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The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  13,103 ratings  ·  636 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
Paperback, 176 pages
Published November 1st 1964 by Signet (first published 1961)
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Gene Wagendorf III
Sep 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Mar 18, 2007 rated it did not like it
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. ...more
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.

For instance, this text has a tendency to adopt dogmatic solecisms, such as “In popular usage, the word ‘selfishness’ is a synonym of evil” (vii)--uh, not really. This is a nasty problem throughout t
Apr 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
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
Jun 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 29, 2011 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
May 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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?
Steven Godin
These essays weren't far off from being complete and utter tosh.

Read just over half of them, ditched the rest.

50/50 as to whether I read Rand again.

Sep 26, 2010 rated it did not like it
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 hackneyed) entertainment for an afternoon, this essay collection is as bad as it gets. Supposedly a scholarly work of philosophy, this book has inspired many people (some ...more
Patrick Peterson
2020-07-24 - The title of this book is a challenge. For sure. I remember seeing a paperback edition of this book around our house for years when I was growing up and thinking, "how could a book claim such a thing?' How could selfishness possibly be considered a virtue? I wasn't much of a reader at that point, so I did not even crack the cover.

But then I met a fellow student in college who was reviewing in the student newspaper the books by Ayn Rand that he was reading, including this one. I reme
♥ Ibrahim ♥
Jun 30, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
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
Apr 10, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Jan 14, 2018 rated it did not like it
My advice would be to spend your time on a more useful endeavour...
Rachel Terry
May 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sociology
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
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Sep 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Shea Ivy
Jul 13, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Mar 21, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: sociology
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
Jun 30, 2021 rated it really liked it
How many books and movies have moved audiences by portraying a character who, struggling with persistent unhappiness, is pushed by their despair through to the realization that they’ve been living their life for another’s dream? That they married the man their parents wanted them to marry, even if they didn’t love him — that they became lawyers or doctors because their mom wanted them to, instead of pursuing their own dreams? The essential lesson there, the importance of honoring our inner being ...more
Gregg Bell
Jan 14, 2014 rated it liked it

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

Jun 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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:
Apr 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
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
Erica Clou
Note: Objectivism is deeply anti-Christianity, and anti-religion in general. You should not trust a politician that claims that he is both a Christian and a believer in the philosophies of Ayn Rand. He does not understand either Christianity or Objectivism, or possibly both, or he's a huge liar.

That said, this book isn't really what it sounds like. It's a collection of essays by Ayn Rand and Nathanial Branden that are not pro-heathenism per se. Rand and Branden try to explain how the philosophy
Aug 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Want a good laugh?

Read "The Argument from Intimidation", the final essay in THE VIRTUE OF SELFISHNESS, then read just about any of the one-star reviews here in which readers offer their "rebuttals" of Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy. You will notice the vast majority of "critiques" are filled with such witticisms as "If anything written by Ayn Rand means a lot to you and you're not going through adolescence you should be ashamed of yourself."

This is precisely the kind of meaningless drivel th
May 05, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Mark Gowan
Mar 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Bob Nichols
Jun 19, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this series of essays, Rand’s political philosophy is described in a nutshell.

Unlike inanimate matter, life is goal seeking. Its end is survival, and the means to that end is to secure energy so that it can live. Each kind of life is structured differently in how it survives. Plants are stationary absorbers of energy. Animals are mobile seekers of energy. Both function physiologically in an autonomous manner. Like all life, humans (“man”), are teleological beings. For Rand, there is no philo
Anastasia Kinderman
This book is interesting because a good chunk of the time I either did not agree with Rand or I felt her supporting examples were poor or I felt she had swung to the opposite extreme of the one she was critiquing. So why give it five stars?

Rand's philosophy has/is having an enormous impact on our political sphere today. Yet it's always puzzled me how politicians who claim to practice a religion that basically commands altruism (especially in the New Testament) could so enthusiastically support s
Sunny Yoo
Nov 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"Why do you use the word 'selfishness' to denote virtuous qualities of character, when that word antagonizes so many people to whom it does not mean the tings you mean?"

"For the reason that makes you afraid of it."

The Virtue of Selfishness is all about the individual and his rights. Anyone who dares to read this book should stay open minded until the end of each chapter. I found her writing and beliefs liberating and I feel no pressure from anyone else to live out my dreams, nor do I care about
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