I am not an Objectivist, but I think I have the basics of the philosophy down. I have read this node a number of times over a period of about two years and, at one point, even considered creases' arguments to be decisive against Objectivism. However, I now think that he is vulnerable to criticism. I want to emphasize throughout this essay that the reader should not take creases' or my word for it, but really dig into Rand's thought. She has a fascinating philosophy, even if you think that she is wrong. You must read Rand and the surrounding scholarship if you don't want to make all the mistakes that creases makes in his evaluation of her.

Rand always tried to begin with reality in all aspects of her philosophy. As a result, her concepts are different from those in academia, which results in confusions when academics or people grounded in the academic tradition try to criticize her work without really digging into it. An example of such a confusion is creases' criticism that Rand's ethics fails to achieve objectivity. This misses the absolutely crucial point that the academic distinction is between objective, which refers to things outside the mind, and subjective, which refers to things inside the mind. Rand, on the other hand, makes a threefold distinction between intrinsic, which refers to things independent of the mind, and objective and subjective, which are dependent on the mind. Objectivity is then a property of those mental entities that are the product of reason, while subjectivity is a property of the rest of them. The point you should take away is that creases totally misses Rand's point when she says that her ethics is objective. She would, perhaps, agree that she is a subjectivist on the academics' definitions; however, if we take her on her own terms, we must call her ethics objective. It just means, very roughly, that her ethics is the product of reason.

Creases makes the claim that Rand's ethics tries and fails to achieve life as an absolute end. Let's sketch Rand's actual argument and see how this claim holds up. Values are those things that one acts to gain or keep. You cannot act to gain or keep a thing if there is no alternative about gaining or keeping it, and the only alternative that could possibly be a reason to act is the alternative of life and death. Again, I must stop here and emphasize that Rand always, always, always starts with reality in her thought. She does not begin with the notion that we must have an absolute moral standard, like so many other ethicists. She begins with the fact that things pursue values in the world. As a brilliant Objectivist I know put this point for me, Objectivism does not take ethics as a primary. What we get at the end of this argument is not an absolute end in the sense that creases claims, it is an alternative, as Rand emphasized in Atlas Shrugged. So Rand didn't even try to make life an absolute in the sense that creases claims. That claim doesn't come from her argument, it doesn't come from her work, it doesn't come from reality, it only comes from the presupposition that Rand is yet another academic working in the academic tradition.

But what about living as "man qua man?" Critics of Objectivism often misunderstand the link between flourishing and life. The criticism that one hears a lot is that there's an equivocation between life and flourishing in Rand. But choosing life just is choosing to flourish. If I choose life in every decision I make throughout my day, if I choose to make myself as big and strong as I can to resist disease and poverty, then I will necessarily become an impressive individual. This is spelled out in Tara Smith's work. Again, don't take my word for any of this. Look at reality. Read Rand and the surrounding literature; don't let me or creases form your opinion of this thinker by means of a five hundred word essay on some website that just anybody can post to.

Finally, Rand's argument for rights, concisely put, goes like this. Men have free will, which means that they can choose to excercise their reason or not. If you want them to excercise their reason - if you want skyscrapers, electrical generators, and good food to eat - you had better let them live freely. Creases misses this argument in exchange for some of Rand's remarks on the practicality of belligerence, which, while important, are nonessential.

I hope I've convinced you, not that Rand was correct, but that you need to study her a bit more carefully before forming an opinion of her. There's a flaw in the title of this node: it assumes that it is even possible to write a good critique of Rand on a website like this. That says implicitly that Rand is a third-rate, shallow thinker. Can you imagine a node called "Critique of Aristotle" or even "Critique of Dawkins?" Here's a decent critique of Rand: Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature by Nyquist. It's about four hundred pages of philosophical prose. That should tip you off that there is nothing, no matter how brilliant you are, that you can write in an everything2 writeup and do philosophic justice to Rand.

Now, if you want to form a reasonable opinion of Rand, here's a good primer, written by a sympathetic interpreter: Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. I would also suggest Nyquist's critique, which clarified her ideas in my mind significantly.