Ayn Rand the Virtue of Selfishness Term Paper

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Virtue of Selfishness by Ayn Rand

The Rationalization and Pursuit of Self-interest of Humanity in "The Virtue of Selfishness" by Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand's collection of essays in the book "The Virtue of Selfishness" provides insightful thoughts about the emergence of rationalization and individualism within the individual. The author discusses how the dawn of humankind had already seen the emergence of individualism and rationalization. It is only in the process of being nurtured by the social environment that the individual learns how to detest, even consider evil, the 'virtue' of selfishness.

In discussing Rand's "philosophy" that selfishness is a virtue, this paper discusses five essays, which the author of this paper considers as the most crucial in explaining the concepts that Rand introduces in the book. The discussion is followed by an analysis of the author's claims and premises regarding the topic and assesses each premise or concept introduced in the context of the present outlook of human society towards selfishness and humankind's rationalization and individualization.

In the Introduction of the book, Rand already provides a thorough discussion of the definition and scope of the term "selfishness" that is used throughout the book. Simply put, the author defines selfishness as the "pursuit of self-interest." She further elucidates the concept of selfishness, putting it under the domain of what she terms as "Objectivist ethics," which includes concepts associated to selfishness, such as rationalization and individualism. Indeed, it is no wonder that Rand illustrates objectivist ethics as occurring when "the actor must always be the beneficiary of his action and that man must act for his own rational self-interest."

Rand also clarifies and renews the notion that selfishness is an "evil" concept, which is similar to the Hedonist philosophy that encourages the individual to pursue his own interests without any regard to other people or for the society, in general. She considers selfishness as influenced by human society's moral codes, an unfortunate result of the prevalence of altruism. Indeed, the altruism-selfishness dichotomy is oftentimes synonymously associated with the good-bad dichotomy, and always, selfishness is associated with bad morals and altruism, with good ones.

The author protests and argues that altruism is not actually beneficial to an individual's true nature. This is because altruism "...does not provide man with an automatic form of survival" and since man is bound by a moral code that decrees altruism as the desirable virtue than selfishness, altruism, in effect, promotes interdependence among individuals. The present, modern society reflects the practice of altruism and the immediate repugnance for selfishness: however, upon further analysis, the basic foundations of today's society are actually based on individualism and rationalization, concepts that are directly linked to the concept of selfishness. Rand's Introduction and "Objectivist Ethics" opens the ground for discussion about the state of the virtue of selfishness in the context of modern society.

In the succeeding essays, particularly, "The Cult of Moral Grayness," "Man's Rights," and "Racism," the author illustrates how selfishness has been given a vague, even contrasting meaning, by human society over time. In the "Cult," Rand provides the paradox that happened in modern society -- that is, she tried to answer the problem, "why has modern society expressed discouragement over the basic tenets that made modernization possible in present modern society, which includes rationalization, individualism, and most of all, selfishness?"

She then goes on to discredit the concept…

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Works Cited

Rand, A. (1989). The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism. NY: Signet.

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