Ayn Rand and Selfishness as a Virtue

Should you think about your duty, or about the consequences of your actions? Or should you concentrate on becoming a good person?

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Gary Childress
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Ayn Rand and Selfishness as a Virtue

Post by Gary Childress » Mon May 02, 2016 6:11 pm

In popular usage, the word “selfishness” is a synonym of evil; the image it
conjures is of a murderous brute who tramples over piles of corpses to
achieve his own ends, who cares for no living being and pursues nothing but
the gratification of the mindless whims of any immediate moment.

Yet the exact meaning and dictionary definition of the word “selfishness”
is: concern with one’s own interests.

This concept does not include a moral evaluation; it does not tell us
whether concern with one’s own interests is good or evil; nor does it tell us
what constitutes man’s actual interests. It is the task of ethics to answer such
questions.

The ethics of altruism has created the image of the brute, as its answer, in
order to make men accept two inhuman tenets: (a) that any concern with
one’s own interests is evil, regardless of what these interests might be, and
(b) that the brute’s activities are in fact to one’s own interest (which altruism
enjoins man to renounce for the sake of his neighbors).
TVoS (p. 5)


NOTE: The excerpt above is from a PDF version of "The Virtue of Selfishness" I found online. I have also ordered a physical copy of the book from Amazon.com, for which I paid.

I suppose it is maybe correct to say that "selfishness" has become a kind synonym of "evil" (or at least something "bad") for many or at least some of us. We often say to each other, "stop being so selfish" as though it is an inherently bad thing in and of itself, under all circumstances. Ayn Rand seemed to devote a lot of her energy and resources combating the notion that selfishness is a bad thing. She even proposed what she called "rational egoism". Unless I'm mistaken "rational egoism" essentially says that it is immoral to act against one's own self interest.

My questions are:

If proponents of "altruism" allegedly go too far by saying that selfishness is a vice, does Ayn Rand go too far in calling it a virtue? Isn't "selfishness" perhaps value neutral in and of itself to whatever extent (as Rand actually points out herself in the passage above) or otherwise dependent upon particular circumstances and applications of it? Why does Rand go further and try to say that it is immoral to act against one's own self interest? Might that conceivably lead to the opposite effect; that of some people thinking that (proverbially) murderously trampling over dead bodies to achieve personal goals is justified or even "virtuous"? If "selfishness" is to whatever extent disproportionately mischaracterized as "evil", is it a major problem in a Capitalist society that expediently needs to be addressed? Aren't there more pressing issues in a capitalist society such as things like greed and exploitation? Or, perhaps, would everything be set straight and fair if only EVERYONE (not just the rich and powerful) were more willing to pursue their own self interests?

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HexHammer
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Re: Ayn Rand and Selfishness as a Virtue

Post by HexHammer » Mon May 02, 2016 7:26 pm

Read 1/3 of ur post, so some times selfness can be the way forward, other times it can be destructive since children can learn it from you and it gets worse. It depends on the degree of selfness and the situation.

If selfish people doesn't cooperate, nothing will get done. If we didn't have police whom are under paid, and often end up in really bad situations that will scar them mentally and physically, then we would live in anarchy.

We need unselfish people.

I think Ihan Haydar are from Iraq, her parents refused her drumming lessons so she had to lie about it, and lied about going to the European Music Contest, when her parents saw her on TV they changed their minds and allowed to her drum, her selfness was required to live out her dreams.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5X2r_t-KBk

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Re: Ayn Rand and Selfishness as a Virtue

Post by Gary Childress » Mon May 02, 2016 8:00 pm

HexHammer wrote:Read 1/3 of ur post, so some times selfness can be the way forward, other times it can be destructive since children can learn it from you and it gets worse. It depends on the degree of selfness and the situation.

If selfish people doesn't cooperate, nothing will get done. If we didn't have police whom are under paid, and often end up in really bad situations that will scar them mentally and physically, then we would live in anarchy.

We need unselfish people.

I think Ihan Haydar are from Iraq, her parents refused her drumming lessons so she had to lie about it, and lied about going to the European Music Contest, when her parents saw her on TV they changed their minds and allowed to her drum, her selfness was required to live out her dreams.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5X2r_t-KBk
You make some good points, HexHammer. I think it is probably the case that selfishness can be good in some ways and bad in others depending upon the context it is applied and the degree to which it is applied. I sort of wonder what Ayn Rand might say about it? Is it perhaps a mischaracterization of her philosophy to say that she believes "it is immoral to act against one's own self interest"? (I got that statement off of a Wikipedia article on "Rational Egoism".) Otherwise it sort of seems to me like she is going a bit far if she indeed maintains that altruism is completely immoral. I don't endorse altruism as an ideal everyone must live up to. I'm certainly no hero, but I do think that, in most cases, people who have acted altruistically are true heroes and heroines. Would Ayn Rand disagree?

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Re: Ayn Rand and Selfishness as a Virtue

Post by HexHammer » Mon May 02, 2016 8:51 pm

Gary Childress wrote:Ayn Rand might say about it?
Who the fuck cares what a tard like him/her has to say about it, if you actually read a WHOLE book about this topic, then you have been scammed, and didn't comprehend it!!!! People who write such long books about such simple things are scammers and only fill you with nonsense and babble, like all other cozy chatters they can't comprehend that what they read has absolutely no relevance!!!

You need others to do very basic thinking for you, which is why you need to read books, I do my own thinking, thus I can think for myself!! ..very simple!!!

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Re: Ayn Rand and Selfishness as a Virtue

Post by Gary Childress » Mon May 02, 2016 10:29 pm

HexHammer wrote:Who the fuck cares what a tard like him/her has to say about it, if you actually read a WHOLE book about this topic, then you have been scammed, and didn't comprehend it!!!! People who write such long books about such simple things are scammers and only fill you with nonsense and babble, like all other cozy chatters they can't comprehend that what they read has absolutely no relevance!!!

You need others to do very basic thinking for you, which is why you need to read books, I do my own thinking, thus I can think for myself!! ..very simple!!!
I am curious what Ayn Rand would say because she seems to have many admirers (including some very famous and influential people) who subscribe to her ideas. I'm curious why. History of philosophy is also a curiosity of mine. I like to know more about what particular philosophers thought and why. It doesn't mean I necessarily subscribe to everything they say. I have my own ideas about some things and will argue with people about them. For example: I agree with your statement:
"some times selfness can be the way forward, other times it can be destructive since children can learn it from you and it gets worse. It depends on the degree of selfness and the situation."


It seems like a very simple truth that almost anyone should grasp. I even alluded to something similar in the OP (before your reply) where I said:
"Isn't "selfishness" perhaps value neutral in and of itself to whatever extent (as Rand actually points out herself in the passage above) or otherwise dependent upon particular circumstances and applications of it?"
I believe that is the case, HOWEVER, I will seldom discount the possibility that I could be wrong about something. Perhaps there is some aspect of things I hadn't thought of or some fact I am unaware of.

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Re: Ayn Rand and Selfishness as a Virtue

Post by Melchior » Tue May 03, 2016 1:23 am

Actually, cooperation can be in one's own self interest, and often is. How has this escaped your notice?

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Re: Ayn Rand and Selfishness as a Virtue

Post by Gary Childress » Tue May 03, 2016 2:41 am

Melchior wrote:Actually, cooperation can be in one's own self interest, and often is. How has this escaped your notice?
I agree with what you say above. It had occurred to me that cooperation can often be in one's own self interest. That is one reason why I've decided to revisit Ayn Rand's philosophy more sympathetically.

Perhaps you can answer this; I'm curious, does Ayn Rand truly say anywhere that being selfless is "immoral"? Or how would she view people who may make enormous sacrifices, even of their lives, on behalf of others? For example: the Fukushima 50 or volunteers for MSF who contracted Ebola in the process of helping people from West Africa fight the disease? Is it really accurate to call such sacrifices "selfish" (without completely debasing the meaning of the word)? Is it not accurate to say that such people are probably among the greatest heroes and heroines imaginable? What about someone who sacrifices their life on behalf of a pet dog being abused or something? http://www.lifewithdogs.tv/2015/12/man- ... rom-abuse/ Is it a "selfish" act?

Or what would Ayn Rand's response be? :?:

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Re: Ayn Rand and Selfishness as a Virtue

Post by Walker » Tue May 03, 2016 2:53 am

Gary Childress wrote:
Melchior wrote:Actually, cooperation can be in one's own self interest, and often is. How has this escaped your notice?
I agree with what you say above. It had occurred to me that cooperation can often be in one's own self interest. That is one reason why I've decided to revisit Ayn Rand's philosophy more sympathetically.

Perhaps you can answer this; I'm curious, does Ayn Rand truly say anywhere that being selfless is "immoral"? Or how would she view people who may make enormous sacrifices, even of their lives, on behalf of others? For example: the Fukushima 50 or volunteers for MSF who contracted Ebola in the process of helping people from West Africa fight the disease? Is it really accurate to call such sacrifices "selfish" (without completely debasing the meaning of the word)? Is it not accurate to say that such people are probably among the greatest heroes and heroines imaginable? What about someone who sacrifices their life on behalf of a pet dog being abused or something? http://www.lifewithdogs.tv/2015/12/man- ... rom-abuse/ Is it a "selfish" act?

Or what would Ayn Rand's response be? :?:
Osho sums up Rand in a palatable, reasoned way.

I am Teaching You to be Selfish. ~ OSHO ~

“You have been told to sacrifice yourself for some idiotic ideal. I want you just to be simply selfish. And you will be surprised that if you are selfish you discover so many treasures within yourself that soon you start sharing them - because finding a treasure is a lesser joy than sharing it. And the treasures that are within you don't follow the ordinary economics and its laws. They are just the very opposite, diametrically opposite to the ordinary economic structure.

"In the ordinary economics if you give something, you will have less. If you go on giving, soon you will be a beggar. In the ordinary economic world you have to snatch as much from everybody as possible then you have more and more and more. The treasures I am talking about to you, follow a different law: if you cling to them they shrink, if you cling too much you can even kill them. If you want to destroy them, then close all the windows and doors, become a grave so nothing can escape outside you - but you will be a dead man, with all your treasures also dead with you; your truth, your freedom, your love, your joy. Everything will be dead with you - securely dead, well-insured."


In Rand's world when people share of themselves, which is the natural progression of selfishness as Osho explains, then the world benefits and there is life, the measure of all philosophy.

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Re: Ayn Rand and Selfishness as a Virtue

Post by Gary Childress » Tue May 03, 2016 3:27 am

Who or what is Osho? Do you mean Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh? :?:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rajneesh#Reception

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Re: Ayn Rand and Selfishness as a Virtue

Post by Walker » Tue May 03, 2016 4:22 am

Yes. The quote about selfishness and the link that expands the quote sounds familiar. It likely originated from Osho’s Commentary on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.

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Re: Ayn Rand and Selfishness as a Virtue

Post by Gary Childress » Tue May 03, 2016 11:35 am

Walker wrote:Yes. The quote about selfishness and the link that expands the quote sounds familiar. It likely originated from Osho’s Commentary on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.
I had never heard of Osho until now but some of his ideas and circumstances about his life remind me of Epicureanism in some ways, from reading a little of the Wiki article on him.

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Re: Ayn Rand and Selfishness as a Virtue

Post by HexHammer » Tue May 03, 2016 12:49 pm

Gary Childress wrote:I'm curious, does Ayn Rand truly say anywhere that being selfless is "immoral"? Or how would she view people who may make enormous sacrifices, even of their lives, on behalf of others? For example: the Fukushima 50 or volunteers for MSF who contracted Ebola in the process of helping people from West Africa fight the disease? Is it really accurate to call such sacrifices "selfish" (without completely debasing the meaning of the word)? Is it not accurate to say that such people are probably among the greatest heroes and heroines imaginable? What about someone who sacrifices their life on behalf of a pet dog being abused or something? http://www.lifewithdogs.tv/2015/12/man- ... rom-abuse/ Is it a "selfish" act?
It's like you consider this Ayn Rand to be your external brain, and want her to the exclusive thinking for you.

Those points you made about unselfish actions, should be self explanatory, and need not asked.

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Re: Ayn Rand and Selfishness as a Virtue

Post by Gary Childress » Tue May 03, 2016 2:59 pm

HexHammer wrote:
Gary Childress wrote:I'm curious, does Ayn Rand truly say anywhere that being selfless is "immoral"? Or how would she view people who may make enormous sacrifices, even of their lives, on behalf of others? For example: the Fukushima 50 or volunteers for MSF who contracted Ebola in the process of helping people from West Africa fight the disease? Is it really accurate to call such sacrifices "selfish" (without completely debasing the meaning of the word)? Is it not accurate to say that such people are probably among the greatest heroes and heroines imaginable? What about someone who sacrifices their life on behalf of a pet dog being abused or something? http://www.lifewithdogs.tv/2015/12/man- ... rom-abuse/ Is it a "selfish" act?
It's like you consider this Ayn Rand to be your external brain, and want her to the exclusive thinking for you.

Those points you made about unselfish actions, should be self explanatory, and need not asked.
So in other words, you agree with my points that appear, prima facie, to run counter to the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Thank you.

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Re: Ayn Rand and Selfishness as a Virtue

Post by HexHammer » Tue May 03, 2016 3:00 pm

Gary Childress wrote:So in other words, you agree with my points that appear, prima facie, to run counter to the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Thank you.
Can you put it in less fancy wording?

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Re: Ayn Rand and Selfishness as a Virtue

Post by Gary Childress » Tue May 03, 2016 3:06 pm

HexHammer wrote:
Gary Childress wrote:So in other words, you agree with my points that appear, prima facie, to run counter to the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Thank you.
Can you put it in less fancy wording?
Sure. "Prima facie" essentially means "at first glance" or "on first appearance".

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