Author’s note: This is chapter 4 of my book Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts that Support It (Richmond: Glen Allen Press, 2002), which is an introduction to Ayn Rand’s morality of rational egoism. Chapters 1–3 were reprinted in the prior three issues of TOS. In the book, this chapter is subtitled “Basic Human Needs.”
We have seen that human life is logically the standard of moral value—and that each individual’s own life is logically his own ultimate value. Here we turn to the question of the human means of survival. What things do we need in order to live? What actions must we take in order to gain and keep those things? And, most importantly: What makes those actions possible?
All living things have a means of survival. Plants survive by means of their automatic vegetative process known as photosynthesis. Animals survive by means of their automatic instinctive processes such as hunting, fleeing, and nest building. Human beings, however, do not survive by automatic means; our means of survival is not instinctual, but volitional. Since we have free will, we choose to live or not to live—and if we choose to live, we must also choose to discover the requirements of our life and to act accordingly.
While the choice to live is up to us, the basic requirements of our life are determined by nature. In order to live, we must take a specific course of action; random action will not do. We cannot survive by eating rocks, drinking Drano, or wandering aimlessly in the desert; and we cannot achieve happiness through procrastination, promiscuity, or pot. If we want to live and enjoy life, we have to discover and act in accordance with the actual, objective requirements of our survival and happiness. What are they? . . .