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Because unlike most moral philosophers, Rand directly claimed to have overthrown Hume.

You can't claim something like that and then say "oh, and for sh!ts and g!ggles you can't initiate harm on others."

If you wish to abandon any claim to surpassing Hume, then by all means tell me and I will accept any moral presupposition Objectivism has to offer.

Otherwise, Rand's burden is to derive her ethics SOLELY from "objectively grounded" normative statements.

Other than associating initiation of harm to the possibility that it might hurt your own survival, Rand has no derivation to account for this moral presupposition.

So how does she account for not initiating force outside of ego survival?

asked May 08 '13 at 22:43

dylancatlow's gravatar image


edited May 08 '13 at 23:03

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

The question mixes two topics that may or may not be closely related, and seriously misrepresents the philosophy of Objectivism in the process. The topics are: (a) Hume, and (b) Objectivist morality.

Consider Hume first. The question states:

... unlike most moral philosophers, Rand directly claimed to have overthrown Hume. [Where, exactly, did Ayn Rand ever say such a thing? The question needs to provide a reference for that statement.]

... If you wish to abandon any claim to surpassing Hume....

Ayn Rand's most definitive writings on morality appear in VOS (especially Chapter 1, "The Objectivist Ethics") and in Galt's Speech in Atlas Shrugged. Yet the name "Hume" does not appear even once anywhere in either of those works. The work by Ayn Rand that says the most about Hume is FNI, pp. 25-26 in the Signet paperback edition. That discussion describes "Attila-ism" in philosophy and provides a long paragraph presenting Hume's main ideas and identifying them as expressions of philosophical Attila-ism. A second paragraph on Hume then concludes:

If it were possible for an animal to describe the content of his consciousness, the result would be a transcript of Hume's philosophy. Hume's conclusions would be the conclusions of a consciousness limited to the perceptual level of awareness, passively reacting to the experience of immediate concretes, with no capacity to form abstractions, to integrate perceptions into concepts, waiting in vain for the appearance of an object labeled "causality" (except that such a consciousness would not be able to draw conclusions).

This discussion is merely a factual identification of the philosophical category which Hume's ideas express (along with an underlying tone of disapproval by Ayn Rand, amplified and explained by the full context of her observations). This is not an alleged refutation of Hume by means of ethics, although Ayn Rand certainly makes her own value-judgments fully clear. Hume's ideas are what they are; Ayn Rand's value-assessment of them is a consequence.

Meanwhile, Ayn Rand's integration of facts of reality to form her theory of value is explained in detail in VOS and in Galt's Speech (without any reference at all to Hume anywhere). One aspect of her ethics discussion is her perspective on the "is-ought dichotomy" in philosophy (again without any explicit association with Hume whatever). On p. 18 in the Signet paperback edition of VOS, Ayn Rand concludes (after detailed development):

To speak of "value" as apart from "life" is worse than a contradiction in terms. "It is only the concept of 'Life' that makes the concept of 'Value' possible."

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. So much for the issue of the relation between "is" and "ought".

Somehow I was under the impression that the "is-ought dichotomy" had something to do with Hume's ideas, but evidently Ayn Rand doesn't say that -- at least, not here. Perhaps the connection is mainly epistemological.

answered May 10 '13 at 01:45

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

edited May 10 '13 at 01:48

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Asked: May 08 '13 at 22:43

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Last updated: May 10 '13 at 01:48