Does selfishness naturally give rise to selflessness?

Ayn Rand (pen name for Alice O’Conner, 1905 – 1982), well known for her books, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged, developed a philosophical system known as “objectivism” or “the idea of man as a courageous or valiant being, with his own happiness as the moral or proper purpose of his life, and with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”

The late Nathaniel Brandon, a Canadian American psychotherapist, who once engaged in a love affair with Ayn Rand, wrote the book, Honoring the Self, in which he suggests that every individual is to be regarded as an end in him or herself and that pursuit of our well-being and happiness is our proper moral purpose.

In 2015, Peter Schwartz, an American futurist, and author published his book In Defense of Selfishness, in which he suggests that his greatest intellectual debt is to Ayn Rand for her comprehensive philosophy of reason and individualism. He himself promotes the ideology that the selfish individual lives by reason and should not sacrifice himself for others, nor sacrifice others for himself.

While but brief excerpts of their ideologies, these views of Rand, Brandon, and Schwartz clearly reflect the values of our individualistic, self-centered society today. However, should we ask whether the development and prioritization of the self are sufficient to sustain and progress our communities and institutions? Consider: why do we as a society struggle to work together as unified people seeking common goals and consistently fail to reinvent our country so that it once again stands as an obelisk in the desert that others would emulate? Do these individualistic ideologies naturally inspire one to dedicate themselves to the well-being of others once they have devoted and sacrificed so much to become their “best selves”?

I am a Christian and attempt, often failing, to live a life like that of Jesus Christ. To that end, I am responsible for developing the talents He gave me and thus, fully support the notion that I must develop myself, as failing to do so would leave me with little to share. I am compelled to share my talents, resources, and time with others, and I make it my personal purpose to support the flourishing of all individuals in my spheres.

Hal Chappelear

Feb 24, 2022

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