What is needed, what is required in America now, is a philosophical war. The futile and exhausting political games we are subjected to on a daily basis are nothing more than propaganda contests with the left (proponents of modern enslavement) winning hands down, as the enemedia does their bidding.
"You don't have to see through the eyes of others, hold onto yours, stand on your own judgment, you know that what is, is–say it aloud, like the holiest of prayers, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise."
-Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, Part 3, Ch. 4
And as Rand observed, while a military battle of any scope is like a “political battle”—“merely a skirmish fought with muskets[,] a philosophical battle is a nuclear war”—and only rational ideas will ultimately win it (“‘What Can One Do?’”).
Indeed, and this is what is required. As a human being, you must have a philosophy. Invariably you do, even if you are not consciously aware of it.
A philosophic system is an integrated view of existence. As a human being, you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation -- or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears, thrown together by chance, but integrated by your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single, solid weight: self-doubt, like a ball and chain in the place where your mind's wings should have grown.Ayn Rand, Philosophy: Who Needs It
A know-nothing political movement has taken power and successfully abolished reason, logic, and individualism. Teaching collectivism in public schools and universities, demonizing and destroying the few pro-freedom voices in the public square.
There must be a revolutionary reaction against this destructive movement. Enlightened people must revive the American idea of individualism, capitalism (fully free economy), and laissez faire although this is difficult as they have largely forgotten what it was. All they have are fragments which is why we find ourselves in a state of grave disorder. Take for example, entitements, the battle isn't which entitlement program (food stamps, cash for clunkers, Obamacare, etc), the battle is about why entitlements or why government. Period.
We must have this battle. People in politics are looking in the rear view mirror. They are a reflection of cultural and educational trends.
Q&A with Rand, listen here: Download Q&A
Would Rand be welcome to speak at Yale or Harvard in 2012?
(A lecture delivered at Yale University on February 17, 1960, at Brooklyn College on April 4, 1960, and at Columbia University on May 5, 1960.
Published as a pamphlet by the Nathaniel Branden Institute in 1967,
and now included as a chapter in the book, Philosophy: Who Needs It )
... The three values which men held for centuries and which have now collapsed are: mysticism, collectivism, altruism. Mysticism -- as a cultural power -- died at the time of the Renaissance. Collectivism -- as a political ideal -- died in World War II. As to altruism -- it has never been alive. It is the poison of death in the blood of Western civilization, and men survived it only to the extent to which they neither believed nor practiced it. But it has caught up with them -- and that is the killer which they now have to face and to defeat. That is the basic choice they have to make. If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject.
... 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.
What is morality? It is a code of values to guide man's choices and actions -- the choices which determine the purpose and the course of his life. It is a code by means of which he judges what is right or wrong, good or evil.
What is the morality of altruism? The basic principle of altruism is that man has no right to live for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value.
Do not confuse altruism with kindness, good will or respect for the rights of others. These are not primaries, but consequences, which, in fact, altruism makes impossible. The irreducible primary of altruism, the basic absolute, is self-sacrifice -- which means: self-immolation, self-abnegation, self-denial, self-destruction --- which means: the self as a standard of evil, the selfless as the standard of the good.
Do not hide behind such superficialities as whether you should or should not give a dime to a beggar. That is not the issue. The issue is whether you do or do not have the right to exist without giving him that dime. The issue is whether you must keep buying your life, dime by dime, from any beggar who might choose to approach you. The issue is whether the need of others is the first mortgage on your life and the moral purpose of your existence. The issue is whether man is to be regarded as a sacrificial animal. Any man of self-esteem will answer: "No." Altruism says: "Yes."
Now there is one word -- a single word -- which can blast the morality of altruism out of existence and which it cannot withstand -- the word: "Why?" Why must man live for the sake of others? Why must he be a sacrificial animal? Why is that the good? There is no earthly reason for it -- and, ladies and gentlemen, in the whole history of philosophy no earthly reason has ever been given.
It is only mysticism that can permit moralists to get away with it. It was mysticism, the unearthly, the supernatural, the irrational that has always been called upon to justify it -- or, to be exact, to escape the necessity of justification. One does not justify the irrational, one just takes it on faith. What most moralists -- and few of their victims -- realize is that reason and altruism are incompatible. And this is the basic contradiction of Western civilization: reason versus altruism. This is the conflict that had to explode sooner or later.
The real conflict, of course, is reason versus mysticism. But if it weren't for the altruist morality, mysticism would have died when it did die -- at the Renaissance -- leaving no vampire to haunt Western culture. A "vampire" is supposed to be a dead creature that comes out of its grave only at night -- only in the darkness -- and drains the blood of the living. The description, applied to altruism, is exact.
Western civilization was the child and product of reason -- via ancient Greece. In all other civilizations, reason has always been the menial servant -- the handmaiden -- of mysticism. You may observe the results. It is only Western culture that has ever been dominated -- imperfectly, incompletely, precariously and at rare intervals -- but still, dominated by reason. You may observe the results of that.
The conflict of reason versus mysticism is the issue of life or death -- of freedom or slavery -- of progress or stagnant brutality. Or, to put it another way, it is the conflict of consciousness versus unconsciousness.
Let us define our terms. What is reason? Reason is the faculty which perceives, identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses. Reason integrates man's perceptions by means of forming abstractions or conceptions, thus raising man's knowledge from the perceptual level, which he shares with animals, to the conceptual level, which he alone can reach. The method which reason employs in this process is logic -- and logic is the art of non-contradictory identification. What is mysticism? Mysticism is the acceptance of allegations without evidence or proof, either apart from or against the evidence of one's senses and one's reason. Mysticism is the claim to some non-sensory, non-rational, non-definable, non-identifiable means of knowledge, such as "instinct," "intuition," "revelation,' or any form of "just knowing."
Reason is the perception of reality, and rests on a single axiom: the Law of Identity.
Mysticism is the claim to the perception of some other reality -- other than the one in which we live -- whose definition is only that it is not natural, it is supernatural, and is to be perceived by some form of unnatural or supernatural means.
You realize, of course, that epistemology -- the theory of knowledge -- is the most complex branch of philosophy, which cannot be covered exhaustively in a single lecture. So I will not attempt to cover it. I will say only that those who wish a fuller discussion will find it in Atlas Shrugged. For the purposes of tonight's discussion, the definitions I have given you contain the essence of the issue, regardless of whose theory, argument or philosophy you choose to accept.
I will repeat: Reason is the faculty which perceives, identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses. Mysticism is the claim to a non-sensory means of knowledge.
In Western civilization, the period ruled by mysticism is known as the Dark Ages and the Middle Ages. I will assume that you know the nature of that period and the state of human existence in those ages. The Renaissance broke the rule of the mystics. "Renaissance" means "rebirth." Few people today will care to remind you that it was a rebirth of reason -- of man's mind.
In the light of what followed -- most particularly, in the light of the industrial revolution -- nobody can now take faith, or religion, or revelation, or any form of mysticism as his basic and exclusive guide to existence, not in the way it was taken in the Middle Ages. This does not mean that the Renaissance has automatically converted everybody to rationality; far from it. It means only that so long as a single automobile, a single skyscraper or a single copy of Aristotle's Logic remains in existence, nobody will be able to arouse men's hope, eagerness and joyous enthusiasm by telling them to ditch their minds and rely on mystic faith. This is why I said that mysticism, as a cultural power, is dead. Observe that in the attempts at a mystic revival today, it is not an appeal to life, hope and joy that the mystics are making, but an appeal to fear, doom and despair. "Give up, your mind is impotent, life is only a foxhole," is not a motto that can revive a culture.
Now, if you ask me to name the man most responsible for the present state of the world, the man whose influence has almost succeeded in destroying the achievements of the Renaissance -- I will name Immanuel Kant. He was the philosopher who saved the morality of altruism, and who knew that what it had to be saved from was -- reason.
This is not a mere hypothesis. It is a known historical fact that Kant's interest and purpose in philosophy was to save the morality of altruism, which could not survive without a mystic base. His metaphysics and his epistemology were devised for that purpose. He did not, of course, announce himself as a mystic -- few of them have, since the Renaissance. He announced himself as a champion of reason -- of "pure" reason.
There are two ways to destroy the power of a concept: one, by an open attack in open discussion -- the other, by subversion, from the inside; that is: by subverting the meaning of the concept, setting up a straw man and then refuting it. Kant did the second. He did not attack reason -- he merely constructed such a version of what is reason that it made mysticism look like plain, rational common sense by comparison. He did not deny the validity of reason -- he merely claimed that reason is "limited," that it leads us to impossible contradictions, that everything we perceive is an illusion and that we can never perceive reality or "things as they are." He claimed, in effect, that the things we perceive are not real, because we perceive them.
A "straw man" is an odd metaphor to apply to such an enormous, cumbersome, ponderous construction as Kant's system of epistemology. Nevertheless, a straw man is what it was -- and the doubts, the uncertainty, the skepticism that followed, skepticism about man's ability ever to know anything, were not, in fact, applicable to human consciousness, because it was not a human consciousness that Kant's robot represented. But philosophers accepted it as such. And while they cried that reason had been invalidated, they did not notice that reason had been pushed off the philosophical scene altogether and that the faculty they were arguing about was not reason.
No, Kant did not destroy reason; he merely did as thorough a job of undercutting as anyone could ever do.
If you trace the roots of all our current philosophies -- such as Pragmatism, Logical Positivism, and all the rest of the neo-mystics who announce happily that you cannot prove that you exist -- you will find that they all grew out of Kant.
As to Kant's version of the altruist morality, he claimed that it was derived from "pure reason," not from revelation -- except that it rested on a special instinct for duty, a "categorical imperative" which one "just knows." His version of morality makes the Christian one sound like a healthy, cheerful, benevolent code of selfishness. Christianity merely told man to love his neighbor as himself; that's not exactly rational -- but at least it does not forbid man to love himself. What Kant propounded was full, total, abject selflessness: he held that an action is moral only if you perform it out of a sense of duty and derive no benefit from it of any kind, neither material nor spiritual; if you derive any benefit, your action is not moral any longer. This is the ultimate form of demanding that man turn himself into a "shmoo" -- the mystic little animal of the Li'l Abner comic strip, that went around seeking to be eaten by somebody.
It is Kant's version of altruism that is generally accepted today, not practiced -- who can practice it? -- but guiltily accepted. It is Kant's version of altruism that people, who have never heard of Kant, profess when they equate self-interest with evil. It is Kant's version of altruism that's working whenever people are afraid to admit the pursuit of any personal pleasure or gain or motive -- whenever men are afraid to confess that they are seeking their own happiness -- whenever businessmen are afraid to say that they are making profits -- whenever the victims of an advancing dictatorship are afraid to assert their "selfish" rights.
The ultimate monument to Kant and to the whole altruist morality is Soviet Russia.
If you want to prove to yourself the power of ideas and, particularly, of morality -- the intellectual history of the nineteenth century would be a good example to study. The greatest, unprecedented, undreamed of events and achievements were taking place before men's eyes -- but men did not see them and did not understand their meaning, as they do not understand it to this day. I am speaking of the industrial revolution, of the United States and of capitalism. For the first time in history, men gained control over physical nature and threw off the control of men over men -- that is: men discovered science and political freedom. The creative energy, the abundance, the wealth, the rising standard of living for every level of the population were such that the nineteenth century looks like fiction-Utopia, like a blinding burst of sunlight, in the drab progression of most of human history. If life on earth is one's standard of value, then the nineteenth century moved mankind forward more than all the other centuries combined.
Did anyone appreciate it? Does anyone appreciate it now? Has anyone identified the causes of that historical miracle?
They did not and have not. What blinded them? The morality of altruism.
Let me explain this. There are, fundamentally, only two causes of the progress of the nineteenth century -- the same two causes which you will find at the root of any happy, benevolent, progressive era in human history. One cause is psychological, the other existential -- or: one pertains to man's consciousness, the other to the physical conditions of his existence. The first is reason, the second is freedom. And when I say "freedom," I do not mean poetic sloppiness, such as "freedom from want" or "freedom from fear" or "freedom from the necessity of earning a living." I mean "freedom from compulsion -- freedom from rule by physical force." Which means: political freedom.
These two -- reason and freedom -- are corollaries, and their relationship is reciprocal: when men are rational, freedom wins; when men are free, reason wins.
Their antagonists are: faith and force. These, also, are corollaries: every period of history dominated by mysticism, was a period of statism, of dictatorship, of tyranny. Look at the Middle Ages -- and look at the political systems of today.
The nineteenth century was the ultimate product and expression of the intellectual trend of the Renaissance and the Age of Reason, which means: of a predominantly Aristotelian philosophy. And, for the first time in history, it created a new economic system, the necessary corollary of political freedom, a system of free trade on a free market: capitalism.
No, it was not a full, perfect, unregulated, totally laissez-faire capitalism -- as it should have been. Various deggrees of government interference and control still remained, even in America -- and this is what led to the eventual destruction of capitalism. But the extent to which certain countries were free was the exact extent of their economic progress. America, the freest, achieved the most.
Never mind the low wages and harsh living conditions of the early years of capitalism. They were all that the national economies of the time could afford. Capitalism did not create poverty -- it inherited it. Compared to the centuries of precapitalist starvation, the living conditions of the poor in the early years of capitalism were the first chance the poor had ever had to survive. As proof -- the enormous growth of the European population during the nineteenth century, a growth of over 300 percent, as compared to the previous growth of something like 3 percent per century.
Now why was this not appreciated? Why did capitalism, the truly magnificent benefactor of mankind, arouse nothing but resentment, denunciations and hatred, then and now? Why did the so-called defenders of capitalism keep apologizing for it, then and now? Because, ladies and gentlemen, capitalism and altruism are incompatible.
Make no mistake about it -- and tell it to your Republican friends: capitalism and altruism cannot coexist in the same man or in the same society.
Tell it to anyone who attempts to justify capitalism on the ground of the "public good" or the "general welfare" or "service to society" or the benefit it brings to the poor. All these things are true, but they are the by-products, the secondary consequences of capitalism -- not its goal, purpose or moral justification. The moral justification of capitalism is man's right to exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself; it is the recognition that man -- every man -- is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others, not a sacrificial animal serving anyone's need.
There is a tragic, twisted sort of compliment to mankind involved in this issue: in spite of all their irrationalities, inconsistencies, hypocrisies and evasions, the majority of men will not act, in major issues, without a sense of being morally right and will not oppose the morality they have accepted. They will break it, they will cheat on it, but they will not oppose it; and when they break it, they take the blame on themselves. The power of morality is the greatest of all intellectual powers -- and mankind's tragedy lies in the fact that the vicious moral code men have accepted destroys them by means of the best within them.
So long as altruism was their moral ideal, men had to regard capitalism as immoral; capitalism certainly does not and cannot work on the principle of selfless service and sacrifice. This was the reason why the majority of the nineteenth-century intellectuals regarded capitalism as a vulgar, uninspiring, materialistic necessity of this earth, and continued to long for their unearthly moral ideal. From the start, while capitalism was creating the splendor of its achievements, creating it in silence, unacknowledged and undefended (morally undefended), the intellectuals were moving in greater and greater numbers towards a new dream: socialism.
Just as a small illustration of how ineffectual a defense of capitalism was offered by its most famous advocates, let me mention that the British socialists, the Fabians, were predominantly students and admirers of John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham.
The socialists had a certain kind of logic on their side; if the collective sacrifice of all to all is the moral ideal, then they wanted to establish this ideal in practice, here and on this earth. The arguments that socialism would not and could not work, did not stop them: neither has altruism ever worked, but this has not caused men to stop and question it. Only reason can ask such questions -- and reason, they were told on all sides, has nothing to do with morality, morality lies outside the realm of reason, no rational morality can ever be defined.
The fallacies and contradictions in the economic theories of socialism were exposed and refuted time and time again, in the nineteenth century as well as today. This did not and does not stop anyone; it is not an issue of economics, but of morality. The intellectuals and the so-called idealists were determined to make socialism work. How? By that magic means of all irrationalists: somehow.
It was not the tycoons of big business, it was not the working classes, it was the intellectuals who reversed the trend toward political freedom and revived the doctrines of the absolute State, of totalitarian government rule, of the government's right to control the lives of the citizens in any manner it pleases. This time, it was not in the name of the "divine right of kings," but in the name of the divine right of the masses. The basic principle was the same: the right to enforce at the point of a gun the moral doctrines of whoever happens to seize control of the machinery of government.
There are only two means by which men can deal with one another: guns or logic. Force or persuasion. Those who know that they cannot win by means of logic, have always resorted to guns.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, the socialists got their dream. They got it in the twentieth century and they got it in triplicate, plus a great many lesser carbon copies; they got it in every possible form and variant, so that now there can be no mistake about its nature: Soviet Russia -- Nazi Germany -- Socialist England.
This was the collapse of the modern intellectuals' most cherished tradition. It was World War II that destroyed collectivism as a political ideal. Oh, yes, people still mouth its slogans, by routine, by social conformity and by default -- but it is not a moral crusade any longer. It is an ugly, horrifying reality -- and part of the modern intellectuals' guilt is the knowledge that they have created it. They have seen for themselves the bloody slaughterhouse which they had once greeted as a noble experiment -- Soviet Russia. They have seen Nazi Germany -- and they know that "Nazi" means "National Socialism." Perhaps the worst blow to them, the greatest disillusionment, was Socialist England: here was their literal dream, a bloodless socialism, where force was not used for murder, only for expropriation, where lives were not taken, only the products, the meaning and the future of lives, here was a country that had not been murdered, but had voted itself into suicide. Most of the modern intellectuals, even the more evasive ones, have now understood what socialism -- or any form of political and economic collectivism -- actually means.
Today, their perfunctory advocacy of collectivism is as feeble, futile and evasive as the alleged conservatives' defense of capitalism. The fire and the moral fervor have gone out of it. And when you hear the liberals mumble that Russia is not really socialistic, or that it was all Stalin's fault, or that socialism never had a real chance in England, or that what they advocate is something that's different somehow -- you know that you are hearing the voices of men who haven't a leg to stand on, men who are reduced to some vague hope that "somehow my gang would have done it better."
The secret dread of modern intellectuals, liberals and conservatives alike, the unadmitted terror at the root of their anxiety, which all of their current irrationalities are intended to stave off and to disguise, is the unstated knowledge that Soviet Russia is the full, actual, literal, consistent embodiment of the morality of altruism, that Stalin did not corrupt a noble ideal, that this is the only way altruism has to be or can ever be practiced. If service and self-sacrifice are a moral ideal, and if the "selfishness" of human nature prevents men from leaping into sacrificial furnaces, there is no reason -- no reason that a mystic moralist could name -- why a dictator should not push them in at the point of bayonets -- for their own good, or the good of humanity, or the good of posterity, or the good of the latest bureaucrat's five-year plan. There is no reason that they can name to oppose any atrocity. The value of a man's life? His right to exist? His right to pursue his own happiness? These are concepts that belong to individualism and capitalism -- to the antithesis of the altruist morality.
Twenty years ago the conservatives were uncertain, evasive, morally disarmed before the aggressive moral self-righteousness of the liberals. Today, both are uncertain, evasive, morally disarmed before the aggressiveness of the communists. It is not a moral aggressiveness any longer, it is the plain aggressiveness of a thug -- but what disarms the modern intellectuals is the secret realization that a thug is the inevitable, ultimate and only product of their cherished morality.
I have said that faith and force are corollaries, and that mysticism will always lead to the rule of brutality. The cause of it is contained in the very nature of mysticism. Reason is the only objective means of communication and of understanding among men; when men deal with one another by means of reason, reality is their objective standard and frame of reference. But when men claim to possess supernatural means of knowledge, no persuasion, communication or understanding are impossible. Why do we kill wild animals in the jungle? Because no other way of dealing with them is open to us. And that is the state to which mysticism reduces mankind -- a state where, in case of disagreement, men have no recourse except to physical violence. And more: no man or mystical elite can hold a whole society subjugated to their arbitrary assertions, edicts and whims, without the use of force. Anyone who resorts to the formula: "It's so, because I say so," will have to reach for a gun, sooner or later. Communists, like all materialists, are neo-mystics: it does not matter whether one rejects the mind in favor of revelations or in favor of conditioned reflexes. The basic premise and the results are the same.
Such is the nature of the evil which modern intellectuals have helped to let loose in the world -- and such is the nature of their guilt.
- - - - -
Since "challenge" is your slogan, I will say that if you are looking for a challenge, you are facing the greatest one in history. A moral revolution is the most difficult, the most demanding, the most radical form of rebellion, but that is the task to be done today, if you choose to accept it. When I say "radical," I mean it in its literal and reputable sense: fundamental. Civilization does not have to perish. The brutes are winning only by default. But in order to fight them to the finish and with full rectitude, it is the altruist morality that you have to reject.
Now, if you want to know what my philosophy, Objectivism, offers you -- I will give you a brief indication. I will not attempt, in one lecture, to present my whole philosophy. I will merely indicate to you what I mean by a rational morality of self-interest, what I mean by the opposite of altruism, what kind of morality is possible to man and why. I will preface it by reminding you that most philosophers -- especially most of them today -- have always claimed that morality is outside the province of reason, that no rational morality can be defined, and that man has no practical need of morality. Morality, they claim, is not a necessity of man's existence, but only some sort of mystical luxury or arbitrary social whim; in fact, they claim, nobody can prove why we should be moral at all; in reason, they claim, there's no reason to be moral.
I cannot summarize for you the essence and the base of my morality any better than I did it in Atlas Shrugged. So, rather than attempt to paraphrase it, I will read to you the passages from Atlas Shrugged which pertain to the nature, the base and the proof of my morality.
"Man's mind is his basic tool of survival. Life is given to him, survival is not. His body is given to him, its sustenance is not. His mind is given to him, its content is not. To remain alive he must act, and before he can act he must know the nature and purpose of his action. He cannot obtain his food without a knowledge of food and of the way to obtain it. He cannot dig a ditch -- or build a cyclotron -- without a knowledge of his aim and of the means to achieve it. To remain alive, he must think.
"But to think is an act of choice. The key to what you so recklessly call 'human nature,' the open secret you live with, yet dread to name, is the fact that man is a being of volitional consciousness. Reason does not work automatically; thinking is not a mechanical process; the connections of logic are not made by instinct. The function of your stomach, lungs or heart is automatic; the function of your mind is not. In any hour and issue of your life, you are free to think or to evade that effort. But you are not free to escape from your nature, from the fact that reason is your means of survival -- so that for you, who are a human being, the question 'to be or not to be' is the question 'to think or not to think.'
"A being of volitional consciousness has no automatic course of behavior. He needs a code of values to guide his actions. 'Value' is that which one acts to gain and keep, 'virtue' is the action by which one gains and keeps it. 'Value' presupposes an answer to the question: of value to whom and for what? 'Value' presupposes a standard, a purpose and the necessity of action in the face of an alternative. Where there are no alternatives, no values are possible.
"There is only one fundamental alternative in the universe: existence or non-existence -- and it pertains to a single class of entities: to living organisms. The existence of inanimate matter is unconditional, the existence of life is not: it depends on a specific course of action. Matter is indestructible, it changes its forms, but it cannot cease to exist. It is only a living organism that faces a constant alternative: the issue of life or death. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action. If an organism fails in that action, it dies; its chemical elements remain, but its life goes out of existence. It is only the concept of 'Life' that makes the concept of 'Value' possible. It is only to a living entity that things can be good or evil.
"A plant must feed itself in order to live; the sunlight, the water, the chemicals it needs are the values its nature has set it to pursue; its life is the standard of value directing its actions. But a plant has no choice of action; there are alternatives in the conditions it encounters, but there is not alternative in its function: it acts automatically to further its life, it cannot act for its own destruction.
"An animal is equipped for sustaining its life; its senses provide it with an automatic knowledge of what is good for it or evil. It has no power to extend its knowledge or to evade it. In conditions where its knowledge proves inadequate, it dies. But so long as it lives, it acts on its knowledge, with automatic safety and no power of choice, it is unable to ignore its own good, unable to decide to choose the evil and act as its own destroyer.
"Man has no automatic code of survival. His particular distinction from all other living species is the necessity to act in the face of alternatives by means of volitional choice. He has no automatic knowledge of what is good for him or evil, what values his life depends on, what course of action it requires. Are you prattling about an instinct of self-preservation? An instinct of self-preservation is precisely what man does not possess. An 'instinct' is an unerring and automatic form of knowledge. A desire is not an instinct. A desire to live does not give you the knowledge required for living. And even man's desire to live is not automatic: your secret evil today is that that is the desire you do not hold. Your fear of death is not a love for life and will not give you the knowledge needed to keep it. Man must obtain his knowledge and choose his actions by a process of thinking, which nature will not force him to perform. Man has the power to act as his own destroyer -- and that is the way he has acted through most of his history [...]
"Man has been called a rational being, but rationality is a matter of choice -- and the alternative his nature offers himm is: rational being or suicidal animal. Man has to be man -- by choice; he has to hold his life as a value -- by choice; he has to learn to sustain it -- by choice; he has to discover the values it requires and practice his virtues -- by choice.
"A code of values accepted by choice is a code of morality.
"Whoever you are, you who are hearing me now, I am speaking to whatever living remnant is left uncorrupted within you, to the remnant of the human, to your mind, and I say: There is a morality of reason, a morality proper to man, and Man's Life is its standard of value.
"All that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; all that which destroys it is the evil.
"Man's life, as required by his nature, is not the life of a mindless brute, of a looting thug or a mooching mystic, but the life of a thinking being -- not life by means of force or fraud, but life by means of achievement -- not survival at any price, since there's only one price that pays for man's survival: reason.
"Man's life is the standard of morality, but your own life is its purpose. If existence on earth is your goal, you must choose your actions and values by the standard of that which is proper to man -- for the purpose of preserving, fulfilling and enjoying the irreplaceable value which is your life."
This, ladies and gentlemen, is what Objectivism offers you.
And when you make your choice, I would like you to remember that the only alternative to it is communist slavery. The "middle-of-the-road" is like an unstable, radioactive element that can last only so long -- and its time is running out. There is no more chance for a middle-of-the-road.
The issue will be decided, not in the middle, but between the two consistent extremes. It's Objectivism or communism. It's a rational morality based on man's right to exist -- or altruism, which means: slave labor camps under the rule of such masters as you might have seen on the screens of your TV last year. If that is what you prefer, the choice is yours.
- - - - -
I hope this may not be fully true here, but I have met too many young people in universities, who have no clear idea, not even in the most primitive terms, of what capitalism really is. They [your elders] do not let you know what the theory of capitalism is, nor how it worked in practice, nor what was its actual history.
- - - - -
The real danger is that communism is an enemy whom they [our so-called intellectual leaders] do not dare to fight on moral grounds, and it can be fought only on moral grounds.
This then, is the choice. Think it over. Consider the subject, check your premises, check past history and find out whether it is true that men can never be free. It isn't true, because they have been. Find out what made it possible. See for yourself. And then if you are convinced -- rationally convinced -- then let us save the world together. We still have time.
To quote Galt once more, such is the choice before you. Let your mind and your love of existence decide.
UPDATE: It's Ayn Rand's birthday today. I didn't realize that. How fitting.