Defining Independence & Integrity
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 definitions of Independence and Integrity.
“Independence is the recognition of the fact that yours is the responsibility of judgment and nothing can help you escape it—that no substitute can do your thinking, as no pinch-hitter can live your life—that the vilest form of self-abasement and self-destruction is the subordination of your mind to the mind of another, the acceptance of an authority over your brain, the acceptance of his assertions as facts, his say-so as truth, his edicts as middle-man between your consciousness and your existence.“
Notice that Rand does not speak of independence in physical terms. Independence is purely mental. It is an internal state of being in which one respects his own judgement and acts accordingly.
If we view our independence as subject to external circumstances, we can never achieve it. External circumstances are created by other human beings and nature itself – other minds and forces. Independence must be achieved within, or else it is lost.
Independence requires us to discipline our minds.
We must choose to think, to evaluate, and to judge – nobody else can do this for us.
Self-abasement and self-destruction come from our refusal to think for ourselves. Once we have surrendered our capacity to think and reason to the mind of another, we are their slaves. Subjugating your mind is subjugating your will. Subjugating your will is slavery.
Thus independence requires effort to maintain. As it’s an internal state of the mind, it requires specifically mental effort. If we manage to keep our minds independent, we can aspire to the following virtue of Integrity.
“Integrity is the recognition of the fact that you cannot fake your consciousness, just as honesty is the recognition of the fact that you cannot fake existence—that man is an indivisible entity, an integrated unit of two attributes: of matter and consciousness, and that he may permit no breach between body and mind, between action and thought, between his life and his convictions—that, like a judge impervious to public opinion, he may not sacrifice his convictions to the wishes of others, be it the whole of mankind shouting pleas or threats against him—that courage and confidence are practical necessities, that courage is the practical form of being true to existence, of being true to one’s own consciousness.“
Stated simply, integrity is aligning your actions with your values.
We can’t fake our existence. We hold the values that we hold, like it or not, conscious or unconscious. It is our nature to hold values, and act them out.
We act out our values involuntarily if we are unconscious of them, and voluntarily if we are conscious.
If we choose to value life over death, and use our minds to acquire the virtues necessary to sustain life, and pursue truth and knowledge to become greater versions of ourselves, we live in integrity with our value of life.
If we choose to value death over life, using our minds to escape reality, to pretend that A is not A, to force our will upon others’ consciousness, to undermine ourselves and others, to live in self-repression and revulsion at every higher human impulse, we live in integrity with our value of death.
Integrity is only achievable in respect to concrete values.
It’s up to you to decide what those values are.
If you don’t others will decide for you.