The Metaethics of

Ayn Rand and Objectivism















Foundations of Ethics







January 2001


Table of Contents




o Introduction ……………………………………………….. p. 3-5



Early Ayn Rand …………………………………… p. 5-6





Literary Period ………………………….…………. p. 7-8





Philosophical Period ……………………………… p. 8-9









o Metaethics ………………………………………………… p.9-10



Existence as Primary …………..……....………… p. 10-11





Animate vs. Inanimate Objects ………………….. p. 11-13





Life and Value ………………….…………………. p. 13-14





Fact and Value: The Randian Synthesis ………... p. 15-17





The Rational Man ………………………………… p. 17-19





Volition and Mind-Body Synthesis ………………. p. 19-21









o Conclusion: Aristotle, Nietzsche and Rand …….……….. p. 21-23







o Works Cited ………………………………………….…….. p. 24-25











Introduction


Despised by academics, passionately loved by her followers, Ayn Rand, the novelist-philosopher, has evicted the whole gambit of emotions and responses. Her work has been ridiculed and praised. Her followers’ devotion has produced outcries of cultism, allowing one author to write a stirring critique[1] and another a book.[2] Despite this, Ayn Rand remains, one of the most polarizing writers of the 20th century. Barbara Branden, a longtime associate, wrote of her:


Few figures in this century have been so admired and so savagely attacked. She is viewed as goddess and as malefactor, as a seminal genius and an ominously dangerous corrupter of the young, as the mightiest voices for reason and the destroyer of traditional values, as the espouser of joy and the exponent of mindless greed, as the great defender of freedom and the introducer of malevolent values into the mainstream of American thought.[3]


Her followers can be found in the Federal Reserve, with Chairman Allan Greenspan, who some 53% of respondents[4] gave the responsibility of the current economic boom in the United States of America, bypassing such important institutions as the Clinton Presidency and Congress. Rand was greatly known for her literary works, the Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, the former, presenting the idealized man, the latter presenting an idealized conception of life, society and politics.


Despite Ms. Rand’s popularity, academia has been slow to produce many scholarly books on her or her philosophy, which she has labeled as Objectivism. Indeed, much of academia, an overcrowded cesspool of contemporary liberalism and postmodernity, has shunned her, precisely because of her strong ideological contempt for them and their views. Rand herself had an unyielding contempt for the intellectual atmosphere of her time. In her book, For the New Intellectual, she wrote, “The majority of those who posture as intellectuals today are frightened zombies, posturing in a vacuum of their own making, who admit their abdication from the realm of the intellect by embracing such doctrines as Existentialism and Zen Buddhism.”[5] Her passionate defense of values such as: capitalism, reason, egoism, and atheism, made her enemies in every intellectual circle. William Buckley’s conservative magazine, the National Review, reviewed Atlas Shrugged, accusing her of fascism and totalitarianism.[6] Liberal critics were no less scathing in their attacks. Granville Hicks of the New York Times wrote, “Loudly as Miss Rand proclaims her love of life, it seems clear that the book is written out of hate...”[7] However, throughout this bombardment of negative contempt and accusatory rhetoric, sales of Rand’s works were exponential.[8] It seems for all her “hate” and intellectual naivetι, people across North America were tuning in to Ayn Rand’s message. A message that refused compromise and irrationality, a message that worshiped the self, a message that romanticized greatness, a message of perennial importance.





The Early Ayn Rand


Ayn Rand, the woman, was born and raised in Moscow, Russia, under the name Alice Rosenbaum.[9] Born of Jewish heritage, in a country ruled by a despotic Czar and a mystic Church, she was even as a child, a bright and enigmatic figure. Her mother attempted in vain to instill femininity in the young Ayn Rand but to no avail. Instead, even as a child, the young Ayn Rand derived her value from her mind. In 1917, the Bolshevik Revolution would take place and life would never be the same for Ayn Rand. For Rand, Russia seemed to be antithetical to her own life and beliefs. Rand “saw Russia as a nation that glorified the tragic and the malevolent, glorified the very qualities that were the antithesis of what she wanted in her own life and what she wanted to create in her stories.”[10] Rand, disgusted by the disintegration of her country and family, fled joyfully to