteration) and examines the integration of certain passages of pure description into the broader themes of Rand's novels We The Living, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged.

$ AND α : ATLAS SHRUGGED AND QUO VADIS, pp. 421-27

KURT KEEFNER

Henryk Sienkiewicz's book Quo Vadis was named by Ayn Rand as one of the great novels in the Romantic style. Its account of the early Christian movement in the time of Nero parallels the story of the strikers in the time of the "looters" in Atlas Shrugged. This essay contends that Rand intended to improve upon Sienkiewicz's version by giving her small band the proper values. This claim is supported by numerous similarities between the two novels, particularly between the Christian fish-symbol and the sign of the dollar.

REVIEWS

SZASZ AND RAND, pp. 429-44

SHELDON RICHMAN

This review essay on Thomas Szasz's book Faith in Freedom: Libertarian Principles and Psychiatric Practices elaborates Szasz's position that mental illness is a myth, psychiatry is pseudo-medicine, and imposed psychiatric treatments are assaults and incarcerations. It then describes Szasz's critical chapters on Ayn Rand's and Nathaniel Branden's views on psychiatry, mental health, and psychiatric coercion.

HICKS VERSUS POSTMODERNISM, pp. 445- 57

MAX HOCUTT

In his compact and erudite but lucid and skillfully argued volume, Explaining Postmodernism, Stephen Hicks traces the history of postmodernist commitment to relativistic nihilism from its origins in Kant and Rousseau up through Fichte and Heidegger to Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard and Rorty. That done, Hicks goes on to show how the anticapitalist left has responded to the spectacular failures of socialist practice and theory by abandoning the scientistic objectivism of Marx while embracing postmodernist irrationalism, multiculturalism, and extremist rhetoric. It is a fine performance.

CAPITALISM AND COMMERCE, pp. 459-71

STEVEN YATES

Edward W. Younkins's book, Capitalism and Commerce: Conceptual Foundations of Free Enterprise, develops a systematic case for a free enterprise model that restricts state activity to a few clearly enumerated functions. He sets out the ideas of individual rights and property ownership, moving from here to freedom of transaction under the rule of law. He considers entrepreneurship and progress. Finally he discusses the various opponents of free enterprise and responds, concluding with a meditation on the prospects of bringing about the kind of society envisioned here.

QUESTIONS ABOUT ANSWERS, pp. 473-82

DAVID M. BROWN

Brown reviews Ayn Rand Answers, a volume edited by Robert Mayhew that collects many of Rand's off-the-cuff responses to the questions that followed her public talks. After surveying the book's generous sampling on topics ranging from politics to aesthetics, Brown suggests that some of Mayhew's editorial choices impair the reader's ability to fairly assess both Rand's public temperament and some of her opinions.

CONTRIBUTOR BIOGRAPHIES

Symposium: A Dialogue on Ayn Rand's Ethics

Volume 7, No. 2 - Spring 2006 Issue #14

ROBERT H. BASS

Assistant Professor, Coastal Carolina University, Conway, South Carolina 29528, who received his Ph.D. for his dissertation, Towards a Constructivist Eudaemonism, has published in political philosophy, intellectual history and ethics, and has been a frequent watcher and sometimes participant in on-line discussions of Objectivism. His current research centers upon the relation of virtue ethics to politics and to our treatment of animals.

DAVID M. BROWN

is a freelance writer and editor, and the publisher of The Webzine, a general-interest Internet magazine. His clients have included Laissez Faire Books, U.S. Term Limits, Rasmussen Reports, Americans for Limited Government, the Cato Institute, Tibor R. Machan, and others.

FRANK BUBB

is a Trustee of The Objectivist Center and a retired corporate attorney. A graduate of Washington University with a B.A. in economics (1969) and the University of Pennsylvania Law School (1972), he was an attorney for Scott Paper Company for 20 years until its sale in 1995, specializing in securities, corporate finance, employee benefits and occupational safety and health. From 1996 to 2003, he was General Counsel of The Sports Authority, and retired when the company was sold in 2003. During the 1980s, he wrote over 60 op-ed articles that appeared in newspapers around the country, distributed by The Cato Institute or authored directly for The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Orange County Register, and wrote for The Freeman. He has also written for The New Individualist and its predecessor publication, Navigator.

ROBERT L. CAMPBELL

Department of Psychology, 410A Brackett Hall, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina 29634-1355, USA,is the author of three published essays on moral development, an article on the development of the self, and a forthcoming chapter on the significance of Eddie Willers in Atlas Shrugged. He edited and translated Jean Piaget's book Studies in Reflecting Abstraction (Psychology Press, 2001) and edits New Ideas in Psychology.

CHRIS CATHCART

received an M.A. in Philosophy from Bowling Green State University in 2000.

MAX HOCUTT

specialized in the philosophy of psychology, then moral theory, before retiring in 2001 from the University of Alabama. In addition to editing Behavior and Philosophy for six years, he published three books and over 60 articles in learned journals. Since retiring, he has contributed to three encyclopedias, written half a dozen essays for the Independent Review and the Canadian Journal of Political Science, and reviewed over a dozen books for Metapsychology Online. His last book was Grounded Ethics: The Empirical Bases of Normative Judgments (Transaction, 2000).

MERLIN JETTON

investment actuary (retired), has a B.S. in math, is a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries and a Chartered Financial Analyst. He has published articles in professional journals and periodicals, and several in the philosophy journal Objectivity.

KURT KEEFNER

is a nontraditional scholar interested in philosophy and the arts. He has written extensively for online publications such as The Atlasphere and The All-Music Guide. He lives with his wife in Greenbelt, Maryland.

TIBOR R. MACHAN

is R. C. Hoiles Professor of Business Ethics and Free Enterprise at the Argyros School of Business & Economics, Chapman University, Orange, CA 29866. His most recent book is Objectivity: Recovering Determinate Reality in Philosophy, Science, and Everyday Life (Ashgate, 2004).

ERIC MACK

Tulane University, Department of Philosophy, New Orleans, Louisiana 70118,is a Professor of Philosophy and also a faculty member of Tulane's Murphy Institute of Political Economy. He has published and lectured widely on topics in moral, political, and legal philosophy. Among his forthcoming essays are: "Non-Absolute Rights and Libertarian Taxation," in Social Philosophy and Policy; "Hayek on Justice and the Order of Actions," in Companion to Hayek (Cambridge University Press); and "Individualism and Libertarian Rights," in Contemporary Debates in Political Philosophy (Blackwell Press).

DOUGLAS B. RASMUSSEN

Professor of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, St. John's University, 8000 Utopia Parkway, Jamaica, New York 11439, is coauthor (with Douglas J. Den Uyl) of Norms of Liberty: A Perfectionist Basis for Non-Perfectionist Politics (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2005).

SHELDON RICHMAN

Editor, The Freeman (Foundation for Economic Education); senior fellow, Future of Freedom Foundation; research fellow, Independent Institute; blog: Free Association, is the author of Separating School and State: How to Liberate America's Families, Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax, and Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State (all published by The Future of Freedom Foundation). His articles have appeared in The American Scholar, Journal of Libertarian Studies, Independent Review, Libertarian Forum, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Washington Times, USA Today, and other magazines and newspapers.

PETER SAINT-ANDRE

is an independent scholar living in Denver, Colorado. When not working as Executive Director of the Jabber Software Foundation, he is also active as a poet, musician, translator, and essayist.

CHRIS MATTHEW SCIABARRA

NOTABLOG

Visiting Scholar, Department of Politics, New York University, 726 Broadway, 7th floor, New York, New York 10003 received his Ph.D., with distinction, in political theory, philosophy, and methodology from New York University. He is the author of the “Dialectics and Liberty Trilogy,” which includes Marx, Hayek, and Utopia (State University of New York Press, 1995), Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995), and Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000). He is also coeditor, with Mimi Reisel Gladstein, of Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999), and a founding coeditor of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies (1999–present).

STEVEN YATES

Adjunct Instructor, Philosophy, University of South Carolina-Upstate and Greenville Technical College, 3500 Pelham Rd., #216, Greenville, South Carolina 29615,is the author of Civil Wrongs (ICS Press, 1994), Worldviews (Worldviews Project, 2005) and In Defense of Logic (undergoing revisions). He has written over twenty articles and reviews for refereed academic journals and over a hundred articles for commentary sites on the World Wide Web, especially LewRockwell.com and NewsWithViews.com.