The Anti-concept “Duty”: By Ayn Rand

One of the most destructive anti-concepts in the history of moral philosophy is the term “duty”

The meaning of the term “duty” is: the moral necessity to perform certian actions for no reason other than obedience to some higher authority, without regard to any personal goal, motive, desire or interest.

In a mystic theory of ethics, “duty” stands for the notion that man must obey the dictates of a supernatural authority. Eventhough the anti-concept has been securalized, the authority of God’s will have been ascribed to earthly entities, such as parents, country, state, mankind, etc., their alleged supermacy still rests on nothing but a mystic edict.

If one were to accept it, the anti-concept “duty” destroys the concept of reality, an unaccountable , supernatural power takes precedence over facts and dictates one’s actions regardless of context or consequences.

“Duty” destroys reason: it supersedes one’s knowledge and judgment, making the process of thinking and judging irrelevant to one’s actions.

“Duty” destroys values: it demands that one betray or scarifice one’s highest values for the sake of an inexplicable command-and it transforms values into a threat to one’s moral worth, since the exprience of pleasure or desire casts doubt on the moral purity of one’s motives.

“Duty” destroys love: who could want to be loved not from “inclination,” but from”duty”

“Duty” destroys self-esteem: it leaves no self to be esteemed.

If one accepts that nightmare in the name of morality, the inferal irony is that “duty” destroys morality. The duty-centered theory of ethics leaves the rest of man’s life without any moral guidance, cutting morality off from any application to the actual problems and concerns of man’s existence.

Ayn Rand
Causality Versus Duty, 1974