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Rand’s ethics is a direct application of her theory of knowledge. In her­ emphasis on the centrality of reason, Rand enunciates both an epistemological and normative principle. If reason is how we gain knowledge, it is simultaneously how we (as human beings) survive. That is, we should use our rational faculty if we choose to live. In Rand’s ethics, life, as an ultimate value, cannot be separated from reason, purpose, and self-esteem. The issues involved in Rand’s ethical theories are enormous, complex, and controversial. Indeed, no other aspect of Rand’s thought has ­ received as much scholarly attention as her defense of egoism.1 Rand herself ­ believed that in addition to her theories of concept formation and politics, her ethics were among her most important philosophic contributions (in Peikoff 1976T, lecture 8). It is impossible to convey the depth of Rand’s ethics here. Once again, I focus chiefly on the nondualistic elements of Rand’s approach. beyond fact and value As we have seen, Rand’s emphasis on reason cannot be fully understood without appreciating her antipathy toward Russian mysticism. Most­ Russian religious philosophers had elevated faith and revelation to a­ status equal—or superior—to reason. But Russian philosophy was distinctive , in both its religious and Marxist incarnations, for its rejection of the­ Western-positivist separation of fact and value.2 Rand’s repudiation of this very ­ distinction is a reflection of her Russian roots. ethics and human survival 215 216 ayn rand But Rand opposed the typically Russian attempts to synthesize fact and value through statist or supernatural means. In their efforts to combat the bifurcation of fact from value, Russian thinkers fell victim to monistic­ reductionism. Both Bolshevism and Russian orthodoxy aimed for a union that emphasized a different element of the polarity. For Rand, communism was a form of materialism that attempted to transcend the fact-value­ dichotomy by a monistic emphasis on the factual. Rand characterized communists as “mystics of muscle,” who saw all values as epiphenomena of material forces. They stressed a change in the material “base” as a means to the transformation of human values. Inevitably, the base could not be altered without the violent intervention of the secular, totalitarian state. By contrast, Rand interpreted religion as a form of spiritualism in which the fact-value distinction was resolved by a one-sided emphasis on spiritual values to the detriment of material reality. The religionists, or “mystics of spirit,” saw all things in the world as infused with intrinsic worth or divinity . Ultimately, their dogmatic definition of absolute values translated into an equally authoritarian statism of the theocratic form. Both the Bolsheviks and the Russian mystics were the paradigm for Rand’s rejection of materialism and idealism. Both perpetuated the bifurcation of existence and consciousness. In essence, the materialists “believe in existence without consciousness,” and idealists “in consciousness without existence.” In Atlas Shrugged, Rand wrote: “Both demand the surrender of your mind, one to their revelations, the other to their reflexes. No ­ matter how loudly they posture in the roles of irreconcilable antagonists, their moral codes are alike, and so are their aims: in matter—the enslavement of man’s body, in spirit—the destruction of his mind” (1027). The religionists had embraced a kind of intrinsicism. In epistemology, such intrinsicism emphasizes metaphysical essences grasped by intuitive revelation. In ethics, it sees the good as inherent in things or actions­ regardless of their context or consequences. Intrinsicism separates the concept of “value” from the valuer and his distinctive purposes. It sees the good as good “in, by, and of itself,” part of reality, and totally independent of consciousness. It tends toward dogmatism and authoritarianism. Not surprisingly, aspects of this intrinsicist approach to ethics were­ exemplified in the works of Lossky. Lossky saw facts and values as part of the same reality. For Lossky ([1917] 1928): “Values do not constitute a separate realm of their own, distinct from existence” (178). It was the goal of human beings to discover those absolute values which inhered in reality, as a means to a communion with God. Like Solovyov before him, and most ­ Russian neo-idealists, Lossky proposed an ethic that was profoundly mystical and altruistic. Lossky believed that egoism entailed the human separation from ethics and human survival  217 the Kingdom of Harmony. As such, selfishness was the “primary evil, giving rise to all kinds of derivative evil” (Lossky 1951, 262). In this regard, Lossky echoed the central themes of Russian...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780271061214
Related ISBN
9780271062273
MARC Record
OCLC
860712160
Pages
496
Launched on MUSE
2013-11-04
Language
English
Open Access
No
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