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Metaethics, Egoism, and Virtue

Studies in Ayn Rand's Normative Theory

Allan Gotthelf, Editor James G. Lennox, Associate Editor

Publication Year: 2011

Philosopher-novelist Ayn Rand (1905–1982) is a cultural phenomenon. Her books have sold more than twenty-five million copies, and countless individuals speak of her writings as having significantly influenced their lives. In spite of the popular interest in her ideas, or perhaps because of it, Rand’s work has, until recently, received little serious attention from academics. Though best known among philosophers for her strong support of egoism in ethics and capitalism in politics, there is an increasingly widespread awareness of both the range and the systematic character of Rand’s philosophic thought. Metaethics, Egoism, and Virtue examines central aspects of Ayn Rand’s ethical theory. Though her endorsement of ethical egoism is well known—one of her most familiar essay collections is The Virtue of Selfishness—the character of her egoism is not. Leading Rand scholars and specialists in ethical theory address issues such as: the basis of Rand’s egoism in a virtue-centered normative ethics; her account of how moral norms in general are themselves based on a fundamental choice by an agent to value his own life; and how her own approach to the foundations of ethics is to be compared and contrasted with familiar approaches in the analytic ethical tradition. Philosophers interested in the objectivity of value, in the way ethical theory is (and is not) virtue-based, and in acquiring a serious understanding of an egoistic moral theory worthy of attention will find much to consider here

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xi

Though Ayn Rand is still best known among philosophers for her support of egoism in ethics and capitalism in politics, there is increasingly widespread awareness of both the range and the systematic character of her thought. The present volume, Metaethics, Egoism, and Virtue: Studies in Ayn Rand’s Normative Theory, focuses not on the metaphysical...

Reason, Choice, and the Ultimate End

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pp. 1

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Reasoning about Ends: Life as a Value in Ayn Rand’s Ethics

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pp. 3-32

On Ayn Rand’s view, ethics has a teleological foundation. There is an end that serves as the standard for defining moral values and virtues, and in relation to this end, moral norms impose obligations. The reason-giving force of these obligations, all things considered, depends on what normative status Rand accords the end that morality serves. And...

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The Choice to Value (1990)

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pp. 33-46

This paper was written for the December 1990 Ayn Rand Society program on the relation of value, obligation, and choice in Ayn Rand’s ethics, as a response to Douglas B. Rasmussen’s lead paper, “Rand on Obligation and Value.” Both papers were read at the meeting and circulated for some years afterwards to ARS members. I have often thought of publishing my...

Metaethics Objectivist and Analytic

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pp. 47

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The Foundations of Ethics Objectivism and Analytic Philosophy

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pp. 49-73

Analytic philosophy has been around for more than a century now, and philosophers across its breadth have been engaged in a set of inquiries that go by the name “the foundations of ethics.” If one looks at this enterprise historically, or even by reference to the literature of any specific time-period, one finds that “the foundations...

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Egoism and Eudaimonism Replies to Khawaja

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pp. 74-84

Irfan Khawaja has written a provocative chapter on the fundamental aspects of Ayn Rand’s moral philosophy, a treatment that he sees as being intimately tied up with her epistemology. There is too much there for me to comment on even most of it. I’ll focus here on those aspects of the work about which I think I have something interesting,...

Egoism and Virtue in Nietzsche and Rand

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pp. 85

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Nietzsche and Rand as Virtuous Egoists

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pp. 87-100

In the public mind, to be an egoist is to be immoral; in the philosophical mind, to be an ethical egoist is to adopt a form of immoralism. Yet as far as this equation goes, there is a problem in the interpretation of both Nietzsche and Ayn Rand. Both are self-styled egoists, yet the writings of both are replete with virtue and vice concepts, which...

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Virtue and Sacrifice: Response to Swanton

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pp. 101-110

In the preceding chapter in this volume, Professor Swanton has raised a fascinating question about Rand’s ethics and looked at Nietzsche for thoughts toward an answer that she believes would also be congenial to Rand. The question is: Can you be faulted for insufficient engagement with the interests of others? And if you can, what then becomes of the...

Author Meets Critics: Tara Smith’s Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics

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pp. 111

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Rational Selves, Friends, and the Social Virtues

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pp. 113-125

Tara Smith’s Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics (2006) provides a subtle and challenging version of what it means to be an ethical egoist. The naturalistic basis of Rand’s work, as presented by Smith, makes this egoistic theory one that should be taken seriously by moral philosophers, rather than simply dismissed. However, Rand’s view of human nature as...

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Egoistic Relations with Others: Response to Cullyer

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pp. 126-130

Helen Cullyer is concerned about the professed egoism of Rand’s ethics standing alongside its recognition of rights and of ideal friendships in which self-interest comes to be “transcended” by concern for the friends’ “common interest.” In this way, Cullyer seemingly reveals a conflict between “maximizer” and “nonmaximizer” models of egoism. I...

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Virtuous Egoism and Virtuous Altruism

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pp. 131-142

Thinkers such as Nietzsche and Ayn Rand receive bad press because they either appear to advocate (in Nietzsche’s case) or in fact explicitly advocate, egoism as an ideal of conduct. Nietzsche has been somewhat rehabilitated, and Tara Smith is attempting to do the same for Rand. In both cases the instrument, or at least one important instrument, for...

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On Altruism, and on the Role of Virtues in Rand’s Egoism: Response to Swanton

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pp. 143-148

Swanton believes that Rand’s ethics cannot be hastily dismissed, thanks to its altruism and insistence on virtue. Nonetheless, the way in which it upholds virtue—by maintaining that a person should pursue what is “proper” to human beings—is normatively loaded. Worse, Swanton contends, Rand’s theory does not provide any reason...

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What Is Included in Virtue?

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pp. 149-157

There is certainly a great deal in Tara Smith’s wonderful book that is worth discussing and pondering. From the many possible topics I will select one, simply on the grounds that it touches on matters that I have thought about and written on myself. It is a point on which I seem to disagree with her...

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The Primacy of Action in Virtue: Response to Hunt

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pp. 158-163

Lester Hunt is concerned that by my account, Rand does not consider virtue to be a trait of character or to be something that requires proper action to be taken with the right “spirit and inclination.” Indeed, Hunt wonders whether such a Rand is truly a virtue ethicist. I stand by my portrait of Rand, but I actually think that some of our differences are...

Uniform Abbreviations of Works

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pp. 165-166


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pp. 167-173


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pp. 175-177


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pp. 179-188

E-ISBN-13: 9780822977599
E-ISBN-10: 0822977591
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822944003
Print-ISBN-10: 0822944006

Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 2011