Saturday, January 06, 2007

Objectivist Ethics

In the recent Gotthelf/Salmieri piece that I linked to below, it says as follows:

"Rand’s virtue-focused rational egoism differs from traditional eudaimonism in that Rand regards ethics as an exact science. Rather than deriving her virtues from a vaguely defined human function, she takes 'Man’s Life' – i.e. that which is required for the survival of a rational animal across its lifespan – as her standard of value."

A couple points:

1. What is the difference between Rand's ethics and "traditional eudaimonism"? Why didn't the authors give us a single example of whose ethics is different (I realize that they had limited space, but ARIans love to tell us that Rand is so different without providing even a name of another philosopher to compare).

2. The language concerning the "survival of a rational animal across its lifespan" is unusual. The "lifespan" idea doesn't have any precedence in the Objectivist literature, from what I can tell.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Re your first point: “eudaimonism” refers to the predominant view in ancient Greek ethics that one’s ultimate is “eudaimonia”, alternately translated as “happiness”, “success”, or “flourishing”. It was held by Plato, Aristotle, the Epicureans, and the Stoics, though these philosophers disagreed with one another about just what eudaimonia consists in. Variations of this view have enjoyed a resurgence in recent years as part of the “virtue ethics” tradition. Examples of people in this tradition include Philippa Foot, Rosalind Hursthouse, Alasdair MacIntyre, Michael Thompson, Roger Crisp, and Julia Annas. All this would be well known by professional academic philosophers, who are the intended audience of the piece.

Re your second point: There formulation is not at all unusual in the Objectivist literature, and is quite close to Rand's own: “‘Man's survival qua man’ means the terms, methods, conditions and goals required for the survival of a rational being through the whole of his lifespan—in all those aspects of existence which are open to his choice.” (“The Objectivist Ethics”, *Virtue of Selfishness* 26.)