In Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist, Tara Smith dives deep into the virtues on which life depends, showing why they are requirements and what they demand. Here are six quotes I particularly liked, from Smith’s chapter on honesty:
- “As the refusal to fake reality, honesty consists in a deliberate, principled renunciation of any evasion, distortion, misrepresentation, or artifice. In essence, honesty means not pretending.” (p. 78)
- “Dishonesty is self-defeating insofar as pretending that facts are other than they are only diverts a person from identifying and pursuing rational strategies for achieving the objective values that will advance his life. The propriety of honesty is not a concession granted out of deference to some authority other than self-interest. Honesty is the only practical means of surviving qua human.” (p. 87)
- “Because reality sets the ultimate terms of a person’s survival, reality—rather than one’s own or others’ beliefs or wishes—must command a person’s paramount allegiance. Faking reality is futile. Dishonesty only diverts a person from facing the facts that he must face, in order to act in ways that can achieve his objective flourishing.” (p. 88)
- “Honesty demands taking cognition seriously. This requires that a person develop an active mind, seek knowledge in order to act on that knowledge, and refuse to fake any item in his mind.” (p. 89)
- “Misrepresenting facts does not change them. However successfully one might fool another person, faking is ultimately futile. For it does not alter the underlying facts.” (p. 105)
- “Facing reality is in a person’s self-interest, even when certain aspects of reality are threatening, because it allows him to proceed rationally—realistically—and thus with the chance of overcoming threats and achieving happiness. The case for honesty is completely egoistic. Whatever positive effects for others may result from a person’s honesty, a person should be honest because his happiness depends on it.” (p. 105)
For more on Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics, see Diana Hsieh’s review in the Spring 2007 issue of TOS—or buy the book. It has helped to concretize, clarify, and integrate Rand’s ethics in my mind, and I recommend it highly.