The Virtue of Selfishness

A friend sent me a link to the preview of Atlas Shrugged a few nights ago on Facebook (ah Facebook) and I remembered my frantic joy when I read The Fountainhead. I have yet to see this film when it comes out and I don’t know what to expect since I haven’t read the book. But the philosopy of Objectivism is very interesting.

My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.

-Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

From Wikipedia: Objectivism is a philosophy defined by the Russian-American philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand (1905–1982). Objectivism holds that reality exists independent of consciousness, that human beings have direct contact with reality through sense perception, that one can attain objective knowledge from perception through the process of concept formation and inductive and deductive logic, that the proper moral purpose of one’s life is the pursuit of one’s own happiness or rational self-interest, that the only social system consistent with this morality is full respect for individual rights, embodied in laissez faire capitalism, and that the role of art in human life is to transform man’s widest metaphysical ideas, by selective reproduction of reality, into a physical form—a work of art—that he can comprehend and to which he can respond emotionally.

Isn’t that how things are now? Or at least, how things are expected to be? Aren’t we encouraged (by some who are supposed to matter) to live and let live? Aren’t we encouraged to discourage government coercion? Aren’t we encouraged to be individuals and to live our lives in the pursuit of happiness? Aren’t we supposed to spend hours comprehending and interpreting art? Artists struggle to understand themselves, their art-practice, their art-work, the world around them…and then they struggle to get all that across to others. It’s all we do. In fact, sometimes it makes us crazy.

What indeed is my stance on Objectivism? I have been fairly interested in it since I read The Fountainhead. No, I was extremely interested in it and then with time, I became fairly interested. I was reading this article I found online last night by David Kelly, titled Art and Ideals and I really enjoyed myself.

Some anthropologists argue that the appearance of art reflects a significant advance in human cognitive development—the emergence of a spiritual capacity in our species, the final stage in the evolution of the human mind. Although that is a speculative thesis, it is a plausible one, for art does satisfy needs that arise from our unique cognitive capacity: the ability to think in abstractions.


Art is the most powerful means of creating embodied abstractions. In art, we can experience perceptual objects and worlds that achieve an extraordinarily rich meaning through the artist’s work of selecting his subject and shaping the work to embody his vision. In the hands of a master, artistic creation can provide the most complex, the most precise, the most subtle, the most evocative—in short, the most powerful and effective—form of embodied abstraction.

Yes. That does make me feel a lot better about things. It’s a positive approach.

 Ayn Rand noted that a moral ideal is: almost impossible to communicate without the assistance of art. An exhaustive philosophical treatise defining moral values, with a long list of virtues to be practiced, will not do it….There is no way to integrate such a sum without projecting an actual human figure—an integrated concretization that illuminates the theory and makes it intelligible.

The use of the human figure here is debatable but the general idea is pleasant. This is mostly because I have been depressed for a while and brooding in my confusion (and making an ass of myself).  I’ve decided its better to find ways to justify my existence than to pine for enlightenment.


One response to “The Virtue of Selfishness

  1. Pingback: The Virtue of Selfishness | Tea Break

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