Freedom and Individualism Notes
The totally independent free individual is the only truly moral individual and only a moral individual is ever truly free.
The purpose of ethics in philosophy is to discover and identify the fundamental principles of right and wrong in thought and action. The objective of those principles is the success and happiness of the individual as a human being, as Ayn Rand wrote:
"The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live." [For the New Intellectual, "Galt's Speech from Atlas Shrugged," page 123]
The objective of moral principles is the success and happiness of the individual—happiness is the objective, but not the standard, not the principles by which that objective is realized. The principles are the objective identification of a man's nature and the nature of the world he lives in. It is reality that determines the principles one must conform to if one wants to live successfully and happily in this world.
It is man's own nature as a volitional being the makes independence the essential moral attribute. Since every individual must use their own mind to make their choices, and since it is only the knowledge of their own mind they can use to make those choices, any deviation from the independent use of one's own mind and knowledge in their choices is immoral, and will be devastating to their own success and happiness because it is in defiance of reality and the requirements of their own nature.
Here is how Ayn Rand described it:
"A man's mind is an attribute of his self, of that entity within him which is his consciousness. That entity can be called spirit. It can be called soul. It remains—no matter what its origin—a man's self. His "I." His ego.
"If to preserve the independence of his mind is man's first moral duty, what choice is he to make when his thinking clashes with the thoughts and convictions of others? Such a clash occurs at every step of a man's life, most particularly when his thinking results in a new, original discovery—as every new discovery must originate in one brain, that is, with one man, and therefore must be apart from or in opposition to whatever convictions men previously held on that subject. What is man's choice in such a conflict? It is a choice of authority. "I think" or "They tell me." Whose authority is he to accept? Upon whose authority is he to act? Who must be placed first: his ego or other men?
"The independence of man's mind means precisely the placing of his ego above any and all other men on earth. It means acting upon the authority of his ego above any other authority. It means keeping his ego untouched, uninfluenced, uncorrupted, unsacrificed.
"Man's virtues are the qualities required for the preservation of his independence. They are personal qualities, unsocial by their nature and antisocial in any conflict of man against man. They are unsocial, because man cannot derive them from other men, cannot receive them as a gift from an outside source, but must generate them from within his own ego. They are profoundly selfish virtues, for they proceed from his ego, pertain to his ego and cannot be sacrificed to any consideration whatsoever. Without these virtues man cannot survive nor remain man.
"Integrity—the first, greatest and noblest of all virtues—is a synonym of independence. Integrity is that quality in man which gives him the courage to hold his own convictions against all influences, against the opinions and desires of other men; the courage to remain whole, unbroken, untouched, to remain true to himself. It is generally recognized that a man who is true to himself is a man to be admired. But the sloppy confusion of human thinking has prevented men from understanding their own words or hearing what they are actually saying. "True to himself"—what does that mean? True to his own ego. True to the duty of holding his ego apart from all other men—above them and against them when necessary. A man of integrity cannot place others above self. ...
"The virtue of courage is the strength to face any threat and to fight back. Fight what? Nature, as well as other men when necessary. If, however, one must place others above self—then it is evil to resist them; then one must surrender if a conflict arises. But the man of courage is the one who does not surrender."
[The Journals of Ayn Rand,
"Part 3 - Transition Between Novels,"
"8 - The Moral Basis Of Individualism."]
"Independence is the only gauge of human virtue and value. What a man is and makes of himself.... There is no substitute for personal dignity. There is no standard of personal dignity except independence." [For the New Intellectual,—The Fountainhead, "The Soul Of An Individualist"]
"Man's life is the standard of morality, but your own life is its purpose. If existence on earth is your goal, you must choose your actions and values by the standard of that which is proper to man—for the purpose of preserving, fulfilling and enjoying the irreplaceable value which is your life."
"You who prattle that morality is social and that man would need no morality on a desert island—it is on a desert island that he would need it most." [Atlas Shrugged, "Part Three,—Chapter VII, 'This is John Galt Speaking.'"]
In my article,
"America's Descent Into Savagery
," I describe one of the signs of moral depravity prevalent in all societies today, even among those who call themselves Libertarians, Objectivist, Voluntarists, and Anarchists. Like every form of moral degradation, and it is degrading, the loss of a sense of privacy and personal dignity is absence of moral virtue.
Individualism, Not Subjectivism, Not Hedonism
In my article, "My Friend, Ayn Rand," I explained Ayn Rand's position on these perversions of individualism, with which I'm in total agreement.
Freedom is not license to indulge any mindless passion or desire, but freedom to use one's mind to discover and choose those virtues that make life, as a human being, worth living and the source of the joy which human life ought to be.
I emphasize everywhere in, "The Moral Individual," as well as in these, "Free Individual," articles, that freedom is only possible to or truly desired by the independent individualist.
Freedom means freedom to do, not to have, except to keep and have what one produces by their own effort. That kind of freedom is only possible to those who have a desire to do something and have the ability to do it.
That kind freedom is only possible to the moral individual, to the fully competent to live without dependence on any system, or society, or others. This does not mean that the individualist is not eager to enjoy the benefits of living in a society where what is available to him is greater than he alone could provide—it means, he is not dependent on that or any society to successfully live and enjoy his life. For the independent individualist, all he finds of value in a society is a bonus, but whatever advantages a society provides him, he knows his productive contribution to that society is commensurate with whatever he gains from it—he knows whatever he has or enjoys he has earned and deserves.