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The Virtue of Selfishness: Fiftieth Anniversary Edition [Mass Market Paperback]

Ayn Rand
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Book Description

Aug. 5 2014 Signet Books
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.

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From Library Journal

The problem with Rand is easily detectable by careful listeners of this production: a good essayist with a flair for the dramatic turn of phrase, she wasted her obvious writing skills in an effort to support outlandish personal opinions cloaked in the guise of logic. An absolutist thinker, she devotes one whole essay to an effort to persuade us that we really should see things as black and white, with no shades of gray. Born in Soviet Russia, Rand so despised socialism and collectivist thinking that she leapt to the furthest extreme possible to become the champion of unbridled capitalism, the rights of the individual at the expense of the community, and the diminution of all regulation by the state, with the exception of a judicial system and the control of crime. Among the sadly dated ideas she conveys are the attitude that homosexuals are mutant symptoms of a sick society and the belief that anyone with an interest in internationalism is a "one world" proponent. To use one of her own favored words, Rand's political and social philosophy is critically "muddled." C.M. Herbert's voice is efficient and cold, making it a perfect choice for the narration of this author's work. Recommended only as documentation of an anomaly in the history of ideas. Mark Pumphrey, Polk Cty. P.L., Columbus, NC
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Ayn Rand was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, on February 2, 1905. At age six she taught herself to read and two years later discovered her first fictional hero in a French magazine for children, thus capturing the heroic vision that sustained her throughout her life. At the age of nine she decided to make fiction writing her career. Thoroughly opposed to the mysticism and collectivism of Russian culture, she thought of herself as a European writer, especially after encountering Victor Hugo, the writer she most admired.

During her high school years, she was eyewitness to both the Kerensky Revolution, which she supported, and—in 1917—the Bolshevik Revolution, which she denounced from the outset. In order to escape the fighting, her family went to the Crimea, where she finished high school. The final Communist victory brought the confiscation of her father's pharmacy and periods of near-starvation. When introduced to American history in her last year of high school, she immediately took America as her model of what a nation of free people could be.

When her family returned from the Crimea, she entered the University of Petrograd to study philosophy and history. Graduating in 1924, she experienced the disintegration of free inquiry and the takeover of the university by communist thugs. Amidst the increasingly gray life, her one great pleasure was Western films and plays. Long an admirer of cinema, she entered the State Institute for Cinema Arts in 1924 to study screenwriting.

In late 1925 she obtained permission to leave Soviet Russia for a visit to relatives in the United States. Although she told Soviet authorities that her visit would be short, she was determined never to return to Russia. She arrived in New York City in February 1926. She spent the next six months with her relatives in Chicago, obtained an extension to her visa, and then left for Hollywood to pursue a career as a screenwriter.

On Ayn Rand's second day in Hollywood, Cecil B. DeMille saw her standing at the gate of his studio, offered her a ride to the set of his movie "The King of Kings," and gave her a job, first as an extra, then as a script reader. During the next week at the studio, she met an actor, Frank O'Connor, whom she married in 1929.

After struggling for several years, she sold her first screenplay, "Red Pawn," to Universal Pictures in 1932 and saw her first stage play, Night of January 16th, produced in Hollywood and then on Broadway. Her first novel, We the Living, was published in 1936. The most autobiographical of her novels, it was based on her years under Soviet tyranny. She began writing The Fountainhead in 1935. When published in 1943, it gained for its author lasting recognition as a champion of individualism.

Ayn Rand returned to Hollywood in late 1943 to write the screenplay for The Fountainhead, but wartime restrictions delayed production until 1948. Working part time as a screenwriter for Hal Wallis Productions, she began her major novel, Atlas Shrugged, in 1946. In 1951 she moved back to New York City and devoted herself full time to the completion of Atlas Shrugged.

Published in 1957, Atlas Shrugged was her greatest achievement and last work of fiction. Although she considered herself primarily a fiction writer, she realized that in order to create heroic fictional characters, she had to identify the philosophic principles which make such individuals possible.

Thereafter, Ayn Rand wrote and lectured on her philosophy: Objectivism, which she characterized as "a philosophy for living on earth." She published and edited her own periodicals from 1962 to 1976, her essays providing much of the material for six books on Objectivism and its application to the culture. Ayn Rand died on March 6, 1982, in New York City.

Every book by Ayn Rand published in her lifetime is still in print, and hundreds of thousands of copies are sold each year, so far totalling more than twenty million. Several new volumes have been published posthumously. Her vision of man and her philosophy for living on earth have changed the lives of thousands of readers and launched a philosophic movement with a growing impact on American culture.










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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3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6 out of 5 stars
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
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
3.0 out of 5 stars Beware: Rand Makes Crucial Mistakes! Oct. 31 2003
By A Customer
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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4.0 out of 5 stars A misconsidered philosophy Nov. 15 2013
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful; interesting twist 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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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Social Poison
I truly hope that this book is widely read by the general public. I say this in the sense that I wish Mein Kamph would have been more widely read. Read more
Published on June 17 2004 by OAKSHAMAN
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read.
This is probably one of maybe fifty books that everyone should read in high school or college. Although the debate around the title subject is frankly a bit on the semantic side... Read more
Published on April 10 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Cut out the Middleman
I recommend this book over Ayn Rand's novels. You don't have to put up with hundreds of pages of the conversations of Howard Roark, Dominique and John Galt. Read more
Published on March 12 2004 by J. head
3.0 out of 5 stars my subjective take on it...
Cold war ramblings. People throw words like rationality and enlightenment around and all over randian or marxist - college minded arenas etc. Read more
Published on March 7 2004 by John Whiteman
4.0 out of 5 stars The most important of Rand's nonfiction works
I'm giving this 4 stars because if you want any of Rand's nonfiction works, you want this one. Also, if you are at all interested in Rand's ideas outside of fiction, this is... Read more
Published on Sept. 30 2003 by Dave O'Hearn
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Changed My Life
I read this book a few years ago when I was a sophomore in college. I hadn't read too many books at that time and it was my first Rand book. Read more
Published on Sept. 5 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars The Selfish Objectivism of Rand's Detractors
If you're not selfish and objective, you'll never be enough of a person to help a single soul, including yourself. Read more
Published on July 28 2003 by Rick James
1.0 out of 5 stars Misguided At Best
This unconvincing collection of essays touts Rand's "Objectivist" dogma. Though once an adamant believer in Objectivism, upon actually LEARNING about the philosophic... Read more
Published on July 6 2003
2.0 out of 5 stars Big Ayn Rand fan, not so hot on this book
The format of this book is not what I expected. It is basically a set of essays that don't really present one with much information. Read more
Published on June 17 2003 by R. J. Elble
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