“Nothing can corrupt and disintegrate a culture or a man’s character as thoroughly as does the precept of moral agnosticism, the idea that one must never pass moral judgment on others, that one must be morally tolerant of anything, that the good consists of never distinguishing good from evil.” — Ayn Rand
We’ve all heard someone ask: “Who are you to judge me?” or some variant of that question. It’s a defensive question usually asked by someone who reasonably expects to be judges harshly by their peers for some ethical or moral transgression. It’s safe to say that someone secure in the notion that society or their peers would judge their actions favorably, is not going to pose this rhetorical question. A good retort to that question might be: “Who are you that you are above judgment?” If we respect our peers, we respect their judgment, which sometimes means respecting unfavorable judgment. While we reserve the right to reject their judgment, we cannot with integrity refuse to acknowledge their judgment.
She also believed you have to pick your battles, and not run headlong into every moral dispute. In the same chapter of The Virtue of Selfishness she explains:
“The policy of always pronouncing moral judgment does not mean that one must regard oneself as a missionary charged with the responsibility of “saving everyone’s soul”—nor that one must give unsolicited moral appraisals to all those one meets. It means: (a) that one must know clearly, in full, verbally identified form, one’s own moral evaluation of every person, issue and event with which one deals, and act accordingly; (b) that one must make one’s moral evaluation known to others, when it is rationally appropriate to do so.
This last means that one need not launch into unprovoked moral denunciations or debates, but that one must speak up in situations where silence can objectively be taken to mean agreement with or sanction of evil.”
This is probably good advice, and yet possibly harder to take in today’s world of social media where one can be exposed to a score of morally and ethically dubious statement within the space of minutes. It’s not hard to encounter any number of specious, even defamatory claims on the internet. Statements claiming that conservatives are fascists or whites are racist, ought not be allowed to pass unchallenged. It would be impossible, therefor not rational, to deal with them all. Being clear in one’s own beliefs helps when contending with such statements and actions effectively.
For more on this topic, you can listen to the podcast episode here.