Brief Observation: Ayn Rand vs. the Founding Fathers on Human Nature

Amit Ghate has a piece at Pajamas Media, using Ayn Rand to argue that reason is a superior foundation for morality than religion. I’d love to do a more thorough response to it if I wasn’t so busy right now (for those interested, here are parts One, Two, and Three of a debate I had on the subject with an atheist blogger a few years back); For the moment, one quick observation will have to suffice. (Usual disclaimer: I haven’t read Rand firsthand.)

Ghate approvingly cites Ayn Rand’s rejection of man’s fallen nature, saying Rand “sides with the giants of the Enlightenment in considering man to be morally perfectible.” However many Enlightenment thinkers may have believed man was “morally perfectible,” that was one aspect of Enlightenment thinking the American Founders didn’t put much stock in. To the extent that Rand disagrees with Publius on this point, she sides with Progressives.

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One thought on “Brief Observation: Ayn Rand vs. the Founding Fathers on Human Nature

  1. Having read some of Rand's stuff, I would say that to call her a supporter of human perfectibility is gross overstatement. It would be more accurate to say that she didn't believe there was anything wrong with human nature as-is (her advocacies of greed, self-centeredness, etc. being fairly consistent evidence) but that societies could make the practical outcomes of that nature worse.

    Of course, Rand did advocate a system she thought advocating changing society to “better” mankind, but as far as I can tell she was never any sort of Utopian in the tradition of Rousseau et al. Her philosophy – to my reading, at any rate – was more that of “good enough”. Of course, this does reject any notion that man is (now) inherently fallen, but for a rather difference reason that the perfectibilists.

    In fact, it could almost be argued that she was anti-perfectability (Atlas Shrugged, for example, is rather strident in protesting various programs of all sorts to make man socially better). So perhaps I should go read Ghate's piece to see where he's coming from.

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