Auto boutiques-francophones Simple and secure cloud storage SmartSaver Countdown to Black Friday in Home & Kitchen Kindle Black Friday Deals Week in Music SGG Home, Kitchen and Garden Gift Guide
Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
Only 2 left in stock (more on the way).
Ships from and sold by Gift-wrap available.
Ayn Rand's Normative Ethi... has been added to your Cart
+ CDN$ 6.49 shipping
Used: Good | Details
Condition: Used: Good
Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 2 images

Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist Paperback – Apr 16 2007

See all 3 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price
New from Used from
Kindle Edition
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
CDN$ 39.95
CDN$ 39.95 CDN$ 19.94

Black Friday Deals Week in Books

No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, and computer.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your e-mail address or mobile phone number.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 330 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (April 16 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521705460
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521705462
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.9 x 22.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 567 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #953,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  •  Would you like to update product info, give feedback on images, or tell us about a lower price?

  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


"...a strongly written addition to the scholarly literature on Ayn Rand's philosophy...belongs in every college and university library, and on the shelves of philosophers interested in Rand's views and current trends in the ethics literature." --Stephen R.C. Hicks, Rockford College: Philosophy in Review

"...the issues raised by this book are manifold and provocative... This book should force a debate of renewed vigor about what we mean by egoism, whether and how the egoism / altruism dichotomy should be applied within eudaimonistic ethical theories, and what our ethical theories imply about our political outlook. Smith provides us with a version of egoism that will need to be argued against by those who find it distasteful or misguided, rather than simply dismissed." --Helen Cullyer, University of Pittsburgh, Note Dame Philosophical Review

"For those interested in gaining a full and accurate understanding of Rand's revolutionary moral code, University of Texas at Austin philosophy professor Tara Smith's new book Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist is a most welcome addition to the existing literature. Smith describes the book as "an account of what Rand's rational egoism consists of and requires," with particular emphasis on its virtues.8 This it is-and more. The book illuminates the central principles of the Objectivist ethics in rich detail, rendering them readily accessible to any sincere inquirer." --Diana Hsieh, The Objective Standard

Book Description

This book explains the fundamental virtues that Rand considers vital for a person to achieve his objective well-being: rationality, honesty, independence, justice, integrity, productiveness, and pride. Tara Smith examines what each of these virtues consists in, why it is a virtue, and what it demands of a person in practice.

See all Product Description

Inside This Book

(Learn More)
Browse and search another edition of this book.
First Sentence
Much recent discussion in ethics has danced around the edges of egoism, as renewed attention to virtue ethics, eudaimonia, and perfectionism naturally raise questions about the role of self-interest in a good life. Read the first page
Explore More
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
Search inside this book:

Customer Reviews

There are no customer reviews yet on
5 star
4 star
3 star
2 star
1 star

Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 11 reviews
96 of 106 people found the following review helpful
an important work, well worth every penny and minute May 26 2006
By Greg Perkins - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Noting how recent scholarly work in ethics dances around the edges of seriously grappling with egoism, Dr. Smith offers the invitation: Why not judge ethical egoism by squarely confronting it in its most powerful and consistent form? Thus her comprehensive, systematic presentation of Ayn Rand's ethics. This book is particularly welcome because important elements of Rand's ethical thought are scattered among her novels and various essays, with further illumination sprinkled in her journals, her live Q&A, and reflected in works by her leading and longtime students (primarily Dr. Leonard Peikoff). Smith draws all of this together into a single, clear, carefully organized presentation, judiciously employing comparison and contrast with contemporary academic thought to clarify distinctions and to highlight the novel and powerful aspects of Rand's ideas.

Smith's presentation is masterful, executed with clarity, power, and finesse. Yet it is accessible, and she maintains a warm, reflective style throughout that is grounded in the realities of human life. While following along as Smith unwinds the major virtues Rand identified, what makes them virtues, and what they demand of us in action, you may find that you can't help but consider the implications regarding your own behavior -- the character you are shaping by your everyday choices and actions -- the course you are charting in your own life. This is a solid academic work, but it is also the deepest sort of practical self-help book, implicitly encouraging people to get real and seriously consider what it means to live as a human can and should.


Regarding Steve Jackson's review: Smith was clear about her mission of presenting RAND'S ethical ideas, and doing so certainly doesn't entail a survey of all fully-, semi-, non-, and anti-Objectivist thought regarding Rand's ethics. That would be a different book, and Mr. Jackson denying Smith's achievement here by leading people to confuse her purpose with his own is unjust. Smith took on a worthy and substantive project, and she absolutely knocked the ball out of the park.
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Definitive Work on Clarifying Rational Egoism May 14 2008
By Doug - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book should be next on your reading list if you want an in-depth and rigorous study of Ayn Rand's ethics of Rational Egoism beyond what you can glean from reading Ayn Rand's novels and non-fiction essays. First of all, although this book is philosophically rigorous, it is highly readable. Personally speaking, I thought reading this book was a pleasure.

This book offers a detailed understanding of the Objectivist principles of *how* one should be moral. The first chapter is a useful introduction to what virtues are and what one can expect to gain from reading this book. The second chapter is a brief overview of Ayn Rand's answer to *why* one should be moral and hence, is a summary of Tara Smith's book "Viable Values". The third chapter goes into great detail on rationality, which is the primary virtue according to Objectivist ethics. The next six chapters are each devoted to one of the six secondary virtues of Objectivist ethics, which are: Honesty, Independence, Integrity, Justice, Pride and Productivity.

The last chapter should also be of great value to those who enjoy reading beyond the lines. In this chapter, Dr. Smith evaluates four other qualities which are commonly held to be virtues: Charity, Generosity, Kindness and Temperance, according to Objectivist principles. Although Dr. Smith indicates that these qualities are not inherently bad according to Objectivist principles, she nevertheless correctly concludes that since Objectivism holds one's own life as the standard of value, these qualities cannot properly be considered virtues according to Objectivist principles.

Overall, this is an excellent book for anyone seeking a more thorough understanding of the philosophy of Ayn Rand!
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Well Written Account of Rand's Virtuous Egoism... With Some Loose Ends! March 29 2012
By Kevin Currie-Knight - Published on
Format: Paperback
Philosophy professor Tara Smith has produced a book of value to Ayn Rand scholarship. While Rand wrote many nonfiction essays describing the Objectivist approach to ethics (and certainly writes on the subject at length in her novels), I think this is the first book-length treatment of Rand's moral philosophy of virtuous egoism. There are several books, of course, on egoism and many books on virtue ethics, but the combination of the two is quite unique. And, honestly, a common critique of Rand in academic circles is that she seems sometimes a rule utilitarian, sometimes a virtue ethicist, and even occasionally a deontologist. That is why this book is so important for Rand scholarship.

First, I have to say that the book's organization (and writing) is very, very good. Smith devotes one chapter to each of the virtues as seen by Rand: rationality, honesty, independence, justice, integrity, productiveness, and pride. In each chapter, Smith explains why it is a virtue, argues why Objectivistic egoism demands that particular virtue, and what the internal and external conditions are for exercising that virtue. So, rationality, considered the cardinal virtue, is defended on the egoistic grounds that only use of rationality (rather than faith or emotional decision making) can ensure that individuals deploy their judgment in ways that aids their lives, and is a virtue demanding exercise of rational decision making, availability of information on which to make rational decisions, etc.

That brings me to the second merit of the book: Smith does defend all of these virtues on egoistic grounds. Where Rand, I think, did sometimes slip into an almost rule utilitarian defense of her moral system (that honesty's goodness is at least in part due to the idea that only in a world where people are honest, can we make fully rational decisions based on correct information, which leaves the egoist asking why I should care about anyone's ability but my own to act rationally.) So, a virtue like justice, which is usually defended either on deontological or rule utilitarian grounds, Smith defends by appealing to indivduals' self-interest in judging people appropriately and accurately. (Of course, justice involves much more than judging people accurately, but rewarding them according to what you truly believe they deserve, and I still think the question of why I should give a waiter who I'll likely never see again the fat tip they deserve, rather than keep more money for myself, is hard to answer by appealing to egoism.)

This book, though, has some weaknesses in my view. First - to expand on another reviewer's criticism - this book doesn't deal much with defending these virtues and their rationale from objections; the objections considered are usually light-weight ones, and Smith rarely strays from Objectivist literature (generally, except to point out where non-Objectivist philosophers agree with an aspect of her argument). So, this book is more an explication of Rand's moral philosophy than a defense of it, and as such, it will appeal much more to those already in agreement with Rand than those who may need convincing.

Secondly, I did find a few of Smith's arguments a bit wanting. For instance, the virtue of honesty is defended largely on the grounds that giving into temptations to be dishonest can have consequences to the actor, such as having to keep stories straight in the future, the risk of being found out, and the psychological stress of keeping up the deception. But, these are all very speculative as consequences, and one who is a REALLY good liar may successfully avoid all of these (in a way where Smith will have no good argument to convince them to be honest).

Another way honesty is defended is by suggesting that if one, say, lies about their qualifications to get a job, they may risk attaining a job they didn't earn and aren't sufficiently skilled for. As to getting a job I do not deserve, an egoist should ask: why do I care that (others think) I don't deserve the job, as long as I know I am qualified for the job? And to Smith's argument about deception's possible consequence of getting me a job I am not qualified for, it can just as easily be that my prospective employer is wrong about what qualifies me for the job: maybe a Harvard MBA isn't a good qualification, and my lying just gets me the job I knew I WAS qualified for without the Harvard MBA.

Several virtues are defended by their apppeal to the virtue being life-enhancing and its negation being life-denying. This may be too thin an approach, I think. Yes, telling the truth to others means that I am dealing objectively and rationally (as long as one disbelieves game theory's assertion that lying can sometimes be the most rational position). But in a case where I can lie (to get food I have no intent on paying for) or starve, it seems odd to say that truth-telling would be the more life-affirming position than gaining food I need to keep myself alive. (The same can be said for someone who can't fend for themselves becoming dependent on another; if their option is to become dependent or shrivel, is it not more life-affirming to become dependent?)

My last criticism is that, if Rand is a virtue ethicist, there are many aspects of her approach (as defended by her and Smith) that are radically out of the virtue ethic tradition. For instance, Rand and Smith talk often (not always) in deontic language (right and wrong, justified and unjustified) rather than aretaic language (good and bad, virtuous or vicious). And while Smith certainly admits that judgment in how to deploy the virtues is contextual, there are many aspects of Rand's philosophy that seem too rule-based for virtue ethics (natural rights as side-constraints, the idea that integrity demands acting inflexibly according to one's principles, seemingly NOT taking context into account). Lastly, in a big break with virtue ethics, Rand's ethics is more act based than intent based. Where in most virtue ethic theories, the virtuous person simply desires to perform those acts that are virtuous, in Rand's ethic, what matters is that the virtues are instantiated in acts, not that the actor just desires to perform virtuous acts. (The virtuous person is honest, even though they may not want to be.)

For all of this, I still want to give this book three stars because I think that Smith, whatever loose ends she leaves untied, has provided a valuable resource to serious Rand scholarship. The objections I list above may be answerable, but maybe that is for a different book - one dedicated more to defending Rand's virtuous egoism rather than explicating it. And the writing and book organization is quite good, enhancing my enjoyment of this important book.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Examines Ayn Rand's ethics with a microscope June 7 2011
By random - Published on
Format: Paperback
I have only used this book as a reference but as such it has done an excellent job clearing up some confusions. For context, I have read most of Ayn Rand's work and have thought about them quite a bit. This book takes Ayn Rand's ideas and chews them, looking at all the different angles and plays devil's advocate.Tara Smith writes very clearly. I highly recommend it for someone who reads Ayn Rand's writings but has trouble seeing just how some ideas really look like.

Some of the ideas this book helped me with was life as the standard, what happiness really means to Objectivists, and how an egotist has true friendships. It also helped me get a better understanding of the primary virtues of Objectivism. Highly recommend it.
A solid survey (and defense) of Objectivist Ethics April 7 2015
By J. Allen - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Professor Smith's book is a wonderful summary of the principles behind and the practice of Objectivist Ethics. It was mostly review for me since I have read all of Ayn Rand's fiction and non-fiction works. It has been a while however, so it was a good refresher. It also brought the concepts that are scattered throughout Rand's and other objectivists' works into one book. The book is well written and logically structured. I especially liked her emphasis on Objectivism being action oriented. Her examples added to the understanding and overall the book is a good addition to the canon.
My only critique is that she constantly drops Ayn Rand's name. The books title “Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics…” already had me squirming when I bought the book. Professor Smith kept me squirming by constantly writing things like “in Rand's view…” and “Rand holds…” even when she was not directly quoting. Yes, Ayn Rand was the founder and remains by far the most important thinker of the philosophical system, but Rand herself hated the cult of personality that surrounded her. I am an Objectivist, not a “Randist.” It is obvious, from the fervor with which she writes between the name dropping, that Professor Smith is also an Objectivist. If she weren't and was trying to provide and objective, external view of the subject matter, my discomfort would disappear. In the end, however, the book is a defense of objectivist ethics and not just cold, distanced scholarly work. There is nothing wrong with that.
Why couldn't she just write a book on Objectivist Ethics? As another reviewer noted, she failed to use much “non-Rand” (or Peikoff) source material. Perhaps she herself believes in the cult of personality. Another speculation might be that she was trying to avoid the stigma that follows objectivists (Oh the names I've been called) by hiding behind the “it was her idea” evasion. Perhaps she is trying to distance herself from the US Christian right and what Rand called the “hippies of the right.” They have been trying to make “Randism” their own since long before Rand died. Regardless, I found it rather inconsistent with the Objectivist Ethics which she describes.
Despite this annoyance, I would recommend the book to anyone interested in understanding Objectivist Ethics better.