from the Dharma Press, a now-discontinued website, which we had republished at Morality101.net:
[This fits in nicely with our 3 pages: Morality, Force, Sacrifice.]
November 25, 2009 by alively87 at Dharma Press (now that link is also lost)
Many people disagree with Ayn Rand’s objectivist philosophy, especially when it comes to the issue of morality. How can there be only one true moral code, when people have such different values? The answer is through reason.
As rational human beings, we can all agree that it is immoral to kill and to steal. Why? Not because our parents told us it was wrong, or because religion threatens us with punishment for these acts. It is immoral because we are depriving someone else of their natural right to “life, liberty, and property.” Through reason, we strive to achieve our own happiness (a selfish act which Ayn Rand labeled as a virtue) without hindering that of others. Killing and stealing clearly violate this principle, and can therefore be regarded as immoral.
It may not be so black and white when it comes to other situations: making the right moral choice falls between a few shades of gray, and the decision becomes harder. Ayn Rand argued that through reason, and by staying true to reality, we can follow the universal moral code and clearly distinguish between right and wrong (or black and white). Happiness is attainable through honesty and truth.
Let’s take the example of drinking excessively and/or using drugs. According to objectivists, drug abuse is immoral because: 1) it is an artificial “happiness” 2) it hinders one’s sense of reason. Some people don’t think twice about it and just go along with the crowd. These “irrationals” have not given any thought as to whether or not using drugs is moral. The rest of those who consciously choose to abuse drugs are looking for a quick fix for their happiness. They are aware of the long-term consequences and deliberately ignore them. They have made a rational decision to act “immorally.”
The moral code is supposed to be a path to true inner happiness. Sacrifices are essential in the short term (studying, working, etc.), but the path is a successful one. Although drugs merely offer an “escape” from reality, the reality continues. The escape is only temporary, and the instant gratification from these external substances elicits diminishing marginal returns. As time goes on, one must increase the doses to get less and less of the original effect, making it harder to embrace reality and become truly happy. Integrity has been compromised for a few instances of artificial happiness.
Now that we have established the immorality of substance abuse through reason, it is important to note that Ayn Rand was a fervent individualist. It is not anyone’s duty to monitor adherence of the universal code. This is up to the individual, as it should only be followed willingly. Unless it is endangering the lives of others (i.e. while driving), it is no one’s job but your own to decide whether or not you live a moral life.
Ayn Rand, contrary to popular belief, was not telling the world to live a certain way of life. She merely stated that there is right and wrong, which can be explained through reason. Sometimes when faced with making a decision, we fail to see all that is around us, making us “irrational.” In order to achieve happiness, the objectivist principle advocates staying true to ourselves and aware of the reality around us. Happiness is the ultimate goal of humankind which can be attained by following moral values. We are only human, but we can strive to become, what Ayn Rand calls, the “ideal” person.