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This is an opportunity to hear verbatim the words that Ayn Rand had about Altruism.

Altruism  -  Ayn Rand Perspective

(Lone Cypress Workshop) I believe that if we are to have a conversation about an issue such as the concept of Altruism a number of imperatives impress themselves on the discussion. I expect that there would be no argument as to these few fundamental expectations. I would suggest that we all think deeply and with an open mind as we debate the nature and significance of the abstraction of ‘altruism’. I would hope that we are all here to learn as well as teach, from our own point of view, as well as truly comprehend the elements of the term, the theory, to aid in growth and understanding as we attempt to exist with others in an environment of at least peace and respect, if not tranquility and harmony.

There is no expectation of persuasion or conversion from one view to another, even as that may be a welcome conclusion, but only in engagement and the sharing of views without enmity and confrontation. I only wish to present the positions of Ayn Rand as she has presented them, and my interpretation of them in conjunction with my own observations and thoughts on the issue. I will present under other covers such things as the concept as conceived and presented and written by Auguste Comte in the 1850s. Again, in his own words as best I can discover. Another essay will be what may be considered the scientific community’s position on altruism, as well as another essay with a random sampling of commentary I have accumulated over the years.

Altruism is a fundamental concept that is taken for granted, misinterpreted and misunderstood on a grand scale, and one of the central tenets of conflict between the collective and individualism. Objectivism is but a single aspect of that conflict, albeit a significant one since the refutation by Rand of Comte’s theories is the most substantial argument ‘against’ the idea of a coercive altruism. Make no mistake about it. Historically, the concept is not one of charity and generosity and compassion and empathy that many seem to think, and I hope my contribution will be able to show that in some small way.

It is important to be honest in our assessments, with as much factual and credible information as is possible, when we come to our conclusions on the concept of altruism. Whatever your preconceived opinions on the issues, I hope that we can engage in a conversation based on reason and evidence, as well as passion and philosophy. Nothing else will be of value. Nothing else can bring understanding and cooperation as we take that next step into the future.

What is the moral code of altruism? The basic principle of altruism
is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others
is the only justification for his existence and that self-sacrifice
is his highest moral duty, virtue, and value.

Ayn Rand – Philosophy: Who Needs It?

(LCW)   There is no argument as to whether this is a legitimate statement or if this is a valid representation of the definition of the concept of altruism. Research it for yourself or simply refer to my essay ‘Auguste Comte – The Father of Sociology’ and see his words placed before you. There is no intent to mislead or deceive here, only an honest attempt and expectation at conversation and reasoned debate.

We should all try to understand the positions of both Comte and Rand to be able to come to reasonable conclusions as to the legitimacy and credibility of their respective points of view. One of my primary objectives in writing these pieces is to minimize the faulty perspectives that arise when individuals do not take the time to be as well-informed as we would want them to be. No rush to judgment, no ideological dogma, no outside influence for either those that agree or disagree. As much basic legitimate verifiable evidence that can be found, complemented by discussion and contemplation resulting in conclusions that are at least based on what was actually said, and not a best guess or worse, complete fabrication.

Ayn Rand presented us with a credible summary of what Comte has been recorded as saying and would embrace it if he were here among us. I passionately disagree, as does Rand, but as the saying goes (attributed to Voltaire but in all probability a paraphrase by Beatrice Hall), that ‘I will defend to the death your right to say it’.
I am an obsessive champion of the right to the freedom of speech, having no qualms about rejecting distractions such as ‘hate-speech’ and even the disingenuous ‘misinformation’ that has banned simple opinions from being disseminated. ‘Fake news’ is something that is real, but without the freedom to speak, how is it that we are able to come to our own conclusions as to veracity or deception? Those that disagree should speak up and make their case against it, and those that cannot tell the difference are at the mercy of their contemporaries, their ‘peers’.

Do you not see the coercive element that exists in censorship of any kind? If we allow demonstrably inappropriate and even false statements from being distributed or published, it is a fine line between that and the falsification, condemnation, and eradication of those things that one simply disagrees with, with the result being an ignorance and ineffectual ability to discern truth or reasonableness on any level whatsoever. I reject it all outright. I am more than capable of making up my own mind. Our objective with education is to make sure that all individuals are as capable in the comprehension and interpretation of whatever they seek or encounter.

Do not confuse altruism with kindness, good will or respect for the rights of others.
These are not primaries, but consequences, which, in fact, altruism makes impossible.
The irreducible primary of altruism, the basic absolute, is self-sacrifice—which means;
self-immolation, self-abnegation, self-denial, self-destruction—which means:
the self as a standard of evil, the selfless as a standard of the good.

Ayn Rand – Philosophy: Who Needs It?

(LCW)   It is reprehensible for anyone to make the attempt to control and direct what another individual is to hear, what they can understand, or the actions they are allowed to undertake (within limits, of course). Kindness and goodwill and the respect for the rights of others are intimate and personal decisions that are made based on philosophy, from which all morality and ethical behaviour are derived. Character is built on this fundamental base, and the strength and resolve we exhibit are known as integrity, and these things should be the goal of any individual, for themselves, or as a part of the personality of those we love and admire. Nothing of value exists that does not possess these things.

The concept of self-sacrifice negates all of these things, in fact, rejects them, and obstructs their understanding and their development and evolution. The self is the single most important aspect of the embodiment of the individual and make no mistake about it, Comte’s altruism was a direct assault on the concept of self and more so on the concept of individualism. The concept of altruism cannot exist with the existence of these things. Altruism denies and repudiates reason and philosophy as well.

The ego is anathema to the validity and success of his experiment into the manipulation and coercive direction of the perfect humanity. He was adamant in his vision for mankind and the complete subjugation of the human spirit. It is somewhat ironic that he wished to set man free by enslaving themselves to his concept of altruism, which would ensure the extinction of freedom itself.

Comte, and by extension his ideal of positivism, was a maelstrom of contradictions and intellectual conflicts, which, by the way, she rejected as well. The intellect asks too many questions and he was confident that with the introduction of his philosophy, the need for investigation and consideration by man was at an end. There was no need for anything but capitulation and acquiescence and the result would be an existence devoid of suffering and pain and need.

The essence of sociology and collectivism, which, interestingly enough, he manufactured from the ashes of what was the greatest achievements of our species. He was known as the Father of Sociology, the high priest of the Religion of Humanity, he initiated the concept of socialism itself, and if we put all that into context, it makes perfect sense. It is nothing less than the realization of the ‘greater-good’.

Do not hide behind such superficialities as whether you should or should not give a dime
to a beggar. That is not the issue. The issue is whether you do or do not have the right to exist
without giving him that dime. The issue is whether you must keep buying your life, dime by dime,
from any beggar who might choose to approach you. The issue is whether the need of others
is the first mortgage on your life and the moral purpose of your existence.
The issue is whether man is to be regarded as a sacrificial animal.
Any man of self-esteem will answer: “No.”
Altruism says: “Yes.”

Ayn Rand – Philosophy: Who Needs It?

(LCW)   Can there be any argument at all about such an issue? Of course, those individuals beset by tragedy and misfortune deserve our sympathy, our compassion, our empathy, and at times our assistance, but by dogma and coercive dictatorial mandates? I think not.

The beggar (or anyone in need) ‘deserves’ these considerations, but the question is if ‘we’ deserve those same considerations as well. Do we get to choose who and when and what and how much and for how long? If we wish to offer them five dollars can they demand ten? Or a hundred or a thousand? If he deserves it today, and his circumstances do not change by the morrow, does he then deserve that same amount again, and again, and again without cease? If he has the right to expect such a thing from me, does he not possess the same right to ask it of my neighbor, and his neighbor?

Does not every single individual in his situation also have the right to demand from each of us the same? Is it something about his proximity to us that controls that right or are we expected to help all those, sight unseen, simply because they exist? Rights are a very specific concept with responsibilities and obligations. When does a right of one person ‘negate’ (coercive action) the rights of another? There is that elusive and oppressive concept of ‘coercion’ once again. Is this a natural right, a cooperative right, a legislative right, or a moral right? Is it ethical to proscribe rights to people without the consideration of consequences and ramifications? Who makes those decisions? Do we possess any right to disagree or even to argue the validity and legitimacy? Does this continue until we all have virtually nothing to give? Is this the objective of equality? Once again, I don’t think so. I certainly hope not.
I say no.

There are two moral questions which altruism lumps together into one “package deal”:
What are values? Who should be the beneficiary of values?
Altruism substitutes the second for the first;
it evades the task of defining a code of moral values,
thus leaving man, in fact, without moral guidance.

Ayn Rand - “Introduction,” The Virtue of Selfishness

(LCW)   Values are of intrinsic significance to objectivism. We live our lives as traders, offering value and expecting value in return. We ‘value’ the individual above all else, whether it is the ‘self’, which is our essence, or it is any other individual, who deserves to be treated in a manner consistent with what we expect for ourselves. We value life as we value freedom, our abilities, and the abilities of others, all inter-related through reason, intellect, philosophy, morality, ethical conduct, personal character and epitomized by the integrity of our thoughts and actions. Nothing stands independently as an exception or some special case. We are an amalgam of all these things, and value is how we determine credibility and legitimacy.

We believe the beneficiary should be decided by the individual who creates value and achieves a level of success through their own efforts and abilities. It is only they who produce that can distribute what they create. The expectation is that they will do so with reason and intellect, as well as all those attributes I mentioned. The conclusions are theirs alone, and this is as it should be. They can share with those they deem deserving and they can save for future considerations. If what they own was produced through honest and legal means, there can be no other consideration. One can have a conversation and attempt to persuade or convince, but ultimately it is up to the one who, without them, whatever is produced would never have come to be.

Is the expectation that what they created will be used for anything but what some outside observer ‘thinks’ is appropriate? What possible legitimate reasoning can presume to direct what another earns in any direction besides what that individual determines? I am at a complete loss at the ignorance and hubris and yes, the complete and utter oppressively ‘coercive’ thought process that can do such a thing.

The concept created by Auguste Comte says that altruism will bring us that nirvana of existence, that Utopian existence where there will be no want, no need, and no desire to take from one to give to another. Why has that not happened by now? It’s been almost two hundred years since Comte gave us the answer, and yet today he is nothing more than an historical footnote, and a dark one at that.

Concepts like altruism have existed for ten thousand years, epitomized in religions and spiritual disciplines, or at least many say so, but I again question why we see no changes in paradigms in religion and such over all of those years. Why is God not helping, is he not listening? Does he not care? Concepts are created every day, and theories have been bandied about with abandon with nothing to show for it. Ten thousand years of time and effort. Millions have endured pain and suffering beyond comprehension. Millions have lived and died terrible existences and deaths. And we remain barely above the rest of the animal kingdom, even with our technology and our philosophies and our gods. Has anything actually changed, I mean really changed? I don’t think so, I don’t see it.

We have to stop using words to impress others, and we need to impress ourselves, with reason and intellect and a morality that will reflect those things that we have been talking about, not for a hundred years, but a hundred centuries. We are not producing a better product when we talk of our progeny, if anything it is getting worse. We don’t respect life (incomprehensibly), we don’t respect authority (which is understandable, but we are the ones who give them that authority), we don’t treat people with respect and compassion and empathy (so much for altruism), and in many cases we don’t even respect ourselves. We need to ‘think-outside-the-box’ as they say. We need to give our children the golden opportunity to become better individuals with each passing generation, and trust that they will become the kind of people that we thought we would someday be. (that infers that we have been complete failures to this point)

We don’t speak of morality except in mindless rhetoric. Our moral values are wanting badly at best, and are reprehensible at worst. Have the numbers actually changed in ten thousand years? We kill, we cheat, we beat, and use violence not just against our enemies and strangers, but against those we love (supposedly), our families, our children, our friends, and even our pets. We rape and abuse without thought or remorse (perhaps now and again, but not really). Sexual abuse, spousal abuse, child abuse, animal abuse, physical abuse, psychological abuse, and self-abuse. What is wrong with us? We remain animals and we are not progressing, or at least not to any appreciable degree. Do you disagree? How then do you explain the destruction of Eden, the loss of any hope for a Utopian existence? Dystopian is the genre of our species, the only future that so many seem to embrace as inevitable. What a shame. So sad.

Altruism declares that any action taken for the benefit of others is good,
and any action taken for one own benefit is evil.
Thus the beneficiary of an action is the only criterion of moral value
—and so long as that beneficiary is anybody other than oneself, anything goes.

Ayn Rand - “Introduction,” The Virtue of Selfishness

(LCW)   These are the sentiments of Positivism and the Religion of Humanity and Comte in a ‘nutshell’ and he is indeed a nutcase, applauded and embraced through the last two centuries. He says he wants to rescue humanity, but he steals the very essence of humanity from us with his altruism and his rejection of reason, intellect, individualism, philosophy, psychology, and even most aspects of science with the exception of those things that are in agreement with his plan for mankind. You really need to understand what he says and what he envisioned. It is difficult indeed to try and relate what he has to say without getting lost in the abyss and the dark side of humanity. But that’s why we are here, to hopefully have a conversation and possibly to learn a little bit about those great thinkers of society who believe that the way to save us is to destroy us.

It is your mind that they want you to surrender—all those who preach
the creed of sacrifice, whatever their tags or their motives,
whether they demand it for the sake of your soul or of your body,
whether they promise you another life in heaven or a full stomach on this earth.
Those who start by saying: “It is selfish to pursue your own wishes,
you must sacrifice them to the wishes of others”
—end up by saying: “It is selfish to uphold your convictions,
you must sacrifice them to the convictions of others.”

(Ayn Rand) Galt’s Speech - For the New Intellectual

(LCW)   It is difficult to articulate the extreme level of skepticism I feel for the future at times, not because there are people that speak of these things, but the fact that so many voice their approval and agreement. I believe that they do not understand the consequences and ramifications of the choices made, and we spend so much time arguing the definitions of concepts like altruism and rational self-interest that we do not discuss and investigate the concepts themselves, and continue to accept misleading and mistaken observations in lieu of actual legitimate and verifiable evidence and information.

There is a fundamental aspect of freedom and choice that is repeatedly overlooked or avoided that results in faulty and incomplete data and inevitably unusable and irrational conclusions. Until such a time where that is not the norm, I fear that little progress will be made, and the status quo will continue well into the future. But then again, what’s another ten thousand years of confusion and frustration? Perhaps that truly is the human condition.

Now there is one word—a single word—which can blast the morality of altruism
out of existence and which it cannot withstand
—the word: “Why?”
Why must man live for the sake of others? Why must he be a sacrificial animal?
Why is that the good? There is no earthly reason for it—and, ladies and gentlemen,
in the whole history of philosophy no earthly reason has ever been given.
It is only mysticism that can permit moralists to get away with it.
It was mysticism, the unearthly, the supernatural, the irrational that has always
been called upon to justify it—or, to be exact, to escape the necessity of justification.
One does not justify the irrational, one just takes it on faith.
What most moralists—and few of their victims—realize is
that reason and altruism are incompatible.

“Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World”
Ayn Rand - Philosophy: Who Needs It

(LCW)   Of course, it is fully the right and responsibility of each and every individual to come to their own conclusions, to investigate and explore existing possibilities, and to determine, for and by themselves, what the truth may be, and it does not matter how closely we achieve this objective of truth, only that we do so through our own abilities and whatever level of intellect and morality that is available to us. Being ‘right’ is always the goal we seek, but mistakes are inevitable, and whatever the error, it is always possible to re-evaluate and adjust virtually anything we desire. The value is in the attempt, and not taking anything for granted, and not listening to anyone that does not make a reasonable and practical argument for anything outside of our experience.

The question of ‘why’ has been a prevalent aspect of my life long before I introduced myself to Ayn Rand and objectivism. I was a relentless child, inconvenient and determined to find answers. This evolved into embarrassment and irritation, for myself and my parents, my teachers, and religious clergy as I was not easily placated by simplistic and rhetorical slogans and dogma. This resulted in conflict and the beginnings of being considered a troublesome individual, obnoxious and confrontational. What was I to do, since they were afraid or unable to simply answer my questions? It only made me question ‘why’ more deeply. Why do they not answer the question? Are they afraid of their own positions? Are those positions without legitimacy and substance? Unfortunately, in many cases, this was true. The answers that most infuriated me were ‘you will understand when you are older’ and my least favorite was ‘because I say so’ or some such drivel. Do children ever accept that?

‘Why’ is the fundamental objective of life. Why are we here? Does a god exist? Why is it so difficult to get adults to answer my questions? The question of why is the inspiration for almost everything that is attempted or accomplished in life. The corollary could easily be ‘why not’?

Religion, spiritualism, mysticism, and irrationalism all have their place in our observations and our investigations into those things that are difficult to understand. While these things give possibilities and at times are desirable, they are never instrumental in the definitive explanations of life around us. They give us hints and clues, so we can infer and guess their origins and their natures. They imply a desirability at times that is tempting and seductive, but they only arouse the imagination and do not answer the questions asked in any real way.

Reason is the final arbiter. Rand would say reality. We need something that we cannot only agree upon without verification but with hard and credible evidence that illustrates truth to us, or at least the closest legitimate information available to us.

I don’t want to criticize or condemn dreams and expectations, but I simply can’t accept them as real and valid if there is nothing whatsoever that can be used to verify at least their existence, and in most cases they exist only as dreams and hopes and wishes and desires. The promise of a better tomorrow, but a promise that can never be fully realized in any real sense. I realize that they are the essence of belief and faith and conviction, but I also acknowledge that they are ethereal and mystical in nature. I grant anyone and everyone the right to their own beliefs, even when they sometimes are difficult to comprehend for others, and I only ask that they allow me the same, the right to believe or not believe. It is not about the thought, but about the action, it is not about allowing others to believe, but to ‘not’ try and coerce them in any way to believe something other than what they have accepted as real and credible. That is not my decision, as it is not theirs as well.

Rand states that reason and altruism are incompatible, and I must admit, after my first reading of Comte and his philosophy of positivism and his concept of altruism, I fail to see how anyone cannot see the truth of her position. While reason can vary between individuals, there can be no argument that the accumulation of what Comte rejects and nullifies with his theories cannot be considered anything but irrational. Human beings may need to work on improving humanity, I think that is irrefutable, but just as inarguable is the fact that what Comte suggests will never be acceptable or practical to any degree in that quest. Hence irrational and hence incompatible with reason.

Why is it moral to serve the happiness of others, but not your own?
If enjoyment is a value, why is it moral when experienced by others,
but immoral when experienced by you?
If the sensation of eating cake is a value, why is it an immoral indulgence
in your stomach, but a moral goal for you to achieve in the stomach of others?
Why is it immoral for you to desire, but moral for others to do so?
Why is it immoral to produce a value and keep it, but moral to give it away?
And if it is not moral for you to keep a value, why is it moral for others to accept it?
If you are selfless and virtuous when you give it, are they not selfish and vicious when they take it?
Does virtue consist of serving vice? Is the moral purpose of those who are good,
self-immolation for the sake of those who are evil?

(Ayn Rand) Galt’s Speech - For the New Intellectual

(LCW)   By the time I first read these words, I was already lost in contemplation about concepts such as these. I began to see the world around me from a different perspective and from an alien context. Why is happiness something that is legitimate for others, but not for me? Why I am considered as selfish when for someone else it is perfectly acceptable? It made no sense. I had been hearing about this ‘double standard’ incessantly and yet had not really comprehended its true meaning. Politics was challenging, but the sheer number of points of view was daunting and intimidating. I found philosophy, and especially objectivism, to have a grasp of what I was experiencing based on reason and credible evidence that gave me a certain degree of comfortable understanding and confidence of purpose.

Double standards are never an answer to any issue. It is a matter of equality, but the equality I saw in Washington and on the streets was always convoluted and a matter of special-interests, and rarely true equity. Every question here is significant and demands an answer be each and every individual that desires to be a philosopher, to be a moral and ethical individual, with a character and integrity that they would be proud to call their own. It was a desire that took decades to determine and develop, but it is irrefutable that this is the only purpose and objective that an individual can hold as one of value and substance. I have never regretted my decision to make that journey. The only troublesome question to me today is ‘why’ (it surfaces once again) everyone does not feel as strongly, deeply, and as passionately as I do. Why are we here if not to be an individual of intellect, philosophy, reason, compassion, and empathy? I guess that we all have to come to our own conclusions through our own abilities and experiences and nothing else.

The answer you evade, the monstrous answer is: No, the takers are not evil,
provided they did not earn the value you gave them. It is not immoral for them to accept it,
provided they are unable to produce it, unable to deserve it,
and unable to give you any value in return.
It is not immoral for them to enjoy it, provided they do not obtain it by right.

(Ayn Rand) Galt’s Speech - For the New Intellectual

(LCW)   I interpret these words to speak of the concept of ‘coercion’ once again. It is something that incessantly comes up when speaking of objectivism, as well as collectivism and democratic liberalism, since objectivism expects its absence in every aspect of life, and the others cannot exist without it to ‘convince’ all of those that refuse to accept an ideology and philosophy that denies the rights and freedoms that most reasonable individuals consider to be a prerequisite to a full life of happiness, peace and harmony.

There is nothing in objectivism that precludes the helping of others or the donation of time and effort, or resources and advice, to those that have fallen on hard times, and face challenges that impeded their ability to live an independent and fruitful life. Those that say otherwise are simply mistaken, misleading others, or displaying a degree of ignorance that is disappointing and unfortunate. The focus of charity and similar behaviours should be, without exception, a voluntary giving of one's abilities and assets in a manner consistent with their moral philosophy, and not that of another, irrespective of any reasons that might be considered appropriate or beneficial to those in need. Each individual is responsible to the extent and degree that they have concluded is legitimate and reasonable.

Nothing else is acceptable or respectful, both to the agent that donates, or the recipient who receives. As a donor, I abhor and reject outright any intention or action that uses ‘force’ to get me to comply with arbitrary and illegitimate actions, and as a recipient, the last thing that I would want is for someone to be intimidated and coerced to do so. Those that don’t care may well be ‘undeserving’ of any considerations whatsoever under any moral paradigm.

There can be no real giving, and no true charity if the community is not in full agreement on this issue. Anything but completely voluntary action is anathema to the whole concept of community, charity and compassion. A fundamental aspect of objectivism is that nothing can be achieved within the community without the full mutual agreement between individuals for the mutual benefit of everyone involved. This encompasses every thought and action that an objectivist experiences and is one to be emulated and not vilified and condemned.

Such is the secret core of your creed, the other half of your double standard:
it is immoral to live by your own effort, but moral to live by the effort of others
—it is immoral to consume your own product but moral to consume the products of others
—it is immoral to earn, but moral to mooch—
it is the parasites who are the moral justification for the existence of the producers,
but the existence of the parasites is an end in itself
—it is evil to profit by achievement, but good to profit by sacrifice
—it is evil to create your own happiness, but good to enjoy it at the price of the blood of others.

(Ayn Rand) Galt’s Speech - For the New Intellectual

(LCW)   Morality is and will always be the benchmark upon which all thoughts and actions will be judged. Slowly assimilate each statement made here and reasonably argue how any of these issues can be acceptable in any respect. The Bible says (not ‘my’ book since I am an ignostic) that we should treat others as we would like to be treated by them. The immorality of taking something not legitimately offered or undeserved is contemptible and unforgivable. Those truly in need deserve our empathy and our assistance, but only what we can afford to give, both materially and emotionally, and psychologically. Nothing more than that can be expected nor should it be.

Your code divides mankind into two castes and commands them
to live by opposite rules: those who may desire anything and those who may desire nothing,
the chosen and the damned, the riders and the carriers, the eaters and the eaten.
What standard determines your caste? What passkey admits you to the moral elite?
The passkey is lack of value.

(Ayn Rand) Galt’s Speech - For the New Intellectual

(LCW)   Ironically, those who cannot in good conscience ‘take’ the undeserved are relegated to an existence where everything they create or produce has a lien placed against them for future generations. Those that easily accept the undeserved enjoy a level of benefit they were never intended to receive. It is the concept of morals and values that separate them. It is what destroys whatever sense of humanity they may possess. Equality, community, love, peace, tranquility, compassion, empathy, all of these things lose their significance and their legitimacy when there is no fundamental accepted moral code to live by. The parasites do well in any climate, while the rest of us are consigned to an existence of a sacrificial animal or more appropriately, an emotional and intellectually challenged slave.

If you heal your pain by your own effort, you receive no moral credit:
your code regards it scornfully as an act of self-interest.
Whatever value you seek to acquire, be it wealth or food or love or rights,
if you acquire it by means of your virtue, your code does not regard it as a moral acquisition:
you occasion no loss to anyone, it is a trade, not alms;
a payment, not a sacrifice. The deserved belongs in the selfish,
commercial realm of mutual profit; it is only the undeserved that calls
for that moral transaction which consists of profit to one at the price
of disaster to the other. To demand rewards for your virtue is selfish and immoral;
it is your lack of virtue that transforms your demand into a moral right.

A morality that holds need as a claim, holds emptiness—non-existence—as its standard of value;
it rewards an absence, a defect: weakness, inability, incompetence, suffering, disease, disaster,
the lack, the fault, the flaw—the zero.

(Ayn Rand) Galt’s Speech - For the New Intellectual

(LCW)   There are many people that criticize the fictional style of Ayn Rand, her characters are two-dimensional, there is no plot, the books are too long and the monologues that Roark and Galt give, in Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged respectively, are somehow tedious and uninspiring. For me, that is incomprehensible. I was something of a voracious reader when I was young, enjoying history, philosophy, mysteries, and especially science fiction, and from the first sampling of her work, in my teens, through Anthem and We, The Living, I was hopelessly enthralled, intrigued and fascinated by her words.

I was never attracted to the literary aspects of a book, but I was captivated by the story-telling, the fine details, and the ability to make me think, make me question, and contemplate possibilities. As previously mentioned, I was obsessed with the question of ‘why’, and I remain so today. Ayn Rand did just that, she challenged me not to just question others, but to question myself, why I thought the way I did, and why those things I believed had value and substance.

It was the beginning of an in-depth investigation into the world of philosophy. I had read Aristotle and Plato and Kant and Nietzsche but it was more a curiosity than anything else. Rand brought many things into focus, not the least of which was the conflicts I had with so many adults (so-called) who never impressed me as really knowing or comprehending their own words, their own beliefs, and their own existence.

Here was someone who was able to focus and speak directly to concepts and fundamentals, with little or no concern as to whether it made people uncomfortable. She spoke her own truth and took responsibility for what she said, and was able to define and explain exactly why she thought the way she did, and she expected everyone else to do the same. I was hooked.

I found her characters to be rich and diverse. Not complicated in their dealings with other characters, and for some that may be an imperative, but not when what they say is so full of value and substance from a philosophical sense. The protagonists are so honest and consistent that they seem unrealistic to some, and I understand the mistake in interpretation, but they were exactly what I had envisioned the potential of human beings to be in essence, and she brought it out on the page.

Like Superman or Dirty Harry, they were devoid of subterfuge and superficial facades, unlike so many of those that I have met in my 70 years of life have been. I found the stories poignant and profound on so many levels, talking about things that actually could make a difference for all the things people talk about but never do. They so easily talk the talk, and rarely walk the walk. Rand’s characters could actually do both.

I enjoyed experiencing these heroic individuals, they represented what I had always imagined everyone to be when I was a child and blinded by idealistic hope for a future where everyone would respect and cooperate with each other, with no need to hurt or oppress others for whatever reason. That Utopia that so many speak of in fiction and philosophy and religion? I actually thought that was a possibility, at a time lost to memory. Still, some dreams never die, and the reality of humanity is a stark wake-up call for such a young romantic with stars in his eyes, only to be replaced with tears and sadness.

This ‘virtue’ of altruism, of self-sacrifice, where choice and freedom don’t seem to exist in a manner compatible with my own, is anathema to everything I have come to believe and embrace as reasonable, practical and appropriate. I was under the impression that individualism was something that was admirable, that independence and competence were values to strive for, and that being successful was something of value and substance. But it seems that anything you ‘achieve’ is nothing but a vice that denotes pure selfishness of the most base kind, displaying for all to see that you care nothing about anyone but yourself.

Is there no other alternative than that one, no other moral philosophy that can give you an environment to develop your abilities, but ‘with’ an ethical set of rules for behaviour and social interactions that did not absolutely demand that you hurt other individuals, destroy their relationships and futures, steal from them everything they have and leave them to wallow in an existence of pain and suffering and sadness? Of course, there is, and I find it repugnant that many fail or refuse to acknowledge that there are individuals that can do all of these things and not hurt others, not act like animals, and still live a life with character and integrity.

The irony is that these bad attributes derive from ignorance and the belief in a concept such as altruism, where one does not get to decide, but only to obey, where the individual exists only to help others, and never themselves, that selfishness, even when it does absolutely no harm to another is seen as the worst kind of selfish and violent act you can perpetrate against another individual. And who are ‘they’ who make these determinations if not you or I? That is the dirty little secret that is for each individual to discover for themselves. The only valid options are to make determinations for oneself or to let another do it for you. It is a difficult habit to break. Self-determination displays strength and competence, acquiescence denotes nothing but weakness and incompetence and an inability to direct your own actions and your own destiny.

Since nature does not provide man with an automatic form of survival,
since he has to support his life by his own effort,
the doctrine that concern with one’s own interests is evil
means that man’s desire to live is evil—that man’s life, as such, is evil.
No doctrine could be more evil than that.

Yet that is the meaning of altruism.

Ayn Rand - “Introduction,” The Virtue of Selfishness

(LCW)   If life ‘is’ actually evil, then existence is futile, and a nihilistic interpretation of reality is possibly the ‘only’ legitimate conclusion, but reason and experience refute that. It is man’s ability to not only survive but flourish that makes him unique. If only there was a moral philosophy that was compatible with his actions that could direct and control his, shall we say, inappropriate activities. ‘Self’ is not evil in itself. The attempt to control self is admirable and a fundamental necessity to survival. It is the desire to control the ‘self’ of others that is evil, despicable, and a threat to the success and survival of the individual, as well as the social community. As Rand states, ‘nothing could be more evil than that’. As usual, poignant and prophetic.

Observe what this beneficiary-criterion of [the altruist] morality does to a man’s life.
The first thing he learns is that morality is his enemy: he has nothing to gain from it,
he can only lose; self-inflicted loss self-inflicted pain and the gray,
debilitating pall of an incomprehensible duty is all that he can expect.
He may hope that others might occasionally sacrifice themselves for his benefit,
as he grudgingly sacrifices himself for theirs, but he knows that the relationship
will bring mutual resentment, not pleasure - and that, morally,
their pursuit of values will be like an exchange of unwanted,
unchosen Christmas presents, which neither is morally permitted to buy for himself.
Apart from such times as he manages to perform some act of self-sacrifice,
he possesses no moral significance: morality takes no cognizance of him
and has nothing to say to him for guidance in the crucial issues of his life;
it is only his own personal, private, “selfish” life and, as such,
t is regarded either as evil or, at best, amoral.

Ayn Rand - “Introduction,” The Virtue of Selfishness

(LCW)   It is fairly obvious to me that at some point every individual has to at least question what it is that altruism brings to them unless one is oblivious to the realities of life and cares little for what the future may hold for them, their family and loved ones, and even all of those other individuals that we term as strangers. One cannot be altruistic for the satisfaction of an act of kindness, nor for the warm feeling of knowing that at least one person’s day has been improved in some way or it is termed selfish or an ulterior motive.
The possibility that it is nothing but integrity and ethical behaviour is not recognized. I would think that the fact an action helped someone might be significant, but it is the motivation that is questioned, and until you apologize for your good deed, it seems altruism will never be appeased. I find the whole paradigm incomprehensible and irrational.

If there does indeed exist some imperative for each and every one of us to sacrifice for others, is it not reasonable to expect that someone, somewhere will sacrifice for ‘us’ at some point, and if this sacrifice encompasses and illustrates a ‘good’ within society, cannot even the victims be expected to sacrifice for other victims occasionally, or are they exempt from ever doing a good deed for eternity because for some undefined time they spent as an individual in need? Why does this never happen? Why is it never expected?

Even though altruism declares that “it is more blessed to give than to receive,”
it does not work that way in practice. The givers are never blessed;
the more they give, the more is demanded of them; complaints, reproaches
and insults are the only response they get for practicing altruism’s virtues
(or for their actual virtues). Altruism cannot permit a recognition of virtue;
it cannot permit self-esteem or moral innocence. Guilt is altruism’s stock in trade,
and the inducing of guilt is its only means of self-perpetuation.
If the giver is not kept under a torrent of degrading, demeaning accusations,
he might take a look around and put an end to the self-sacrificing.
Altruists are concerned only with those who suffer—not with those who provide
relief from suffering, not even enough to care whether they are able to survive.
When no actual suffering can be found, the altruists are compelled
to invent or manufacture it.

Ayn Rand - “Moral Inflation,” The Ayn Rand Letter

(LCW)   While I acknowledge that Ayn Rand can be aggressive and forceful at times, and she may be a bit over the top with her observations here, it always needs to be put into context to understand her perspective. We have already spoken of the version of altruism that she is focused on when she refutes the concept, and if one acknowledges her view as valid and reasonable, as I do, then we have to allow her comments to be perceived as legitimate and substantial. If one thinks that saying ‘hello’ or giving a fiver to a homeless person in the ‘only’ altruism that exists, then I guess we will have to agree to disagree.

Having said that, there certainly exists a significant segment of our society that agrees with Comte when it comes to the concept of altruism, and they do present commentary on the point that Rand attempts to make. Rand, and objectivism in general, do not accept the emotional rendition of altruism where there exists no coercion of any kind, where people are left to make their own decisions without restriction or intimidation, and where the feeling of brotherhood and cooperation, in conjunction with compassion and empathy, drive the whole idea of helping those in need from a personal perspective.

It does have to be acknowledged that there are many different perspectives, and some of them are not benign and open to the concepts of freedom and choice when it comes to the issue of altruism. Evil does exist in the world, and I find that incomprehensible to argue, and the concept of altruism as created and presented by Auguste Comte in the 1850s is without a doubt an illustration of something destructive and evil. We need to determine exactly what has been said, and to confront and discuss the concept as he (Comte) interpreted it, and respond.

This is ‘not’ about what I may think about it, or you for that matter, and not even the perspective held by Ayn Rand, but that of Comte only. Then, and only then, can we listen to Rand espouse her own views in contrast to those of Comte, and then you and I as well can refute or agree based on our own experiences, philosophy and comprehension of what Comte had to offer. Again, this is not an evaluation of what anyone else besides Comte may have interpreted from his work, but to determine, to the best of our abilities, listening to his own words by his own hand, what ‘he’ believed, and responding accordingly.

At that point, we may all counter with our own investigations and contemplations of what he has written. Remember, we are supposed to be engaging in what many call a ‘reasoned’ argument and not meant to be confrontational, no matter how heated and passionate it may become. At least that is the hope. The objective is to learn and grow and to understand and use that knowledge as we move forward as social individuals.

While Rand can be quite aggressive at times, please remember her background and her passion for the concept we are discussing. She lived in a much different paradigm than I would have ever wanted for myself, and sees the world through a set of lenses that are not available to the rest of us. That does not mean we cannot disagree, and I do, probably as much as I agree with her positions. There is truth in every comment she has made, but perhaps not in the absolute terminology that she sometimes uses. I think we all do that at times, and it would benefit us all if we remembered that. It is not about personalities, but about philosophy and beliefs, and about freedom and equality and liberty that Rand speaks, and she is consistent and comprehensive in her perspective and in her words. We need to think deeply before responding, and be open-minded to alternatives and possibilities, even if she (Rand) at times may seem reluctant to do so herself. She is trying to be objective in any case, and we should attempt to do the same.

The social system based on and consonant with the altruist morality —
with the code of self-sacrifice— is socialism, in all or any of its variants:
fascism, Nazism, communism. All of them treat man as a sacrificial animal
to be immolated for the benefit of the group, the tribe, the society, the state.
Soviet Russia is the ultimate result, the final product, the full, consistent
embodiment of the altruist morality in practice; it represents the only way
that that morality can ever be practiced.

Ayn Rand - “Conservatism: An Obituary” Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal

(LCW)   Self-sacrifice is yet another fundamental aspect of altruism that is a challenge for Rand, or anyone else for that matter, to define and explain in detail. It is a horrible concept because of the inherent coercion within the concept. I realize that many tend to see self-sacrifice in a somewhat benign light when it is anything but. The dichotomy with the concept is the distinction between an intimate, personal, and fully voluntary decision and conclusion, and the manipulation and coercive aspect of someone else doing the decision-making for the individual. There are contradictions and there is conflict in the motivation and the implementation of the concept into our lives, and as always, as soon as an outside influence is introduced, no matter how well-meaning or benign they may seem, the power they possess if the individual is vulnerable or under-informed is formidable.

America and other democracies tend to speak of sacrifice, and at times even self-sacrifice, but usually only in an esoteric manner, leaving the decisions to the individual based on their abilities and focusing on the rights of freedom, liberty, choice, etc. as the motivation of any sacrifice that is contemplated. As it should be. It is the collectivists, especially socialism, and democratic liberalism as well, that speak of self-sacrifice in a wholly different context, and they talk of the common good, or the ‘greater good’ as the goal which infers that the individual ‘good’ is somehow of less importance.

If fact, these ideologies renounce and condemn ‘self’, individualism, rational self-interest and choice as contrary to the best interests of society specifically, and humanity in general. Comte certainly talked in those terms and it is important to reiterate that he was the creator of sociology and his philosophy of positivism, as well as his Religion of Humanity. He has been called the Father of Socialism. The issue of coercion is the fundamental and the ‘only’ focus of the argument that Rand has with Comte or anyone who says they believe in the concept of originalist altruism. For the sake of this conversation, it is the only definition that is under discussion at this time.

Would it make any difference if we stipulated, for the sake of argument that this debate is just between Rand and Comte? Does this make any of the arguments more definitive in any way? ‘If’ coercion ‘is’ the crux of the concept, would you accept or reject the belief that it is appropriate to force another individual into being altruistic? Would ‘you’ accept being told how to act, with whom, when, and to what degree, or do you believe in the freedom to think and to act within your own philosophical morality, irrespective of what some ‘other’ individual might desire or believe? That is the only debate that is on the table.

America’s inner contradiction was the altruist-collectivist ethics.
Altruism is incompatible with freedom, with capitalism and with individual rights.
One cannot combine the pursuit of happiness with the moral status of a sacrificial animal.

Ayn Rand - “Man’s Rights,” The Virtue of Selfishness

(LCW)   How can any person, any individual ‘pursue’ anything in their own interests if they are being constrained by the ideology and beliefs of another? America was a champion of helping others, but also of freedom and liberty as well as capitalism. How are any of these things capable of achieving personal objectives if not at the voluntary direction and conclusions of the individual themselves? How does one achieve anything if their own demise is an inarguable possibility in the standard of morality used? I don’t think it is possible, and I have to question why anyone else ever needs to be a part of the process deliberation. There may always be the need to look for advice and experience from others, but it should be in an uncoerced atmosphere and only through mutual agreement to result in mutual benefit. Anything else is not in one's best interest or the best interest of society in general.

From her start, America was torn by the clash
of her political system with the altruist morality.
Capitalism and altruism are incompatible;
they are philosophical opposites; they cannot co-exist in the same man
or in the same society. Today, the conflict has reached its ultimate climax;
the choice is clear-cut: either a new morality of rational self-interest,
with its consequences of freedom, justice, progress
and man’s happiness on earth — or the primordial morality of altruism,
with its consequence of slavery, brute force, stagnant terror and sacrificial furnaces.

Ayn Rand - For the New Intellectual Psychology

(LCW)   It has never been enough for many to be able to enjoy and practice the freedom of personal expression, freedom of belief. For some reason, they gain little satisfaction or achievement in life ‘unless’ they are in a position to force other people to agree with them. They are so obsessed with being right, and they can only find validation when others agree with them. There is no contentment in their own competence and abilities to find their own happiness and determine their own future. These people tend to be a part of the collectivist, socialist and liberal democratic paradigms. Agreement is not the goal, and freedom demonstrates that it is possible without the initiation of coercion, no, they need to control and direct others, and notwithstanding psychological problems, I have never been able to actually conclude why they feel compelled to do so.

Capitalism and altruism are indeed incompatible. One is determined by ‘self’ and the other by individuals that don’t trust you to make good decisions, to take proper actions, even to the point of not thinking properly which simply means as they do. I realize that there are many people that oppose capitalism as oppressive and selfish, and the truth of the matter is that many of them are exactly that.

The issue is that capitalism has nothing to do with the negative outcomes, they derive solely from the inappropriate thoughts and actions of those I characterize as ‘inappropriate players’. Those that will do anything to make a buck, even if this disadvantages another individual.

Creating wealth has nothing to do with such a philosophical perversion as that. It has nothing to do with taking advantage of another human being, whether the consumer or the employee. There is no fundamental requirement to ‘exploit’ individuals or to hurt them in any way. That is completely at the discretion of the inappropriate player I mentioned.

It is the concept of free trade that does not ‘allow’ them from doing these repugnant things, but it does not restrict them either. Capitalism is about self-control and about self-discretion and self-determination. Not easy things by any stretch. It takes character, and a moral philosophy that, in most cases, takes a lifetime to hone and develop into something to be proud. It takes a strong and credible morality and concept of legitimate ethical behaviour to create that character and the integrity that is necessary to exhibit to all exactly who and what you are made of.

Most people, unfortunately, are not capable of doing this and fail miserably when they are given the opportunity to engage with others within a paradigm that grants freedom to anyone that wishes to make an attempt at being a responsible, considerate and respectful member of a truly free community. Freedom is a concept that is both elusive, as truth is, but also messy, because everyone is not on the same page, and some are willing to do almost anything to gain wealth, prestige, influence and especially power, usually over other individuals, and rarely over their own thoughts and actions.

The fundamental challenge is to create a nation, a planet, with individuals such as I have presented, with that new morality of rational self-interest. Ayn Rand made the attempt to explain her own perspective on what is necessary, and it has blossomed over the decades into something substantive and optimistic. It has been forty years now that she has been gone, but her words, her concepts, and her vision for the future not only remains with us, but it has also expanded exponentially, and with the opposition that exists, it is something of an achievement that few can argue or equal.

I have been investigating, studying, and living much of what she suggested and it is irrefutably a legitimate alternative to what we have today throughout most of the world. Certainly superior to all of the collectivist and fascist experiments, which have ‘all’ failed over time, and history shows this to be true.

All of the failures of ‘The Great American Experiment’, capitalism, and objectivism can all be argued were because of those inappropriate and damaged individuals that either enjoy hurting other people or simply don’t seem to care about what happens to the communities that exist all around us. They have no moral compass except for rhetorical slogans, coercive legislation, and mindless demonstration. If they did, then we would have been able to make more progress than what I have seen over my lifetime. It is more than just sad, it is debilitation and desolation, to see what has been done to such a great country, based on legitimate concepts.

The reason that America is so challenged is not that the system is at fault, but that no one is willing to do what is necessary, and is always looking to that Utopian existence that is forever over the horizon, as envisioned by those that will only achieve their dreams when everyone is willing to do what they are told, so the family, the party, the state, the community, the nation, the world, and humanity can finally find peace in an existence neither created or developed by the individual, but by the nameless and ethereal ‘collective’.

It has never worked, and I am of the opinion that it never will, it is simply neither reasonable nor practical to create an environment where the individual does not exist for himself, but only for his neighbor, and neither will have to do anything other than acquiesce and obey.

Altruism is not about God, or even about compassion or empathy, or charity. It is not about respect and it is not about humanity. It is about power, and control. The morality is animalistic in essence and coercive in nature. The imperative is an existence of slavery and oppression and a perpetual state of ‘need’. The concept of sacrifice, self or selflessness is not relevant. It is not about choice or freedom or any of those ‘selfish’ concepts. It is not about peace and harmony and happiness. It is anything but.

It is obvious why the morality of altruism is a tribal phenomenon.
Prehistorical men were physically unable to survive without clinging
to a tribe for leadership and protection against other tribes.
The cause of altruism’s perpetuation into civilized eras is not physical,
but psycho-epistemological: the men of self-arrested, perceptual mentality
are unable to survive without tribal leadership and “protection” against reality.
The doctrine of self-sacrifice does not offend them: they have
no sense of self or of personal value-they do not know what it is
that they are asked to sacrifice—they have no firsthand inkling
of such things as intellectual integrity, love of truth, personally chosen values,
or a passionate dedication to an idea. When they hear injunctions
against “selfishness,” they believe that what they must renounce is the brute,
mindless whim-worship of a tribal lone wolf. But their leaders —
the theoreticians of altruism—know better. Immanuel Kant knew it;
John Dewey knew it; B. F. Skinner know it; John Rawls knows it.
Observe that it is not the mindless brute, but reason, intelligence, ability,
merit, self-confidence, self-esteem that they are out to destroy.

Ayn Rand - “Selfishness Without a Self,” Philosophy: Who Needs It

(LCW)   The altruist argues that man is a social animal, but I have to deeply and passionately question such a statement. Civilization has spanned approximately ten thousand years to date, and if this were true, then why is it that after all that time, with the introduction of over four thousand gods, hundreds of religions, and even more ‘disciplines’ where humanity had the opportunity and the choice to find an appropriate direction and purpose, why have they not been able to find a path, a direction, anything more acceptable than where we find ourselves today.

We have not found a way to stop the killing, the abuse, the rape, the violence, the lies, the thieving, a million ways to hurt not only strangers but those that we profess to love, our spouses, our children, our brothers and sisters, our parents, our friends and our community. If anything it is even worse today than it has ever been. When does altruism show us the way? When do the religions of the world begin to make a difference and change the paradigm? I am more than a little disappointed with the results of all of the time and effort spent on doing what? Perhaps Ayn Rand is right when she says it is time for a real and appreciable change, to an existence based on a comprehensive philosophy that defines morality and ethics and character and integrity. Is that not what you want? Are you not confused and frustrated by the inability of our species to take even a baby-step forward into that Utopian future that we have all dreamed of? (sans coercion, of course).

When does mankind actually stand up on their own two legs and determine their own future, as individuals as well as a social community, where we do not acquiesce and accept the direction of others, that we find there is no need of a nanny-state or a government that feels that we are not capable of caring for our own needs?

It is not the collective that will make this a reality, it will always be about the individual, about millions of individuals that are willing to work together, voluntarily cooperating to make a better paradigm, always through mutual agreement towards mutual benefit, never hurting another, and helping those that need help to find a pathway to a valuable and productive life, based not on what the altruist tells them, but on what they determine for themselves. We are unique beings, we need to start acting in our own best interests, which ironically are what is best for the community at large as well. If not now, then when?

The advocates of mysticism are motivated not by a quest for truth,
but by hatred for man’s mind; . . the advocates of altruism are motivated
not by compassion for suffering, but by hatred for man’s life

Ayn Rand - “An Untitled Letter,” Philosophy: Who Needs It

(LCW)   Man’s mind is an instrument that wishes to find the answers to questions that makes individuals uncomfortable with life in general, taking away confidence and competence and replacing it with fear and anxiety as to how to direct their lives and actions. Ironically, if we derive our abilities through a god in some way, then it is that god that makes us strive for answers, and we will take no misdirection and rhetoric as evidence of anything at all.

Mysticism has no answers because none exist that are based on reason and verifiable evidence. I fully support the individual’s right and opportunity to self-determine and decide by their own abilities and beliefs. If that means that they accept and embrace something that is unintelligible to me, or difficult to comprehend, then so be it. If it makes them a better person because of those beliefs, I can only regard the results of those decisions and make a judgment based on that. If they are truly a ‘better’ person because of it, then I can do nothing but approve and encourage that behaviour, with the caveat that if it does not initiate coercion in any way, and does not hurt other individuals in the application of those acts, then it is appropriate and a benefit to all unless and until evidence is shown it to be otherwise. Do you not act in a similar manner with your own deliberations and conclusions?

Mysticism does not prefer the use of your mind, since that invariably means conflict and confrontation. A mind of intellect and philosophy, if different than someone else’s, can be abrasive and a source of disagreement on almost any subject. The mystical wants to minimize that by promoting its own version of peace and contentment, with no need from the supplicant to go to any lengths to determine their own. It may not be an actual ‘hatred’ of the mind, but certainly does not support the independence and freedom of the individual. And at times it is an undeniable aversion that the mystic holds for the mind.

Rand’s comment on the advocates of altruism unfortunately rings true, as they certainly do not support or advocate for the freedom that independence gives the individual in the context of the decisions it makes to evolve a life full and rich, based on their own experiences and abilities and personal moral philosophy that is a life-long objective. The altruist does not want the individual to find their own answers for happiness and empathy and compassion, they want you to accept and embrace their own version for the future, not just supporting what ‘they’ say, but subjugating your own will and expectations to that which they promote.

Compassion and respect for people does not derive from a desire to control and direct, but from a real wish that the individual is successful in coming to their own distinct and unique decisions. I never hear the altruist make such a statement, and therefore have come to the conclusion that Rand’s position is a predominantly legitimate one. Perhaps she could use different language, but passion and comprehension often makes one come across as a bit more forceful and aggressive than may be warranted. This in no way negates her perspective in any way. As always, she is consistent, well-researched, and comprehensive. Her views are inarguably legitimate. One will invariably have the right to discover their own findings but will have to accept the consequences and ramifications for those observations.

The psychological results of altruism may be observed in the fact that
a great many people approach the subject of ethics by asking such questions as:
“Should one risk one’s life to help a man who is: a) drowning, b) trapped in a fire,
c) stepping in front of a speeding truck, d) hanging by his fingernails
over an abyss?” Consider the implications of that approach.
If a man accepts the ethics of altruism, he suffers the following consequences
(in proportion to the degree of his acceptance):

Lack of self-esteem—since his first concern in the realm of values is not
how to live his life, but how to sacrifice it.

Lack of respect for others—since he regards mankind as a herd of
doomed beggars crying for someone’s help.

A nightmare view of existence—since he believes that men are trapped
in a “malevolent universe” where disasters are the constant
and primary concern of their lives.

And, in fact, a lethargic indifference to ethics, a hopelessly cynical amorality —
since his questions involve situations which he is not likely ever to encounter,
which bear no relation to the actual problems of his own life
and thus leave him to live without any moral principles whatever.

By elevating the issue of helping others into the central and primary issue of ethics,
altruism has destroyed the concept of any authentic benevolence
or good will among men. It has indoctrinated men with the idea
that to value another human being is an act of selflessness,
thus implying that a man can have no personal interest in others —
that to value another means to sacrifice oneself—that any love,
respect or admiration a man may feel for others is not and cannot be
a source of his own enjoyment, but is a threat to his existence,
a sacrificial blank check signed over to his loved ones.

The men who accept that dichotomy but choose its other side, the ultimate
products of altruism’s de humanizing influence, are those psychopaths
who do not challenge altruism’s basic premise, but proclaim their rebellion
against self-sacrifice by announcing that they are totally indifferent
to anything living and would not lift a finger to help a man or a dog
left mangled by a hit-and-run driver (who is usually one of their own kind).

Ayn Rand - “The Ethics of Emergencies,” The Virtue of Selfishness

(LCW)   The ‘Ethics of Emergencies’ is a subject that I have always been uncomfortable with. First of all, you put an individual into a circumstance (they rarely have any input) not of their making, and often of little relevance or validity within the context of reality, and then ask them leading questions as to how they would act, never being able to question anything about the scenario or of the questioning agent themselves. Invariably, the answers are held up to the lens of an arbitrary philosophy or morality and judged accordingly, all the time avoiding the fact that the example, as presented, may well never be legitimate in any way.

While it is interesting at times, it has no reasonable bearing on anything remotely considered significant or substantive, especially when the scenario is the well-known ‘trolley’ set of circumstances or the ‘prisoner’. The number of questions to create distinctions and nuances are endless and while some of them might clarify the situation, none can really put the elements into a legitimate and relevant ‘context’.

Am I responsible for the situation? Do I have any particular abilities that make me a candidate under the circumstances? I think my favourite would be why is the questioner making the decision? What are my moral and ethical values, and are they being judged or is it a simple question as to a not-so-simple scenario? Are you willing to get into an in-depth debate about the irrelevancy of the question or is it simply to put me at a disadvantage? If my answer is not appropriate to your own personal paradigm, what are the consequences? Should there be any?

Since nothing definitive can be drawn from whatever answer is offered, what is the reasoning behind the original questions themselves? I think I could list at least a hundred questions that I would want to be answered ‘before’ I could make such a decision. I realize that the objective is to get an unthinking and spontaneous answer, but is that not inappropriate? If I cannot make such a snap decision does that mean I am a coward or just an indecisive dolt? Does that reflect badly on me, or is that just if I say I would do nothing? Are there any good reasons why saying no is even a bad thing? Does an individual have a coercive responsibility to react to the situation in what is considered a social affirmation of altruism? Is that not what this exercise is all about, the indoctrination into every individual of the necessity and imperative to sacrifice one’s life and their family’s future to a spur-of-the-moment decision even though the person might not deserve the attention or be responsible for their own predicament? Can one refuse to play an ideological and highly inappropriate game not of their own volitional agreement? I think you can see that I am not open to the opportunity. While interesting, it is the epitome of ignorance to spend time discussing things that have nothing to do with the reality of survival of the individual.

I think that Rand makes some disturbingly valid points in her statement. It is worth the effort of trying to understand exactly what she is saying, and to contemplate if her insight has any value or substance in your own paradigm.

Remember, it is rarely the destination that brings value or enlightenment, but rather the experience of the journey itself. Contemplate what it means to be on the verge of death. Make a rational effort to empathize with the victim, and then do so for the agent as well, and see if any insights or revelation comes to you. Altruism always wants to make this about the nameless ‘other’ when it is inarguably about you and how you will handle your life as you move into the future. WWJD (What would Jesus do?) It’s fascinating that nowhere in the bible, to the best of my knowledge, these kinds of scenarios were never discussed. Why is that? WWTAD (What would the altruist do). I don’t know. Just food for thought.

The injunction “don’t judge” is the ultimate climax of the altruist morality
which, today, can be seen its naked essence. When men plead for forgiveness,
for the nameless, cosmic forgiveness of an unconfessed evil,
when they react with instantaneous compassion to any guilt,
to the perpetrators of any atrocity, while turning away indifferently
from the bleeding bodies of the victims and the innocent —
one may see the actual purpose, motive and psychological appeal of the altruist code.
When these same compassionate men turn with snarling hatred upon anyone
who pronounces moral judgments when they scream that the only evil
is the determination to fight against evil—one may see the kind of
moral blank check that the altruist morality hands out.

Ayn Rand - “For the New Intellectual,” For the New Intellectual

(LCW)   Judgment is something that helps us determine how we should act and even how to think. If we refuse to judge or are reluctant to do so, then it is difficult if not impossible to make decisions, many of which could actually, in the real world, but a matter of life or death.

It is not just that men plead for nameless forgiveness for an unconfessed evil, but the forgiveness is often for an unrecognized and uncommitted action as well. We are told that we have transgressed against some arbitrary and nebulous set of rules, which we have neither agreed to nor created ourselves. How can one be held accountable for something that they have not even recognized as a wrongdoing to begin with? It is irresponsible and verges on the insane. The only accountability or obligation we can accept is one that we have determined is valid and rational. Nothing else holds relevance for the individual until it is judged legitimate.

If this is not enough, there will be more of Rand’s commentary on altruism, with not only my own response but observations from others as well. The ignorance of altruism is great, but that is not even the problem. The reluctance or refusal to even discuss the issues is of much more import, from my perspective. The only imperative for me is to talk and to listen. With an open-mind and an open-heart. Disagreement is acceptable, dis-respect is not. We have to at least acknowledge that what others think has some intrinsic legitimacy, even if they are wrong in their determinations. We re-evaluate and adjust and even change at times, but without the agreement to at least engage in conversation, there can be no real change, and there will be none. The discussion will go on forever, and centuries from now we will be mired in an environment much the same as the one we endure now, or perhaps by then the freedom to do so will be a distant memory. It can happen you know. Just don’t let it happen.


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