Tag Archives: selfishness

The Virtue of Selfishness, by Ayn Rand

Good morning readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

I’ve said a few things about Ayn Rand on this blog a number of readers found objectionable.  A goodly number found it offensive enough to cancel subscriptions, which I don’t find objectionable at all.

Fact is, I was once an avid reader of Ayn Rand.  Not being a reader of Ayn Rand was a way a person could declare himself a non-pseudo-intellectual, which of course, I certainly didn’t wish to be.  At the time, admitting to the shameful fact of not having read Atlas Shrugged, or Fountainhead, reduced the stature of the person admitting it to something akin to not having seen Gone With The Wind.

In all honesty I found Rand’s fiction tedious, with the exception of Anthem, which nobody’d ever heard of [few Rand admirers probably have to this day] and didn’t win any intellectual points in the 1960s.  So when I came across The Virtue of Selfishness, in 1965, I welcomed the read because I thought it could provide discussable insights into Rand’s viewpoints while sparing the reader all the muscle-flexing fictional heroes.

Which it did.  And having read it I quickly ceased being an admirer of Rand, to whatever extent I might have been previously. 

I suspect those who read, or claim to have read Ayn Rand today probably derive opinions about her, and her work, from the fiction works and admiration for the fictional characters.  The gut-level response to Horatio Algerism with a bit of Paul Bunyan thrown in. 

But the appeal of Rand at the time was located in fictional characters.  The Virtue of Selfishness quickly was to be found on the reduced price shelves at the book stores.  Because, the simple fact is that nobody loves an ego-maniac.  Nobody loves a selfish, grasping, gluttonous, greedy person when the fictional fantasies are stripped away.

And giving it a fancy name, objectivism, rationalizing the state-of-being that goes with it, just doesn’t add anything to the equation.  There might never have been a culture in the history of mankind where greed was openly, admittedly, frankly, an object of admiration.  In fact, the opposite is mostly true.

So today when Rand admirers are justifying their world-views by using her tepid arguments in favor of devil-take-the-hindmost, they rarely use the name of her tour d’force work, where she attempts to explain herself.  They know somewhere inside themselves it’s off-putting to the listener.

So the buzzwords are used, instead.  Short phrases bounced around back and forth that needn’t be defended.

Nobody needs Ayn Rand to justify selfishness and self-centeredness, but she provides an excuse, however lame.

Old Jules

Edit 8:12 am – There’s a mysterious, paradoxical side of the 21st Century fascination with Rand I neglected to mention.  Today admiration for Rand is the unlikely and somewhat ironic focal point where fundamentalist Christians join hands with atheists.  Both quote snippets of Rand, claim to have read her.

All of which makes a certain amount of sense for atheists of a particular sort.  But it’s not easy to reconcile with Christianity.  After all, lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, anger, envy and pride have been universally accepted as the Seven Deadly, or Venal, or Mortal Sins since a time long before Protestants.  And I don’t recall any Protestant sect ever declaring openly to repudiate them.