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Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist Paperback – April 16, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0521705462 ISBN-10: 0521705460 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 330 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (April 16, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521705460
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521705462
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,603,283 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"...a strongly written addition to the scholarly literature on Ayn Rand's philosophy...belongs in every college and university library, and on the shelves of philosophers interested in Rand's views and current trends in the ethics literature." --Stephen R.C. Hicks, Rockford College: Philosophy in Review

"...the issues raised by this book are manifold and provocative... This book should force a debate of renewed vigor about what we mean by egoism, whether and how the egoism / altruism dichotomy should be applied within eudaimonistic ethical theories, and what our ethical theories imply about our political outlook. Smith provides us with a version of egoism that will need to be argued against by those who find it distasteful or misguided, rather than simply dismissed." --Helen Cullyer, University of Pittsburgh, Note Dame Philosophical Review

"For those interested in gaining a full and accurate understanding of Rand's revolutionary moral code, University of Texas at Austin philosophy professor Tara Smith's new book Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist is a most welcome addition to the existing literature. Smith describes the book as "an account of what Rand's rational egoism consists of and requires," with particular emphasis on its virtues.8 This it is-and more. The book illuminates the central principles of the Objectivist ethics in rich detail, rendering them readily accessible to any sincere inquirer." --Diana Hsieh, The Objective Standard

Book Description

This book explains the fundamental virtues that Rand considers vital for a person to achieve his objective well-being: rationality, honesty, independence, justice, integrity, productiveness, and pride. Tara Smith examines what each of these virtues consists in, why it is a virtue, and what it demands of a person in practice.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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First of all, although this book is philosophically rigorous, it is highly readable.
Ayn Rand holds up the magnifying lens to all these virtues and how they work within the framework of rational egoism.
Nerine Dorman
For context, I have read most of Ayn Rand's work and have thought about them quite a bit.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

95 of 105 people found the following review helpful By Greg Perkins on May 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Noting how recent scholarly work in ethics dances around the edges of seriously grappling with egoism, Dr. Smith offers the invitation: Why not judge ethical egoism by squarely confronting it in its most powerful and consistent form? Thus her comprehensive, systematic presentation of Ayn Rand's ethics. This book is particularly welcome because important elements of Rand's ethical thought are scattered among her novels and various essays, with further illumination sprinkled in her journals, her live Q&A, and reflected in works by her leading and longtime students (primarily Dr. Leonard Peikoff). Smith draws all of this together into a single, clear, carefully organized presentation, judiciously employing comparison and contrast with contemporary academic thought to clarify distinctions and to highlight the novel and powerful aspects of Rand's ideas.

Smith's presentation is masterful, executed with clarity, power, and finesse. Yet it is accessible, and she maintains a warm, reflective style throughout that is grounded in the realities of human life. While following along as Smith unwinds the major virtues Rand identified, what makes them virtues, and what they demand of us in action, you may find that you can't help but consider the implications regarding your own behavior -- the character you are shaping by your everyday choices and actions -- the course you are charting in your own life. This is a solid academic work, but it is also the deepest sort of practical self-help book, implicitly encouraging people to get real and seriously consider what it means to live as a human can and should.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Doug on May 14, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book should be next on your reading list if you want an in-depth and rigorous study of Ayn Rand's ethics of Rational Egoism beyond what you can glean from reading Ayn Rand's novels and non-fiction essays. First of all, although this book is philosophically rigorous, it is highly readable. Personally speaking, I thought reading this book was a pleasure.

This book offers a detailed understanding of the Objectivist principles of *how* one should be moral. The first chapter is a useful introduction to what virtues are and what one can expect to gain from reading this book. The second chapter is a brief overview of Ayn Rand's answer to *why* one should be moral and hence, is a summary of Tara Smith's book "Viable Values". The third chapter goes into great detail on rationality, which is the primary virtue according to Objectivist ethics. The next six chapters are each devoted to one of the six secondary virtues of Objectivist ethics, which are: Honesty, Independence, Integrity, Justice, Pride and Productivity.

The last chapter should also be of great value to those who enjoy reading beyond the lines. In this chapter, Dr. Smith evaluates four other qualities which are commonly held to be virtues: Charity, Generosity, Kindness and Temperance, according to Objectivist principles. Although Dr. Smith indicates that these qualities are not inherently bad according to Objectivist principles, she nevertheless correctly concludes that since Objectivism holds one's own life as the standard of value, these qualities cannot properly be considered virtues according to Objectivist principles.

Overall, this is an excellent book for anyone seeking a more thorough understanding of the philosophy of Ayn Rand!
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Format: Paperback
Philosophy professor Tara Smith has produced a book of value to Ayn Rand scholarship. While Rand wrote many nonfiction essays describing the Objectivist approach to ethics (and certainly writes on the subject at length in her novels), I think this is the first book-length treatment of Rand's moral philosophy of virtuous egoism. There are several books, of course, on egoism and many books on virtue ethics, but the combination of the two is quite unique. And, honestly, a common critique of Rand in academic circles is that she seems sometimes a rule utilitarian, sometimes a virtue ethicist, and even occasionally a deontologist. That is why this book is so important for Rand scholarship.

First, I have to say that the book's organization (and writing) is very, very good. Smith devotes one chapter to each of the virtues as seen by Rand: rationality, honesty, independence, justice, integrity, productiveness, and pride. In each chapter, Smith explains why it is a virtue, argues why Objectivistic egoism demands that particular virtue, and what the internal and external conditions are for exercising that virtue. So, rationality, considered the cardinal virtue, is defended on the egoistic grounds that only use of rationality (rather than faith or emotional decision making) can ensure that individuals deploy their judgment in ways that aids their lives, and is a virtue demanding exercise of rational decision making, availability of information on which to make rational decisions, etc.

That brings me to the second merit of the book: Smith does defend all of these virtues on egoistic grounds.
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