The Virtue Of Selfishness
Rand's characterization of selfishness as a virtue, including in the title of the book, is one of its most controversial elements. Philosopher Chandran Kukathas said Rand's position on this point "brought notoriety, but kept her out of the intellectual mainstream". Rand acknowledged in the book's introduction that the term 'selfishness' was not typically used to describe virtuous behavior, but insisted that her usage was consistent with a more precise meaning of the term as simply "concern with one's own interests". The equation of selfishness with evil, Rand said, had caused "the arrested moral development of mankind" and needed to be rejected.
The Virtue of Selfishness
Critics have disputed Rand's interpretation of the term. Libertarian feminist writer Sharon Presley described Rand's use of 'selfishness' as "perversely idiosyncratic" and contrary to the dictionary meaning of the term, Rand's claims to the contrary notwithstanding. Presley believes the use of the term has caused Rand's arguments to be frequently mischaracterized. Philosophy professor Max Hocutt dismissed the phrase 'the virtue of selfishness' as "rhetorical excess", saying that "without qualification and explanation, it is too paradoxical to merit serious discussion". In contrast, philosophers Douglas J. Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen described Rand's response to the question of why she uses the term as "neither antagonistic nor defensive, but rather profound." Philosopher Chris Matthew Sciabarra said it is "debatable" whether Rand accurately described the meaning of the term, but argued that Rand's philosophical position required altering the conventional meanings of some terms in order to express her views without inventing entirely new words. Philosophy professor Stephen Hicks wrote in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy that Rand's "provocative title" was matched by "an equally provocative thesis about ethics".
In a public appearance, writer Christopher Hitchens said, "Though I have some respect for The Virtue of Selfishness, a collection of essays ... I don't think there's any need to have essays advocating selfishness among human beings. I don't know what your impression has been, but some things require no further reinforcement."
Answer: Ayn Rand rejects altruism, the view that self-sacrifice is the moral ideal. She argues that the ultimate moral value, for each human individual, is his or her own well-being. Since selfishness (as she understands it) is serious, rational, principled concern with one's own well-being, it turns out to be a prerequisite for the attainment of the ultimate moral value. For this reason, Rand believes that selfishness is a virtue.
Rand certainly recognizes that there are people who fit this description, and she certainly does not believe that their behavior is in any sense virtuous. But she opposes labeling them "selfish." Rand believes that this application of the word blurs important philosophical distinctions and foreordains false philosophical doctrines. First, this understanding of selfishness construes both whim-fulfillment and the disregard of others' interests as genuinely self-interested behaviors, which they are not. Second, this understanding of selfishness suggests an altruist framework for thinking about ethics.
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. Her language also suggests that she believes that any other understanding of selfishness would amount to an invalid concept, i.e., one that is not appropriate to the facts and/or to man's mode of cognition (see VOS pp. vii-xii, and Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, esp. Ch. 7). In addition, one might interpret Rand as asserting that her definition captures the historical and etymological meaning of the word. But certainly, her praise of selfishness communicates instantaneously and provocatively the practical, this-worldly, egoistic, and profoundly Greek orientation of her ethical thought.
This collection of nineteen essays is an effective summary of Ayn Rand's philosophy, which holds the value of the individual over and above that of the state or any other collective. The thread running through all of the essays is Rand's definition of selfishness as \"rational self-interest,\" with the idea that one has the right to assure one's own survival, to pursue happiness, and to own the fruits of one's labor without having to sacrifice any of these to others against one's will.
This collection of nineteen essays is an effective summary of Ayn Rand's philosophy, which holds the value of the individual over and above that of the state or any other collective. The thread running through all of the essays is Rand's definition of selfishness as "rational self-interest," with the idea that one has the right to assure one's own survival, to pursue happiness, and to own the fruits of one's labor without having to sacrifice any of these to others against one's will.
Rand begins her work with an overall summary of Objectivist ethics and then follows up this discussion with extensive applications of this theory within various issues that arise in society. In its most basic form, Rand's ethical theory is the development of a code of specific values that should guide people's choices and actions. This is the purpose of every ethical theory. The specific values that Rand promotes are reason and self-interest. In every chapter that she has written, Rand defines and redefines the terms she uses as they apply to her theory. These include values, reason, selfishness, selflessness, sacrifice, individualism, collectivism, and rights.
A collection of essays that sets forth the moral principles of Objectivism, Ayn Rand's controversial, groundbreaking philosophy.Since their initial publication, Rand's fictional works-Anthem, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged-have had a major impact on the intellectual scene. The underlying theme of her famous novels is her philosophy, a new morality-the ethics of rational self-interest-that offers a robust challenge to altruist-collectivist thought. Known as Objectivism, her divisive philosophy 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. In this series of essays, Rand asks why man needs morality in the first place, and arrives at an answer that redefines a new code of ethics based on the virtue of selfishness. More Than 1 Million Copies Sold!
If we pay close attention to the political economy of the ancients, we may find that there are not just the two roads, the Road to Serfdom and the Road to Liberty. We will also find that even the path to virtue is fraught with ideological temptations. Because there are real solid virtues connected with private property, self-reliance, and hard work, it is very tempting to absolutize these instrumental virtues into closed philosophies and ideologies.
I made the point earlier that America should be grateful for her many material blessings. Then followed a curious string of ancient myths or stories. This was not accidental. The major point that I would wish to make is that America should not only be grateful for its material bounty, but that it should also be grateful for the political economy of the ancients which show us how properly to use and assess that bounty. America has been the inheritor of the tradition of western civilization which includes that of Athens, Rome and Jerusalem. Modern social science has in general rejected this tradition, but America has not yet cut the last links. We are still Hercules at the crossroads facing the choice between the life of pleasure and virtue.
THE different accounts which have been given of the nature of virtue, or of the temper of mind which constitutes the excellent and praise-worthy character, may be reduced to three different classes. According to some, the virtuous temper of mind does not consist in any one species of affections, but in the proper government and direction of all our affections, which may be either virtuous or vitious according to the objects which they pursue, and the degree of violence with which they pursue them. According to these authors, therefore, virtue consists in propriety.
According to others, virtue consists in the judicious pursuit of our own private interest and happiness, or in the proper government and direction of those selfish affections which aim solely at this end. In the opinion of thesePage 417authors, therefore virtue consists in prudence.
Another set of authors make virtue consist in those affections only which aim at the happiness of others, not in those which aim at our own. According to them, therefore, disinterested benevolence is the only motive which can stamp upon any action the character of virtue. 041b061a72