Objectivism, the philosophy of the novelist and philosopher, Ayn Rand, is well known for advocating the pursuit of your own self-interest. Many people take this to mean that Ayn Rand thought that you should ignore the well-being of other people. But this is not what Ayn Rand thought, and this is not what Objectivism says. Objectivism holds that contributing to other people’s well-being can be in your self-interest, even if they are not involved in a monetary, business relationship with you. This potentially includes helping friends, lovers, children and even strangers.
Why did Ayn Rand hold this view? How is loving and helping others consistent with pure self-interest? These are questions that this article will answer.
Objectivism Rejects Materialism and “Range-of-the-Moment” Pleasure Seeking
In order to understand why Objectivism holds the position it does on helping other people, there are a couple of common misconceptions of “self-interest” that need to be rejected.
The first is that self-interest is materialistic: that is, that acting in a self-interested way means acting only to satisfy your physical needs, without concern for spiritual (i.e. mental or psychological) values.
But for human beings, “materialistic self-interest” is an absurd idea that Objectivism rejects. If self-interest were materialistic, then going to see any movie, no matter how good, entertaining, inspiring or emotionally powerful, would not be in your self-interest. You are no better off physically after seeing a movie than you were before, so there is no physical value to the movie. The same would go for video games, museums, roller coasters, Halloween parties, and all similar forms of entertainment. Instead of going out to eat with other people, you would always be best served eating a healthy and inexpensive meal at home. Sex would best be avoided, in favor of vigorous exercise, etc. Continue reading