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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A clear explanation of the ethics of objectivism
This book focuses on the ethics of the philosophy of objectivism. Rather than being a book with chapters, it is a selection of articles which cover various questions, such as what selfishness is, the ethics of charity and voluntary help, the false dichotomy of altruism and selfishness, and what the theory of Objectivism actually is.
This is a good place to start to...
Published on 6 Dec. 1999 by J S

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33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mix of legitimate points and very flawed rethorics.
This, like many of Ayn Rand's works, seems to be one of those "love it or hate it" books that has a very loyal following as well as many opponents. I don't think it's that easy because this is a very mixed collection of essays.

Much of the ideas presented in the first few essays are good and should be truly thought provoking for most readers. I have come to...
Published on 27 July 2006 by NoWireHangers


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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A clear explanation of the ethics of objectivism, 6 Dec. 1999
This review is from: The Virtue of Selfishness (Signet) (Mass Market Paperback)
This book focuses on the ethics of the philosophy of objectivism. Rather than being a book with chapters, it is a selection of articles which cover various questions, such as what selfishness is, the ethics of charity and voluntary help, the false dichotomy of altruism and selfishness, and what the theory of Objectivism actually is.
This is a good place to start to learn about the philosophy of objectivism as it concentrates on the philosophy itself rather than applying it to real-world examples. For those who wish to know more about objectivism applied, the books "Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal", "The Anti-Industrial Revolution", and "Why Businessmen Need Philosophy" would be more relevant.
Whether one disagrees with the philosophy or not, the articles in this book are clearly written, simple to understand, and passionately argued. Some parts are flippant, particularly with reference to the dismissal of the ideas of other philosophers, and Rand does not truly manage to justify why objectivism is actually objective [see Nozick's book Socratic Puzzles). Nevertheless, this book is worth reading if you are interested in this area of politics and philosophy.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars so misunderstood. . ., 23 Nov. 2010
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This review is from: The Virtue of Selfishness (Signet) (Mass Market Paperback)
Ayn Rand has got to be one of the most misunderstood philosophers of the 20th Century.

For those that think this book advocates a selfishness at the expense of everyone and everything, you are mistaken. The selfishness advocated by Ayn Rand is not easy and is not about doing what you want, when you want based on your desires or whims. It requires a rational approach based on goals and values and that "human good does not require human sacrifices and cannot be achieved by the sacrifice of anyone to anyone". In today's society, it would be rare to find someone you could define in this way.

The book is a collection of essays that covers a broad range of topics from ethics, through to human rights, the role of government and Racism.

It isn't light reading but it is inspiring and thought provoking. It provides a window into what mankind can be.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read!, 27 July 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The Virtue of Selfishness (Signet) (Mass Market Paperback)
I enjoyed this book like no other in my extensive Ayn Rand collection. The clear, rational thought that echoed throughout this book gave a new meaning to my understandings of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. The collection of essays seemed to say just what I've been repeating to myself for years now. It is great to see Rand's magnificant philosophy so clearly and non-metaphorically described so as to see Objectivism with a new, practical light. This is a must read for everyone!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brasil, 19 Jun. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Virtue of Selfishness (Signet) (Mass Market Paperback)
I Swear by life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor will I ask another man to live for my sake. - Atlas Shrugged -. If you don't agree with this, read it and you will. the book is about this quote, how to live for yourself, what are the terms on ethics, racism etc... If you agree with this, also read it, I have, it will show little things which become significant. What this book says is to live for yourself and value yourself more than anything else.
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33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mix of legitimate points and very flawed rethorics., 27 July 2006
This review is from: The Virtue of Selfishness (Signet) (Mass Market Paperback)
This, like many of Ayn Rand's works, seems to be one of those "love it or hate it" books that has a very loyal following as well as many opponents. I don't think it's that easy because this is a very mixed collection of essays.

Much of the ideas presented in the first few essays are good and should be truly thought provoking for most readers. I have come to regard selfishness (though I prefer the term "egosim") in a new light, which has been good for me.

But here are also many flaws. Most of these are due to the utopian ideas in the essays. There seems to be no place for sick and unable people in Rand's perfect society. Based on my own self interest, I want a society that takes care of their sick and poor, because I would like to be helped if I got in that situation.

Rand's worldview is an oversimplified version of reality. She seems to believe in the libertairian myth that all men have equal chances in life to pursue their ambitions. She writes that one can only achieve one's goals through one's own effort. Never mind that some people (such as the heroes Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden in her novel "Atlas Shrugged") are born wealthy while some people have to work full time just to feed themselves, not leaving much spare time to pursue their true ambitions.

Rand is so rabidly opposed to all forms of altruism she goes to the extremes to demonize it. This is another proof of her oversimplified worldview which leads me to the next point, how proudly she declares that she's an extremist. This is the essay titled "The Cult of Moral Grayness", in which she explains that it is evil to combine ideas from different philosophies and that the world must only be viewed in black and white, in terms of absolute good and absolute evil, with no shades of gray. My only interpretation of this is that Rand - Objectivism being the only rational philosophy - is always right about everything and if you disagree with her on any issue you are morally corrupt and evil. Thus, you must accept all of her teachings without questioning. In reality this means you are not allowed to think for yourself and evaluate them critically. This blind obedience is not compatible with rationalism and individualism. On the contrary, this demands you to stop think for yourself, out of fear that you may reach some "incorrect" conclusion that only a corrupt and evil person could do, which is exactly the sort of rethorics she opposes in the essay titled "The Argument from Intimidation".

It is quite sad that some of the essays express a very old fashioned and uninformed attitude towards homosexuality.

Although I found much of the rethorics flawed, I am glad I read the book, first of all because I did find good ideas in the first three essays, and secondly for the simple reason that it gave me a good insight of Rand's way of thinking, and it's always valuable to get exposed to different ideas in order to keep an open mind. Only after you've read something can you decide whether you agree with it or not. For these reasons I recommend this book. If you read it with a critical mind, it has some good ideas to offer, but don't automatically swallow the whole package just becase you agree with some of it. Be rational.
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4.0 out of 5 stars In Praise of Capitalism, 24 Dec. 2012
By 
Herman Norford "Keen Reader" (Birmingham, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Virtue of Selfishness (Signet) (Mass Market Paperback)
Ayn Rand's "The Virtue of Selfishness" is certainly an interesting and thought provoking collection of essays. In the book you get what is displayed on the cover by means of its title, namely an undiluted brand of selfishness. But don't be put off by the brand because whilst many might disagree with the book's broad thrust there is certainly plenty of food for thought.

The collection of essays was written in the early 1960's making some of them 50 years or nearly 50 years old. The range of topics the essays cover is quite broad including issues such as: mental health versus mysticism, the ethics of emergencies, selfishness, the psychology of pleasure, man's rights, the nature of government and racism to mention a few of the topics. Most of the essays were written by Rand with some contributions from one of her disciples, Nathaniel Branden. If there is a single unifying issue threading its way through the essays it is the concept known as an "ethics of rational self-interest". Rand begins her collection of essays with "The Objectivist Ethics" in which she seems to be in search of an Ethics that is based on rational objectivity. This first essay should be read carefully as it provides the theoretical foundation for all the other essays.

In her effort to lay the foundation of an objectivist ethics, Rand outlines a dense argument by analogy in order to undermine the acceptance of Hume's argument that one cannot derive "ought" form "is". In other words, something that is a fact does not tell us how we should behave or act. In short, Rand's dictum states: "the fact that a living entity is, determines what it ought to do." Although she does not undermine Hume's argument, to some extent her argument here is quite persuasive especially as she emphasises the point by telling us that: "knowledge for any conscious organism is the means of survival; to a living consciousness, every "is" implies an "ought".

What we get in the Objectivist Ethics feels like a sermon. A sermon blasted at the reader from a right wing perspective. Although Rand was an atheist one is left with the impression that the text of "The Objectivist Ethics" could serve as a new chapter in the bible for those right wing USA preachers and broadcasters. It's a text that rails against slot and dependency. We are told: "Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceed from the achievement of one's own values. If a man values productive work, his happiness is the measure of his success in the service of his life."

Let's be clear what's been railed against in these essays is altruism. The OED defines altruism as: "The belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others." In the essay, The Ethics of Emergencies, for Rand this position is almost despicable and she has an interesting way of turning the issue upside down. She says: "By elevating the issues of helping others into the central and primary issue of ethics, altruism has destroyed the concept of any authentic benevolence and good will among men." But despite this hard headed stance against altruism and one's intuitive negative reaction against it, nonetheless one is left feeling that there is some truth to the objectivist ethics as many of our behaviour and actions are borne of selfishness.

The relevancy test raises its head in relation to these essays or at least some of them. The obvious question is 50 years on does these essays address the contemporary socio-economic, political and moral situation in which human beings find themselves? Some might want to argue that the question is at least debateable for me the short answer is yes at least some of the essays do address our contemporary situation. Where rand points out that: "moral neutrality necessitates a progressive sympathy for vice and a progress antagonism to virtue" one can easily apply that dictum to the liberalism that we encounter today in so many aspects of our lives - for example those in authority wanting to sit on the fence and try to find reasons to mitigate bad behaviour.

One question to bear in mind when reading these extreme right wing texts is to ask oneself who are these kinds of texts ruling out or ignoring? Reading between the lines of many right wing texts one could sometimes detect the sexist, homophobic and or racist nature of them. Ayn Rand's essays are no exception. She holds the USA and its historical trajectory in high esteem. But in doing so Rand appears willing to overlook one of the indelible stains on the USA - namely slavery. In discussing the declaration of independence in relation to man's right, Rand points out that the limits of a government role in society is one of protecting man's rights from physical violence. As a result of this limited role of government in relation to the USA of course Rand goes on to say: "The result was the pattern of a civilized society which - for the brief span of some hundred and fifty years - America came close to achieving" tell that to those who suffered as slaves and those still suffering from the legacy. Although she acknowledges that such high aim was not "consistently practiced" she nonetheless blames what she calls "America's inner contradiction" on "alturist - collectivist ethics". This is disingenuous those who did not achieve high standards set by the declaration of independence were of the same right wing, individualistic ilk as Rand.

Rand's essay on racism is to be applauded. I broadly agree with some of the points she raise. However, I found it ironic that she should attribute the critical points she makes to collectivism rather than to her own right wing followers. I guess the extreme brand of right wing politics and philosophy Rand puts forward knows how to perpetrate its racism in a subtle and covert manner.

Whatever, my stance is towards the essays, they certainly are engaging and thought provoking. Some fifty years on the essays resonate, they are still relevant and worth reading.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic and necessary as a debunking of the myth of "selfishness" but in its extreme as flawed as communism..., 26 July 2012
This review is from: The Virtue of Selfishness (Signet) (Mass Market Paperback)
I believed before reading this book that "selfishness" and "benevolence" were compatible. I've also always believed, (despite it being unprovable and at times contrary to contemporary events), in an almost innate "benevolence", defined as either "desire to be good to others" or an "act of kindness".

This book, (if read open-mindedly, whilst ignoring the dogma!) opens your eyes to these kind of assumptions. I've realised benevolence is "innate" only from my 'absolutist' perspective (my belief that things can be good in a simply/absolutist sense), whilst it is actually "rational" from an agent-relativist perspective (things are only good for or relative to certain individuals); in other words whether benevolence is "innate" or not, its existence actually makes sense from a survival perspective, for the following reason:
It is in our own interest to respect the rights of others because mutual respect is the only guarantee of our own safety, freedom, productivity and pursuit of happiness. Respecting others, even helping others is, in this respect and from an Objectivist perspective, a "selfish" motivation, (but ofcourse the conception of selfish denotes merely concern for one's self interest; far different from how selfishness is normally conceived.)

This is what this book illustrates: benevolence, whether innate or not, actually serves our own interest. In a world of increasing conflicts, disasters and resulting inequality the knowledge that helping others actually serves our interest is a great message that really should be popularised more.

Yet the reason it will not be, is because of its dogma and objectivism flaws:
For me the big flaw in objectivism is that it assumes everyone is "rational", and must act in a "rational" way in order to survive. The reality is they do not, and this leaves the victims of those who act irrationally, who, if objectivism was adopted on a national scale, would be left helpless (poverty being the classic example and which interestingly is explicitly excluded in the chapter on "emergency ethics"), and therefore likely themselves to act "irrationally" in the future. Objectivism, taken to its extreme, would therefore ironically lead to more irrationalism, and not a more rational, benevolent society.

But though it is flawed, I do believe this philosophy when seen from a reasonable perspective, does allow people to see the value in themselves, and focus their lives on their own development and happiness whilst being aware that seemingly "selfless" are helping themselves by improving society's respect and values and raising their own self-esteem.

So for an individual reader? Hugely valuable and necessary reading to anyone who constantly feel they put others before themselves, or never have time for themselves.

For the whole society or for a policy maker? As brilliant in an ideal world as communism, but potentially as problematic and dangerous in reality.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Exposition on Government as well as Philosophy, 4 Sept. 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The Virtue of Selfishness (Signet) (Mass Market Paperback)
Rand's explanation of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights is very impressive. She has a grasp of the exact principles that the Founding Fathers intended. I would recommend this book not only to the beginning philosopher, but also to students of government, politics, and ethics.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A profound and original theory of egoism, 7 Oct. 2009
By 
G. Imroth (Hertfordshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Virtue of Selfishness (Signet) (Mass Market Paperback)
To add to other positive reviews that greatly admire this lively set of philosophical essays, I think it is useful to explain in just what way Ayn Rand's theory of egoism is original:

It may be said that Ayn Rand's theory of egoism simply repeats ideas found in Nicolo Machiavelli, Benedict Spinoza, La Rochefoucauld and Friedrich Nietzsche. My view is that it is a novel theory for two reasons: Ayn Rand clearly distinguished between self-interest and wilfulness (which she called 'whim-worship'); and she uniquely identified selfishness as an essential precondition for rationality.

The distinction between self-interest and wilfulness allows a cognate distinction to be made between selfishness and spite or, in general, between egoism and egotism, where an egoist is essentially independent (neither relying on other men nor harming them) and an egotist is essentially other-dependent. Thus spitefulness and whim-worship are both fundamentally selfless, not selfish. Critics of Ayn Rand fail to understand this consequence of her theory, assuming it is the same thing to refuse to sacrifice one's interests for the sake of others as to sacrifice the interests of others to oneself.

The reason selfishness is an essential precondition for rationality is that intellectual integrity requires independence of mind, which relies on the egoistic virtue of courage and the egoistic psychological attribute of self-esteem or confidence in one's own intellectual worth.

It follows from this that the term 'rational' in the phrase 'rational self-interest' is almost redundant: 'irrational self-interest' is either self-indulgent hedonism or else gaining benefits by damaging others. It is in this spirit that we should understand the otherwise unrealistic belief that 'there are no conflicts of interests between rational men'. Clearly, the desires and potential benefits of men conflict; but what is probably defensible is that an egoist does not achieve his interests at the expense of another man; that only ambitions that can be fulfilled without abusing other men count as rational.

Among the many topics discussed in 'The Virtue of Selfishness' is an unsurpassed analysis of the evil of racism. Ayn Rand fans will enjoy this book and even her opponents will benefit from reading it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The beginning of a love-hate relationship, 19 Feb. 2015
By 
Terry W painter (Bournville, Birmingham England) - See all my reviews
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Requires discriminating readers to sort pearls from oyster shells for it contains both!
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The Virtue of Selfishness (Signet)
The Virtue of Selfishness (Signet) by Ayn Rand (Mass Market Paperback - 30 July 1992)
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