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282 of 309 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of the Book, not the Ideas
I am writing, ostensibly, to provide you with some information regarding the book, in order that you may make a more rational decision as to whether you will purchase it.
Rand is often provocative, and mention of her/and or her philosophy can create instant dichotomies. I will not, in this review, critique the ideational content of her work. I offer this review...
Published on June 10, 2000 by mcgee22

versus
72 of 91 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 July 13, 2006 by NoWireHangers


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282 of 309 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of the Book, not the Ideas, June 10, 2000
This review is from: The Virtue of Selfishness, Centennial Edition (Mass Market Paperback)
I am writing, ostensibly, to provide you with some information regarding the book, in order that you may make a more rational decision as to whether you will purchase it.
Rand is often provocative, and mention of her/and or her philosophy can create instant dichotomies. I will not, in this review, critique the ideational content of her work. I offer this review with some "objective", pardon the pun, criticism.
1. This work offers a concise, fairly complete philosophy (which you may or may not agree with), from the essential and foundational steps, to their eventual results in daily life. This complete-package approach is an interesting window into her philosophy. Several issues could have been explored in more detail surely, but this collection of essays acts primarily to spark thinking on behalf of the reader.
2. Her philosophy is a shocking alternative to the present implicity accepted norms in society. Her counter-arguments to both traditional and contemporary systems of ethics are interesting and worth consideration, even if you eventually endeavour to refute them.
3. This work presents profound ideas in rather straightforward text. Topics include: ethics metaphysics politics values comments on contemporary trends in philosophy comments on ethical relativism
4. This work provides some insight into the breadth and depth which simple assumptions may have on daily life. Rands ideas, and those she illustrates for purposes of refutation, are extrapolated from basic intellectual concepts to day-to-day effects on human life. This concept-to-consequence style of writing offers a holistic perspective that can easily be applied to the work of other philosophers. For this reason I suggest this book to students of philosophy to gain a perspective of the impact of philosophical ideas.
5. Finally, this is perhaps the most succinct and most accessible of Rand's works, and a reading of it should allow sufficient insight into the body of her thought to understand her stance on several issues. If you are looking for a 'summary of Rand', this is the book I would suggest.
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511 of 566 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Actual Review, December 19, 2001
This review is from: The Virtue of Selfishness, Centennial Edition (Mass Market Paperback)
As the title suggests this is going to be an actual review of the _Virtue of Selfishness_ and not another argument for or against Miss Rand's thesis. I'm assuming here that you, as a potential reader, would possibly like to know a little something about what the book contains. If so, read on.
Objectivism, the philosophy which Ayn Rand originated, is a full system of thought. This book presents a part of that system, its ethics. And here, as with the other books Miss Rand has written, her thesis is controversial, strikingly original and brilliantly articulated. The book, for instance, begins with the following premise:
"Ethics is _not_ a mystic fantasy--nor a social convention--nor a dispensable, subjective luxury. . . . Ethics is an _objective necessity of man's survival_--not by the grace of the supernatural nor of your neighbors nor of your whims, but by the grace of reality and the nature of life."
This conception of ethics as a _this-worldly, objective need of man determined by reality and not by some ruling consciousness_ is virtually unwarranted in the history of philosophy. Her conclusions are just as controversial however--and, for proof, read the following passage (which shows the difference between the Objectivist ethics and that of every other system known to mankind):
"Every human being is an end in himself, not the means to the ends or the welfare of others," says Miss Rand, "and therefore, man must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself."
In other words, Rand advocates _rational selfishness_. Now, what does this mean or entail--and how does one achieve it? These are the questions that the book answers (and which the other reviews posted at this site most certainly do not). If you would like to find out those answers, I highly recommend you read this book.
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237 of 261 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Rational Morality of Selfishness, March 10, 2006
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This review is from: The Virtue of Selfishness, Centennial Edition (Mass Market Paperback)
To some of the people who have written previously striving to stain Ayn Rand and Objectivism with examples of brutal acts, it would be a good idea to at least have the decency to actually read The Virtue of Selfishness so they would know what they are talking about, because as is, they only stand out as examples of people talking about a subject they know nothing about. Even more the posted review from the Library Journal, which heads the page, is a highly prejudicial piece of work that only exhibits the author's emotional feelings and distaste for Ayn Rand and Objectivism. Full of sharply pointed adjectives like "outlandish" and "sadly dated" and "mutant symptoms" the author fails to offer factual evidence to make his claim, and in other instances, such as his claim that Rand advocated "the rights of the individual at the expense of the community" was completely mistaken.

Without a doubt, this is a forum of opinions and one has to expect a wide variety of different views from all types of people. But I would expect Amazon to follow a higher standard when posting comments by media sources such as Library Journal. If you are going to post something from a media source, at least post an articulate and well-informed piece instead of a highly prejudicial post, filled with the author's ungrounded opinions divorced from facts.

In the early sixties, when The Virtue of Selfishness hit the market, it was one of the first book-form expositions of Objectivism. True to form, in the introduction to the book, Ayn Rand defines a new concept of egoism and points out that her definition of selfishness, or rational self-interest, differs radically from the common usage of the term. She does this in order to describe positive character traits, and make it possible to conceptualize the self-reliant, self-respecting independent man or woman, who lives his or her life for their own sake, without sacrifice on anyone's part. She explains how the negative connotation of selfishness serves as a package deal to negate the concept of an independent and talented man or woman living their life for their own sake.

What Ayn Rand set out to do with her revolutionary concept of rational self-interest was to conceptualize the men and women of ability and talent: creators, producers and builders, who live independent lives, without sacrificing others to themselves or themselves to others. One of the best graphic illustrations of this concept is the characterization of Howard Roark in The Fountainhead. Here, one sees in a fictionalized version of the Objectivist view of selfishness: a character in love with life, his work, the act of creation, and the sharing of these values with others of similar mind and personality.

Obviously in our society, the Saddam Hussein concept of the selfish brute, who mauls and defiles everything in his path, is very common. However, a cursory knowledge of history would tell one that these horrors, that people often try to slander Objectivism with, are almost always the result of self-sacrificial behavior in the name of a higher cause with an authoritarian leader at the helm. Self-sacrifice and the duty to serve others are at the fundamentals of fascism, Nazism, communism, and every other blight on civilization since the beginning of time.

Saddam Hussein would be a perfect example of this: a man who saw himself as the great Arab leader who would unite the Arab world against the infidels, and in the process, sacrificed anyone and anybody in the name of his higher, mystical cause. Pol Pot was another example. An authoritarian leader armed with his idea of a Marxist agrarian revolution, he had no compunction, under the guise of self-sacrificial service to others, to kill and murder millions of people in order to achieve his perfect, unselfish society.

In contrast to this, on examining Ayn Rand's life, one would see a magnificently benevolent women in love with the mind and efficacious behavior, who by pursuing her rational self-interest, has enlightened the minds of millions of her readers and helped them to pursue a more fruitful and productive life. Her writings on the sorry state of the educational system and its attempt to obliterate reason, reality and individualism are masterpieces of benevolence for those who are trapped in this system, and want to break free from this mind-destroying nightmare.

Rational self-interest is a revolutionary concept that challenges the morality at the very root of our society. If this interests you and you are looking for a different vision of the world, a vision of a better, more rational and productive existence, The Virtue of Selfishness (VOS) may be a book you would want to investigate.
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41 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enter At Your Own Risk, January 31, 2005
This review is from: The Virtue of Selfishness, Centennial Edition (Mass Market Paperback)
This may be one of the great works of all time. It is not for everyone.

Ayn Rand's The Virtue of Selfishness is a powerful statement of part of her philosophy, Objectivism. Specifically, it is a collection of essays dealing with the Ethics of her philosophy. She advocates "rational selfishness" as being opposed to selflessness or altruism. She advocates that people act to make themselves healthy and happy--that this is good, and not something for which people should suffer guilt. She argues that people should not feel compelled to make sacrifices for others, which stands in direct opposition to most mainstream ethical systems, such as Christianity (which is based upon a sacrifice, after all).

It is controversial and in-your-face. Rand holds nothing back. She does not pretend to have sympathy for other points of view. She says that what she has to say is true, and then attempts to prove it. Whether you finally agree with her or not, one of the most refreshing aspects of reading Rand is her honesty. She does not try to hide her opinions. Everything is clearly laid out. The writing is concise, using words neither larger than necessary nor smaller. She defines her terms as she goes, aiming for complete understanding. You will never read a writer (and especially in philosophy) who displays more respect for her reader. She dares you to disagree--to prove her wrong.

On the other hand, as I say, Rand is not for everyone, and for precisely the same reasons that make her such a compelling read. If you have any sacred cows going in, they will likely be butchered. It can be quite uncomfortable to have your most basic beliefs threatned and attacked outright, and thus a little introspection prior to reading this may be best.

This book is designed for: people who are comfortable in debate-type situations; people who are earnestly interested in "truth", even if said truth hurts; people who believe in the power of logic, and follow it to its conclusions; people who respect candor and honest argumentation; people who are used to challenging conventional wisdom and questioning everything.

I picked up this book because I knew of Rand's basic assertions and I thought she was dead wrong. I wanted to read her reasoning and tear it apart.... It didn't work out that way. :) She convinced me through the raw power of her arguments, evidence and logic. As my title states, Enter At Your Own Risk. The Virtue of Selfishness is a powerful little tome.
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55 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Individualism and self-interest lead to an enlightened world, June 25, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Virtue of Selfishness, Centennial Edition (Mass Market Paperback)
Far from offering an excuse to be wantonly self-interested, Rand compels the reader to understand the difference between irrational whim and reasoned self-interest. This book is no primer for the would be hedonist. Rather, it is a call to anyone who seeks to find and honest and rational lens through which to view the modern world.
The reader is advised to persevere through the initial chapters as the author lays out the case for why she wrote the book. Once a foundation for discussion has been laid, you are exposed to Ms. Rand's clarity of thought and visionary understanding of the times we live in. The book is peppered with references to "today" (meaning the early 1960's when the book was written) that sound like they were written TODAY!
This book would also benefit anyone who seeks to understand the Objectivist philosophy that is the basis for Ayn Rand's two monumental novels, Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.
I plan to read it over and over, until I have it committed to heart.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hierarchy of Values, May 21, 2001
By 
Ann Vaughan (Oklahoma City, OK USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Virtue of Selfishness, Centennial Edition (Mass Market Paperback)
I don't want to turn this into a discussion forum on Greg Nyquist's "soldier dilemma", but I feel a response is warranted.
Objectivist ethics are based on one's hierarchy of values. It is only evil to sacrifice a greater value for a lesser one, Or a value for a non-value. For instance, if I give up my life to save my son's, that is not a sacrifice. I hold his life to be a higher value than my continued existence without him.
Therefore, in the soldier example, an objectivist soldier would throw himself on the grenade if 1), he had become friends with the other soldiers, and held them in very high value and did not want to continue his existence without them or 2) he believed that by doing this he was serving the cause of the greater war effort of freedom, and did not want to live his life in serfdom.
It can even be argued that it is not evil to give up one's life for a stranger, since it is your life that is at stake, and your life is yours to do with what you please. It IS evil, however to expect or require that someone else do so.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Social Poison?, July 4, 2006
This review is from: The Virtue of Selfishness, Centennial Edition (Mass Market Paperback)
When first exposed to the notion that altruism was not a good thing, I strongly disagreed. I have read The Virtue of Selfishness 3 times and am beginning to understand the substance of this premise.

Many readers, like S. Curtis, struggle with the bad connotation of the word selfish and miss the distinction between rational self-interest and whimsical self indulgence. Rational self-interest begins with defining one's values and not subordinating those values to some externally mandated priorities. As offensive and extreme as some of her conclusions may be to some, it is difficult to see any flaws in her reasoning.

History has shown, when something other than rational self-interest becomes the priority, it is only a question of time before individual rights suffer. The notion that the wealthy have no incentive to help others in the absence of praise for the altruist, is a fallacy. People should do what they can to help others, not because altruism is a higher calling, but because it makes for a more productive, humane society. I dont think Bill Gates became one of the most generous philanthropists in history because he believes in altruism.

I wish there were a happy medium on the individualist / collectivist continuum, but until we return to the garden of eden and thereby satisfy each person's needs and wants with unlimited resources, I would rather count on the individual to realize that rational self interest involves more than self-indulgence than to pray that the current dictator of social priorities hasn't forgotten about freedom and liberty. It is ironic that the Pope recently urged catholics to be less selfish, while the vatican is spending billions of dollars on the legal consequences of a collectivist ideal that we should all be like Mother Teresa. This book helped me realize that self-denial and guilt do not lead to happiness and that selfishness and kindness are not mutually exclusive.

To those who find the theory of objectivism unoriginal and solipsistic, I would respectfully suggest that they read the many examples of how this philosophy changed the way people think and feel in the preceeding customer reviews. I would recommend Pekoff's book Objectivism: the philosophy of Ayn Rand to anyone seeking an in deapth analysis of Objectivism. Because I can not think of any philosophy that had a bigger impact on the way I view myself and the world around me, I have found the philosophy of Objectivism startlingly original, and brilliant in its simlicity.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How Selfish, January 28, 2008
This review is from: The Virtue of Selfishness, Centennial Edition (Mass Market Paperback)
I find myself again reviewing a book by Ayn Rand that I quite liked. I am not a philosophy major so I won't be arguing about the soundness of her metaphysics or epistemology. I will simply say that while I don't agree with everything she has to say (few would) she makes very interesting observations. Her essay on the concept of human rights as a way to subjugate rulers to moral law is spot on. Her definition of sacrifice is also more logical than another one proposed in another review. Her idea that capitalism is the only free economic system borders on tautological and her support of property rights is a rarity amongst modern "thinkers". Again, while I don't support everything she said (I am still debating the idea of absolute morality, as if morality was something we can discover like the laws of physics) I think she makes strong arguments for personal freedom and the proper relation between a government and its governed.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Changed My Life, September 5, 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: The Virtue of Selfishness, Centennial Edition (Mass Market Paperback)
I read this book a few years ago when I was a sophomore in college. I hadn't read too many books at that time and it was my first Rand book. From the first page I was absolutely enthralled. It was the most intellectually stimulating experience of my life up to that point.
Some people who read this book will reject it out of hand because they don't like some or all of her conclusions. But she argues everything so clearly and thoroughly starting with basic premises building up to complicated philosophical ideas that it's hard to rationally disagree.
Before I read this book I had only vague conceptions of what I believed or valued. This book gave me a logically consistent foundation for my views on morality, politics, and philosophy.
What Rand is fighting for is the idea that reason is supreme and can be effectively used to optimize life in all its aspects. She uses reason to analyze many big questions such as "What is the purpose of morality?" "How should I decide what moral ideals to choose for my life?" "What is the proper role of government?" and more.
I have now read most all of her work and agree wholeheartedly with almost every detail of her philosophy. But where we do disagree I find it to be insignificant because her entire philosophy I believe can be summed up in this statement: "Use reason without contradiction to guide your life in every way" which I completely agree with.
That statement seems obvious enough but once I understood its significance (through reading her books) I saw that people everywhere all the time are knowingly contradicting themselves in their beliefs and actions. Indeed, without knowing it, they will argue passionately that contradicting yourself is the proper way to act and think. These are the Rand haters.
How can you seriously consider the opinion of someone who says in a debate "You're taking logic too far." Or "Reason is good for some things but not for everything". Or "Your argument makes sense but I'm just being practical". Such people don't seem to grasp what reason is. They might as well be saying "2 plus 2 equals four sometimes and five other times".
I highly recommend this book and would also say that if you do disagree with Rand on some point don't abandon reason taken to its logical conclusion to support what you are saying. If you do you have already lost the argument. If there are any logical errors in her writing they should be treated as errors and not as an indictment of her philosophy of using reason which is absolutely correct.
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72 of 91 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mix of legitimate points and very flawed rethorics., July 13, 2006
This review is from: The Virtue of Selfishness, Centennial Edition (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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The Virtue of Selfishness, Centennial Edition
The Virtue of Selfishness, Centennial Edition by Ayn Rand (Mass Market Paperback - November 1, 1964)
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