The Virtue of Selfishness

ISBN: 0451113837
ISBN 13: 9780451113832
By: Ayn Rand

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Reader's Thoughts

Kathleen

I abhor her overzealous approach to capitalism; however I find it fascinating to see that when she focuses this same mentality away from money and towards interpersonal interactions, it becomes palatable. The virtue of selfishness says that no-one is more selfish than the so called selfless person, because evertything that they do, they do seeking approval for others. Conversely, that there is nothing more selfless that pure selfishness because by being true to yourself you contruibute the most to society. Read the book, she explains it better than me. She should....it is her philosophy.

Michael Connolly

The concept of selfishness as it is used in day-to-day conversation is not the kind of selfishness that Ayn Rand is promoting. The common meaning of selfishness is a person who cares only about himself and not at all about others. Ayn Rand has never praised such a person. What Ayn Rand is promoting is the idea that the morally virtuous person cares primarily about himself, and secondarily about others. She also believes that one should care about only a limited number of others, only people one knows and respects. She believes that all the individual owes to strangers is not to do them harm, except in self defense. Her morality is not a license to kill, steal and lie, just a license to ignore the suffering of strangers if one is not a cause of their suffering. To feel a more general obligation to help, is, she believes, to accept an unearned responsibility, and unearned guilt. But she does believe in a kind of charity, although she would not call it that. It is where one gives to another, receiving nothing in return, except the knowledge that one has helped a person one values and admires. She believes in compassion, but compassion only for the innocent. If by pity, we mean feeling sorry for evil people, then we can say that Ayn Rand does not believe in pity. When Ayn Rand discusses altruism, she does not define altruism as helping others. If so, then when she says that altruism is evil, she would mean that helping others is evil. Instead, Ayn Rand defines altruism to mean the moral philosophy that holds that an act is evil if it helps oneself and good if it helps others. Ayn Rand does not believe that all acts to help oneself are automatically evil, and she does not believe that all acts to help others are automatically good. Ayn Rand objects to the assertion that the essence of virtue is to favor others over oneself. Ayn Rand believes that the essence of virtue is to attempt to see the world the way it really is, instead of lying to oneself, because it is only by being reality-oriented that one can improve ones life.

Marshall

This book summarizes Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism. I really like many of the values Objectivism champions: reason, ethics, self-love, self-esteem, self-reliance, individualism, joy, and pleasure. But emphasizing these in absolute terms, as polar opposites to other qualities, creates a lot of problems.Like most Western philosophers, Rand is a dualistic thinker, which I find simplistic. To her, value and morality are objective, inherent in human nature. There is Self and Other, Moral and Immoral, Good and Evil, Right and Wrong, and one should never hesitate to cast judgment on those who are Wrong, or compromise in the slightest bit on these fundamental values. Nations that are Right may invade nations that are Wrong, and impose their morality on that nation, because Wrong nations are outlaws. Of course, Ayn Rand is the authority on Right and Wrong, although this is neatly couched in the claim that her advocated morality is objective.She seems to be reacting against a world that I'm unfamiliar with--a world divided between creative people who just want to do their thing, and parasites who just want to steal all their hard work. Fleeing as she did from Soviet Russia, I get this. So maybe I'm just a spoiled American, but I've never seen the world divided in this way. Ironically, most of the parasitism I'm aware of are by corporations, for which Rand advocates nearly zero regulation. Much of the property they steal or pollute is inherently communal, impossible to divide and protect in the way Rand advocates. Rand believes the only rights are individual rights, that there is no such thing as a collective.Objectivism also distinguishes between selfishness and a hive mentality that she calls altruism. Maybe I'm being thrown off by the word "selfishness," which she admits she uses for shock value. She does believe in ethics, and says that selfishness would make the world a better place, though she never explains why in this book. But even with a strong code of ethics, focusing on self-interest misses out on the full possibilities of love and compassion, which can be learned and practiced, and encompasses and requires self-love. That is what altruism is for me. There are few places besides Rand's writing that I've seen altruism equated with self-sacrifice. How can someone be of service unless they have their own needs met and they find joy in it? Maybe that's all Rand is trying to say, but if so, then I admit I've misunderstood her, which is apparently common among her readers.

Gene Wagendorf III

I didn't really get this book when I first read it, but having read it multiple time since, it's become like a bible. Rand outlines her Objectivist philosophy and explains the concept of rational self-interest. This book will turn you into an asshole once you read it, someone will smack you, you'll read it again, pick up the part everyone misses (about morality being intrinsic, not non-existent) and then you'll live a happier, more whimsical life.

Colin Gabriel

I heard it will make you an asshole.. I can't waiton a side note I have a problem with reading while driving

Kelly Murray

A guilt-free guide on why catering to one's own rational self-interest is imperative to one's happiness. The title alone was enough to keep me from reading it for a while (why? You guessed it, guilt). Once again, Rand flips the coin and shows you why being selfish is actually a GOOD thing and how letting guilt and altruism be your driving motives is BAD.

Kevin J. Rogers

Ayn Rand was one of the most controversial thinkers--and successful fiction writers--of the 20th Century. Her detractors would claim that there is little to distinguish her fiction from her philosophy: that both are the result of a fantasist's distorted perspective on the world, tainted by an extreme egoism and fueled by some rather profound delusions. Her supporters would claim that it is the world as we know it that is distorted, mostly through the insidious influence of the philosophy of altruism, and that Miss Rand's philosophy is the only antidote to a world gone mad and hurtling toward an orgy of self-destruction. (This kind of extreme, polemical speech is fairly common in Randian discourse, no matter which side you are on.) The truth, as in most cases, lies somewhere in the middle. Miss Rand (as she is always referred to by her followers) was the founder of the philosophy of Objectivism. She presented that philosophy in a series of novels, the culminating magnum opus of which was Atlas Shrugged, a sprawling neo-scifi quasi-futurist melodrama that has become a perennial bestseller since its publication in 1957. (The Fountainhead, which I think is a far superior book from a strictly literary perspective, came out in 1943, and was intended, in her words, to be "a portrayal of the ideal man".) Critics savaged Atlas Shrugged almost immediately, but the public took a kinder view of it, and Miss Rand, after a period of depression caused by the lack of serious consideration of her work in academic circles, founded an organization (now known as The Ayn Rand Institute) to promote her philosophy. That organization published a monthly newsletter throughout the 1960's to explain the philosophy in greater detail; Ayn Rand's contributions (and those of her chosen heir, Nathaniel Branden) were then collected into a series of short books further explaining Objectivism in greater detail. The Virtue of Selfishness is one of those books. And there is much to admire here. Objectivism is based on the belief that reality is real--"A is A"--and that alone is a welcome change from the gibberish that one often encounters in the more esoteric philosophical discussions. The problem is that Miss Rand believes that in life, regardless of the circumstances, A is always A, and it is her "A" which is the correct one. (There is a famous exchange she had during a Q & A on an episode of the Phil Donahue Show, where a guest asked her if she thought she was perfect. "In terms of adhering to my philosophy at all times," she said, "yes, I am." The crowd exploded in hoots of derision. She just laughed at them. And this was in the Felt Forum in Madison Square Garden, with an attendance in the thousands. Say what you will, the woman had guts.) And that's a crucial flaw in the philosophy: to use logic to always come up with the right answer, as though life were a math problem, one must always have all the facts--all the inputs--and in life that is rarely the case. Most of the time we spend in doubt, trying to guess what "A" really is, or going forward on the basis of our experience and intuition. Miss Rand would call this mysticism; most other people would call it "life". There is a distinct lack of humor and compassion here, as well. Neither of those values have a place in Objectivism, because the standard in Objectivism is always the same: rational self-interest. Everything in Objectivism is self-referential; how one feels about--or what one does for--another individual is based solely on that individual's place in one's own hierarchy of values. It is anathema to the Objectivist to suggest that there is a moral obligation to help someone in, say, a foreign country, even if the means are available to do so. And it is certainly immoral to suggest that society as a whole (meaning, of course, government) has a moral obligation to provide a social safety net for those who have been born ill-equipped to face the challenges of living in a modern society, or into familial or social circumstances which render it nearly impossible to develop into fully contributory citizens. Perhaps worst of all, though, is the idea that any sense of humor about oneself--any form of self-deprecating wit, or sign of humility--is somehow a betrayal of one's very soul. (There is that extremism again.) It sometimes seems, in reading Rand, that she has modeled the perfect human on Dr. Spock of Star Trek fame, which is unfortunate, given that the good Doctor was an alien. But there is, as always when dealing with Miss Rand, another side to the story. As much as professional philosophers ridicule her as being a crackpot--and there are, admittedly, some howlers in there--for most people (who, frankly, themselves would consider most professional philosophers to be crackpots) there is a great deal of practical appeal in Objectivism, and for good reason: as Miss Rand so succinctly puts it, Objectivism is a philosophy "for living life here on Earth". There is very little angels-on-pinheads speculation here, very little that is off the point. Her focus is always concentrated on the here and now, the reality of living as experienced by individuals every day, and as such there is a great deal of utility in reading her work. To adopt her philosophy wholly is, ironically enough, to abdicate one's individuality, since she always insisted that her philosophy was "perfect" and had to be accepted in its entirety, exactly as she promulgated it. (If you're wondering whether or not there is a high degree of cult-like devotion in the Randian world, the answer is yes.) But if one is willing to think for oneself there is value in reading her work, and The Virtue of Selfishness is a good place to start.

sologdin

Part II of multi-part review series.Reading Rand reminds me of teaching freshman composition at university years ago. There’s not nearly as many spelling errors, but Rand’s pronouncements bear all the markers of severe Dunning-Kruger effect: under-researched, un-theorized, insufficiently self-aware. There are many problems arising out of this basic failure to engage the long tradition of writings which she blindly attacks.For instance, this text has a tendency to adopt dogmatic solecisms, such as “In popular usage, the word ‘selfishness’ is a synonym of evil” (vii)--uh, not really. This is a nasty problem throughout the volume. A second major problem is that text constructs its problematic without reference to the history of discourse on any given issue. Though there is blithe reference to certain writers on occasion, there is no specific analysis of or rigorous citation to the actual writings of the major interlocutors. There are nondescript, distorting references to Nietzsche, Heraclitus, and others, but no evidence that the writings of these persons have been assimilated. The only evidence that is cited is anecdotal: “observe the fortunes made by insurance companies” (49) as proof that “catastrophes are the exception” (the wrong inference when discussing risk management, to be honest), or speaking to a strawperson on a plane one time (123-24).So, for example, we are solemnly informed that “No philosopher has given a rational, objectively demonstrable, scientific answer to the question of why man needs a code of values” (14). Instead of citation to other writers, the text consistently cites “Galt’s speech” grossly (rather than to specific components of it). (After a tortured process, her answer to the fake question is extremely bathetic, boiling down to the problem “what are the values [human] survival requires?” (22).) A third problem: the text presents a continuous chain of non-sequiturs. Taking the previously cited bit, the immediately following sentence is “So long as that question remained unanswered, no rational, scientific, objective code of ethics could be discovered or defined” (14). Huh? I suppose, therefore, that’s the reason no prior interlocutor need be considered in detail; we just sweep 2,500 years of discussion off the table by fiat.A fourth issue: text displays a spenglerian refrain, in order to set up the fake place of intervention convenient to the author, that “the world is now collapsing to a lower and even lower rung of hell” (15). See also: moral grayness as “one of the most eloquent symptoms of the moral bankruptcy of today’s culture” (75). It’s a joke, though, as acknowledged toward the end: “It is true that the moral state of mankind is dangerously low. But if one considers the monstrous moral inversions of the governments (made possible by the altruist-collectivist mentality [!]) under which mankind has had to live through most of its history, one begins to wonder how men managed to preserve even a semblance of civilization” (114). One wonders indeed! If these conditions have obtained throughout history, then it’s not really dire at all, and perhaps, maybe, shouldn’t the principles that lead to the conclusion of crisis be re-evaluated? Should not the fact that civilization has existed against this doctrine that civilization can’t have existed invalidate the doctrine? Is it not the cardinal principle of objectivism that existence exists, A=A? And like that, the allegedly philosophical facade of Rand's house of crap collapses into mere mean-spirited shamanism, consistent with the kindergarten mantra, Mine!Fifth issue: deployment of important terms dogmatically without explanation, even though the rest of us know that the terms are burdened by much dialogue: e.g., “it is the principle that no man may obtain any values from others without the owners’ consent” (111). There is no discussion of what ownership or consent is or how they came to be. Nevermind that factory owner built factory with moneys acquired through inheritance from estate built on slavery and slaughter of natives. No, that’s irrelevant. What matters is that heir now owns factory and does not agree to be taxed so that mooching looter disabled parasites won‘t starve.The argument develops typically by initiating a fake crisis, then adopts a bizarre definition, deploys unexamined terminology, and piles up non-sequiturs on top of it, often filled with further bizarre definitions and unexamined terms. It just spirals out of control, and the number of errors defies easy counting, especially when the argument becomes historical.Text most anxiously wants to throw collectivism under the bus, but is unable to get away from some weirdnesses, such as the moronic definition, “altruism, the ethical theory which regards man as a sacrificial animal, which holds that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is the highest moral duty, virtue, and value” (34). Nevermind that no actual “altruist” text is cited for any of these propositions (it’s an ambiguous straw person, really)--the real problem is the aporetic invective against poorly defined “collectivism” while deploying without irony idealist collectivisms such as “man,” which is the barbaric way to refer to homo sapiens, one supposes. That barbarism aside, it is incongruous that text suggests “man” as a collective has rights, whereas we later have an entire essay militating against group rights.“The fact that a living entity is, determines what it ought to do. So much for the issue of the relation between ‘is’ and ‘ought’” (17)--which is beyond cavalier in handling Hume.In contrast with animals, humans have “reason,” “the process of thinking” (an odd equation), “a faculty that man has to exercise by choice” (20). Lest this be confused: “The act of focusing one’s consciousness is volitional” (20-21), against which we might lodge, inter alia, the critique of volition found in Ryle’s The Concept of Mind. But note well the contradiction between the dogmatic bizarre definition and the non-sequitur inference that follows: on the one hand, humans differ from animals insofar as they have reason via “the process of thinking,” i.e., thinking itself is sufficient for reason, which is bizarre and solipsistic. But reason, which is presented as the distinguishing feature of humans, is really volitional, which means that it is not present in all human persons, as some will “choose“ not to think or exercise the faculty of reason--this latter is the fundamental point of departure for the text ( the “no philosopher” bit, supra).Text presents survival “by imitating and repeating, like trained animals, the routine sounds and motions they learned from others” as being a “mental parasite” (23). And yet, just prior to this uber-producerist fantasy is the likewise unevidenced proclamation that “the standard of value of Objectivist ethics--the standard by which one judges what is good and what is evil--is man’s life: that which is required for man’s survival qua man” (id.). So, to complete the syllogism: survival by imitation, by being a mental parasite, is consistent with the standard of objectivist ethics, which is rooted in survival. This absurd result was not intended, but it’s illustrative of the poor conceptualization. Similarly, “looters are parasites incapable of survival” (id.)--but you just said “If some men attempt to survive by means of brute force or fraud, by looting, robbing, cheating or enslaving the men who produce, it still remains true that their survival is made possible only by their victims” (id.) (emphasis added)?Without any rationale, “the only proper, moral purpose of government is to protect man’s rights” (NB: collective rights-holder), which boils down to “without property rights, no other rights are possible” (33). This pronouncement is made ex nihilo--there is no presentation to warrant these two conclusions. It’s just goal-oriented dogmatism. Critique could proceed, matching each sentence in this text with several sentences of commentary. It really is a mess of stupidity, and requires some effort to untangle. We see that “one must never sacrifice one’s convictions to the opinions or wishes of others” (26), which is the fascist’s refusal to compromise. “There can be no compromise on moral principles” (70).Just as rich people have “self made wealth,” objectivists are apparently “self made souls” (27). At various other loci, though, we will be informed that nothing is causeless, that only death-choosers believe in effects without causes. Again: very poorly conceived. We are likewise told that “man chooses his values” (28), which strikes me as the worst sort of causelessness.We are given the pre-capitalist trader as the emblem of justice: “a man who earns what he gets and does not give or take the undeserved” (31). None of the key concepts are given much content, such as “earnings” or “desert,” except, apparently, an unexamined and vulgar market value. It’s all very philistine.We are told that “illness and poverty are not metaphysical emergencies” (48), so all of you dirty little poor persons can rest peacefully now.One of Rand’s real defrects is that she has no understanding of law. (That’s one reason, incidentally, that the plot of The Fountainhead is so stupid.) We are told, e.g., that “just as a judge in a court of law may err, when the evidence is inconclusive, but may not evade the evidence available, nor accept bribes, nor allow any personal feeling, emotion, desire, or fear to obstruct his mind’s judgment of the facts of reality--so every rational person must maintain an equally strict and solemn integrity in the courtroom within his own mind” (71). This is not reflective of how law works. The judiciary does not err when the evidence is inconclusive; that circumstance by definition means that the plaintiff’s case must fail, as the moving party’s evidence has failed to preponderate, being equally balanced by the evidence in opposition. Judicial errors are legal errors, such as the application of the wrong rule of decision, or improper analysis under the correct standard. This is revealing, too, metaphorically: just as Rand does not understand how law works, her envisioning of legal errors as simply arising out of inconclusive evidence is emblematic of how her “philosophy” has failed to consider the proper analytic standard. I doubt that objectivism spends much time cogitating on its own assumptions; that would be death-choosing inner conflict and moral grayness.Another recurrent mantra is the oddity that “to be imposed by political means” is equated with “by force” (81). Taxation or regulation by the state is therefore equated with armed robbery. This is a nasty bit of mendacity, however. Just as the relation between state and citizen always has force underlying it, so too do private relations between, say, employer and employee. The Randian will not acknowledge this, and will insist that voluntary contracts are pure and have no force under them. Meanwhile, the proper function of government is to “protect property” (33). When faced with starvation, unemployed worker will accept what employer offers, as the alternatives are to invade the property that the state protects, or to die. It is an evil for the state to “expropriate the labor” via taxation for the purpose of space exploration (i.e., a project too risky for private capital to undertake), but fine, because “voluntary,” for the employer to expropriate the employee. It is asserted, without any citation to any law or authority, that “no human rights can exist without property rights” (91). As a matter of law, this is manifestly, idiotically erroneous--property rights are simply one component of rights in general, and we can have property regimes wherein rights themselves are not conceived as properties. (In capitalist law, rights themselves are properties, and with some important exceptions, can be alienated: property is therefore a collection of rights, each of which is a property, &c. don’t ask Rand to understand any of this, though.) Rand’s failure to read any law is on display, though, in such categorical assertions as “rights are a moral concept” (92)--which is completely erroneous. Rights are creatures of law, period. Whatever they may be in morality, there are no rights sans law--and rights in law may be worthless if there are no remedies (such as the weak remedies for Fourth Amendment violations make that beautiful set of rights somewhat worthless).She is of course not completely wrong in one instance in this volume: “The essential characteristic of socialism is the denial of individual property rights” (86)--though we may quibble that the individual right to own the means of production is what socialism denies. She goes on to state that “under socialism, the right to property is vested in ‘society as a whole’” (id.), which allegation is simultaneously wrong and true of anywhere. Again, a problem of having no knowledge of law: capitalist law vests title in property owners, but title is not absolute--it is always a measure of what the public will allow. Gone are the days of quiritary and allodial title--though I suspect that Rand would reach back into the past for these concepts, had she any exposure to law or history.Instead of explanations with evidence, the text tends to rely further on coarse pop psychology assumptions, such as “What then is the motive of [socialist] intellectuals? Power-lust. Power-lust--as the manifestation of helplessness, or self-loathing, and of the desire for the unearned” (88). It’s amateurish, citing no actual socialist writings. This parasite “derives his illusion of greatness […] from the power to dispose of that which he has not earned” (89). The comedy is unintentional, as I’m sure this writer has not read any Marx--but this is a similar critique of capitalist relations via the theories of surplus value and commodity fetishism (minus the dumb faux psychology).We find that “socialism is merely democratic absolute monarchy”(91), which reveals the total contempt for egalitarianism in this text. By contrast, we are told that the US “was the first moral society in history” (93); the only proof of this is the Declaration of Independence (95), which is of course not law. What is the content of this morality in the US? It was “the pattern of a civilized society which--for the brief span of some hundred and fifty years--America came close to achieving” (95). What ended it? “America’s inner contradiction was the altruist-collectivist ethics,” of course (id). Her timeline of US freedom pricks something in the back of my mind. What could those 150 years mean? Was it the altruist ethics of abolishing chattel slavery, maybe? Further, it was not capitalism that abolished chattel slavery through its own alleged ongoing enlightenment, but the state through the use of force against private property owners. Rand loves to use “slavery” as a metaphor, referring to the slavery of taxation and regulation, the slavery of socialism and in Soviet Russia. She makes no mention of chattel slavery under the capitalism that she adores. It is a telling blind spot. But we never approached this text expecting honesty. An example of further dishonesty: the divine right of kings is held up as an example of altruist-collectivist ethics (103). It’s accordingly like an Onion article. When Rand does discuss racism, it is denounced as a collectivism, but no mention of US capitalist slave trade is mentioned. (In that essay, though racism is denounced, the current “Negro leaders” are still villains, and the “worst breach of property rights” is the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (134). No shit!)Further Onion article: “unilateral breach of contract involves an indirect use of force” (111). This is a dangerous admission for Rand, who wants to make state action itself force. Here, though, a private action involving no vi et armis is glibly purported to be force. Would this rationale then apply to employer-employee relations? (Doubtful for Rand--but certainly for everyone with sense.) Text is mixed authorship; five of the essays are by newsletter editor Branden, who deploys pop psych Galtisms to fight the death-choosers. It’s very cute.Overall, one of the worst books ever written. Go read for comedy’s sake, or if you suffer from chronic orthostatic hypotension and need to get your blood pressure back up.

Mark

Ayn Rand's philosophy, Objectivism, is often misinterpreted and misused, without ever being studied or even read. Often, the argument is that 'capitalism' has failed, and therefore Rand's philosophy is a failure as well. This is a strawman argument at best. The Virtue of Selfishness, as provocative a title as the book may have, is a philosophical synopsis of the application of Rand's philosophy, objectivism; it is not Rand's philosophy in itself.Those that have read Rand know that her writing style is straight-forward, holding no bars against those that she disagrees with while at the same time providing valid arguments in a clear and concise manner. The virtue of selfishness, to clarify, is the proposition that altruistic behaviors promote individual slavery to the masses, and that such slavery undercuts any social, intellectual or individual progress. For this reason, Rand is sometimes deemed a 'conservative', which is far from the truth. I would recommend this book, but with the suggestion that one read "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology" first.

Christopher

This book by novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand, (author of "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead") is an ethical treatise on her philosophy of Objectivism, which sets out the principles of rational egoism—selfishness—and is the answer to thousands of years of the ethics of self-sacrifice—altruism. This morality is based on the needs of man’s survival, with one’s self as the standard of value, (hence selfishness,) and the pursuit of one’s own happiness as the moral ideal. Or, to quote Miss Rand: "My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute."This book contains many incisive essays on how American culture is inundated with primitive philosophical ideals, and needs nothing less than a moral revolution.

Dave

After reading Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, I started this and was thinking- Oh boy, another collection of articles from Rand's Objectivist newsletter. Turns out there is a lot of good stuff here. The theme that runs through these essays is much the same as Unknown Ideal, as well as all of Rand's other works: In a truly free society, the individual is all-important. No man should be sacrificed, in whole or in part, for the benefit of another.There are two articles here that I think many would find thought-provoking, even those who claim to hate Rand's philosophy:"How Does One Lead a Rational Life in an Irrational Society?"Answer: "One must never fail to pronounce moral judgment." Sounds pretty self-righteous and arrogant, but what Rand is saying is that if you see something happening that you know is wrong, it is immoral not to speak out against it."Racism"It's hard to imagine that anyone (okay, at least anyone who is not a member of the Aryan Nations) could read this and not think that it is dead on. In brief: Every man, regardless of race, should be judged on his merits.

Nicole

I rated this book with two stars, meaning 'it was ok', because, very simply, I understand Rand's philosophy and why she flung herself wholeheartedly into it. I understand ethical egoism and individualism and moral objectivism. I understand the desire for all men and women to act morally and to think rationally. I understand her distaste for collectivism. I understand her predictions regarding capitalism. I can fully conceptualize the virtue of selfishness.But I cannot internalize it.Rand makes the same mistake that she so adamantly condemns. She assumes that all individuals can and will act in rational and predictable ways if given the opportunity. For Rand, the opportunity can be provided by capitalism. For her despised collectivists, the opportunity can be provided by socialism, this within the framework of her own philosophy, of course. For her second major mistake was in assuming that socialism is the whole that can be defined by any number of various collective institutions that exist, in reality or theory, in the world today.Rand begins by defining a number of concepts in terms of her philosophy of objectivism. In order to continue reading, the reader must accept her definitions of value, ethics, and morality, amongst other things. The reader must also agree with a couple of her original premises: That the only way to be perfectly moral is to pursue ones own self interests and personal goals to the exclusion of all else and that biological and cultural predisposition is fundamentally unfounded. If one accepts these assertions, all else follows with some discussion.That is, if one is willing to accept the same sort of idealism that Rand criticizes. The reader, or philosopher, must be willing to accept a number of contradictions inherent in Rand's arguments. The contradictions are not readily apparent because Rand obscures them by building assertions on flawed premises. Rand asserts, for example, that altruism is detrimental to the beneficiary of the deed, evidenced by the likely altruistic intent of fascist dictators like Stalin and Mao Zedong whose deeds resulted in millions of lost lives. From this original premise, it follows that Rand's selfishness is the only universally moral truth. However, the premise itself is flawed and therefore that which follows is also flawed. Altruism certainly has the potential to be disasterous but self interest is certainly disasterous. One must, like Rand, dismiss the importance of culture and biology in order to reject the idea that self interest damages the individual. What the philosopher then overlooks is his/her identity as the natural member of a group. Rand rejects that natural groups exist. Humans are social animals. This is inarguable. But in order to accept Rand's premises, one must argue it.Humans are social animals. Our lives depend on the presence of others. At birth we depend on our mothers, throughout our lives we depend on other humans. We cannot function without external cultural input. Our lives are our own, yes, but cultural investment, what Rand refers to as altruism, is an unavoidable element of our existence.

Gregg Bell

Ayn Rand is an event. She had one of the most astute and utterly confident minds of all time. Whether she's right about what she thinks is a different story. But make no mistake--Ayn Rand thinks about thinking. She is a true intellectual.That said, I think "The Virtue of Selfishness" is not her strongest effort. For starters it has an uncharacteristically provocative title. Which is okay, but when a title is too sensationalistic (a la Ivan Boesky's "Greed is good.") I'm always skeptical. There are merits to the book, though. Anything written by Ayn Rand has substantial merits.So is it good to be selfish? Read the book. (Just kidding.) Rand would say yes. But not simply or cavalierly but with sound reasons and substantial elaboration. Perhaps a better term for what Rand is calling 'selfishness' might be 'enlightened self interest.' But she's right on the money with much of her logic. In a chapter called "How does one lead a rational life in an irrational society" she examines the necessity to make choices that all people face and how to evade such responsibility is the true nature of evil. Her insights, as always, are razor sharp. For instance: "Indiscriminate tolerance and indiscriminate condemnation are not two opposites: they are two variants of the same evasion."Rand addresses society's tendency to hold down, to make the hard-working, thinking, responsibility-taking person feel guilty, when in reality logic demands that the opposite should be the case. People should be proud of their efforts and what they've produced. Not say they are sorry for being a success. She is the ultimate free marketerian, believing a meritocracy is the only fair way of living in society. She's a little myopic at times. In fact, her moral philosophy "objectivism" has not a few holes in it. But nevertheless her defense of her principles is based on reasons, not conjecture or belief. And I find that to be refreshing.In her way she is a cheerleader for people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and make their lives happen. Witness this passage:"Every achievement of man is a value in itself, but it is also a stepping-stone to greater achievements and values. Life is growth; not to move forward, is to fall backward; life remains life, only so long as it advances. Every step upward opens to man a wider range of action and achievement--and creates the need for that action and achievement. There is no final, permanent "plateau." The problem of survival is never "solved," once and for all, with no further thought or motion required. More precisely, the problem of survival is solved, by recognizing that survival demands constant growth and creativeness."Have you worked hard to achieve something? Be proud of it. Were you well compensated for it? Enjoy it. You worked for it. You deserve it. This is Rand's philosophy, and if this is selfishness, than selfishness is indeed a virtue.

Marlenecabada

I found this book to be worth reading.After twenty one years of sacrificing my life and raising two arrogant teenagers who remain ungrateful for my efforts.I understand what Rand is trying to say.We cant always do all the giving because we will end up spent with nothing to show for it.We must nurture ourselves always, in this way we will have inner strength and the ability to get through life regardless what may come our way. I disagree that her philosophy is founded on a Dr. Spok mentality.Her philosophy, while seeming extremely logical does have many valid points.The principle that "One must never fail to pronounce moral judgement" is one that requires our intellectual as well as emotional ability to be able to discern what exactly we perceive as being right or wrong, and someone who is exercising this ability is to my understanding,very much in touch with their emotions,but I can understand why a lot of people would want to take her philosophy in small doses.Our American society is based on a degree of selflessness.Marked by many revolutions,however were not the founding fathers practicing Rand's philosophy when making a moral judgement by fighting for our rights to freedom from the Opressive British Crown? Were they biting the hand that fed them and being ungrateful? I suppose you can say that they were purely selfish in believing that they were worthy enough to have human rights.That is why we are a great nation. Rand's "Virtue of Selfishness" seems to ring true in many respects for me.

♥ Ibrahim ♥

This woman, Ayn Rand, is more bizarre than bizarre can ever be! Who in the big, wide world would be in his right mind and still write a book to praise selfishness?! As if to be self-centered needs to be praised or called even virtuous! And she calls that philosophy! But with that spirit in which she praises selfishness you will find that a common theme in all of her writings. Look at Emmanuel Levinas,a real philosophers who never ceases to assure us that the "others" are we and for others we are to be. What kind of life is that when you live it, far and wide, praising selfishness? But only Ayn Rand can do that and call that philosophy!

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