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Volume 7, No. 2 - Spring 2006
TABLE OF CONTENTS
This issue is dedicated to the memory of
R. W. Bradford,
Bill Bradford, Ayn Rand, and Coney Island, pp. 251
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
This essay offers a tribute to R. W. Bradford, one of the founding co-editors of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, who passed away on 8 December 2005. It also marks the passing of two other writers who have contributed to Rand studies: Joan Kennedy Taylor and Chris Tame.
A DIALOGUE ON AYN RAND'S ETHICS
Reply to douglas b. rasmussen and ERIC MACK:
Tibor R. Machan
Rand's metaethical objectivism consists not in the intrinsicist view that values lie outside of us, in an independent reality such that we can identify them or fail to do so. Rather, Rand's conception of "objectivity" regarding the foundation of ethics is what is often called "agent-relative" but not subjective. Or, as Rand states, ethical claims are "objectively conditional" (in her essay "Causality versus Duty"). In elaborating this perspective, Machan shows that it suffices to avoid the dreaded charge of subjectivism contained in both Rasmussen's and Mack's discussion of her views.
Reply to eric mack:
This paper criticizes Eric Mack's contention that Rand engaged in a "shuffle," focusing on the core issue of how Rand moved from her metaethical argument that, because existence or non-existence is every organism's fundamental alternative, the standard of value for each organism is its life, to her ethical prescription that each person live as "man qua man," given that continued existence often requires so much less. Bubb argues that Rand did not engage in a "shuffle," but was instead operating on the basis of premises implicit in the theme of Atlas Shrugged and in her other writings.
Rejoinder to Tibor R. Machan and Frank Bubb
Frank Bubb and Tibor Machan raise objections to Mack's "Problematic Arguments in Randian Ethics." Bubb argues that a universalization test allows Rand to condemn every parasitic action—even ones that serve the agent's survival. But this universalization test is faulty; it calls upon individuals to act as would be rational if the world were not as it is. Machan argues that Rand can hold that the fundamental choice between life and death is ungrounded without being a subjectivist. But Machan does not successfully differentiate the putatively ungrounded choice between life and death from other choices that he admits are arbitrary.
Rejoinder to Tibor R. Machan
Douglas B. Rasmussen
This essay examines the relationship between human choice and Rand's ethical standard for moral goodness and obligation. It shows that the neo-Aristotelian interpretation of Rand's ethics—an interpretation that does not accept the doctrine of "premoral choice" but instead claims that flourishing as a rational animal is the telos of human life and choice—is crucial to the viability of her ethical theory. The defenders of premoral choice confuse the conceptual order with the real and, despite their intentions, make Rand's ethics into a voluntarist ethics, that is, an ethics in which reason is subordinate to will.
Egoism versus Rights, pp. 329-49
Robert H. Bass
Rand's commitments to egoism and to libertarian rights are meant at least to be well-suited to fit together as parts of a comprehensive moral and political theory. After examining and rejecting arguments that ethical egoism is presupposed by libertarian rights, Bass develops an argument that the two theses are incompatible, that if egoism is true, then there are no rights, and that if there are rights, then egoism is not true. Then, he considers and responds to objections, and concludes with a challenge for theorists still inclined to suppose that the two are compatible.
Reply to Robert H.
Robert H. Bass's proposed opposition between egoism and rights misses its mark insofar as it targets Rand's egoism. Rand's egoism is not consequentialist. Her egoism falls into the "moralized interest" camp, meaning that her understanding of egoism presupposes other moral concepts. There are sound reasons for calling her ethics egoistic based on the characteristics of her ethics. Far from being separate poles of moral thought, her egoism and her rights theory express a unitary moral principle centering around the requirements of man's life qua man.
Reply to Robert H.
Robert L. Campbell
In response to Robert H. Bass's charge that no significant moral thinker ever advocated altruism as Ayn Rand defined it, Campbell points to the writings of Auguste Comte, who invented the word. For Comte, altruism meant living for others, repressing one's "personality," and subordinating oneself to "the Great Being, Humanity." Rand's own conception of altruism was thoroughly Comtean. What's more, her decision (made in 1942, while completing The Fountainhead) to use "altruism" as her primary term for the moral tendencies that she opposed was plausibly occasioned by an encounter with Comte's ideas.
Rejoinder to Chris Cathcart and Robert L. Campbell
Robert H. Bass
Robert L. Campbell and Chris Cathcart offer several objections to Bass's essay, "Egoism versus Rights." In response to Campbell, Bass argues that no adequate reason has been given for defining "altruism" in the way that Rand did, since that formulation does not accurately describe most altruists. In response to Cathcart, Bass argues that since Cathcart accepts the incompatibility of rights and consequentialism, the question of the compatibility of rights and egoism turns out to be the question of whether egoism can be non-consequentialist. Bass argues that it cannot. Thus, neither reply succeeds in overturning Bass's central arguments.
Omissions and Measurement, pp. 383-405
Ayn Rand said that measurement omission is an essential part of concept formation. This essay argues that something else is omitted much, even most, of the time. The nature of measurement is explored in order to support the argument. The author agrees with Rand's more general claim that concepts are grounded in similarities and differences. However, he argues that her theory is partly flawed in claiming that all differences between similar existents are ones of measurement.
Image and Integration in Ayn Rand's Descriptive Style, pp. 407-19
Saint-Andre diverts attention from the ideological content of Ayn Rand's novels to focus on their sometimes startling literary qualities. In particular, Saint-Andre analyses Rand's use of traditional stylistic and rhetorical devices (metaphor, simile, word choice, assonance, alliteration) and examines the integration of certain passages of pure description into the broader themes of Rand's novels We The Living, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged.
$ and α : Atlas Shrugged and Quo Vadis, pp. 421-27
Henryk Sienkiewicz's book Quo Vadis was named by Ayn Rand as one of the great novels in the Romantic style. Its account of the early Christian movement in the time of Nero parallels the story of the strikers in the time of the "looters" in Atlas Shrugged. This essay contends that Rand intended to improve upon Sienkiewicz's version by giving her small band the proper values. This claim is supported by numerous similarities between the two novels, particularly between the Christian fish-symbol and the sign of the dollar.
Szasz and Rand, pp. 429-44
This review essay on Thomas Szasz's book Faith in Freedom: Libertarian Principles and Psychiatric Practices elaborates Szasz's position that mental illness is a myth, psychiatry is pseudo-medicine, and imposed psychiatric treatments are assaults and incarcerations. It then describes Szasz's critical chapters on Ayn Rand's and Nathaniel Branden's views on psychiatry, mental health, and psychiatric coercion.
Hicks versus Postmodernism, pp. 445- 57
In his compact and erudite but lucid and skillfully argued volume, Explaining Postmodernism, Stephen Hicks traces the history of postmodernist commitment to relativistic nihilism from its origins in Kant and Rousseau up through Fichte and Heidegger to Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard and Rorty. That done, Hicks goes on to show how the anticapitalist left has responded to the spectacular failures of socialist practice and theory by abandoning the scientistic objectivism of Marx while embracing postmodernist irrationalism, multiculturalism, and extremist rhetoric. It is a fine performance.
Capitalism and Commerce, pp. 459-71
Edward W. Younkins's book, Capitalism and Commerce: Conceptual Foundations of Free Enterprise, develops a systematic case for a free enterprise model that restricts state activity to a few clearly enumerated functions. He sets out the ideas of individual rights and property ownership, moving from here to freedom of transaction under the rule of law. He considers entrepreneurship and progress. Finally he discusses the various opponents of free enterprise and responds, concluding with a meditation on the prospects of bringing about the kind of society envisioned here.
Questions About Answers, pp. 473-82
David M. Brown
Brown reviews Ayn Rand Answers, a volume edited by Robert Mayhew that collects many of Rand's off-the-cuff responses to the questions that followed her public talks. After surveying the book's generous sampling on topics ranging from politics to aesthetics, Brown suggests that some of Mayhew's editorial choices impair the reader's ability to fairly assess both Rand's public temperament and some of her opinions.
7, NO. 2:
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