thomtg

Is Being Self-Interested the Same as Being Egoistic?

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An introductory thread evoked a side question , which I would like to discuss here.

[...]

You have posed some interesting questions, which, in order for me to discuss in depth, I will first need to define some terms.

altruism: the moral code that a man's existence is to serve other men and that sacrifice is his highest virtue.

sacrifice: the giving up of a higher value for the sake of a lower value.

egoism: the moral code that a man's existence is his to live and enjoy and rationality is his highest virtue.

rationality: the use of reason as the only means for acquiring knowledge and guiding one's actions.

moral code: [or in TVOS, code of values:] a set of abstract principles [serving as] a system of teleological measurement which grades the choices and actions open to man, according to the degree to which they achieve or frustrate the code's standard of value.

benevolence: the principle that, because other men are potential traders (material and spiritual), in order to cultivate voluntary trades with them, one should treat them with civility, generosity, and respect. [rev., T.]

trade: the exchange of a value voluntarily for the sake of an equal value, to mutual benefit.

[...]

Objectivism does not denigrate doing "good" deeds. There is the virtue of benevolence, which is very much integrated with the basic virtues in the Objectivist ethics. An egoist values himself for the long term. If he were obnoxious and thinking of himself only in the short term, then, while he might gain something in the moment, he would lose out in the long run because other people would not want to deal continually with him. If reason had been his guide, he would have seen that his momentary gain came at a high cost in the long run, thereby that "gain" was not a good trade but was actually a sacrifice.

There is nothing wrong with feeling gratified. In fact, it is natural to experience gratification for gaining a value. What is at issue however is not the experience of gratification but the nature of that which one values. A person's set of values, his hierarchy of values--those things he commits his life to gain and keep--are they in fact objective to his nature as a rational being? What is the standard of values from which that hierarchy was evaluated? So, if someone chooses fame for a value, and he works and eventually gets praise, celebrity, fame; then it is natural for him to feel gratified. But is "fame" an objective value? Peter Keating went for fame and praise from others, and look where he ended up.

Would you agree that Peter Keating was motivated by 100 per cent self-interest in his search for fame and praise from others?

Yes, Peter Keating was motivated 100 percent by self-interest in his pursuit of fame in The Fountainhead. He was driven by what he thought was best for him, which is the praise and approval of others. Every decision he made was motivated and calculated by what was to be in it for him. Every action he took served his purpose, his personal goal, his desire, his value, his interest.

Keating was motivated by self-interest. But so what? This is nothing new to ethics. To this extent, he was a regular, typical human being. Indeed he typified a conscious animal. All animal actions, apart from reflexes, are motivated. (Plants have vegetative actions, too, but let us delimit the topic and set that issue aside.) An action and its motivation is inseparable. An animal action without a motive is a contradiction in terms. Keating's actions, his pursuits, were no different.

Human actions, distinguished as a subset of animal actions, is a little more complicated by the fact of volition. Although still motivated, human actions in addition can be chosen freely from among alternatives. The distinction is this: Confronted by a robber wielding a knife, a victim's every action is still motivated, motivated in the interest of the victim's life, but such an action in the presence of physical force is not volitionally chosen. Human actions are thus dependent on the absence of coercion from other men.

There is thus a distinction between merely motivated actions--actions of animals and of coerced individuals--and freely chosen actions. This distinction makes all the difference. Chosen actions need the consent of the actor's own mind. With a knife on his back, the victim's motivated actions bypass whatever judgments he had. In freedom, a man's own judgment guides his actions.

The action of a man who thinks "2+2=4" but who is coerced to write down "2+2=5," is completely, 100-percent, motivated action, but the action is not to his interest in a new and fundamental sense. In the one sense, there is the animal, moment-by-moment, non-rational interest; in the other, there is the human, long-term, rational interest.

In the presence of freedom, however, human actions require an active use of the mind. Not only are there the multitude of existential alternatives to choose from, but there are the mental alternatives to choose from as well; and the most fundamental of which is the choice to think. Man has the capacity to make this choice (in freedom) to think or not. This is volition. The alternatives to think or not, to be guided by reason or not, in choosing the multitude of alternatives and actions, have great, inescapable consequences.

Volition in the presence of freedom bestows a great responsibility to a human being. If he thinks "2+2=4," he has the free will to act on that knowledge in his everyday action, or not. He can choose to write down "4" as a result, or he can choose to write down "5"; and he can carry out actions subsequent to it. He is free to act, but he cannot escape the consequence of his motivated actions. That is, he can choose to act rationally on the basis of his judgment, or he can discard his judgment and act without its guidance, i.e., he can act irrationally.

Thus the broad concept "self-interest," the one that applies not only to men but also to animals, must be intensified, according to Ayn Rand, to distinguish that self-interest that is generated by human volitional judgments. Thus, Rand defines "selfishness" as rational self-interest. Human actions that are guided by the individual's judgments are actions motivated by rational self-interest.

A man acting on motives other than the free-will judgment of his mind, whether by coercion from others or by his own emotional whim, is not acting toward his rational self-interest. That is, to act by coercion is to be motivated by non-rational interest--an interest not of his own choosing. And to act by emotion, unaided by his rational judgment, is to be motivated by irrational self-interest.

On Rand's conception, a rational man acts selfishly. An irrational man acts unselfishly. A coerced man acts robotically, animalistically, non-mindedly. Herein lies one of Rand's great insights in ethics. She identifies the source of man's greatness: his mind, the ego.

When a person chooses to value his mind and respects its volitional nature, he is an egoist. When he doesn't place much value to it and disrespects its nature by abusing its development, denigrating its evidence, evading its judgments, deferring it to his emotions and desires of the moment, deferring it to the minds of others, he is a second-hander. And this last is concretized in the character Peter Keating.

In the fictional world, Keating was a second-hander, and every one of his actions was motivated by his self-interest toward fame and praise of others. But he was not acting toward his rational self-interest. He never thought whether becoming an architect to please his mother was really to his self-interest. Even if he did, he deferred whatever thought he had to hers and to her emotions. Every decision and action was motivated for himself, for what's best for him. But was it motivated selfishly, if that self was denied of its judgments? He never knew himself, that budding artist that never was. Motivated, yes, by definition, but second-handedly, without a self, he acted selflessly. He was not acting selfishly.

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Self-interest is not the same as being egotistic(al).

It can be said mo bettah, but one is a concept, the other is a psychological state; more or less whereby (if you go with the classic Freudian model), there is an imbalance between ego and the other centers. Change terms for a minute and see. How about "is their a difference between self-interest and the id?" Of course there is, just for different reasons. Apples/Oranges.

Categories misaligned, for one, if you want to do O-speak.

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On Rand's conception, a rational man acts selfishly. An irrational man acts unselfishly.

So per Rand, Keating asking Roark to do his work for him was an "unselfish" act?

When a person chooses to value his mind and respects its volitional nature, he is an egoist.

How is it that Rand called Keating an egoist then?

[ETA It's actually egotist with a 't' in between but I don't think the English language makes a real distinction betwen egoist and egotist - they're mere spelling variations.]

Edited by Xray

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On Rand's conception, a rational man acts selfishly. An irrational man acts unselfishly.

So per Rand, Keating asking Roark to do his work for him was an "unselfish" act?

When a person chooses to value his mind and respects its volitional nature, he is an egoist.

How is it that Rand called Keating an egoist then?

Xray -

When did Rand call Keating an egoist?

Bill P

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Xray -

When did Rand call Keating an egoist?

In her comment on the characters of The Fountainhead, pb, annex p. 696:

"A perfect example of a selfless man who is a ruthless unprincipled egotist - in the accepted meaning of the word." (end quote)

It is egotist with a 't' in between but I don't think the English language makes a real distinction betwen egoist and egotist - they're mere spelling variations.

What does Rand mean by "in the accepted meaning of the word" - accepted by whom?

Edited by Xray

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Would you agree that Peter Keating was motivated by 100 per cent self-interest in his search for fame and praise from others?
Yes, Peter Keating was motivated 100 percent by self-interest in his pursuit of fame in The Fountainhead.

Indeed he was. Just as everyone else in the book was driven by self-interest. It can't be otherwise because it is biologically hardwired.

Would you agree that self-interest is the driving force behind all our actions?

I'm not talking about what the self-interest is (Roark's self-interest obviously differed from Keating's), only try to establish a common epistemological denominator in the discussion so that we can take it from there.

Edited by Xray

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Aren't there degrees of self interest? Surfers surfing is one thing. Surfers surfing in shark infested waters is another. Even smart people do stupid things. That includes me. I don't consider those actions to have been in my self interest. Now, however, if all I do is pursue my (subjective) self interest (to the max?), why is it in my self interest to keep engaging one who keeps talking about it's all about motivation, and why does that person care? We're all going to do that self interest thing anyway(?). Why should we care about making best choices? We're going to do that anyway--no? This is an attack by Xray on free will and volitional consciousness and the need for doing the right thing once knowing to one's best ability what that is. This is about moral stature and how one adds to or detracts from that or not. It is about moral stature being irrelevant to human being or not. This is about using one's mind efficaciously or not. This is about attacking and negating the mind and doing what one feels like doing or not. This is about moral virtues generally speaking or not. Xray does not wish to deal with the consequences of unbridled subjectivity, but reality must be referenced. Peter Keating may have subjectively acted in all cases in his self interest, but he ended up on a human trash pile, psychologically ruined.

--Brant

Edited by Brant Gaede

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On Rand's conception, a rational man acts selfishly. An irrational man acts unselfishly.

So per Rand, Keating asking Roark to do his work for him was an "unselfish" act?

When a person chooses to value his mind and respects its volitional nature, he is an egoist.

How is it that Rand called Keating an egoist then?

[ETA It's actually egotist with a 't' in between but I don't think the English language makes a real distinction betwen egoist and egotist - they're mere spelling variations.]

Get thee to a dictionary--go! Also get thee to the Intro to the 25th Anniversary edition of The Fountainhead.

--Brant

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On Rand's conception, a rational man acts selfishly. An irrational man acts unselfishly.

So per Rand, Keating asking Roark to do his work for him was an "unselfish" act?

When a person chooses to value his mind and respects its volitional nature, he is an egoist.

How is it that Rand called Keating an egoist then?

[ETA It's actually egotist with a 't' in between but I don't think the English language makes a real distinction betwen egoist and egotist - they're mere spelling variations.]

Truly amazing.

You even nag the English language after your prior begging to be given the lee way to be a little off in your ability to use it.

A pattern developing?

Adam

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Get thee to a dictionary--go! Also get thee to the Intro to the 25th Anniversary edition of The Fountainhead.

--Brant

I got me a dictionary before posting on the egoist/egotist spelling issue - go figure! The English dictionary I used does not make any semantic distincition between the two terms at all, and lists the 't' version as mere spelling variant.

As for the intro to the 25th Anniversary edition of The Fountainhead - I have it here, and just read what Rand said about the different spellings of egoist/egotist; that she consulted a dictionary (Websters Daiy Use dictionary, 1933) which she said gave her "a misleading definiton of the these two words".

Rand seems to be of the opinion that "egotist" is semantically more "loaded" in the direction of 'ethically negative': that is, its 'connotation' goes more to negative than "egoist".

Just a personal observation on my part, with no claim of statistical relevance: I have heard the word "egoist" used more often in British English, and "egotist" more often in American English.

Whatever, Rand verbatim called Keating an "egotist", and judging by her disapproval of this character, we know of course that she uses the term in an extremely negative sense.

The real epistemological bombshell is that Rand, by verbatim calling a "selfless man" (an altruist), an "egotist", she admits that altruists are driven by self-interest too (she calls it egotism, but this is of secondary importance here), thereby conceding (without realizung it) that there is no such thing as genuine altruism.

Edited by Xray

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Xray -

When did Rand call Keating an egoist?

In her comment on the characters of The Fountainhead, pb, annex p. 696:

"A perfect example of a selfless man who is a ruthless unprincipled egotist - in the accepted meaning of the word." (end quote)

It is egotist with a 't' in between but I don't think the English language makes a real distinction betwen egoist and egotist - they're mere spelling variations.

What does Rand mean by "in the accepted meaning of the word" - accepted by whom?

Xray -

Someday you need to actually read and think about material before asking a question about it. Find out what the author of the material meant - look at the context, look where they have provided explicit definitions, etc...

Until you do that, there is really no point in further attempts at discussion. You are consistently asking questions based on substituting interpretations to the explicit ones given by the author.

Enjoy yourself. What you are doing has little if anything in common with communication. And don't bother to ask me "what is communication..."

Bill P

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Would you agree that Peter Keating was motivated by 100 per cent self-interest in his search for fame and praise from others?
Yes, Peter Keating was motivated 100 percent by self-interest in his pursuit of fame in The Fountainhead.

Indeed he was. Just as everyone else in the book was driven by self-interest. It can't be otherwise because it is biologically hardwired.

Would you agree that self-interest is the driving force behind all our actions?

I'm not talking about what the self-interest is (Roark's self-interest obviously differed from Keating's), only try to establish a common epistemological denominator in the discussion so that we can take it from there.

Yes, I do agree that self-interest is the driving force behind all human actions. Moreover, I state in my root post: "This is nothing new to ethics. To this extent, [Peter Keating] was a regular, typical human being. Indeed he typified a conscious animal. All animal actions, apart from reflexes, are motivated. ... An action and its motivation is inseparable. An animal action without a motive is a contradiction in terms." I then go on to subclass "self-interest" into "rational self-interest," "irrational self-interest," and volitionless "nonrational self-interest."

On Rand's conception, a rational man acts selfishly. An irrational man acts unselfishly.

So per Rand, Keating asking Roark to do his work for him was an "unselfish" act?

[...]

Two points:

1. Since ideas are thought by human beings, and while an idea may have been taught down through the ages, there must have been an individual who independently discovered it the first time. (This is not to say that many individuals could not have independently arrived at the same idea.) "2+2=4" as an idea had to be discovered, but since everybody knows it and uses it nowadays, no one remembers who first discovered it. I am crediting Ayn Rand for being the first to discover the cited ideas. But now that I have independently assessed them for myself that they are true, I have adopted them, integrated them, used them, and made them my own--as I have made "2+2=4" mine.

2. So, yes, I think that Keating's asking Roark to design the Cortlandt homes for him was an unselfish act. Why? Because Keating well knew that a man's achievement is his own, and that any fame that follows is always derivative of that which one has achieved. Keating knew he could not achieve, but he wanted the fame. He desired a consequence contra to its cause. It was a desire for unreality that motivated him--the knowledge of the facts be damned. Since the act was motivated by this irrational desire, against the consent of his mind's rational judgments of causality; therefore, his asking Roark to do the work was an unselfish act.

[...]
When a person chooses to value his mind and respects its volitional nature, he is an egoist.

How is it that Rand called Keating an egoist then?

[ETA It's actually egotist with a 't' in between but I don't think the English language makes a real distinction betwen egoist and egotist - they're mere spelling variations.]

[...]

In her comment on the characters of The Fountainhead, pb, annex p. 696:

"A perfect example of a selfless man who is a ruthless unprincipled egotist - in the accepted meaning of the word." (end quote)

It is egotist with a 't' in between but I don't think the English language makes a real distinction betwen egoist and egotist - they're mere spelling variations.

What does Rand mean by "in the accepted meaning of the word" - accepted by whom?

Good catch, Xray! You found something I did not notice before.

The "self" in "selfishness" is man's mind, particularly, that faculty of conscious ness that thinks, i.e., the ego. When that which thinks is set aside in favor of emotion or desire (apart from rationally derived desires) or in favor of the opinions of others, the self is set aside. Any volitional action motivated by such set-asides are unselfish, selfless acts.

Read page 696 again and ask yourself if anyone would call Peter Keating an egoist in the exact sense defined here and in the root post.

The cited quotation in the annex is Ayn Rand's sketch of the character Peter Keating before she wrote the novel.

I interpret Rand in this specific context to be adopting the popular vernacular of the period, hence the phrase "in the accepted meaning of the word."

Prior to the existence of the novel, there was on earth no such idea of "selfishness" (rational self-interest), no such idea of "egoist" (one who values his mind, with reason as his sole means of guidance), no such idea of "second-hander" (one who denies the self and acts on the opinions of others), etc. The annex reflects this and simply records a historical fact.

The "ego(t)ist" conception at the time before the novel is probably the Nietzschean "individualist" who would trample on anybody and everybody to get what he desired--e.g., pushing out an old architect in the firm, selling one's wife for a contract, etc. Indeed, in the "Introduction" to the 25th annniversary edition, p. viii, Rand mentions the spelling to this word. But throughout the novel itself, she never uses the word to attribute to Peter Keating.

Beginning with Ayn Rand, we have a new conception of egoism. ("A New Concept of Egoism" is also the subtitle of her book The Virtue of Selfishness.) Rand discovered the idea. She found it true. She used it. Now, thanks to her, anyone else on earth can take it-- or leave it. Since I find it true, I adopt it and use it.

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On Rand's conception, a rational man acts selfishly. An irrational man acts unselfishly.

So per Rand, Keating asking Roark to do his work for him was an "unselfish" act?

When a person chooses to value his mind and respects its volitional nature, he is an egoist.

How is it that Rand called Keating an egoist then?

[ETA It's actually egotist with a 't' in between but I don't think the English language makes a real distinction betwen egoist and egotist - they're mere spelling variations.]

Truly amazing.

You even nag the English language after your prior begging to be given the lee way to be a little off in your ability to use it.

A pattern developing?

Adam

The pattern has already developed: Your pattern of evasion by an attempt at humor at my expense.

It's not going to make your evasion of my posts #223 and #243, Cardinal Values thread, and post #281 (Existence Exists thread) go away. How about that map comparison you asked for?

Edited by Xray

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Xray -

When did Rand call Keating an egoist?

In her comment on the characters of The Fountainhead, pb, annex p. 696:

"A perfect example of a selfless man who is a ruthless unprincipled egotist - in the accepted meaning of the word." (end quote)

It is egotist with a 't' in between but I don't think the English language makes a real distinction betwen egoist and egotist - they're mere spelling variations.

What does Rand mean by "in the accepted meaning of the word" - accepted by whom?

Xray -

Someday you need to actually read and think about material before asking a question about it. Find out what the author of the material meant - look at the context, look where they have provided explicit definitions, etc...

Until you do that, there is really no point in further attempts at discussion. You are consistently asking questions based on substituting interpretations to the explicit ones given by the author.

Enjoy yourself. What you are doing has little if anything in common with communication. And don't bother to ask me "what is communication..."

Bill P

Ever since I started exchanging posts with you, I have been waiting for you to come out from hiding behind the apron of "Rand's collected works" and offer your individual contribution to the discussion. Has not happened yet, but then I'm not the type to lose hope easily. :)

Just give it a try, Bill! What stops you?

Edited by Xray

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Xray -

When did Rand call Keating an egoist?

In her comment on the characters of The Fountainhead, pb, annex p. 696:

"A perfect example of a selfless man who is a ruthless unprincipled egotist - in the accepted meaning of the word." (end quote)

It is egotist with a 't' in between but I don't think the English language makes a real distinction betwen egoist and egotist - they're mere spelling variations.

What does Rand mean by "in the accepted meaning of the word" - accepted by whom?

Xray -

Someday you need to actually read and think about material before asking a question about it. Find out what the author of the material meant - look at the context, look where they have provided explicit definitions, etc...

Until you do that, there is really no point in further attempts at discussion. You are consistently asking questions based on substituting interpretations to the explicit ones given by the author.

Enjoy yourself. What you are doing has little if anything in common with communication. And don't bother to ask me "what is communication..."

Bill P

Ever since I started exchanging posts with you, I have been waiting for you to come out from hiding behind the apron of "Rand's collected works" and offer your individual contribution to the discussion. Has not happened yet, but then I'm not the type to lose hope easily. :)

Just give it a try, Bill! What stops you?

Nothing stops me. I have done it. You have displayed either an inability to comprehend English sentences, or an unwillingness to discuss seriously.

You are a troll. I'm giving up on the attempt to get you to act in a more serious or responsible fashion. I've tried for quite some time, and your intent is clear.

Bill P

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Nothing stops me. I have done it. You have displayed either an inability to comprehend English sentences, or an unwillingness to discuss seriously.

You are a troll. I'm giving up on the attempt to get you to act in a more serious or responsible fashion. I've tried for quite some time, and your intent is clear.

I'm not a troll, Bill. My intent is commitment to truth and clarity, and unless we find a common frame of reference for the discussion, there is the danger of mutual misunderstandings as an obstacle.

As for my understanding of the English language - it is mostly very good, Bill. So there should be no obstacle in terms of English as our common linguistic code (unless you'd use a lot of slang expressions (which you clearly don't). :)

Rand called Keating "a selfless man who is a ruthless, unprincipled egotist in the accepted meaning of the word".

So Rand's attributes to "selfless man" the qualifiers "ruthless, unprincipled egotist in the accepted meaning of the word."

With "accepted meaning of the word" does she refer to the dictionary entries defining the word 'egotist'? I can't interpret it otherwise. If anyone can think of a different interpretation of her words, please post it here - TIA.

Edited by Xray

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2. So, yes, I think that Keating's asking Roark to design the Cortlandt homes for him was an unselfish act. Why? Because Keating well knew that a man's achievement is his own, and that any fame that follows is always derivative of that which one has achieved. Keating knew he could not achieve, but he wanted the fame. He desired a consequence contra to its cause. It was a desire for unreality that motivated him--the knowledge of the facts be damned. Since the act was motivated by this irrational desire, against the consent of his mind's rational judgments of causality; therefore, his asking Roark to do the work was an unselfish act.

Going by this definition, every thief, and robber and murderer would be unselfish too. But I suppose not even their defense lawyer would refer to them as unselfish, even if the lawyer were a Randist. :)

The problem with Rand is that she created her own linguistic universe, often using terms in complete contradiction to the accepted common language code.

For example, she arbitrarily calls people like Keating who want to profit from others' work "altruists", while at the same time lambasting "altruism" as an ideology propagating the exact contrary (putting other people's wishes first) - in short, the semantic chaos Rands creates is evident, but she is not aware of it. If one does not let oneself be blinded by her rethoric and lifts the veil, the contradictions can clearly be seen.

[Xray]What does Rand mean by "in the accepted meaning of the word" - accepted by whom?
Good catch, Xray! You found something I did not notice before.

The "self" in "selfishness" is man's mind, particularly, that faculty of conscious ness that thinks, i.e., the ego. When that which thinks is set aside in favor of emotion or desire (apart from rationally derived desires) or in favor of the opinions of others, the self is set aside. Any volitional action motivated by such set-asides are unselfish, selfless acts.

Read page 696 again and ask yourself if anyone would call Peter Keating an egoist in the exact sense defined here and in the root post.

The cited quotation in the annex is Ayn Rand's sketch of the character Peter Keating before she wrote the novel.

I interpret Rand in this specific context to be adopting the popular vernacular of the period, hence the phrase "in the accepted meaning of the word."

Prior to the existence of the novel, there was on earth no such idea of "selfishness" (rational self-interest), no such idea of "egoist" (one who values his mind, with reason as his sole means of guidance), no such idea of "second-hander" (one who denies the self and acts on the opinions of others), etc. The annex reflects this and simply records a historical fact.

The "ego(t)ist" conception at the time before the novel is probably the Nietzschean "individualist" who would trample on anybody and everybody to get what he desired--e.g., pushing out an old architect in the firm, selling one's wife for a contract, etc.

What about Roark blowing up the building, potentially endangering other people's lives? Isn't that an act of ruthless egotism too? How can he, from a breach of contract, feel entilted to such an act of destruction? What does this say about the psychological make-up of this "hero" whom Rand created "as man should be"? And how does this act of violence gel with the Randian dogma of non-initiation of violence?

Indeed, in the "Introduction" to the 25th annniversary edition, p. viii, Rand mentions the spelling to this word. But throughout the novel itself, she never uses the word to attribute to Peter Keating.

Beginning with Ayn Rand, we have a new conception of egoism. ("A New Concept of Egoism" is also the subtitle of her book The Virtue of Selfishness.) Rand discovered the idea. She found it true. She used it. Now, thanks to her, anyone else on earth can take it-- or leave it. Since I find it true, I adopt it and use it.

This is a copy from my answer to Brant Gaede which addresses the point:

The English dictionary I used does not make any semantic distincition between the two terms at all, and lists the 't' version as mere spelling variant.

As for the intro to the 25th Anniversary edition of The Fountainhead - I have it here, and just read what Rand said about the different spellings of egoist/egotist; that she consulted a dictionary (Websters Daiy Use dictionary, 1933) which she said gave her "a misleading definiton of the these two words".

Rand seems to be of the opinion that "egotist" is semantically more "loaded" in the direction of 'ethically negative': that is, its 'connotation' goes more to negative than "egoist".

Just a personal observation on my part, with no claim of statistical relevance: I have heard the word "egoist" used more often in British English, and "egotist" more often in American English.

Whatever, Rand verbatim called Keating an "egotist", and judging by her disapproval of this character, we know of course that she uses the term in an extremely negative sense.

The real epistemological bombshell is that Rand, by verbatim calling a "selfless man" (an altruist), an "egotist", admits that altruists are driven by self-interest too (she calls it egotism, but this is of secondary importance here), thereby conceding (without realizing it) that there is no such thing as genuine altruism.

Edited by Xray

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Now I have a metaphysical question?

Is it possible to nag yourself in a Randian universe?

Adam

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Such confusion is to be expected when a person uses words in a way different than they are normally used.

In the context of Objectivism, you can only prove what Rand meant by referencing her exact words. I'll edit this post with quotations later once I dig out my Rand books, but by altruism and unselfishness she meant the mentality which finds value in the appraisal of others. An altruistic act, then, is an act that originates from a desire to attain the approval of others. Keating taking Cortlandt for Roark to design was, by this definition, an unselfish act, because he wanted to save face by doing so (I believe; if I'm incorrect on Keating's motivation here, feel free to correct me). He was motivated by what others would think of him. He wanted the good rep. that would come with designing Cortlandt. Notice he isn't too interested in the money. He offers Roark the money. If I remember correctly, this takes place not too long after the March of the Centuries fiasco. He is criticized in the press (including by his own dear Ellsworth Toohey) and loses business as a result. Too many people think Rand contradicts herself because they're still oriented to the idea that unselfish acts are necessarily benevolent. Acts are not inherently selfish or unselfish. If you loan money to a poor friend because you think she deserves some help, it is not an unselfish act. But if you give that same friend money because you think she'll think poorly of you if you don't, it is an unselfish act. Would it be wise to use this definition of unselfishness in a court of law? No, probably not. We don't live in an Objectivist society, after all.

It is also worthwhile to note that Rand is not an advocate of selfishness, but of RATIONAL selfishness.

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Brant:

Or, a dictionary from that time period. Obviously Rand did not Google her words for definitions. It would be interesting to me to find out which dictionary that she preferred.

Michelle:

"It is also worthwhile to note that Rand is not an advocate of selfishness, but of RATIONAL selfishness." <<<<which clearly implies an obverse of irrational

selfishness.

You are a breath of fresh air! lol

Adam

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Brant:

Or, a dictionary from that time period. Obviously Rand did not Google her words for definitions. It would be interesting to me to find out which dictionary that she preferred.

Michelle:

"It is also worthwhile to note that Rand is not an advocate of selfishness, but of RATIONAL selfishness." <<<<which clearly implies an obverse of irrational

selfishness.

You are a breath of fresh air! lol

Adam

If this helps, this is from the "Introduction to the Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition" of my copy of The Fountainhead. She's speaking of an error in the book she wishes to clarify. "The error is semantic: the use of the word 'egotist' in Roark's courtroom speech, while actually the word should have been 'egoist.' The error was caused by my reliance on a dictionary which gave such misleading definitions of these two words that 'egotist' seemed closer to the meaning I intended (Webster's Daily Use Dictionary, 1933)."

Yes. Irrational selfishness as you saw in Nietzsche and Max Stirner.

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Such confusion is to be expected when a person uses words in a way different than they are normally used.

In the context of Objectivism, you can only prove what Rand meant by referencing her exact words. I'll edit this post with quotations later once I dig out my Rand books, but by altruism and unselfishness she meant the mentality which finds value in the appraisal of others. An altruistic act, then, is an act that originates from a desire to attain the approval of others. Keating taking Cortlandt for Roark to design was, by this definition, an unselfish act, because he wanted to save face by doing so (I believe; if I'm incorrect on Keating's motivation here, feel free to correct me). He was motivated by what others would think of him. He wanted the good rep. that would come with designing Cortlandt. Notice he isn't too interested in the money. He offers Roark the money. If I remember correctly, this takes place not too long after the March of the Centuries fiasco. He is criticized in the press (including by his own dear Ellsworth Toohey) and loses business as a result. Too many people think Rand contradicts herself because they're still oriented to the idea that unselfish acts are necessarily benevolent. Acts are not inherently selfish or unselfish. If you loan money to a poor friend because you think she deserves some help, it is not an unselfish act. But if you give that same friend money because you think she'll think poorly of you if you don't, it is an unselfish act. Would it be wise to use this definition of unselfishness in a court of law? No, probably not. We don't live in an Objectivist society, after all.

It is also worthwhile to note that Rand is not an advocate of selfishness, but of RATIONAL selfishness.

Pretty good post!

Bill P

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Brant:

Or, a dictionary from that time period. Obviously Rand did not Google her words for definitions. It would be interesting to me to find out which dictionary that she preferred.

Michelle:

"It is also worthwhile to note that Rand is not an advocate of selfishness, but of RATIONAL selfishness." <<<<which clearly implies an obverse of irrational

selfishness.

You are a breath of fresh air! lol

Adam

If this helps, this is from the "Introduction to the Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition" of my copy of The Fountainhead. She's speaking of an error in the book she wishes to clarify. "The error is semantic: the use of the word 'egotist' in Roark's courtroom speech, while actually the word should have been 'egoist.' The error was caused by my reliance on a dictionary which gave such misleading definitions of these two words that 'egotist' seemed closer to the meaning I intended (Webster's Daily Use Dictionary, 1933)."

Yes. Irrational selfishness as you saw in Nietzsche and Max Stirner.

Thank you Ma'am.

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Such confusion is to be expected when a person uses words in a way different than they are normally used.

In the context of Objectivism, you can only prove what Rand meant by referencing her exact words. I'll edit this post with quotations later once I dig out my Rand books, but by altruism and unselfishness she meant the mentality which finds value in the appraisal of others. An altruistic act, then, is an act that originates from a desire to attain the approval of others. Keating taking Cortlandt for Roark to design was, by this definition, an unselfish act, because he wanted to save face by doing so (I believe; if I'm incorrect on Keating's motivation here, feel free to correct me). He was motivated by what others would think of him. He wanted the good rep. that would come with designing Cortlandt. Notice he isn't too interested in the money. He offers Roark the money. If I remember correctly, this takes place not too long after the March of the Centuries fiasco. He is criticized in the press (including by his own dear Ellsworth Toohey) and loses business as a result. Too many people think Rand contradicts herself because they're still oriented to the idea that unselfish acts are necessarily benevolent. Acts are not inherently selfish or unselfish. If you loan money to a poor friend because you think she deserves some help, it is not an unselfish act. But if you give that same friend money because you think she'll think poorly of you if you don't, it is an unselfish act. Would it be wise to use this definition of unselfishness in a court of law? No, probably not. We don't live in an Objectivist society, after all.

It is also worthwhile to note that Rand is not an advocate of selfishness, but of RATIONAL selfishness.

It is ironic that Rand, who goes on and on about the necessity of non-contradiction, is subject to it in her own philosophy. For example, she arbitrarily labels people like Keating who want to profit from others' work as "altruists", while at the same time lambasting "altruism" as an ideology propagating the exact contrary (putting other people's wishes first) - in short, the semantic chaos Rands creates is evident, but she is not aware of it.

Rand wants it both ways - have her semantic cake and eat it too.

It is also worthwhile to note that Rand is not an advocate of selfishness, but of RATIONAL selfishness.

Can you give me an example of "rational selfishness" that does not contain a subjective value judgement?

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