North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › Question: Where did Ayn Rand discuss "the end does not justify the mean

Question: Where did Ayn Rand discuss "the end does not justify the means"?

Old T.
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 514
My mother is out of town and has limited computer access.

She would appreciate it if someone would remind us where Ayn Rand discussed "the end does not justify the means."

-- Todd
Chad H.
user 4136954
Savoy, IL
Post #: 3
This is quite a bit more than what you actually ask for, but...

My mother is out of town and has limited computer access.

She would appreciate it if someone would remind us where Ayn Rand discussed "the end does not justify the means."

-- Todd

Mostly in Philosophy: Who Needs It?. Her discussion of ends and means takes place in the context of her theories of Life & Value, combined with concept formation. She critiques the means/end dichotomy. She argues that
Without an ultimate goal or end, there can be no lesser goals or means: a series of means going off into an infinite progression towards a non-existent end is a metaphysical and epistemological impossibility. It is only an ultimate goal, an end in itself, that makes the existence of values possible. Metaphysically, life is the only phenomenon that is an end in itself: a value gained and kept by a constant process of action. Epistemologically, the concept "value'' is genetically dependent upon and derived from the antecedent concept of "life.''

For Rand, according to Younkins, this argument relates to all concepts relying on a fact of reality. I would disagree with this interpretation; I think the two arguments are distinct, and the means/ends argument is more closely related to Sciabarra's extension of Rand as positing three interrelated concepts (life/value/action) that depend upon and imply each other. Younkins' interpretation would have Rand commiting the is/ought fallacy, while Sciabarra's avoids that error, but whatever.

Also, keep in mind that life is both conceptually *and* actually requisite for all other values.

Of course, she talks about the issue elsewhere.
On pg. 97 of The Virtue of Selfishness (1961) she argues that the idea of "desirable goals" divorces the end from the context (e.g. the beneficiaries), and thus that particular means to achieve those goals are illegitimate.

Rand's critique of Utilitarianism presumes an inability to divorce ends from means. I can't recall that she makes the argument explicitly, but it seems that within Rand's view, any act is both an end (the act is the end of what went into that act) and a means (the act is a means to the effect of that act). Or maybe I'm confusing Rand's argument with mine. In any event, her answers to Utilitarianism are useful for answering back "the end justifies the means" arguments.

So are most of her political arguments where she posits capitalism as a moral system in a way that gets her out of answering the efficiency arguments (which are better left to economists, which Rand clearly wasn't). She basically argues that we should reject any sort of short-range consequentialism.

There is a risk, depending on one's interpretation of the arguments, that Rand's ends/means arguments fall back into a Utilitarian calculus. When justifying her assertion that rational selfishness entails living the life of a man qua man (and thus not irrationally violating rights), Rand argues that the long-term consequence of rights violations, when all people accept the premise that allows one to violate rights, is negative. This poses a couple of problems:
1. This standard is very similar to what Kant uses as two formulations of his categorical imperative: universality (can it be universally applied?) and the kingdom of ends (would it be good if it were?)
2. This is very similar to Mill's Rule Utilitarianism (as distinguisned from Bentham's Act Utilitarianism), which would pose an action (if not a concept, as Rand would do it) as a rule, and then see if that action "does the greatest good for the greatest number" as a general rule.

The short answer to your question is:
Philosophy: Who Needs It? & The Virtue of Selfishness
- When discussing Life & Value
- When discussing Concept Formation
- When discussing Utilitarianism
- When discussing Politics
Old T.
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 517
This is quite a bit more than what you actually ask for, but...


Thanks! And welcome to the North Texas Objectivist Society!

-- Todd
Chad H.
user 4136954
Savoy, IL
Post #: 4
You're welcome, and I appreciate it.
Old T.
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 517
You're welcome, and I appreciate it.


In reading your response, I realize that the phrase "the end does not justify the means" is just as ambiguous as "the end justifies the means." We understand the later to refer to be the common expression, and I was trying to distance myself from it. Your response helped.

-- Todd
Lathanar
Lathanar
Dallas, TX
Post #: 305
One of the places she specifically addressed the phrase in a Q&A (the last answer). Ayn Rand?s Q & A on Libertarianism

It's quite the quote. Doesn't answer the question, but it made me laugh when I read it the first time.

- Travis
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