Transcript
  • 00:20    |    
    My topic today is an introduction to Ayn Rand´s ideas, and to do that, I want to be aware of something that I learned from Ayn Rand, and that is always, when doing a talk orn doing an article, to be aware of your audience's context, who are you speaking to, what do they know, what do they don´t know.
  • 00:38    |    
    How many of you have read Ayn Rand´s Fountainhead? Nearly everybody. Atlas Shrugged? Nearly everybody. Ayn Rand´s Nonfiction? Many people okay. Thank you for that.
  • 00:55    |    
    I thought how could I approach Ayn Rand´s ideas in a form such as this? And I thought to do it this way here, to relate to what I thought when I first read Ayn Rand´s works inn the mid 1980s; couple of years before this 1987 conference. And I read The Fountainhead first.
  • 01:13    |    
    It was at the recommendation of a friend of mine and we were in a jazz band together, he was a jazz guitarist and he said "you got to read this book". And I read this book andn it hit me like a thunderbolt, and what hit me like a thunderbolt was the identification I felt with some of the characters.
  • 01:30    |    
    Now, I was a business man at the time and I was in the commercial construction industry, so I went to many, many, construction sites, and large-scale construction sites overn 18 years.
  • 01:40    |    
    And I was working at the time in high-rise buildings, skyscraper construction in downtown Hartford, working in 40-story buildings. And part of the identification that I had,n was to realize many of the things she was talking about, I saw directly in the people who were working on these sites.
  • 02:00    |    
    Now, I do not mean by this that they were Objectivists or that they were consistent in what they did or that they were philosophical or that they had any interesting ideas atn all.
  • 02:11    |    
    What I meant was that in the work they were doing, which was the contract I had with them, there was a strong identification, a strong parallel, a strong connection with Aynn Rand´s Fountainhead. Ayn Rand´s clarity in the novel appeared in what I saw, in what these construction workers would do.
  • 02:34    |    
    The certainly emotional jubilation of work, and let´s remember that Objectivism is a philosophy of elation, it is a philosophy of achieving happiness, and achieving a radiaten sense of life. And of course, I wanted to tell everyone about it, and I did. I ruined many people´s lunches by sitting down and telling them "you have to read this book, you have to read thisn book"; and I was challenged.
  • 03:01    |    
    The character that I, since most of you have read The Fountainhead I´m not going to do any plot spoiling for anyone who has not, but the character that I most identified withn was actually not Howard Roark, although he is absolutely extraordinary and unique, and n thedriving force of the book.
  • 03:17    |    
    It was the character of Mike Donnigan, the electrician, who is a minor character in the sense of driving the plot, but a major character in the sense that he was one ofn Roark´s few close personal friends. Mike Donnigan worshiped human ability, it was all he cared about, worshiped human ability.
  • 03:38    |    
    And I saw Mike Donnigan everywhere on construction sites. I want to stress to you, not in the sense that the people there were philosophical or that they would agree with Miken Donnigan, agree with Howard Roark or agree with Ayn Rand or even understand Ayn Rand.
  • 03:55    |    
    I mean in their approach to their work. All that mattered to them was whether you did a good job, and I´m talking about at work. All that mattered was whether you did a goodn job. If you were an electrician on the site, did you run the piping properly, did you install the wires properly, is it according to plans specifications?
  • 04:18    |    
    There was no faking reality. If you installed the piping in properly. Didn't do what the plans specification called for; your work was shotty, impromer, had to be redone; youn cost people money, and you face the anger of the people on the jobsite, as well as financial retribution if you cost one of the contractor´s money n .
  • 04:40    |    
    And so, I realized that this was, this was the driving principle by which I dealt with these people, it was competence on the jobsite. This competence had a very strongn obsessive reality focus.
  • 04:55    |    
    It didn´t matter, whether you wished a smaller pipe would work, if it´s not going to work, it is not going to work and your wishes don't matter, do they? And I realized thatn this obsessive focus on competence, focus on reality, meant that these were.... required these workers to be very smart and intelligent about their jobs.
  • 05:23    |    
    One of my connections to the electrical trade, when I moved to Providence, Rhode Island, was that I was an instructor for the electrical union. I was not a member of then electrical union, I was not a union member, but they hired me to come in every Monday night, for some months, to instruct the union electricians on how to install and wire digital fire systemsn and digital sound systems.
  • 05:46    |    
    And these people were very smart at their jobs, they were on the cutting edge, in certain sense, of installing digital technology. They had to learn some very sophisticatedn things about cabling and it was a constant striving for them to learn more.
  • 06:05    |    
    I did this electrical instruction for several years and I would see the same people coming back, a constant process of education. And so, in their work, in their work, theren was this understanding that the only way they could do what was necessary, in reality, to accomplish the job that was at hand, was to be educated.
  • 06:27    |    
    I also realized that in doing this they were obsessed, as it were, with honesty in the fullest sense of the word. I don´t mean that none of them ever lied or that none of themn never created a moral breach, I mean on the job, in their work, you could not fake the facts of reality.
  • 06:49    |    
    They had to be honest at what they did. They had to be honest, they had to be independent in their judgments, even though they´re following plans specification, they cannotn build the building necessarily the way they want,
  • 07:03    |    
    they have to build it the way the plans specifications call for. They have to be independent in their judgment abouts what it takes to do that, and that this knowledge thatn they had and their ability to do a good job, and the actual good job that they did was a sense of enormous pride to them.
  • 07:19    |    
    They, no doubt about it, they were proud about what they did. I noticed that in their work on the jobsites, if there was frustration or anger or problems, it usually came fromn the management.
  • 07:38    |    
    It usually came from some problem with the plans of specifications of the building or some contrary directions that they got form the managers of the constructions or somen contradictions that they gave.
  • 07:48    |    
    And that these workers would be very angry if that happened. And I also noticed that if they were demoralized on the jobsite, if moral fell apart, and they became unhappy inn what they were doing and even developed an attitude of I don´t care, I´m just here for the day, it was because they were given contradictory orders which they could not follow.
  • 08:09    |    
    The kind of thing where the plans of specification say do this, but do this also, and this and this contradict. You can´t do both, you could do one or the other, and when theyn faced those kinds of contradictions, which they could not resolve, this undercut their pride,
  • 08:29    |    
    made it impossible for them to do a good job, and there was a certain connection between bad decisions, which would lead to contradictions, which were impossible to implementn in reality, which would undercut their moral sense and lead to bad moral.
  • 08:47    |    
    And when it happened, and it did happen at times, that there would be demoralization on the job site, this was very often the source of it. So, I realized that morally, thesen people, in their work, and I don´t know anything about their private lives, in their work,
  • 09:03    |    
    were reality centered, focused on the need to learn more about what they were doing, were morally proud of what they were doing, and that this was based on a certain sense ofn honesty and allegiance to the facts.
  • 09:16    |    
    And I also noticed something else, I noticed that the viability of their industry, and that was the amount of work that was going on, the amount of work that was available,n the amount of buildings that were being built, the speed at which they could be built, whether or not a project that a builder wanted to build was allowed to go ahead, and actually become an building, depended upon a certain political context.
  • 09:41    |    
    If the project was tied up by someone in government who demanded a redesign; or wanted the builders to make some of contributions; or there were wage laws that were trying ton be passed to pay certain amounts or the higher, to promise jobs to certain number of people.
  • 10:01    |    
    In other words, when the government intervened this way, this was the biggest source of undercutting the economy in the area, and the people I knew on the construction siten were aware, in some sense, of those problems, and knew, basically, that bad decisions by the government could undercut and hurt them.
  • 10:21    |    
    Their self-interest, in other words, could be exercised only in a certain political context; it was just a political basis to this. And I stress to you, I don't know anythingn about the politics of these people.
  • 10:36    |    
    I don't know whether they liked democratic leftist or whether they liked republican conservatives or whether they didn´t have any views at all or whether they voted the wayn their fathers did. I don´t know, what I know is that, on the job,
  • 10:49    |    
    their job depended upon a certain context of law, and a certain n laissez-faircontext among the government, and when the government began to intervene, this undercut the capacity of buildings, and this was one of the major sources of economicn dislocation and their inability to go ahead with their jobs and their careers.
  • 11:13    |    
    I saw all this, and I kind of got it in a nonreflective way, I saw all these parallels and I was really, and I stress, I was really taken, I still am taken by Mike Donnigan,n the electrician.
  • 11:26    |    
    All he cared about was human ability; and all he cared about was whether you did a good job or not, and that is the essence of what I saw in the construction industry. Alln that mattered was whether you did a good job.
  • 11:39    |    
    Behind that, we could fight about all kinds of things. But we didn´t fight about that, either you did a good job or you didn´t. So I went ahead with my reading, and I readn Atlas Shrugged; and in Atlas Shrugged I was taken in an overwhelming sense by the figure of Hank Rearden.
  • 11:59    |    
    I think in a certain sense Ayn Rand´s Atlas Shrugged can be read as the education of Hank Rearden. Hank Rearden, the industrialist, the man of superlative ability, far moren industrial ability, far more business ability, and far more ability at understanding the metallurgical facts of reality and dealing with them in an industrial way and having practical results,n than I could ever hope to be.
  • 12:26    |    
    I would be one of those people who, if I worked for Hank Rearden or one of his suppliers, would create myself the amount of labor of a medieval blacksmith and the rest is an gift from Hank Rearden. And I saw Hank Rearden´s position and I saw him struggling to try and understand the world around him and understand why, it seemed like all of his greatest virtues weren the subject of attack.
  • 12:50    |    
    And I began to understand more deeply, especially when I read Galt's Speech to the World, that the actual meaning of some of the things I had identified in The Fountainhead.n So I thought to take this as an introduction to Ayn Rand´s ideas.
  • 13:06    |    
    In order to think about the structure of those ideas and how the actual formal philosophical system and the ideas that Ayn Rand brings forth, actually follow the pattern thatn I´ve just given you.
  • 13:21    |    
    And it is by awareness, loyalty to reality, that one is self-empowered, that I personally, individually could be something more than I was; could become a better person and an more accomplished person, by awareness of this, that prosperity and happiness could be mine.
  • 13:45    |    
    I'll just say that my personal situation at the time was one in which I was not happy; and was not actually doing anything to make myself happy, and when I became aware ofn that, it was an enormous sense of self-empowerment, of being able to achieve that. And it was when I read Ayn Rand´s Nonfiction that I began to see the philosophical reasons for this.
  • 14:29    |    
    So, let´s think about those reasons for a second. Ayn Rand said that there were five main branches of philosophy. What´s the first and most fundamental? First and mostn fundamental branch of philosophy, it´s metaphysics.
  • 14:30    |    
    The basic nature of the world as it is. The Objectivist metaphysics is very, very short. Ayn Rand said that she would be suspicious of a philosopher or philosophical systemn that had a big long book on metaphysics.
  • 14:45    |    
    Something is wrong with that because metaphysics really says, look, see all this? There it is. Existence exists. And think about where I started in thinking about thosen construction workers. What is it that they were obsessed with?
  • 15:01    |    
    That they´re in a world that is solid, they're in a world that´s real. The buildings that they have built are not built out of molasses. That suddenly they begin to becomen something that they´re not. The buildings are what they are.
  • 15:15    |    
    If they´re built with the wrong structure materials or the materials are assembled in the wrong way, the building collapses or doesn't fulfill its function. If the electriciann is pulling the piping, and the wiring, and he is not congnoscent of the facts of reality, that things are what they are, then his system fails, the piping gets ripped out, the wiring getsn replaced, and it cost somebody a lot of money.
  • 15:42    |    
    Things are, things exist. Existence exists in Ayn Rand´s philosophical formulation. Existence is the sum total of existence here. Existence, things which exist, and existencen is all of them. Existence exists and the existence is the identity of the thing.
  • 16:04    |    
    What is a piece of pipe to an electrician? How would you say what a piece of pipe is? And the answer is that it is a metal tube, it is two inches, or one inch in diameter, orn whatever size that it is, it has a certain structure; it has a certain material identity.
  • 16:21    |    
    It is a certain size, it will withstand the elements in a certain way, certain kinds of piping can be used for certain things and in certain environments, and certain inn others. In some places we need plastic piping because metal will rust, in other cases we need metal piping because plastic is not strong enough...
  • 16:35    |    
    Things are what they are, existence exists and existence is identity. It would be ridiculous to say, oh, the piece of pipe is, and by the way the identity of the pipe isn something else. It doesn't matter, see to split existence from identity. Notice Ayn Rand's formulation, existence is identity, not existence has identity, existence is identity.
  • 17:02    |    
    And I realized that this is what the people on this construction sites, without ever hearing this formulation, what they were doing. This is the principle that they accepted.n Things exist, they are what they are, and their existence is their identity. And I also observed that their understanding was such, that they needed to keep growing their knowledge ofn understanding that they were conscious beings.
  • 17:31    |    
    This is implicit, they didn´t study consciousness, they were conscious beings and every person had to understand his job using his own eyes, using his own mind, eyes andn senses as the source of information, conceptual understanding in order to form, to grasp, what it is and what should be done about it.
  • 17:53    |    
    So these people on the construction site, I'd say men, but men and women on the construction site, were following this principle of epistemology, consciousness is conscious,n and it can't be reduced. Never heard anybody in the construction site saying, I'll be the one who is aware of reality for you.
  • 18:18    |    
    Even if they said "do it my way", as the architect Howard Roark, said to the electrician in The Fountainhead, right? The part where he´s cutting through the beam, a very... an scene in which Roark says, "do it this way", it still depends upon Mike Donnigan grasping what it is that Roark wants him to do, and Mike loves, I think it is the right word, Howard Roark,
  • 18:44    |    
    because of this focus and because of this demand that things being done the right way. She realized that the principles of metaphysics and epistemology are coming right out ofn the observations that I had on these jobsites, and that these men followed this principles implicitly without understanding them.
  • 19:06    |    
    It was always implicit and understood that every individual had free will. Every one of us could make a choice. Get your act together or you're off the job, right? Impliesn that you have the capacity to make the choices, to take the actions necessary to learn what is needed to... and to direct yourself by your own free will.
  • 19:32    |    
    It wouldn´t make any sense to say get your act together or you´re off the jobsite if you have no capacity to get your act together. If people didn't have free will and youn found somebody doing something wrong, you´d have to just fire them and get somebody who somehow, automatically, knew what to do, but that´s not how human beings work, that´s not what wen are.
  • 19:48    |    
    We are beings of volitional consciousness, and so, the demand on the jobsite that people do, that they understand their crafts, that they understand their jobs, and that theyn perform, not even to the best of their ability, but as required by the job, because if the best of your ability is not good enough, that´s not going to help the building stand up.
  • 20:09    |    
    Correspond to awareness of reality, allegiance to reality, by your free will, your volitional consciousness, and then all of this was implicit, at what I saw on the job site.n You see, I was coming out of this as a certain philosophical view, I could not have done this without Ayn Rand, it´s Ayn Rand that made these identifications.
  • 20:31    |    
    But it is I, who when reading the work, was able to connect it back to my own experiences and to see how connected to reality this was. When I understood, and still work ton understand, Ayn Rand´s theory of concept formation, the technical theory of concept formation in the introduction to Objectivist epistemology.
  • 20:56    |    
    You realize that that focus on reality is absolutely central to the way abstract ideas are formed. And that´s really the same process as the electrician who´s aware of realityn and puts the pipe in that´s needed.
  • 21:14    |    
    The abstract concepts we have are not supernatural revelations, Ayn Rand said, and nor are they just the subjective whims that we all agree on. This is the alternative that wen often hear in contemporary thought.
  • 21:35    |    
    So, people generally associated with the left or the subjectivists, will say, "oh, there´s no content to abstract ideas; there are things that people agree on; one man'sn justice is another man's injustice; one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter".
  • 21:49    |    
    All these things are just conventions that we understand. There is no beauty, per se; there´s only our subjective whim as to what beauty is. Whim, causeless desire that In don´t care to understand, and then, the other side answers, that says,
  • 22:08    |    
    no, actually these concepts are something, they exist at a higher plane of existence, we apprehend them somehow, but not to our senses, by closing our eyes and just thinkingn about them, and Ayn Rand says "no" to all of this, "no" all of this.
  • 22:27    |    
    Abstract understanding comes from a proper awareness of reality, and I realize that her concept, that her process or her solution to the problem of concept formation isn directly connected to the things I saw on the construction site.
  • 22:42    |    
    You get the idea now as to why I come to the conclusion that she is right about these things; not because her system fits together in a nice way, but because every step of hern system is a correspondent in reality and I am able to validate it.
  • 22:58    |    
    This leads to a certain implicit sense of ethics among these construction workers. Ethics has to deal with three main questions, ethics or morality, use the terms, they meann the same thing here.
  • 23:24    |    
    Three main questions, first off: What goals should we pursue, what are we after, what do we want, what is it that we´re trying to achieve? The second question is: By whatn means should we achieve them? What is it that we are after, how should we achieve them? And the third would be: Who should benefit from our actions?
  • 23:55    |    
    Question: What about moral obligation?
  • 24:07    |    
    I´m back to that in a second. One answer to this problem is that the aims and ends to which we go are not perceived by means of our senses and established by our senses, butn are given to us by some supernatural revelation.
  • 24:29    |    
    If that is the case, then these are the ends that we should be after, then we should develop the means necessary to obtain those ends. And if that is the case, then, whon should be the beneficiary of those actions? And the answer would be someone outside of us, whoever it is, is the focus of those revelations.
  • 24:54    |    
    Moral obligation, then, would be understood in the sense of what do these revelations say. If the revelations say, for example, thatn one should be worshipful of God, and ifn that´s the number one goal that we should be after, then we should develop the means to do that, and the fundamental beneficiary of that should be God or his representatives.
  • 25:29    |    
    If, on the other hand, those who reject the supernatural view and go to the socially constructed view say, well, let´s remember that these ends are not given to us in anyn divine way, they're actually just whims, we decide what they are, socially constructed; one society decides one thing, another society decides another thing; one person decides another, onen person decides another...
  • 25:53    |    
    Then, the means to achieve them would be up to the society to construct or up to the individual whims. In which case, something like moral obligation would be determinedn according to the particular whims that the person or the society decides to put together. And what Ayn Rand says is that both sides of this are wrong.
  • 26:14    |    
    Where we determine the proper ends of an ethical action is that which is beneficial to life n quameans life, that which is proper to a rational being and proper to all rational beings. This of course, you study this more deeply and leaves enormous room for options, butn somethings are not optional. Let´s consider something very very basic, like food.
  • 26:42    |    
    We all have, I´m sure, very enormous differences in tastes in food, it certainly would be wrong to say there is one kind of food, and one kind of taste that we should alln accept, and it´s a moral obligation to accept it right? That would be pretty ridiculous.
  • 26:55    |    
    But it would also be ridiculous to say we can eat anything we want, because if you try to eat sand, you will learn the consequences of your mistake very quickly. Some thingsn are food and some things are not, and by that parallel, we can think about things that are proper to the life of a rational being.
  • 27:17    |    
    What means should we use- Ayn Rand said- to achieve the ends proper to a rational being? And the answer is rationality. You use your rational consciousness to think about then ends that you want to achieve and what is the proper way to achieve them.
  • 27:40    |    
    To achieve, to attempt to achieve a rational end, let´s say a free society, by an irrational means, let´s say by establishing a dictatorship that force everyone to be free,n would be a massive contradiction that could only end in destruction. The means to achieve the ends proper to a rational being is to use one's rationality, and rationality then is Ayn Rand´sn primary virtue.
  • 28:07    |    
    The ends that we wish to achieve are values, those are the things that we are trying, that we act to gain and or keep. The means by which we try to change, n rings by which we act, the actions we take to achieve those values are virtues. The primary virtue, says Ayn Rand, is the use of your rational faculty, it is your rationality.
  • 28:33    |    
    Consequently, all of Ayn Rand´s virtues, the seven virtues in Atlas Shrugged are all species of rationality. Which should be your attitude toward your own mind with respect ton other people and the answer is independence. You need to think about things in an independent way.
  • 28:51    |    
    It does not mean you can´t learn from other people, I learn from other people all the time, but I only have learned something, if I´ve consider it independently, which usuallyn means alone with the door shut, thought about it carefully, and accepted it by the independent use of my mind.
  • 29:11    |    
    The use of rationality requires principles. Well, are you going to make your principles subject to the whim of the day, so that you change them minute by minute by minute? Ifn so, you have no loyalty to principles, perhaps you don't understand the principles or perhaps your principles are wrong or contradictory, but in which case, you do not have any integrity.
  • 29:33    |    
    Integrity is loyalty to rational principles, says Ayn Rand. Honesty is not primarily n don't lie, but do not fake the facts of reality. Honesty, means the refusal to fake the facts of reality.
  • 29:54    |    
    As the workers on the construction site had to understand the plans specifications by the independent use of their minds, they had to follow the principles of propern construction properly and not just violate them whenever they want.
  • 30:09    |    
    And they have to be honest about what the facts of reality are. What about dealing with other people? How do we apply rationality to dealing with other people? What is then virtue of applying rationality to interactions with other people?
  • 30:27    |    
    The virtue was justice, the virtue was justice. It is by treating people as they deserve, treating people as they deserve. In some cases, it may mean, I would like to ben close, personal friends with this person, I share values very deeply with this person;
  • 30:49    |    
    and in other case, it might mean, I decide not to deal with this person at all, we´re simply... it´s impossible for us, we don´t share any values, we don't share any means ofn communication, so I simply won't deal with them. Justice in every case means rational evaluation of other people and treating them as they deserve.
  • 31:16    |    
    What about rationality as it applies to the physical world? The material values, what is the virtue? What is the virtue by which the master virtue, as it were, rationality isn used to apply to the facts of physical reality? And the virtue is, productiveness.
  • 31:39    |    
    Productiveness, shaping reality, shaping physical matter in a form proper to our values, creating a world in the shape of our values and to do that of course, you must follown studiously, Francis Bacon's dictum; nature to be commanded must be obeyed.
  • 32:02    |    
    In building the building it is possible to build a forty-story building, forty levels connected by elevators which will stand for a hundred years, only if we are loyal to then facts of reality and obey the facts of reality. Build the building as is required and we shape this piece of ground and this matter in a form of human values by a process of productiveness, andn with the virtue of productiveness.
  • 32:32    |    
    All of Ayn Rand´s virtues then, are the application of rationality. What about one´s awareness and understanding of one´s own moral status, one´s own self? What virtue shouldn a person use to shape his own character, his own soul, if you´d like? In the image of rational values, what is the virtue? n Answer:Self-esteem. -- n J.Lewis:Self-esteem is the value to be achieved, that´s what you want to get; you want to achieve self esteem.
  • 33:08    |    
    What is the means by which you are going to achieve self-esteem? And Ayn Rand´s formulation is pride. It is by pride of self, and she defines pride as a virtue, the virtue ofn pride, as moral ambitiousness. Moral ambitiousness, simply two words, the ambition, the commitment, to be a moral person.
  • 33:37    |    
    Doesn't mean a person who never makes mistakes; moral people can make mistakes, it means a commitment and an ambition to maintain one's moral purity. Which would mean then context of a mistake, if you make a mistake, to recognize it, understanding it, and to change?
  • 33:59    |    
    These are Ayn Rand´s virtues and I realized that all of these virtues on the job site were present, in the context of the job, not talking about people's personal lives,n because I very seldom met construction workers in their personal lives.
  • 34:17    |    
    I don't know what their personal lives are, it is really irrelevant here, on the job site they were rational, they were independent, they were honest, they were productive,n they were proud of what they did, and they approached their jobs with integrity.
  • 34:34    |    
    And this is the briefest overview you can possibly do of Ayn Rand's virtues. All of this is based on an ethical system, in which the concept of value is based on the conceptn of life. It is impossible for an inorganic entity to have any values, rocks don't have any values.
  • 35:02    |    
    Human beings have values, because human beings can see goals to be achieved, goals which they want to act on to gain and or keep, and the standard for pursuing those goals, isn that which is proper to the life of a rational being.
  • 35:16    |    
    What is the parallel in the business world to this? And the answer, I think, is profit. First and foremost is the survival of the corporation. Think about this financialn crisis, and I don't want to digress on this, but what is it that the government has done with these interventions by saying that some business are too big to fail?
  • 35:37    |    
    It is said to the executives, in effect, no matter what you do, your business will never go out of existence. And if you do that, therefore, the survival of the corporationn and its profit becomes something that can be pushed aside in order to pursue other ends.
  • 35:55    |    
    So even, I think we know that regulations that tell business men "you can't do this, can't do this, can't do that" are deeply problematic. In fact, they´re wrong, I'll justn say deeply problematic here. But even the subsidies, which tell businesses "we will protect you", undercut, undercut the need of the business people to maintain the existence of the corporationn to achieve profit.
  • 36:23    |    
    What about the means and virtues? Rationality as an ethical virtue has, I think, the component in the business world of rational persuasion. Rational persuasion, presentingn values to customers in the market. I noticed in my career in the construction industry many dishonest contractors.
  • 36:45    |    
    Not the majority by any means, but many, maybe I should say some, dishonest contractors. But I noticed that over the course of 18 years, it almost always caught up with them.n In the end, this was not the way for them, to commit fraud in the marketplace, was not the way to achieve the long reign survival, and profit of their businesses.
  • 37:09    |    
    And they failed,it should´ve been for the same n reason that a person who tries to undercut, to deny its own rationality, to act fraudulently with others in his personal life, ultimately will end up frustrated and as a failure. Andn I noticed that in the construction business I saw that, repeatedly.
  • 37:31    |    
    The guys, who did not fulfill their contracts on construction sites, were cut out of the bidding of the next project. Even though their price was cheaper, constructionn managers would know that in the end they'd have a big mess, and it would cost them more money, and job delays mean money, etc., and that they would not succeed.
  • 37:51    |    
    And I also noticed that implicitly, in all of these construction workers, and in all of these contractors, and all of these business, who is the primary beneficiary? And then answer is, themselves. Every one of these construction workers, tried to negotiate the best way of pay they could get in exchange for his efforts.
  • 38:16    |    
    Every one of the contractors who hired them tried to get the best contract they could get on the site to make the most money, that self- interest was clear in the economicn sphere. What Ayn Rand observes, is that it is far from limited to the economic sphere; self-interest has an ethical principle, cuts across the range in one's life.
  • 38:39    |    
    Let's consider an objection that will often come up at this point; what about something like charity? Is it wrong to donate to charity? Of course not, nothing that I´ve saidn or that I could read in Ayn Rand said, it was ever wrong, that it was wrong in principle to donate to charity.
  • 38:57    |    
    How would you determine what charities to donate to, however? Suppose you adopted as a moral principle, I´m going to give through charity to all those who are less well offn than I am, and I am going to adopt that as a moral principle.
  • 39:13    |    
    Well, if it´s a moral principle, needs to be universal, you apply it at all times, what would you have to do? You´d have to give your money to everyone you saw who was lessn well-off than you are, and to everyone who asked you.
  • 39:28    |    
    When you got up in the morning; you'd turn on the television, you'd have to give to that charity; when you went to the store, you´d have to give to whoever is in front; you'dn have to give to this fund, you'd have to give to the childrens fund on the way in;
  • 39:38    |    
    and you'd have to give to the children´s fund on the way out; you´d have to give...as a moral principle, you would have to give away all of your wealth, if you adopted it as an moral principle.
  • 39:48    |    
    Now, what I think happens is that most people don't adopt it as a moral principle, what they do is that they give selectively to charity. How do you determine which charityn you should give to? What faculty do you use to determine that? Well, self-interest will be the goal, self-interest would be the moral principle, but what faculty in yourself would you use? Yourn rational faculty. Your rational faculty.
  • 40:18    |    
    Is that what you said? Oh, the values are what you are pursuing. But the question is, is giving to charity at a certain time a value or not? Is giving to this charity a value,n and giving to this other charity a value? How would you determine wheter it´s a value or not, and whether you have the means to do it, and whether you should do it.
  • 40:35    |    
    And the answer is you have to think! You´d have to say to yourself, I am not going to give to this charity today, because I simply don´t have the money, it would impoverishn myself and my family, I don´t see any reason to elevate them at the price of self-sacrifice, and I´m going to give to this charity, I´m not going to give to this charity, and the way youn determine that is by your rational faculty.
  • 41:00    |    
    The primary virtue is rationality, see? The virtue, which is universal, which you use at every step, is your rational faculty, and that is how you would determine whether In give to this charity or I give to this charity. It should be obvious that there are charities out there asking for money who are contradictory.
  • 41:25    |    
    If I give to one, at least hear out this thought and then I'm glad to exchange, if you give to one, you´re actually undercutting the purpose of the other. How do you determinen this? you would have to determine which charities match my values, which charities are the ones that I should give to, and in fact, which ones do I have the means to give to.
  • 41:49    |    
    There are certain times in a persons life, I think, when a person should not give to charity. And there are other times in a person´s life when the person should give ton charity. And by giving here we have to take the very broad sense of the word, is not just money, but it could also be time.
  • 42:03    |    
    I had a student in a class one day who was failing his Western Civilization class, and I said to him "spring break is next week, what are you doing?" and he said, I´m goingn with some charity, traveling several thousand miles, to build homes for people who need the homes, and I said, okay is that your value?
  • 42:22    |    
    Is that why you want to do that? Yes, it is. Okay, it´s your value, I´m not saying that´s wrong, but I will observe this: what are you going to do when you come back and youn fail the class? Perhaps, you should think about this, perhaps you shouldn´t go off and build the house now, perhaps you should stay here and learn your studies.
  • 42:37    |    
    And there is a time to do this in the future. How do you understand that? You´d understand it by thinking about it. So the primary virtue is rationality and you could notn universalize charity as a moral principle, because you would have to give to every charity available, which means you would have to progressively strip yourself of your resources, in order ton be a moral person. Okay, objection, go ahead please .
  • 43:06    |    
    Question: What about the emotional factor, I may feel sort of a greater empathy towards this charity or towards this other.
  • 43:16    |    
    Well, sure. What about . . . well Ayn Rand rejects any idea that the emotional is in conflict with the rational. What I would do if I felt an empathy for a certain charity,n and I said I feel like I should give to this charity. At first, I wouldn't deny that feeling, the feeling is real, I wouldn't deny that feeling. I would ask myself why I am having thatn feeling.
  • 43:47    |    
    Why am I having that feeling, what is it that they´re doing, that might lead me to support them in one way and not support them in another way, it might lead me to say I´d ben better off not giving to them now, so I could do something more for them in the future; many, many, many options.
  • 44:02    |    
    Then we'd have to examine one's emotions, and one's empathy for the charity, and ask yourself if it´s appropriate at this time, and whether one should follow that emotion. Aynn Rand, and I think she is absolutely right about this, rejected the idea that one should simply follow one´s emotions as a guide to life.
  • 44:21    |    
    I´m sure that Hitler had great negative emotions towards the Jews, what did following them do? One cannot just follow one's emotions as a guide to life. If that were the case,n we would not need ethics at all, the whole field of ethics would go away and we wouldn´t have any need for it. We could simply say: follow what your emotions say.
  • 44:41    |    
    But what happens when people´s emotions conflict? What happens if a person has an emotion which, if followed, will actually destroy them? A heroin addict gets a great emotionn of elation when he takes a shot of the drug, does that mean he should do it? Of course not.
  • 44:57    |    
    So one would have to examine, I suggest, one would have to examine one's emotions, not deny them by any means; examine them, not condemn them, but understand them, and thenn ask one what to do about it.
  • 45:12    |    
    And it´s obvious I think, on the face of it, that people have different emotions, toward the same thing. Dr. Peikoff, in Objectivism of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand, has then example of an X-ray, and several different people see the X-ray and they have very, very different emotions depending on who they are.
  • 45:29    |    
    The doctor sees it and feels great sadness because he recognizes the shadow; someone else sees it, a student sees it and feels great wonder at the technology involved; an savage sees it and feels a sense of incomprehensible fear, because it´s something he has not seen before; the scientist sees it and feels intrigue because there is a problem there to be solved,n right?
  • 45:49    |    
    Different people have different emotions, based on what they bring to their observations. I think about driving down the road and seeing a dead cat, that actually happened ton me once, I was riding with a young woman and saw a dead cat and I said "Oh, the poor cat, and she said "oh, it makes me feel great, good riddance; I was mauled by a cat as a child".
  • 46:07    |    
    She had a different emotion for that cat than I did. I don´t condemn her for her emotion and she didn´t condemn me for mine. We simply talked about them, why do we have thisn emotion. I think one can, and should, through the process of introspection, which is the examination of one´s own process, try to understand the emotions that one has, and why does one haven them.
  • 46:30    |    
    And that would allow one to face the empathy or the antipathy; there are lots of people who have a visceral emotional hatred of everything attached to capitalism. I think theyn need to go back and rethink things and that would be the application of that.
  • 46:53    |    
    In their work, these construction workers, and these construction companies, required freedom to act. This freedom is not just a social construct, n well we´ll have freedom here because we are free people, other people may not be free.
  • 47:12    |    
    Nor is it something that is given to human beings by God, there has simply been too much unfreedom in the world to support that. In fact, 98% of people for 98% of history,n have been unfree. Freedom is a requirement of the rational mind.
  • 47:31    |    
    I said, Ayn Rand said, I repeated, that we are beings of volitional consciousness, we have free will, by which we use our minds; we are free to think about things or not; wen are free to examine our emotions or not; we are free to perceive reality and attempt to understand it honestly or not.
  • 47:50    |    
    Would you need to exercise your free will and your volitional consciousness, you need to be free of the coercions of other people. I can put a gun, somebody could put a gun ton somebody else´s head, the Godfather puts a gun to somebody´s head and says, in one minute either your signature or your brains are going to be in that piece of paper and he signs then contract.
  • 48:12    |    
    You can force somebody to take that action, but can you force them to actually agree with it? The mind does not work under coercion and this ultimately, is a deeper reason whyn free market economics is the only system that has lead to prosperity, because we are beings of volitional consciousness and we have to be free from the coercions of others.
  • 48:38    |    
    Not free from the dictates of reality, because I am not free to float like a soap bubble or to build a forty-two story building out of chewing gum; but free to use my mind andn to act in the pursuit of values, and limitations on that freedom are defined by the principles of individual rights, which is the bridge from the moral to the political.
  • 48:59    |    
    And the one overriding rule, of course, is never to initiate the use of force against others. Is one thing to say, I have a contract here I like to urge you to sign it, andn these are the benefits that it would give to you. As one economist once said, Capitalism says, do this for me and I'll make you feel good; and socialism says, do this for me or I'll make youn feel bad.
  • 49:21    |    
    One must never abandon the persuasive use of reason to present values to others and turn to the initiation of force, to try to require them to do it. I noticed that most ofn the construction workers on the job site were, by and large, opposed to the welfare's games if posed that way.
  • 49:49    |    
    "Do you think we should be spending hundreds of billions of dollars in giving..." "no!" they'd say, "absolutely not" and halfway there they broke down because most were inn favor of some kind of social security or they would extent themselves and say "this doesn´t apply to the subsidies for the union because that´s protecting the workers..."
  • 50:03    |    
    So they were very, very inconsistent, but overall, their jobs, and their actions required freedom, and was inimicable to force redistribution. And, just my final word on thisn before, there was a fifth branch of philosophy, which I´ve not mentioned.
  • 50:24    |    
    I mentioned metaphysics, that it is. Epistemology, understanding what it is. Ethics, what should I do about it, now that I know that it is and what it is? And politics, hown should we structure and organize a government. What's the fifth branch? Esthetics, it´s art.
  • 50:45    |    
    Take the architecture expert to remind us of that, it´s esthetics. And I noticed in the construction site that I never really talked about art with these folks, but when artn came u,p there was one thing that always came across, repeatedly, they didn't like smears and they called it junk.
  • 51:04    |    
    So, Ayn Rand´s theory leads to a support for representational art; art which is a selective recreation of reality, as our concepts to be valid, should not be divorced fromn reality, so are depictions of reality, should not be divorced from reality.
  • 00:01    |    
    Initial credits
  • 00:19    |    
    Introduction
  • 00:54.5    |    
    Approach to Ayn Rand's ideas
    • The Fountainhead
      • Clarity
      • Emotional jubilation
      • Identification with Mike Donnigan
    • Mike Donnigan
      • Education and honesty
      • Contradictions from management
      • Viability of the industry and political context
      • Self-interest
      • Human ability
    • Atlas Shrugged
  • 13:09    |    
    Structure of Ayn Rand's ideas
  • 14:14    |    
    Five main branches of philosophy
  • 14:24    |    
    Metaphysics
    • Existence
    • Identity
    • Consciousness
    • Free will
  • 20:40    |    
    Epistemology
  • 23:5.7999999999999545    |    
    Ethics
    • Moral obligation
    • Rationality
    • Principles
      • Honesty
      • Justice
      • Productiveness
      • Pride
    • Values and life
    • Primary beneficiary
    • Charity
    • Time
    • What about the emotional factor?
    • Cites n Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, Leonard Peikoff
  • 46:53    |    
    Politics
    • Freedom
    • Mind does not work under coercion
    • Difference between capitalism and socialism
  • 50:17    |    
    Aesthetics
  • 51:04    |    
    Final words
  • 51:27    |    
    Final credits


Introduction to Ayn Rand’s Ideas

New Media  | 05 de abril de 2009  | Vistas: 227

About this video

John Lewis looks at Ayn Rand's thinking through a brief analysis of two of her books, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and observations made during his many years working in the field of construction.  He explains her ideas based on five branches of philosophy: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics, and aesthetics.  Lewis emphasizes the importance of rationality and comments on Rand's views on existence, identity, honesty, justice, and charity.  Lewis also stresses the need to be free of coercion and comments on the differences between capitalism and socialism.  Lewis emphasizes that one of the principal characteristics of Rand's thinking is her adherence to reality, since she believed it was the fundamental truth of our existence and our rationality.

Credits

Introduction to Ayn Rand's Ideas 
John Lewis

Business School Building, EN-601
Universidad Francisco Marroquín
Guatemala, April 5, 2009

New Media - UFM production.  Guatemala, April 2009
Camera: Sergio Miranda, Mynor de León; digital editing: Rebeca Zuñiga; index and synopsis: Sergio Bustamante; content revisers: Daphne Ortiz, Jennifer Keller; transcript: Lucía Canjura; transcript reviser: Sofía Díaz; publication: Mario Pivaral/Carlos Petz





Conferencista

John David Lewis (1955 - 2012) was visiting associate professor at…

IDEAS DE LA LIBERTAD

Nuestra misión es la enseñanza y difusión de los principios éticos, jurídicos y económicos de una sociedad de personas libres y responsables.

Universidad Francisco Marroquín