by Michael Gilson De Lemos

The unselfishess man, with what self does he love? Altruism is a mixed up idea and thus, as used, an evil, but remember Rand is using a strict technical definition from Comte--sacrifice of self to thers as a primary moral goal--and specifically warns against the propaganda that this is the same as compassion, giving, kindness to strangers, and so forth, all of which she says are in the proper moment worthy things.

I would add altruism confuses ethics ( in Aristotle's original definition, the study of character to develop the aware self ) and morals ( the study of salutary relations between self and others, and in general wise customs or mores). Aristotle, Spinoza,
Jefferson and such rational egoism philosphers reject any call for the sacrifice of self as evidence of an ill-thought out approach to begin with. Jefferson had no word for altruism, calling it instead monkishness and tyranny, and openly viewed those who used calls to love others to justify attacks on rights as con-men or very misguided.

My personal experience with Rand was she was warm personally but in philosophy she was all business and gave little slack to those she judged insincere or flakes. Her comments on matters of compassion were mostly to point out the traps of making this a primary goal in ethics and morality  e.g. mercy on Hitler, resolving alleged conflicts of interest via sacrifices, love where factuality was needed, sentimentalism getting in the way of true love, and common vulgar objections that confuse rational egoism with egotism, etc. She also was very interested in communicating that love by a selfless person was an emotional snare, that for love to be strong we must first love ourselves, and this in turn was built on factors involving rationality, self-knowledge, self-esteem from following good practices, etc. She would I believe argue that unless you got this straight, pure concern for others was subtly ( at best ) flawed with many insincerities, paradoxes, and emotional traps. Her follower Branden has written much on the subject, including some excellent exercises to accept and release emotions.

Altruism is also defined in modern times as concern for others, but this is hardly a moral concept, merely a description, and it leaves undefined questions such as what concern, what others, and why. As has been pointed out, Christ and many religious
philosophies e.g. Buddhism, in their original statement were very skeptical of altruist type approaches and emphasized the value of the person. Christ not only calls for people to prize their own souls foremost and shun hypocrisies generated by overconcern with others or uncontrolled feelings, but tells stories exposing the goody-goodies and self-destructive 'selfishness' of the time--the Good Samaritan, the tale of the talents,  etc.

Rand is talking mental organization and discipline, division of labor ( a society where we officiously all mind other's business is a chaos where no one pay's attention to their own ) and getting rid of fuzzy "feel-good" concepts used by exigent men to oppress the unwary. Perhaps her simplest statement poetically is Roark's (this is from memory) "If you wish to do something for people, you must first be a person who can get things done, and love the doing for yourself, not the praise or anything else."

Having said that, a person interested in Objectivism is well-advised to consider how Rand's groundwork then  improves and strengthens teamwork, compassion, sensitive authentic feeling for others, social customs of mutual help, and the like, There is much
integrative work to be done theoretically, and many beloved sages will step forward to have their say by the campfire; but the puzzles of philosophers only inspired and deepened--and never stopped--the true conviviality of friends, the kindness of strangers, the forgiving hearts of noble adversaries, the unity of good enterprises, and the call of true love--don't you think?

Also see MG's "A Few Notes on the Altruism vs. the Self Debate" HERE

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*The Libertarian International Organization (LIO) www.libertarian.uni.cc LIO is an assistance network for rights activists worldwide. Site has growing number of useful Links and Projects.

* MG will be facilitating a " Global Workshop on the Libertarian Agenda " sponsored by the International Society for Individual Liberty and LIO. Please Press "Speakers" at www.libertyconferences.com

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