Close analysis 1.4

The close reading of the beginning of the Introduction to The Virtue of Selfishness continues:

Sentence 8: “Yet the exact meaning and dictionary definition of ‘selfishness’ is: concern with ones own interest.”

  • Her statement is false. That is not the exact meaning.
  • Her statement is false. That is not the definition in the Oxford Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, which is “regard for one’s own interest or happiness to the disregard of the well-being of others.”
  • Leaving out half the definition is a lie by omission.
  • She is setting up a straw man, to create a false choice.

Sentence 9: “This concept does not include a moral evaluation; it does not tell us whether concern with one’s own interests is good or evil; nor does it tell us what constitutes man’s actual interests.”

Sentence 10: “It is the task of ethics to answer such questions.”

  • Abstract concepts do not perform tasks. It is the task of people to answer such questions, and those answers are called ethics. Cart before horse.

Sentence 11: “The ethics of altruism has created the image of the brute, as its answer, in order to make men accept two inhuman tenets: (a) that any concern with one’s own interests is evil, regardless of what these interest might be, and (b) that the brute’s activities are in fact to one’s own interest (which altruism enjoins man to renounce for the sake of his neighbors).”

There are several statements in this sentence, all of which are false.

  • She states the image of a selfish person killing others for personal gain is “created”, thus fictional; when daily news, the history of mankind and personal experience lead rational people to accept that there are such people in the world.
  • She states the image of the brute is a deliberate rhetorical trick to mislead; when there is no evidence of that and none is presented.
  • She states the “Ethics of altruism” create, answers and makes men accept; when abstract concepts don’t “do” anything. People do things.
  • She states Altruist tenets are that concern for one’s own interest is evil, no matter what that interest is. But, since Altruism is a Christian philosophy concerned with benefits to the personal soul after death through salvation for good works, concern for one’s own interest is what prompts Altruism and therefore cannot be evil in that system.
  • When Rand leaves out the fact that Altruism is a Christian belief, she is lying through omission.
  • She states Altruism accepts her position that selfishness is in fact to one’s own interest; when Altruism considers the long term effect of selfish behavior as counter-productive for the selfish person.
  • She states renunciation is for the sake of neighbors; when it is for the sake of one’s own soul.

Now that Rand has set up two straw men with her false definition of selfishness and her misrepresentation of the Christian philosophy of Altruism, she uses them as though they are the only ethical options for us. That false choice drives the rest of her philosophic argument.

(Analysis of sentence 11 has been previously published)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *