|Mindy cites the following passage from Rand's essay, "The Ethics of Emergencies, part of which I quoted in my previous reply to her: |
"It is important to differentiate between the rules of conduct in an emergency situation and the rules of conduct in the normal conditions of human existence. This does not mean a double standard of morality: the standard and the basic principles remain the same, but their application to either case requires precise definitions.
An emergency is an unchosen, unexpected event, limited in time, that creates conditions under which human survival is impossible--such as a flood, an earthquake, a fire, a shipwreck. In an emergency situation, men's primary goal is to combat the disaster, escape the danger and restore normal conditions (to reach dry land, to put out the fire, etc.)
It is only in emergency situations that one should volunteer to help strangers, if it is in one's power. For instance, a man who values human life and is caught in a shipwreck, should help to save his fellow passengers (though not at the expense of his own life)."
Mindy then quotes me as follows: "What Rand evidently means when she says that the rules of conduct in an emergency differ from those in a normal situation while the standard and basic principles remain the same is that even though the rule against initiating force may be appropriate in a normal situation but not in an emergency, the standard is still that which is appropriate to man's life, and the basic principles are still self-preservation and the achievement of one's own happiness." (post 66) And adds:
I challenge the legitimacy of Bill's claim as to what "Rand evidently means" because the whole quote actually lays out what Rand meant. Included in that quote is her recommendation, not that people be prepared to kill innocent others in order to survive, but that people help save others, as long as it doesn't threaten their own lives! Yes, in that example, she is talking about helping others, but that doesn't mean that she opposes initiating force in an emergency if doing is necessary for one's own survival. In that essay, she doesn't explicitly address the issue, but she does address it elsewhere in her 1961 interview with Normal Fox and Gerald Goodman:
Miss Rand, then you would say that a person who was starving, and the only way he could acquire food was to take the food of a second party, then he would have no right, even though it meant his own life, to take the food.
Not in normal circumstances, but that question sometimes is asked about emergency situations. For instance, supposing you are washed ashore after a shipwreck, and there is a locked house which is not yours, but you're starving and you might die the next moment, and there is food in this house, what is your moral behavior? I would say again, this is an emergency situation, and please consult my article "The Ethics Of Emergencies" in The Virtue Of Selfishness for a fuller discussion of this subject. But to state the issue in brief, I would say that you would have the right to break in and eat the food that you need, and then when you reach the nearest policeman, admit what you have done, and undertake to repay the man when you are able to work.
Mindy then writes,
The differences Rand intends us to understand when she says different "rules of conduct" apply in an emergency is, again, not something she leaves up to our imaginations or purposes to interpret. She gives us examples of what she means: in an emergency, man's primary goal is to reach dry land, put out the fire, etc. Yes, and if in order to reach dry land, one must initiate force against another person, then why isn't that included as an appropriate course of action? After all, in her 1961 interview, she does give us an example of not abiding by the non-initiation of force in an emergency. So, why isn't it reasonable to infer that by different rules of conduct, she was including the non-aggression principle as well?
She says the differences an emergency requires do not alter the standard of morality or its basic principles. Is the non-initiation of force not a basic principle of Objectivist ethics? If she intended such a thing, would she not have made it explicit? Unquestionably. The reason she didn't make it explicit in that that essay is that she wasn't directly addressing the issue of initiating force in order to save one's own life. She was addressing the issue of helping others in an emergency, but that doesn't mean that she didn't address it elsewhere, which she did in her 1961 interview.