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 (ISBN-13: 9780511190131 | ISBN-10: 0511190131)

Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics

The Virtuous Egoist

Ayn Rand is well known for advocating egoism, but the substance of that egoism’s instruction is rarely understood. Far from representing the rejection of morality, selfishness, in Rand’s view, actually demands the practice of a systematic code of ethics. This book explains the fundamental virtues that Rand considers vital for a person to achieve his objective well-being: rationality, honesty, independence, justice, integrity, productiveness, and pride. Tracing Rand’s account of the naturalistic ground of value and the harmony of human beings’ rational interests, Tara Smith examines what each of these virtues consists in, why it is a virtue, and what it demands of a person in practice. Along the way, she addresses the status of several conventional virtues within Rand’s theory, considering traits such as kindness, charity, generosity, temperance, courage, forgiveness, and humility. Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics thus offers an in-depth exploration of several specific virtues and an illuminating integration of these with the broader theory of egoism.

Tara Smith is professor of philosophy at the University of Texas, Austin. She is the author of Moral Rights and Political Freedom and Viable Values: A Study of Life as the Root and Reward of Morality, and she has contributed to the Journal of Philosophy, American Philosophical Quarterly, Social Philosophy and Policy, and Law and Philosophy.

Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics

The Virtuous Egoist

University of Texas

Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo

Cambridge University Press
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Information on this title:

© Tara Smith 2006

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception
and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,
no reproduction of any part may take place without
the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2006

Printed in the United States of America

A catalog record for this publication is available from the British Library.

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Smith, Tara, 1961–
Ayn Rand's normative ethics: the virtuous egoist / Tara Smith.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-521-86050-4 (hardback)
1. Rand, Ayn. 2. Egoism. 3. Virtues. I. Title.
B945.R234S65    2006
171.9092–dc22    2005018733

ISBN-13 978-0-521-86050-5 hardback
ISBN-10 0-521-86050-4 hardback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for
the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or
third-party Internet Web sites referred to in this publication
and does not guarantee that any content on such
Web sites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

To the memory of my father, Gerald, who quietly taught me so much.


Acknowledgments page ix
1.   Introduction 1
2.   Rational Egoism: A Profile of Its Foundations and Basic Character 19
3.   The Master Virtue: Rationality 48
4.   Honesty 75
5.   Independence 106
6.   Justice 135
7.   Integrity 176
8.   Productiveness 198
9.   Pride 221
10.   Implications for Certain Conventional Virtues: Charity, Generosity, Kindness, Temperance 247
    Conclusion 284
Appendix: Egoistic Friendship 287
Select List of Works Consulted 305
Index 311


I wish to express my gratitude for the many forms of assistance I have received on this project. A fellowship from the Anthem Foundation for the Study of Objectivism and a grant from the Charles Sures Memorial Scholarship Fund of the Ayn Rand Institute have both greatly facilitated my work on this book. The University of Texas has, on several occasions, granted my requests for reduced teaching loads to enable me to make the best use of those funds. Jeff Britting helpfully steered me to materials in the Archives at the Ayn Rand Institute. My research assistants (serially: Allison Weinstein, Amy McLaughlin, Justin Tiehen, and Sherilyn Villareal) have been unfailingly diligent, allowing me the luxury of assurance that whatever I asked them to do would be done well. Marc Baer has compiled the Index.

   While I was writing a first, very rough draft of the book, I met weekly with a group of graduate students – John Elia, Tom Miles, Warren von Eschenbach, and Allison Weinstein – who raised all manner of questions, objections, and alternative perspectives on my proposals ( just as I had hoped – and feared). The workout they gave my initial formulations proved extremely constructive. Onkar Ghate, Robert Mayhew, Amy Peikoff, Leonard Peikoff, and Greg Salmieri all participated in a workshop on a draft of the chapter on independence; their extensive feedback greatly improved that chapter. Audiences at Bowling Green State University, the University of Colorado, and the University of Georgia offered helpful reactions to material on friendship, which is treated in the Appendix.

   My understanding of the issues examined in this book has benefited, over the years, from discussions with more individuals than I can list here. Although those conversations varied a great deal in terms of their context, their frequency, their depth, and their breadth or narrowness of focus, I have gained important insights from numerous friends and colleagues – to each of whom I am sincerely grateful. I particularly wish to thank Leonard Peikoff, who, as I set to work on this book, issued an open invitation for me to raise with him whatever particular questions I encountered. On the occasions when I did so, he readily probed the issue with me at whatever length was necessary to fully clarify it. I am also extremely grateful to Allan Gotthelf who, while visiting at UT in the fall of 2002, conversed with me about several of the issues I discuss in the book. Moreover, near its completion, Allan Gotthelf and Robert Mayhew each read the entire manuscript and offered extensive comments, which have significantly strengthened the final product.

   Finally, I thank Beatrice Rehl at Cambridge University Press for her support on this project, as well as the staff at the Press for their work in seeing it through to the printed page.

   Some of the material in the book incorporates portions of essays (usually substantially reworked) that I have previously published elsewhere. I thank the relevant editors and publishers for their permission to do this. Those essays are: “Tolerance and Forgiveness: Virtues or Vices?” Journal of Applied Philosophy 14, no. 1 (1997), pp. 31–41 (Blackwell); “The Practice of Pride,” Social Philosophy & Policy 15, no. 1 (1998), pp. 71–90 (Cambridge University Press); “Justice as a Personal Virtue,” Social Theory & Practice 25, no. 3 (1999), pp. 361–384; “The Metaphysical Case for Honesty,” Journal of Value Inquiry 37, no. 4 (2003), pp. 517–531 (Springer) (with kind permission of Springer Science and Business Media); “Morality Without the Wink: A Defense of Moral Perfection,” Journal of Philosophical Research 29 (2004), pp. 315–331 (Philosophy Documentation Center); and “Egoistic Friendship,” American Philosophical Quarterly, forthcoming (University of Illinois Press).

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