Other People as Egoistic Values Versus Other People as Objects of Self-Sacrifice in Ayn Rand’s Philosophy

Ayn Rand, novelist and philosopher of Objectivism, a philosophy for living on Earth.

Ayn Rand

Objectivism, the philosophy of the novelist and philosopher, Ayn Rand, is well known for advocating the pursuit of your own self-interest. Many people take this to mean that Ayn Rand thought that you should ignore the well-being of other people. But this is not what Ayn Rand thought, and this is not what Objectivism says. Objectivism holds that contributing to other people’s well-being can be in your self-interest, even if they are not involved in a monetary, business relationship with you. This potentially includes helping friends, lovers, children and even strangers.

Why did Ayn Rand hold this view? How is loving and helping others consistent with pure self-interest? These are questions that this article will answer.

Objectivism Rejects Materialism and “Range-of-the-Moment” Pleasure Seeking

In order to understand why Objectivism holds the position it does on helping other people, there are a couple of common misconceptions of “self-interest” that need to be rejected.

The first is that self-interest is materialistic: that is, that acting in a self-interested way means acting only to satisfy your physical needs, without concern for spiritual (i.e. mental or psychological) values.

But for human beings, “materialistic self-interest” is an absurd idea that Objectivism rejects. If self-interest were materialistic, then going to see any movie, no matter how good, entertaining, inspiring or emotionally powerful, would not be in your self-interest. You are no better off physically after seeing a movie than you were before, so there is no physical value to the movie. The same would go for video games, museums, roller coasters, Halloween parties, and all similar forms of entertainment. Instead of going out to eat with other people, you would always be best served eating a healthy and inexpensive meal at home. Sex would best be avoided, in favor of vigorous exercise, etc. Continue reading

Philosopher Greg Salmieri (of Rutgers University) Discusses Ayn Rand’s Moral Philosophy on the Elucidations Podcast

The Library Research Pavilion at the University of Chicago, whose philosophy department produces the Elucidations podcast

The Library Research Pavilion at the University of Chicago, (whose philosophy department produces the Elucidations podcast.)

The Elucidations podcast has released an interview with Professor Greg Salmieri on Ayn Rand’s moral philosophy. This is a great interview, especially for those who don’t know that Ayn Rand’s moral philosophy supports friendship, benevolence and helping other people in certain ways and under certain circumstances.

The interview also does a good job of presenting Ayn Rand’s basic approach to morality and moral thinking.

Listen here:

Elucidations, Episode 73: Greg Salmieri discusses Ayn Rand’s moral philosophy

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Related Posts:

Introduction to Objectivism

Why the Philosophy of Objectivism is Still Relevant and Needed in the Age of Modern Science

Why “Selfishness” Doesn’t Properly Mean Being Shortsighted and Harmful to Others

Ayn Rand’s Philosophy vs. Abortion Bans: Why a Fetus Doesn’t Have Rights

The Wages of Altruism: Domestic Abuse

The Ayn Rand Institute’s 2015 Summer Conference (OCON) Just Wrapped Up

The Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) holds a conference every summer in a different city. Objectivists, students of Objectivism, and other people interested in Ayn Rand‘s philosophy travel from around the country to meet each other and hear talks by experts in various fields. The speakers discuss the ideas of Objectivism and their applications in life, science, and the arts, and answer questions from the audience. It is a very educational event, and a way to meet new people interested in ideas. (For the veterans of OCONs past, it’s also a chance to see old friends.) I definitely recommend it.

I went to OCON 2014 in Las Vegas, but was unable to go this year. But I look forward to videos of some of the major talks being released on ARI’s YouTube channel, as they were for OCON 2014.

There’s a fee to attend OCON, but that fee is reduced quite dramatically for current students and young adults. (Students can even apply for scholarships to cover the costs of travel and lodging.) If you are a student or young adult, I especially recommend taking the opportunity to attend at least one OCON. It’s a great opportunity to take a break from mundane things, meet great people, and learn more about Ayn Rand’s deep philosophy in a benevolent, congenial and exciting atmosphere.

You can subscribe to the Ayn Rand Institute’s Facebook and Twitter pages to see announcements when registration for next year’s OCON is open.

Here is the cvent page for OCON 2015, and here’s a list of upcoming ARI events.

Here are a couple of talks from last year’s OCON:

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Related Posts:

Introduction to Objectivism

Why the Philosophy of Objectivism is Still Relevant and Needed in the Age of Modern Science

Ayn Rand’s Philosophy vs. Abortion Bans: Why a Fetus Doesn’t Have Rights

The Wages of Altruism: Domestic Abuse

What Caused the Financial Crisis: It Wasn’t Capitalism or Deregulation

Why the Philosophy of Objectivism is Still Relevant and Needed in the Age of Modern Science

Barred spiral galaxy in space. Represents science and philosophy.Many people distrust abstract philosophical ideas and ideals. There are a couple of related reasons for this: 1) They hold that abstract ideas “oversimplify” reality, ensuring that they always fail to properly capture it, and 2) They think that abstract ideas outside of the natural sciences are generally faith-based dogma, or “armchair” speculation. (In either case, this means they think the ideas are put forward without sufficient supporting evidence.)

In regard to Number 1, I’d like to point out that all human concepts “simplify reality” in a sense: they all ignore differences between particular objects to focus on features common to a class of objects. For example, the concept “chair” refers to every particular chair you have ever encountered or will encounter. This means that it omits the countless differences between any two particular chairs. (Even if two chairs look identical at a macroscopic level, they almost certainly have countless differences at a microscopic level.) All other concepts function in a similar way: they ignore certain differences between things, for the sake of classifying them and integrating them into a single mental unit, represented by one word (“chair,” “dog,” etc.)

Yet the similarities that proper concepts such as “chair” capture are real and important, and it is not an oversimplification to say that all things called “chairs” (without qualification or modification) are made to allow someone to sit on them. Virtually no one accuses ideas about chairs of “oversimplifying reality”: Someone who speaks of chairs typically understands that he can always give more information about a particular chair by providing a description.

Classifying and simplifying reality by means of concepts is the human way of dealing with reality in thought, and it is very powerful, when done properly. Human beings have used the simplifying concepts of the natural sciences to cure diseases, increase food production per farmhand manyfold, extend the average human lifespan by over thirty years, build skyscrapers, and land on the moon. Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that simplifying concepts stop working at any level of abstraction (breadth of generalization) or at any level of complexity. The simple principles of Einstein’s relativity are highly abstract: they apply to all physical phenomena in the known universe, (when the scale under consideration is not too small) and to all the immense complexity of gravitational interactions between visible objects and light rays in galaxies. Continue reading