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Objectivist Virtues

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Rand's book title: "The Virtue of Selfishness" was quite provocative but imprecise.

 
How would you express Objectivist ethics in terms of virtues?
 
For example, the Christian virtues are: prudence (wisdom), justice, courage, temperance, faith, hope, and charity.
 
Aristotle, perhaps Rand's favorite philosopher, listed:  justice, courage, temperance, magnificence, magnanimity, liberality, gentleness, prudence, and wisdom.
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Rand's book title: "The Virtue of Selfishness" was quite provocative but imprecise.

 
How would you express Objectivist ethics in terms of virtues?
 
For example, the Christian virtues are: prudence (wisdom), justice, courage, temperance, faith, hope, and charity.
 
Aristotle, perhaps Rand's favorite philosopher, listed:  justice, courage, temperance, magnificence, magnanimity, liberality, gentleness, prudence, and wisdom.

 

 

Aren't Rand's virtues listed in that essay?

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In "The Objectivist Ethics" she defines virtue as "the act by which one gains and/or keeps" value.

 

She lists three cardinal values: reason, purpose, and self-esteem. And corresponding virtues: rationality, productiveness, and pride.

 

She defines each but that's pretty much it. But I think more is implied by the rest of the book and other works.

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Rand explicitly listed virtues: rationality, productivity, justice, honesty, pride. It's not that there are three corresponding virtues, but they're all needed for the cardinal values. I'd bet Rand meant it as an exhaustive list, while other things like "kindness" may or may not be required. The virtues are more like what always applies insofar the person already chose to live or ethics applies. Check out "Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics" by Tara Smith for a more thorough analysis.

 

By the way, you missed pride as one of Aristotle's virtues.

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Justice comes up in the context of trade as an alternative to sacrifice. She says "virtue of justice" but it's not listed explicitly in her short list of virtues. This is one reason I don't take her short list as exhaustive. I don't think her essays were organized that way. Where did you find the explicit list "rationality, productivity, justice, honesty, pride", that's two more than I found (justice and honesty).

 

I really like Tara Smith's Viable Values but I've been warned before not to rely on her as representive of Objectivism. She did discuss honesty. But I'll find a copy of "Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics", thanks.

 

Interestingly, I didn't find pride on the wiki page:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristotelian_ethics

Edited by hernan
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I really like Tara Smith's Viable Values but I've been warned before not to rely on her as representive of Objectivism. She did discuss honesty. But I'll find a copy of "Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics", thanks.

Weird. O.o I find her stuff great and a good evaluation of Rand.

 

About pride, I'm just going off how he called pride as the "crown" of virtues, so I interpret it as a virtue.

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I have a question now:

 

I've been researching virtues and Rand obviously borrows a lot from Aristotle and other ancients (she also mentions St. Thomas somewhere).

 

Her philosophy is unique in two major respects: 1) the central and explicit role of selfishness (which she defines as "concern with one's own interests") and 2) productivity.

 

She is generally given credit (and criticism) for #1 but #2 is hardly discussed. Yet it is at least as interesting.

 

The only other thinker (like Rand, not a "philosopher" by profession) I've found who included something like that on his list of virtues was Benjamin Franklin (his term was "industriousness"). By extension, we might include the "protestant work ethic". But this is not, generally speaking, a popular virtue among professional philosophers before or since.

 

Am I right or am I overlooking anyone?

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Am I right or am I overlooking anyone?

Do you mean some philosopher who put productiveness as a virtue? If so, some variants of Buddhism, and Hinduism at a certain stage of its evolution do laud work and the workman. Modern interpretations will sometimes speak of the Zen of workmanship where to live is to be immersed in one's art, constantly improving and being almost one with one's work. Typically, these philosophies do not give productive work top position, which they reserve for hermit-like renunciation. However, for the rest of us, we're told to seek fulfillment in work.

 

Still, the conception is quite different from Rand's: and definitely not selfish and often not even utilitarian, but almost fatalistic and dutiful without knowable purpose. "Let the work itself be thy charge, but never the fruit (of work)" (from Davies' translation of the Bhagvad Gita)

Edited by softwareNerd
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Do you mean some philosopher who put productiveness as a virtue? If so, some variants of Buddhism, and Hinduism at a certain stage of its evolution do laud work and the workman. Modern interpretations will sometimes speak of the Zen of workmanship where to live is to be immersed in one's art, constantly improving and being almost one with one's work. Typically, these philosophies do not give productive work top position, which they reserve for hermit-like renunciation. However, for the rest of us, we're told to seek fulfillment in work.

 

Still, the conception is quite different from Rand's: and definitely not selfish and often not even utilitarian, but almost fatalistic and dutiful without knowable purpose. "Let the work itself be thy charge, but never the fruit (of work)" (from Davies' translation of the Bhagvad Gita)

Marx criticized the Western Philosophical tradition for ignoring human labor and productivity. His rather picky materialism emphasized the active over the contemplative, performing a rather efficient  archaeology of knowledge that extended back to classical Greece. 

 

In this regard, his reading of Aristotle tried to demonstrate a sort of feedback loop between knowledge and doing--The 'Praxis-- that  he found in The Metaphysics. Much of what we call 'theory is reflection upon the causal properties of what we just created.

 

Here, Aristotle himself has the last word: the good life is built upon a certain modicum of leisure time that's created by productivity. 

 

Going backwards a bit from Marx, we find Spinoza, the Philosopher Prince of 'doing' . For example, against Descartes, he argued that thought is what the  can the body can do with respect to the organ that produces 'thought'. 

 

Kant, as well, spoke of morality as basically a practical activity. he also wrote that the intellectual machinery that one brings into a judgment (verstehen) is somewhat determined by one's experience in matters of labor.

 

Andie

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Do you mean some philosopher who put productiveness as a virtue? If so, some variants of Buddhism, and Hinduism at a certain stage of its evolution do laud work and the workman. Modern interpretations will sometimes speak of the Zen of workmanship where to live is to be immersed in one's art, constantly improving and being almost one with one's work. Typically, these philosophies do not give productive work top position, which they reserve for hermit-like renunciation. However, for the rest of us, we're told to seek fulfillment in work.

 

Still, the conception is quite different from Rand's: and definitely not selfish and often not even utilitarian, but almost fatalistic and dutiful without knowable purpose. "Let the work itself be thy charge, but never the fruit (of work)" (from Davies' translation of the Bhagvad Gita)

 

That's a great distinction. I do like the eastern tradition of workmanship but it is more craft ritual than genuine productiveness.

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Marx criticized the Western Philosophical tradition for ignoring human labor and productivity. His rather picky materialism emphasized the active over the contemplative, performing a rather efficient  archaeology of knowledge that extended back to classical Greece. 

 

In this regard, his reading of Aristotle tried to demonstrate a sort of feedback loop between knowledge and doing--The 'Praxis-- that  he found in The Metaphysics. Much of what we call 'theory is reflection upon the causal properties of what we just created.

 

Here, Aristotle himself has the last word: the good life is built upon a certain modicum of leisure time that's created by productivity. 

 

Going backwards a bit from Marx, we find Spinoza, the Philosopher Prince of 'doing' . For example, against Descartes, he argued that thought is what the  can the body can do with respect to the organ that produces 'thought'. 

 

Kant, as well, spoke of morality as basically a practical activity. he also wrote that the intellectual machinery that one brings into a judgment (verstehen) is somewhat determined by one's experience in matters of labor.

 

Andie

 

Those are great pointers, thank you. I will research these. I agree that pragmatism is pretty close to productivity. But it still seems to me that Rand had a pretty unique grasp on this most comparable only to non-philosophers (e.g. industry titans who don't apologize for their great accomplishments).

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Kant, as well, spoke of morality as basically a practical activity. he also wrote that the intellectual machinery that one brings into a judgment (verstehen) is somewhat determined by one's experience in matters of labor.

That's like Ilya claiming Kant is a materialist...

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I do like the eastern tradition of workmanship but it is more craft ritual than genuine productiveness.

Rand tends to take a naturalist/biologist approach even if not so explicitly. Productiveness thus is not seen as a duty-driven imposition, but as something natural, and purpose is tied into happiness. I think a lot of other people -- at least modern psychologists and preachers -- also see the link between purpose and fulfillment/happiness. 

 

Preacher Rick Warren uses the idea of being "purpose-driven" as a central theme. With a little creativity, a believer can choose purposes that are extremely productive and fulfilling. While an Objectivist might critique the mystical aspects, the altruistic aspects, or using the Bible as an authority, the actual outcomes might be very good.

 

I haven't read enough philosophy to know how many others took a similar approach, but in Rand I see a scientist looking at human beings like an outside observer and asking: why do they act this way? what makes them happy? what sad? Then, finding the common and fundamental threads that integrate the findings. 

 
Psychologically, people have a desperate need for purpose and for identity. One can observe a sense of purpose making kids happy at a very young age. One can see how so many people enjoy the pursuit of purposes that are not facially productive -- e.g. achieving some goal in a video game. One can even look at young men joining violent jihadi movements and spot the need for purpose and identity. It's a good guess that our psychology evolved to fulfill a rational life-serving (species-serving) purpose. So, deep, universal psychological needs  are windows to our nature. The central virtues of Purpose tied to Productivity and Self-Esteem tied to Pride are what one arrives at. [Reason/Rationality are even more fundamental.]
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Rand tends to take a naturalist/biologist approach even if not so explicitly. Productiveness thus is not seen as a duty-driven imposition, but as something natural, and purpose is tied into happiness. I think a lot of other people -- at least modern psychologists and preachers -- also see the link between purpose and fulfillment/happiness. 

 

Preacher Rick Warren uses the idea of being "purpose-driven" as a central theme. With a little creativity, a believer can choose purposes that are extremely productive and fulfilling. While an Objectivist might critique the mystical aspects, the altruistic aspects, or using the Bible as an authority, the actual outcomes might be very good.

 

I haven't read enough philosophy to know how many others took a similar approach, but in Rand I see a scientist looking at human beings like an outside observer and asking: why do they act this way? what makes them happy? what sad? Then, finding the common and fundamental threads that integrate the findings. 

 
Psychologically, people have a desperate need for purpose and for identity. One can observe a sense of purpose making kids happy at a very young age. One can see how so many people enjoy the pursuit of purposes that are not facially productive -- e.g. achieving some goal in a video game. One can even look at young men joining violent jihadi movements and spot the need for purpose and identity. It's a good guess that our psychology evolved to fulfill a rational life-serving (species-serving) purpose. So, deep, universal psychological needs  are windows to our nature. The central virtues of Purpose tied to Productivity and Self-Esteem tied to Pride are what one arrives at. [Reason/Rationality are even more fundamental.]

 

I rather like Rand's naturalist approach tough I am not as allergic to religion as she was. I do agree that she was onto something more than mere economic productivity. She did talk about purpose in much the same was as you describe. But my impression is that theologians, like philosophers, tend to regard economic concerns as vulgar and, so, devalue them whereas Rand's concept of productivity was both grand and vulgar at the same time. Men are productive both to feed themselves and to create grand projects such as the Hoover dam or product great works of art.

 

I posted the question to Philosophy Forums and got a bit of a discussion there:

 

 

The Virtue of Productivity

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One thing I have noticed is that Objectivists seem much more interested in Rand's ideas on rationality and politics. There is not a whole lot of discussion of the virtue of productivity, although it is essential to her philosophy and arguably critical to her fiction.

 

Why is that?

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...

 

Am I right or am I overlooking anyone?

 

"... Always you have been told that work is a curse and labour a misfortune.

But I say to you that when you work you fulfil a part of earth's furthest dream, assigned to you when that dream was born,

And in keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life,

And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life's inmost secret... "

 

"... Work is love made visible..."

 

Kahlil Gibran, On Work

http://www.katsandogz.com/onwork.html

Edited by Devil's Advocate
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The following is a time-line of what Rand thought were virtues, the dated ones from Journals of Ayn Rand.

September 18, 1943: Per the editor she presents independence as a primary virtue, but later identifies independence as derivative, an aspect of the primary virtue of rationality.
September 29, 1943: She names integrity as the first, greatest, and noblest virtue. She also writes about the virtues of courage, honesty, sense of honor (a selfish virtue by definition), self-confidence, strength (of character, will, and wisdom). All these virtues are contained in, enhanced by, based upon the fundamental virtue of self-respect.  
July 19, 1945: Her chief virtues: self-reverence, self-sufficiency, worship of the ideal.
July 29, 1953: The virtues of the Life Morality - thinking (rationality), independence, honesty, purposefulness, happiness, self-esteem.

Galt's speech in Atlas Shrugged: Adds integrity and justice to the July 29, 1953 list. Happiness is dropped. Pride replaces self-esteem. Productivity replaces purposefulness.

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The following is a time-line of what Rand thought were virtues, the dated ones from Journals of Ayn Rand.

September 18, 1943: Per the editor she presents independence as a primary virtue, but later identifies independence as derivative, an aspect of the primary virtue of rationality.

September 29, 1943: She names integrity as the first, greatest, and noblest virtue. She also writes about the virtues of courage, honesty, sense of honor (a selfish virtue by definition), self-confidence, strength (of character, will, and wisdom). All these virtues are contained in, enhanced by, based upon the fundamental virtue of self-respect.  

July 19, 1945: Her chief virtues: self-reverence, self-sufficiency, worship of the ideal.

July 29, 1953: The virtues of the Life Morality - thinking (rationality), independence, honesty, purposefulness, happiness, self-esteem.

Galt's speech in Atlas Shrugged: Adds integrity and justice to the July 29, 1953 list. Happiness is dropped. Pride replaces self-esteem. Productivity replaces purposefulness.

 

This indicatesthat she came late to the idea of productivity. Very interesting.

 

I did manage to get a discussion on the virtue of productivity here:

 

The Virtue of Productivity

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