Social Philosophy and Policy

Research Article


Darryl F. Wrighta1

a1 Philosophy, Harvey Mudd College


Those familiar with Ayn Rand's ethical writings may know that she discusses issues in metaethics, and that she defended the objectivity of morality during the heyday of early non-cognitivism. But neither her metaethics, in general, nor her views on moral objectivity, in particular, have received wide study. This article elucidates some aspects of her thought in these areas, focusing on Rand's conception of the way in which moral values serve a biologically based human need, and on her account of moral values as both essentially practical and epistemically objective in a sense fundamentally continuous with the objectivity of science. The bearing of her epistemological writings on her ethical thought is emphasized throughout, and her epistemology is defended against a line of criticism inspired by John McDowell's criticism of the so-called “myth of the given.”


This essay has benefited from comments I received on previous versions of some of this material from Allan Gotthelf, Fred Miller, Ellen Frankel Paul, Peter Railton, Connie Rosati, Greg Salmieri, Geoff Sayre-McCord, and audiences at the University of Pittsburgh and at Bowling Green State University. Much of the final work was completed with the support of the Social Philosophy and Policy Center at Bowling Green State University, through the Center's Visiting Scholars program. I am most grateful to the Center's directors and staff for providing a comfortable and supportive work environment during my time there in the Spring 2007 semester.