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Looking at Rand, Differently
|by Rajgopal Nidamboor|
For a non-scholastic philosopher, Ayn Rand holds a strong case for libertarian rights, yes. However, academic philosophy looks at her work as not worthy of notice because her views are encapsulated in novels and articles ' not learned expositions ' in which philosophical discussion is compounded by cultural annotations and political sponsorship. What's more, Rand's writing is 'sculpted' embellishment, aimed at the mass book market - not critical readership.
The reason? Simple. Complex. Paradoxical. Rand often left her reader to judge the psychological and social fabric of her principles and their alternatives, including a rational self-interest in ethics, lenient capitalism, and objectivism. She sure invited 'conflict,' thanks to her clear contempt for whosoever disagreed with her libertarian rights, ethical egoism, or the promotion of a person's rational interests, and rights. Besides, she also rationalized a generative pattern of an integrated register of virtues - from rationality, productiveness, pride, and independence to integrity, honesty, and justice.
Rand also argued that consciousness was the basic means of human survival. In her own words: "It does not mean a momentary or merely physical survival. It does not mean the momentary physical survival of a mindless brute, waiting for another brute to crush his skull. It does not mean the momentary physical survival of a crawling aggregate of muscles who is willing to accept any terms, obey any thug, and surrender any values for the sake of what is known as -survival at any price,- which may or may not last a week or a year."
While it is true that without productive work, our race would 'kick the bucket,' it does not necessarily mean that every human being must engage in productive work in order to survive. If 'man' - as Rand refers to the human species - chooses to live, rational ethics will tell him what principles of action are required to implement his choice. If he does not choose to live, nature will take its course. More so, because questioning of the choice to live need not be presented directly by another person.
Rand's 'philosophy' is quite unacceptable, because it depends at crucial points upon grounds that are either uncertain or artificial. As Rand often used the expression that "every living human being is an end in himself" - a denial that the proper, or moral, purpose of anyone's life is to be subordinated to the ends, or the welfare of others. If so, it is simply an abridged interpretation of egoism from which, of course, it clearly follows that one must not let go oneself to others.
That's not all. Though the egoist never, in fact, finds it to be in Rand's interests to engage in rights-violating behavior, she never really respected anyone's rights. To value someone's rights is to look upon something about that person ' such as his welfare, or freedom ' as having an independent claim to one's esteem. In other words, one ought to break off from being self-centered, or stop estimating the range of permitted actions exclusively in terms of self-interest.
Rand did indicative work, all right. But, her ambition far exceeded her achievement. Besides, her endeavors to corroborate egoism have not been patently successful. More importantly, she has also not effectively defended the universal truth of her Harmony Thesis - to [re]unite her essence of egoism-libertarian rights, where selfishness is distinctly celebrated as a virtue, and not a nasty idea. Got it? Go figure!
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