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Objectivism 101. Diana Mertz Hsieh Lecture Three: Life and Happiness Tuesday, July 2, 2002 13 th Annual Summer Seminar of The Objectivist Center. Objectivism 101 Schedule. Sunday Philosophy Monday Reality and Reason Tuesday Life and Happiness Wednesday The Virtues

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objectivism 101
Objectivism 101

Diana Mertz Hsieh

Lecture Three: Life and Happiness

Tuesday, July 2, 2002

13th Annual Summer Seminar


The Objectivist Center

objectivism 101 schedule
Objectivism 101 Schedule
  • Sunday Philosophy
  • Monday Reality and Reason
  • Tuesday Life and Happiness
  • Wednesday The Virtues
  • Thursday Individual Rights
  • Friday Spiritual Fuel
  • Ethics is the branch of philosophy that defines a code of values to guide actions and choices
  • Values are that which we act to gain and/or keep
  • Virtues are the actions by which gain and/or keep our values
four strains of ethics
Four Strains of Ethics
  • Flourishing Ethics: The good life
    • Happiness, pleasure, contemplation, individualism, moral character, friendship
  • Supernatural Ethics: Service to a higher realm
    • Absolute moral commandments, obedience, spiritual purity, suffering in this life
  • Bourgeois Ethics: Conventional success
    • Hard work, honesty, faith, prudence, kindness, thrift, service to others, patriotism
  • Social Ethics: Service to society
    • Secular moral duties, serving the welfare of society, equality, collectivism, social activism
why do we need ethics
Why Do We Need Ethics?
  • All living creatures face a fundamental alternative of life versus death
  • Life makes the pursuit of all other values possible
  • The individual’s life is his/her own highest value
  • We need ethics to rationally guide our choices and actions towards the highest value of our own lives
life as the standard of value
Life as the Standard of Value
  • Life is the ultimate value and thus the standard of value in ethics
  • We do not seek a miserable life of bare subsistence, but rather a rich, full, happy, and interesting life!
happiness and the moral life
Happiness and the Moral Life
  • Happiness results from the achievement of values
  • Happiness is the reward for a moral life
  • Happiness is an end-in-itself, simply to be enjoyed!
ayn rand on happiness
Ayn Rand on Happiness

“Happiness is the successful state of life, suffering is the warning signal of failure, of death. Just as the pleasure-pain mechanism of man's body is an automatic indicator of his body's welfare or injury, a barometer of its basic alternative, life or death—so the emotional mechanism of man's consciousness is geared to perform the same function, as a barometer that registers the same alternative by means of two basic emotions: joy or suffering.”

Ayn Rand

“The Objectivist Ethics”

The Virtue of Selfishness

life and happiness
Life and Happiness
  • Life is…
    • The ultimate value
    • The standard of value
  • Happiness is…
    • The reward for a moral life
    • An end-in-itself
  • So Objectivism advocates rational egoism
altruism and egoism
Altruism and Egoism
  • Who is the proper beneficiary of moral action?
  • Egoism: Moral actions are those which benefit yourself

“I’m looking out for #1”

  • Altruism: Moral actions are those which benefit others

“I am my brother’s keeper”

self interest
  • We always ought to pursue our long-term self-interest
  • How do we determine what is in our self-interest? What values and virtues will promote our life and happiness?
  • Three answers:
    • Authority: “Follow the tried and true”
    • Emotion: “Do whatever makes you happy”
    • Reason: “Just the facts, ma’am”
moral principles
Moral Principles
  • We determine self-interest through reason
  • Moral principles are general ethical truths
  • We need moral principles in order to make ethical choices quickly and accurately
  • Moral principles identify the long-range goals and means of achieving them that promote life and happiness in the usual circumstances of life
values of life and happiness
Values of Life and Happiness
  • Rational values are the things that act to gain and/or keep consistent with life as ultimate value
    • Material values
      • Food, shelter, medicine, wealth, water
    • Spiritual values
      • Art, philosophy, self-confidence, knowledge, creativity
    • Social values
      • Friendship, dissemination of knowledge, trade, love
virtues of life and happiness
Virtues of Life and Happiness
  • Rational virtues are the characteristic means by which we achieve values that promote life
  • The eight major Objectivist virtues:
    • Rationality
    • Productiveness
    • Independence
    • Honesty
    • Justice
    • Benevolence
    • Integrity
    • Pride
the need for moral principles
The Need for Moral Principles

“You might say, as many people do, that it is not easy always to act on abstract principles. No, it is not easy. But how much harder is it, to have to act on them without knowing what they are?”

Ayn Rand

“Philosophy: Who Needs It”

Philosophy: Who Needs It

social ethics
Social Ethics
  • Social ethics concerns our interactions with other people
  • How should we interact with other people?
the necessity of sacrifice
Option One

Sacrifice others to yourself

“Might makes right”

Mastery over others


Inherent conflicts of interest

Option Two

Sacrifice yourself to others

“Service to others”

Servitude to others


Inherent conflicts of interest

The Necessity of Sacrifice?
option three trader principle
Option Three: Trader Principle
  • Values (including wealth) can be created and destroyed
  • There are no necessary conflicts of interest for those who live by production and trade
  • Trade is voluntary exchange to mutual benefit
  • Trades can be material and/or spiritual
john galt s oath
John Galt’s Oath

“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.”

-- John Galt, Atlas Shrugged

  • In social ethics, Objectivism advocates…
    • Not sacrificing of others to oneself
    • Not sacrificing of oneself to others
    • But creating and trading values
the mind body dichotomy
The Mind-Body Dichotomy
  • Spiritual things are radically different from (and usually superior to) material things
  • The mind/soul versus the body
  • Spirit versus matter
  • Theory versus practice
  • Thought versus action
  • Reason versus emotion
  • Moral versus practical
mind body integration
Mind-Body Integration
  • Our minds and bodies are intimately interconnected and intertwined, so…
    • The moral is the practical
    • Reason can be in harmony with emotion
    • Material values are just as necessary to life as spiritual values
the summary of ethics
The Summary of Ethics

“The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live.”

Ayn Rand

“Galt’s Speech”

Atlas Shrugged

today s topics
Today’s Topics
  • Four strains of ethics: flourishing, supernatural, bourgeois, social
  • The purpose of ethics
  • Life as the ultimate value and standard of value
  • Happiness as the reward for a moral life
  • Egoism and altruism
  • Self-interest
  • Moral principles, values and virtues
  • Sacrifice versus production and trade
  • Mind-body integration