THE VIRTUE OF SELFISHNESS * Ayn Rand (1964)

the_virtue_of_selfishness_1964_edition.jpgSelfishness — a virtue? Ayn Rand chose this book’s provocative title because she was on a mission to overcome centuries of demonization. “In popular usage,” Rand writes, “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 . . . 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.”

Mass Market Paperback: 173 pages

Most ethical discussions take for granted the supreme moral value of selfless service. Debate then centers on details: Should we serve an alleged God or substitute “society” for God? How much sacrifice is required? Who’s entitled to benefit from others’ sacrifices?

In this volume’s lead essay, “The Objectivist Ethics,” Ayn Rand challenges that basic assumption by reconsidering ethics from the ground up. Why, she asks, does man need morality in the first place? Her answer to that question culminates in the definition of a new code of morality, based in rational self-interest, aimed at each individual’s life and happiness, and rejecting sacrifice as immoral.

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In additional articles, Rand expands her theory and discusses practical questions such as: Do people face intractable conflicts of interest? Isn’t everyone selfish? Doesn’t life require compromise? How do I live in an irrational society? What about the needs of others? What are political rights? What’s the rational function of government? Her fresh, provocative answers cast new light on what it means to be genuinely selfish.

Makes a strong statement on individualism, integrity, and principled living. May lead you to new insights on living free and uncompromising.

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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 human. 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.

“Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads armed with nothing but their vision. Their goals differed, but they all had this in common: that the step was first, the road new, their vision unborrowed, and the response they received – hatred. The great creators – the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors – stood alone against the men of their time. Every great new thought was opposed. Every great ne invention was denounced. The first motor was considered foolish. The air-plane was considered impossible. The power loom was considered vicious. Anaesthesia was considered sinful. But the men of unborrowed vision went ahead. They fought, they suffered and they paid. But they won.”

In this collection of articles, Rand offers a “new concept of egoism” based on reason as man’s means of survival and opposed to all forms of sacrifice.

“And for the benefit of those who consider relevance to one’s own time as of crucial importance, I will add, in regard to our age, that never has there been a time when men have so desperately needed a projection of things as they ought to be.”

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