Friday, November 24, 2023

Ayn Rand vs. Immanuel Kant on Morality

I have just uncovered the most basic difference between Kant's and Rand's ethical theories.

The most basic issue is not that of altruistic duty versus rational self-interest. The more basic issue is the source of moral principles. Ayn Rand believed that the principles of philosophy and ethics are objective and should be self-evident to rational minds. She argued that these principles are rooted in the nature of reality and human existence, and therefore should be accessible to anyone willing to engage in honest and objective thought.

Rand often criticized those who did not understand the clarity of her philosophical and moral views. She believed that they were rejected not because of an intellectual limitation, but because of a conscious choice to ignore the truth. She saw this objection as a form of moral blindness, a deliberate rejection of rational moral principles.

The source of moral principles was, for Rand, out there, in the objective realm and human nature, waiting to be picked up and grasped by minds willing to understand them.

This is not an active way of creating morality, it is that of man as a passive recipient who merely needs to eat the fruit of moral wisdom.

This is the way of the God of the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Except in this case, Rand would strongly advise us to partake of its fruit rather than barring mankind from consuming it as God did. Those who don't partake in the objective fruit of moral wisdom are, in Rand's view, "parasites" and "second-handers."

To the contrary, Kant believed that humans were active participants in creating moral principles. Humans engage in a process of rational reflection to derive moral principles by critically examining moral beliefs and actions.

The CI was designed to assist in this process of rational reflection, but not to determine an individual's moral principles. It is a tool for rational reflection, but not a set of moral principles themselves.

The source of moral principles is for Kant, therefore, internal, not external as it is for Rand.

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