The view that equate morality with self-interest is referred to as egoism. According to Ayn Rand, an act is only morally right if and only if it best promotes the agent’s own interests. An agent can be a single person or even a business or political entity. Egoism makes personal advantage, bother short term and long term. If an action will produce more good for the agent than any alternative action would, then that action is the morally right one to perform. Several misconceptions haunt Rand and ethical egoism. One is that egoists do only what they like, that they believe in eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we will die. This is not really the case. Undergoing unpleasant , even painful experiences meshes with egoism, provided such temporary sacrifices is necessary for the advancement of one’s long term interests. Here is an example: You are spending this lovely day reading all of these texts, watching The Fountainhead, and writing a paper. Wouldn’t it be more pleasurable to sit on the beach, go skiing, have a few glasses of wine, have some sex, eat an éclair, play some video games, or take a nap? Perhaps but if you are self-interested, you should do this work to become a more knowledgeable person, get a good grade, graduate from Johnson & Wales, and perhaps get a better job so that you can support your family for the rest of your life. Your self-interest has required you to sacrifice short term to acquire long term satisfaction.
Another misconception is that all ethical egoists endorse hedonism, the view that pleasure is the only thing that is good in itself, that it is the ultimate good, the one thing in life worth pursuing for its own sake. Although some egoists are hedonistic– as was the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 BC) — other egoists have a broader view of that constitutes self-interest. They identify the good with knowledge, power, or what some modern psychologists call self-actualization. Egoists may, in practice, hold any theory of what is good.
A final but very important misconception is that egoists cannot act honestly, be gracious and helpful, or otherwise promote other people’s interests. Egoism, requires us to do whatever will best further our own interests, and doing this sometimes requires us to advance the interests of others. Egoism tells us to benefit others when we expect that our doing so will be reciprocated or when the act will bring us pleasure or in some way promotes our own good. For example, egoism might discourage a shopkeeper from trying to cheat customers because it is likely to hurt business in the long run. Note that ethical egoism is a normative theory of ethics, meaning that it is telling us what we should be doing.
Also note that it is a consequentialist theory of ethics meaning it evaluates ethics based on the results. Unlike deontology, the ends may justify the means… sometimes you must do a little evil to acquire a good. Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran minister who tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler was a utilitarian. He reasoned that it was better to murder one man to save the lives of millions. Although the 10 Commandments instructed him, thou shall not kill, he rationalized that sometimes a little evil is needed to prevent a tremendous harm. Ironically, the Nazi rational was also utilitarians, believing sometimes you have to kill and detain a certain amount of people to achieve what they perceived to be a greater good. Kant would have never accepted this since he was non-consequentialist. You could never do an evil act since it is the act which counts, not the consequence. Interestingly, ethical egoism, although consequentialist could justifyBonhoeffer, in that it is better to die trying to kill Hitler than to live under Nazism and watch your friends and family being murdered while doing nothing. However, it would be difficult to justify the holocausts under egoism since it respects the rights of the individual and does not sacrifice individuals for the common good. Ayn Rand wrote, “The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.” Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, 61
Please write a 2 page paper applying ethical egoism to The Fountainhead. Ayn is one of the most misunderstood philosophers of the 21st century. You may still disagree with her when you are done but you should at least know her principles. Use specific examples and apply specific principles to them. An example of a good paper would be a short introduction which explains what ethical egoism is (or Objectivism as Ayn named it) and conclusion which can include your own opinion. In the body of the essay, perhaps write five paragraphs of analysis which specify one of Ayn’s principles and an example from the movie/book which exemplifies this principle. You can do more or less than five but try to give a few examples and some good analysis
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