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The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism
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The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism

3.41 of 5 stars 3.41  ·  rating details  ·  8,412 ratings  ·  299 reviews
Ayn Rand here sets forth the moral principles of Objectivism, the philosophy that holds human life--the life proper to a rational being--as the standard of moral values and regards altruism as incompatible with man's nature, with the creative requirements of his survival, and with a free society.

More than 1.3 million copies sold!
Paperback, 176 pages
Published November 1st 1964 by Signet (first published 1961)
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Gene Wagendorf III
Sep 26, 2007 Gene Wagendorf III rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those with conficts of interest/morality
Shelves: non-fiction
I didn't really get this book when I first read it, but having read it multiple time since, it's become like a bible. Rand outlines her Objectivist philosophy and explains the concept of rational self-interest. This book will turn you into an asshole once you read it, someone will smack you, you'll read it again, pick up the part everyone misses (about morality being intrinsic, not non-existent) and then you'll live a happier, more whimsical life.
jessica
This book once meant a lot to me. When I was 15. If anything written by Ayn Rand means a lot to you and you're not going through adolescence, you should be ashamed of yourself. Yeah, I know I sound like a self-righteous douchebag, but seriously. Give me a break.
sologdin
Part II of multi-part review series.

Reading Rand reminds me of teaching freshman composition at university years ago. There’s not nearly as many spelling errors, but Rand’s pronouncements bear all the markers of severe Dunning-Kruger effect: under-researched, un-theorized, insufficiently self-aware. There are many problems arising out of this basic failure to engage the long tradition of writings which she blindly attacks.

For instance, this text has a tendency to adopt dogmatic solecisms, such a
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Manny
Aug 14, 2012 Manny marked it as to-read
Just noticed this in Johan Hari's column from today's Independent:
Trump probably won't become the Republican nominee, but not because most Republicans reject his premisses. No: it will be because he states these arguments too crudely for mass public consumption. He takes the whispered dogmas of the Reagan, Bush and Tea Party years and shrieks them through a megaphone. The nominee will share similar ideas, but express them more subtly. In case you think these ideas are marginal to the party, reme
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Tim
Altruism ain't all its cracked up to be.

Although she tends to take things a bit too far, Rand touches on an often overlooked point of life: we are the ones best-equipped to care for ourselves. It is a wonderful and necessary aspect of humanity when we chose to show charity and care for others, but when is it appropriate to sacrifice ourselves for the well-being of another? You would jump into a rushing river to save your child, but would you do the same for an elderly stranger? A young stranger?
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Eric_W
Ayn Rand was not afraid of turning conventional wisdom on its head. For millennia, one of the few ethical principles that prevailed across cultures was the value of altruism, i.e. , giving up your life for the benefit of others. Rubbish, writes Rand.

Rand was as anti-community and pro-individual as anyone I have ever read. Adamantly opposed to coercive state and religious power, she built a philosophy, Objectivism, on rational thinking and reason. She became too dogmatic and rigid for my taste in
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Mary.dooms
The best thought I embraced from this book was a simple, yet powerful, soundbite: "A plant will not destroy itself, but man will".

Towards the end of the school year, a couple of kids in class had some serious self-destructive behavior--not just your run-of-the-mill, "I didn't do my homework." I dropped math for the day and we had an outstanding class discussion about how a plant will grow around a rock to seek light, and that roots grow deep to seek water--doing everything it can to sustain itse
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James
It's fitting that Rand's non-fiction reads like an advertisement for Atlas Shrugged; she is the ultimate capitalist after all. This is the lowest score I've yet given a book on this website; it's rare that I can't find something of significance to appreciate in any of the books I read. Although Anthem was a semi-interesting (if shrill) way to spend an afternoon, this essay collection is as bad as it gets. Supposedly a scholarly work of philosophy, this book has inspired many people (some of whom ...more
♥ Ibrahim ♥
This woman, Ayn Rand, is more bizarre than bizarre can ever be! Who in the big, wide world would be in his right mind and still write a book to praise selfishness?! As if to be self-centered needs to be praised or called even virtuous! And she calls that philosophy! But with that spirit in which she praises selfishness you will find that a common theme in all of her writings. Look at Emmanuel Levinas,a real philosophers who never ceases to assure us that the "others" are we and for others we are ...more
Kevin J. Rogers
Ayn Rand was one of the most controversial thinkers--and successful fiction writers--of the 20th Century. Her detractors would claim that there is little to distinguish her fiction from her philosophy: that both are the result of a fantasist's distorted perspective on the world, tainted by an extreme egoism and fueled by some rather profound delusions. Her supporters would claim that it is the world as we know it that is distorted, mostly through the insidious influence of the philosophy of altr ...more
Shea
I could write an entire dissertation on the inconsistencies of Rand's philosophy and the arguments she makes, but I'll behave and limit myself to just one criticism: she flagrantly disregards the meaning of the term "ethics" and argues that a purely "selfish" approach (i.e. one that is concerned only with one's self) is not only a rational thing to do, but it is, in fact, an ethical approach to take.

The first part of her argument does make sense if you boil rationality down to a purely biologica
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Rachel Terry
It's a shock value title because the book is really about individualism vs. collectivism, and if you've read Atlas Shrugged or know about the Russia Rand immigrated from, you know where she stands on that issue.

There were a couple of chapters I liked in particular. I liked the discussion about the importance of property rights. Rand asserts that there are no individual rights without property rights. If people cannot claim the fruits of their labors as their own, they are completely at the mercy
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Marshall
This book summarizes Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism. I really like many of the values Objectivism champions: reason, ethics, self-love, self-esteem, self-reliance, individualism, joy, and pleasure. But emphasizing these in absolute terms, as polar opposites to other qualities, creates a lot of problems.

Like most Western philosophers, Rand is a dualistic thinker, which I find simplistic. To her, value and morality are objective, inherent in human nature. There is Self and Other, Moral and I
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Marlenecabada
I found this book to be worth reading.After twenty one years of sacrificing my life and raising two arrogant teenagers who remain ungrateful for my efforts.I understand what Rand is trying to say.We cant always do all the giving because we will end up spent with nothing to show for it.We must nurture ourselves always, in this way we will have inner strength and the ability to get through life regardless what may come our way.
I disagree that her philosophy is founded on a Dr. Spok mentality.Her
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notgettingenough
The star's for this: she writes a novel and then quotes one of the characters at length in this book. What chutzpah.

It's even better than the academics who cite things they haven't written yet.

Why have I picked it up? I'm sleeping badly. It made me closely examine what's in the bookshelf in the room in which I am generally living at the moment.

Oh yes. I see what's happened. Many years ago when I first moved into this house, I very sensibly put all the philosophy out in the spare bedroom where no
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Mark
Ayn Rand's philosophy, Objectivism, is often misinterpreted and misused, without ever being studied or even read. Often, the argument is that 'capitalism' has failed, and therefore Rand's philosophy is a failure as well. This is a strawman argument at best. The Virtue of Selfishness, as provocative a title as the book may have, is a philosophical synopsis of the application of Rand's philosophy, objectivism; it is not Rand's philosophy in itself.
Those that have read Rand know that her writing st
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Christopher
This book by novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand, (author of "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead") is an ethical treatise on her philosophy of Objectivism, which sets out the principles of rational egoism—selfishness—and is the answer to thousands of years of the ethics of self-sacrifice—altruism.

This morality is based on the needs of man’s survival, with one’s self as the standard of value, (hence selfishness,) and the pursuit of one’s own happiness as the moral ideal. Or, to quote Miss Rand:
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Anshupriya Goswamy
Recently Right to Education was enacted and intellectuals hailed it as a major success of Indian democracy. As the Indian Govt paves the way for Right to Food Act, I see that there is an increasing need for more people to read this book and realise what they are witnessing is not the victory of Indian democracy over poverty and hunger, a victory of the principles of modern day altruism, the success of government over economic ills.

What we are seeing is the constant abdication of private rights t
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Colin Gabriel
Oct 03, 2007 Colin Gabriel is currently reading it
I heard it will make you an asshole.. I can't wait

on a side note I have a problem with reading while driving
Dave
After reading Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, I started this and was thinking- Oh boy, another collection of articles from Rand's Objectivist newsletter. Turns out there is a lot of good stuff here. The theme that runs through these essays is much the same as Unknown Ideal, as well as all of Rand's other works: In a truly free society, the individual is all-important. No man should be sacrificed, in whole or in part, for the benefit of another.

There are two articles here that I think many would f
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Lisa (Harmonybites)
Ayn Rand was once asked if she could present the essence of her philosophy while standing on one foot. She answered: Metaphysics: Objective Reality; Epistemology: Reason; Ethics: Self-interest; Politics: Capitalism. I first encountered Ayn Rand through her works of fiction as a young woman barely out of my teens. Back then I was already an atheist, one with a great belief in science and reason. There was nothing in her "metaphysics" or "epistemology" that I found the least bit surprising or cont ...more
Robert
The title of the book is slightly misleading as most people have no true philosophical understanding of what is "selfishness", immediately thinking of the irrational blanket understanding of individuals acting in grotesque mockery of true self interest, often harming themselves in the process. Her contention is that such people are not selfish enough, for if they were truly selfish, they would have their true self-interest at heart and are therefor acting irrationally and not selfish at all. Thi ...more
Jonathan
Rand's points often seem interesting except for one huge logical flaw that will well up and ruin her whole argument. Her enormous arrogance often gets in the way as well. A useful philosophy to follow if you believe that you are smarter than everyone else and that only your own happiness really matters in the end.
Gregg Bell

Ayn Rand is an event. She had one of the most astute and utterly confident minds of all time. Whether she's right about what she thinks is a different story. But make no mistake--Ayn Rand thinks about thinking. She is a true intellectual.



That said, I think "The Virtue of Selfishness" is not her strongest effort. For starters it has an uncharacteristically provocative title. Which is okay, but when a title is too sensationalistic (a la Ivan Boesky's "Greed is good.") I'm always skeptical. There a

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SandraH
I read this book when I was a teenager and it made sense then. I needed a kick in the pants to get my "individual self-interest" started. I needed to see the world as an arena where I could jump in and succeed. I needed to engage in a discussion about values that questioned faith, intuition, tradition, and instinct that put all human endeavor on a level playing field.

A decade or so later, I read that she was buried with a six-foot-tall floral arrangement in the shape of a dollar sign beside her
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Nicole
I rated this book with two stars, meaning 'it was ok', because, very simply, I understand Rand's philosophy and why she flung herself wholeheartedly into it. I understand ethical egoism and individualism and moral objectivism. I understand the desire for all men and women to act morally and to think rationally. I understand her distaste for collectivism. I understand her predictions regarding capitalism. I can fully conceptualize the virtue of selfishness.

But I cannot internalize it.

Rand makes t
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Michael Connolly
The concept of selfishness as it is used in day-to-day conversation is not the kind of selfishness that Ayn Rand is promoting. The common meaning of selfishness is a person who cares only about himself and not at all about others. Ayn Rand has never praised such a person. What Ayn Rand is promoting is the idea that the morally virtuous person cares primarily about himself, and secondarily about others. She also believes that one should care about only a limited number of others, only people one ...more
Mike
As many readers have pointed out, the title to this book is slightly misleading as most people have been indoctrinated to believe that selfishness is akin to evil, antisocial behavior. Rand points out that being selfish has caught a bad rap as everyone is actually selfish at heart, and to be otherwise would be to commit suicide for the sake of your fellow man. Selfishness, according to Rand, is the act of putting one's survival as their top priority, but without causing direct harm to any other ...more
Donna
An intriguing and thoughtful read that needs at least one more thorough going-over to grab the full intent. Philosophy can be a tough read for me, but this was a good one, especially in reference to my own time and space in this lifetime. J

FAVOURITE QUOTES:

“The basic social principle of the Objectivist ethics is that just as life is an end in itself, so every living human being is an end in himself, not the means to the ends or the welfare of others – and, therefore, that man must live for his
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Anna
Dla Ayn Rand najlepiej było by się wyzbyć lub ograniczyć uczucia poza tymi związanymi z egoizmem, a altruizm zostawić tylko na sytuacje krytyczne np. katastrofy samolotów, pociągów czy statków, gdzie ważne jest ratowanie życia drugiego człowieka. Cnota egoizmu pozuje egoizm i kierowanie się rozumem jako najbardziej słuszny pogląd na rzeczywistość.

Ayn Rand stworzyła filozofię obiektywistyczną sprzeciwiającą się takim pojęciom, poglądom czy ideologiom jak kolektywizm, nacjonalizm, rasizm i socjal
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432
Alisa Rosenbaum was born in pre-revolutionary St. Petersburg to a prosperous Jewish family. When the Bolsheviks requisitioned the pharmacy owned by her father, Fronz, the Rosenbaums fled to the Crimea. Alisa returned to the city (renamed Leningrad) to attend the university, but in 1926 relatives who had already settled in America offered her the chance of joining them there. With money from the sa ...more
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“The man who does not value himself, cannot value anything or anyone.” 781 likes
“Men who reject the responsibility of thought and reason can only exist as parasites on the thinking of others.” 121 likes
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