The Virtue of Selfishness, Centennial Edition
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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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ambitiousness, his self-assertiveness, his refusal to bear uncontested disasters, his dedication to the goal of reshaping the earth in the image of his values. “Productive work” does not mean the unfocused performance of the motions of some job. It means the consciously chosen pursuit of a productive career, in any line of rational endeavor, great or modest, on any level of ability. It is not the degree of a man’s ability nor the scale of his work that is ethically relevant here, but the fullest
Thus, the things which a man seeks for pleasure or enjoyment are profoundly revealing psychologically; they are the index of his character and soul. (By “soul,” I mean: a man’s consciousness and his basic motivating values.) There are, broadly, five (interconnected) areas that allow man to experience the enjoyment of life: productive work, human relationships, recreation, art, sex. Productive work is the most fundamental of these: through his work man gains his basic sense of control over
“Nobody is ever fully right or fully wrong” and “Who am I to judge?” take their lethal effect. The man who begins by saying: “There is some good in the worst of us,” goes on to say: “There is some bad in the best of us”—then: “There’s got to be some bad in the best of us”—and then: “It’s the best of us who make life difficult—why don’t they keep silent?—who are they to judge?” And then, on some gray, middle-aged morning, such a man realizes suddenly that he has betrayed all the values he had
way that rewards effort and achievement, and penalizes passivity. This is one of the chief reasons for which it is denounced. In Who Is Ayn Rand?, discussing the nineteenth-century attacks on capitalism, I wrote: “In the writings of both medievalists and socialists, one can observe the unmistakable longing for a society in which man’s existence will be automatically guaranteed to him—that is, in which man will not have to bear responsibility for his own survival. Both camps project their ideal
the soil to feed them—so men cannot survive by attempting the method of animals, by rejecting reason and counting on productive men to serve as their prey. Such looters may achieve their goals for the range of a moment, at the price of destruction: the destruction of their victims and their own. As evidence, I offer you any criminal or any dictatorship. Man cannot survive, like an animal, by acting on the range of the moment. An animal’s life consists of a series of separate cycles, repeated