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ISSN 2043-0736

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Philosophie & Wirtschaft


Daniel Silvermintz

Tom C. Veblen

Marco Senatore

Peter S Borkowski

Dena Hurst

Sean Jasso


Geoffrey Klempner

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P H I L O S O P H Y   F O R   B U S I N E S S           ISSN 2043-0736

Issue number 64
21st January 2011


I. 'Whither Business Ethics?' by Bob Korth

II. 'The Suffering Principle in Peter Singer's Ethics' by Tanuja

III. Review of Jennifer Burns 'Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and
the American Right' by Martin Jenkins



Our 8th new year of Philosophy for Business starts with some deep
reflections by Bob Korth on the relation between the way we think and
talk about business and the way we engage in business activity. This
is not about such popular notions as 'positive thinking' or the more
recent craze for the 'law of attraction'. There is a subtle, two-way
interaction between the way we think about and perceive the world of
our business activity, and the way we actually participate in that
world. We can become better, if we choose to be, but merely thinking
optimistic or positive thoughts won't make it happen.

Tanuja Kalita, a young research scholar from India, bravely tackles
one of the foremost practical ethicists Peter Singer, who Dena Hurst
mentioned in her editorial introduction to the previous issue (Issue
63, 21st December 2010). Singer's ethics is based on the principle
that all sentient beings, whether human or non-human, are equally
capable of 'experiencing suffering'. But how is this to be
objectively measured? can it be? Are we to trust our ethical
judgements to the results of scientific research? Such research is
ongoing, and its results are changeable, merely reflecting work in

Pathways mentor Martin Jenkins reviews a book on the controversial
American thinker Ayn Rand. Many criticisms of Ayn Rand's
'objectivist' philosophy have been made over the years. However, the
philosophical challenge is to identify the foundational assumptions
concerning the nature of human beings and society which lead Ayn Rand
to formulate her famous principle of 'the virtue of selfishness'.
Jenkins concludes by remarking that Rand's 'active man' once thought
himself 'master of the universe'. Is he still?

As announced in Philosophy Pathways Issue 159 which went out
yesterday, to celebrate my 60th birthday on Monday, I am offering
free life membership of the International Society for Philosophers,
worth 15 GBP, to readers of Philosophy Pathways or Philosophy for
Business who have not yet joined the Society. Please complete the
application form at and
put in the Comments box, 'Philosophy for Business subscriber'. The
offer deadline is 31st January. There is a similar offer on the
Pathways main page

Geoffrey Klempner



     How we do business -- and what business does to us -- has
     everything to do with how we think about business, talk
     about business, conceive of business, practice business. If
     we think, talk, conceive, and practice business as a
     ruthless, cutthroat, dog-eat-dog activity, then that, of
     course, is what it will become. And so, too, it is what we
     will become, no matter how often (in our off hours and
     personal lives) we insist otherwise. If, on the other hand,
     business is conceived -- as it has often been conceived --
     as an enterprise based on trust and mutual benefits, an
     enterprise for civilized, virtuous people, then that, in
     turn, will be equally self-fulfilling. It will also be much
     more amiable, secure, enjoyable, and, last but not least,
How are we to understand these claims made by Robert C. Solomon in
his little book A Better Way To Think About Business? It is tempting
to seize upon the phrases 'then that is what it will become' and
'equally self-fulfilling' and interpret Solomon as advocating some
form of Positive Mental Attitude, a sort of business form of The
Secret, like those folks who go around forever saying, 'It's all
good!' As we think so shall we be. See no evil, hear no evil, speak
no evil. To give in to this temptation is to do Solomon a disservice.
His position, like his book as a whole, is much deeper than that. In
this paper I will suggest that A Better Way To Think About Business
belongs to a philosophical tradition with deep roots and broad
branches and that seeing Solomon's book in the light of that
tradition helps us better understand what he is getting at.

To nail my colors to the mast immediately I need only name some of
the books and authors in this tradition that have influenced me
personally: Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,
Berger and Luckmann's The Social Construction of Reality, Clifford
Geertz's The Interpretation of Culture, Richard Bernstein's Beyond
Objectivism and Relativism, Michael Oakeshott's On Human Conduct,
Eric Voegelin's Order and History, Bernard Lonergan's Method in
Theology, Robert Kegan's In Over Our Heads, Jorge Ferrer's
Revisioning Transpersonal Theory, Stolorow and Atwood's Contexts of
Being, Hans-Georg Gadamer's Truth and Method. These writers do not
all agree on everything to be sure, but for the most part, they share
a vision of what we might loosely call 'the relationship between
reality and understanding.' This shared vision forms the deep roots.
The use each makes of that shared vision within their own field forms
the broad branches.

One thing most members of this tradition have in common is a denial
of what one of them has called 'the doctrine of immaculate
perception' (Stolorow et al., 2002). This involves, in the words of
another of them (Lonergan, 1971),

     ... a radical clarification and, consequently, the elimination
     of an exceedingly stubborn and misleading myth concerning
     reality, objectivity, and human knowledge. The myth is that
     knowing is like looking, that objectivity is seeing what is
     there to be seen and not seeing what is not there, and that
     the real is what is out there now to be looked at.
Once this 'exceedingly stubborn and misleading myth' has been
eliminated, one sees that 'objectivity is simply the consequence of
authentic subjectivity, of genuine attention, genuine intelligence,
genuine reasonableness, genuine responsibility' (Lonergan, 1971). If
subjectivity can be authentic, so too, then, can it be inauthentic.
If attention, intelligence, reasonableness, and responsibility can be
genuine, so too, then, can they be illusory. This is very ancient
language and it concerns a very ancient, one might even say,
perennial, problem. Self-deception, rationalizations for bad
behavior, and 'misspeaking the truth' , not to mention downright
theft and injustice, are not things that were never hear of before
modern day Wall Street and the stock exchange. Glaucon, Socrates'
interlocutor at the beginning of The Republic, would feel quite at
home with the 'greed is good and I love money' school of business.
The Hebrew prophets would have no trouble understanding talk about
'trust and mutual benefits.' Despite how it may appear, I suggest,
Solomon's point is much closer to Socrates' 'no one does evil
knowingly' than it is to 'the law of attraction' as promoted in The

The denial of 'the doctrine of immaculate perception' is notoriously
difficult to state and get hold of. One reason for this, as Lonergan
(1971) reminds us, is that 'some form of naive realism seems to
appear utterly unquestionable to very many.'

     As soon as they begin to speak of knowing, of objectivity,
     of reality, there crops up the assumption that all knowing
     must be something like looking. To be liberated from that
     blunder, to discover the self-transcendence proper to the
     human process of coming to know, is to break often
     long-ingrained habits of thought and speech. It is to
     acquire the mastery in one's own house that is to be had
     only when one knows precisely what one is doing when one is
     knowing. It is a conversion, a new beginning, a fresh start.
     It opens the way to ever further clarifications and
In countering naive realism, one might say, for example, that all
human understanding and perception involves interpretation, that
there is no such thing as uninterpreted reality. This means that
there are no decontextualized absolutes or universals, no neutral
analyses, and no God's-eye views of anything or anyone. If something
like this is the background to what Solomon is saying, and I am
suggesting that it is, then we can begin to see how far removed what
he is saying is from any suggestion that we can bend reality to our
will, as it were, by thinking and/ or behaving in a particular
manner. The connection between reality and the understanding and
perceiving of it is much too intimate for that. It is, in fact, prior
to the split between objectivity and subjectivity. That is why
Lonergan talks about objectivity being the consequence of authentic
subjectivity. In experience what is objective and what is subjective
are unified and can only be separated intellectually. Oakeshott
(1933) puts the point this way:

     'Experience' stands for the concrete whole which analysis
     divides into 'experiencing' and 'what is experienced'.
     Experiencing and what is experienced are, taken separately,
     meaningless abstractions; they cannot, in fact, be separated.
Lonergan (1971), concerned about the overall process of coming to
know, speaks about experience in a different way. Referring to the
'radical clarification and, consequently, the elimination of an
exceedingly stubborn and misleading myth concerning reality,
objectivity, and human knowledge,' he says:

     This myth overlooks the distinction between the world of
     immediacy, say, the world of the infant and, on the other
     hand, the world mediated by meaning. The world of immediacy
     is the sum of what is seen, heard, touched, tasted, smelt,
     felt. It conforms well enough to the myth's view of
     reality, objectivity, knowledge. But it is but a tiny
     fragment of the world mediated by meaning. For the world
     mediated by meaning is a world known not by the sense
     experience of an individual but by the external and
     internal experience of a cultural community, and by the
     continuously checked and rechecked judgments of the
     community. Knowing, accordingly, is not just seeing; it is
     experiencing, understanding, judging, and believing. The
     criteria of objectivity are not just the criteria of ocular
     vision; they are the compound criteria of experiencing, of
     understanding, of judging, and of believing. The reality
     known is not just looked at; it is given in experience,
     organized and extrapolated by understanding, posited by
     judgment and belief.

The experience of the infant is not knowledge. It is at most on the
way to knowledge. Neither is it the uninterpreted reality dear to
some philosophers' hearts. It is uninterpreted, but that is precisely
why it is neither reality nor knowledge.

One member of the tradition I am identifying (Ferrer, 2002) has said
that the real source of the difficulties we are struggling with is
the consequence of working with a dualism of conceptual framework and
uninterpreted reality. 'This Dualism of Framework and Reality,' he
says, 'is widely regarded as implausible, especially in the wake of
Donald Davidson's (1984) celebrated essay 'On the Very Idea of a
Conceptual Scheme.' Ferrer goes on to say:

     Once we give up the Dualism of Framework and Reality,
     however, we can with Davidson (1984), 're-establish
     unmediated touch with the familiar objects whose antics
     make our sentences true or false' (p. 198). It is crucial
     to realize at this point that since the overcoming of this
     dualism implies not only dropping ideas about conceptual
     frameworks, but also 'the concept of an uninterpreted
     reality' (Davidson, 1984,p. 198), these objects can no
     longer be taken to mean the pregiven objects of positivism,
     empiricism, or naive realism. On the contrary, giving up
     this dualism calls us to move beyond objectivism and
     subjectivism towards the recognition of the simultaneously
     interpretive and immediate nature of human knowledge.
     (Emphasis is the author's.)

If Ferrer is right about 'the simultaneously interpretive and
immediate nature of human knowledge' then we can begin to see the two
ways Solomon sets before business people in a different light.

Perhaps we are just making things unnecessarily complicated. Perhaps,
as some have suggested, the reason that the denial of 'the doctrine of
immaculate perception' is notoriously difficult to state and get hold
of is simply that it is absurd nonsense. Perhaps. Let me try another
way to get across the point of Solomon's contrast between the two
ways of doing business.

In the movie version of Toni Wolfe's brilliant novel, Beloved, the
main character, played by Oprah Winfrey, has earlier escaped Sweet
Home, the plantation where she was a slave, and is now living in the
North. As the movie progresses we come to experience more and more of
what slavery was like from the inside, as seen and experienced by a
particular female slave, Sethe, Winfrey's character. As the brutality
and horror of that experience is revealed ever more clearly, we come
to understand that Sethe has committed some unthinkable act in the
process of escaping her owners. For the viewer, this viewer at any
rate, it feels as if one were participating in Sethe's recovery of
the memory of that unthinkable act. Sethe begins, more and more as
the movie unfolds, to think the unthinkable.

Wikipedia describes the plot like this:

     Sethe ran away from Sweet Home after a particularly brutal
     beating. Sethe was sexually assaulted at the instigation of
     Schoolteacher, the owner of Sweet Home, by several of his
     nephews. She complained to Mrs. Garner, Schoolteacher's
     sister-in-law, who confronted him about what happened.
     Schoolteacher then ordered his nephews to whip Sethe.
     Heavily pregnant with her fourth child, Sethe arranged
     beforehand to escape the plantation with her children and
     husband. Her children were sent off earlier to live with
     Baby Suggs, Sethe's mother-in-law, but Sethe stayed behind
     to look for her husband, Halle. She was assaulted when she
     went into the barn to search for him. Schoolteacher's
     nephews held her down, raped her, and forcibly took her
     breast milk.

When Halle failed to show, Sethe ran off alone. She then crossed
paths with Amy Denver, a kind white woman who attended to Sethe's
numerous injuries and delivered Sethe's child. She promised to name
the baby Denver after Amy. On the river bank, Sethe met Stamp Paid,
who brought her across the river and delivered her to Baby Suggs'
house. Although she was dismayed that her husband hadn't made it to
his mother's house, she was overjoyed to be reunited with her

However, her happiness was short-lived. Tipped off about Sethe's
whereabouts, Schoolteacher arrived at the house to claim Sethe and
her children. In her desperation, Sethe murdered her older daughter
by slitting her throat with a saw. She had already knocked her sons
unconscious and nearly killed Denver by swinging her through the air
by her ankles. Stamp Paid managed to catch the baby before her head
struck the wall planks.

For me, the moment of revelation came when Schoolteacher and his
nephews walk into the barn and see what Sethe in her desperation has
done. They cannot believe what they see. It is incomprehensible to
them that any human mother could murder own children. For them this
act is unthinkable. They look at Sethe as though she were a monster,
never realizing for a single moment that it is they, not she, who are
the monsters.

It is simply neither satisfactory nor does it tell the whole story to
say glibly that Sethe and Schoolteacher and his nephews merely have
different perspectives on slavery. That is to put things in a far,
far too conceptual and cerebral a way even though it is perfectly
correct. It is reductionist -- reason demands something thicker,
something more substantial. Better to say: They live on different
planets! They are aliens in each others' worlds! Their realities are
incommensurable! Of course they don't and they aren't, but the
hyperbole makes an important point that the too glib, intellectual,
and reductionist 'they have different perspectives on slavery' fails
to grasp.

So too, I suggest, it is simply too glib, cerebral, and reductionist
to say that Solomon is merely outlining two different ways of looking
at business and calling upon us to choose. He is much more like Moses
exhorting the people of Israel just before they enter the Promised

     I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I
     have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.
     Choose life... (Deut. 30.19)

Or perhaps it could be said that he is putting before us the old
philosophical claim that it is better to be a Socrates dissatisfied
than a pig satisfied. Or maybe he is saying in his own way something
like what Lao-Tzu said in his little book (Tao Te Ching, 2009, 18):

     When the Great Way disappears
     we meet kindness and justice
     when reason appears
     we meet great deceit
     when the six relations fail
     we meet obedience and love
     when the country is in chaos
     we meet upright officials

(c) Bob Korth 2011





     Peter Singer has based his ethics mainly on three
     principles: suffering principle, concept of person and the
     preference satisfaction. In this paper I will discuss the
     suffering principle. According to Peter Singer all beings
     are equal because all beings are capable of feeling
     suffering. Singer has extend the view 'All humans are equal'
     to 'All beings are equal'. Singer in his ethics again and
     again says that though people have different preferences
     and different wants they have one point in general -- people
     do not want suffering. On the basis of his suffering
     principle, Singer argues on some of the controversial
     issues like animal rights, euthanasia etc. Is Singer's
     suffering principle sufficient enough to take care of his
     ethics? Can the suffering principle be clearly defined?
     These are some of the questions I take up in this paper. I
     try to argue that the ethics based on suffering principle
     of Peter Singer may not be sufficient ground for basing
     ethics. Singer's concept of suffering is fundamentally based
     on scientific experimentation and we know that the result
     bases on scientific experimentation are changeable, they
     are not constant. Then, in that case it only suggests that
     Singer's suffering principle taken in the scientific sense
     seems to pose a problem. This suggests that the suffering
     principle may not be a sufficient ground for Singer to base
     his ethics.
The concept of suffering occupied a prominent position in the history
of philosophy. In both the eastern and western tradition, suffering
was an important issue to be tackled by philosophers. Suffering is
considered as 'a negative basic feeling or emotion that involves a
subjective character of unpleasantness, aversion, harm or threat of
harm.' (Suffering, 2008) Primarily, there can be two types of
suffering physical and mental. The physical sufferings are such as
pain, illness, disability, hunger, poverty and death etc. The
examples of mental sufferings are anguish, revulsion, disturbance,
heartbreak, fault, degradation, unease, aloneness and self pity.
Peter Singer's ethics is concentrated on first kind of suffering --
physical suffering. The philosophical discussion pertaining to
suffering has taken a metaphysical, theological and existentialist
and ethical flavor. Some of the characteristic ways of understanding
suffering are

  -  Suffering is an illusion
  -  Suffering is the consequence of a conflicted self
  -  Suffering is a consequence of sin
  -  Suffering is due to the original sin
  -  Suffering is absurd.

For existentialist philosophers like Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus
suffering is absurd. For them death is absurd. (Suffering, 2008)

Peter Singer who is regarded as the most controversial philosopher in
this recent time has given ethical views which are based on suffering
principle. Peter Singer is not concerned with the meaning of
suffering, the origin of suffering etc. He is concerned with the
minimization of the physical suffering of beings. Singer bases his
ethics on the suffering principle. Singer is not just concerned with
the suffering of human beings; he is concerned with the suffering of
all beings. Singer extends the view that 'all men are equal' to 'all
beings are equal. ' He has recognized the equal interests of all
beings whether they are human beings or non human beings. That is
known as the 'equal consideration of interests'. This equal
consideration is based on the suffering principle. Peter Singer holds
that the interest of all beings capable of suffering is the ground of
equal consideration that all beings are equal. He many times quotes
Bentham's passage, 'the question is not can they reason? Nor can they
talk? But, can they suffer?' (Singer, 1993, p. 56)

Singer also speaks about suffering as the essential characteristics
of beings that take into consideration that all beings are equal. All
beings are equal because all beings can suffer. 'If a being can
suffer, there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that
suffering into consideration.' (Singer, 1993, p. 57) If a being is not
capable of experiencing suffering or happiness then there is no need
to take it into consideration. Singer has given the example of the
comparison of mouse and a stone. We should give importance to the
suffering of a mouse because as it is capable of feeling suffering
but not a stone as it is not capable of feeling suffering.

Sentience is the only basis for the concern of others. Singer has
given the meaning of sentience as 'the capacity to suffer or
experience enjoyment or happiness.' (Singer, 1993, p. 58)

Peter Singer in the introduction to his book Writings on an ethical
life has made some points for suffering:

     Pain is bad, and similar amounts of pain are equally bad, 
     no matter whose pain it might be. By 'pain' here I would
     include suffering and distress of all kinds.
     (Singer, 2000, p. xv)
     Humans are not the only beings capable of feeling pain or
     of suffering. Most nonhuman animals -- certainly all the
     mammals and birds that we habitually eat, like cows, pigs, 
     sheep and chickens -- can feel pain.
     (Singer, 2000, p. xv)
On the basis of his suffering principle Singer has given arguments on
animal rights, euthanasia etc. Singer has divided beings into two
groups person and non-person. The concept of person and non-person
occupies a prominent place in Singer's ethics. According to Singer,
persons are those who have reached a certain level of cognitive
sophistication. Persons are self aware and self motivated and they
recognize themselves as individuals who continue over time.
non-persons are those humans and nonhumans who are sentient but whose
mental capacities are limited to the here and now. (Singer, 1993)

Singer accepts that we should apply the principle of equal
consideration of interest to human and non human both but the
priority should be always given to the relieving the greater
suffering, whether it be person or non-person. It is true that
animals do not know what will happen to them. The argument for
experimentation on animals is that the animal would not have any idea
of the future of what was going to happen to them in result. Singer

     ... this same argument gives us a reason for preferring to
     use human infant -- orphans perhaps -- or severely intellectually
     disabled humans for experiments, rather than adults, since
     infants and severely intellectually disabled humans would
     also have no idea of what was going to happen to them. As
     far as this argument is concerned, nonhuman animals and
     infants and severely intellectually disabled humans are in
     the same category; and if we use this argument to justify
     experiments on non human animals we have to ask ourselves
     whether we are also prepared to allow experiments on human
     infants and severely intellectually disabled adults.
     (Singer, 1993, p. 60)
A question arises: how do we know that animals can feel pain? 'The
behaviors of animals in pain are the sufficient justification for the
belief that animals can feel pain. In respect to suffering or pain
animals behave in the same way as human do.' (Singer, 1993, p. 69)

Singer also mentions about the suffering of animals in experiments.
According to Peter Singer the animals also suffer when man uses them
as food or in the laboratory for human benefit. Peter Singer has
given some examples of how animals are used in experiments in which
as a result animals suffer more, compared to the benefits for human

Singer in his ethics again and again says that though people have
different preferences and different wants they have one point in
general -- people do not want suffering. The extinction of suffering
is the centre point of Peter Singer ethics. In an interview regarding
the notion of suffering Singer says,

     I think that if we follow that idea of 'doing unto others',
     then, even though people have different sorts of preferences
     and different wants, one thing is pretty general: people do
     not want to suffer. They do not want extreme physical pain;
     they do not want emotional deprivation and suffering.
     That's something we share with non human animals, broadly.
     (Singer, Writings On an Ethical Life, 2000, pp. 321-322)
The animals are allowed to suffer because they born as 'animal'. The
animals suffer because we mistreat them. We use them for our own

For removing the intense suffering of an ill person Singer advocates
the justification of euthanasia, mainly two types euthanasia:
voluntary euthanasia and non-voluntary euthanasia. According to Peter
Singer euthanasia can be justified in two grounds (Singer, 1993):

1. The patient who has the capacity to choose between their own
continued life and death and to make an informed, voluntary and
settled decision to die. (Voluntary)

2. The patient who lacks the capacity to understand the choice
between their own continued existence and non-existence and therefore
lacks the ability to consent to death. (Non-voluntary)

Thus Singer has put forward some controversial views regarding
euthanasia and animal rights. But at this point some questions are
aroused in our minds: Is Singer's suffering principle sufficient
enough to take care of his ethics? Can the suffering principle be
clearly defined?

Singer has given a moral and scientific explanation of suffering on
which he bases his ethics. But suffering cannot be defined in a
precise way. If the suffering principle which Singer claims is
universally acceptable, it follows that suffering is measured by
means of scientific experimentation and descriptions. But we know
that scientific explanations are not constant, scientific results are
changeable. In that case, Singer's suffering principle taken in the
scientific sense seems to pose a problem.

Another issue concerns the definition of 'person'. Peter Singer
classifies beings into person and non-person on the basis of
scientific experimentation. This classification may also be changed
in the future as these results are dependent on science. This raises
the question to whom Singer's ethics is meant to apply: how does one
distinguish those sentient beings which have ethical obligations,
from those which are merely the subject of ethical obligations?

These considerations suggest that the suffering principle may not be
a sufficient ground for Singer to base his ethics.


Campbell, C. (1935). Reason and the problem of suffering. Philosophy,

DeHelian, L. M. (2001). A philosophical analysis of the meaning of
suffering. Quality of life research, 239.

Singer, P. (2007). Rethinking Life and Death. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.

Campbell, C. (1935). Reason and the problem of suffering. Philosophy,

DeHelian, L. M. (2001). A philosophical analysis of the meaning of
suffering. Quality of life research, 239.

Singer, P. (1993). Practical Ethics. Cambridge United Kingdom:
Cambridge University Press.

_____ (2000). Writings On an Ethical Life. New York: Ecco

_____  (2008) Suffering. Retrieved November 10, 2010, from New World

Karl Popper and Negative Utilitarianism. (n.d.). Retrieved June 25,
2010, from

(c) Tanuja Kalita 2011


Tanuja Kalita
Research Scholar
Humanities and Social Sciences Department
Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati



Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right
Jennifer Burns
Oxford University Press 2009
ISBN 978-0-19-532487-7

This book provides a personal and political biography of Ayn Rand
[1905-1982]. This political philosopher, novelist and activist is
famous for her political philosophy of 'Objectivism'; a variant of
Libertarian Egoism which holds that laissez faire Capitalism is the
good and best type of society.

There are four sections in the book. The first deals with the
education of Ayn Rand. The second deals with her transition from
novelist to philosopher. The third deals with the growing reception
of her Objectivist philosophy. The final section examines the
legacies of Rand and her followers.

We read about Rand growing up in Soviet Union and how Rand or Alisa
Rosenbaum as she was originally called grew to dislike the Bolshevik
regime. The expropriation of her father's chemist shop left an
indelible influence which arguably shaped her later political views.
Leaving her family behind in the Soviet Union and using her new name
of Ayn Rand, she emigrated to the United States of America. Working
in Hollywood as an RKO filing clerk, and influenced by a crude,
elitist and somewhat misanthropic reading of Nietzsche, she began to
write. Her first novel We The Living was published in 1936. It was
her account of Soviet collectivism where the latter crushes
individualists and rewards corrupt mediocrity. Thus at a time when
sympathy for the Soviet Union was present amongst American
intellectuals and when Roosevelt was formulating the New Deal, Rand
evidenced outright opposition to any form of collectivism.

She formulated a concept of 'second-handers', namely people who
cannot think or do for themselves, content to live within the wake of
others' values, decisions and creativity. Becoming politically engaged
in the late 1930's, she was active in the campaign for Wendell Wilkie
to become Republican Presidential candidate to challenge Roosevelt.
Essentially, Wilkie was a plutocrat supported by other plutocrats
concerned about defending 'Freedom' against what they saw as the
expanding and interfering interventionist state of the New Deal.
Despite Wilkie's failed Presidential challenge to Roosevelt, Rand
utilised the contacts she had made on the political, conservative
right to create a new, pro-capitalist, individualist political

In 1941, she published the Manifesto of Individualism intending it to
rival The Communist Manifesto. Basing itself on the Theory of Natural,
inalienable Rights as employed by the Eighteenth century American
Revolutionaries, each man has the right to Life, Liberty and the
pursuit of happiness. The role of the state is simply to defend such
rights -- negative liberty in Isaiah Berlin's sense.

There can be no common good as this supposes the superiority of
state, society or collective over the individual. The latter is the
source of productive and creative activity -- an individual act.
Developing the concept of 'second handers' Rand made the division
between the 'active man' and the 'passive man'. The active man is the
productive, creative individualist. If society is oriented toward the
passive man -- the recipient of distributive policies -- it is at the
expense of the active and the result will be stagnation and injustice.
The active man will be lesser than s/he could be. If oriented toward
the active man, a laissez faire Capitalist society is realised which
naturally allows active man to flourish.

Such ideas were further developed in her 1943 work The Fountainhead
-- later made into a film. Through the lead character Howard Roark,
Rand further articulated her Objectivist philosophy. Work, creativity
are the natural expression of individualism and independence borne of
the rationality of human beings. The product of such work is private
property. Therefore, it is right to be selfish and pursue one's
creativity. Non-creators are passive, dependent on others -- such as
the creative individual -- and advocate altruism or the
self-sacrifice of oneself. It goes without saying that State
interference intrudes on the creativity and productivity of the
active man as portrayed by Roark. Interestingly, Rands ideas have
lately received attention from the so called 'Tea Party' movement in
the USA. Its anti-government attitude finding support in her writings.

The main difference with other forms of Libertarianism is that
Objectivism emphasises selfishness -- indeed a collection of Rand's
writings was entitled The Virtue of Selfishness. Selfishness is
deemed entirely rational following from the rational nature of the
human being, hence the objectivity of Objectivism. Everything
produced or created by the individual is therefore his/ hers because
it is created by this reflexive rationality. The individual has no
moral or rational obligation to others if s/he so chooses. The
fallacy committed here, is that even assuming such a
quasi-Aristotelian conception of rational man is correct, it does
not, of necessity, entail selfishness. Indeed rationality qua
rationality may entail co-operation. Aristotle himself argued that
man was a social animal [politikon zoon].

Secondly, selfishness is distinct from self-interest. Whilst the
former entails harming someone to fulfil my interests, the latter
does not. My interests can coincide with, be partly met by, therefore
furthered by and with the interests of others. This weaker form of
Libertarianism can be seen as the beginning of a type of socialistic,
mutualistic thinking and acting.

Thirdly, Rand's conception of the rational individual is, as with
other forms of Libertarianism, atomistic. The individual qua
individual is taken to be the fruition of innate faculties and
abilities which are sui generis. Arguably, it is social interaction,
socialisation which creates 'individuals'. The 'individual' and a
particular understanding of what it is to be 'rational' are not
immutable, eternal concepts but social constructs. As such, they will
be expressive of a particular ideology and not the objective nature of
things. The premise with which Rand uses as the foundation of her
philosophy -- the individual -- is not therefore, a pure concept but
burdened by, perhaps even created by, the impurity of
socio-historical influences. Remove this premise and subsequent
premises and conclusion are questionable.

Fourthly, even if it is accepted that there is an innate 'human
nature' it is by no means that one which Rand maintains. In fact, it
could be the opposite. Evidence mounts for instance, from
evolutionary biologists that human beings are empathetic and other
regarding. From this follows co-operative behaviour which has ensured
the survival of the species. Selfish behaviour would have ensured its

Fifthly, the distinction between Active and Passive individuals is
ambiguous. In workplaces occupied by 'passive' individuals, active
innovation, invention and 'going beyond what is expected' is
practiced by them. From the Trade Union steward who campaigns on
Health and Safety issues, the creative social worker who develops
better approaches to problems, to the admin worker who invents a new
record keeping system, 'passive' people are in practice and fact,
active. Perhaps Rand should have been clearer and made a distinction
between capitalists and workers. However, being an active person does
not entail being a capitalist alone.

Finally, Libertarian thought of which Objectivism is a tendency, has,
for over thirty years, influenced the political ideologies and
trajectories of established political parties. The current condition
of society is a testament to the literal bankruptcy of this ideology
and its 'active men' who thought themselves financial masters of the

Jennifer Burns' book is recommended. It is a heavily researched and
readable account of Objectivist philosophy, Rand's life and accounts
of the sometimes misanthropic personalities if not philosophy

(c) Martin Jenkins 2011