According to Ayn Rand, selfishness is a virtue and not a vice as many people would like to believe. However, she claims that the selfishness should be rational. The philosopher states that objectivism has five pillars namely; objective reality, self-interest, reason, capitalism, and romanticism. Objectivism states that the world around us exists no matter how one feels, thinks or wants to perceive the world. The way we perceive things is controlled by our reasoning. Reason is mans only means of perceiving reality, his only source of knowledge and guide to action (Rand 2000, p 5). However, the philosophy states that people should help themselves first before helping others.
The idea that selfishness is a virtue does not seem to progress in the right direction. By removing the safety net that would allow us to help people simply for economic efficiency is immoral (Gladstein 1999). Although capitalism is used in America, having some sort of control mechanism that regulates the excess in the society and helping the less privileged is a better philosophy to follow. The assertion that it is important to put oneself before other is a thinking that risks cutting off millions of people who depend on the generosity of others to either get food, healthcare or relief when disaster strikes.
Unlike animals, human beings make a decision after viewing and analyzing the alternatives available. Civilization has been able to grow because human beings have learned the importance of taking care of their fellow beings. Selfishness entails a hierarchy of values set by the standard of ones self-interest (Rand 2000, p 53). The decision by humans to treat other humans like their brothers does not agree with Ayn philosophy that advocates for selfishness (Locke and Becker 1998). However, there have been instances where self-interest has been used but this has not been in most part of the world. The larger majority of the population takes care of each other especially when a person is in need of help.
When Haiti was hit by an earthquake, people donated millions of dollars despite the economy in many countries recovering from the 2008 recession. If the human beings were to follow Ayns philosophy, there could be no donations because people would be concerned with their financial challenges and since human should be selfish, Haiti would have been left to deal with its own problems (Singer). The philosophy, therefore, doesnt hold water when one looks at the current situation and how people respond to individuals in need.
According to Ayn, socialism and religion are the threat to civilization and not her philosophy. She argues that socialism and caring for others will make other people depend on the hard work of a few people and in the end lead to the end of civilization (Rand 200, p 60). However, she fails to mention that human beings have been able to pull each other from a hard situation and brought people in the same financial positions. It is therefore not true when one claims being helpful to others is a threat to civilization
Several countries such as Sweden, the US, and the United Kingdom use a Capitalist system. However, the same governments have policies that are aimed at ensuring members of the community can receive services even if it means subsidizing and paying on their behalf. By following Rands philosophy, capitalistic economies would live their people at their own peril. The philosophy is therefore not practical in real world
Gladstein, Mimi R. Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand. Pennsylvania State Univ. P, 1999.
Locke, Edwin A., and Thomas E. Becker. "Rebuttal to a Subjectivist Critique of an Objectivist Approach to Integrity in Organizations." The Academy of Management Review, vol. 23, no. 1, 1998, p. 170.
Rand, Ayn. The Psychology of Altruism: Selfishness As a Virtue. Second Renaissance, 2005.
Singer, Peter. "Haiti and the Rules of Generosity | Peter Singer." The Guardian, 31 May 2017, www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2010/feb/16/haiti-aid-future-damage. Accessed 6 Feb. 2018.
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