Ayn Rand, the Virtue of Selfishness (A new concept of Egotism) Book Review

This book, which has a total of 19 essays from Ayn Rand and a few additional articles by Nathaniel Braden, highlights objective ethics and its codes of values, and why we needn’t have moral evaluation or validation for being selfish, why there is nothing wrong with putting ourselves foremost before others, for the self, the I, the ego must always come first before the collective. Individualism must always prevail over collectivism.

For the longest time men of religion and mysticism have preached a lie that men should sacrifice their desires and needs to that of others, as it is the only ethical thing worth to pursue on earth with a guarantee of enumeration and happiness in the next world to come after death. They preach of postponing our gratification to that of others as the only moral substantiation and righteous thing to do in the face of the earth. They preach for altruism as the better option to egoism, claiming man is not an end in himself rather a means to others, and that he should practice self-immolation at the expense of others instead of uplifting individualism. That man should suffer, be a martyr for the collective and deny his sole happiness on earth, for the sake of acceptance by others, collectivism over objectivism. That the individual should serve the society, and conform to its ideals for it exists for its sake. This is what has ruined the world today and set it in flames of poverty, disease and underdevelopment. The individual must come before the collective, as there is nothing as society or public but a group of individuals bent on a certain cause. Man, qua man, life is important than anything else, he should strive for his own happiness no matter what. His happiness must be an end in itself, and not a means to anything else!

There is a need to define what is meant by the term selfishness in objective philosophy, it is not what the English dictionary defines as an individual who acts irrational so as to fulfill his desires no matter what without acknowledging other people, on the contrary, “The Objectivist ethics proudly advocates and upholds rational selfishness—which means: the values required for man’s survival qua man—which means: the values required for human survival—not the values produced by the desires, the feelings, the whims or the needs of irrational brutes, who have never outgrown the primordial practice of human sacrifices. Objective ethics portrays a man who lives within his ability to think and act for himself, does not seek or offer favors, does not take the unearned and deals with other men as equals when trading. He is a man guided by his mind. He does not compromise on his code of values, so as to be accepted by others. He lives for himself incorporating his intelligence to get what he desires. He is above all conscious that everything that happens, has happened, will happen in his life is an end result of his thoughts and actions and not mere chance or luck. He is a realist. He does not fake reality. He does not believe in mysticism. He is the architect of his life. He indoctrinates reason, logic and intellect in all affairs of his life without compromising on his ethical values, productive work being his core means to gratification.

In objective ethics, in a rational man, “There are, broadly, five (interconnected) areas that allow man to experience the enjoyment of life: productive work, human relationships, recreation, art, sex. Productive work is the most fundamental of these: through his work man gains his basic sense of control over existence—his sense of efficacy— which is the necessary foundation of the ability to enjoy any other value. The man whose life lacks direction or purpose, the man who has no creative goal, necessarily feels helpless and out of control; the man who feels helpless and out of control, feels inadequate to and unfit for existence; and the man who feels unfit for existence is incapable of enjoying it.”

Man must live his life being led by a purpose; he must have a set code of values that will guide him to that which he whims. A man without any set code of values is not progressive, a lack of progression in one’s life leads to a stall and ultimately death. Man must seek after what he needs to survive, since unlike plants, nothing comes to him automatically, he must train himself how to learn and modify his surroundings to his liking and not the other way round like animals. An animal must learn how to adapt to its surroundings, for instance it must learn how to camouflage so as to either catch a prey or escape from danger. If it does not do this, it will either die out of starvation or be haunted by predators. Man is the only creature who is able to change his surrounding; he cultivates knowledge and uses it to make conditions favorable for him to live in.

Man, qua man, must hold his self esteem more than anything else. He must know that he is enough and that no one else is important than him. His life is the only thing worth attaining, and it should be guided by his ethics. He is of value to himself. “Ethics is a code of values to guide man’s choices and actions—the choices and actions that determine the purpose and course of his life. In choosing his actions and goals, man faces constant alternatives. In order to choose, he requires a standard of value—a purpose which his actions are to serve or at which they are to aim.” Qua man must follows his own ethics knowing that his self esteem cannot be bargained. He is either accepted for what he is, or seeks after men who value him.

It is only in Laissez-faire capitalism that a rational man can truly be free, for he has the rights to own property and above all rights to his own life which is the genesis of all other rights. Those who hold the altruist-collectivist ethics of socialism seek to create slaves, as the producer does not hold rights to his product, private property and the government owns everything.

A government is the creation of the individual to serve and protect him against physical force from brutes and criminals. Its work therefore is to serve man, and not to rule over him abdicating physical harm or arrests or seizing his rights to private property. That is socialists’ way of doing things. Yet that has been the doing of governments in all over the world; there is no single government that lives up to the laws of Laissez-faire capitalism.

Above all things, individualism holds that an individual has the rights to his own life and that no government has any right to violate against this basic fundamental right, and that he agrees with something, not because others claim it to be true, or because he feels it to be so, rather he reasons it to be true. Its absolution is that man must be driven by his mind using reason and logic as his basic tools of survival.

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