Throughout history, man has been offered the following alternative: be “moral” through a life of sacrifice to others—or be “selfish” through a life of sacrificing others to oneself. In The Virtue of Selfishness, Ayn Rand blasts this as a false alternative, holding that a selfish, non-sacrificial way of life is both possible and necessary for man.
The Virtue of Selfishness is a collection of essays presenting Ayn Rand’s radical moral code of rational selfishness and its opposition to the prevailing morality of altruism—i.e., to the duty to sacrifice for the sake of others.
In “The Objectivist Ethics,” Rand gives an outline of her code of rational selfishness, and of her argument establishing it as the only objective, fact-based moral code in human history. In the course of the essay, she raises and answers a fundamental and fascinating question: Why does one even need a morality?
In essays including “The Ethics of Emergencies,” “The ‘Conflicts’ of Men’s Interests,” and “Doesn’t Life Require Compromise?” she raises common ethical questions, shows how altruism has crippled people’s ability to approach them rationally, and explains how her moral code provides a solution to them. In “Man’s Rights” and “The Nature of Government” she applies her ethics to formulate the basic principles of her political philosophy, while rejecting the altruistic doctrines of “rights” to health care, employment, etc.
The Virtue of Selfishness is indispensable reading for anyone who wants to understand the crucial ethical issues at the root at so many of our cultural debates today—who wants to understand the revolutionary ideas that guide the lives of Ayn Rand’s fictional heroes—who wants to lead an existence that is both moral and practical—who wants to discover why, in the words of one of the heroes of Atlas Shrugged, “the purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live.”