Ayn Rand's basic argument--one reconstruction

This reconstruction is based on my readings of some of Ayn Rand's novels Anthem, Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, and some of her philosophical works including The Virtue of Selfishness, and Philosophy: Who Needs It? One of the her best philosophical discussions (I think) is to be found in John Galt's long radio speech in Atlas Shrugged. Rand was fond of quoting arguments and examples from Atlas Shrugged to support her arguments in the philosophical non-fictional work. I think that one of the most interesting critiques of Rand can be found in Nancy Kress's philosophical novel, Beggars in Spain.

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Michael Kagan
Le Moyne College Department of Philosophy
Syracuse, NY 13214
Email: kagan@lemoyne.edu

According to Rand, Ethical Egoism is the logical consequence of the role of reason for the human person

A. Investigation informs us that reason is the human key to survival (not culture per se ).

B. Reason shows us that the human person to survive with a full life needs to develop h/h reason and respect h/h own life (develop genuine self-esteem by maintaining and developing a self-worth esteeming). This is furthered by a desire for the earned and a rejection of the path of the unearned. The necessities of life and self-respect conspire to make the individual want to produce, in order to earn his or her own way, going through life as an honest trader in all things [as an egoist with the virtue of selfishness]

C. The only system which permits this and respects the individual's right to pursue his or her own happiness is capitalism. Since a system can be moral only if it respects individual rights (and this must include property rights, as far as Rand is concerned), capitalism is the only moral system.

D. Since the great virtue for Rand is selfishness, the greatest heroes in her novels excel in the virtue of selfishness, the rational selfishness that places the individual's own life at the center, her heroes are individuals who do not live for others and refuse to let others live for them.

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Some critical responses:
Hamner Hill's critique in terms of "noblesse oblige"; noblesse oblige and Robert Heinlein's critique of Rand; Nancy Kress's critique in Beggars in Spain. Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth Series as an elaboration and development in the Rand-Heinlein tradition.

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Michael Kagan
Most recently updated 9/15/2017


Some other links to Rand discussion and information on the internet include:

The Atlas Society -- Ayn Rand: A Brief Biography

Interview with Nancy Kress

The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies



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