See Introduction to Objectivism.
This node exists because I need only one specific, valid critique of any of Ayn Rand's fundamental points to dismiss Objectivism as an integrated system, and because I've been unable to find such a critique.
Most are along these lines:
- Ayn Rand is a bad writer
- Objectivism is a cult
- Objectivism is heartless
Those do not constitute meaningful criticisms of the philosophy.
- m_turner: "The claim is that all things other than humans automatically act for their own survival..."
- Your interpretation is incorrect. Ayn Rand is stressing that the human method of survival, being volitional, requires a choice to live, while an animal faces no such choice.
- "m_turner: Many animals choose reproductive success over survival, salmon and the male mantis being two examples."
- Again: Ayn Rand is saying that when animals act to survive, they do so automatically (i.e., they face no choice as to whether and how to go about it). She is not saying that animals unfailingly act to survive.
- m_turner: "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?"
- The fact that humans have volition does not depend on the question of whether animals do. Your question is thus irrelevant to this node.
- m_turner: "There is no specific course of action required for life such that some other course will destroy it."
- Ayn Rand's notion of "specific course" is broader than yours. She simply means that not all actions are equally appropriate if one is to stay alive.
- m_turner: Yep. So?
- (no comment)
- m_turner: "Selfish" is a bad word choice
- Obviously, this isn't fundamental.
Ayn Rand says: "It is important to know when to continue using a word despite its being corrupted, and when to drop such a word. The real test is: what does the corruption of the word accomplish? For example, I fight for the word 'selfishness,' even though the word, as used colloquially, designates both criminals and Peter Keatings, on the one hand, and also productive industrialists and Howard Roarks, on the other. Here, there is an attempt to obliterate a legitimate concept--selfishness--and thus we should not give up the word."
- m_turner: "Selfishness is important in that objectivists have made the same flaws that were pointed out in altruists - grouping people into two groups."
- Objectivism does not consider grouping people into two groups an evil of altruism, nor does it maintain that it shouldn't be done.
update: I found the original article which presents your argument (and most of the others you make). The author claims to have studied Objectivism for three decades, but he fails to understand its basic concepts.
The argument is that Rand's definition of selfishness obliterates the distinction between a man who sacrifices others to himself and a man who does not, that Rand provides no way of distinguishing between the two, and that this is a cognitive mistake.
It's false that Rand fails to differentiate between the two. She calls one irrational selfishness and the other rational selfishness. Her terms are more exact than the ones suggested here. Particularly, "aware of social context" is a floating abstraction of the type which Rand would never condone. Ayn Rand is quite explicit and clear on the point that she's an advocate of rational selfishness--not concrete-bound, hedonistic, irrational selfishness.
- m_turner: "Objectivist literature does not distinguish between selfishness and self-interest, thus many who follow objectivism follow 'man is the end' to the extreme."
- Do you mean that people who don't understand Objectivism but nontheless choose to accept its claims as out of context slogans might think that killing others is in their self-interest? But this is not a problem with the philosophy of Objectivism but with the concrete-bound mentalities which mean to use it as dogma.