By Joseph Kellard
This morning, I dashed off a reply to a commentator who concluded in a column that reason, as advocated by Ayn Rand, leads to competing “absolutes” that allows men to rob one another.
In your column “How we got to where we are,” you wrote about Ayn Rand's summation of her philosophy:
"The problem with this thesis is that it is self-contradictory. Reason cannot be an absolute if you reject the outside source of morality as it is found in biblical morality. If your own happiness is the moral purpose of life, then your own reason becomes the arbiter of that absolute, but one person's reason may (or perhaps necessarily will) conflict with another's, making neither 'absolute.' What if one man's reason tells him that his happiness will only be had by robbing another man of his wallet? Obviously, an impasse is created."
Ayn Rand was not an advocate of the reason-as-subjectivism scenario that you've painted here. Using reason does not lead to competing subjectivist “absolutes,” which is the actual contradiction that you have created.
Miss Rand demonstrated that by using reason – that is, exercising the laws of logic -- an individual can discover objective reality, including his nature as a man and his requirements to live. His nature requires that he use his rational mind to live his life according to his own values and choices, and that he has a right to do so, so long as he does not violate the rights of other men to pursue their own “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” – which was the Founding Fathers' implicit nod to the virtue of selfishness.
Reason demonstrates that no man has any right to initiate force against other men, no right to murder, rape or rob him. When a man steals another man’s wallet, thus violating his right to his life and property, he is an irrationalist – that is, he is not exercising his faculty of reason. And a proper, individual rights-respecting nation punishes him for his crime. In short, reason demonstrates that a man has an absolute right to his life and property (his wallet), and not a right to act on a subjectivist *whim* to take it from him.
Here, and elsewhere in your column (such as on the issue of collectivism) you misrepresent Miss Rand's philosophy because you either don't understand it, or you do but are deliberately trying to distort it.
~ Joseph Kellard