The Objectivist Ethics

June 1, 2023

Since I am to speak on the Objectivist Ethics, I shall begin by quoting its best representative—John Galt, in Atlas Shrugged:

“Through centuries of scourges and disasters, brought about by your code] of morality, you have cried that your code had been broken, that the scourges were punishment for breaking it, that men were too weak and too selfish to spill all the blood it required. You damned man, you damned existence, you damned this earth, but never dared to question your code. …

You went on crying that your code was noble, but human nature was not good enough to practice it. And no one rose to ask the question: Good?—by what standard?

“You wanted to know John Galt’s identity. I am the man who has asked that question.

“Yes, this is an age of moral crisis. … Your moral code has reached its climax, the blind alley at the end of its course. And if you wish to go on living, what you now need is not to return to morality … but to discover it.”1

Morality, or ethics is a code of values to guide man’s choices and actions. These choices and actions determine the purpose and the course of his life.

Ethics, as a science, deals with discovering and defining such a code.

Why does man need a code of values?

Does man need values at all? Why?

Is the concept of value, of “good or evil” an arbitrary human invention that is unrelated to, underived from, and unsupported by any facts of reality?

Or is value based on a metaphysical fact, on an unalterable condition of man’s existence?

(“Metaphysical” means: that which pertains to reality, to the nature of things, to existence.)

Does an arbitrary human convention, a mere custom, decree that man must guide his actions by a set of principles—or is there a fact of reality that demands it?

Is ethics the province of whims: of personal emotions, social edicts and mystic revelations? Or is it the province of reason?

Is ethics a subjective luxury—or an objective necessity?

Moralists have regarded ethics as the province of whims, that is: of the irrational.

  • Some moralists did so explicitly, by intention
  • Others did it implicitly, by default.

A “whim” is a desire experienced by a person who does not know and does not care to discover its cause.

No philosopher has given a rational, objectively demonstrable, scientific answer to why man needs a code of values. Without it, no rational, scientific, objective code of ethics could be discovered or defined.

Aristotle is the greatest of all philosophers.

  • He did not regard ethics as an exact science.
  • He based his ethical system on the observations of the wise men of his time.
  • He left unanswered the questions of: why they chose to do it and why he evaluated them as noble and wise.

Most philosophers took the existence of ethics for granted, as the given, as a historical fact.

  • They were not concerned with discovering its metaphysical cause or objective validation.

Many of them attempted to break the traditional monopoly of mysticism in the field of ethics and, allegedly, to define a rational, scientific, nonreligious morality.

But their attempts consisted of trying to justify them on social grounds, merely substituting society for God.

Will of God Versus The Common Good

The avowed mystics held the arbitrary, unaccountable “will of God” as the standard of the good and as the validation of their ethics.

The neomystics replaced it with “the good of society”*. Thus they collapsed the definition such as “the standard of the good is that which is good for society” into circularity.

*Superphysics Note: This is our definition too. It is based on feelings which cam be objectively surveyed and analyzed through time. This is similar to the votes in a presidential election which always comes up with an objective result. This means if Mr. X won as President then he represents the will and the good of society.

This meant that “society” stands above any principles of ethics, since:

  • it is the source, standard and criterion of ethics
  • “the good” is whatever it wills, whatever it happens to assert as its own welfare and pleasure.

This meant that “society” may do anything it pleases, since “the good” is whatever it chooses to do because it chooses to do it.

Since there is no such entity as “society,” since society is only a number of individual men—this meant that some men (the majority or any gang that claims to be its spokesman) are ethically entitled to pursue any whims (or any atrocities) they desire to pursue, while other men are ethically obliged to spend their lives in the service of that gang’s desires.

This could hardly be called rational.

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