Text: Journals of Ayn Rand by Ayn Rand, Edited by David Harriman
“The moral law of man must be based on his nature as man” (Rand 251). We come back to morality, which is a set of principles concerning what is right and wrong. If this doctrine is based on man, then the questioned presented by Rand is “what is man’s nature?” (251). If we examine the moral law, we find that good and evil are disproportionate, goodness is greatly overshadowed by evil. What does this say about our nature? That we are evil? This is doubtful. All living creatures have an aspect of their nature that aids them in survival, Rand believes that man’s attribute is reason. “His brain is his only weapon” (251). Just like any other tool, one must use it in order to improve its level of proficiency. Man has tapped into his tool of survival and created a world. Sartre believed that a man must exist before his purpose and Rand has stated something similar; we are given our mind, but without any instruction on how to utilize it. We must be the ones to discover how to use it, and then shape ourselves with this tool. This is how we discover our being, by crafting it with what we have been given a mind born as a tool from our nature. “Man’s life ultimately depends upon every conclusion within his brain” (252). It is stated that conclusion is the final step in the process of discovery, then how does one reach a true conclusion? I believe it is by placing an action towards the thought. Simply put, it is not enough for the brain to think, it must do. In order to do, we must choose an appropriate action, which leads us to, as Rand says, “the ultimatum of man’s existence” We were created to choose, to utilize a force other than instinct and primal logic in order to survive. Choice is defined by Merriam-Webster as “to decided that a particular person or thing is the one you want.” Want. What then is the importance of want? We want, that is what defines us, all other creatures have needs but only man understands want. There is proof in all of us: we seek, we hope, we dream, we wish. All of these have one fundamental quality in common and that is want. It is what drives us to do the things that are against our universal nature, in an effort to choose something, even if it is against his survival. “He [the animal] enjoys a safety that man can never have” (253). Our true nature isn’t based on survival, it is based on want; and oftentimes that want will overshadow our survival. Just as the birds learn to flap their fragile wings before flight, so to must man utilize his tool for survival before entering the world. Then how does one test his brain? By choosing the need over the want, by focusing on survival and rationality, but can this truly be obtained? Is man capable of always choosing survival? No, because the want that resides within him is too great. The want is what separates us from each other, and by watching others “deducing” we have learned to choose wants over needs. What this entails is that if men, unanimously, choose want then that is the fundamental principle of mankind. From a moral standpoint, want is neither good nor evil. Exactly what happens when man does not behave like a man and misuses his process of thought, his tool, to seek something other than survival? “There is no proper name for that thing which he becomes (253)”. In the end we are not men, but a new form altogether with a nature that was dismantled and reshaped with want at the core.
Before I continue I am inclined to explore this concept of want. By determining it’s origin we have found some understanding of it, but why is it such a dominant force in our lives? What is inside us that would force individuals to pursue an object that is within direct conflict with our nature. It is a blessing, for it provides us with something more than a survival; but alternatively doubles as a curse and removes and hope of safety from our minds. For this I will examine two types of individuals, the laborer and the liberal (in the sense of the man free from work). The laborer is exactly what a man is supposed to be, a creature who acts and chooses that will enhance his survival. He chooses to awake and enter the greasy factor, or the claustrophobic cubicle and he does so without question. The reason he does not ponder his decisions (or even acknowledge the possibility of choice) is because it benefits his chances of extending his brief stint of life. He is acting in accordance with his given nature. But the liberal has erased any notion or idea of survival, no longer fitting his form. Instead, he does whatever he desires with or without question, by utilizing the three steps of discovery (deduction, observation, conclusion) in order to choose; but more often than not, he chooses his want over need. This is a “dangerous” choice because it puts “survival” at risk, but this also yields a new alternative to solely existing. The liberal who pursues this adjunct to life discards his title-and his pre-determined nature-as a man in an attempt to become a new being. This being is then “nature-less” which ultimately means that he he is now capable of authentically defining himself, in other words, becoming an existentialist.
An existentialist is a being who has cast away the definitive, and original, nature of man in order to chase desire. It is this new adventure that will give one an opportunity to define his self. “Man is the only being that is capable of being something that it is not.” (253) Does our “responsibility to remain” men help or hinder us, especially in this digital age? The choice is yours may be the most damning statement I have ever heard. If man’s nature is capable of transforming, then we cannot expect a moral code to exist, because it is based on a transformative foundation. If the tides of life continue to wreck the sandcastle, how can we expect to have any fundamental foundations? Morality is based on an individuals own desire and choice. Think of how quick we are to condemn an act evil, contingent upon the scenario. The classic example is murder. It is immoral for a man to take a life, yet it is justified for a man to take a life; then it is either both good and evil, or neither, to take a life. How can we expect morality to truly exist for man, when he is constantly revamping his original nature into his own authentic definition, and one that isn’t shared amongst his neighbors. The modern man is moral-less, he is constantly defining his nature, constantly choosing options other than survival. Drinking liquor, smoking tobacco, practicing monogamy, all of these are “irrational” options and yet each day, millions of humans will choose to follow them. Does that make them less of a man? Negative, it makes them their own man for they are out actively seeking their wants. The world we live in has forced men to do something more than simply survive. We no longer exist to survive instead we are here to choose, and more importantly, choose our desires, our intentions, our wants. If this is to be our existence then we are no longer the same men as before, even though we’ve retained the same look.
The moral code cannot be shared, yet there is a universal ideal that can be applied to each of us. “Am I right? (254) is the “first, most crucial question a man asks of himself.” Why do we seek to be right? We don’t, we only want to choose what’s right. If one has done that then they have fallen within their personal moral code, and they have done good. If this is the case then can a man truly consider himself evil? Possibly, but he is only evil if he cannot answer the question. Society may view him as evil-based on that universal morality that has been generated by the collective-but the individual will not consider themselves to be evil, so long as they believe they made “the right choice.”. That is the true danger of a nature-less nature; “the right choice” may in fact be pure evil, but he may not consider it that because it was his want. It is vital that we utilize logic and weigh out the consequences of each choice before taking them, it is this rationality that ultimately aids in strategizing to survive the modern world. A man is able to define his nature, thereby defining his morality. This principle is the sharpening stone for the brain, if one is able to make moral choices, then they are good. However, are moral choices morally correct? Social media has given way to a brand new nature, a collective an individual nature that spans the globe. The platform has increased the desire for want, and has significantly aided in the discovery process. We are now able to observe others discard their nature, and don an entirely new one (the creation of an avatar/profile/esse) ; witnessing this process surely must have an effect on us, but to what extent? Did it increase our desire or did it affect our choices, or must we have patience giving the results time to be analyzed? This demands further reviewing. Our world may very well be becoming what it is because so few of us are acting as original men, and instead pursing the wants of our lives, regardless of the moral compass that was originally thought to drive us. “Man exists and must survive as men, the axiom of the only morality proper to man” (254).