Writes philosopher Greg Salmieri on the differences between Ayn Rand and Aristotle at Check Your Premises blog:
Rand is always focused on the individual human being, who has distinctive ideas and personal values that set him apart from others in his community and that may put him in conflict with them. She presents her moral philosophy in explicit contrast with moral codes that call for the individual to sacrifice his ideas and values to the demands of others. And, likewise, her political philosophy is formulated in explicit opposition to political philosophies that justify the sacrifice of individuals by the state. In this respect Rand has more in common with 19th Century individualists like Max Stirner and Friedrich Nietzsche than she does with Aristotle. This individualism is also characteristic of the Romantic movement in literature, which Rand saw herself as a part of. All of these individualistic thinkers extol emotions (and/or will) as the seat of individuality, whereas Rand identifies a person first and foremost with his reason. In this she agrees with Aristotle, but her view of reason includes elements that were absent or under-emphasized in Aristotle.
Whereas Aristotle’s discussions of reason’s role in life are impersonal in character, Rand held that an individual’s reasoning is the source of the personal values (e.g. his love of his job or romantic partner) that make his life meaningful to him. This is because, in her view, reason is an attribute of the individual and it does not function automatically. Each individual must initiate and sustain reasoning by choice, and must learn how to discover knowledge and to choose values that are based on facts and integrate into a self-sustaining life. To function in this manner by choice is to be objectivein Rand’s sense of this term. I elaborated on this point in Chapter 6 of A Companion to Ayn Rand:
Only insofar as an individual chooses values in this way does he have a self‐interest at all. Values chosen subjectively, without regard for the requirements of human survival, will not form into a self‐sustaining whole; so rather than a coherent self‐interest that he can act to advance, the individual will have a motley assortment of conflicting desires. But neither can self-interest be intrinsic: there is an inexhaustible variety of possible combinations of values and activities that could cohere into a self‐sustaining human life, and there is nothing other than an individual’s choosing and pursuing one of these possibilities for himself that can make this particular life constitute his self‐interest and ultimate goal.
I have said this before in the sense that everything we get from nature comes in an inconvenient form: metals must be extracted from their ores; grain must be milled or threshed and the wheat separated from its chaff; crude oil must be refined into its constituent weights.
But the more philosophical point is that all resources are the product of the human mind. A “natural” resource is only a resource at all in the context of a particular technology. It is only a resource to someone who can look at it and understand its use and value. And it is only a resource to someone who has the technology and the capital to extract it from its environment and put it to that use.
You can see this in the stories of the early development of industries.
Before the oil industry, there were known places where oily sludge or tar would seep out of the ground; people might skim some of it off a pond to light a torch, but no one was drilling it and no one considered it “black gold”.
The Marquette Iron Range near Lake Superior, which disrupted compass readings and attracted lightning, was known to local Chippewa tribes only as the home of a thunder god, until miners arrived to prospect and extract the ore.
The Chinchas Islands off the coast of Peru, covered in seagull droppings, were for a time the most valuable real estate in the world, owing to the value of guano as fertilizer—but before that discovery I can only imagine that sailors literally steered clear of them, owing to the overpowering stench.
But you can see the principle perhaps most starkly in the stories of valuable resources that were once considered waste products of industrial processes.
Crawford then goes on to list and elaborate on resources that were once waste products: natural gas, portland cement and cast iron.
The Soho Forum hosted a debate about the Israeli – Palestinian conflict and whether the Palestinian movement has a right to exist. Israeli author Elan Journo, the Ayn Rand Institute’s research director, debated U.S. Army Strategist Major Danny Sjursen at the Subculture Theater in New York City.
The debate vividly brought out an important contrast between my opponent’s approach to the issue and mine. In my own remarks, I highlighted my book’s distinctive approach to the conflict: a secular, individualist moral framework. I take the principle of individual freedom as a standard for evaluating the adversaries. Central to my view is that we must evaluate the nature of the Palestinian movement. The evidence shows that this movement is hostile to freedom; its main factions strive to establish militant authoritarian and theocratic regimes. To resolve the conflict, then, we must start by taking seriously this movement’s ideological aims. My opponent, by contrast, challenged the premise that there’s any coherence to the “Palestinian movement,” denied the importance of its ideological outlook, and urged a return to solutions that have demonstrably made matters worse.
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Elan Journo has a informative interview with Boaz Arad, from the Ayn Rand Center Israel, about his activism to end military conscription in Israel.
Boaz’s solution is a volunteer army which is justified in a two part argument “one part moral, one practical.” According to Boaz:
The moral case, echoing Ayn Rand’s view, is that it’s a violation of individual rights to conscript people into the military. In a free society, it’s wrong for the government to coerce your time, which is irreplaceable, and put you, against your will, in life-threatening situations.
The second component is a practical point: A volunteer army works much better. You need professional soldiers who are highly trained and skilled. Today’s military is so high tech and sophisticated that you need specialized people in key roles, those who have, say, 10–15 years’ experience. It’s not cost-effective to train conscripts to do such a job and to have them do it for one or two years, at which point they move on.
That wastefulness is bound to get worse. Given current birth rates and the typical annual intake of conscripts, in a few years, Israel will have a glut of military personnel. The army could grow to something like half a million to a million soldiers. There would be way more people than really needed to serve national security, and some will end up, as they do today, in non-essential positions like entertainment. Young men and women are conscripted into the military and, literally, end up doing magic tricks or singing as part of their military duty.