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Objectivism 101 14th Annual Summer Seminar of The Objectivist Center Diana Mertz Hsieh Lecture Three: Life and Happiness Tuesday, July 1, 2003.

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Presentation on theme: "Objectivism 101 14th Annual Summer Seminar of The Objectivist Center Diana Mertz Hsieh Lecture Three: Life and Happiness Tuesday, July 1, 2003."— Presentation transcript:

1 Objectivism th Annual Summer Seminar of The Objectivist Center Diana Mertz Hsieh Lecture Three: Life and Happiness Tuesday, July 1, 2003

2 2 Objectivism 101 Schedule 1.SundayAyn Rand and Philosophy 2.MondayReality and Reason 3.TuesdayLife and Happiness 4.WednesdayThe Virtues 5.ThursdayIndividual Rights and Capitalism 6.FridayArt as Spiritual Fuel

3 3 Ethics Ethics is the branch of philosophy defining the values and virtues that guide choices and action. The central questions of ethics: What should I pursue in life? How should I pursue it? The What: A value is “that which one acts to gain and/or keep” The How: A virtue is “the act by which one gains and/or keeps [the value]” Is ethics amenable to rational demonstration?

4 4 Why Do We Need Ethics? The most fundamental questions of ethics: What are values? Why does man need them? Values are “that which one acts to gain and/or keep” Values presuppose a “to whom?” and “for what?” All living creatures face a fundamental alternative of life versus death The sustenance of life requires constant action in accordance with the organism’s nature An organism’s life is its ultimate value

5 5 Ayn Rand on Life and Value “Life can be kept in existence only by a constant process of self- sustaining action. The goal of that action, the ultimate value which, to be kept, must be gained through every moment, is the organism’s life. “An ultimate value is the final goal or end to which all lesser goals are the means—and it sets the standard by which all lesser goals are evaluated. An organism’s life is its standard of value: that which furthers its life is the good, that which threatens it is the evil.” — Ayn Rand, “The Objectivist Ethics”

6 6 The Challenge for Humans Non-conscious organisms (plants and lower animals) “survive by means of their automatic physical functions” Non-rational organisms (higher animals) survive on the basis of perception, association, the pleasure/pain mechanism, learned skills, and so on Humans must use reason to discover how to sustain their lives in the short and long terms The life we pursue must be consonant with our distinct human needs, including those of the body and the mind

7 7 The Nature of Happiness “Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values” “Happiness is the successful state of life, suffering is the warning signal of failure, of death”

8 8 Life and Happiness “The maintenance of life and the pursuit of happiness are not two separate issues. To hold one’s own life as one’s ultimate value and one’s own happiness as one’s highest purpose are two aspects of the same achievement. Existentially, the activity of pursuing rational goals is the activity of maintaining one’s life; psychologically, its result, reward and concomitant is an emotional state of happiness. It is by experiencing happiness that one lives ones life, in any hour, year or the whole of it. And when one experiences the kind of pure happiness that is an end in itself—the kind that makes one think: “This is worth living for”—what is greeting and affirming in emotional terms is the metaphysical fact that life is an end in itself.” — Ayn Rand, “The Objectivist Ethics”

9 9 From Life to Egoism Life is the ultimate value and thus the standard of value Happiness is the reward for a moral life and the purpose of life The Objectivist ethics is a form of egoism

10 10 Self-Interest We always ought to pursue our long-term self-interest How do we determine what is in our self-interest? What values and virtues will promote our life and happiness? Three answers: Authority: “Follow the tried and true” Emotion: “Do whatever makes you happy” Reason: “Just the facts, ma’am” We ought to determine our values and virtues through a rational investigation of human nature and the world

11 11 Values of Life and Happiness Rational values are the things that act to gain and/or keep consistent with life as ultimate value Material values Food, shelter, medicine, wealth, water Spiritual values Art, philosophy, self-confidence, knowledge, creativity Social values Friendship, dissemination of knowledge, trade, love

12 12 Virtues of Life and Happiness Rational virtues are the characteristic means by which we achieve values that promote life The eight major Objectivist virtues: Rationality Productiveness Independence Honesty Justice Benevolence Integrity Pride

13 13 Moral Principles We determine self-interest through reason Moral principles are general ethical truths We need moral principles in order to make ethical choices quickly and accurately Moral principles identify the long-range goals and means of achieving them that promote life and happiness in the usual circumstances of life

14 14 Integration in Ethics The Objectivist ethics unifies… The moral and the practical Theory and practice Reason and emotion More generally, Objectivism rejects the “mind-body dichotomy”

15 15 Social Ethics Social ethics concerns our interactions with other people How should we interact with other people?

16 16 The Necessity of Sacrifice? Option One Sacrifice others to yourself “Might makes right” Mastery over others Egoism?!? Inherent conflicts of interest Option Two Sacrifice yourself to others “Service to others” Servitude to others Altruism Inherent conflicts of interest

17 17 Option Three: Trade Values (including wealth) can be created and destroyed There are no necessary conflicts of interest for those who live by production and trade Trade is voluntary exchange to mutual benefit Trades can be material and/or spiritual

18 18 The Ethic of the Trader “A trader is a man who earns what he gets and does not give or take the undeserved. He does not treat men as masters or slaves, but as independent equals. He deals with men by means of a free, voluntary, unforced, uncoerced exchange - an exchange which benefits both parties by their own independent judgment. A trader does not expect to be paid for his defaults, only for his achievements. He does not switch to others the burden of his failures, and he does not mortgage his life into bondage to the failures of others.” — Ayn Rand, “The Objectivist Ethics”

19 19 John Galt’s Oath The Oath of Galt’s Gulch: “I swear—by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” In social ethics, Objectivism advocates… Not sacrificing of others to oneself Not sacrificing of oneself to others But creating and trading values

20 20 The Summary of Ethics “The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live.” — Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

21 21 Today’s Topics Ethics The purpose of ethics Life as the ultimate value and standard of value Happiness as the reward for a moral life and purpose of life Rational self-interest Values, virtues, and moral principles Integration (of mind and body) in ethics Sacrifice versus production and trade


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