Objectivists and Ayndroids
To an ayndroid, the works Ayn Rand are dogma - they sum up the entire works of objectivism. Objectivism itself is a tool in looking at the way things work. It is not necessarily the Truth about the way things work. Just as platonic forms are a tool for looking at ideas and concepts and how we deal with them. It is true that Rand has made useful points about certain principles of philosophy - however she is not infallible. Neither are her mistakes to be taken as proof contrary to objectivism. What does confuse the issue is her moving of personal preferences to philosophical principles.

Androids: Objectivism is not dogma
Objectivism and the works of Ayn Rand are not necessarily the same. It is a tool, like the scientific method. It is an open ended set of principles, not a dogma. Accept the work of people who are working to develop the implications of Objectivist Ethics.

Types of Self
There are several classes of people, and different ways to look at selfishness. For comparison, the

  1. Selfish: Those who are concerned with their own advantage without care for others
  2. Selfless: Those who live for others, with little concern for the self
  3. Self-interested: Those who are concerned with self benefit, but are also aware of social context.
The use selfish to designate the third group is bad word choice. It leads to misconceptions. In using selfish to designate the third category, there is a failure to create a new term for the first category. Thus the same mistake that is Rand accuses the altruists of making, classifying the three groups of people into two.

Ayn Rand as a philosophical writer
One of the problems with her work as a piece of philosophy is that she does deal with philosophy. She did not deal with existing arguments but rather casts them aside and goes on to make her own claims. The technique that she uses is an old one. Her conclusion is very clear, but the proof is shrouded in mystery rather than a scholarly fashion. In hiding the proof this way it confuses the reader's critical facility. Pages of technical notes provide the look of sophistication. Students believe that the teacher knows it. Teachers believe that the commentators know it. And the Commentators believe the author knows it. However, the author is blind to the simple fact that there is no proof. People write PhD theses trying to find a proof in the works of Objectivism. It is far easier to read Kant than it is to read the basis of Objectivism.

Existence as the value

An animal ... . But so long as it lives, ... it is unable to ignore its own good, unable to decide to choose the evil and act as its own destroyer.
The claim is that all things other than humans automatically act for their own survival. This is a false claim. Take the male mantis, which is eaten by the female as part of mating. Many other examples exist in nature where it is not existence that is the value, but rather reproductive success.

Survival is a means to reproductive success - most of the time things are trying to survive. However, salmon that put survival above everything else would never go back to spawn, and thus would have no descendants to be used as evidence for its objective existence.

This could all be dismissed as an irrelevant metaphysical argument, however Objectivism claims to be based on the facts or reality - and this "fact" that is false. Things built from it are flawed.

Since life requires a specific course of action, any other course will destroy it. A being who does not hold his own life as the motive and goal of his actions, is acting on the motive and standard of death.
Consider someone with a different value - a utilitarian for example. His own life is not the motive and goal of his actions, but rather a means to the achievement of the goal. If he isn't alive he can't utility himself, nor can he act to increase the utility of others. Similarly a nationalist can't act to further the triumph of a nation. However, it is not always the case that their life is the ends, and this can be seen when a person has the opportunity to achieve their goal at the cost of their on life - suicide bombers for example.

The first sentence is false. There is no specific course of action required for life such that any other course will destroy it. There are many different paths which preserve life with different degrees of success. Taken literally, this contradicts the facts of reality. If people were acting on motive and the standard of death, we would have people committing suicide at the first convenient opportunity and only Objectivists would be left. The fact that I am debating this now is proof to the contrary.

Taken less literally, it means that if you do not take your life as your goal, you are choosing a little death, a slightly higher chance of death, or a slightly shorter life expectancy. However, this is true for all philosophies - a utilitarian could argue that a non-utilitarian, by not acting in the way that maximizes happiness is choosing a little misery. "A being who does not hold the happiness of all men as the motive and goal for his actions, is acting on the motive and standard of human misery." This argument is as good (or bad) as the Objectivist.

Selfishness is important in that objectivists have made the same flaws that were pointed out in altruists - grouping people into two groups. Objectivist literature does not distinguish between selfishness and self-interest, thus many who follow objectivism follow 'man is the end' to the extreme. If a distinction could be drawn showing what selfish things are allowed and what are not, it would go a ways to clearing up the misconception. However, it would probably create yet another split in the objectivist school of thought.

A living organism has to act in the face of a constant alternative: life or death. Life is conditional; it can be sustained only by a specific course of action performed by the living organism, such as the actions of obtaining food. In this plants and animals have no choice: within the limits of their powers, they take automatically the actions their life requires.
--The Philosophy of Objectivism: A Brief Summary by Dr. Leonard Peikoff
The question of animal choice for survival has been shown to be flawed. Many animals choose reproductive success over survival, salmon and the male mantis being two examples. Others choose their own death for the survival of the hive. Honey bees that sting kill themselves with that act. What is the importance of the distinction between man and animals and their choice? If there is a distinction as objectivism claims, then the facts of the world do not fit.

At what point does man deviate from animal? Salmon and bees may not have any choice in the matter. What about cats? or dogs? or dolphins? Can other animals choose to do something that may hurt them for some other end? There are many accounts of pets traveling hundreds of miles to go back to their families that they have been separated from. This is a difficult trek and does not necessarily further their survival or reproductive success. But yet they do it. Dolphins have rescued people and done other acts of valor uncharacteristic of animals without a choice. This question cannot be dismissed as metaphysical questions, because these are facts. Objectivism has made the claim that animals don't make choices based upon factual examples rather than metaphysical arguments. Objectivism cannot dismiss this into the realm of metaphysics without dismissing the distinction along with it and anything built on that distinction. Nothing is built on this? The entire ethical portion of objectivism is built on diffrentationg Man's mind from that of the animals.

Not all actions are equally approbate if one is to stay alive. Yep. So? Not all actions are equally approbate for the maximization of utility. Not all actions are equally approbate for furthering a nation. These statements are equally true and valid and powerful as the objectivist claim. So what?