Biddle on Objectivism basics

Nora G. Hertel

Fri., April 27, the Lawrence University Objectivists hosted lecturer Craig Biddle, who gave a presentation on the basic principles of Objectivism. Biddle is the editor of The Objectivist Standard and author of “Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts that Support It.”
Friday’s talk, titled “Ayn Rand’s Morality of Selfishness: An Introduction to Objectivist Ethics,” covered the basics of a philosophy founded by Rand and articulated in her essays and novels.
Biddle not only attempted to inform his audience of Objectivism, but also advocated its acceptance. The Wriston auditorium held a few dozen who listened attentively to the lecture with some participating in a question-and-answer session to challenge and clarify the ideas presented.
In setting up his argument, Biddle defined several terms. Much of Objectivist philosophy stands counter to altruism, and much of the lecture sought to expose its flaws and criticize society’s loyalty to it. Biddle argued that altruism is a moral code – acquired by default during socialization – that requires self-sacrifice and a life of misery.
The rationale behind this claim is that altruism inherently requires ultimate sacrifice, so a “consistent altruist” abandons the pursuit of his own happiness for the sake of others.
An “inconsistent altruist” is unable to give unconditionally, and is therefore a hypocrite. For these reasons, said Biddle, a life of altruism is considered a self-destructive path.
On the other hand, Rand preaches “rational egoism” as an alternative and ideal morality. Rational egoism, or the “morality of selfishness,” involves the pursuit of one’s life-serving goals while maintaining respect for others to do the same.
Biddle was careful to maintain a distinction between trade and sacrifice, noting for example that parents’ monetary support is not necessarily sacrificial if they gain satisfaction or esteem from their children’s future success.
Theoretically, paying for college would be an investment or trade in which parents would eventually benefit, whereas a true sacrifice requires a net loss of something valued.
Biddle explained that Mother Teresa and Jesus exemplify true altruism because they gave what they had of value (i.e. status, comfort, time, effort) in exchange for something less valuable: a life of poverty and hardship, and eventual death.
Biddle’s argument for Objectivism continued with more rebuff of altruism, as he recounted Rand’s case that it is a logical fallacy to consider humans as sacrificial creatures.
Objectivism argues that selfishness is rational because it is based on the idea that humans act to gain or keep what they value. With life considered of the highest value, Objectivists argue that “human sacrifice,” even self-induced, is immoral because it goes against the natural tendency to pursue happiness and life.
This is the language that made it possible to describe rational egoism as a philosophy of life and altruism as a philosophy of death and suffering.
In his concluding remarks, Biddle noted that this brand of selfishness should not be confused with pleasure-seeking hedonists, or the inconstancy and inconsideration of subjectivism.
He touched briefly on the tie between capitalism and Objectivism, but encouraged the audience to seek further sources on the topics he discussed. He referred to his book, and various writings by Rand.
Despite these printed manifestos Biddle made it clear that Rand’s philosophy was not dogmatic or relativistic. For a final push, Biddle asserted the virtues of rational egoism as “secular, observation-based, and good for you.