Rationality as the Primary Virtue

An excerpt from chapter 7 on The Good from Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand by Leonard Peikoff.

What are the principles of human survival? What objects must man hold as values if he is to preserve his life, and what virtues must he practice in order to achieve them?

The faculty of reason is man’s basic tool of survival. The primary choice is to exercise this faculty or not. If life is the standard, therefore, the basic moral principle is obvious. It tells us the proper evaluation of reason.

According to Ayn Rand, there are three basic values “which, together, are the means to and the realization of one’s ultimate value …”

“To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason—Purpose—Self-esteem. Reason, as his only tool of knowledge—Purpose; as his choice of the happiness which that tool must proceed to achieve—Self-esteem, as his inviolate certainty that his mind is competent to think and his person is worthy of happiness, which means: is worthy of living. These three values imply and require all of man’s virtues ….”

The last two of these I will defer until the next chapter. The greatest of them, however, which makes the others possible, is the first. Epistemology tells us that …

Read the rest in Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand.

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