Ben Nadel
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I am the chief technical officer at InVision App, Inc - a prototyping and collaboration platform for designers, built by designers. I also rock out in JavaScript and ColdFusion 24x7.
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Ben Nadel at the ColdFusion Centaur And Bolt User Group Tour (Jun. 2009) with: Ye Wang and Simon Free

Finally Finished Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged Audio Book

By Ben Nadel on
Tags: Books, Life

This last week, I finally finished the last CD in the unabridged 42 disc version of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged audio book. It was a tremendous piece of work. It dragged on a little bit in certain parts where Rand basically repeats her philosophy over various different scenarios. But the story line is rock solid. Despite the audio book being 51 hours long, I truly felt that the entire book was constantly building towards a climax. Every time I switched it off, I wanted to switch it back on and find out what happens next.

Atlas Shrugged really hits a chord with me, as I think it touches most people, because it speaks to the best in all of us. It speaks to the part of us that wants to be the best, to do the right thing, to live for ourselves, and to be free and happy. Ayn Rand preaches that the highest virtue of human existence is to be productive. When I hear her say things like that, it's like a huge burden being taken off my shoulders. The burden, of course, is the war that I rage inside of my own head trying to balance my desire to be productive with my feelings of obligation to engage in things in which I am simply not that interested.

I would like to, over the next few weeks, go back over the book and present some passages that really meant a lot to me. It is a most excellent book and I highly recommend it to every one. I suspect that there are people out there who just will not understand what she is saying (and I am not talking about religion, just philosophies on life); I think you either have to feel that the book connects with you at a core level, or you just don't agree with what she is saying. But of those who don't get it, I am sure a lot of it comes down to courage. Living for yourself takes courage. It is not an easy thing to do; this I know from personal experience.




Reader Comments

if you liked Atlas Shrugged you might appreciate the Canadian three-piece band "Rush" who draw inspiration from Rand's work.

Personally, I find her philosophy a bit grating - it smacks too much of Margret Thatchers "There is no such thing as society".

Wait until you have children, Ben, you might think differently.

@Barry,

That is true; her writings, at least those that I have dealt with, have not involved children in practically any capacity. I will just have to figure this stuff out as I go. But it is nice to have inspiration such as her writings along the way.

"Ayn Rand preaches that the highest virtue of human existence is to be productive." Bullshit. The highest virtue of human existence is to help other people. Read "The Iron Heel" by Jack London to get another viewpoint.

@Jim,

I just checked it out on Amazon.com. It looks like a cool book. I certainly loved Brave New World and 1984, neither of which [Amazon's reviews states] are as prophetic at The Iron Heel.

And also, just a note on helping other people. Ayn Rand does not advocate against it. In fact, I believe at one point she says that if helping people makes you feel better, then you should do it. If you get good feelings in return for helping, then it is not a sacrifice, but rather and exchange of "goods" for lack of a better term.

What she seems to be against is the praising of self-sacrifice as a virtue.

>>Bullshit. The highest virtue of human existence is to help other people.

Well, that's bullshit too. There is no "highest" virtue for humanity. (By whom exactly was it determined? How? And for whom?)

I hope you realize that Ayn Rand, though fun to read once, is a joke within philosophy. Straw man rhetoric about about freedom vs. tyranny doesn't have much profundity - unless you're an American president perhaps ;-)

If I ever recommend one book to anyone interested in philosophy it is The Gay Science. Freud said you could read it forever because after each section you could put it down and think about it for a lifetime. At the very least you come away with newfound respect for both good writing and the question mark.

"Ayn Rand preaches that the highest virtue of human existence is to be productive." Bullshit. The highest virtue of human existence is to help other people.

And to help other people, one must to be productive. I can't see a way to help other people without being productive, it is impossible. Anyway understanding Ayn Rand objectivist philosophy requires from a person to be extremely "objective" to reject EVERY form of lies.

I recommend to read some non fiction books on views close to Ayn Rand views, by Rothbard, Mises and Hazlitt. And a novel by Hazlitt (Time Will Run Back) and then, well why not a very short - but undisputed in every positive way - writing from Thomas Jefferson known as the Declaration of Independence.

"Man-every man-is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life."

I believe this is a quote of Ayn Rand. And I think the tail end of this statement is the viewpoint where folks are uncomfortable.

yes, it would seem so.

it would also seem contrary to a guy speaking wise words about two thousand words ago...

(note: I am NOT religious and abhor organised worship but that doesn't mean that there's not good ideas there - lets keep to society and humanity, OK?)

Probably a quote from Rand because it's a illogical bastardization of Kant's Categorical Imperative ("Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never simply as a means"), which is in turn an abstraction of the Golden Rule, which in turn was invented to keep people in a group in order. None of the formulations are "objective" in any way.

The problem with understanding this is seems to be the following (fact): feelings of community and altruism are the results (not the cause) of social cooperation. And I really admire Mr. Spoke, but... his quote is somewhat inaccurate, it is missing the fact that no subjects can be objectively compared without the quantity and the subjective value element. So, it can be reasonably debated only if we know what kind of needs of a many vs. what kind of needs to a one. I hope anyone of you will agree with me that in a gladiator arena the entertaining needs of the many (the crowd) isn't more important than the life need of the (gladiator), or the needs of the slave-owner family (the many) isn't more important than the needs of the slave (the one).

And one more thing, Ayn Rand wasn't a perfect person, nobody is, but that isn't a reason to not analyze her thoughts and if one find logic, reason behind them... well at least to try to understand the World, and not to accept illogical, unreasonable and stupid doctrines we are bombarded continually with, all day and night by the media.

Ben,

I liked this particular post and wanted to recommend Nigel Warburton's Pod Casts on Classical Philosophy. You may find some introspective bits in there. I bought his book because of the podcasts. While I work, I listen to these pod casts and then later drive home and consider things and ideas.

Food for thought...

@Frank,

First off, that was exactly the right way to start off my week :)

Also, not yet on the iTunes train (still rock the WinAmp). But, I think I might sign up for Audible.com of these days and I think you need iTunes for that.

Thanks for the link, I will take a look at his stuff.

ziggy says...

Probably a quote from Rand because it's a illogical bastardization of Kant's Categorical Imperative ("Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never simply as a means"), which is in turn an abstraction of the Golden Rule, which in turn was invented to keep people in a group in order. None of the formulations are "objective" in any way.

misvision says...

1- bastardize is barely a word.it screams "i'm a backwoods hillbilly with limited perspective" about those who use it.

2- this is not a golden-rule rip-off. it simply states that the more delicate qualities of humanity, such as self-sacrifice, should never influence motivation. It is not saying do unto others..., beacause then it would advocate self-sacrifice, and ayn is not about that. unless of course, you WANT someone to ruin their life for you.

3- I'm sorry i called you a backwoods hillbilly, ziggy, but i'm not taking it back!

4- FOOD FOR THOUGHT: if i am successful - and success just a dream... does that mean that i - am not what i seem???

The best way to help your fellow man is through being productive. This is well established in Rand's work, and unless you simply don't want to see it, you will certainly stumble upon this truth during your own life. Often, the kind of "help" many of us think we're giving others is actually simply gratifying us psychologically, and in reality making matters worse by encouraging the dependence of the recipient. Parents of today's generation are very guilty of this. We think we're helping our children when we're really delaying their independence... when encouraging it would be the absolute best way to help them.

@Nelson,

Rand is great. I am thinking of going through The Fountain Head again. Here in NYC, I met a guy who actually does a walking tour of "Any Rand's New York." Check it out:

http://www.indepthwalkingtours.com

I am thinking of doing this, but will probably wait until the spring :) Too freakin cold out right now.

I am pleased with the book and am glad to have used it as a tool to form shape to thoughts I've had ever since growing up in rural Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Japan, Korea, and California. The world is not worth helping. The only thing that is worth helping is yourself. When you help yourself you will be helping others by way of example. fwiw, helping yourself is not a selfish (this word is strangely tinged with a negative nuance in this lifetime) thing. Consider the idea that helping yourself is a healthy thing that is similar to the idea of survival of the fittest.

It is really a rather simple idea that she wrote about. The Christian churches have all picked up on it for probably a great amount of time. I was raised as a protestant (Baptist) and later in life converted to become a Catholic. I self describe as not being a religious person...fwiw. I talk to God every day and am still waiting for an answer. I probably need to stop driving the I-5 so I can better hear...i digress. Through out my experience with religion I've noticed a simple modus operendi in the teachings of the christian faith that revolves around one of the duties of being a Christian. Many people believe it is your obligation as a Christian to spread the good word. The best way to do this is to live a good life. Or so I've learned in church, Sunday school, and bible study. By doing so you will attract good people...or so my experience has been.

It's also interesting to note that the Masons do this as well. You will probably notice that you have likely never seen a Mason recruiter. To become a Mason you must know a Mason and earn sponsorship into the organization. It is probably safe to write that most people would not want to become a Mason if the Masons that you know are complete asses. They actually hold a belief that excelling at what you do will speak well of yourself and in turn will attract others that want the same thing. This is a good thing I think.

Of all of the relationships that I've had in my life I've noticed that the most rewarding and honest ones were with people who took care of themselves. I think when Mrs. Rand was writing this book she was simply writing about simple truths. It's kind of ridiculous how we're all writing about it here and it's even more jocular to see some folks get a little upset and name call other folks. I think perhaps they don't quite get it yet. They'll come around eventually...or, maybe not. Doesn't really matter because I'm going to sleep well tonight, wake up in the morning, hug my kids, kiss my wife, and go for a bike ride.

Regards,
me

I started this book 25 years ago and was SO friggin' depressed after about 3/4 of it I put it down and never finished it. It nagged in the back of my brain that I just HAD to tough it out and finish it all the way through.

So I recently restarted it from the beginning. It's absolutely AMAZING how dead-on she is about what's happening today -- and she wrote it more than 60 years ago. This Gubment Motors deal is just right out of the pages of her book. The ObamaCare is nothing but the Anti-Dog-Eat-Dog rule for insurance. But, sometimes I feel I'm the only one who sees it.

There HAS to be more people out there who can see we're headed down the wrong road. This book should be required reading at every level of industry and government. We've got to reward those who take risks, who create jobs, who strive for excellence in what they do. We have to be thankful people CAN make a profit, and not tarnish that word as if it is a shameful activity.

Thanks for your efforts on this. I'm looking forward to a good listen.

@AJB,

Sadly, I don't know enough about today's political climate (I find it to depressing) so I don't have a good handle on how her writing applies currently at-large. However, I can say that the writing is incredibly meaningful to me and the way I want to live my life.

This is the first blog I've ever commented on - possibly because as a coldfusion guy interested in philosophy, this is the first blog I've come across about both coldfusion and philosophy.

Several months ago I listened to an Audio book of Objectivism by Ayn Rand. Although I was drawn to her approach, I found it ultimately depressing, specifically because of her obsession with the fundamental axiom of A = A, and more specifically the rejection of the possibility that human perception can be flawed.

I can't reject the notion that although we're all experiencing the same world (in which A = A), we're doing so through slightly distorted filters. My interpretation of Ayn Rand was that she did reject this idea and then built her theories on that principal. Although we all exist in the same world, can any one of us necessarily claim to be able to view it without bias?

The Web site builder is in a unique position to appreciate this, on the one hand we understand the A = A rich world of OO programming, and on the other we're constantly faced with clients, designers and technical people who can talk for hours about the same website, and yet all have completely different understandings of what is being built.

Around the same time I was listening to Rand I was briefly exposed to some of Marx's views, and they comforted me in a similar way that Ayn Rand did to you. Marx believed that the greatest commodity we have is our labor, one's capacity to transform the world. He said that the possibility that one may give up ownership of one's own labor is tantamount to being alienated from one's own nature; it is a spiritual loss.

I've never really felt that this thing I do - building "things" - is that important. The end product - the "things" might be, but not the part of me that is in them. And yet in my lifetime one of the biggets impacts I will make, are the things that I am moved to create. That someone else recognises and appreciates that is very important. That someone says I should value my ability to create is amazing to me.

@JohnM,

First off, thanks for commenting - I'm happy to have providing a platform for a conversation that has finally tickled your fancy :)

That said, your last paragraph is quite timely; I was walking home the other night and listening to the book and there was a passage about Gail Wynand and the time he once told a woman he loved her. He said something like this (paraphrased):

I want to give you things; but not the things themselves, rather the thing inside of me that is capable of getting those things.

I am not doing the passage justice, but it was very romantic in the way it discussed the drive to create that is within us.

It's interesting, I watched a movie the other night that was talked about in a podcast that someone mentioned above - The Passion of Ayn Rand. I can't say how accurate the movie is, but it was very interesting to watch Ayn the person. And, I have to say that there appeared to be a discrepancy between the author and her heroes / heroines. It was a good reminder that the characters in her book are not a reflection of what is, but rather what could be and what we can learn from.

be careful

- of "anecdotal evidence" that sounds good to support a theory (eg: "all ABC's are XYZ") but can't hold up to scientific evaluation and real analysis.

- of idealised viewpoints that just don't work in reality.

- of gods with feet of clay.

we are complex animals.
We build complex societies because of it.
We have created a place for everyone because of that, whether people agree or otherwise, they exist.
There is a place for everyone, even dole bludgers.
One value system (Ayn Rand's - or your, Ben) is not necessarily any more valid than any one elses.

and if you think some people's value system is more worthwhile than others, then heaven help you - that's what Joseph McCarthy thought. And Hitler. And the Spanish inquisition and the Catholic Church surpressing Galileo's work.

Question everything. Understand and fully appreciate the core values you live by.

eg: Slavery can be easily justified economically, politically and historically**. People like William Wilberforce, however, suggested there were other value systems that should be considered in the equation ...

my 2c
barry.b

** slavery existed in Babalonian times. People enslaved from Viking raids could earn their freedom. only relatively recently has it been unpopular, at least in western culture.

Well, I have to agree with Jim Collins on this one. I have not read Atlas Shrugged but I did read The Fountainhead and I found the philosophy Rand espoused to be complete bullshit. Rand seems to think that selfishness is a virtue. That only by having everyone focus on their own happiness and well being can we truly make the world a better place. That is just complete crap. Perhaps if it were possible for everyone to fulfill their individual goals without affecting the happiness of anyone else, Rand's philosophy might work. But the reality is that no one lives in a vacuum. Everything you do has some affect, however small, on everyone else in the world. It's a simple fact that one person's pursuit of happiness is bound to have some kind of negative affect on someone else (for proof, see the worldwide disaster that has recently come to pass as the result of the blind "pursuit of individual happiness" by those on Wall Street). Only by carefully considering how all of your actions may effect those around you can global harmony truly be achieved.

If people want to follow a philosophy that is beneficial to themselves and the rest of the world, they would do far better to read Siddhartha and follow the tenants of Buddhism than to buy into the selfish, narcissistic bullshit that Ayn Rand espouses as a "virtue".

One think I think we need to be on the same page about is that selfish in Ayn's meaning did not have the same connotation that it means when we use it in every-day speech. When she referred to "selfishness" I believe all she meant was that you have to hold your self as the most important thing in only so much as that your happiness is more important than anyone else's happiness. To hold anything else would be to live life as a sacrifice.

Now, let's NOT take that without some simple evaluation:

* Being "selfish" does not mean that we have to be mean.

* Being "selfish" does NOT mean that we don't invest time / effort / money in our long term happiness (even at the expense of immediate happiness and satisfaction ... I think anyone who raises kids would agree to that - you stop sleeping for years because kids make you happy).

* Think your values are better than other people's is VERY different than imposing your values on other people (let's not start drawing conclusions between Hilter and the Spanish Inquisition that forces their moral law on others).

People seem to view Ayn's thoughts and take them to the extreme, which I never understand. I don't think her idea conflict all that much with what most people think - she is just well articulated. One can even do *charity* work under her philosophies without conflict; so long as one understands that the *charity* work is an investment in ones OWN happiness.

"Being "selfish" does not mean that we have to be mean."

True, but being selfish, by definition, means that we place our well being and pursuit of happiness over the well being and happiness of others. As I said, this would be fine if our pursuit of well being had no effect on the well being of others (i.e. if we lived in a vacuum), but that is just not how it is. Even if you are not being intentionally "mean", the fact that you are only considering yourself means that you will ultimately, by action or omission of action, hurt someone else (whether intentionally or not).

"Think your values are better than other people's is VERY different than imposing your values on other people (let's not start drawing conclusions between Hilter and the Spanish Inquisition that forces their moral law on others)."

I respectfully disagree. The habitual thought patterns that we all carry with us (i.e. our "paradigm") is what makes our reality (i.e. "you are what you think"). If you are walking around thinking that your values are superior to others' values, you will by default impose your values on everyone else. That is, if your interpretation of reality includes the belief that you and your values are inherently superior to others, you will consciously or unconsciously behave in a way that conforms to those values. Because you do not live in a vacuum, this means that eventually you will be faced with a situation where you are forced to make a decision between being true to your values at the expense of someone else, or compromising your own values somewhat in order refrain from harming another. If you believe your values are superior, you will always choose uncompromising option, even at the expense of the happiness and well being of others.

@M,

I am having trouble coming up with a good example in which you would sacrifice yourself for the good of other people in a non-selfish way? As such, I can't really wrap my head around what you are saying.

Perhaps we need to first agree that seemly non-selfish action is actually rooted in selfishness. An example or two:

* I push my kid out from in front of a moving car and get hit in the process (reality: the pain of seeing my kid get hurt outweighs my own sense of pain, hence the act is in my own self-interest:: selfish).

* Fighting in the army to defend this country (reality: if you love something, such as this country, you gain a feeling of satisfaction knowing that you have defended it, or herhaps the army is paying for your education, the act is one of self-interest:: selfish).

* You walk by a homeless person an give them money (reality: the act of giving to others fulfills religious beliefs or feelings of charity or some other feeling of elation, or you simply don't want to feel guilty, hence the act is in your own self-interest:: selfish).

As you can see, many seemingly non-selfish acts are based, I would argue, a feeling of self-fulfillment; as such, I am having a hard time coming up with a situation in which you would want to do something in complete sacrifice? Such a desire would appear to go against a survival instinct?

As far as your beliefs not imposing on others, obviously if we live amongst others, there is going to be interaction - as every one keeps saying, we don't live in a vacuum. But, one cannot get away from having thoughts and performing actions. This will be true for any beliefs. As such, perhaps this is a moot point to argue in either direction.

Taking the pursuit of selfishness in isolation might not do Rand justice. A second string to her philosophy is expectation that man raises themselves beyond the animalistic desires that lead to conflict and greed:

"The men who attempt to survive, not by means of reason, but by means of force, are attempting to survive by the method of animals."

She seems to see selfishness as the means by which man takes charge of their own destiny and fortune. It's the same same argument used by many to avoid health care reform. You stand on your own two legs. It frees those who do them selves a disservice by always worrying about the needs of others, and never themselves.

It's a pretty harsh approach, and I don't necessarily agree with it. But I also think it's an opinion that's worth airing.

"I swear by my life, and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."

I also got the feeling from her writings that she was using the selfishness argument mainly as a way of tackling the institutionalised smugness of some religions (or as she saw them, mystical groups).

In essense she was saying The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Sometimes people would do better to mind there own business.

Hi! i found this book here in a comment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cD8AG-zPMuU&NR=1

Eckhart Tolle really opened my mind, along with other powefull people.. being conciousnes, living the now..
I love the frase that resume a lot "to be productive".. and your reaction about it... i didn't read it yet, but i feel the same way too!!.. i want to be productive, i really do.. i mean.. i care about stuff, work.. etc.. but.. i don't know.. what else do we need to do to be productive?? Do i feel empty of energy 'cause i don't have someone to love?? i work and do stuff but feel empty... i smoke marihuana and it helped me a lot.. (listen to terrence mc kenna for example)....
I know these people help me.. but it's hard to put behind alllllllllllllll those years of society pushing... capitalism.. having stufff.. work as whatever just doit!... it's wrong to feel empty 'cause i don't have a boyfriend? and the scary part it´s when i have one....... still feeling empty.... what happen?

@Elisaisabel,

I listened to Eckhart Tolle's book, "The Power of Now". It is a very interesting book; and, it doesn't hurt that his voice is completely hypnotic. My biggest problem with it was that it felt like too big a mental leap in parts - that there weren't things you could do in a practical sense, but rather wait for you mind to adjust to living in the "now". Not to say that the book doesn't have a practical pointers; just, I felt like some of it was a little to meta to the proactive actions.

I listened to the clip of Tolle and Oprah: I get very put off by people who talk in terms of energy. They talk as if Positive and Negative energies are tangible, and by calling them energies automatically adopt the conservation laws of physics. That's the sort of talk that leads to feng Shui. Not to dismiss Tolle's work, I don't really know it, but from what I've seen it falls in the category of reframing - finding a new way of looking at events, so that you can mentally manage them differently.

@John,

I can understand; I think that's what I mean when I talking about it lacking more "practical" approaches. Sometimes it feels too meta-physical and not enough like do X, Y, Z and you might be happier.

@Elisaisabel,

I've only listening to his previous book, "The Power of Now"; perhaps I should check out the latest book. I had trouble getting into the first one, but I don't want to be closed to new ways of thinking.

Objectivism is a form of positivism, and Quantum Mechanics does not fit positivism. One of the postulates of Quantum Mechanics is the impossibility of separating the object of measurement from the measuring subject. Since human brains (and also animal brains) are huge sets of quantum computers of (still) unknown architecture, how can one use objectivism as a foundation for epistemology (the theory of scientific reasoning), ethic, economy, and all human endeavors?

It is clear to most philosophers that positivist views debase the nature of human reason. So it creates the dystopias it desperately wants to avoid. I, for one, prefer not to fall into shame, like Alan Greenspan did. The man had to go to Congress and admit he failed when he embraced Ayn Rand's thoughts and, worse still, tragically put them into practice when he pushed for deregulation of the financial industry.

@joaopft, Not disputing what you say - but...
If I understand you correctly, you are saying that Positivism is based on sense experience (what I experience is what is), but Quantum theory states that the observing body and the observed subject cannot be separated - i.e. it is impossible to subjectively experience the world without effecting it. A is not A. I can be here and there all at the same time.
My (low level) understanding of Rand's view on this is that you've got to draw a line. If you can never trust your observations, then what ever observations brought you to Quantum Mechanics is also flawed. Humans are an observation only machine, so nothing we experience is reliable. Everything that humans think they know is flawed, including this statement (meaning that humans aren't flawed, so I'm right that they're flawed, so they're flawed, so...)
An infinite loop of flawed observation begins and every theory is void. It's building a house on soggy ground (it's like trying to work out if a user accepts cookies when setting a cookie always succeeds, and the only way to test if a cookie is accepted is to set a cookie!).
So what is the point of all this thinking? All this thought is for the benefit of humans. Light and gravity don't care about science. This thinking will only ever exist in the minds of we flawed human. So you have to work from a basis that isn't going to render all arguments broken from the outset. You need to start from human observation is real - because observation is all we've got to work with.
If you don't base things on Observation then every theory you create will be true (My end user has cookies and is sky green pink - disprove without observation. Worse: my user has and hasn't got cookies = I don't know if I can trust cookies = cookies are pointless).

I hate this side of Rand because I see her point - and I don't like it. I'm very much in favour of the idea that Observation is unreliable, but I don't know how to get past my interpretation of her views? It seems to be a division that has had Philosophers at each others necks for centuries.

ok we're talking about quantum mechanics like it affects the newtonian physics that we all able to observe without the aid of machines. quantum mechanics and string theory are pointless to bring up when we're talking about a social theory because those forms of physics are only applied to atoms double think is not a good foundation for a society. not to mention i don't see anyone running into themselves because they're moving at close to the speed of light and observing a stone fall doesn't change the fact that the stone has fallen. so no dice on the quantum argument, if anything i think you've argued against quantum physics.

also selfishness is a great way to live by IF there is a respect for life and private property, because when you act in thought out self interest with more then just immediate gratification in mind you can truly reach happiness. this theory of self interest can be applied to relationships, business, health, property, or whatever else you can think of. think about it, if you go through the thought process "what do i want" "how do i get it" "how do i maintain it" and have the discipline to follow through you will succeed as long as you have taken your ability and reality, as much as humanly possible, into account. example: married man is being seduced by a beautiful woman applying the noble form of selfishness the man should probably decide based on both long and short terms with all foreseeable possibilities in mind and decide if the risk is worth the reward. a man that truly values his relationship with his wife as well as his word would not cheat and a man that doesn't would cheat because he's willing to risk them on an act of immediate self gratification. all you have to do is remember that YOU have the power to make decisions (they're not always easy), to change your reality with action (even when stuff just "happens" to you), and refuse to adopt a "poor me" attitude. not to mention you get the gratification that you know that you've done all that you can to achieve your goal if you apply this way of life to all your endeavors.

@SteveM,

Not sure I buy it.

The only thing that is true is that if you are selfish you will please yourself. There is no reason to think that that will lead to benefits for the society as a whole. If you're selfish you won't care about that - but when society has disintegrated you will miss it. When you need society and it isn't there - then you will suffer.

I agree with you that being truthful regarding your feelings and desires is a good thing, but I don't think you can extrapolate that into a maintainable way of running society. (For a historical demonstration of how damaging this approach is see the causes of the current recession - the bankers who worked for their own selfish gain).

SteveM, just for discussion purposes, you use the adverse impact of banking industry and Wall Street greed to make a point that selfishness can have dire results, and that Rand's theory fails for this reason. An example further up talks about Greenspan making a mistake adopting Rand's theory. My comment to both situations would be that it's unfair to judge her theory based on these limited snapshots of its use because a) only a handful of people were aware of the rules being applied (most people still thought we were operating under the old rules and were taken advantage of because of this), and b) we didn't let it ultimately play itself out. We put the brakes on by applying regulations in excess of any that had been applied previously. I think to consider Rand's theories relative to the banking crisis and Wall Street thieves, we'd have to imagine the world where the government doesn't step in and impose harsh regulations that bind up the system.

I won't go into what I think would've happened, but only throw out for consideration that these examples offer only an incomplete study of her theories at work.

@Steve,

your comments sound like someone who lumps any government involvement as "socialism".

viewing the culture of the U.S of A from the other side of the world can be a laugh sometimes -a black comedy. On the one hand the gun-toting nutcases are afraid of anything to do with the government (and will happily blow up a building or two of government workers, containing mums and dads - and children in day- care) to demonstrate their angst ...

... and on the other hand come bleating to all the low-quality cheap-gimmick news media (and I use the term "news" and "media" with charity here) when something goes wrong with a "why doesn't the government _do_ something!!!"

you only have to look at the excessive horse-trading that Obama had to go through to get a moderate health-care reform to pass ...

... and compare that to the - very socialist - National Health of the U.K which is the life support of so many - including the disadvantaged, chronically ill and mental health patients.

user-pays verses coverage for all - I know what the Ayn Rand followers would choose. I only hope they don't get to decide.

meh, my 2c.

Barry, I really wasn't drawing any conclusions in my post about right or wrong, capitalism or socialism, etc., or didn't mean to. I was merely noting that a person can't take one instance where there's government deregulation of something which greedy people exploited for their own gain, and then turn around and say that Ayn Rand's theories don't hold up because of it. I'm only saying that in order to make that determination we would have to let the scenario play itself out entirely without intervention, or maybe even back up further and study scenarios where the government wasn't regulating in the first place.

I won't go into the whole political debate over health care and socialism. As I said, I only wanted to make the point above.

@Steve,

fair enough. The trouble about social or political theory is that that's all they are - theories. if you let them play out then the theory turns into "history" proving or disproving certain points. The trouble about letting scenarios play themselves out is that a lot of people can get hurt - the Wall Street Crash of 1929 for example. That's why governing - and being part of society - is so hard: there's a lot of factors involved, a lot at stake if something goes wrong.

One way around that is actively studying history to get a better understanding of what's gone on before: government, political systems and society. Lest we be doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past...

@ Steve
i'm not proposing business anarchy (because in this day in age a business could take over a country if there were no laws to prevent it from being so), just as men are bound to laws (no stealing, no killing etc) business should also be. but the only regulation i want on business is honesty. because it would then fall upon the investor/consumer to research whether or not a product/company was worth their money.

@ barry.beattie
no you're getting stuck on the traditional sense of "selfish". if someone is truly looking out for their self interest, as opposed to impulsive wants and greed, a person would decide based on what benefited them overall balancing future with present. maybe it should be called "rational selfishness" because irrational selfish people often hurt themselves because of their short sighted grabbing.

also the problem with your argument about a lack of regulations causing the great depression is that the federal reserve is pretty much to blame for it, our system is based on debt...the more debt we have the more money there is to spend. the reverse is true if you pay off all your debt there is no money. no money, no trade, no pay checks= depression. which is why we have a boom bust system every time people make money they pay off their debt without acquiring more so we lose money in circulation and so there is no money to be had. also how come you don't look at the regulations that WERE in effect that cause the depression and instead of fixing it with duct tape(more regulation) fix the source of the issue (the original regulation). the old adage, more isn't always better, rings true in the situation.

It's interesting that we're using sociological arguments to evaluate selfishness - Society is the polar opposite of selfishness. It has been stated that thinking about yourself will stimulate the economy which is good for everyone. (This would seem to indicate that we value things that are good for everyone, which isn't selfishness.)

Many people currently rate the health of a countries economy as a measure of the value of it's society.

A successful economy is valuable to someone who values having things. So in a conversation on how to live the argument becomes "wanting things is a positive thing because it stimulates a mechanism that supports people who want things".

What you value will dictate what values you seek in a society.

To answer the question "is selfishness a good or bad thing", you need to ask the question "what are my values". From that you can find the correct frame of reference in which to evaluate the answer.

JohnM
if i interpret your statement correctly we're agreeing with different words. in m opinion saying that a person who acts in their self interest, because it will lead to a stimulated economy, is unselfish is kinda like saying a ball hog is unselfish for scoring in a sport. we're all out for our own glory but by attaining glory other people also achieve some spotlight. the ball hog could win a big game putting a team in the history books elevating his team mates, the person who makes millions of dollars spends some of his money which stimulates the economy. so selfishness (as long as it's not destructive ex. stealing or cheating) is a great thing

i entirely agree with your statement about introspection leading to a greater understanding about whether or not selfishness is a good or bad thing though. it comes down to a respect for property (both physical and of the mind) and honor. the only laws i believe in are those that support property rights and full exposure from businesses, and a tad bit of restrictions for things such as monopolies where a company could essentially become more powerful then a gov't.

Helping others is wonderful when it is done voluntarily -- it is the only way it should be done. When someone (government) steals money from the productive people at the end of a gun to give it to the unproductive people, it will destroy a civilization. Rand is showing the ultimate outcome of the latter.

@Glen, You look after a system of government, so it can look after you. You pay your taxes to get something in return, else yes it is theft.

I've been in the US now for a little over 2 years. I'm beginning to relate to your way of thinking. The US system does very little to support the people. From the draconian Tax system, to pensions, health care, education, the criminal justice system.

The average American has to work their butt off to get anything out of the system. Nothing is given freely or without crippling amounts of red tape.

It is the flip side of the capitalist system. It provides freedom and the chance to be what you want to be, but it also turns basic human needs into commodities, and ultimately puts people on a rung lower than products and money.

ziggy said: "Ayn Rand is a joke within philosophy."
...so what ? ever wonder why you mention philosophy to average person and their eyes glaze over and start to fidget like they just want to get out of there ??
well, did you ? it's because 99.999% of philosophy and philosophers are full of shit. so much so, that when someone hits the nail on the head, like Ayn Rand, she gets viciously attacked from all angles, including feminists, who you'd think would want to celebrate her, being such an accomplished woman.
they, as well as the rest of the elitist "intellectuals" attack her because they are dishonest, lazy cheaters, and she threatens their false, mind-created realities and bogus livelihoods.
ziggy, you're just one of millions that doesn't get it, and i couldn't care less, but hey - go f*ck yourself anyway.

52 hours wow. How long is the speech part. In the book it seemed to go on forever, but the rest of the book was really good, although you have to appreciate her point of view.

Whether you like her or not, she wrote stuff that made you think.

I'm getting ready to tackle the audiobook and I've enjoyed reading the posts here. I'd like a reccomendation as to which version to listen to. Sometimes a great book can be ruined by a voice that just rubs me the wrong way. My local library has two versions. The first read by Scott Brick (50 discs) and another read by Kate Reading (45 discs). Anyone have an opinion on a male or female narrator?

Thanks!

@Dorothy,

I believe the one I had (CD's from Barnes and Noble) was narrated by Christopher Hurt. I think he also does a narration of the Fountain Head as well. I guess the good thing about the library is you can always returning one for the other if you don't like the narration.

@Dorothy,

I listened to the audiobook earlier this summer as I went back and forth to work. The version I listened to had 63 parts and I had downloaded it from our state library (Michigan) through our local city library website. Although Christopher Hurt's name was in some of the MP3 tags, Scott Brick identified himself as the reader during the "credits" on the last minute of the last "disc." I have not listened to the version by Kate Reading, but I can wholeheartedly recommend the version by Scott Brick. I really enjoyed his style and voice. I do not think you would be disappointed with Scott.

One other minor thing that you might want to think about as you consider which version to choose is the fact that the book has a more masculine "tone" to it and, therefore, it might carry more "force" when read by a male voice. This is not a "major" reason for leaning towards Scott instead of Kate, it is just a thought that occurred to me. That being said, you will not find that Scott has a real rough, husky, gravelly voice that might become hard to listen to after 60 hours of hearing it. I enjoyed his inflections, his clarity, and his personalizations.

I had mixed feelings when I came to the end of the book. In one way I was somewhat disappointed that the book didn't continue because I really enjoyed the story and Scott was a very good storyteller so the experience was very pleasurable. However, in another way, it is a very long story and I was relieved to be finished (similar to what someone might feel after finishing a marathon). The only part I might skip next time is the 3-hour long radio monologue (it got a little old after the first hour).

Either way, I think you will enjoy it! It is amazingly accurate (almost prophetic) to what is happening in our country (and our world) today.

@Glen, @Dorothy,

Word up - the three hour long radio segment is a beast. I've only read this book once, though, it might be time for another listen.

I think the first time I listened to The Fountain Head, it was read by a female voice (I vaguely remember). Then, when I went to purchase it on iTunes a good time later, I think it was a masculine voice. It took me a little while to get used to it; but, in the end, I really enjoyed it.

the speech, however, was her claim to fame.
it expresses, succintly (if you just choose the several pages that count) states an objective morality depending on no faith and requiring a single axiom- existence exists.
She demonstrates that one can deduce a cogent and fully objective definition of good (and the negation of that, evil).

these are precisely the topics which mark all previous failures of wannabe gurus (who typically, then, proclaimed that it was impossible).

the whole book was built to showcase that speech, which was to glorify her achievement.
The explicit statement and proof of her philosophy is in that speech.

Can I recommend looking up "All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace" a set of 3 documentaries by Adam Curtis. You'll find the series on on You Tube and vimeo etc. The first in this series is about Ayn Rand and her influence on the internet culture.