Ethical Egoism

Ayn Rand, writer and philosopher, changed the way I think about individualism and altruism vs. egoism. Societal standards call for (sometimes irrationally so) an altruist morale, and looks down upon egoists, stigmatizing and stereotyping that way-of-being. To be egoist, as society sees it, is to be greedy, selfish, conniving. However, Rand’s works made me see new meaning to what it is to be “selfish”: the word encompasses a different meaning that does not necessarily denote negative traits. This is ethical egoism. This theory can be applied politically, which has made me a supporter of the capitalist ideal (when before I was neutral); Rand’s ideas are applied to the foundations of capitalism. Rand’s essay “Capitalism” was particularly striking. Since capitalism supports prime movers (or those who possess unprecedented historic ability that allows them to incur massive change to their field of interest and in effect help others of lesser ability in that field thrive) as it is based on the concept of man as a free, independent individual, I strongly believe in it as an ideal. In this class, I am finding it very interesting to learn about the origination and the rise of individualism in the 1700s as outlined in this week’s reading by Lynn Hunt.

One of Rand’s other works, Atlas Shrugged, demonstrates theory through fiction. It highlights the necessity of adhering to reason and what is realistic, which calls for the consideration of both practicality and morale in how society should be run. There is no point in believing in an unsustainable ideal, one that considers no future, and is impossible to achieve, which is ultimately what altruism brings. However, the ideal Rand supports has no base without the validation of reason as fundamental to society’s maintenance and progress. One must first accept and commit to rationale, and secondly live morally selfish, i.e., not as a backstabber who exploits another as a means to a personal end, in order for a system that embodies the morale from egoism and political philosophy that arises from individualism such as Capitalism to truly be moral and practical. These are the conditions necessary for a truly free and just society to exist.

Rand has a number of famous quotes. You can find many of them here: