Formspring: Puritanical Objectivists?

by Jason Stotts

I had this question on Formspring the other day: Is their a puritanical minority amongst Objectivists?

The answer is definitely, absolutely, without a doubt: yes.

I know that Peikoff has complained about them in his podcast on multiple occasions and I certainly agree with him on this point.  I think that it’s predominantly a holdover view, as many people come to Objectivism from a religious tradition (which isn’t surprising, since the vast majority of people are religious).  However, even among those who don’t come from a religious background, there are strong sex-negative currents in our society that definitely have an influence on people.

Now, a related question would be: is it rational to be a puritanical Objectivist?

The answer is clearly: no.

Sex is part of human nature.  It is more than just an insignificant part that can be ignored or evaded.  It is also an important part of ethics.  In fact, I argue that it is constitutive of happiness (sex is part of what happiness is).  So, not only would it be evading an important part of ethics, it would also be a denial of human nature.

3 Responses to “Formspring: Puritanical Objectivists?”


  1. Scott Connery

    I know Objectivism isn’t a synonym for hedonism, but man’s long-term happiness is supposed be one of our highest goals. People that denounce so much in the realm of sexual pleasure are really missing out.

  2. JasonStotts

    Scott,

    I want to point out that you’re engaging in a very serious equivocation here.

    “Happiness” as used in the Aristotelian/Objectivist tradition is not the same thing as “happiness” as it’s used colloquially to mean a persisting state of joy or pleasant feelings. This colloquial usage is a corruption of the actual concept of Happiness.

    In the Aristotelian/Objectivist tradition, “happiness” is is a state of moral perfection, a state of living well for a human. In the Greek, the word for this state of living well is Eudaimonia and you’ll frequently see me refer to Objectivism as a Eudaimonistic ethic in order to make sure people don’t think that I mean Objectivism is a variant of hedonism: it emphatically is not. This is also the same reason why serious scholars like Tara Smith refer to the goal of the Objectivist ethics as “flourishing,” a tradition we carry over from Aristotelian scholarship, to make sure that people don’t get the wrong ideas by the words we use.

    I agree with you that people are missing out on a lot of sexual pleasure, but certainly they shouldn’t pursue pleasure for the sake of pleasure (which, as Aristotle points out, is truly a contradictory and self-defeating endeavor), regardless of other concerns.

    So, I think you should consider carefully what “happiness” means in Objectivism and if you’d like further clarification, let me know.

    ~Jason

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