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This concept has been bugging me for some time. Perhaps you could help me wrap my head around it. Mrs. Rand's arguments for man's right to his own life have escaped my understanding.

Rand defined man's right to his own life as "the right to support his life by his own work" (my emphasis added) and "that Man cannot be deprived of his life for the benefit of another man nor of any number of other men."

Why is that true? Why is man's right to his life not include the right to take food and shelter from another man?

Thanks, Tetracide

asked Mar 15 '11 at 19:35

JK%20Gregg's gravatar image

JK Gregg ♦

edited Mar 17 '11 at 13:33

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

Most simply defined a "right" is a "just claim." When we say a person has a "right to his own life," we are expressing the concept of "self-ownership" -- which is the opposite condition humans, through out most of history, have been considered to be in. Traditionally, humans were thought to be the subjects -- effectively "owned" by some political leader.

The origin of this "right to life" will be found in the human animal's nature -- we have brain structures that give us the capacity we call intelligence, it is from this part of our nature the concept of self-ownership is built.

(Mar 19 '11 at 07:30) Joe Egan Joe%20Egan's gravatar image

In addition to the ARC reference, it may also be helpful to remember that in Objectivism, the essential bridge from ethics to politics is the issue of physical force. Refer to the entry on "Physical Force" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon, along with the entries on "Individual Rights" and "Life, Right to," (This last was explicitly linked in the question.) If all of that material still isn't enough, the complete works from which the Lexicon excerpts are taken should be consulted, as well.

One aspect of the question that I find particularly disturbing, though helpful in explaining what the questioner doesn't understand, is the following: "Why is man's right to his life not include the right to take food and shelter from another man?" This formulation, frankly, reminds me of Atlas Shrugged and its whole theme, the role of the mind in man's life. One scene, in particular, comes to my mind, the scene at the end of Part II Chapter VII in which the sleek passenger train known as The Comet is sent into the Taggart Tunnel with a smokey, coal-burning engine. The story describes the passengers on that train and what they were thinking about. One of them asked, rhetorically, "Why should Rearden be the only one permitted to manufacture Rearden Metal?" He was merely repeating a line he had read in a newspaper (Part II Chapter VI).

The answer is that it is Rearden Metal, not Boyle metal or J. Taggart Metal or Thompson Metal or Miracle Metal or Blue Metal -- it's Rearden Metal. It would not have existed at that time and place without Hank Rearden and the intense, years-long persevering cognitive effort and initiative that he put into creating it. By what right does anyone propose to dispose of that invention in his place?

"Why is man's right to his life not include the right to take food and shelter from another man?" This formulation actually suggests an answer: by the so-called "right" of every man to exist at the expense of others -- which means no one has a right to his own life, since he is duty-bound to support the lives of any and all others who have less than he does. I cannot imagine a more concretely detailed, devastating critique of this view than Ayn Rand's momentous novel, Atlas Shrugged.

(I suppose the quesioner may have been trying to ask: wouldn't the right to one's own life logically imply a right to exist at others' expense? Ayn Rand explains what the right to life does and does not mean, and why, in the Lexicon topics that I listed. Man survives by reason -- by production and trade guided by reason -- not by looting and plundering, nor by mooching.)

Ayn Rand even brilliantly captures the essense of an anti-mind philosopher aboard the doomed Comet, in an italicized series of basic philosophical questions which he knew enough to ask, and to answer in evasive denial.

answered Mar 17 '11 at 01:37

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

The Ayn Rand Center has an exerpt on Man's Rights here that you may find benificial.

answered Mar 16 '11 at 17:45

dream_weaver's gravatar image

dream_weaver ♦

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Asked: Mar 15 '11 at 19:35

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Last updated: Mar 19 '11 at 07:30