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                                   Chapter 1 
   * What is Objectivism?  
   * Randism vs. Objectivism  
   * Rand's incorrect definition of selfish  
   * Rand's personal statist views  
   * Rand's failure to distinguish between politics and economics  
   * The non-existent "Is-Ought" dichotomy  
   * Objectivist Values  
   * The Antagonism Between Philosophy and Science  
   * How Scientists Can Build Bombs  
   * The Connection Between Philosophy and Science  
   * The Scientific Attitude of Mind  
   * Some History of Science  
   * Science vs. Magic  
   * Examples of the Scientific Attitude applied  
   * Some Critiques of Science  
   * Why Objectivism is rejected  
   * Hallmarks of a Cult  
   * The Commentator Syndrome  
   * Objectivism in the Universities  

   * What is Objectivism? 
   Objectivism is not a religion. Nor is it, as it is widely described, "The 
philosophy of Ayn Rand." Although Rand originated the founding principles of 
Objectivism, she herself was NOT an Objectivist. 
   Objectivism is a tool of thinking. I often compare it to the Calculus, 
which is also a tool of thinking. Whereas the Calculus is a tool of 
mathematical thinking, Objectivism is a tool of philosophical thinking. And 
just as the Calculus results from the solution to a math problem that was 
known for over a thousand years (the calculus of the infinitesimals), 
Objectivism results from the solution to a philosophical problem that was 
known for over a thousand years (the Problem of the Universals). 
   You may recall that Plato and his cronies tried to deal with this problem 
and ended up defining "Man" as a "featherless biped." It was soon revealed 
that such an erroneous definition did not enable them to distinguish between 
a Man and a Plucked Chicken. 
   My point is that they were unable to make a correct definition, and thus 
unable to differentiate exactly between what a thing IS and what it is NOT. 
Whether the thing in question is a man, a bird, a chair, a planet, or any 
other entity whatsoever. This situation prevailed for over a thousand years, 
until in 1966 Ayn Rand published the solution to the Problem of the 
Universals. The process of thinking she revealed enabled the formulation of 
true and accurate definitions, and thus laid the foundation for a set of ideas 
(Objectivism) that encompasses and explains all those fields of human 
experience that had previously been believed to be outside the realm of 
scientific examination: Metaphysics, Epistemology, Ethics, Morality, 
Spirituality, Psychology, Politics, Economics, Esthetics... etc. 

   Objectivism is not a philosophers' fantasy, but a real-world functional 
philosophy. This may be why so many philosophers ignore it, reject it out-of-
hand, or insist on dealing with it in a nit-picking manner. Picking nits in 
each other's fantasies is what professional philosophers do for a living. They 
are merely playing word games. Objectivism, because it is based on and deals 
with the facts of reality, is outside their intellectual frame-of-reference. 
   The only people who can take their nonsense seriously are those who believe 
that philosophy IS merely a word game, having no practical application to real 
life. People who take ideas seriously, and have a genuine concern for learning 
precepts that will guide them in successful living, will simply reject such 
"word game" philosophy and give it no further notice. 
   Objectivism is a philosophy for living on THIS earth, not some 
fantasyland, or some philosophers' wonderland of worthless words. As such, 
it pays off handsomely in real life. 
   Objectivism works in all areas of life. The Objectivist, unlike 
professional philosophers who scorn "reality," does not have to abandon his 
profession when he leaves his workplace and crosses a busy street. 
   Objectivism holds that it is morally up to each individual to look out 
for number one, but not only number one. When we choose to bear certain 
responsibilities (such as responsibilities to our children or spouse) we are 
morally obligated to come through for them. Objectivism holds that there are 
no UNCHOSEN moral obligations to others or to "society" but that your CHOSEN 
obligations are of primary importance to your life. 
   Objectivism advocates Self-interest: A life in pursuit of your true 
interests as a human being, in which production and trade, not theft, are the 
central activities of a free society. 
   This is not a life of trying to grab the biggest slice of the pie in a 
zero-sum economic game, but a life of producing more and bigger pies. 
   It is not a life of screwing the other guy for your own gain, but one of 
upholding your promises and contracts, and knowing that it is in your own 
interest to fulfil your chosen obligations. 
   It is not a life of cheating on your debts while indulging your pleasures, 
but a life of accepting your chosen responsibilities and earning the trust of 
others and honor for yourself. 
   It is not a life of greedy scheming and back-stabbing, but one in which 
you, by practicing the virtues of honesty, integrity, and justice, help to 
advance the smooth operation of free markets, and strengthen the fabric of 
civil society. 
   It is not a life that is mean, solitary and devoid of community activity, 
but one in which you give generously of your time and money to work with and 
support people and organizations that share your values and have earned your 

   In considering the most fundamental way of thinking about the nature of 
the universe, there are two distinct ideas: 
   One, known as subjectivity, asserts fundamentally that existence is created 
by consciousness. 
   The other idea, known as objectivity, asserts fundamentally that there is 
indeed a real world that has its own existence, independent of any perceiving 
   Observe that the objectivity thesis governs your behavior, even if it does 
not control your thoughts and speech. If this were not so, you would already 
be dead: You wouldn't stop on the curb to let the trucks go roaring past, you 
wouldn't cook your food, you wouldn't drive on the appropriate side of the 
road, you wouldn't practice safe sex.... etc. The only sincere solipsist is a 
dead solipsist. 
   Objectivity is, metaphysically, the recognition of the fact that reality 
exists independently of any perceiver's consciousness. Epistemologically, it 
is the recognition of the fact that a perceiver's consciousness must acquire 
knowledge of reality by certain means (reason) in accordance with certain 
rules (logic). 
   Objectivism is the intellectual process of correctly and consistently 
applying the principle of objectivity to the universe in general. 
   Objectivism can be considered as a generalization of the Scientific Method, 
itself a subset of Objectivism, which is the process of applying objectivity 
to the physical world specifically. 

   Objectivism rests inductively on the very body of knowledge which it 
integrates and explains. As a result, its philosophical principles are 
contextual; they cannot be evidentially closed. They are always subject to 
further confirmation, qualification, or revision. The reason that Objectivism 
is not, and cannot ever be, a closed system, is that there will always be more 
truths to be discovered, and human beings will always be growing in 
intellectual power, thus always improving the intellectual process by which we 
identify those truths. 
   An excellent statement of objectivity was made by Albert Einstein: 
   "Out yonder there is this huge world, which exists independently of us 
human beings and which stands before us like a great, eternal riddle, at least 
partially accessible to our inspection and thinking." 
   In the realm of scientific endeavor, objectivity (in the form of the 
Scientific Method) has predominated. But in other realms of human endeavor, 
such as Psychology, Ethics, and Politics, objectivity has had much less 
influence in human history, mainly because the lack of a solution to the 
Problem of the Universals precluded the sort of firm and direct linkage 
between concepts of consciousness and reality as exists between scientific 
concepts and reality (where truth prevails in a much more immediate and direct 
   But Rand's solution to the Problem of the Universals showed that 
definitions are not arbitrary, and she demonstrated how to derive them 
directly from observations of reality. She also showed that the same cognitive 
process that enables you to construct a correct definition also enables you to 
think in principles: to identify and classify things by reference to their 
fundamental distinguishing characteristics. 
   This epistemological breakthrough enabled objectivity to be applied to ALL 
areas of human activity. The work of Rand and other philosophers who have 
taken up this effort has produced a set of principles now known as the 
Philosophy of Objectivism. These principles stand in distinct contrast to most 
of traditional philosophy and are, by and large, rather unpopular. (But that 
is to be expected of any set of ideas that is new and challenges the existing 
state of affairs. It has always been this way.) 
   Objectivism is the only philosophy that is completely consistent with 
physics. The ideas of Objectivism are founded upon a set of axiomatic 
concepts: Existence, Identity, and Consciousness, and are derived from those 
concepts by the cognitive procedure set forth in the Objectivist Epistemology. 
This is a scientific, rationalist, method of thinking which subsumes the 
Scientific Method of determining truth. In her essay "The Objectivist Ethics," 
Rand applies this intellectual procedure to identifying a rational basis for 
ethics and morality. Nathaniel Branden, in his book "The Psychology of Self-
Esteem," applies the procedure to identifying the bases of human psychology. 
Harry Browne gave us a rational explanation of the nature of economics. John 
Hospers and Murray Rothbard carried the procedure into the field of politics. 
   But the fundamental concern of Objectivism is not politics or ethics or 
economics, etc. as such, but the fullness of man's nature and his relationship 
to existence. The specific ideas I present here are chosen or constructed in 
order to accomodate the life of a rational being. 

   A philosophy is a set of principles which provides a consistent and 
comprehensive frame of reference from which to judge man and his environment. 
   If a philosophy is to be a comprehensive frame of reference it must 
encompass the full scope of man's thoughts and activities. Especially must it 
include Metaphysics, Epistemology, Ethics, Morality, Psychology, Politics, 
Economics and Esthetics--since all of man's activities are founded on one or 
more of these fields of study. I will give a brief exposition of the 
Objectivist principles as they apply to each of these fields. In order to 
clarify my presentation I will in each case contrast the Objectivist position 
with its contrary or opposite. The general schema looks like this: 

                   Metaphysics     objectivity vs. subjectivity 
                   Epistemology    reason vs. faith 
                   Ethics          egoism vs. altruism 
                   Morality        self-interest vs. degeneracy 
                   Psychology      free will vs. determinism 
                   Politics        libertarianism vs. statism 
                   Economics       free enterprise vs. socialism 
                   Esthetics       romanticism vs. anti-romanticism 

         Let us consider each of these terms and see what they mean. 

   Metaphysics is the science that deals with the fundamental nature of 
reality. As I pointed out above, there are basically only two viewpoints in 
this area. One, objectivity, maintains that there is a real, factual world 
which exists independently of the consciousness of any perceiving entity. This 
is not to say that there is no interrelationship between consciousness and 
reality, or that an acting conscious entity cannot alter and transform the 
entities of reality by acting in accord with the physical laws that describe 
reality, but rather that the facts of reality have their own existence whether 
we are aware of them or not. Subjectivity, on the other hand, maintains that 
reality, in its fundamental essence, is not a firm absolute but is instead 
somehow dependent on, or a function of, consciousness. The basis of 
subjectivity is a denial of the Law of Identity. 
   (There is another, quite different, sense in which the term subjective is 
used: it refers to choices or decisions--usually economic choices or 
decisions--which are generated by reference to internal states of 
consciousness rather than by assessment of external factors. For example: the 
choice between chocolate or vanilla ice cream is a subjective choice. But the 
choice between an ice cream cone for me or a bottle of milk for my hungry baby 
should be an objective choice.) 

   Epistemology is the study of the source, nature and validity of human 
knowledge. Here the Objectivist says that since there is a real world "out 
there" (outside myself) it is the job of my consciousness to identify it. To 
do this I make use of my faculty of reason--the ability to perceive, identify 
and integrate the evidence of reality provided by my senses. The source of all 
my knowledge lies in the rigorous adherence to logic, the art of non-
contradictory identification of the facts of reality. The subjectivist, 
however, is bound by no such procedure. Since for him there is no firm, 
absolute "out there," his knowledge has its source in some form or another of 
introspection (revelation) and its validity is accepted on faith, that is, 
accepted without evidence or in spite of evidence to the contrary. 
Subjectivism is not an issue of what a statement or conclusion is about; it's 
an issue of the kind of evidence one uses to support a conclusion. It is not 
only a way of adopting conclusions, but also a way of evading conclusions by 
refusing to believe in them. It is not merely an emotional state of mind, it 
is a philosophy. It says that we should act on our own impulses no matter what 
they are BECAUSE they are impulses. The very fact that we feel them is not 
only good enough to justify our actions, but the awareness that they are 
impulses is all the validation we, as human beings, require. To a 
subjectivist, rational explanation of thoughts and actions is not only 
unnecessary, but impossible. 

   Concerning Ethics and Morality I make this distinction: Morality describes 
intra-personal actions whereas Ethics describes inter-personal actions. For 
example: dope addiction is immoral (it is self-destructive) but it is not 
unethical. Stealing to support one's addiction is, however, unethical. 
Drunkenness is merely immoral, but blocking the sidewalk with your stupefied 
body is unethical. Refusing to think is immoral, but failing, through this 
intellectual laziness, to fulfil your obligations as a husband/father or 
wife/mother is unethical. As you probably infer, I believe that most unethical 
actions have their basis in immorality. I will save you the trouble of 
consulting your dictionary by telling you that this distinction is 
etymologically unjustifiable. Cicero was the first to use the term "morals" 
and as he did so he noted that he meant this term to have precisely the same 
meaning as the Greek term "ethics." Since that time the two terms have been 
used synonymously, but I think it clear that there is a distinction to be made 
between two kinds of behavior, and the most appropriate terms to use in 
labeling this distinction are Ethics and Morality. 

   In the field of Ethics the Objectivist position is egoism: that man is an 
end in himself, not a means to the ends of others, and that each man should 
live his own life for his own sake. The contrary position, altruism, holds 
that man must make the welfare of others the primary goal of his social 
relationships and that self-sacrifice is the highest virtue. 
   At this point I am sometimes beset with an argument that starts out: "Do 
you mean to say that you're the sort of wretched brute who tramples all over 
other people to gain your ends?" and continues by proposing a kind of false 
dichotomy which divides all human intercourse into two categories: sadism and 
masochism, and then tries to sell me masochism on the grounds that sadism is 
my only alternative. Most people posing this argument refuse to recognize the 
existence of a third type of man: the independent, self-supporting, profit-
making trader, who neither sacrifices others to himself nor himself to others. 

   Morally, this sort of independently existing man is a self-interested 
person. That is to say, he is a man who is CONCERNED WITH HIS OWN BENEFITS. 
This implies, of course, that he knows what his own benefits actually are. Is 
it in one's own physical self-interest to be a drunkard or a dope fiend? 
Hardly, for these activities are clearly self-destructive. Is it in one's own 
psychological self-interest to be a liar or a thief? Again, no, because these 
actions, although not as obviously self-destructive as alcoholism or other 
drug addiction, are saboteurs of the mind's most basic function: integration. 
You cannot integrate a contradiction, and both lies and thefts are 
contradictions. (My second examples--liar/thief--are not merely immoral but 
unethical as well, and you can see from considering them that unethical 
actions are associated with immoral conditions.) What I'm trying to point out 
is that many actions which are usually called "selfish" (lies, thefts, or the 
wretched brute trampling on his poor fellow creatures) are not IN FACT in 
one's self-interest at all, and that the truly self-interested man is one who 
has carefully examined and rationally analysed his nature as a proper human 
being and thereby determined just what is IN FACT in his self-interest. The 
liar, thief and brute are not self-interested, they are actually self-
destructive. Genuine self-interest requires an awareness of the larger social 
context that makes it possible to achieve one's values. 
   Objectivist morality has two fundamental bases: the acceptance of life 
itself as the standard of values; and the identification of the actions that 
are required by our nature to maintain that standard--to sustain life. The 
primary task of morality is to identify the conditions that must be satisfied 
to live successfully. We prove that something is a proper moral value by 
showing that we need it in order to live properly. We prove that some course 
of action is a virtue by showing that it is required to achieve a proper moral 

   In the realm of Psychology, Objectivism holds that man is a creature of 
free will. This is to say that he is capable of making choices which are 
causal primaries. Determinism, on the other hand, is the principle that all 
of man's choices and actions are determined by forces (usually heredity 
and/or environment) which are outside of his control. 

   In political issues Objectivists are promoters of the libertarian ideal. 
Our political goals are based on the ethical principle that no man or group 
of men has the right to engage in coercion against the person or property of 
other people. We hold that there are only three proper functions of a 
governing agency: the military, to protect men against aggression by foreign 
criminals, the police, to protect men against aggression by domestic 
criminals, and the courts, to resolve disagreements which can at times arise 
even among just and rational men. We hold that a governing agency has no right 
to restrict a person's activities in the moral area (thus we oppose drug laws, 
laws forbidding sex acts between consenting adults, and all other "victimless 
crime" laws) and that it can rightfully act in the ethical area only when 
force (or its derivative, fraud) have been initiated. Thus we oppose all 
taxes, subsidies, tariffs and import/export restrictions, licensing laws, and 
all other laws restricting the freedom of production, transportation and 
trade. In brief, we advocate a political system wherein each individual has 
the right to do anything whatsoever which does not initiate force or fraud 
against anyone else, and in which the role of a governing agency is strictly 
restrained to the protection of that right. This is in contrast to the statist 
system, which is widespread and becoming ever more prevalent today, in which 
the State exercises predominant control over the behavior of individuals, 
continually increasing the scope and intensity of its regimentation and by "a 
long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariable the same Object, 
evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism." 

   Corresponding to its political system, a society has an associated economic 
system. Considering the nature of libertarianism, it is clear that its 
associated economic system must have a strong foundation in the individual's 
right to own, control, use and dispose of his private property. Objectivists 
advocate a capitalist economic organization in which the means of production--
land, capital, etc.--are owned and controlled by individuals (or voluntarily 
associated groups of individuals), and in which there are no restrictions on 
the freedom of production, transportation and trade. The opposite form of 
economic organization, socialism (of which fascism and communism are 
variants), is a system in which economic resources are controlled by the State 
and in which individuals have little, if any, economic freedom. 

   The last philosophical category I will consider is that of art forms. Here, 
as before, I divide the field into two major domains. One, subsumed by the 
term romanticism (Ayn Rand's term was "romantic realism"), includes all those 
works which are based on the recognition that man is a volitional creature--
that he has the power to make choices and that those choices are major 
determinators of his life. The greatest portrayal of romantic heroism can be 
found in the novels of Ayn Rand. The major task of a romantic work of art is, 
as Aristotle said, "to show things as they might be and ought to be." The 
other esthetic domain (which, for lack of a suitable general label, I will 
simply call "anti-romanticism") shows things as they "must be" (or are seen to 
be) and depicts man as a creature who has, essentially, no power over his 
destiny. Anti-romanticism began with classicism, evolved into naturalism, and 
is in turn evolving into absurdism. The best such work of great classical 
literature is the Greek drama "Oedipus Rex." A good example of naturalism is 
"Death of a Salesman" and a typical representative of absurdism is "Waiting 
for Godot." 
   Esthetically, an Objectivist is a romantic realist. Existentially, he is a 
practical idealist. 

   If I were asked to express the essence of Objectivism in one short 
statement I could do no better than to paraphrase Ayn Rand, the foremost 
identifier of these principles: 
   Man is a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his 
life, non-aggression as his standard of social behavior, productive 
achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute. 

   * Randism vs. Objectivism 
   When Nathaniel Branden was asked (after his break with Rand) if he were 
an Objectivist, he replied: 
   "If you mean, do I agree with the broad fundamentals of the philosophy of 
Objectivism, I would answer, 'Yes.' But if you mean, as Miss Rand might very 
well wish you to mean, do I agree with every position that Miss Rand has 
taken and do I regard the sum total of Miss Rand's intellectual 
pronouncements as being equal to what is meant by the philosophy of 
Objectivism, then I am not an Objectivist." 

   I would like to introduce these two terms: 
   A Randite is a disciple of Ayn Rand. 
   Randism is the set of ideas that were Rand's personal beliefs. (This 
includes, of course, some, but not all, of the precepts of Objectivism.) 

   There is a very important distinction to be made between Randism and 
Objectivism. Randism asserts the congruency of Rand's statements with the 
principles of Objectivism: "what Rand says and only what Rand says is 
Objectivism." The fact that Rand has made incalculably valuable 
identifications of certain philosophical principles does by no means convey 
upon her exclusive or infallible authority in the further identification or 
application of those principles; nor, on the other hand, do the incorrect 
identifications and improper applications she made in her personal life 
diminish in any way the truth or usefulness of the philosophical principles 
themselves. Unfortunately, the waters of Objectivism have been muddied by 
Rand's repeated attempts to convert her personal preferences into 
philosophical precepts, and by people who attempt to teach Objectivism 
without making the distinction I make here. 
   A big difference between Objectivists and Randites is that Objectivists 
do not view Objectivism as a dogma, i.e., a set of ideas to be accepted 
without question. We see it as an intellectual tool, much the same as the 
Scientific Method, that is useful in helping us to understand the world. 
From this point of view, the idea that someone can be "an enemy of 
Objectivism" (one of Leonard Peikoff's favorite denunciations) is as 
ridiculous as the idea that someone can be "an enemy of the Integral 
Calculus." (However, there is a sense in which Peikoff's denunciation has 
validity. There are many people who so hate the principles of Objectivism 
and their implications, especially those which point to personal self-
responsibility, that they never miss a chance to deny, disparage and 
misrepresent Objectivism and denigrate the people who advocate and practice 
its principles.) 
   There are many parallels to be drawn between Rand/Objectivism and 
Newton/The Calculus. In each case an immensly powerful, beautiful and useful 
intellectual tool was derived by a human being who possessed some of the 
foibles of humanity. In each case the tool was jealously clung to and 
possessively circumscribed by its creator. In each case the tool was 
rejected and reviled by some reactionary people. And in each case (as time 
will eventually demonstrate) the power and utility of the tool will outlast 
the small-minded people who criticize it. Alongside these parallels there is 
a significant difference: it would be rather farfetched to regard a set of 
mathematical principles as a religion, but it is quite possible (and is 
indeed the practice of some people) to regard a set of philosophical 
principles as a religion. There are those who adulate Rand almost as if she 
were a deity and who regard Objectivism as a sacred dogma. And, on the other 
hand, there are many people in the world who reject a good and powerful set 
of ideas simply because they associate--wrongly--those ideas with the 
personal beliefs of Ayn Rand. 
   The important aspects of Rand's life are her philosophical achievements, 
not her personal attributes. Her personal foibles will eventually fade into 
the oblivion of historical forgetfulness--like Aristotle's male chauvinism, 
or Newton's alchemy, or Einstein's socks--and what will be left for future 
generations are the valuable philosophical identifications she made. How 
Rand was buffeted by the intellectual currents of her time is of course of 
interest to the historian of ideas; but it has little bearing on the truth 
of her philosophical propositions. 

   I would say this to the Randites: Abandon the contention that the 
principles of Objectivism and the pronouncements of Ayn Rand are congruent 
sets. Realize that Objectivism, like the Scientific Method, is an open-ended 
set of principles rather than a closed and rigidly specified dogma. 
Recognize the importance of the work being done by those scholars who are 
trying to develop the ethical and political implications of the Objectivist 
Ethics. Until you do this, you will only be ostracizing yourselves from the 
living and powerful body of philosophy that is growing on the foundation of 
Ayn Rand's magnificent achievements. 

   In the hard sciences like chemistry we know pretty well who is a real 
scientist and who is a flake, even though there is no authoritative 
organization to enforce standards. The logical nature of science 
automatically makes it clear who is in and who is out of a scientific 
enterprise. You can tell whether or not someone is "really" a chemist by 
comparing his statements and actions with the fundamental principles of 
   It is the same with "Objectivists." You don't have to (and shouldn't) 
take anyone's word for who they are. You must examine their principles and 
judge whether or not those principles are in accord with the fundamental 
precepts of Objectivism. Just as a scientist manifests certain specific 
attributes, an Objectivist manifests certain specific attributes: 
objectivity, rationality, libertarianism. 
   The hallmarks of an Objectivist are: 
   In Metaphysics: objectivity; the belief that there is a reality which 
exists independently of consciousness. 
   In Epistemology: reason rather than faith; the belief that it is the 
function of man's mind to perceive and understand reality--and the 
confidence that the mind is capable of doing so.  
   In Ethics: libertarianism; the belief that the only proper society is one 
that is founded upon the non-aggression principle. 
   By these signs you shall know him. Any person who denies any of these 
three ideas is NOT an Objectivist. A full-context Objectivist will display 
another behavior also: he will have Shrugged. 

   To say "Ayn Rand's Objectivism" is somewhat like saying "Trofim Lysenko's 
genetics." In both cases, the set of ideas referred to is limited, severely 
distorted and, in some fundamentally important ways, wrong. Those who 
operate on false principles have about as much to contribute to Objectivism 
as Lysenko contributed to genetics. The contention that Objectivism must be 
defined only by reference to the ideas expressed by Ayn Rand is like saying 
that the Calculus must be defined only by reference to the ideas expressed 
by Newton. The precepts of Objectivism must be accepted (or rejected) on the 
same basis as any other set of scientific ideas: on whether or not they 
WORK, not on what any person (myself included) claims they are or should be. 

   * Rand's incorrect definition of selfish
   You will observe that in my essays I do not use the term "selfish," but 
use instead "self-interested." Here is why. 
   From the introduction to THE VIRTUE OF SELFISHNESS, by Ayn Rand: 
      The title of this book may evoke the kind of question that I hear 
      once in a while: "Why do you use the word 'selfishness' to denote 
      virtuous qualities of character, when that word antagonizes so many 
      people to whom it does not mean the things you mean?".... there are 
      others, who would not ask that question, sensing the moral cowardice 
      it implies.... 

   There are, roughly speaking, three classes of people: 
   1. Those concerned with their own advantage without any regard for 
   2. Those who live for others, having little concern for self at all. 
   3. Those who are concerned with their own self-benefit and who are also 
aware of and concerned with their social context. 
   Rand makes a good case for altruism's having falsely divided humanity 
into just two classes, the first and the second, leaving no room for the 
third category, the "self-respecting, self-supporting man--a man who 
supports his life by his own effort and neither sacrifices himself nor 
others." But if you look into the history of the English language, you will 
find that Rand's use of the term "selfish" to designate the third category 
is not conclusively justified etymologically. 
   Historically, the terms most often used to designate the three categories 
   1. Selfish: concerned with one's own advantage without regard for others. 
This has almost always been described as wicked.  
   2. Selfless: having no concern for self. This has always been described 
as being ethically laudable. 
   3. Self-interested: concerned with one's own well-being. This has only 
sometimes been described as a vice. 
   These three usages are quite sensible terms of classification, enabling 
us to distinguish clearly among the three classes of people. Rand's 
insistence on using the term "selfish" to designate that third category is a 
mistake, both a cognitive mistake and a communications mistake. 
   It is a cognitive mistake because when she usurps the term "selfish" she 
does not provide an alternative term for the first category. ("Predation" 
would do just fine.) Thus she commits the same cognitive error for which she 
upbraids the altruist semantics: providing convenient terms for only two out 
of the three categories. 
   It is a communications mistake because the three terms enumerated above 
are distinctly specified also in such references as Webster's Collegiate 
dictionary, and thus are the terms most likely to be considered by educated 
   It is certainly true that there are many people to whom "selfish" does 
not mean the things Rand means, and to question her usage of the term may 
not, as she so stridently claims, be an act of "moral cowardice" but merely 
an attempt to preserve cognitive clarity and communications utility. 
   Perhaps it is no coincidence that in THE VIRTUE OF SELFISHNESS, Rand 
places at the very last her essay on "The Argument From Intimidation." 

   * Rand's personal statist views 
   In the realm of politics we must make a careful distinction between 
Rand's personal views and the implications of the Objectivist ethics. 
   The Objectivist principle is quite clear: 
   "The basic political principle of the Objectivist ethics is: no man may 
INITIATE the use of physical force against others. No man--or group or 
society or government--has the right to assume the role of a criminal and 
initiate the use of physical compulsion against any man." (From "The 
Objectivist Ethics," in THE VIRTUE OF SELFISHNESS.) 
   But Rand's personal stand is fundamentally statist. We can best see this 
in her answers to two questions put to her during her appearance at the Ford 
Hall Forum in 1972. 
   Question: Have you heard of the Libertarian Party and would you consider 
endorsing John Hospers and Tonie Nathan as presidential candidates? 
   Rand: "Look, I would rather vote for Bob Hope or the Marx brothers, if 
they still exist, or Jerry Lewis--I don't know who is the funniest today, 
rather than something like professor Hospers and the Libertarian Party. 
Look, I don't think Henry Wallace is a great thinker but even he--he's 
pretty much of a demagogue, though with some courage--even he had the good 
sense to stay home this time if he wanted to some extent--if he had one 
ounce of sincerity and wanted some freedom for his country. To choose this 
year to start after personal publicity--and if Hospers and whoever the rest 
are get ten votes away from Nixon, which I doubt, but if they do it is a 
moral crime." 
   Question: Will you comment on the issue of should amnesty be granted to 
draft dodgers? 
   Rand: "I think it is an improper question to be discussed while there is 
a war going on. It is a very complex question but you cannot, when men are 
dying in a war, say that you promise amnesty to those who refused. On the 
other hand I do not blame those who refused to be drafted if they did so out 
of general conviction, not necessarily religious, but if they oppose the 
state's right to draft them. They would have a case, and they would go to 
jail. And they would be willing to take that penalty." 
   Rand implied that the draft may be bad, but prisons are okay. Her 
assumption was that the Draft Law has legitimacy and that the State can 
dictate what our responsibilities are. What a distressing alternative: 
either submit to the draft or submit to imprisonment. No true libertarian 
would willingly accept either of these statist choices. 
   Both Rand and her disciples have continually asserted a strong opposition 
to the political implementation of libertarianism. And her acceptance of the 
legitimacy of government coercion was repeatedly expressed both in word and 

   * Rand's failure to distinguish between politics and economics 
   Another criticism I wish to present against Ayn Rand involves a failure 
that she expressed not just in her personal behavior but also in her 
philosophical writings. It is that she never made a distinction between 
Politics and Economics. She almost always referred to capitalism as 
"laissez-faire capitalism" or "free-market capitalism," thus inexorably 
integrating this primary economic concept with a political institution. 
   In my writings I will try to make a clear distinction between the two 
realms of human activity, and provide definitions that will make it easier 
to think about them. 

   * The non-existent "Is-Ought" dichotomy 
   Objectivism is a completely reality-oriented and very value-oriented 
philosophy. Thus, in any discussion of its precepts, the questions arise: 
How are values related to reality? How are normative propositions related to 
cognitive propositions? How does Objectivism handle the Is-Ought dichotomy? 
   There seems to be a big difference between descriptive statements (about 
what is) and prescriptive statements (about what ought to be). How exactly 
can you derive an "ought" from an "is"? Since its invention, this question 
has become one of the central issues of ethical theory. It was introduced by 
David Hume in 1740 in Book 3, Part 1 of his "Treatise of Human Nature" and 
then modernized in 1903 by the Cambridge philosopher George Edward Moore in 
his "Principia Ethica," where he asserts that normative propositions (the 
Ought) cannot possibly be derived from cognitive propositions (the Is). This 
dichotomy attempts to erect an impassable barrier between an entity and its 
behavior, between what a thing IS and what it OUGHT to do. 
   The dichotomy is similar to Vitalism, an abandoned relic from the history 
of biology. Vitalism was a doctrine that ascribed the functions of living 
organisms to a vital principle distinct from chemical and physical forces, 
thus attempting to erect an impassable barrier between life and non-life. 
Vitalism was devised by Georg Stahl about 1700 and was demolished by 
Friedrich Wohler in 1828, Pierre Berthelot in 1860, and Stanley Miller in 
1953. It has been proved repeatedly and conclusively that although living 
things are indeed different from non-living things, they are derived from 
them nonetheless. 
   Fortunately for the field of biology, the disproof of Vitalism has been 
fully recognized and accepted. Unfortunately for the field of philosophy, 
the Is-Ought dichotomy is still almost universally embraced. 
   People who accept this dichotomy ask, "How can you possibly draw valid 
conclusions about how human beings ought to act by studying the nature of 
man and, more broadly, the nature of reality?" 
   Objectivism responds: "How can you possibly draw valid conclusions about 
how man ought to act WITHOUT considering his nature and the nature of the 
reality in which he must act?" 
   Consider the field of medicine. Would anyone ask, "How can one possibly 
derive knowledge of what is good or bad for man's physical well-being by 
studying man and the world in which he lives?" I doubt it, because the 
answer is so blatantly obvious. 
   The assumption underlying the critic's question is that "ought" judgments 
must be obtained from a "voice of authority." But Objectivism maintains that 
there is only one ultimate authority: the facts of reality (that which 
"is"). And when reality is consulted, it clearly informs us that an object's 
identity determines its behavior. (For a further discussion of the question, 
"Who decides?" see The Objectivist Newsletter, February, 1965, Pg7) 
   The fact that action results from identity is universally accepted and 
used in the fields of physics, chemistry, and other realms of science. It is 
seen to be true not only of inanimate objects but also of living things. 
   It can be seen in the field of biology, where a thing's behavior is 
determined by internal as well as external influences. One would not attempt 
to grow an oak tree by treating it as though it were a mushroom, because an 
oak tree's identity is different from that of a mushroom, and therefore its 
behavior is different. 
   If we take another step up, from merely living objects to entities 
possessed of consciousness, we still see the same precept in action. 
Conscious entities are faced with alternatives. In those creatures whose 
consciousness functions automatically, that automatic functioning determines 
the creature's behavior in the face of its alternatives. 
   Now take another step up, to creatures whose consciousness is not 
automatic but volitional. Some conscious creatures, human beings in 
particular, possess that attribute of consciousness which Objectivists 
designate as volitional choice. Again we see the same precept in action: the 
creature's identity (its particular kind of consciousness) will determine 
its behavior. The difference is that in this case the "kind of 
consciousness" is not automatically expressed, but is a result of choice. 
Here, the creature has the power to deliberately choose among the 
alternatives it faces. 
   Because our power of choice is not automatic, but volitional, we 
semantically designate its expression--its outcome--not as "will be" but as 
"ought to be." The concept "ought" arises from the difference between an 
automatic form of consciousness and a volitional form of consciousness. 
   "Ought" refers to behavior, but a certain kind of behavior: that which is 
life-conducive as opposed to that which is life-detractive. The cognitive 
function of the word "ought" is to designate preferable actions, those which 
promote the goals of the acting creature. 
   The volitional nature of our consciousness is part of what we ARE, and it 
enables us to select, to a great extent, the significance of our behavior. 
What a thing IS, determines what it CAN do, what it WILL do, and if the 
thing is possessed of volitional choice, what it OUGHT to do. 
   The concept "ought" presupposes the possibility of a certain kind of 
behavior: a deliberate selection among alternatives. "Ought" has meaning 
only with reference to a conscious entity that has the ability to make such 
a selection. "Ought" assumes that there IS such an entity, and that the 
entity IS faced with an environment that IS containing alternatives. If any 
of these "IS" conditions are removed from consideration, then the "ought" is 
deprived of any meaning. It becomes a Stolen Concept. Thus, "ought" is based 
on "is." You cannot conceptually have "ought" without a preceeding "is." 
   It is the possession of volitional consciousness that gives rise to the 
whole field of normative propositions. The fact that a human being IS a 
creature of volitional consciousness is the direct and immediate source of 
all normative behavior. Morality and moral instruction are necessary because 
human beings do not live by instinct. Our consciousness is not hardwired to 
know automatically and infallibly what is good for us and what is bad for 
us. Yet in order to survive we MUST choose between these things. This is the 
fact of human nature that makes morality possible, and the reason we need 
the science of morality. 
   You will encounter a multitude of references to "bridging the Is-Ought 
gap" but that "gap" can never be bridged, simply because no such gap exists. 
It is merely a philosophical fantasy. The attempt to sever "ought" from 
"is"--the attempt to sever normative propositions from cognitive 
propositions--is merely an attempt to separate morality and ethics from the 
real world and from human understanding. 
   Moore and Objectivism take diametrically opposite views on the issue of 
volitional behavior. Objectivism maintains that what a thing IS determines 
what it OUGHT to do. Moore maintains that what a thing ought to do cannot be 
determined. Moore's idea is functionally useless, and if adopted will result 
in a person's staggering through life blindly--with no rational moral 
guidance. The ideas of Objectivism have great practical utility, and if 
adopted can lead to tremendous practical success. If you correctly determine 
what you ARE, and then carefully derive from that what you OUGHT to do, you 
will have acquired a practical guide for all the moral and ethical decisions 
of your life. 
   Objectivism is a philosophy for LIVING on earth. All life is subsumed by 
ought conditions. If those conditions are not met, the living creature dies. 
To attempt to establish guidance precepts that ignore those conditions (to 
think about Oughts not derived from Is) is suicidal. One must ask, why base 
your guidelines on how to deal with reality on anything OTHER than reality? 
How you should deal with reality is determined by its nature. What reality 
IS determines how one OUGHT to deal with it. Any assertion to the contrary 
implies that reality is not objective but subjective in its fundamental 
   Objectivism is a philosophy for living on THIS earth, not some 
fantasyland, not some philosophers' wonderland of worthless words where 
Oughts have no connection with reality. 
   The idea that we cannot derive Ought from Is, is a worse than worthless, 
self-contradictory philosophical fiction. In fact, all of us make Is-Ought 
derivations every day in the normal course of our lives. Such derivations 
are inescapable. 
   Examples are innumerable: 
   I can't read the fine print any more, therefore I ought to get a pair of 
   My baby is sick, therefore I ought to take her to a doctor. 
   I have a very high aptitude for math, therefore I ought to pursue a 
career in mathematics. 
   I love airplanes, therefore I ought to take flying lessons. 
   It's really hot in here, therefore I ought to turn on the air 
   Even the philosophy professor does this: 
   Well, I want to get my next paycheck, so I ought to get up this morning 
and go teach my students about the Is-Ought dichotomy. 
   The issue also has an interesting self-referential aspect: 
   This statement is a normative proposition because it ought not be derived 
from a cognitive observation of its nature, even though it has been. 
   David King's statements deny the Is-Ought dichotomy, therefore I ought to 
reject those statements, even this one -- especially this one! 

   I am tempted to say that EVERY time you act, you have expressed (at least 
implicitly) the conclusion, "I ought to take this action." And that the 
normative conclusion is always based on your observations of what you ARE, 
and of what the conditions of your environment ARE. Even if it's merely a 
whim-of-the-moment activity, such as choosing vanilla instead of chocolate 
in the ice-cream store, you have said, implicitly, "I ought to order vanilla 
just because I FEEL like eating vanilla!" 
   In this context, it doesn't matter whether or not the bases for the 
"oughts" are whims. The only relevant aspect of those bases is that they be 
factual components of your existence, and thus comprise the "Is" upon which 
rests your judgment of "Ought." (I will have more to say about values and 
their foundation in the next section.) 
   If indeed all actions are based on an "ought" impulse, then accepting the 
is-ought dichotomy inevitably results in having values with no action 
component, since the is-ought dichotomy dissociates this impulse from 
actions. This would explain the curious attitude of many people who believe 
that values can be genuine without having an action component. 

   The fact that the is-ought dichotomy (and much other subjectivist 
nonsense) cannot be accepted and practiced consistently without resulting in 
your eventual death is what leads to the separation of philosophical 
principle from real life behavior. Ultimately, what Moore accomplished was 
not the separation of "is" from "ought" but the separation of his philosophy 
from the reality of human life. 
   I am reminded of the story of the Logical Positivist who gave a lecture 
on why the word "God" is meaningless, then asked for directions to the 
nearest synagogue so he could say his prayers. "What has philosophy got to 
do with living?" he asked indignantly. Lest you think I jest, consider this 
remark by the famous philosopher Bertrand Russell: 
   "This [idea] is patently absurd; but whoever wishes to become a 
philosopher must learn not to be frightened by absurdities." 
   If you want to know whether or not Objectivism is consistent, don't ask a 
philosopher - test it by putting it into practice in the real world. 

   That which is practical is that which corresponds to reality. If you 
derive your moral code from the facts of reality, it will correspond to 
reality and will therefore be practical. As Rand put it: "The moral is the 
   Do you want to live in the subjectivist's cave, groveling in impotent 
terror at unknowable shadows flickering dimly on the wall? With no way of 
knowing what you ought to do to improve your situation? Or would you rather 
stand erect in the sunlight, living in a world where success is the natural 
result of human endeavor? The choice is yours; make it wisely. 

   I cannot overemphasize to new students of Objectivism that the entire 
Objectivist theory of values rests on the contention that what we OUGHT to 
do is absolutely derived from considerations of what we ARE. You must 
realize that definitions are NOT arbitrary! And that the definitions of 
moral and ethical concepts are no more arbitrary than are the definitions of 
scientific concepts. If you are not prepared to abandon the Is-Ought 
dichotomy there is no sense in proceeding any further in the study of 
Objectivist ethics. It will be simply meaningless to you. 

   For additional readings on this subject see: 
   The final chapter of THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SELF-ESTEEM by Nathaniel Branden. 
   "The Objectivist Ethics", which appears in THE VIRTUE OF SELFISHNESS. 

   * Objectivist Values 
   See "The Objectivist Ethics" in THE VIRTUE OF SELFISHNESS for Rand's 
derivation of values. 
   A value is that which one acts to gain and/or keep. 
   Values are not merely ideas that sit inside your head, waiting to be 
realized. They are not wishes, hopes or dreams. Values are those things that 
you actually ACT to gain or keep. They are actual facts, not fantasies. 
Nothing is a value unless you actually MAKE it a value. This is true even if 
the only action you are presently able to take is to make plans for your 
future behavior. A value without action is an empty value. If you believe 
that you can have a value without there being an action involved, then you 
have been effectively deprived of that value. 
   Values are rooted in the fact that living things must act to maintain 
their survival. Human values are a species of fact derived from man's needs 
as a living organism of a specific nature. They are objective because they 
rest upon and follow from certain facts about our existence: that we face an 
alternative of life or death; that we have specific needs and capacities; 
that our survival depends on the actions by which we exercise those 
capacities in order to meet those needs. Thus for a living organism, certain 
facts necessarily have value significance, and action significance. 
   Rand: "In answer to those philosophers who claim that no relation can be 
established between ultimate ends or values and the facts of reality, let me 
stress that the fact that living entities exist and function necessitates 
the existence of values and of an ultimate value which for any given living 
entity is its own life. Thus the validation of value judgments is to be 
achieved by reference to the facts of reality. The fact that a living entity 
IS, determines what it OUGHT to do." 
   Reality confronts man with a great many "musts", but all of them are 
conditional to the achievement of ends. The formula of realistic necessity 
is: "You must ACT if you want to achieve a desired effect." All values and 
moral virtues are necessitated by the law of causality. A moral code is a 
means to an end; it identifies the causes we must enact if we are to attain 
a desired effect. This is why ideas have consequences. We need standards for 
deciding what values to pursue, and what kinds of actions will achieve them. 
Thus man has an inescapable need for principles. 

   "Value" is sometimes used ambiguously to mean alternatively "that which 
promotes life," or "that which one acts to gain and/or keep." For the 
Objectivist, there is little difference between these two senses, since the 
Objectivist acts to gain and keep that which in fact promotes his life. 
   The concept of value is inextricably linked to the concept of life. The 
two concepts cannot be separated on a practical level. Each requires the 
other. Just as value presupposes a living valuer--"of value to whom and for 
what"--so life requires values, for without values the process of life is 
impossible: a man dies if he does not achieve values. 
   Value presupposes a valuer, and some purpose. It is only in relation to 
some valuer and purpose that something can be said to have value. Things are 
not valuable because of human whim, nor are they valuable in themselves 
apart from the human context; things are valuable because of their 
relationship to the existence of human beings. 

   The value of life preceeds the value of happiness. If you're not alive, 
you can't be either happy or unhappy. Therefore, life is a prerequisite to 
happiness, and must be held as a value primary to the value of happiness. 

   Rand argued that we must always know what we like and why we like it. 
This is in the interest of our own existence. It follows that we need to 
know what we hate and why we hate it. I must know my values, and why I hold 
them; I have not merely the need to do, but the need to know WHAT I do, lest 
in my blind efforts to live I should be slaying myself. I must also know my 
disvalues, and why they are disvalues, lest in my ignorance I fail to 
protect myself from being destroyed. 

   Keep in mind that the term "subjective value" has a specialized meaning 
in the field of economics. There, "subjective value" means merely "that 
which is of value to a subject," that is, to an acting human. The economic 
function of the term "subjective value" is to emphasize the fact that things 
don't have value in and of themselves apart from the value placed on those 
things by human beings. 

   Another important aspect of values is that they are idiosyncratic. 
   The libertarian ethic recognizes that within the ethical context of 
freedom, there can be an infinite number of different personal, individual 
expressions of free behavior. Thus each individual has the right to choose 
which are his own personal values, and that each has the right to prioritize 
his own set of values. Since each other person is an autonomous, self-
sovereign individual, you ought not expect him to have a value hierarchy 
identical to yours, and thus don't expect him to behave in the same way you 
would in similar circumstances. 

   To have a "Value Gestalt" is to have made the sum total of one's values, 
goals and life actions integrated into a directed whole. Ideally, one should 
make the ENTIRETY of one's existence a value. 

   * The Antagonism Between Philosophy and Science 
   Scientists are very devoted to the scientific method, and they find that 
the scientific method can be applied most successfully in the world that can 
be observed. Not the world of moral values or the world of philosophical 
thought, but in the laboratory where ideas can be tested. They regard 
science as the only really genuine form of knowledge. This leaves them with 
an empty spot in their lives. They're not practiced in applying logic and 
reason to questions of value or philosophy, so they frequently move this 
area of thought over to the realm of faith. Their very devotion to the world 
of fact leaves them hungry for some sort of clear guidance as to their 
conduct in the remainder of their lives. Scientists stay so long in the 
educational process, become so involved in their chosen, often quite narrow, 
specialties, that they come to the realities of everyday life much later 
than other people. Indeed, many scientists never come to grips with those 
realities at all. 
   On the other hand, philosophers spend their entire lives dealing with a 
world of imaginings, conjectures, and fantasies, NOT with the physical facts 
of reality--at least not beyond the faucet in the sink and the light switch 
on the wall. They look with disdain upon the world of the physicist and the 
engineer as being one of "crass materialism"--beneath the dignity of their 
lofty intellectual position and not worthy of any serious consideration. The 
result is that their ideas are usually entirely separated from reality and 
produce a distortion when applied to the real physical world. 
   Consider Immanuel Kant, for example. He went to school, then he was a 
tutor, then he was a professor at university for the rest of his life. As 
far as I know he never even did so much real-world engineering as to draw a 
bucket of water up out of a well. Thus whereas Thales (who was a bridge-
builder) gave us Aristotle, John Locke, and the United States of America--
Kant (who was a pure philosopher) gave us Fichte and Nazi Germany, Karl Marx 
and the Soviet Union. 
   But I cannot place all the blame on the shoulders of the philosophers. 
After all, the philosopher does only half the job--he just conceives the 
ideas. It is the scientist who creates the means of implementing those 
ideas. Both men are equally responsible for the effects of their joint 
   Just as the philosophers are guilty of not knowing science--and thereby 
of failing to test their ideas against reality, so the scientists are guilty 
of ignoring philosophy--and thereby failing to understand the principles 
underlying their actions. 

   * How Scientists Can Build Bombs 
   Interviewer: "You must feel good, working for peace like that." [on the 
Manhattan Project] 
   Richard Feynman: "No, that never enters my head, whether it is for peace 
or otherwise. We don't know. You see, what happened to me--what happened to 
the rest of us--is we STARTED for a good reason, then you're working very 
hard to accomplish something and it's a pleasure, it's excitement. And you 
stop thinking [about principles], you know; you just STOP." 
   Another participant in the Manhattan Project: 
   We were in the thick of the fray. We were filled with the passion and 
fervor of discovery. Nothing frightened us. Questions of ethics or 
responsibility were far from our minds. The only question that mattered was: 
   Another scientist, at age 89, had a related realization: 
   "People should be taught when they are young that they HAVE to consider 
the value of the experiment before they start in on it. It is absolutely not 
enough to be interested. But you get so carried away with interest that you 
lose all sense of proportion." 

   "Scientists are mercenaries without ties to any one society. Give a 
scientist a fascinating problem and all the money, equipment, and help that 
he or she needs to tackle that problem, and that scientist wouldn't care who 
the source of support was." ... Isaac Asimov 
   But is there really any justification for singling out the scientists? An 
ordinary housewife, when questioned about her new job assembling the fuzing 
devices used to activate nerve-gas bombs, remarked: "This is a really neat 
job! The hours are good, the work is easy and the pay is just fine." 

   Other observations of scientists' ethics: 
   Enrico Fermi was a hero-figure to many scientists. He designed and 
supervised the first nuclear reaction in the history of the world--in the 
squash court at the University of Chicago. He was dapper. Jaunty. He even 
had a sense of humor! Then he built the first nuclear bombs and started this 
whole nuclear misery. You expect him to look and act like Mephistopheles, 
but here was a marvelous little guy making jokes, while doing everything 
better than everyone else. I wanted to be like him, but I couldn't. I didn't 
have whatever it takes for a man to enjoy himself while perfecting these 
   When I first heard a Nazi scientist tell of his work on weapons, I 
wondered if it were possible to be so completely divorced from the 
consequences of one's work. It seemed to me that no matter how subtle the 
problem a given weapon presented or how challenging its contemplation might 
be, the ashes and the bones resulting from government's use of that weapon 
would, in the end, be the same. Was it his responsibility that the rockets 
he helped design had fallen on London, killing helpless civilians? He 
claimed it was not, that he had never been legally accused, that in fact the 
Americans were glad to whisk him away to work for them before the Russians 
could get hold of him. He had been happy to come, and never regretted it. In 
this rich country the stories about postwar conditions in Germany had seemed 
very unreal. As had the War Crimes trials. People had followed orders--yet 
they appeared to have committed crimes. This troubled his orderly mind and, 
in the end, he had stopped reading about it and even thinking about it. 
   But not all scientists manifest this absence of ethical responsibility in 
an implicit "non-thinking" manner; for some the renunciation is quite 
thoughtfully explicit: 
   "[Scientists] believe that they are not obligated to judge whether they 
are being asked to work on the best research problem, but only whether they 
are being asked to do valid research. They believe that it is the 
responsibility of those who provide the funds to establish the directions of 
research. These typical scientists act according to their own beliefs and 
thus they have integrity. The process of producing new, valid knowledge in 
any area is very difficult and is typically all-consuming for those who 
undertake it. Those who work hard and well to this end will have little 
time, or intellectual firepower, to spare for issues that are beyond their 
area of focus. The division of labor requires that they depend upon others 
to evaluate the importance and broad implications of the new knowledge they 
produce." (Those words came from R. Paul Drake, Director of the Plasma 
Physics Research Institute, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.) 
   One might well wonder if their abdication extends outside the laboratory 
to their ordinary daily behavior. Do they consider themselves responsible 
for the safe operation of their automobiles? For exercising due care when 
target shooting with their rifles? Or are these things, as is the morality 
of their professional conduct, considered to be "beyond their area of 
           Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? 
           That's not my department, said Wernher von Braun. 

   Scientists are people with superb intelligence, intense focus, keen 
logic, limited emotions, and no ethics. 
   John Galt described these people: 
   "The guiltiest among you are the men who HAVE the capacity to know, yet 
choose to blank out reality, the men who are willing to sell their 
intelligence into cynical servitude to force... who reserve their logic for 
inanimate matter, but believe that the subject of dealing with men requires 
and deserves no rationality... who sell their souls in exchange for a 
laboratory supplied by loot.... they deliver their science to the service of 
death, to the only practical purpose it can ever have for looters: to 
inventing weapons of coercion and destruction." 

   * The Connection Between Philosophy and Science 
   Since the time of Aristotle, the scientist has known how to apply reason 
to the realm of inanimate objects (and to living objects which have no 
volition), and since the time of Galileo the scientist has known how to 
verify those applications of reason. But the scientist has never had the 
fundamental principle (an explication of the basic connection between "is" 
and "ought") necessary to apply reason to those areas of behavior that rest 
on volitional choice. This is what the Objectivist ethics provides. Thus 
Objectivism is the only philosophical frame of reference which can provide a 
rational comprehension of such realms as psychology, morality, ethics, 
economics, and sociology--of all those areas of study which depend on chosen 
values rather than physical facts.  
   The primary obstacle in developing any ethical philosophy is the lack of 
a starting point. The scientist sees a set of "ought" terms: good, well, 
right, proper, virtue, should, bad, wrong, etc.--each of which can evidently 
be defined in terms of the others, but none of which has an independent, 
non-relative existence. Rand's genius was to identify the connection between 
the "is" of reality and the "ought" of volitional judgment. 
   In an attempt to link science and philosophy, a reasonable question to 
ask is "Where can we find a starting point--a foundation stone of certitude 
as the ultimate basis of human knowledge? A place where we can stand in 
unquestionable certainty and from whence we can build a structure of sure 
   For the scientist this is no problem--he starts by looking at the objects 
around him--the things that are observed by his senses. His contemplations 
eventually lead him to the fundamental notion that entities do indeed exist 
autonomously; they can neither be created nor destroyed. This (the First Law 
of Thermodynamics) is the starting place of the scientist. But is there 
something that is fundamental even to this notion of the scientist? Yes, 
there is, and we can approach it through such questions as "What is the 
fundamental nature of all the things that exist?" "What laws or principles 
underly all things--and all the behavior of all the things?" There is an 
answer to these questions. It was given to us by Aristotle, and it is the 
Law of Identity. 
   The Law of Identity is one of the fundamental, axiomatic concepts 
identified by Aristotle. In his Metaphysics, Book 4, Part 3, he observes: 
   "...for these truths hold good for everything that is.... And all men use 
them, because they are true of being qua being.... For a principle which 
everyone must have who understands anything that is, is not a hypothesis.... 
Evidently then such a principle is the most certain of all; which principle 
this is, let us proceed to say. It is, that the same attribute cannot at the 
same time belong and not belong to the same subject in the same respect." 
   Stated as a tautology: A is A. A thing (ANY thing and EVERY thing) is 
what it is. This idea is the foundation stone of all human knowledge. It 
serves to tie human consciousness to the facts of reality. That it is indeed 
fundamental can be seen when you observe that it cannot be escaped, that it 
is implicit in all knowledge, and that it has to be accepted and used even 
in any attempt to deny it. For example, suppose you say "The Law of Identity 
is invalid." Observe that you have made a specific statement and that it has 
a specific meaning. (Even within your own mind, you do NOT intend it to have 
the opposite meaning!) Therefore your statement is what it is--it complies 
with the Law of Identity--in spite of its own contention to the contrary. 
This is a situation which you cannot escape, no matter how cleverly you 
might attempt to rephrase your contention. The Law of Identity always 
prevails, in everything that you think, that you say, and that you do. It is 
truly fundamental. It is, as Aristotle said, "the most certain of all"--it 
is the foundation of certainty. 
   The Law of Identity is a foundation of objectivity. Any scientist who 
probes beneath the First Law of Thermodynamics will soon encounter the Law 
of Identity, and there he will find the doorway into the philosophy of 
Objectivism. That doorway is the link between science and philosophy.  
   When you find, in the Objectivist Ethics, the TANSTAAFL principle (There 
Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch): the idea that "You can't get something 
for nothing, unless someone, somewhere, sometime, is getting nothing for 
something", you see the direct link between Ethics and the First Law of 
Thermodynamics. The same physical law, applied to the field of Politics, 
leads to the realization that no matter how the government enhances the 
choices of some people, it can do so only by diminishing the choices of 
other people. 
   Objectivism is the only philosophy that is completely consistent with 
Physics. Indeed, Physics is a subset of Objectivism, for the fundamental 
principles of Physics (the Laws of Thermodynamics) are themselves founded 
upon the Axiomatic Concepts identified by the Objectivist Epistemology. 
   Objectivism starts with fundamentals and builds knowledge on a solid 
foundation, from the ground up. Adherents of many modern philosophical 
perspectives hate this very approach, and reject the need for "foundations" 
of any kind. They point out that philosophers have been trying to establish 
foundations for centuries but cannot agree on anything. Therefore, they 
argue, what's the use? And so THEY start in midair, with contentions that 
allegedly are agreed upon, but which in fact are controversial, derivative, 
and even arbitrary. The result is usually a ramshackle mess which 
presupposes an enormous amount that is never discussed, leads nowhere, and 
solves nothing. What Objectivism has is a consistent, comprehensive 
philosophical framework from which to ask questions about reality, and a 
consistent, comprehensive scientific framework in which to seek answers to 
those questions. Only this scenario can lead to a useful understanding of 
   Philosophers have had a great deal of difficulty with the problem of what 
constitutes truth and how to recognize whether something is true or not. But 
this is a difficulty that philosophers have no business trying to impose on 
other fields. In other words, the fact that philosophers are still debating 
the nature of truth should have no more effect on the practice of science 
than the fact that the average business person is ignorant of the details of 
accountancy should have on the day-to-day behavior of a CPA. The proper 
attitude of the scientists (and of Objectivists) should be: "We will be 
limited in our work strictly by the problems WE can't solve, not by the 
problems YOU can't solve." 

   * The Scientific Attitude of Mind 
   Science is not a body of knowledge but a way of thinking, a process, a 
method. The body of knowledge is what results from that process. And a 
Scientist is not necessarily someone who has a PhD in physics, but is anyone 
who practices that way of thinking. It is characterized primarily by being 
reality-oriented and flexible. A scientist assumes, as Einstein put it, that 
   "Out yonder there is this huge world, which exists independently of us 
human beings and which stands before us like a great, eternal riddle, at 
least partially accessible to our inspection and thinking." 
   This is the fundamental premise of science. 
   The other primary element of scientific thought--flexibility--is the 
ability and willingness to alter one's ideas so as to bring them into 
correspondence with that "independently existing world." Nature does not 
necessarily comply with the parameters established by human conjecture, and 
when she does not, we must accept the necessity of modifying the conjecture. 

   * Some History of Science 
   Thales made the extraordinary assumption that the world is a thing whose 
workings the human mind CAN understand. This led subsequent Greeks to 
conclude that the material world is fully real, and to begin to treat nature 
as an object for careful consideration. It is no accident that many of the 
early Greek philosophers were practicing engineers, architects, bridge-
builders, harbor designers. They were men whose minds were intimately tied 
directly to the facts of reality, and that's why so many of their 
philosophical ideas are so profound. 
   Over the course of several centuries, the Greeks progressed from mystical 
tribesmen inhabiting a chaotic universe they believed was god-driven, to 
rational individuals in control both of themselves and of a comprehensible 
world. These were the men who, starting with nothing, created the 
philosophic foundations for all subsequent civilization. 
   In the seventeenth century, there arose a mode of scientific procedure 
usually associated with the names of Galileo and Francis Bacon. It was based 
upon observation, reason, and experiment. Galileo's work established the 
priority of experiment over deductive science (which itself had been a great 
advance over the use of myth and religion to explain natural phenomena). 
Furthermore, Galileo's conclusions could not be ignored as a mere 
intellectual oddity, for they had to be used in the practical business of 
pointing cannons at the correct angle to compensate for the fall of 
cannonballs in flight. 
   It has sometimes been maintained that Galileo's greatest contribution was 
his method of thinking about the physical universe. Unfortunately the great 
majority of philosophers were (and remain) unable to understand his method. 
They still possess the deductive habit of reasoning from what SEEM to be 
valid basic assumptions, but rarely believe it necessary to check their 
conclusions against the real universe. 
   By insisting on the experimental verification of scientific conjectures, 
Galileo and his successors established a general test of scientific truth 
which enabled scientists specializing in widely different disciplines to 
accept and use each other's results. The shared method created an organized 
scientific community, with a division of labor among scientists in various 
specialized fields, all contributing to the accumulation of a demonstrably 
valid body of knowledge. By the close of the seventeenth century, the scale 
of Europe's scientific effort was already overwhelmingly greater than that 
of any contemporary or earlier culture, and so too was the European 
civilization's progress in understanding natural phenomena. 
   We are so much accustomed to think of organizations solely in terms of 
hierarchical bureaucracies like armies, governments, or corporations that it 
is difficult to realize that an enterprise so individualistic and non-
hierarchical as modern science can properly be said to be highly organized. 
But such a narrow impression of organization must be dismissed as misleading 
on the basis of the history of science. Without a formal hierarchy, Western 
scientists created a scientific community within which they pursued shared 
goals of understanding natural phenomena with dedication, cooperation, 
collective conflict resolution, division of labor, specialization, and 
information generation and exchange at a level of organizational efficiency 
rarely matched among large groups, hierarchical or nonhierarchical. Western 
science had another advantage also: it arose at a time when political and 
religious authorities lacked the power to suppress new ideas incompatible 
with conventional beliefs, though they often tried to. 

   * Science vs. Magic 
   Every day we take for granted things that people 500 years ago dreamed 
about, but could only think of in terms of magic. We can fly through the 
air, stare into magic mirrors and watch things going on in other places, 
even talk to people all over the world. We made all those things happen, but 
we've used methods of doing so that people from the distant past could never 
have imagined--because they had no comprehension of the natural principles 
underlying these phenomena. Once you understand the principles involved, 
what remains is merely a question of engineering. They imagined flying but 
had to talk about levitation, because they couldn't see in advance the kind 
of engineering needed to make the idea work. 
   Arthur Clarke: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable 
from magic." 
   If you learn what this world is, how it works, you automatically start 
getting magic--what will be called miracles. But of course nothing is 
magical or miraculous. Learn what the magician knows and it's not magic 
anymore. But it does no good to try to explain something as being a product 
of science rather than magic, in speaking to people who have no idea what is 
meant by "science" and who have a culturally-induced antipathy to rational 
thinking. They lack the basic conceptual machinery that makes any rational 
account of an objective world possible. They don't seem to share the 
ordinary, commonsense notions of causality and consistency that are 
necessary to even begin understanding the universe. They don't grasp that 
the same causes always produce the same results. They don't see anything 
natural about predictability at all. They act as if it were mysterious. 
Machines--especially computers--baffle them. They talk instead about magic 
and mysticism. They rely on some intuitive process that supposedly dwells 
deep below rational thought. 
   This is not necessarily the fault of the ignorant people. Although there 
is a vast untapped popular interest in the deepest scientific questions, for 
many people the shoddily thought out doctrines of borderline science are the 
closest approximation to comprehensible science readily available to them. 
The popularity of pseudoscience should be a rebuke to the schools, the press 
and commercial television for their sparse, unimaginative and ineffective 
efforts at science education. This unfortunate situation is compounded by 
the popular media's obsession with controversy and sensationalism. In its 
rush to expose "dangers" to the public health and well-being, the 
distortions and outright falsehoods it presents as "science" serve only to 
corrupt what little factual knowledge the public does possess. To top it 
off, we are beset by the quantum mystics, whose dim comprehension of 
physics, and abysmal ignorance of philosophy do not in any way inhibit their 
subjectivist metaphysical pronouncements. (In fact, the ideas of quantum 
mechanics do not contain any reasons whatsoever for giving up the concept of 
a reality that is independent of the mind.) 
   Amid the utter darkness of mysticism, scientific reason is a candle 
lighting the way to sense. Science is an attempt to understand the world, to 
get a grip on things, to get hold of ourselves, to steer a safe course. In 
contrast to mysticism, the scientific method has been outstandingly 
successful: microbiology and meteorology now explain what only a few 
centuries ago was considered sufficient cause to burn women to death. 
   In every country we should be teaching our children the scientific method 
and the reasons for a Bill of Rights. This is all that stands between us and 
the barbaric darkness of mysticism. 

   Goethe: "Nature understands no jesting; she is always true, always 
serious, always severe; she is always right, and the errors and faults are 
always those of man. The man incapable of appreciating her she despises and 
only to the apt, the pure, and the true, does she resign herself and reveal 
her secrets." 

   T.H. Huxley: "Suppose it were perfectly certain that the life and fortune 
of every one of us would, one day or other, depend upon his winning or 
losing a game at chess. Don't you think that we should all consider it to be 
a primary duty to learn at least the names and the moves of the pieces; to 
have a notion of a gambit, and a keen eye for all the means of giving and 
getting out of check? Yet it is a very plain and elementary truth, that the 
life, the fortune, and the happiness of every one of us, and, more or less, 
of those who are connected with us, do depend upon our knowing something of 
the rules of a game infinitely more difficult and complicated than chess. It 
is a game which has been played for untold ages, every man and woman of us 
being one of the two players in a game of his or her own. The chess-board is 
the world, the pieces are the phenomena of the universe, the rules of the 
game are what we call the laws of Nature. The player on the other side is 
hidden from us. We know that his play is always fair, just and patient. But 
also we know, to our cost, that he never overlooks a mistake, or makes the 
smallest allowance for ignorance. To the man who plays well, the highest 
stakes are paid, with that sort of overflowing generosity with which the 
strong shows delight in strength. And one who plays ill is checkmated--
without haste, but without remorse." 

   * Examples of the Scientific Attitude applied 
   Nearly four centuries of experience since Galileo's time has shown that 
it is frequently useful to depart from the real and to construct a model of 
the system being studied. Some of the complications are stripped away, so a 
simple and generalized conceptual structure can be built up on what is left. 
Once that is done, the complicating factors can be restored one by one, and 
the model suitably modified. To try to achieve the complexities of reality 
at one bound, without working through a simplified model first, is so 
difficult that it is rarely attempted, and usually does not succeed when it 

   Newton started with a mathematical construct of the solar system that 
represented nature simplified: a point mass moving around a center of force. 
Because he did not assume that the construct was an exact representation of 
the physical world he was free to explore the properties and effects of a 
mathematical attractive force even though he found the concept of a grasping 
force "acting at a distance" to be abhorrent and not admissable in the realm 
of good physics. Next he compared the consequences of his mathematical 
construct with the observed principles and laws of the external world, such 
as Kepler's law of areas and law of elliptical orbits. Where the 
mathematical construct fell short Newton modified it. He made the center of 
force not a mathematical entity but a point mass. From the modified 
mathematical construct Newton concluded that a set of point masses circling 
a central point mass attract one another and perturb one another's orbits. 
Again he compared the construct with the physical world. Of all the planets, 
Jupiter and Saturn are the most massive, and so he sought orbital 
perturbations in their motions. With the help of John Flamsteed, Newton 
found that the orbital motion of Saturn is perturbed when the two planets 
are closest together. The process of repeatedly comparing the mathematical 
construct with reality and then suitably modifying it led eventually to the 
treatment of the planets as physical bodies with definite shapes and sizes. 
After Newton had modified the construct many times he applied it to the 
entirety of nature, asserting that the force of attraction, which he had 
derived mathematically, is universal gravity. Since the mathematical force 
of attraction works well in explaining and predicting the observed phenomena 
of the world, Newton decided that the force must "truly exist" even though 
the philosophy to which he adhered did not and could not allow such a force 
to be part of a system of nature. And so he called for an inquiry into how 
the effects of universal gravity might arise. 

   In 1830, the Swedish chemist Jakob Berzelius, who didn't believe that 
molecules with equal structures but different properties were possible, 
examined both tartaric acid and racemic acid in detail. With considerable 
chagrin, he decided that even though he didn't believe it, it was 
nevertheless so. 

   It was generally believed that radio waves, like any other form of 
electromagnetic radiation, ought to travel in straight lines only, and 
therefore, like light, should be able to penetrate no farther than the 
horizon. Marconi noted, however, that radio waves seemed to follow the curve 
of the earth. He had no explanation for this, but he did not hesitate to 
make use of the fact. On December 12, 1901, he succeeded in sending a radio 
wave signal from England, around the bulge of the earth, to Newfoundland. 

   Charles Darwin: "In October 1838, fifteen months after I had begun my 
systematic enquiry (into the mutability of species), I happened to read 
'Malthus on Population,' and being well prepared to appreciate the struggle 
for existence which everywhere goes on from long-continued observation of 
the habits of animals and plants, it at once struck me that under these 
circumstances favourable variations would tend to be preserved, and 
unfavourable ones to be destroyed. The result of this would be the formation 
of new species. Here then I had at last got a theory by which to work." 

   * Some Critiques of Science 
   Critic: "There is no poetry in science." 
   Isaac Asimov: "Not all the soaring genius of Shakespeare sufficed to lift 
him to such empyrean heights as to reveal to him the vision of the universe 
that bursts in upon the dullest scientist who now lives. In every branch of 
science fascinations lurk, ready to burst out upon even the most plodding 
soul. Peeping from behind the symbols of the mathematician are formulas, 
such as the Mandelbrot Set, so beautiful in their subtle symmetry that no 
artist could improve on them. Where can one come across forms of things not 
only so thoroughly unknown but so majestically unknowable as in the quantum 
world within the atom? All the dictates of "common sense"--based upon the 
ordinary world about us--break down in the face of the ultimately tiny. 
Imagine the poetry of a science that calmly abandons common sense in order 
to preserve sense; a science that admits into its fold an ineluctable 
uncertainty in order to be more nearly certain. What mysteries, what 
clanking chains, what dim ghosts of Gothic romance can compare with the 
mysterious muon-neutrino? There is poetry everywhere and in everything, and 
it is most clearly present in the world that scientists dwell in." 

   "I question the accuracy and validity of the Scientific Method--Science 
is young and clumsy--still too gross to truly measure some things." 
   Let us examine the accuracy, validity, and gross clumsiness of science by 
taking a look at just a few of its actual accomplishments. 
   To begin with, here is a measure of the accuracy between a theoretical 
prediction and its corresponding experimental measurement: 
   Experiments measure the electron's magnetic moment at 1.00115965221. The 
theory of Quantum Electrodynamics puts it at 1.00115965246. To give you a 
feeling for the accuracy of these numbers, consider them this way: If you 
were to measure the distance from Los Angeles to New York to this accuracy, 
it would be exact to the thickness of a human hair. I believe we can 
conclude that the theory is reasonably close to reality. 
   As for the validity of scientific hypotheses--surely the most 
outrageously unbelievable hypothesis of modern physics is the Quantum 
Mechanics, and yet a clever application of the uncertainty principle (which 
places a limit on the precision with which position can be known) yields 
very fine-tuned control over a type of electron flow known as quantum 
tunneling. The resulting device (the Scanning Tunneling Microscope, 
manufactured by Digital Instruments, Inc.) uses the quantum tunneling effect 
both to view, and to perform mechanical operations on, very tiny objects, 
right down to the level of individual atoms. At the IBM Zurich lab, 
researchers used a Scanning Tunneling Microscope to cleave a single benzene 
ring off of a dimethyl phthalate molecule. 
   In its practical application (where the validity of the Quantum Mechanics 
can be measured by its commercial utility), an STM is used to monitor the 
production quality of an optical-disk stamping machine. 
   And as for gross clumsiness, these three examples should suffice to 
dispel that erroneous view: 
   The optical telescope on Palomar Mountain can detect a 10-watt light bulb 
on the moon. This telescope could also measure the width of a needle--at a 
distance of 5 miles. The best infrared telescopes could record the heat from 
a rabbit on the moon--were it alive and hopping. 
   Using very long baseline interferometry, maser images can be made 
accurate to 300 microarc-seconds. Were the human eye to have this resolving 
power, you could read these words from about 3000 miles away. 
   Workers at the National Bureau of Standards used a Paul electromagnetic 
trap to detect a single quantum jump of the outermost electron on a mercury 
ion from its ground state to an intermediate state. That's one single 
quantum jump of one single electron! Not quite the sort of thing you could 
reach in and fondle with your finger. 
   Look again at the criticism--and consider the principle underlying it: 
   She really should not "question the accuracy and validity of the 
Scientific Method" while she is writing with a ball-point pen on a sheet of 
paper, probably supported by the plastic surface of a desktop, and 
illuminated by an electric light bulb. You see what's happening--the author 
is using the very thing she denies, in the act of denying it. This is an 
excellent example of the Stolen Concept fallacy: she is using the thing 
while she is rejecting the thing. 

   If you have difficulty grasping the Uncertainty Principle, consider this: 
   It is easily possible to construct a square, having specified exactly the 
length of a side. When you have done so, you will find that you cannot 
measure the diagonal with exactness (because it is a function of the square 
root of 2). 
   It is equally easy to construct a square having specified exactly the 
length of the diagonal. But in this case you will be just as unable to 
measure the exact length of the side. 
   Thus we are in the position of being able to specify one or the other of 
two quantities--but not both simultaneously. This exercise in simple 
geometry is a good example of the Uncertainty Principle in action: the 
universe is built in such a fashion that we humans are not omniscient--we 
can't know everything. 

   If you have difficulty with the notion of "mere chance being the 
instrument of creation" try this experiment: 
   Take about a dozen teaspoons and drop them (randomly but with handles up) 
into a soda glass. Tilt the glass to about a 45 degree angle and shake it. 
You will see the spoons begin to nest together. This nesting is the 
inevitable consequence of energy dissipation--of the interplay of the laws 
of physics--as the spoons settle into a "least energy content" 
configuration. When you consider that the fundamental morsels of matter 
(atoms and molecules) are sets of identical objects (every water molecule, 
for example, is exactly identical to every other) just like the spoons--then 
it is not too hard to realize that they would fit together in certain ways. 
Just like the spoons. This fitting together--on a larger and larger scale--
can account for many aspects of the world of living things we see around us. 
   Always remember this: the words "chance" and "random" do not really 
describe the world of Reality. What they DO describe is the state of human 
knowledge. To be precise, they are terms that describe a state of human 
ignorance. When I say that an event happens by "mere chance" all I am really 
saying is that I do not precisely know what are the causal factors of that 
event. Personally, I would much rather admit to my own ignorance of the 
world than to invent, as an absolution for that ignorance, a Divinity to 
account for things I cannot yet explain. 
   Heisenberg: "The laws of nature which we formulate mathematically in 
quantum theory deal no longer with the elementary particles themselves but 
with our knowledge of the particles." 
   Bohr: "We can understand quantum mechanics if we realize that science is 
not describing how nature IS but rather expresses what we can SAY about 

   A commonly encountered criticism is "How can you believe in something--
like an electron--which you can't possibly see?" 
   No one has ever seen the inside of a brick. Every time you break the 
brick, you see only the surface. That the brick has an inside is a simple 
assumption which helps us understand things better. The theory of electrons 
is analogous. 
   The ultimate justification for the ideas of science is that logical 
conclusions drawn from these ideas have led to useful solutions to real-life 
problems. From science have flowed all those great inventions by means of 
which mankind in general is able to exist with more comfort and in greater 
numbers upon the face of the earth. Hence arise the great advantages of men 
above brutes, and of civilization above barbarity. The acre of ripe wheat 
that once took a dozen men and a dozen horses all day to cut and thresh is 
now gathered up in six minutes as the combine rolls, one person at the 
controls. How can science achieve fantastic things in the material world, 
and yet you suppose that what we are doing is arbitrary and has no absolute, 
unquestionable relationship to the facts of reality? How is it possible that 
what we do works, if it doesn't correspond to reality? 

   Many scientists who are exposed to philosophy come away with the 
realization that if their work were to be attempted within the muddy, vague, 
and contradictory intellectual frame-of-reference of the philosophers, they 
would never achieve anything useful. So they simply abandon all 
philosophical considerations and confine their lives to the realm of clear, 
precise and meaningful scientific investigation. Thus it is that during the 
past 300 years the human race has gained an immense store of practical 
knowledge about the natural world while the philosophers are still 
struggling to determine how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. 
   Steven Weinberg: "I know of NO ONE who has participated actively in the 
advance of physics in the post-war period whose research has been 
significantly helped by the work of philosophers." 
   Physicist Max Tegmark: "To tell you the truth, I think most of my 
colleagues are terrified of talking to philosophers - like being caught 
coming out of a pornographic cinema." 
   The philosophers talk vague nonsense. At times their terms are so loosely 
defined that what they say cannot help but be partly true. Unfortunately, 
the sort of language that is admired by many philosophers does not, in fact, 
mean anything at all. All too often, they use language not as a means of 
communication but as a way to establish and defend an academic reputation. 
But there is nothing surprising here. In the mind of a professional 
philosopher rhetoric is always more important than reality. Perhaps it would 
be more accurate to say that in his mind rhetoric IS reality. 

   It was difficult for Satan alone to mislead the whole world, so he 
appointed prominent philosophers in different localities. 

   * Why Objectivism is rejected 
   Max Planck observed: "A new scientific truth does not triumph by 
convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because 
its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar 
with it." 
   A whole generation of adherents must frequently die off before an old 
theory can be replaced by a superior version. This is in part because humans 
invest so much self-esteem in their ideas (as opposed to their thinking 
process) that any challenge to the ideas assumes the threat of a personal 
attack on their ego. 
   Objectivism, in revealing much of the nature of psychological reality, 
has also disclosed why many of its most important findings are still 
rejected: the ego of man sees that what the Objectivists have found--if 
analyzed and digested--would change ego itself. And man's greatest fear then 
rises to defend ego: the dread of any change in his personal identity. Even 
where the ego itself is not threatened, an unacceptable burden of self-
responsibility is laid on the individual. It is easier to reject the 
philosophy than to bear the burden. Only those courageous enough to master 
these fears have been able to understand, and to benefit from, Objectivism. 

   In a popular work of fiction, the story is often designed mainly to 
provide entertainment: the pleasure of observing the characters and events 
for their own sake, with no deeper significance intended. This is why 
popular fiction so often seems to satisfy what Rand describes as "the 
psycho-epistemological role of art" much better than many serious works that 
may give us great insights but little entertainment. And this is why Rand's 
own fiction is so frequently classified as merely popular fiction, since her 
works, like popular works, offer exciting stories that involve the reader 
emotionally and imaginatively in the story world. But this does not mean 
that her works should be dismissed as superficial fiction, or that they 
should be read solely for pleasure. 

   Rand is frequently reviled, not just because she was an egoist, an 
atheist, and a pro-capitalist, but because she did not present her ideas in 
a "scholarly" fashion. This is very unpalatable to most philosophers. They 
want someone who documents what she says, defends it, and deals with 
contrary positions. Their focus is not on physical reality but on statements 
made by other philosophers. Rand simply dismissed other philosophical 
positions and proceeded directly to make her own identifications of reality. 
She was usually right to dismiss them, and the reasons she gave were usually 
correct, but to most scholars encountering her for the first time her 
dismissal is personally upsetting. Some find her style so offensive, in the 
sense of being non-scholarly, that they refuse to read anything else she 
wrote. She did not play by the rules of their game. She did not deal with 
their arguments. She just brushed them aside and proceeded to make accurate 
identifications of fundamental truths--not merely responses to other 
people's dissertations. 
   But this process by which Rand is rejected is merely part of a technique 
that has been used for centuries to advocate philosophical ideas that have 
no relation to reality. It works like this: 
   The conclusion must be brazenly clear, but the proof must be shrouded in 
unintelligibility (this is the "scholarly fashion" of presentation mentioned 
above). The proof must be so tangled a mess that it will paralyze a reader's 
critical faculty. To provide a veneer of sophistication, the author may 
include many pages of abstruse technical notes, which generate an almost 
impenetrable aura of erudition. The students will believe that the 
professors know the proof, the professors will believe that the commentators 
know it, the commentators will believe that the author knows it--but the 
author is self-blinded to the fact that no proof exists and none was ever 
offered. Within a few generations, the number of commentaries will have 
grown to such proportions that the original work will be considered a 
subject of philosophical specialization requiring a lifetime of study--and 
any refutation of the author's theory will be ignored or rejected if 
unaccompanied by a full discussion of the theories of all the commentators, 
a task which no one will be able to undertake. This is the process by which 
Kant and Hegel acquired their dominance. Many professors of philosophy today 
have no idea of what Kant actually said. And no one has ever read Hegel, 
even though many have looked at every word on his every page. (As J.S. Mill 
remarked: "Conversancy with Hegel tends to deprave one's intellect.") 
   This process is not necessarily a deliberate attempt to defraud people. 
It may be merely the inevitable consequence of how a certain kind of people 
handle ideas. As Branden observed, genuine self-esteem results from 
comparing oneself not with other people (or their opinions) but with the 
facts of reality. A person who lacks genuine self-esteem builds a pseudo 
self-esteem by comparing himself with other people. The most obvious example 
is the braggart who does NOT say "I can do it well," but says "I can do it 
better than YOU can!" When the braggart becomes a philosopher, his main 
intellectual focus is not on understanding, developing and expanding ideas 
which are the expressions of TRUTH--his main focus is on interacting, either 
positively or negatively, with statements made by OTHER PEOPLE (his own 
personal "significant others"). Rand is rejected because she did not fit 
into this category. Her focus was directed toward the identification of 
facts, not to the analysis of other people's opinions. 
   People focused on facts will tend to enter fact-oriented fields and 
become scientists, engineers, technicians, or mechanics, depending on their 
level of intellectual power and their specific area of personal interest. 
People with a more social-metaphysical focus will tend to become 
philosophers, scholars, politicians, or journalists, in a similar manner. 
   Of course there are people who buck this trend: Ayn Rand as a philosopher 
is an outstanding example. 

   There are two significant critiques of Objectivist Ethics. 
   One is based on the observation that creatures such as lemmings and the 
male mantis (who dies in the act of copulation) refute Rand's supposed claim 
that living creatures always act to preserve their lives, and therefore 
everything Rand based on this claim must also be false. 
   But this critique ignores clear statements made by both Rand and Branden: 
   Rand (in The Objectivist Ethics): "In situations for which its knowledge 
is inadequate, it perishes--as, for instance, an animal that stands 
paralyzed on the track of a railroad in the path of a speeding train."
   Branden (in The Psychology of Self-Esteem, Chapter 4): "If its range of 
awareness cannot cope with the conditions that confront the animal, it 
   Keep in mind that the Objectivist Ethics is meant to be a guide to HUMAN 
behavior, not the behavior of other creatures. In establishing a moral code, 
what we must consider are human life and human choices. It is because man 
can make choices that are not available to the mantis, the lemming and other 
creatures, that he requires a moral code. If the life of a human being were 
not something to which the consequences of his choices could ultimately make 
a difference, then there would be no need for, or even possibility of, moral 
principles. But because man is a creature whose life depends on his choices, 
not on chemical programming, he has an inescapable need for a guide to 
making choices. Rand began constructing a system of morality by observing 
the fact that creates the need for values. She let this fact be the 
foundation stone for a derivation of HUMAN morality. Therein lies the 
strength of her presentation. 
   See Chapter 3  * To Survive or to Flourish  for an analysis of the 
Objectivist views of "human life."  
   See reference 

   The other critique makes the contention that Rand's argument can equally 
well be used as the basis for a "human" morality founded on the desire for 
theft, mass murder and suicide. (I'm not really sure these people are 
serious. I suspect that for them philosophy is not something useful but is 
merely a game they play with words, having no practical relevance to their 
   Just as there is a "lifeboat ethics" (See VOS Chapter 3), so there is a 
"suicide morality." A morality which places on equal footing both the choice 
to die and the choice to live. The fact that we are possessed of free will 
is a tool which can enable us to choose among different courses of action. 
It can enable us to choose life-enhancing actions or it can enable us to 
choose life-destroying actions. Some critics focus only on this destructive 
potential and reject the Objectivist Ethics on this basis, refusing to 
recognize its creative actuality. They are left with nothing, whereas 
Objectivists make good use of a valuable tool for living. 

   Observe that critics of Objectivism do not provide any alternative 
principles of guidance. Indeed, if you examine their works, you will find 
that many explicitly eschew ANY principled foundation for the conduct of 
human affairs. Some even go so far as to assert that there is NO WAY to 
distinguish right from wrong. But it is easy to observe that you MUST have a 
guide for your actions, lest in your blind efforts to live you end up 
slaying yourself accidentally. And you MUST choose to strive for a 
successful life, else you will end up slaying yourself deliberately. 
Objectivism provides you with the means to make choices among actions that 
can result in a successful--or unsuccessful--life. But the choices are YOURS 
to make. Rand was correct: you can choose life and a morality based on life-
enhancement, or you can choose the dim, dismal and negative alternative--in 
which case rational moral principles will be of no interest to you. 

   * Hallmarks of a Cult 
   Another, misguided, reason why Objectivism is rejected is that some of 
its advocates manifest the cultist mentality. This is especially true of the 
libertarian political activists. 
   Cultists are socially alienated people who huddle together in a 
collective, united by allegiance to a non-conventional religious, artistic, 
or intellectual movement based on dogma set forth by its promulgator, whom 
they adore as a "father figure." Observe that the ideas they espouse can be 
either true or false--they must only be non-conventional. (If the ideas ever 
become accepted by a wide enough audience, they will no longer be referred 
to as "cultist" but as "mainstream.") 
   They believe that Armageddon is nigh--that profound, revolutionary, 
world-shaking changes are going to occur imminently. 
   They believe that the road to Salvation lies only through their belief 
system, and are excruciatingly jealous, often reserving their worst 
invective, not for their real enemies, but for those with whom they 
essentially agree save for minor ideological coloration. 
   They have a completely unrealistic expectation that their unknown and/or 
unpopular ideas will shortly triumph in society. Their fondest hope is their 
greatest delusion.  
   They over-emphasize their significance and greatly over-exaggerate the 
effects of their activities, claiming that what they're doing has 
revolutionary importance for society. 
   This mindset does not change over time. They are still saying today the 
same things about pending Armageddon and the imminent social acceptance of 
their ideas that they were saying decades or even generations ago. 
   What happens to a cult over time? There are two alternatives: 
   1) It preserves its ideological purity, but to do so it must become 
rigidly dogmatic. But then perceptive people eventually become aware of its 
flaws and withdraw from participation. Thus the cult gradually becomes 
comprised solely of narrow-minded, inward-focused bigots. This is what has 
happened to the Randites. 
   2) It dilutes its ideological purity in the attempt to acquire more 
adherents. But then it eventually becomes indistinguishable from other 
belief systems, and stops attracting new recruits. This is what has happened 
to the Libertarian Party--it has become merely another variant of political 

   * The Commentator Syndrome 
   The commentators I mentioned above usually have an encyclopedic 
familiarity with the writings of virtually everyone who has written 
critically about an idea. They at times show great skill in synthesizing 
passages scattered throughout a multitude of sources. But in spite of this, 
they may have little or no comprehension of the factual nature of the idea 
that was the original object of the commentary. They deal not with reality, 
but with other people's interpretations of it. They dream of achieving 
"definitive" texts and seek to determine which one of many versions of a 
manuscript is the most authentic. Quite often they are so bogged down with 
word apprehension that simple facts escape them. 
   They focus on arbitrary academic distinctions and disputes, rather than 
on underlying principles. Without fundamental principles to refer to, the 
commentator is totally dependent on the words of previous scholars. 
Consequently, debate becomes increasingly attenuated into a series of false 
alternatives. The context of discussion becomes more and more nebulous, 
always requiring that everybody's thought be tacked onto some previous, 
established thought rather than attempting to refer to reality. Debate on a 
subject becomes lost in an argument over what so-and-so actually wrote, what 
he meant, how he has been interpreted, etc. Like a swamp that engulfs a 
myriad of streams, the commentators are tolerant, all-embracing, and 
   Richard Feynman: "They wrote commentaries on commentaries. They described 
what each other wrote about each other. They just kept writing these 
commentaries. Writing commentaries is some kind of disease of the 
   From the introduction to an essay by Fred Seddon in a recent issue of a 
philosophical journal: 
   "The purpose of this study is to examine Adolf Grunbaum's claim that 
F.S.C. Northrop's interpretation of Newton's concept of relative space is 
   You gotta go through Seddon to get to Grunbaum, go through Grunbaum to 
get to Northrop, and then go through Northrop to get to the concept of 
relative space. It would require a lifetime of study to dig through this 
mountain of commentary. 

   Here is a complaint from a commentator (a well-known professor of 
philosophy), expressing his dissatisfaction with a discussion in which the 
participants were attempting to identify the nature of the concept 
   "It is rather perplexing to see supposedly morally upright people 
embarking on sketchy discussions of the issue, ones in which no quotations 
are used, no careful reproductions of the arguments of their adversaries. 
Most of those who are critical of anarchism manage to omit reference to the 
actual statements of the arguments advanced by those they criticize. I have 
dealt with [other's] versions of anarchism, in ways that I think adhere to 
scholarly caution and precision--i.e., I have used their words to 
characterize their views and then examined these views with those words in 
mind. To just jump in there and state the views without reference to the 
words of those who advance them is, well, irresponsible." 
   He was dissatisfied because of the lack of a detailed examination of the 
commentary. I was dissatisfied because of the lack of contemplation of 
fundamental truths. 

   * Objectivism in the Universities 
   For decades now we've had Objectivists trying to get established in the 
universities. They've had very little success. Why? Not because they're 
stupid or incompetent, quite the contrary. The problem is that Objectivism, 
being a scientific rather than a scholarly approach to philosophy, can never 
gain real acceptance in academia unless it gives up the very essence of its 
   In the academic world, Philosophy is a "scholarly" subject, rather than 
scientific. There are competing schools of thought--Aristotelian, 
Plationist, Kantian, Positivist, etc.--and there is an implicit but 
inescapable relativism in the study of them: at any given time, although one 
particular school of thought may be in the ascendant, the idea is never 
considered that one view could be permanently accepted as being absolutely 
correct and unchallengeable. As one philosopher put it, "OF COURSE 
philosophical problems are unsolvable." If you look into the typical 
philosophy textbook, you'll find it stated as a truism that philosophy can 
never, never achieve the kind of certainty that science has. 
   So, for Objectivism to triumph in the universities, we would have to do 
something far more difficult than getting other philosophers to accept 
Objectivist ideas. We would have to get them to renounce the philosophical 
relativism that is fundamental to their scholarly culture. (See the * 
Newspeak section of Chapter 2 for some thoughts on a similar epistemological 
relativism.) That's why the whole approach of gaining credibility in the 
universities is futile. 
   See reference
   But why should the best Objectivist thinkers focus on the existing 
universities, where our adversaries are most entrenched, most intolerant, 
and most secure? We should instead be building a whole new intellectual 
culture of our own, from the grass roots. 
   The Objectivist university would be an institution in which there would 
be respect for the customers. The professor would cease to be an ivory-tower 
intellectual. He would be immediately responsive to the real-life practical 
needs of his students. A diversity of intellectual interests would be 
fostered, and these would reflect REAL needs, needs that people would be 
willing to finance for themselves, not whatever passing, subsidized, 
intellectual fad exists at the moment. (In any case, with the modern 
Internet, it may not be long before the university, as a physical entity, 
becomes largely needless.) 
   The academic opponents of Objectivism are more realistic than its 
advocates. They know quite well that in a rational, individualistic, morally 
judging, free-market culture they would not be able to dominate the 
universities. They would be out of a job, out of prestige, and out on their 
ass. Objectivism will win out, not by winning debates, but by filling the 
growing intellectual vacuum in America (both in and out of the university), 
by offering practical working solutions where no one else can. 
   We'll know Objectivism has succeeded when, and only when, people like 
Kant and Hegel are considered part, not of philosophy, but of the history of 
philosophy; just as the ideas of the alchemists are taught today only as 
part of the history of chemistry, not as part of the science of chemistry. 

   On to Chapter 2 
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