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The Virtue of Selfishness: Fiftieth Anniversary Edition Mass Market Paperback – Aug 5 2014


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Signet; 50th edition (Aug. 5 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451163931
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451163936
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 10.5 x 17.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 45 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #83,833 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Since I am to speak on the Objectivist Ethics, I shall begin by quoting its best representative-John Galt, in Atlas Shrugged: "Through centuries of scourges and disasters, brought about by your code of morality, you have cried that your code had been broken, that the scourges were punishment for breaking it, that men were too weak and too selfish to spill all the blood it required. Read the first page
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Lee D. Carlson on Nov. 23 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Many years ago while discussing the Chrysler bail-out with two colleagues, they mentioned that Lee Iacoca, in pursuing the government action, was pursuing his "self-interest". The discussion on government interference in economic matters interestingly took place in the context of a debate on the contents of this book. Listening to me defend its concept of self-interest and why I thought humans should indeed pursue their self-interest, they seem perplexed that I was objecting vociferously to the Chrysler bail-out. After all, was not Lee Iacoca pursuing his self-interests when he arranged the government bail-out?
This conversation, done with two people who are now fairly well-known philosophers, illustrates the deep bias surrounding the concept of self-interest. The fact that Lee Iacoca thought he was pursuing his self-interest in arranging the bail-out does not mean that it really was in his self-interest. If a person is lost in a forest and starving, and then spots a mushroom he/she believes is nutritious but in fact is poisonous, are we to accept that the eating of the mushroom is in the person's interest? The fact that we believe something is in our interest does not make it so.
The author of this book makes a brilliant case for the ethics of self-interest, with this concept being rooted in the organism's identity. It is the characteristics of the organism that determine what is good or bad for it. Ethical values arise when the organism can exhibit choice over a collection of alternatives, and is distinctly self-aware of these choices. And due to the complexity of both the organism and the environment, the context will determine the choices available to the organism.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Oct. 31 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As a former Randian and current philosophy professor, I think it's important to warn the world that she does indeed make crucial errors. Lots of them. She was definitely brilliant -- to this day, The Fountainhead is one of my two favorite books -- read it if you haven't! But beware the *philosophy*.
Here's one important mistake. A lot of the time Rand misunderstands her own moral and political justifications. She has genuine insights but mistook what they were. For instance, her defense of egoism and laissez-faire capitalism is often consequentialist. That means, the justification she offers for acting egoistically and adopting a laissez-faire capitalist system is in terms of the positive overall outcomes of doing so. Perhaps we could allow that in general she speaks as if egoism and l-f benefit primarily the community in which they flourish, though she definitely thinks that these are the right values for human beings in general, if they live in anything like a modern community. A good chunk, perhaps more than half, of Atlas Shrugged is devoted to making this point. It isn't mere backdrop that the world is falling apart. (Think also of For the New Intellectual.)
All along Rand plays up the positive consequences of egoism and l-f. But she speaks as if what's thus justified is a total, unlimited commitment to those things. That is, it is *always* morally right to act egoistically and l-f should be total, 100%, nothing beyond military, police, courts, and the necessary infrastructure for those functions. And no taxes whatsoever. Rand can say, for instance: *always* act in your own (rational, long-term) self-intereste, *never* take property -- but then she justifies that claim by reference to the positive consequences of doing these things.
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If you like or are impressed by the way Dr. House thinks and acts, you might find the root of his philosophy in here.

I will admit that there are things that you will probably not agree with in this whole philosophy.
First, like many "perfect" philosophies, it is ultimately a utopia, probably unrealisable in practice, for its ideas can only work if the whole of humanity agreed on them up-front.
Second, don't forget that these ideas were written in a certain era, by a person who has lived through very specific things. In her time, there wasn't the same weight as today on the argument that the Earth might someday not have enough resources to satisfy everyone's endless greed. So of course she thought a single person should have the right to accumulate as much riches as he wants, if he can.

But despite its few flaws in consequence, the ontology is superb, a model of ethics as prescribed not by "the others", but by oneself. One, even alone on a desert island, is subject to ethics, call it self-respect if you will. It is refreshing to find a sound system of thought that does not advocate that the only way to be a good person is to sacrifice yourself to others.

Whether you agree ot not, I think any reasonable person should either accept these ideas, or be prepared to word a sound defense against them. But that's just me. I'm that selfish.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jerilea Hendrick on March 5 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is one of my favorite philosophical books I've read. After reading each of Ayn Rand's books, it is always interesting how I see things from a different perspective. If you'renot sure about the term 'Selfishness' just try this book because it is a great conversation piece with nearly every crowd of people. It is excellently written and very clear and concise.
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