Chimp or Bee? Yes!

This is a response to Les Carpenter's thoughtful post, Smith vs. Rand.

To be brief, objectivism says that a person "must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life."

Taking it a step further, objectivsim views altruism as inherently evil.

In fact, while objectivists support capitalism, their aversion to altruism is so complete they will reject a defense of capitalism if it is based on an affirmation of capitalism's propensity to contribute to the greater public good.

Is the morality of objectivism valid?  I'll leave that question for others to try to answer. But in answering that question, there should be a recognition of the full spectrum of moral values, including altruistic ones:
Another central metaphor is that humans are “90 percent chimp and 10 percent bee.” The chimp, in this case, behaves as a selfish individual satisfying its individual needs. The bee, as a member of a group, works for the welfare of the group. So, according to Haidt, we are some of both. We have our selfish interests (the major portion – 90%) and we have our community interests (the bee, 10%). It is our bee-like nature that “facilitates altruism, heroism, war and genocide.”
This "chimp vs. bee" metaphor is central to a number of key conflicts in politics:
...Haidt likens our moral foundations from which we draw our ethical norms to 6 different taste buds: care, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority and sanctity. Interestingly, Dr. Haidt points out that the conservative moral palette is more broad than that of liberals. Liberals tend to be influenced by the first 3 moral foundations... In contrast, conservatives are influenced by all 6 moral foundations.

...Dr. Haidt points out that there are strong evolutionary and cultural reasons why all 6 moral foundations exist, and that they are still relevant today. Dr. Haidt states that “we are 90% chimp, 10% bee.” By “bee” he means that we are social animals. While we might act in our own self-interest much of the time, we also have a strong instinct to be in groups. Our need to be a member of a group led us to develop these various moral foundations because, at one time or another, they all had a survival value. They helped groups to cohere and cohesive groups tend to survive and thrive.
Roughly speaking, the six moral foundations apply in different ways to the chimp and the bee:
The first three foundations support individual autonomy.  The second three support communal bonding.  ...[C]onservatives stress all six foundations.  And thus Darwinian moral psychology supports conservatism as having a superior understanding of evolved moral dispositions.
Of course libertarians -- under the influence of objectivism and focused primarily on the moral foundation of liberty -- see all of this a bit differently.

I would submit that a successful political movement will appeal to all six moral foundations, crafting an argument that attracts broad and deep support.

*photo credit


  1. No man is an island. This transcends philosophy. It's reality and doesn't require anyone's agreement to go right on being true. That's what Rand was never able to get her head around.

  2. Ah, the Virtue of Selfishness, an excellent book to be sure. However, Objectivism IMNHO offers a great deal more. The point really is to take what works and move on. One of Rand's key points is to maintain a non contradictory value system or set of principles by which to guide ones life. Each individual is in control of the choices they make.

    Yep, Rand was certainly consistent Chuck. Not unlike yourself.

  3. First and foremost, she was a really good writer. I think a lot of her ideas are given credence they don't really deserve simply because she masterfully made such a compelling case for them. Abolutism of every stripe always runs into a dead end sooner or later. I suppose it's human nature to want to find some unified field of human behavior, but I think it's a fools errand.


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