We continue our analysis of John Galt’s speech in Atlas Shrugged. On pages 932-934, Ayn Rand provides definitions for Rationality, Independence, Integrity, Honesty, Justice, Productiveness, and Pride.
Rand argues that these are the virtues which human beings must live up to and abide by to achieve the “3 supreme values” of consciousness: Reason—Purpose—Self-esteem.
Today, we’ll discuss her definition of Honesty.
“Honesty is the recognition of the fact that the unreal is unreal and can have no value, that neither love nor fame nor cash is a value if obtained by fraud—
that an attempt to gain a value by deceiving the mind of others is an act of raising your victims to a position higher than reality,
where you become a pawn of their blindness, a slave of their non-thinking and their evasions, while their intelligence, their rationality, their perceptiveness become the enemies you have to dread and flee—
that you do not care to live as a dependent, least of all a dependent on the stupidity of others, or as a fool whose source of values is the fools he succeeds in fooling—that honesty is not a social duty, not a sacrifice for the sake of others, but the most profoundly selfish virtue man can practice: his refusal to sacrifice the reality of his own existence to the deluded consciousness of others.“
“I did not cheat on my husband”, lied the impulsive and vain housewife.
“I aced my math test”, lied the insecure and fearful child.
“The project’s almost finished”, lied the incompetent and slothful employee.
Lies are created to falsify reality to ourselves and our victims. We lie to avoid negative consequences, to temporarily relieve ourselves of responsibility, and to buy a moment’s reprieve from the stress of life.
But lying is not a sustainable strategy.
Reality is better at being true than you are at lying about it.
It is only vices and wrongdoings that need be covered up with lies. And to maintain a lie, one must rely on the ignorance and gullibility of one’s victims. No longer can a liar interact with his victim’s mind in productive, win-win ideas. He must deceive and only deceive. He lives in constant fear of his victim awakening to the ruse. More lies are required to explain away inconsistencies brought forth by reality on his past lies.
A liar becomes, paradoxically, a slave to the one he wishes to bind in lies. His claim to safety comes not from his productive work, but his victim’s difficulty seeing reality. The greater the lie, the greater the risk to the liar.
Even when a liar scores the jackpot, and finds someone who wants to be lied to, he is a loser. He will never know the joy of interacting with healthy, rational, brilliant minds. He will only parasitically subsist on the most damaged and weak around him. So he too shall become damaged and weak with time, reaping what he sows.
Honesty is living life on reality’s terms.
To be honest requires that we act and live virtuously. We must live life in such a way that makes lying an obsolete and unnecessary strategy. This is achieved by acting such that we can tell the truth about how we act. It’s simple, not easy.
Jordan Peterson says “Tell the truth, or at least don’t lie”.
It’s useful to keep the standard low. Sometimes fear prevents us from being honest with others when we feel vulnerable sharing truth. Being honest doesn’t require that we reveal every secret. It just requires us to refuse to fake reality to ourselves and others.