Classic Rand Interview

Playboy has published a 1964 interview with Ayn Rand online.

In two brief answers, Rand summarizes the essence of her philosophical beliefs:

PLAYBOY: What are the basic premises of Objectivism? Where does it begin?

RAND: It begins with the axiom that existence exists, which means that an objective reality exists independent of any perceiver or of the perceiver’s emotions, feelings, wishes, hopes or fears. Objectivism holds that reason is man’s only means of perceiving reality and his only guide to action. By reason, I mean the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses.

PLAYBOY: In Atlas Shrugged your hero, John Galt, declares, “I swear—by my life and my love of it—that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” How is this related to your basic principles?

RAND: Galt’s statement is a dramatized summation of the Objectivist ethics. Any system of ethics is based on and derived, implicitly or explicitly, from a metaphysics. The ethic derived from the metaphysical base of Objectivism holds that, since reason is man’s basic tool of survival, rationality is his highest virtue. To use his mind, to perceive reality and to act accordingly, is man’s moral imperative. The standard of value of the Objectivist ethics is: man’s life — man’s survival qua man — or that which the nature of a rational being requires for his proper survival. The Objectivist ethics, in essence, hold that man exists for his own sake, that the pursuit of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose, that he must not sacrifice himself to others, nor sacrifice others to himself. It is this last that Galt’s statement summarizes.

The onslaught of bad news these days can seem overwhelming. We have political takeovers or attempted takeovers of major industries from banking to auto manufacturing to health care. Added to the dismal political news are natural problems like swine flu and earthquakes. It is, however, an opportune time to get back to fundamentals. Rand’s masterpiece, Atlas Shrugged, has been flying of the shelf because, I think, more people than ever are concerned with the direction the world is headed — and they’re looking for a rational alternative.

Read the Playboy interview — and don’t stop there.

2 thoughts on “Classic Rand Interview”

  1. Why not justify John Galt’s exclamation more simply, without all the objectivist mumbo-jumbo. How about this: Galt’s statement is true because he OWNS HIMSELF. No one else has claim on John because he is the owner, and ultimate decision maker for himself simply because he holds priority over his own body – no matter the wishes of anyone else.

  2. “Mumbo-jumbo” is hardly a fair summary. The reason is that self-ownership is not a philosophical axiom. You have to establish it, which requires a lot of philosophical work. Trying to skip that work yields only unjustified dogma.

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