Egoism in Nietzsche and Rand

These are print and audiobook versions of my “Egoism in Nietzsche and Rand” [pdf], first published in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 10:2, Spring 2009, pp. 249-291.

Part One: On Critiquing Altruism [MP3] [YouTube] [64 minutes]

egoism-pt1Three Nietzsches and Ayn Rand
Some intellectuals on Nietzsche and Rand
Egoism, altruism, and “selfishness”
A Nietzschean sketch

     God is dead
     Nihilism’s symptoms  
     Two bio-psychological types 
     Psychology and morality

Comparing Nietzsche’s and Rand’s critiques of altruism
Rand’s break with Nietzsche’s critique

Part Two: On Egoism [MP3] [YouTube] [36 minutes]

egoism-pt2Rand’s egoism
Nietzsche’s rhetoric and system
The major differences between Nietzsche and Rand

     Are individuals real? 
     Do individuals have free will? 
     What is the source of moral values? 
     How does the self identify its nature and values?
     Are individual selves ends in themselves? 
     Are fundamental values universal? 
     Are the relations of individuals win/win or win/lose? 
     Rights, liberty, equality before the law? 
     Slavery and freedom, war and peace


The entire audio version [mp3] [YouTube] [101 minutes].
The print version [pdf].
Return to my Publications page.

5 thoughts on “Egoism in Nietzsche and Rand

  • April 19, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    Dr. Hicks,
    Thank you, an excellent and original essay.
    I have a single objection: “The life of the individual is the standard of value”.
    Surely not? – “Man’s life” is the … etc.
    (“A standard is an abstract principle that serves as a measurement or gauge to guide a man’s choices…”AR) If one’s own life is the “measurement” this becomes self-referencing or circular- with a possible outcome, subjective egotism. I think this distinction is crucial to Rand’s egoism. Do you agree with my re-interpretation?
    Again, a most valuable article. As well, your analysis of post-modernism of which I now have a clearer grasp.

  • July 19, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    @ Tony,

    “Life of the individual as standard of value” means that a man’s life if his own, not a means to the end of others, and that the good is that which furthers it. Don’t get caught up in definition games, it’s very basic- What furthers your life is not subjective, an action furthers your life or it does not. Those actions that do are good. I may want to eat ice cream all day long & think it’s going to further my life, but it wont.

    A man is a specific being of a specific nature and as such there are specific requirements to thrive, these requirements are not subjective. You should read Rand’s novels if you are interested, she has many examples throughout of this kind of thing.

  • July 31, 2017 at 6:32 pm

    Well, I can’t agree.
    “The Objectivist ethics holds man’s life as the *standard* of value–and *his own life* as the ethical *purpose* of every individual man”. VoS
    Rand here obviously discriminates between “man” and individual man. Yes?
    She goes on to define “standard” as an abstract principle – a gauge, etc. – and a gauge evidently cannot be used by oneself to measure oneself by.
    One could claim: My own life is the standard of value which is its own standard of value…etc.

    Nope, this is self-referencing and subjective. It is rather that “specific nature” of man qua man and his life, which is one’s standard of value. That gives the individual an objective measure. “…by the standard of that which is proper to man … to enjoy that ultimate value, that end in itself, which is his own life”.

  • August 5, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    Ta, it should be useful reading once I register.
    In the meantime, Rand speaks directly and clearly. I don’t see why it should be complicated.
    (You have not yet shown where Rand explicitly stated that an individual’s own life is “his own standard of value” — and this is the crux of the issue).

    Why else would Rand distinguish “man” from “individual”, and explain: “The difference between “standard’ and “purpose” is an abstract principle that serves as a measurement or gauge to guide a man’s choices in the achievement of a concrete, specific purpose”.

    (Abstract concept–>concrete, individual purpose”).

    “Man must choose his actions, values and goals by the standard of that which is proper to man…”

    So, one holds the abstraction “man’s life” (and all that entails) as the standard of value — against which one measures one’s own life’s purpose, values, actions, etc..
    Repeat -“By the standard of that which is proper to man”. i.e., “man’s life”, the standard of value.

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