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The Virtue of Selfishness: Fiftieth Anniversary Edition Mass Market Paperback – CLV, November 1, 1964
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From Library Journal
The problem with Rand is easily detectable by careful listeners of this production: a good essayist with a flair for the dramatic turn of phrase, she wasted her obvious writing skills in an effort to support outlandish personal opinions cloaked in the guise of logic. An absolutist thinker, she devotes one whole essay to an effort to persuade us that we really should see things as black and white, with no shades of gray. Born in Soviet Russia, Rand so despised socialism and collectivist thinking that she leapt to the furthest extreme possible to become the champion of unbridled capitalism, the rights of the individual at the expense of the community, and the diminution of all regulation by the state, with the exception of a judicial system and the control of crime. Among the sadly dated ideas she conveys are the attitude that homosexuals are mutant symptoms of a sick society and the belief that anyone with an interest in internationalism is a "one world" proponent. To use one of her own favored words, Rand's political and social philosophy is critically "muddled." C.M. Herbert's voice is efficient and cold, making it a perfect choice for the narration of this author's work. Recommended only as documentation of an anomaly in the history of ideas. Mark Pumphrey, Polk Cty. P.L., Columbus, NC
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Born February 2, 1905, Ayn Rand published her first novel, We the Living, in 1936. Anthem followed in 1938. It was with the publication of The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957) that she achieved her spectacular success. Rand’s unique philosophy, Objectivism, has gained a worldwide audience. The fundamentals of her philosophy are put forth in three nonfiction books, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, The Virtues of Selfishness, and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. They are all available in Signet editions, as is the magnificent statement of her artistic credo, The Romantic Manifesto.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
We need to understand that phenomena such as the Holocaust are not a failure of anti-self ideologies but their success. Millions of selves exterminated according to a doctrine that holds the self evil is a considerable accomplishment.
Only the egoist is capable of a consistent morality. "Love, friendship, respect, admiration are the emotional response of one man to the virtues of another, the spiritual payment given in exchange for the personal, selfish pleasure which one man derives from the virtues of another man’s character. Only a brute or an altruist would claim that the appreciation of another person’s virtues is an act of selflessness, that as far as one’s own selfish interest and pleasure are concerned, it makes no difference whether one deals with a genius or a fool, whether one meets a hero or a thug, whether one marries an ideal woman or a slut." ~ Ayn Rand in 'The Objectivist Ethics