An Interview with Ayn Rand

Written on July 26, 2009. Written by .

The following interview is fictitious, but is based entirely on quotations by Ayn Rand herself (see citations at the end). To the best of my knowledge, none of the quotations are taken grossly out of context.

cspice: Your philosophy of Objectivism is based on self-interest. Would you say then, that you are a type of Hedonist?

Rand: “I am profoundly opposed to the philosophy of hedonism. … pleasure is not a first cause, but only a consequence … only the pleasure which proceeds from a rational value judgment can be regarded as moral, that pleasure, as such, is not a guide to action nor a standard of morality.”

cspice: What would you consider to be a proper guide to action?

Rand: “Man must choose his actions, values and goals by the standard of that which is proper to man—in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy that ultimate value, that end in itself, which is his own life.”

cspice: So the fundamental values driving action are: being born, surviving, and being happy. We have all been born already, so I suppose we are left to focus on survival and happiness. Survival is clearly defined, but what exactly do you consider to be happiness?

Rand: “Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values.” “One can achieve happiness only on the basis of rational values.”

cspice: What are “rational values”?

Rand: “… rational values [are] values chosen and validated by a rational standard.”

cspice: So happiness is a result of achieving values that were chosen and validated by a rational standard. What is your idea of a “rational standard”?

Rand: “It is the province of morality, of the science of ethics, to define for men what is a rational standard and what are the rational values to pursue.

cspice: So this part is best left to the experts. But what standard should the experts base their analysis on?

Rand: “An organism’s life is its standard of value: that which furthers its life is the good, that which threatens it is the evil.”

cspice: Well we’re back to survival again. So how do pleasure and pain fit into the picture?

Rand: “The pleasure-pain mechanism in the body of man—and in the bodies of all the living organisms that possess the faculty of consciousness—serves as an automatic guardian of the organism’s life.”

cspice: Isn’t there more to life than mere survival?

Rand: “Life or death is man’s only fundamental alternative. To live is his basic act of choice. If he chooses to live, a rational ethics will tell him what principles of action are required to implement his choice. If he does not choose to live, nature will take its course.”

cspice: Of course the more money one has, the greater their chances of survival because they can buy more physical protection and state of the art health care. So this seems to suggest that we should pass up all of life’s pleasures in favor of becoming extremely wealthy.

Rand: “Production is the application of reason to the problem of survival.” “Productive work is the central purpose of a rational man’s life, the central value that integrates and determines the hierarchy of all his other values.” “The man without a purpose is a man who drifts at the mercy of random feelings or unidentified urges and is capable of any evil, because he is totally out of control of his own life.” “The physical sensation of pleasure is a signal indicating that the organism is pursuing the right course of action.”

  1. “Playboy’s Interview with Ayn Rand,” March 1964.
  2. “The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 25.
  3. “Galt’s Speech,” For the New Intellectual, 123.
  4. “Playboy’s Interview with Ayn Rand,” March 1964.
  5. “The Ethics of Emergencies,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 44.
  6. “Playboy’s Interview with Ayn Rand,” March 1964.
  7. “The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 25.
  8. “The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 17.
  9. “Causality versus Duty,” Philosophy: Who Needs It, 99.
  10. “What Is Capitalism?” Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, 195.
  11. “The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 25.
  12. “Playboy’s Interview with Ayn Rand,” March 1964.
  13. “The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 17.

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