- Q&A: The Ethics of Care for the Body: 12 Apr 2015, Question 3
Question: What is the moral status of actions aimed at tending to one's body? In an egoistic ethics, the ultimate end of moral action is the growth and continuation of one's own life. Ayn Rand discussed many of the kinds of actions required to achieve this goal, but she didn't discuss matters of "bodily care," such as cleaning your teeth, eating well, exercising regularly, tending to a wound, and seeking necessary medical care. These constitute a whole universe of actions necessary for the maintenance of one's body and, hence, one's life. Are such actions moral and virtuous? Should bodily care itself be considered a virtue? Or are these actions already subsumed under the virtues? (If so, I would love to know how to brush my teeth with integrity and pride!)
- Podcast: Should You Try to Be Morally Perfect?: 2 Apr 2015
Summary: Most people dismiss any ideal of moral perfection as beyond their reach. "I'm only human," they say. That view is a legacy of Christianity, which teaches that moral perfection is possible to God alone and that any attempt at moral perfection is the sin of pride. In sharp contrast, Ayn Rand argues that moral perfection is not only possible to ordinary people, but also necessary for anyone who wants to live a virtuous and happy life. Hence, pride, understood as moral ambitiousness, is one of her seven major virtues – as seen in the heroes of her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.
This talk explores Ayn Rand's views of moral perfection, ambition, and pride. What does she think that morality demands? How can people achieve that? How should people respond to their own moral wrongs and errors? Comparing Rand's answers to these questions to those of Aristotle, I show that despite some differences in each philosopher's conception of virtue, they share the compelling view that seeking moral perfection is crucially important to a person's life and happiness.
This lecture was given on 6 March 2012 at the University of Colorado at Boulder as part of the Philosophy Department's "Think!" series.
Tags: Ambition, Aristotle, Ayn Rand, Character, Ethics, Evasion, Expertise, Free Will, Moral Perfection, Moral Responsibility, Moral Saints, Moral Wrongs, Objectivism, Perfection, Perfectionism, Pride, Rationality, Skills, Susan Wolf, Virtue
- Podcast: Moral Amplifiers: 15 Jul 2014
Summary: Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism upholds seven major virtues as indispensable to our lives. Yet what of other qualities of character – such as ambition, courage, spontaneity, liveliness, discretion, patience, empathy, and friendliness? Are these virtues, personality traits, or something else? In this 2013 talk at ATLOSCon, I argued that such qualities are best understood as "moral amplifiers," because their moral worth wholly depends how they're used. I explained why people should cultivate such qualities and why they must be put into practice selectively.
- Q&A: Ambition as a Virtue: 27 Apr 2014, Question 1
Question: Is ambition a virtue? Ayn Rand defined ambition as "the systematic pursuit of achievement and of constant improvement in respect to one's goal." If we apply ambition only to rational goals – as happens with the virtue of integrity, where loyalty to values only constitutes integrity if those values are rational – then could ambition be considered a virtue? Or at least, could ambition be an aspect of a virtue like productiveness?
- Q&A: Poor Effort in a Terrible Job: 9 Dec 2012, Question 3
Question: Is it wrong for a person to do less than his best at work? At work, I used to go above and beyond my basic obligations routinely. However, I was never recognized or rewarded for my superior performance. Instead, I was paid the same as those who barely functioned in their jobs. To this day, my employer uses only collective or team recognition; he does not appreciate individuals. Also, those who do poorly or make serious mistakes are not being disciplined, while those of us who work hard are given more duties. My response has been to lower my own work output. While I meet the minimum standards of my employment and still do far more than my equally paid coworkers, I am not performing nearly close to the level I could. Is that wrong of me? Should I do my best at work, even though my employer doesn't seem to value that? Should I continue to suggest ideas for improvement – and perhaps work on them on the side, in secret, if ignored?