Objectivism Versus Humanism

 Posted by on 12 November 2009 at 4:00 pm  Ethics, Objectivism
Nov 122009

William Schultz — who I had the pleasure of meeting at the summer undergraduate conference of the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism a few years ago — e-mailed me yesterday to ask for my feedback on his defense of the Objectivist ethics in a discussion with a humanist. I didn’t have time to do that for him, but I told him that I’d post a link with that request to NoodleFood, if he posted the exchange somewhere on the web.

Happily, he’s done that: An Objectivist and Humanist in Discussion.

Here’s the first exchange, to whet your appetite:

Humanist to William:

“i imagine that the value of food is generalized to all humans in the same way that objectivists generalize the value of non-coersion, or that everyone has the obligation to let others follow their own rational self-interest. i might ask you.. “what fact of reality could possible [sic] give rise to such an obligation?” what’s to prevent yaron brook from becoming a serial murder if killing is one of his ‘standards of happiness’?”

William to Humanist:

My suspicion is that you miss the fact that non-coercion is a *principle* not an *obligation* granted by some outside source.

Missing this principle would make sense if you didn’t understand the foundation of the Objectivist ethics. For OE, the first question of ethics is not “which ethical code should I accept” but “why should I accept *any* ethical code.” Long story short: An ethical code is a hierarchy of values. Values are things you act to gain or keep. But value is only intelligible for living organisms. Inanimate matter has no values. It is only life that makes values possible. Thus, the life of each individual organism is the standard (as well as what makes possible) the very concept of value and thus the very concept of morality. For a human being, his mind — thought — is his primary tool of survival. This means recognizing a whole host of implications (one of which is the principle of non-coercion) that I’m not going to elaborate on here, but I hope you get the basic thrust. If you are interested or opposed, I recommend reading Rand’s much better display go read the whole thing. You’re welcome to post any comments here on NoodleFood, but please do also post them to William Schultz’s blog too.

  • jmitterii2 .

    “This means recognizing a whole host of implications (one of which is the principle of non-coercion)” Which I guess means we cannot coerce anyone to think a particular way, thus a undermind of everything stated. Nice.

  • Kristofer Dagbjartsson

    It appears the link is password protected and I was not able to read it. :(

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