Objectivism Part 2 - Transcript


0:00 - Introduction to Objectivism and Analysis
2:17 - Galt's Speech from Atlas Shrugged
2:28 - Issue with Objectivism's Ethical Problem
4:23 - Ethics in Relation to Plants and Animals
7:25 - The Challenge of Proving Ethics Without God
9:02 - The Complexity of Ayn Rand's Ethical Approach
14:03 - Happiness and Integrity in Pursuing Values
16:58 - Doubt and Instability in Ethics
20:11 - The Challenge of Sociopaths in Ethical Theory
23:29 - The Pleasure of Evil Actions and Ethics
27:36 - The Impact of Doubt in Ethics on Violence
29:39 - The Cult-like Behavior in the Objectivist Community
30:46 - The Political Solution in Atlas Shrugged
31:55 - The Hierarchical Structure and Aggressive Behavior
33:07 - Ayn Rand's Core Problem with Ethics

Long Summary

Estefan Molyneux from Freedomain Radio delves into an in-depth analysis of Objectivism and its core concepts. He acknowledges Ayn Rand's contributions to metaphysics and epistemology but expresses his primary concern regarding ethics. Molyneux discusses the challenge of deriving morality from objective reality and the difficulty of bridging the gap between 'ought' and 'is.' He explores the notion of value, virtue, and the necessity of ethical codes for human behavior.

Molyneux critically assesses Rand's views on ethics, particularly in connecting life, values, and morality. He questions the leap from biological realities to moral principles like good and evil, highlighting the potential contradictions in Rand's arguments. The discussion evolves into the role of ethics in guiding human actions and the implications of pursuing happiness through rational choices.

The speaker reflects on the challenges of justifying ethics without resorting to subjective reasoning or religious mandates. He analyzes the psychological motivations behind ethical behavior and the complexities of addressing sociopathic tendencies. Molyneux emphasizes the importance of objective ethics while acknowledging the inherent difficulties in convincing individuals to adhere to moral standards.

As the lecture progresses, Molyneux delves into the nature of societal structures, discussing the tendencies towards hierarchical systems in the absence of ethical certainty. He critiques Rand's solutions in Atlas Shrugged, pointing out the inconsistencies in advocating for a reinstated government as a remedy for moral dilemmas. The speaker concludes by highlighting the limitations of Objectivism in addressing the core issues of ethics and the resultant challenges in practical applications and social organization.

Throughout the discussion, Molyneux offers a thought-provoking analysis of Objectivism, ethics, and the complexities of deriving moral principles from objective reality. He navigates the nuances of ethical theory, critiquing Rand's perspectives while exploring the broader implications for personal conduct and societal governance.


[0:00] Introduction to Objectivism and Analysis

[0:00] Hi everybody, it's Estefan Molyneux from Freedomain Radio. I hope that you're doing well. This is Objectivism and Analysis, Part 2. And Part 1 is available for premium subscribers to Freedomain Radio at www.freedomainradio.com, wherein I talk about an introduction to objectivism, a brief history of objectivism, my respect for objectivism and Ayn Rand, and other thoughts and so on about the introduction, so you can get it. It's available there for subscribers. If you have subscribed or you've given me a donation of 50 bucks or more, I think it is, then just send me an email and I'll give you access to it.

[0:40] So my primary issue with objectivism is not in terms of metaphysics, not in terms of epistemology. So nature of reality, the axiom that existence exists, all seems perfectly sensible to me and forms the basis of my own a particular take on the problems of ethics and politics. But I do believe that Ayn Rand did not solve the problem of ethics, did not figure out how to get the ought from the is, right? So the central problem as identified by David Hume in the 18th century, he was a Scottish Enlightenment philosopher and a chunky fellow. Central problem that was identified by David Hume was that you cannot get a should from an is, you can't get an ought from an is, right? So if you're watching a rock bouncing down a hill, you can't say, you ought to land here or you ought to land there. It just lands where it lands. This is not to make an argument for determinism. I'm no determinist, but the problem is that you can't get shoulds from existence, right? Ethics does not exist in the real world, right? Ethics doesn't exist like a tree or a cloud or anything like that.

[1:47] Ethics, in my view, as you may know if you've watched some of these videos, is akin to the scientific method. It does not exist within reality, but there's no way to determine truth or falsehood without applying rigorous logic and empiricism. So, I have a particular approach to ethics, which I've talked about before. So, as far as metaphysics go, the nature of reality, epistemology, the nature of knowledge, the methodology for determining truth and falsehood, I'm a complete slave to the Rand, and happily so. She did a magnificent job of dealing with these issues.

[2:17] Galt's Speech from Atlas Shrugged

[2:18] I'm going to use Galt's speech from Atlas Shrugged, if you haven't read the book. I don't think this will be too much of a spoiler, but you may want to wait.

[2:28] Issue with Objectivism's Ethical Problem

[2:28] So, no particular issue with, again, metaphysics and epistemology. When Ayn Rand starts to write this, though... She and I at least part ways. It doesn't mean anything other than that I disagree. She writes, a being of volitional consciousness has no automatic course of behavior. He needs a code of values to guide his actions. Value is that which one acts to gain and keep. Virtue is the action by which one gains and keeps it. No particular problem with that. Value presupposes an answer to the question of value to whom and for what. Again, absolutely essential when it it comes to ethics. Value presupposes a standard, a purpose, and the necessity of action in the face of an alternative. Where there are no alternatives, no values are possible. Absolutely, if you're forced to do something, there's no ethical content. There is only one fundamental alternative in the universe, existence or non-existence, and it pertains to a single class of entities, to living organisms. Fabulous. The existence of inanimate matter is unconditional. The existence of life is not. It depends on a specific course of action. Matter is indestructible. It changes its forms, but cannot cease to exist. It is only a living organism that faces a constant alternative, the issue of life or death. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action. If an organism fails in that action, it dies. Its chemical elements remain, but its life goes out of existence. It is only the concept of life that makes the concept of value possible. It is only to a living entity that things can be good or evil.

[3:54] I think that's a leap, and I'll go into more in a few minutes, But life and death, good and evil, to me, that's a leap. To go from a biological reality of the success or failure of a particular cell or organism to a moral equivalent of good and evil seems a leap to me, but I'll go into more detail as to why I think that. A plant must feed itself in order to live. The sunlight, the water, the chemicals it needs, the values its nature has set it to pursue.

[4:23] Ethics in Relation to Plants and Animals

[4:23] Its life is the standard of value directing its actions. But a plant has no choice of action. There are alternatives in the conditions it encounters, but there is no alternative in its function. It acts automatically to further its life and cannot act for its own destruction.

[4:36] So that's fine. And here we get into, an animal is equipped for sustaining its life. Its sense is provided with an automatic code of action, an automatic knowledge of what is good for it or evil. And again, see, there's an equation or an equivalence between life and death and good and evil. It has no power to extend its knowledge, the animal, or to evade it. That's not quite true. In conditions where its knowledge proves inadequate, it dies.

[5:00] But so long as it lives, it acts on its knowledge with automatic safety and no power of choice. It is unable to ignore its own good, unable to decide to choose the evil, and act as its own destroyer. Man, she says, has no automatic code of survival. Survival his particular distinction from all other living species is the necessity to act in the face of alternatives by means of volitional choice he has no automatic knowledge of what is good for him or evil what values his life depends on what course of action it requires are you prattling about an instinct of self-preservation an instinct of self-preservation is precisely what man does not possess an instinct is an unerring and automatic form of knowledge, a desire is not an instinct a desire to live does not give you the knowledge required for living, and even man's desire to live is not automatic. Your secret evil today, in the novel, is that that is the desire you do not hold. Your fear of death is not a love of life and will not give you the knowledge needed to keep it. Man must obtain his knowledge and choose his actions by a process of thinking, which nature will not force him to perform. Man has the power to act as his own destroyer, and that is the way he has acted, through most of his history.

[6:08] And then she talks about how most of the philosophy and religion that human beings have subscribed to have been anti-rationality, anti-empiricism. Again, I would completely agree with that. I'll read a little bit more, and then I'll dig into what I think of this. Man's life, she says, is the standard of morality.

[6:29] This is the fundamental ethical core of objectivism. All that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good. it. All that which destroys it is the evil. Man's life as required by his nature is not the life of a mindless brute or of a looting thug or a mooching mystic, but the life of a thinking being. Not life by means of force of fraud, but life by means of achievement, not survival at any price, since there's only one price that pays for man's survival. Reason. Again, I think this is a far too far of a leap, and I don't think it's proven. I mean, it's annoying because I agree with it, but I don't agree with the reasoning. Man's life is the standard of morality, but your own life is its purpose. If existence on earth is your goal, you must choose your actions and values by the standard of that which is proper to man, for the purpose of preserving, fulfilling, and enjoying the irreplaceable value which is your life. Since life requires a specific course of action, says Rand, any other course will destroy it. A being who does not hold his own life as the motive and goal of his actions is acting on the motive and standard of death.

[7:25] The Challenge of Proving Ethics Without God

[7:26] Since such a being is a metaphysical monstrosity struggling to oppose, negate, and contradict the fact of his own existence, running blindly amok on a trail of destruction, capable of nothing but pain. So the contradiction that I see, and this is a contradiction that is common to many philosophers, is that there is a very strong desire to prove ethics in the absence of God, an absolutely laudable desire, one which I beat my brains out for a quarter century before making some small progress, I do believe, on the problem.

[7:55] So, Ayn Rand is trying to say that the rational is the moral, that that which allows human life to flourish is the moral, is the good, right? So, good for me is moral, and moral is not just hedonistic, right? So, good for me is not just I want to go and steal and rape and pillage. She's going to say that that is immoral, even if I like it. And this is the huge problem that philosophers face. Hedonism versus objective ethics. So, when you have objective ethics, you have a huge problem in that you have to prove, you have to get the ought from the is. You have to get the should from man's nature. But, of course, many people believe that the should or the ought is something which a philosopher would disagree with. A rapist thinks he ought to rape. He prefers to rape. He should rape. That's why he does it, right? So, a philosopher has a very, very large problem on his hands, which is that if everybody wanted to do the right thing to begin with, you wouldn't need philosophy. But because people want to do things that most people would consider wrong, philosophers have the problem of convincing people that that is objectively wrong without ethics existing within reality. It's a really, really tricky problem.

[9:02] The Complexity of Ayn Rand's Ethical Approach

[9:02] And of course, people know my solution to it, so I'm not going to focus on that. But here's the challenge, I think, that's in Ayn Rand.

[9:09] So she basically says, there's no such thing as automatic knowledge. There's no such thing as automatic knowledge. And then she contradicts herself, not a couple of paragraphs later, when she says, Since life requires a specific course of action, any other course will destroy it. A being who does not hold his own life as the motive and goal of his actions is acting on the motive and standard of death. Such a being is a metaphysical monstrosity, struggling to oppose, negate, and contradict the fact of his own existence, running blindly amok in a trail of destruction, capable of nothing but pain.

[9:43] Capable of nothing but pain. But if human beings don't have any instincts which tell them right from wrong, why would somebody doing wrong be capable of nothing but pain? I know this sounds nitpicking, but it's really, really quite essential. When you're a philosopher, you have to say to people, why should you be good? Why should you be good? It's a fundamental problem, right? And you can either go the Sky Pixie route and say, thunderbolts will come from the invisible pixie, leprechaun, elf, Santa Claus clusters in the sky, and that's why you should be good. Or you should say, you should be good for the sake of hedonism. You should be good because it's going to make you happy, but then you get into subjectivity because what makes people happy is subjective, right? And this is the challenge that moralists have faced and have faced for thousands of years. Why should people be good? Why? Why? Why should people be good? Because they're frightened into being good by the threat of supernatural punishment or bribed with reward? Well, that's not satisfying. Sky Pixies did it. It's not an answer to anything. The origin of the universe, why be good or anything like that.

[10:41] But then if you say, you should be good because it'll make you happy, then you're espousing, in a way, the principle of hedonism, right? Which is, if it makes you happy, it can't be that bad. And I'm not going to break into song, but I think you know the basic problem, right? So you have either supernatural threats or an appeal to hedonism, both of which are subjective, right? So, I mean, that's the challenge. And then you can't say that ethics exist in the real world because they don't, right? Good people get away with – good people die of cancer and feel guilty for minor transgressions. Evil people stride the world, pouring buckets of blood from every orifice, and die seemingly content in their beds. So, the hedonism principle is not enough. And, of course, the hedonism principle is pointless.

[11:21] The question is, how do you deal with people who have no conscience, right? I mean, if you're going to frighten people with a skyguard or something like that, then you will or you may restrain the behavior of certain people who have already a fear of doing wrong, of being punished. And so people who already have a conscience and already have the ability to process the consequences of their actions, you may control some of those people's behavior, but those people will respond to far less pressure because they already have a conscience, right?

[11:48] And if you appeal to hedonism, if you don't use the religious argument and you appeal to hedonism, then you run into the problem of subjectivism. And also those people whose happiness, whose pleasure principle runs counter to generally accepted ethics, like don't steal, don't kill, don't rape, don't assault, and so on, how are you going to make the case for them, right? Well, then you have to say that there's a secret kind of Freudian-style happiness that they're not going to achieve unless they follow your particular moral prescriptions, which, again, not really going to help. If you're going to be able to tell people you should be nice because it'll make you happy and they say, well, that's great, then I'll be nice, then those are people who already are pretty nice to begin with. The real challenge is dealing with the sociopaths, right, dealing with the sociopaths. And that's, of course, my sticking point in the way that I've tried to solve issues in terms of ethics.

[12:33] So, let me just check my time here. I don't want to go too long. So, man has no automatic code of survival, says Ayn Rand, which raises the need to think and to reason, which is great. But then she says that immoral or irrational people are only capable of pain, which means that human beings do have an inbuilt knowledge of what to do, right? If she says you have no inbuilt knowledge of what to do, fantastic, then she can make the case for reason. But then if she says that if you act irrationally, you're unhappy, then she's saying you have an inbuilt code of knowledge, right? You have an inbuilt guidance mechanism, which is if you're irrational, you end up unhappy, right? And she says happiness is the successful state of life. Pain is an agent of death, right? So again, she says we have no inbuilt or instinctual ways to figure out how to act. But if we act right, we're happy. And if we act wrong, we end up in pain. But again, that's a total contradiction, and it's a pretty core contradiction.

[13:33] So she writes, happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one's values. I don't think that's true. I don't think that's true at all. I think happiness is a state of consciousness which proceeds with integrity to rationality and reality for reasons that I've talked about elsewhere. But I don't think that we can really say that happiness results from the achievement of one's values, because if my value is, say, to be a published author, and I don't achieve that because society is corrupt, or I just never find the right agent, then should I be unhappy? Well, whether I get published or not is outside of my control, right?

[14:03] Happiness and Integrity in Pursuing Values

[14:04] Whether I have integrity and virtue in my own personal relationships, in my own life, my relationship with myself, in reality, that I have control over. So I would say that happiness proceeds from the achievement of one's values, given that she's saying that values are external, right? Success or failure within life, flourishment or non-flourishment within the realm of reality. I don't think she's just talking about eating grapes. So...

[14:25] A morality that dares tell you to find happiness in the renunciation of happiness is an insolent negation of morality. Again, see, morality then becomes that which gives you happiness. It is around automatic knowledge of right and wrong. Now, she says, but neither life nor happiness can be achieved by the pursuit of irrational whims. Just as man is free to attempt to survive in any random manner, but will perish unless he lives as his nature requires, so he is free to seek his happiness in any mindless fraud. But the torture of frustration is all he will find unless he seeks the happiness proper to man. The purpose of morality is to teach you not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live.

[15:03] And again, this is the challenge that philosophers face, that evil people do very well. Genghis Khan, Saddam Hussein, I mean, yeah, okay, he died, he was hung, and Hitler killed himself, but they obviously preferred the life that they had, right? Saddam Hussein lived in palaces, he had free run of the entire country, he got to do whatever he wanted. So evil sociopaths do a lot better, just in terms of, you can talk about internal states of unhappiness, but that's all theoretical, that's speculative. And also then you're saying that there's an inbuilt conscience, which leads one to happiness or to unhappiness, depending on whether you live rightly or wrongly, and that's outside of your control, right? So Ayn Rand is basically arguing and saying you can't choose to be immoral and be happy, but then she can't say there's no inbuilt guide within human consciousness to guide you towards right or wrong. And the challenge is, of course, that sociopaths don't really experience pain. That's why they don't change, right? I go to a dentist because my tooth is hurting, right?

[16:03] Sociopaths don't change their behavior because they don't experience pain. They experience a flush of power and of dominance at a purely basic biological level. What is it? Guess that one out of 20 people in Asia is a descendant in one form or another of Genghis Khan because he dominated and killed and raped and so on, right? And clearly, he didn't find that to be too unpleasant because he kept doing it, right? I mean, George Bush obviously enjoys the exercise of power, ran for re-election, you know, is not giving it up. So, he's not experiencing pain. In fact, he's experiencing pleasure through the exercise of power, and he is flourishing, right? I mean, his daughters are not going to want for education, they're not going to want for opportunities. And again, you can then say, well, but deep down they're unhappy, but that's not the same as ethics, right? Because the challenge is, how do you deal with the fact that you can say to people, well, deep down you're unhappy, but if they don't experience that unhappiness, you have no purchase with them.

[16:58] Doubt and Instability in Ethics

[16:58] This is a challenge in the Randian ethics at its base.

[17:04] The fact is that sociopaths do enjoy hurting others. They do enjoy dominating others. They do enjoy political power. They do enjoy controlling people. Parents who abuse their children clearly do enjoy or prefer to abuse their children rather than to face the unpleasantness that an ethical re-evaluation of their life will cause, right? I mean, when you go to a doctor because you have a sore throat and it turns out you have throat cancer, you're going to feel a whole lot worse before you feel better. So just as a doctor can provoke a great deal of pain in order to end up with you being cured with any luck, a philosopher or an ethicist or even a psychologist, if you're in counseling, will lead you through a series of steps that will result in a great deal of pain. Pain. And this, of course, is the fundamental avoidance mechanism that's in place with people. I mean, as like all organisms, we pursue pleasure and we avoid pain. I mean, that's sort of natural.

[17:59] And so, the ethicist has the great challenge, right, of saying, well, philosophy is supposed to, if you say philosophy is supposed to make you happy, well, it's going to make you very unhappy to begin with, because you're going to have to reevaluate relationships, you're going to have to live with integrity, you may have to give up your family, you may have to give up your friendships, your career, your business partners, all of this stuff. I mean, it may reduce you extraordinarily in terms of income. That's certainly been my experience, having given up my career to do this full-time. So, the question is, if we say that philosophy leads to happiness and that's the purpose of it, then how do we explain that philosophy makes you very unhappy for quite some time before it makes you happier? And how do we make that case for people? Nobody can say you should do it objectively, right? So, that's why my theory of ethics is very much removed from this, right? It's very much removed from this. I do believe that philosophy brings happiness, but my approach with the universally preferable behavior is quite separate. But I think this is a challenge, right? So, Ayn Rand says, no, you do not have to live. It is your basic act of choice. But if you choose to live, you must live as a man by the work and judgment of your mind, right? But that's not true. I mean, you don't have to live as a man, as she says, by work and judgment, you can live very, very well as a dictator.

[19:14] Stalin and Mao wanted for nothing. And you could tell, well, they were secretly unhappy. Again, you have the problem then, right, of it being hedonism, right, pain-pleasure principle, right? So, either ethics are objective, in which case it doesn't matter whether people like it or not, or are happy or not pursuing ethics, right? Any more than it matters whether or not somebody likes or dislikes the scientific It's a scientific method, right? This is the route to truth or it's not. Logic is the route to truth or it's not.

[19:43] Language is, objective use of language is the way to communicate, or you can make up your own language or speak in a clicking noise of your own, whatever, right?

[19:50] But it's not subjective. It doesn't matter whether you like the scientific method or whether the scientific method brings you happiness or unhappiness. But the scientific method has brought a very large number of people who are mystics and so on quite a lot of unhappiness, because they would prefer that there be psychic phenomena or whatever, right? So, the pain and pleasure principle is not a basis for ethics, right? It makes them subjective.

[20:11] The Challenge of Sociopaths in Ethical Theory

[20:12] There's tons of evidence to disprove that that works in the world, and you have to then make up secret unhappiness for dictators and bad people and so on, and then explain if they're really unhappy why they don't change, right? That's the challenge that you have as an ethicist. Or you end up preaching to the choir and saying that you should want to do good because it's nice, in which case you are only talking to people who want to be good to begin with, right? So, this is the challenge that you face, right? How do you reach these people? Which I think that I've have taken a fairly good stab at, but again, you can let me know what you think, right? So here's the key, right? She says, no, you do not have to live. It is your basic active choice. If you choose to live, then there are certain consequences, and of course there are certain consequences, right? Yeah, absolutely, but that's conditional. If you want to live, then. And that's why ethics don't exist in objective reality. She's trying to tie it into that which is required for life, and therefore you should be rational, you should not steal, you should not rape, and all this and that. But if you choose to live, then you must live as a man by the work and judgment of your mind. Well, I guess that's true, but the work and judgment of your mind might be to dominate all those around you and steal their stuff, right? Which is what some people love to do. It makes them very happy, right? So, how do you argue against that? Well, you can't, right? Based on this argument.

[21:27] She says, no, you do not have to live as a man. It is an act of moral choice, but you cannot live as anything else. But that's not true even within her own writing, right? So the bad people get, they have generations. She talks about generations of the mutras that lead to the catastrophes in the novel Atlas Shrugged but they all did very well, thank you very much, right? It's like the Kantian principle, the categorical imperative which says act as if through your act, that every action of yours created a universal rule that everyone had to follow, right? It's like the golden rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But somebody who's gained political power will say, well, let's let the military decide it, because I have the military and you don't. Somebody who is immensely strong will say, arm wrestling should decide where the goods go and who should have to marry me, because he's the strongest, right? The person who is the most verbally acute and the best debater will say, debating, and the applause of the crowd or whatever should determine what is right and wrong. And I'm happy to make that a universal rule, because that's what I happen to be best at, right? So, none of these things work particularly well, which is why they've never gained any particular traction and have not replaced the great vacuum in ethics that the fall of religion has resulted in.

[22:37] So, this sort of particular problem, I think, is something that Ayn Rand was not able to solve. This question of ethics. They don't exist objectively. They don't exist in the real world. They are not a natural byproduct of man's nature any more than the scientific method is. Yes, it's efficacious. Yes, I do believe that it's true. Yes, I do believe that it's objective, but it is a choice whether or not you want to use the scientific method. Choosing the scientific method to determine truth from falsehood, say, or rationality will benefit some people, and it will cost other people who would do better under an irrational system. People who have a mystical bent, who are highly traumatized, they are going to flourish under a system. Stalin, I mean, look at Hitler, right? Hitler was an unemployed bum, couldn't even get into an art academy and was living basically on the streets and in hostels, was skimping by on an ex-soldier's pension after World War I.

[23:29] The Pleasure of Evil Actions and Ethics

[23:30] And then he ends up in charge of the entire country, fabulously wealthy, able to do whatever he wants, invade, do this, which he all wanted to do, which all gave him pleasure, right? We can assume that genocide and war and murder gave him pleasure. Why? Because that's what he chose to do, right? So, the challenge is how do you say to people who take pleasure in evil that what they're doing is wrong? And again, I won't sort of go into my own theory, but I don't think Ayn Rand manages to pull it off. There is no way to solve the problem of ethics.

[24:00] By saying either that you should pursue it based on pleasure or that there's some sky god who will punish you and so on, and the empirical evidence of those who flourish through acting irrationally, right, just a biological mechanism, right, those who flourish, who choose to do evil and flourish in the world thereby, and the entire political class at the moment, soldiers flourish. I mean, we can assume that a soldier feels that he has more opportunities and better things to do in the army than he does, say, as a short-order cook in Alabama or something. So, he's choosing something which will help him flourish.

[24:34] And it's evil, of course, right, to be somebody who puts on a costume, takes orders to kill people, and goes and pulls triggers. That's a hitman, right? So, it's definitely wrong. But how is it that you're going to be able to say that? As soon as you say to this guy, well, God says it's wrong, he's going to say, no, God says I should defend onward Christian soldiers, kill the unbelievers, right? So, you don't get any traction with that. If you say, well, you shouldn't be a soldier because it'll make you unhappy, the guy's going to be like, I think I'm the better judge of my happiness than you are, so I don't believe that either, right? So, I don't think that you can make the case for rationality based on that which is good, right? That which serves life, because that which serves life is to some degree subjective. Yes, we all need food and water, but that's not what Ayn Rand is talking about. She's talking about a deeper and wider and more substantial form of ethics. And I don't think that she made the case in a way that closes the problem, right? Closes the loop, deals with the problem of people who won't listen to ethics. You don't end up with the problem of saying to people, I know you better than you know yourself, and what you think of as happiness now will turn into unhappiness in 10 or 20 years, and therefore you should give up your career and go and be a short order cook. I mean, I mean, people just won't listen to you in that situation, right? So, the problem with ethics is that they are a human construct, like mathematics, like the scientific method, like logic itself, like language.

[25:57] Doesn't mean that it's subjective, doesn't mean that it's whim-based. I mean, the scientific method is a human invention, but because it is identified with logic and reality and derived from the behavior of matter and energy, it's not subjective. Mathematics is a human invention, but it's not subjective.

[26:12] And we should not say – we can no more say to somebody that you should follow the scientific method to make you happy than we can say to somebody you should be, you know, apply good math because it'll make you happy. I do believe that the purpose of philosophy is happiness, but you can't base the argument for philosophy and ethics on happiness because the pleasure and pain principle is widely distributed among the population. And if you've been raised in an abusive environment, you may be masochistic, in which case, or you may be sadistic, right? So that which gives you pleasure, that which makes you happy, is the suffering of somebody else, right?

[26:48] So I don't think that Ayn Rand solved the problem of ethics in any fundamental way. And again, the annoying thing is I agree with the epistemology, I agree with the metaphysics, and I agree with a lot of the ethics, but this gap, what I talked about, the pygmy hijack in the podcast that's on the premium section of the Freedom Aid Radio website, that this leap is not solved, right? And you could see the effects of this in the objectivist community, which was throughout the 1960s, because there was this fundamental problem in the core of ethics, that ethics had not been proven. Ethics had merely been asserted. And when ethics are asserted rather than proven, you end up with highly emphatic and denunciatory attacks on people who question it. Because there is this doubt at the center of ethics in just about every moral system. This is why the doubt that's at the center of ethics in religion results in violence.

[27:36] The Impact of Doubt in Ethics on Violence

[27:36] Heaven and hell, attacks on unbelievers, death for apostasy, and all this kind of stuff, or a sort of freaky withdrawal from the conversation, which centers around these sorts of things. So, the unproven nature of communism results in gulags. Wherever there's doubt that is bypassed, you end up with a very strong and aggressive overreaction to those who question it. And this is why objectivism, in my view, turned kind of culty, where you ended up with these terrifying and horrible and ridiculous mock trials of people who questioned Rand and their expulsion and, oh man, just a complete mess from that standpoint.

[28:14] And that's because there's this doubt, there's this instability at the core of ethics, that ethics do not exist independently of human consciousness. The challenge is to make them objective without relying on mysticism or the pleasure-of-pray principle. And I don't think that Ayn Rand dealt with that. And I think that But she knew deep down that she didn't deal with it, which is why she became sort of hysterical and aggressive when questioned on this sort of – when you have doubt and you've overreached in terms of your reasoning, particularly in the realm of ethics, which is the most important branch of philosophy, everything else kind of leads up to that, right? Like we have the scientific method not to diddle around with test tubes but to be able to prove things about reality, to put the principles into practice. And everything in philosophy builds up to how do I make decisions in the real world to be good and to be right. And so, that's the core. That's the most important part of philosophy. People who make that leap from metaphysics to epistemology to moral philosophy end up having to attack those who question it because there's an instability at the core. That instability in the core had, I think, two significant results which destroyed objectivism in any real way. The first was that it became pretty culty as a wife swapping and mock trials, and it got pretty unpleasant at its core, and I was pretty horrified. If you want to read more about this, it's Judgment Day by Nathaniel Brandon, or Barbara Brandon had a book about it, right?

[29:39] The Cult-like Behavior in the Objectivist Community

[29:39] As well, right, which talks about the inner workings of this pretty horrifying thing, right? That's because there's this instability at the core of ethics, which means anybody who questions stuff has to be attacked because you've got to sort of stay away from this wound, this painful spot of doubt, right? And the second thing, of course, that occurred because of this was that it had no consistency through to politics, right? Because there was this doubt in the realm of ethics. Whenever there's doubt in the realm of a particular ethical philosophy, you end up gravitating towards an authority figure. So, where there's doubt in the realm of religious ethics, you end up with God and the Pope. Because someone's got to resolve these disputes. There's an irrational core that's a problem in the realm of ethics, so you have to appeal to an authority. So, with Ayn Rand, there were two. One was Ayn Rand. So, she had this syllogism, this narcissistic syllogism that we must love the most rational. Ayn Rand is the most rational. Therefore, everybody must love Ayn Rand the most. Therefore, anyone who questions that Ayn Rand is acting on immoral principles and must be attacked as evil and all this kind of stuff. I mean, this is really, really not healthy stuff, in my view.

[30:46] The Political Solution in Atlas Shrugged

[30:47] And the second, of course, is this led through to the political sphere where, again, spoiler alert, stop if you haven't read the book, the solution in Atlas Shrugged is the reinstitution of a government, right? It's like, if you just correct the Constitution, then everything's going to be fine.

[31:04] So, it takes a lot of certainty to be, I think, to be an ethical anarchist. And it takes – because once you have no doubt, and I think that – at least I don't, and I'm certainly looking – I've had two years of people kicking at my ethical theory and some very bright people. It still stands. So, again, it doesn't mean anyone can find a contradiction. But when you have certainty, then you don't need a central authority. In the same way that when everybody believes in the scientific method, you don't need a dictator of science, right? You only need those things. You only need personal authority. You only need hierarchical or hegemonic systems, usually founded on emotional or physical abuse, as in objectivism and as in a lot of other belief systems in the world. You only need those when you have doubt, when you have an enemy called doubt that you have to overcome, and it's an endless fight because it's really internal, but you projected it into the external world and so on.

[31:55] The Hierarchical Structure and Aggressive Behavior

[31:56] So the result, of course, of all of this, this inability to deal with this core problem of ethics, is that you end up with a pretty hierarchical, pretty aggressive structure that is mirrored in the sort of mild interpersonal totalitarianism of the Ayn Rand cult, and then shows up again in her hostility towards anarchy and her belief that, well, if we just get the right people in charge and we recreate the government with better rules, that it's going to work out, right? Because if she'd really gotten the principle of ethics, then she would know more.

[32:32] Advocate the government as a solution for the problem of morality and social organization, then she would say that the government should run science and there should be a ministry of determining truth from falsehood, right? She specifically attacks that in the Dr. Stadler character, but then because there's this core problem around ethics, she ends up having to go back to a government. And that's why the movement's self-destructed, right? I mean, it's that, what, so after all of this, we just end up with another government? So, it's not government as a principle, the initiation of the use of force, it's wrong. It's just this government that's bad. And so people, if you're just going to go in a big circle, what's the point, right?

[33:07] Ayn Rand's Core Problem with Ethics

[33:07] So I think this is where people had a certain problem with Ayn Rand and why the movement failed. And I've tried as best as I can to try and learn the lessons of the past. And she was a magnificent thinker in so many ways. And frankly, the problem of ethics is a real bitch. So I hope that I've taken some steps forward in that direction. And, you know, it's the old, you know, if I happen to have seen a little further again. As Newton said, it's only because I have stood on the shoulders of chain-smoking Russian giants. Thank you so much for listening. I will continue this analysis, and please let me know what you think.

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