The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism

ISBN: 0451163931
ISBN 13: 9780451163936
By: Ayn Rand

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About this book

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

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.

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.

Jenny

This book was perhaps the most important book in my life when I was a teenager. It was the first time I was exposed to the notion of rational self-interest and the first time I discerned the deep flaws in what I had been raised to believe wrt goodness and virtue. In this book, Rand essentially told me "everything you've been told is wrong and bad for you and here's why." I ate it up then, and it's informed much of my thinking since.

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.

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.

Mike

As many readers have pointed out, the title to this book is slightly misleading as most people have been indoctrinated to believe that selfishness is akin to evil, antisocial behavior. Rand points out that being selfish has caught a bad rap as everyone is actually selfish at heart, and to be otherwise would be to commit suicide for the sake of your fellow man. Selfishness, according to Rand, is the act of putting one's survival as their top priority, but without causing direct harm to any other individual. In other words no man has the right to murder someone to steal their food, just the same as no man has the right to expect his fellow man to provide food for him. Simply put, man's highest goal is to sustain his own life, and he should expect to have to do so by his own means; and whether you hate or love Ayn Rand and her philosophy, this is a hard point to argue with. While there are some saintly people out there who give everything they can spare to those less fortunate than them, there is nobody that dies of starvation in order to hand their last morsel of food to a hungry stranger. Rand argues that this type of all-out altruism would be destructive for the individual, for a rational, free-thinking society, and for progress at large. With all this being said, I admit that by no means do I agree with everything that she puts forth in her Objectivist Ethics; however, I do find her philosophy very intriguing and provocative, and a very interesting counterpoint to so much of the Eastern philosophy that I read.

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.

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."

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.

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!

♥ 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!

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.

Colleen Clark

I thought at age 70 with Paul Ryan all in the news I ought to read a little Ayn Rand. Having 0 interest in a long novel I picked this out from among my husband's books.Straw men set up and knocked down. An insult to a serious reader.Taxation should be voluntary? etc.Basically she's arguing against the USSR, which she left in 1926 in her early 20's. Smart decision. The USSR finally collapsed under the weight of its own incompetence and inability to have a modern economy and allow its citizens rights.If you're not already into it, don't bother.

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

Robert

The title of the book is slightly misleading as most people have no true philosophical understanding of what is "selfishness", immediately thinking of the irrational blanket understanding of individuals acting in grotesque mockery of true self interest, often harming themselves in the process. Her contention is that such people are not selfish enough, for if they were truly selfish, they would have their true self-interest at heart and are therefor acting irrationally and not selfish at all. Think instead for the title of this book: "The virtue of rational self-interest" and you will understand it better. This means The ability to choose voluntary cooperation from a rational appraisal of value, along with its opposite or the freedom to not associate with people we do not value. This is the freedom of contract, and the Non-aggression principle coupled with a theory of value based judgment with your own life as the basis for that value. If you start with an end goal of a successful and rationally fulfilled life as the standard of your values, you will not seek anything which is not value, and therefor you will not seek those things which are irrational or conducive to your end goal. Rand explains the self defeating impossible contradiction inherent within all systems of ethics which start with Altruism, and how such philosophies contributed and continue to create the worst atrocities the world has ever witnessed, and that because the basis of their values is the irrational, they create impossible contradictions and seek to gain fulfillment by destruction. She explains that all men who seek to practice any form of altruism are walking time-bombs of emotional psychologically scarred and repressed schisms and how this ultimately irrational goal destroys the people who attempt it, dragging society along with them.

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