Natural Law, and the related concept of Natural Rights, play an important part in Libertarian and “anarcho”-capitalist ideology. Right-libertarians are not alone in claiming that their particular ideology is based on the “law of nature”. Hitler, for one, claimed the same thing for Nazi ideology. So do numerous other demagogues, religious fanatics, and political philosophers. However, each likes to claim that only their “natural law” is the “real” one, all the others being subjective impositions. We will ignore these assertions (they are not arguments) and concentrate on explaining why natural law, in all its forms, is a myth. In addition, we will indicate its authoritarian implications.
Instead of such myths anarchists urge people to “work it out for themselves” and realise that any ethical code is subjective and not a law of nature. If its a good “code”, then others will become convinced of it by your arguments and their intellect. There is no need to claim its a function of “man’s nature”!
The following books discuss the subject of “Natural Law” in greater depth and are recommended for a fuller discussion of the issues raised in this section:
Robert Anton Wilson, Natural Law and L.A. Rollins, The Myth of Natural Law.
We should note that these books are written by people associated, to some degree, with right-libertarianism and, of course, we should point out that not all right-libertarians subscribe to “natural law” theories (David Friedman, for example, does not). However, such a position seems to be the minority in right-Libertarianism (Ayn Rand, Robert Nozick and Murray Rothbard, among others, did subscribe to it). We should also point out that the Individualist Anarchist Lysander Spooner also subscribed to “natural laws” (which shows that, as we noted above, the concept is not limited to one particular theory or ideology). We present a short critique of Spooner’s ideas on this subject in section G.7.
Lastly, it could be maintained that it is a common “straw man” to maintain that supporters of Natural Law argue that their Laws are like the laws of physics (and so are capable of stopping people’s actions just as the law of gravity automatically stops people flying from the Earth). But that is the whole point — using the term “Natural Law” implies that the moral rights and laws that its supporters argue for are to be considered just like the law of gravity (although they acknowledge, of course, that unlike gravity, their “natural laws” can be violated in nature). Far from saying that the rights they support are just that (i.e. rights they think are good) they try to associate them with universal facts. For example, Lysander Spooner (who, we must stress, used the concept of “Natural law” to oppose the transformation of America into a capitalist society, unlike Rand, Nozick and Rothbard who use it to defend capitalism) stated that:
“the true definition of law is, that it is a fixed, immutable, natural principle; and not anything that man ever made, or can make, unmake, or alter. Thus we speak of the laws of matter, and the laws of mind; of the laws of gravitation, the laws of light, heat, and electricity. . .etc., etc. . . . The law of justice is just as supreme and universal in the moral world, as these others are in the mental or physical world; and is as unalterable as are these by any human power. And it is just as false and absurd to talk of anybody’s having the power to abolish the law of justice, and set up their own in its stead, as it would be to talk of their having the power to abolish the law of gravitation, or any other natural laws of the universe, and set up their own will in the place of them.” [A Letter to Grover Cleveland, p. 88]
Rothbard and other capitalist supporters of “Natural Law” make the same sort of claims (as we will see). Now, why, if they are aware of the fact that unlike gravity their “Natural Laws” can be violated, do they use the term at all? Benjamin Tucker said that “Natural Law” was a “religious” concept — and this provides a clue. To say “Do not violate these rights, otherwise I will get cross” does not have quite the same power as “Do not violate these rights, they are facts of natural and you are violating nature” (compare to “Do not violate these laws, or you will go to hell”). So to point out that “Natural Law” is not the same as the law of gravity (because it has to be enforced by humans) is not attacking some kind of “straw man” — it is exposing the fact that these “Natural Laws” are just the personal prejudices of those who hold them. If they do not want then to be exposed as such then they should call their laws what they are — personal ethical laws — rather than compare them to the facts of nature.
11.1 Why the term “Natural Law” in the first place?
Murray Rothbard claims that “Natural Law theory rests on the insight. . . that each entity has distinct and specific properties, a distinct ‘nature,’ which can be investigated by man’s reason” [For a New Liberty, p. 25] and that “man has rights because they are natural rights. They are grounded in the nature of man.” [The Ethics of Liberty, p. 155]
To put it bluntly, this form of “analysis” was originated by Aristotle and has not been used by science for centuries. Science investigates by proposing theories and hypotheses to explain empirical observations, testing and refining them by experiment. In stark contrast, Rothbard invents definitions (“distinct” “natures”) and then draws conclusions from them. Such a method was last used by the medieval Church and is devoid of any scientific method. It is, of course, a fiction. It attempts to deduce the nature of a “natural” society from a priori considerations of the “innate” nature of human beings, which just means that the assumptions necessary to reach the desired conclusions have been built into the definition of “human nature.” In other words, Rothbard defines humans as having the “distinct and specific properties” that, given his assumptions, will allow his dogma (private state capitalism) to be inferred as the “natural” society for humans.
Rothbard claims that “if A, B, C, etc., have differing attributes, it follows that they have different natures.“ [The Ethics of Liberty, p. 9] Does this means that as every individual is unique (have different attributes), they have different natures? Skin and hair colour are different attributes, does this mean that red haired people have different natures than blondes? That black people have different natures than white (and such a “theory” of “natural law” was used to justify slavery — yes, slaves are human but they have “different natures” than their masters and so slavery is okay). Of course Rothbard aggregates “attributes” to species level, but why not higher? Humans are primates, does that mean we have the same natures are monkeys or gorillas? We are also mammals as well, we share many of the same attributes as whales and dogs. Do we have similar natures?
But this is by the way. To continue we find that after defining certain “natures,” Rothbard attempts to derive “Natural Rights and Laws” from them. However, these “Natural Laws” are quite strange, as they can be violated in nature! Real natural laws (like the law of gravity) cannot be violated and therefore do not need to be enforced. The “Natural Laws” the “Libertarian” desires to foist upon us are not like this. They need to be enforced by humans and the institutions they create. Hence, Libertarian “Natural Laws” are more akin to moral prescriptions or juridical laws. However, this does not stop Rothbard explicitly “plac[ing]” his “Natural Laws” “alongside physical or ‘scientific’ natural laws.” [The Ethics of Liberty, p. 42]
So why do so many Libertarians use the term “Natural Law?” Simply, it gives them the means by which to elevate their opinions, dogmas, and prejudices to a metaphysical level where nobody will dare to criticise or even think about them. The term smacks of religion, where “Natural Law” has replaced “God’s Law.” The latter fiction gave the priest power over believers. “Natural Law” is designed to give the Libertarian ideologist power over the people that he or she wants to rule.
How can one be against a “Natural Law” or a “Natural Right”? It is impossible. How can one argue against gravity? If private property, for example, is elevated to such a level, who would dare argue against it? Ayn Rand listed having landlords and employers along with “the laws of nature.” They are not similar: the first two are social relationships which have to be imposed by the state; the “laws of nature” (like gravity, needing food, etc.) are facts which do not need to be imposed. Rothbard claims that “the natural fact is that labour service is indeed a commodity.” [Op. Cit., p. 40] However, this is complete nonsense — labour service as a commodity is a social fact, dependent on the distribution of property within society, its social customs and so forth. It is only “natural” in the sense that it exists within a given society (the state is also “natural” as it also exists within nature at a given time). But neither wage slavery or the state is “natural” in the sense that gravity is natural or a human having two arms is. Indeed, workers at the dawn of capitalism, faced with selling their labour services to another, considered it as decidedly “unnatural” and used the term “wage slavery” to describe it!
Thus, where and when a “fact” appears is essential. For example, Rothbard claims that “[a]n apple, let fall, will drop to the ground; this we all observe and acknowledge to be in the nature of the apple.” [The Ethics of Liberty, p. 9] Actually, we do not “acknowledge” anything of the kind. We acknowledge that the apple was subject to the force of gravity and that is why it fell. The same apple, “let fall” in a space ship would not drop to the floor. Has the “nature” of the apple changed? No, but the situation it is in has. Thus any attempt to generate abstract “natures” requires you to ignore reality in favour of ideals.
Because of the confusion its usage creates, we are tempted to think that the use of “Natural Law” dogma is an attempt to stop thinking, to restrict analysis, to force certain aspects of society off the political agenda by giving them a divine, everlasting quality.
Moreover, such an “individualist” account of the origins of rights will always turn on a muddled distinction between individual rationality and some vague notion of rationality associated with membership of the human species. How are we to determine what is rational for an individual as and individual and what is rational for that same individual as a human being? It is hard to see that we can make such a distinction for “[i]f I violently interfere with Murray Rothbard’s freedom, this may violate the ‘natural law’ of Murray Rothbard’s needs, but it doesn’t violate the ‘natural law’ of my needs.” [L.A. Rollins, The Myth of Natural Rights, p. 28] Both parties, after all, are human and if such interference is, as Rothbard claims, “antihuman” then why? “If it helps me, a human, to advance my life, then how can it be unequivocally ‘antihuman’?” [L. A. Rollins, Op. Cit., p. 27] Thus “natural law” is contradictory as it is well within the bounds of human nature to violate it.
This means that in order to support the dogma of “Natural Law,” the cultists must ignore reality. Ayn Rand claims that “the source of man’s rights is. . .the law of identity. A is A — and Man is Man.” But Rand (like Rothbard) defines “Man” as an “entity of a specific kind — a rational being” [The Virtue of Selfishness, pp. 94-95]. Therefore she cannot account for irrational human behaviours (such as those that violate “Natural Laws”), which are also products of our “nature.” To assert that such behaviours are not human is to assert that A can be not-A, thus contradicting the law of identity. Her ideology cannot even meet its own test.
11.2 But “Natural Law” provides protection for individual rights from violation by the State. Those who are against Natural Law desire total rule by the state.
The second statement represents a common “Libertarian” tactic. Instead of addressing the issues, they accuse an opponent of being a “totalitarian” (or the less sinister “statist”). In this way, they hope to distract attention from, and so avoid discussing, the issue at hand (while at the same time smearing their opponent). We can therefore ignore the second statement.
Regarding the first, “Natural Law” has never stopped the rights of individuals from being violated by the state. Such “laws” are as much use as a chocolate fire-guard. If “Natural Rights” could protect one from the power of the state, the Nazis would not have been able to murder six million Jews. The only thing that stops the state from attacking people’s rights is individual (and social) power — the ability and desire to protect oneself and what one considers to be right and fair. As the anarchist Rudolf Rocker pointed out:
“Political [or individual] rights do not exist because they have been legally set down on a piece of paper, but only when they have become the ingrown habit of a people, and when any attempt to impair them will be meet with the violent resistance of the populace. . . .One compels respect from others when he knows how to defend his dignity as a human being. . . .The people owe all the political rights and privileges which we enjoy today, in greater or lesser measure, not to the good will of their governments, but to their own strength.” [Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 64]
Of course, if is there are no “Natural Rights,” then the state has no “right” to murder you or otherwise take away what are commonly regarded as human rights. One can object to state power without believing in “Natural Law.”
11.3 Why is “Natural Law” authoritarian?
Rights, far from being fixed, are the product of social evolution and human action, thought and emotions. What is acceptable now may become unacceptable in the future. Slavery, for example, was long considered “natural.” In fact, John Locke, the “father” of “Natural Rights,” was heavily involved in the slave trade. He made a fortune in violating what is today regarded as a basic human right: not to be enslaved. Many in Locke’s day claimed that slavery was a “Natural Law.” Few would say so now.
Thomas Jefferson indicates exactly why “Natural Law” is authoritarian when he wrote “[s]ome men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the ark of the Covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. . .laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. . . as that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, institutions must advance also, to keep pace with the times. . . We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilised society to remain forever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”
The “Natural Law” cult desires to stop the evolutionary process by which new rights are recognised. Instead they wish to fix social life into what they think is good and right, using a form of argument that tries to raise their ideology above critique or thought. Such a wish is opposed to the fundamental feature of liberty: the ability to think for oneself. Michael Bakunin writes “the liberty of man consists solely in this: that he obeys natural laws because he has himself recognised them as such, and not because they have been externally imposed upon him by any extrinsic will whatever, divine or human, collective or individual.” [Bakunin on Anarchism, p. 227]
Thus anarchism, in contrast to the “natural law” cult, recognises that “natural laws” (like society) are the product of individual evaluation of reality and social life and are, therefore, subject to change in the light of new information and ideas (Society “progresses slowly through the moving power of individual initiative” [Bakunin, The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, p. 166] and so, obviously, do social rights and customs). Ethical or moral “laws” (which is what the “Natural Law” cult is actually about) is not a product of “human nature” or abstract individuals. Rather, it is a social fact, a creation of society and human interaction. In Bakunin’s words, “moral law is not an individual but a social fact, a creation of society” and any “natural laws” are “inherent in the social body” (and so, we must add, not floating abstractions existing in “man’s nature”). [Ibid., p. 125, p. 166]
The case for liberty and a free society is based on the argument that, since every individual is unique, everyone can contribute something that no one else has noticed or thought about. It is the free interaction of individuals which allows them, along with society and its customs and rights, to evolve, change and develop. “Natural Law,” like the state, tries to arrest this evolution. It replaces creative inquiry with dogma, making people subject to yet another god, destroying critical thought with a new rule book.
In addition, if these “Natural Laws” are really what they are claimed to be, they are necessarily applicable to all of humanity (Rothbard explicitly acknowledges this when he wrote that “one of the notable attributes of natural law” is “its applicability to all men, regardless of time or place” [The Ethics of Liberty, p. 42]). In other words, every other law code must (by definition) be “against nature” and there exists one way of life (the “natural” one). The authoritarian implications of such arrogance is clear. That the Dogma of Natural Law was only invented a few hundred years ago, in one part of the planet, does not seem to bother its advocates. Nor does the fact that for the vast majority of human existence, people have lived in societies which violated almost all of their so-called “Natural Laws” To take one example, before the late Neolithic, most societies were based on usufruct, or free access to communally held land and other resources [see Murray Bookchin, The Ecology of Freedom]. Thus for millennia, all human beings lived in violation of the supposed “Natural Law” of private property — perhaps the chief “law” in the “Libertarian” universe.
If “Natural Law” did exist, then all people would have discovered these “true” laws years ago. To the contrary, however, the debate is still going on, with (for example) fascists and “Libertarians” each claiming “the laws of nature” (and socio-biology) as their own.
11.4 Does “Natural Law” actually provides protection for individual liberty?
But, it seems fair to ask, does “natural law” actually respect individuals and their rights (i.e. liberty)? We think not. Why?
According to Rothbard, “the natural law ethic states that for man, goodness or badness can be determined by what fulfils or thwarts what is best for man’s nature.” [The Ethics of Liberty, p. 10] But, of course, what may be “good” for “man” may be decidedly bad for men (and women). If we take the example of the sole oasis in a desert (see section 4.2) then, according to Rothbard, the property owner having the power of life and death over others is “good” while, if the dispossessed revolt and refuse to recognise his “property”, this is “bad”! In other words, Rothbard’s “natural law” is good for some people (namely property owners) while it can be bad for others (namely the working class). In more general terms, this means that a system which results in extensive hierarchy (i.e. archy, power) is “good” (even though it restricts liberty for the many) while attempts to remove power (such as revolution and the democratisation of property rights) is “bad”. Somewhat strange logic, we feel.
However such a position fails to understand why we consider coercion to be wrong/unethical. Coercion is wrong because it subjects an individual to the will of another. It is clear that the victim of coercion is lacking the freedom that the philosopher Isaiah Berlin describes in the following terms:
“I wish my life and decisions to depend on myself, not on external forces of whatever kind. I wish to be an instrument of my own, not of other men’s, acts of will. I wish to be a subject, not an object; to be moved by reasons, by conscious purposes, which are my own, not by causes which affect me, as it were, from outside. I wish to be somebody, not nobody; a doer — deciding, not being decided for, self-directed and not acted upon by external nature or by other mean as if I were a thing, or an animal, or a slave incapable of playing a human role, that is, of conceiving goals and policies of my own and realising them.” [Four Essays on Liberty, p. 131]
Or, as Alan Haworth points out, “we have to view coercion as a violation of what Berlin calls positive freedom.” [Anti-Libertarianism, p. 48]
Thus, if a system results in the violation of (positive) liberty by its very nature — namely, subject a class of people to the will of another class (the worker is subject to the will of their boss and is turned into an order-taker) — then it is justified to end that system. Yes, it is “coercion” is dispossess the property owner — but “coercion” exists only for as long as they desire to exercise power over others. In other words, it is not domination to remove domination! And remember it is the domination that exists in coercion which fuels our hatred of it, thus “coercion” to free ourselves from domination is a necessary evil in order to stop far greater evils occurring (as, for example, in the clear-cut case of the oasis monopoliser).
Perhaps it will be argued that domination is only bad when it is involuntary, which means that it is only the involuntary nature of coercion that makes it bad, not the domination it involves. By this argument wage slavery is not domination as workers voluntarily agree to work for a capitalist (after all, no one puts a gun to their heads) and any attempt to overthrow capitalist domination is coercion and so wrong. However, this argument ignores that fact that circumstances force workers to sell their liberty and so violence on behalf of property owners is not (usually) required — market forces ensure that physical force is purely “defensive” in nature. And as we argued in section 2.2, even Rothbard recognised that the economic power associated with one class of people being dispossessed and another empowered by this fact results in relations of domination which cannot be considered “voluntary” by any stretch of the imagination (although, of course, Rothbard refuses to see the economic power associated with capitalism — when its capitalism, he cannot see the wood for the trees — and we are ignoring the fact that capitalism was created by extensive use of coercion and violence — see section 8).
Thus, “Natural law” and attempts to protect individuals rights/liberty and see a world in which people are free to shape their own lives are fatally flawed if they do not recognise that private property is incompatible with these goals. This is because the existence of capitalist property smuggles in power and so domination (the restriction of liberty, the conversion of some into order-givers and the many into order-takers) and so Natural Law does not fulfil its promise that each person is free to pursue their own goals. The unqualified right of property will lead to the domination and degradation of large numbers of people (as the oasis monopoliser so graphically illustrates).
And we stress that anarchists have no desire to harm individuals, only to change institutions. If a workplace is taken over by its workers, the owners are not harmed physically. If the oasis is taken from the monopoliser, the ex-monopoliser becomes like other users of the oasis (although probably disliked by others). Thus anarchists desire to treat people as fairly as possible and not replace one form of coercion and domination with another — individuals must never be treated as abstractions (if they have power over you, destroy what creates the relation of domination, not the individual, in other words! And if this power can be removed without resorting to force, so much the better — a point which social and individualist anarchists disagree on, namely whether capitalism can be reformed away or not comes directly from this. As the Individualists think it can, they oppose the use of force. Most social anarchists think it cannot, and so support revolution).
This argument may be considered as “utilitarian” (the greatest good for the greatest number) and so treats people not as “ends in themselves” but as “means to an end”. Thus, it could be argued, “natural law” is required to ensure that all (as opposed to some, or many, or the majority of) individuals are free and have their rights protected.
However, it is clear that “natural law” can easily result in a minority having their freedom and rights respected, while the majority are forced by circumstances (created by the rights/laws produced by applying “natural law” we must note) to sell their liberty and rights in order to survive. If it is wrong to treat anyone as a “means to an end”, then it is equally wrong to support a theory or economic system that results in people having to negate themselves in order to live. A respect for persons — to treat them as ends and never as means — is not compatible with private property.
The simple fact is that there are no easy answers — we need to weight up our options and act on what we think is best. Yes, such subjectivism lacks the “elegance” and simplicity of “natural law” but it reflects real life and freedom far better. All in all, we must always remember that what is “good” for man need not be good for people. “Natural law” fails to do this and stands condemned.
11.5 But Natural Law was discovered, not invented!
This statement truly shows the religious nature of the Natural Law cult. To see why its notion of “discovery” is confused, let us consider the Law of Gravity. Newton did not “discover” the law of gravity, he invented a theory which explained certain observed phenomena in the physical world. Later Einstein updated Newton’s theories in ways that allowed for a better explanation of physical reality. Thus, unlike “Natural Law,” scientific laws can be updated and changed as our knowledge changes and grows. As we have already noted, however, “Natural Laws” cannot be updated because they are derived from fixed definitions (Rothbard is pretty clear on this, he states that it is “[v]ery true” that natural law is “universal, fixed and immutable” and so are “‘absolute’ principles of justice” and that they are “independent of time and place” [The Ethics of Liberty, p. 19]). However, what he fails to understand is that what the “Natural Law” cultists are “discovering” are simply the implications of their own definitions, which in turn simply reflect their own prejudices and preferences.
Since “Natural Laws” are thus “unchanging” and are said to have been “discovered” centuries ago, it’s no wonder that many of its followers look for support in socio-biology, claiming that their “laws” are part of the genetic structure of humanity. But socio-biology has dubious scientific credentials for many of its claims. Also, it has authoritarian implications exactly like Natural Law. Murray Bookchin rightly characterises socio-biology as “suffocatingly rigid; it not only impedes action with the autocracy of a genetic tyrant but it closes the door to any action that is not biochemically defined by its own configuration. When freedom is nothing more than the recognition of necessity. . .we discover the gene’s tyranny over the greater totality of life. . .when knowledge becomes dogma (and few movements are more dogmatic than socio-biology) freedom is ultimately denied.” [“Socio-biology or Social Ecology”, in Which way for the Ecology Movement? pp. 49 – 75, p. 60]
In conclusion the doctrine of Natural Law, far from supporting individual freedom, is one of its greatest enemies. By locating individual rights within “Man’s Nature,” it becomes an unchanging set of dogmas. Do we really know enough about humanity to say what are “Natural” and universal Laws, applicable forever? Is it not a rejection of critical thinking and thus individual freedom to do so?
11.6 Why is the notion of “discovery” contradictory?
Ayn Rand indicates the illogical and contradictory nature of the concepts of “discovering” “natural law” and the “natural rights” this “discovery” argument creates when she stated that her theory was “objective.” Her “Objectivist” political theory “holds that good is neither an attribute of ‘things in themselves’ nor man’s emotional state, but an evaluation of the facts of reality by man’s consciousness according to a rational standard of value. . . The objective theory holds that the good is an aspect of reality in relation to man – and that it must be discovered, not invented, by man.” [Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, p. 22]
However, this is playing with words. If something is “discovered” then it has always been there and so is an intrinsic part of it. If “good” is “discovered” by “man” then “good” exists independently of people — it is waiting to be “discovered.” In other words, “good” is an attribute of “man as man,” of “things in themselves” (in addition, such a theory also implies that there is just one possible interpretation of what is “good” for all humanity). This can be seen when Rand talks about her system of “objective” values and rights.
When discussing the difference between “subjective,” “intrinsic” and “objective” values Rand noted that “intrinsic” and “subjective” theories “make it possible for a man to believe what is good is independent of man’s mind and can be achieved by physical force.” [Op. Cit., p. 22] In other words, intrinsic and subjective values justify tyranny. However, her “objective” values are placed squarely in “Man’s Nature” — she states that “[i]ndividual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law” and that “the source of man’s rights is man’s nature.” [Op. Cit., p. 320, p. 322]
She argues that the “intrinsic theory holds that the good is inherent in certain things or actions, as such, regardless of their context and consequences, regardless of any benefit or injury they may cause to the actors and subjects involved.” [Op. Cit., p. 21] According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, “intrinsic” is defined as “inherent,” “essential,” “belonging naturally” and defines “nature” as “a thing’s, or person’s, innate or essential qualities or character.” In other words, if, as Rand maintains, man’s rights are the product of “man’s nature” then such rights are intrinsic! And if, as Rand maintains, such rights are the “extension of morality into the social system” then morality itself is also intrinsic.
Again, her ideology fails to meet its own tests — and opens the way for tyranny. This can be seen by her whole hearted support for wage slavery and her total lack of concern how it, and concentrations of wealth and power, affect the individuals subjected to them. For, after all, what is “good” is “inherent” in capitalism, regardless of the context, consequences, benefits or injuries it may cause to the actors and subjects involved.
The key to understanding her contradictory and illogical ideology lies in her contradictory use of the word “man.” Sometimes she uses it to describe individuals but usually it is used to describe the human race collectively (“man’s nature,” “man’s consciousness”). But “Man” does not have a consciousness, only individuals do. Man is an abstraction, it is individuals who live and think, not “Man.” Such “Man worship” — like Natural Law — has all the markings of a religion.
As Max Stirner argues “liberalism is a religion because it separates my essence from me and sets it above me, because it exalts ‘Man’ to the same extent as any other religion does to God. . . it sets me beneath Man.” [The Ego and Its Own, p. 176] Indeed, he “who is infatuated with Man leaves persons out of account so far as that infatuation extends, and floats in an ideal, sacred interest. Man, you see, is not a person, but an ideal, a spook.” [Op. Cit., p.79]
Rand argues that we must evaluate “the facts of reality by man’s consciousness according to a rational standard of value” but who determines that value? She states that “[v]alues are not determined by fiat nor by majority vote” [p. 24] but, however, neither can they be determined by “man” or “man’s consciousness” because “man” does not exist. Individuals exist and have consciousness and because they are unique have different values (but as we argued in section A.2.19, being social creatures these values are generalised across individuals into social, i.e. objective, values). So, the abstraction “man” does not exist and because of this we see the healthy sight of different individuals convincing others of their ideas and theories by discussion, presenting facts and rational debate. This can be best seen in scientific debate.
The aim of the scientific method is to invent theories that explain facts, the theories are not part of the facts but created by the individual’s mind in order to explain those facts. Such scientific “laws” can and do change in light of new information and new thought. In other words, the scientific method is the creation of subjective theories that explain the objective facts. Rand’s method is the opposite – she assumes “man’s nature,” “discovers” what is “good” from those assumptions and draws her theories by deduction from that. This is the exact opposite of the scientific method and, as we noted above, comes to us straight from the Roman Catholic church.
It is the subjective revolt by individuals against what is considered “objective” fact or “common sense” which creates progress and develops ethics (what is considered “good” and “right”) and society. This, in turn, becomes “accepted fact” until the next free thinker comes along and changes how we view the world by presenting new evidence, re-evaluating old ideas and facts or exposing the evil effects associated with certain ideas (and the social relationships they reflect) by argument, fact and passion. Attempts to impose “an evaluation of the facts of reality by man’s consciousness” would be a death blow to this process of critical thought, development and evaluation of the facts of reality by individual’s consciousness. Human thought would be subsumed by dogma.