The Virtue of Selfishness

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Mere whim-fulfillment is therefore not constitutive of human well-being because one's whims might be at odds with one's actual needs. Moreover, the character traits of the "selfish" brute are not compatible with any human being's actual, rational interests. Humans live in a social world; in order to maximize the value of their interactions with others, they should cultivate a firm commitment to the virtues of rationality, justice, productiveness, and benevolence. A commitment to these virtues naturally precludes such brutish behavior. For the Objectivist view of benevolence and its component virtues—civility, sensitivity, and generosity—see David Kelley's Unrugged Individualism: The Selfish Basis of Benevolence.

To elaborate on the second point: Rand argues that the conventional understanding of selfishness implies an altruistic framework for thinking about ethics. Within this framework, the question "Who is the beneficiary of this act? Rand writes, "[A]ltruism permits no concept of a self-respecting, self-supporting man—a man who supports his own life by his own effort and neither sacrifices himself nor others…it permits no concept of benevolent co-existence among men…it permits no concept of justice" VOS , p.

For her, the truly selfish person is a self-respecting, self-supporting human being who neither sacrifices others to himself nor sacrifices himself to others. This value-orientation is brilliantly dramatized in the character of Howard Roark in The Fountainhead. The further elements of selfishness—the character traits that, when translated into action, implement a concern for one's own real interests—are discussed and illustrated in that work, in Atlas Shrugged , and throughout Rand's non-fiction.


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Finally, one might ask why Ayn Rand chose to use the term "selfish" to designate the virtuous trait of character described above rather than to coin some new term for this purpose. This is an interesting question. Probably, Rand wished to challenge us to think through the substantial moral assumptions that have infected our ethical vocabulary. I enjoy this book for what it is. My life was made richer by it, and it will always remain one of my favorite reads of all time. Startling, in that this work, combined with Atlas Shrugged, shines a beacon on the life of men in such a way that causes a sincere and thorough examination of that which drives me, in my search for excellence and productivity as a man.

I had not previously been presented with such a reasonable and clearly spoken verbal picture of the choice all men must make, every day of their lives, often many times a day, between the parasitic versus the creative mindset, and the resulting actions that naturally follow that demonstrate the truth of the decisions we make in each moment. My chosen daily occupation as a builder grants me endless opportunity to make these choices and observe the results of each one, in the viewing of the finished product I have created, and the reception of it by those who are to use what I've built.

I can say, resoundingly and without hesitation, that the ideology Ayn Rand has elucidated upon in Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged are without doubt the recipe to living a hero's life of accomplishment and confident honesty. Her description of the tactics and motives of the parasite class connected lots of dots for me that I had previously wondered about what's wrong with that guy that he would allow himself to build such wretched garbage? What's wrong with the telecom company that it uses intentionally dishonest marketing tactics to squeeze a few extra cents a month from their customers?

How can "government officials" wink and turn a blind eye on horrifyingly immoral conduct by huge lending institutions who make it their policy to use predatory and openly fraudulent methods to confiscate property that the owners of depend upon for their shelter and livelihood? My gratitude to Ayn Rand for helping me along the path to the beginnings of wisdom, and a clearer path forward as a creative force on the planet called earth.

I've read "Atlas Shrugged" years ago. It was a novel that changed my life. It is like going against religion. The book itself deserves five stars. I've noticed patterns and even complete lines that were later found in Atlas Shrugged but it is an amazing worship to the human individualism and might. If someone asked me what this book is about, I might answer "why, you and I, the humans, are great". It feels like someone you can identify with and it is impossible not to love.

On the other side, Toohey was the best defined villan in the industry of literature. By the end of the book you hate his guts and you want him to die a slow and painful death.

Virtue of Selfishness

The only "problem" with this book is that there is no real completion. There is no real happy ending. There is only a bitter sweet conclusion. You wish it could go pages more so the fate of one character in special would change. Compared to Atlas Shrugged where these is a finality to everything as everyone either dies, goes insane or simply loses, here it feels like it is missing an act. The most representative example is Wynand. The good guy gone bad gone good who in some way you feel pity for. In the movie he committed suicide. In the book he doesn't. And by the end of the book, my only concern was with him.

You know how in some books one person sacrifices himself all for the right reason?

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You know how in others one person betrays for all the right reasons? Now combine these two and you will have a tragic character, one that you love and want to hate but you can't. In any case, that's beside the point of this review. If you consider the human animal is insignificant in front of a god or nature, if you consider that people are equal because of their existence and not competence, if you consider that need comes before competence and that ego is a bad thing, that pride is evil, then DO NOT read this book. It will just annoy you.

This is a book for those who love themselves, who love the best in human nature and who want to celebrate this. It is the American Dream. See all 2, reviews. See all customer images. Most recent customer reviews. Published 12 days ago. Published 23 days ago. Published 28 days ago. 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. There are merits to the book, though. Anything written by Ayn Rand has substantial merits. So is it good to be selfish? 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. 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. 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. 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. 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? You worked for it. This is Rand's philosophy, and if this is selfishness, than selfishness is indeed a virtue. Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving….

Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism 3. 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.

Paperback , pages. Published November 1st by Signet first published To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Virtue of Selfishness , please sign up. Be the first to ask a question about The Virtue of Selfishness.

Lists with This Book. 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.

The Virtue of Selfishness

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. View all 6 comments. Mar 18, jessica rated it did not like it. This book once meant a lot to me. When I was 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. View all 19 comments. Jun 11, sologdin rated it did not like it Shelves: Part II of multi-part review series. Reading Rand reminds me of teaching freshman composition at university years ago. This is a nasty problem throughout t Part II of multi-part review series.

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: But if one considers the monstrous moral inversions of the governments made possible by the altruist-collectivist mentality [!

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! 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.

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.

Lest this be confused: But note well the contradiction between the dogmatic bizarre definition and the non-sequitur inference that follows: So, to complete the syllogism: This pronouncement is made ex nihilo--there is no presentation to warrant these two conclusions. 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.

At various other loci, though, we will be informed that nothing is causeless, that only death-choosers believe in effects without causes. We are given the pre-capitalist trader as the emblem of justice: We are told, e. This is not reflective of how law works. 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: I doubt that objectivism spends much time cogitating on its own assumptions; that would be death-choosing inner conflict and moral grayness.

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. 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. 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: 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: Again, a problem of having no knowledge of law: 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.

What is the content of this morality in the US? Her timeline of US freedom pricks something in the back of my mind.

What could those 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. 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: When Rand does discuss racism, it is denounced as a collectivism, but no mention of US capitalist slave trade is mentioned.


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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.

Overall, one of the worst books ever written. View all 17 comments. Ayn Rand was not afraid of turning conventional wisdom on its head.

Virtue of Selfishness

For millennia, one of the few ethical principles that prevailed across cultures was the value of altruism, i. Rand was as anti-community and pro-individual as anyone I have ever read. Adamantly opposed to coercive state and religious power, she built a philosophy, Objectivism, on rational thinking and reason.

She became too dogmatic and rigid for my taste in Ayn Rand was not afraid of turning conventional wisdom on its head. She became too dogmatic and rigid for my taste in later years; nevertheless, she has some very interesting things to say. It's only because we have bought into the principle of sacrificing oneself for the greater good that armies can survive, yet the reason is so others can accumulate or obtain what you should be able to. In her philosophy, the happiness of the individual is paramount. Religious types will find her philosophy more than unsettling, because as an atheist, she values the present and current life above everything else.

Whether you like her or not, several of the essays are well worth the time to read, particularly "Collectivized Rights" and "Man's Rights. It's just that helping others should not be at one's own expense, e. Love is entirely selfish. An important book no matter where you stand. View all 13 comments. Jun 16, Mary.

The best thought I embraced from this book was a simple, yet powerful, soundbite: Towards the end of the school year, a couple of kids in class had some serious self-destructive behavior--not just your run-of-the-mill, "I didn't do my homework. The kids immediately made the connection that man allows his brain to act without rational thought and ends up destroying itself.

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For that alone the book was worth it. Apr 29, Manny marked it as to-read. Just noticed this in Johan Hari's column from today's Independent: Trump probably won't become the Republican nominee, but not because most Republicans reject his premisses. He takes the whispered dogmas of the Reagan, Bush and Tea Party years and shrieks them through a megaphone. The nominee will share similar ideas, but express them more subtly. In case you think these ideas are marginal to the party, reme Just noticed this in Johan Hari's column from today's Independent: In case you think these ideas are marginal to the party, remember - it has united behind the budget plan of Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan.

It pays for it by slashing spending on food stamps, healthcare for the poor and the elderly, and basic services. It aims to return the US to the spending levels of the s — and while Ryan frames it as a response to the deficit, it would actually increase it according to the independent Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Ryan says "the reason I got involved in public service" was because he read the writings of Ayn Rand, which describe the poor as "parasites" who must "perish", and are best summarized by the title of one of her books: Isn't life confusing sometimes?

From the ten-point list in the mail I just received: He thinks an "I got mine, who cares if you're okay" philosophy is admirable. For many years, Paul Ryan devoted himself to Ayn Rand's philosophy of selfishness as a virtue. It has shaped his entire ethic about whom he serves in public office. He even went as far as making his interns read her work.

View all 16 comments. May 15, Tim rated it it was amazing. 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: 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?


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