Introduction, The Virtue of Selfishness, Sentences 1 through 4i:
In Rand’s first four sentences are elements of Rand’s rhetoric which can be found throughout the Objectivist canon. Rand’s rhetoric may affect a Rand Fan’s ability to converse with other people.
Sentence One: “The title of this book might evoke the type of question that I hear once in a while, ‘why do you use the word “selfishness” to denote virtuous qualities of character, when that word antagonizes so many people for whom it does not mean the things you mean?’”
- Rand introduces the first strong, negative emotion, “antagonizes”.
- Rand tells us that she is important. People ask her questions. Her words cause strong reactions in the general public. “So many people” are “antagonized”; instead of puzzled. Or dismissive.
- Rand has been told that her definition of “selfishness” is different than most English speakers.
- Rand is aware that her use of words is not emotionally neutral.
- Rand’s world is a world of conflict. There are so many antagonists out there.
- The population of this sentence is Rand, several questioners, the many people who have been antagonized and the reader. There is no single individual in Rand’s rhetoric. It’s crowds of people.
Sentence Two: “To those who ask it, my answer is, ‘For the same reason you fear it.’”
- She introduces another strong, negative emotion in the second sentence, “fear”.
- She makes an accusation based on a ridiculous assumption. Who reading the phrase “Virtue of Selfishness” felt fear? Nobody. It is purely a product of Rand’s rhetoric.
- Since nobody felt fear, there is no way to know what reason she is talking about. We are more in the dark than when we started.
- She says she is deliberately antagonizing people.
- Rand claims to be responding to people’s questions. She didn’t start this.
Sentence Three: “But there are others who would not ask that question, sensing the moral cowardice it implies, but who are unable to formulate my actual reason or to identify the profound moral issue involved.”
- She introduces more people.
- She introduces a third strong, negative emotion in the third sentence, “cowardice”.
- She makes an accusation of moral cowardice for simply asking what she means.
- Her new characters are not capable of “formulating” or “identifying” what Rand is talking about. Rand is saying that these folks are without the necessary intellectual ability to understand her profound issues and clever reasoning. Or she is saying that she is incomprehensible, but that is unlikely.
- These new people aren’t using rational thought, but “sensing” things accurately- seemingly in contradiction to Rand’s philosophy of rationality.
- Rand’s new friends agree that questions are for cowards.
- If these people do not ask questions and cannot verbalize her reasoning or discuss the issue, Rand cannot know they sense cowardice; and she cannot deduce an inability to formulate or identify from their silence. Perhaps they are fictional.
- She claims her choice of words is due to a “profound” moral issue; reminding us that she is an intellectual, plumbing depths others cannot formulate or identify.
Sentence Four: “It is to them I will give a more explicit answer.”
• She deigns to inform the stupid, but not the cowards. The ignorant people and the cowardly evaders show up repeatedly in Objectivist material. The premise of her philosophy is that it is objectively true, meaning you can see it. Therefore, everybody already agrees with Ayn Rand; except through lack of knowledge or suicidal pretense. There is no other reason for questioning Rand, for it is simply not possible to have any other concept of reality. “Only through ignorance or evasion can a man project such an alternative.”ii
Summing up the first four sentences: In a barrage of emotions and accusations, Rand has just told us what she thinks of people who question her. If you ask a Rand Fan questions, they have already been told you are a moral coward and an antagonist. Or you are ignorant and inarticulate. If the conversation doesn’t go well, maybe one of the reasons is Ayn Rand’s rhetoric.
For sentences five through eight, please see “Talking to Rand Fans 1.3A, B, and C.”
ipg. vii, The Virtue of Selfishness Introduction, Rand, Signet, New American Library, 1964
iipg. 157, Piekoff, The Analytic/Synthetic Dichotomy Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, Ayn Rand, Mentor, New American Library 1967