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Objectivism Explained

Updated on May 23, 2019
Ayn Rand in 1943
Ayn Rand in 1943 | Source

My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.

Ayn Rand's philosophy has been labeled as an unfair philosophy that preaches that it is all about you and that no one else matters. It supposedly rejects helping others and only places value on something if you like it. I will attempt to get rid of these misconceptions.

When Ayn Rand wrote the essays found in The Virtue of Selfishness she, of course, said that being selfish was a virtue. But what does she mean by this?

"In popular usage, the word ‘selfishness’ is a synonym of evil; the image it conjures is of a murderous brute who tramples over piles of corpses to achieve his own ends . . . and pursues nothing but the gratification of the mindless whims of any immediate moment.

“Yet the exact meaning and dictionary definition of the word ‘selfishness’ is: concern with one’s own interests. This concept does not include a moral evaluation; it does not tell us whether concern with one’s own interests is good or evil; nor does it tell us what constitutes man’s actual interests. It is the task of ethics to answer such questions.

— Introduction, the Virtue of Selfishness.

When she uses the word "selfish", she is not referring to the evil trait we think of. In fact, she opposes it. She proposes the idea of what we call rational egoism, which in summary means that we must pursue our own self-interests and live our lives for ourselves, but this does not mean we must always think of ourselves as being perfect nor that we must disregard others.

One of the reasons people think she is like this is because she opposes altruism. Why? Because she rejects the idea that others are automatically entitled to the product of our labor and the ultimate moral goal is to be a selfless person. This is not to say that we are supposed to be opposed to helping others but to hold that alone as the ultimate moral good is not good at all.

My views on charity are very simple. I do not consider it a major virtue and, above all, I do not consider it a moral duty. There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them. I regard charity as a marginal issue. What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue.

— Ayn Rand, Playboy, March 1964

The idea that others are automatically entitled to our love and help finds no real basis. To her, if we love everyone indiscriminately, that is "to love without any standard, regardless of moral or virtue. You are asked to love nobody", making it useless. This does not mean that we are free to mistreat them as they have done no harm to us. But why is every homeless man entitled to our money? Again this is not saying that it is wrong to give money to the needy but to say that this is the pinnacle of morality and that you should always do this is false. It would be morally right to give the homeless man money if you have a reason to think he will spend it wisely and if it will do no harm towards you and your family.

In speaking of family, Ayn Rand did an interview with Mike Wallace in 1958 in which he criticized how she thought of love as being like a business deal. To him, love means to be above self-interest. How does she respond? She retorts by saying love without self-interest would be like a husband telling his wife that he married his wife only for her sake. He gets nothing out of it. He has no personal interest. He is so unselfish that he married her only for her own good. This is a bad relationship. A healthy relationship is one that has both parties enjoying being with one another, and both of them selfishly enjoys it. The husband enjoys being with his wife because he gets something out of it and the wife does as well.

This comes down to another issue; sacrifice. She opposed the idea of sacrificing yourself for anything. But she did not mean that it is never right to give up something for something else or that the struggle is not worth it.

Sacrifice” does not mean the rejection of the worthless, but of the precious. “Sacrifice” does not mean the rejection of the evil for the sake of the good, but of the good for the sake of the evil. “Sacrifice” is the surrender of that which you value in favor of that which you don’t.

If you exchange a penny for a dollar, it is not a sacrifice; if you exchange a dollar for a penny, it is. If you achieve the career you wanted, after years of struggle, it is not a sacrifice; if you then renounce it for the sake of a rival, it is. If you own a bottle of milk and give it to your starving child, it is not a sacrifice; if you give it to your neighbor’s child and let your own die, it is.

If you wish to save the last of your dignity, do not call your best actions a “sacrifice”: that term brands you as immoral. If a mother buys food for her hungry child rather than a hat for herself, it is not a sacrifice: she values the child higher than the hat; but it is a sacrifice to the kind of mother whose higher value is the hat, who would prefer her child to starve and feeds him only from a sense of duty.

— Galt’s Speech, For the New Intellectual, 139

Now some may look at what she just said and say she is supporting the kind of mother who would choose a hat over her child. But in regards to children, objectivism does not support such a view.

Ethically, Objectivism is opposed to any unchosen or undeserved duties. In this context, however, Objectivists generally acknowledge that parents, in creating (or adopting) a dependent child, choose for themselves the obligation to raise that child to a healthy adulthood with the power to exercise his rational faculty (if he so chooses). This obligation implies that the parents must undertake certain tasks at least to some minimal standard, including feeding and clothing the child....

...and providing him with a basic education.

— Andrew Bissell, Children's Rights, Atlas Society, January 25, 2011

Andrew goes onto explain how this would work out. For example, does this mean the murder of a child is okay since they do not have the same rights as an adult? The general consensus among Objectionists is that while children do have the full rights of adults, they have the right to live and they have the potential to become a fully functioning adult.

Objectivism rejects the idea that we must be completely selfless people and that, within reason, we can pursue our own goals and forge our own path in life, and that in doing so we can help others do the same. By following this standard we are actually helping mankind more than selflessness can. Only by valuing ourselves and loving ourselves can we follow the golden rule found in almost every culture: treat others how YOU want to be treated.

Thank you for your time. For more information, check out the Ayn Rand Institute, which has a variety of articles, videos, and programs devoted to learning more about Objectivism.


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    • reasonismyreason profile imageAUTHOR

      Kevin Williams 

      4 days ago


      I apologize for taking so long. I had lost my laptop charger.

      "Let me begin with saying,humans are descendants of Adam,and no controversy on that.Religion ,Sciences and Phiosophers attest to that with facts and figures."

      There are several problems with what you say. Only a few religions agree that we had one male and one female ancestor several thousand years back. And even if every single religion held the same view that would only prove that these religions change and adapt over time, not that they are true. And philosophy is not one school of thought, but many different schools of thought. For example, Solipism holds that there is a chance that what you are seeing might not be real and everything we know might be an illusion. And finally, most scientists do not believe Adam and Eve were real people but were just a story made up to explain who we are and how we got here. Snd every single case where we do theorize that we have found our first ancestors have been outside of where the Bible places the Garden of Eden.

      "Do anyone in this age still doubt the existence of supreme being-God who was,is and shall be after you and i completed our existence on earth?"

      According to sociologists Ariela Keysar and Juhem Navarro-Rivera's review of numerous global studies on atheism, there are 450 to 500 million positive atheists and agnostics worldwide (7% of the world's population), with China having the most atheists in the world (200 million convinced atheists). (Keysar, Ariela; Navarro-Rivera, Juhem (2017). "36. A World of Atheism: Global Demographics". In Bullivant, Stephen; Ruse, Michael (eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Atheism. Oxford University)

      "No human can have a balanced sense of judgement without having active relationship with God fuelled with holy living and obedience to His injunction."

      The fact that people have been shown to make moral judgments without the assistance of God proves that you do not need to have God in order to make moral judgments. Stop believing in him and believe in yourself. If you make incorrect judgments, correct them. Improve on them.

    • notterarticles profile image

      Clem Folayan 

      3 weeks ago from Nigeria

      'One of the things that keep impairing human judgment is that we are continuously told time and time again that if you do not have God in your life then your judgment is false. That is what is holding us back, not the judgment itself."

      I have quoted you Kevin from the tale end of your latest submission,to clearly throw light into your understanding of the whole matter.

      Let me begin with saying,humans are descendants of Adam,and no controversy on that.Religion ,Sciences and Phiosophers attest to that with facts and figures.

      Do anyone in this age still doubt the existence of supreme being-God who was,is and shall be after you and i completed our existence on earth?

      He rules and reigns in all spheres and positions of human activities.

      Its only through intimate relationship with Jesus His son ,who is the way,truth and light that anyone born of woman can claim to know and worship Him acceptably.All other sources are counterfeits.

      "...if you do not have God in your life then your judgment is false..."

      Quoting again ,No human can have a balanced sense of judgement without having active relationship with God fuelled with holy living and obedience to His injunction.He manifests Himself as the spirit of truth,just,compassion,justice, et al."..Without Him was NOTHING made in the earth below,on earth and heaven aboce ,visible and invisible,principalities or powers..."

      The Judgement of a man in old self-Adamic nature can not have a perfect or balanced effect,because it is usually colored and impure.

      Emotions :taste,likes,hate,anger, et al,are all the emanating from human mind,inside the body made by God.

      Therefore,to say "God is involved in what human does is not an understatement ".He created all.He formed man and the same should not solely operate in the realm of reasoning(mind),rather opened up to His/her creator at all all times.

      .How a quick resolve is reached when taking decisions depends on many factors.The chief among them is that ,man must have in his entirety become comformed with the image of God through His life changing Holy Spirit,who knows ,teaches and helps man against imperfections.

    • reasonismyreason profile imageAUTHOR

      Kevin Williams 

      3 weeks ago


      It is not the result of Adam, because Adam never existed. True goodness does not have to be the result of divine intervention. If we as human beings stop basing everything on our emotions, whims, and irrationality and base it on logic and reason then we will see the truth about morality. Just because our judgment may be wrong sometimes does not mean we should just totally ignore it. One of the things that keep impairing human judgment is that we are continuously told time and time again that if you do not have God in your life then your judgment is false. That is what is holding us back, not the judgment itself. We can learn to grow and learn to have better judgment but not if we keep these limitations.

    • notterarticles profile image

      Clem Folayan 

      3 weeks ago from Nigeria

      There is admixture of free will and Divine will within a child of God,no doubt.The free will is what makes us human in the image of God,we are not robots.The other part of our making is the Spirit of God that will be seeking the submissiveness of the human before he can move us to do anything.Its not His nature to impose,rather democratic.

      The human free will is Adamic in nature.It is not balanced in its judgement and decision making.There is in it occassional good and bad disposions to issues and life generally.Its behaviour is based on the realm of reason according to what suits or bring him/her pleasure ,immediately or later.It is because of this imbalances that makes the mind through ,intuitions,reason has element of sin. Consciuosness.Flesh rebels against the other Spirit,Hence its judgment is insufficient to be relied on at all cases at all time.It may hit right sometime,but not all the time

      In the other hand, the Holy Spirit who normally comes seeking the cooperation of the human free will is usually error free and incorruptible of any form.It is the divisible(portion imparted)presence of God.If the human spirit itself mentioned earlier submit to his ruling,he takes on and influences the human spirit to have balanced judment of any situation and whatever the man does, will always be the most appropriate for that situation.

      Now,with understanding of the two forces that influences human behavior or disposition to life.We can easily recognise that when an individual is struggling to do the right thing at any given time,there is a serious 'war' going on the inside of that person,about what ,why,when, and how to do a thing.A submissive human spirit would not have that war,though the as said,he is not robot,neither will he be conscripted by the Holy spirit.He often raise suggestion about what to do ,But this time without dictating or authoritative as in the former state.This is what often referred to as temptation.

      The whole essence is that,a submissive human is 'born again'He has graduated and transformed from 'Adamic nature' to 'Jesus nature' to the Lordship of God.The formerlly visiting and 'opinion seeking' spirit of God ,helping human spirif to seldom do good,is now fully resident-"old things have passed away,all things have becomes new".

      Hence,that person breaths the life of God,senses ,do what God would do in that given circumstance without error.Beacuse there is no error in Him.

      In conclussion,the moment any human is still seeing himself /herslf as the custodian ,proprietor of his/her life and possessions,that person will always have problem helping fellow-'neighbour'.He /he would focus on pain taken for the accumulation of the substances in his possession,rather that taking on the nature of God ,which is compassion.Christ suffered anihilation,lashes,insults and brutal death in order to ransom mankind(christians and all non-christians alike)not for his sins,but for the will of God to be established-that is ,human race may have reign in eternal life with Him.

    • reasonismyreason profile imageAUTHOR

      Kevin Williams 

      3 weeks ago


      I disagree with you. The needs of the needy should not just be ignored, but this is only when the needy deserve to be helped. It is completely within our capabilities to judge whether someone is truly in need and if that person will do what is right if we help them. In some cases, you may make a mistake in your judgment but this does not mean your judgment is irrelevant.

    • notterarticles profile image

      Clem Folayan 

      4 weeks ago from Nigeria

      It is important to draw a line between been obligued to help ,and helping others at one's free volition especially like christians would have an inward or inner spirit of God which prompts them to help,yet not by compulsion.

      The first case enumerated in the other hand,is equally a command of Jesus in the Holy bible to "love one another as yourself..."

      The Parable of the good Samaritan as narrated by Lord Jesus,to the believers is another example where,he established that the good Samaritan who risked his life,resourses and dared death threat to resque the victim of robbery ,was said to be the 'neighbour' of the victim.

      So,as much as laziness or indolence should not be encouraged,yet it is important not to ignore the needy if we have the means.

      We should allow God to judge the ones pretending or who is really complacent to take risk to earn more and come out of ignoble situation.Let us always do our bit ,educate where we can and leave the rest."He who gives to the poor lend to God (who is the creator of that needy).


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