The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism

ISBN: 0451163931
ISBN 13: 9780451163936
By: Ayn Rand

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Ayn Rand here sets forth the moral principles of Objectivism, the philosophy that holds human life--the life proper to a rational being--as the standard of moral values and regards altruism as incompatible with man's nature, with the creative requirements of his survival, and with a free society.More than 1.3 million copies sold!

Reader's Thoughts

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.

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.

Anna

Dla Ayn Rand najlepiej było by się wyzbyć lub ograniczyć uczucia poza tymi związanymi z egoizmem, a altruizm zostawić tylko na sytuacje krytyczne np. katastrofy samolotów, pociągów czy statków, gdzie ważne jest ratowanie życia drugiego człowieka. Cnota egoizmu pozuje egoizm i kierowanie się rozumem jako najbardziej słuszny pogląd na rzeczywistość. Ayn Rand stworzyła filozofię obiektywistyczną sprzeciwiającą się takim pojęciom, poglądom czy ideologiom jak kolektywizm, nacjonalizm, rasizm i socjalizm. Według filozofki tylko i wyłącznie rozum i logika są potrzebne do poznania. Jednak skrytykowałabym nieuleganie żadnym kompromisom moralnym i uznawaniu ich za zgodę na zło, ponieważ świat nie jest czarno - biały.

Tanya Ivanova

I enjoyed the book. I agree and really like with about 10 % of its content. She is extremely and ungraciously right-wing the rest of the time, but I enjoyed very much her opinions on how a person needs to constantly grow and expand in life in order to stay well with their mental health, also that since humans can self destroy, both mentally and physically, ethics and effective, coherent morality are a survival essential. I resent and find offensive her use of the word 'man', used throughout the book to refer generically to a human being of both sexes, yet understand that was a matter of course at the time when she wrote. Her gushing about the perfectness of capitalism and sanctity and ingenuity all thing American is unrealistic, ridiculous, in fact given that she was a cold war refugee, poor (yet ambitious) and probably at a high risk of being ostracized and marginalized in capitalist America, raises doubts as to whether her extolling of all thing American as divine was not in itself a survival ruse. Overall positive experience with this book.

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.

Anshupriya Goswamy

Recently Right to Education was enacted and intellectuals hailed it as a major success of Indian democracy. As the Indian Govt paves the way for Right to Food Act, I see that there is an increasing need for more people to read this book and realise what they are witnessing is not the victory of Indian democracy over poverty and hunger, a victory of the principles of modern day altruism, the success of government over economic ills.What we are seeing is the constant abdication of private rights to the ruling minority. What we are witnessing is constant flouting of the only two rights that any citizen must have - Right to private property, and right to free trade.India is trudging downhill with increasing economic regulation and moral depravity. And yet our unfocused collective eyes see only perceived success.A must read for those who are young and conscientious.

Tim Weakley

My first introduction into Objectivism. I have to say that a lot of the ideas in these essays appeal to me. Going to read the rest that I have on hand and see if they still appeal as much. As it stands it was very readable. I like the pieces by Rand herself much better than the ones by Brandon. Her writing is a little more clear. It's also more personal. A lot of her thoughts on individualism really speak to me. My only complaint is that it was such a quick read!

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.

Onslow

Want a good laugh?Read "The Argument from Intimidation", the final essay in THE VIRTUE OF SELFISHNESS, then read just about any of the one-star reviews here in which readers offer their "rebuttals" of Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy. You will notice the vast majority of "critiques" are filled with such witticisms as "If anything written by Ayn Rand means a lot to you and you're not going through adolescence you should be ashamed of yourself." This is precisely the kind of meaningless drivel that Rand so astutely predicts in response to her works- totally devoid of any factual analysis, heavy on self-righteous posturing and Begging the Question.This book is a must read for anyone with an open mind who has the mental capacity to understand that "selfishness" doesn't necessarily just mean "I've got mine and screw everyone else". Highly recommended.

Rachel Terry

It's a shock value title because the book is really about individualism vs. collectivism, and if you've read Atlas Shrugged or know about the Russia Rand immigrated from, you know where she stands on that issue.There were a couple of chapters I liked in particular. I liked the discussion about the importance of property rights. Rand asserts that there are no individual rights without property rights. If people cannot claim the fruits of their labors as their own, they are completely at the mercy of the government. There's also no incentive to accept responsibility if you don't have any rights (or only limited rights) to the results of your work. I also liked the chapter on racism quite a bit. Rand says that racism is a primitive form of collectivism. She says that capitalism has done more to eradicate racism than anything else, but as socialism creeps into societies, racism increases. She says that the South lost the Civil War because it couldn't compete with the more efficient, less racist, capitalist North. In the middle of the twentieth century, racism took on a new form as oppression of certain races (which obviously enslaves certain individuals) morphed into quotas (which also enslaves certain individuals). The smallest minority of all is the individual, she says. I like Rand's cool, clear logic, but I do have a couple of criticisms. First, at the end of some of her chapters, her crisp logic gives way to a multiple paragraph emotional run up that ends with a dramatic metaphor about murder or destruction. I know you're passionate, Rand, but get a hold of yourself. Also, it seems a bit arrogant to repeatedly quote a person (even if he is stunningly handsome and reportedly the smartest person in the world) who is actually a fictional character of your own devising (John Galt). All in all, for a book on philosophy, I thought it was exceptionally interesting and well done. If she's looking down on her beloved America right now, I'm sure she's shaking her head and saying, "I told you so."

Stephen

This book is a collection of essays, which implement Ayn Rand's philosophy: objectivism. Not only does the book provide a great exercise in inductive and deductive logic, but it furnishes the reader with necessary tools to observe the fallacies in many societal norms. At the heart of her argument is a plead for individualism--without individualism (and individuals) every facet of our life will slowly decay to some conformist rubbish

Tim

Altruism ain't all its cracked up to be.Although she tends to take things a bit too far, Rand touches on an often overlooked point of life: we are the ones best-equipped to care for ourselves. It is a wonderful and necessary aspect of humanity when we chose to show charity and care for others, but when is it appropriate to sacrifice ourselves for the well-being of another? You would jump into a rushing river to save your child, but would you do the same for an elderly stranger? A young stranger? An animal? The question eventually becomes not where to draw the line but WHO draws the line. Government have sometimes appealed to altruism to foster policies that in fact were harmful to the populace. Who decides?

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.

jessica

This book once meant a lot to me. When I was 15. If anything written by Ayn Rand means a lot to you and you're not going through adolescence, you should be ashamed of yourself. Yeah, I know I sound like a self-righteous douchebag, but seriously. Give me a break.

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.

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