The Selfish Basis of Benevolence

“Rand did address the first of these questions, concerning benevolence and altruism. She argued that altruism is not the basis of good will toward others, and more: that altruism is incompatible with benevolence. Yet if we do not have answers to the other questions on the list, benevolence remains a kind of afterthought, a neglected virtue, in the Objectivist ethics. Such neglect has consequences. It contributes to the perception of Objectivism as a cold and even cruel doctrine of “rugged” individualism. The critics who accuse Rand of advocating the greedy pursuit of one’s own gain at the expense of others are grossly misrepresenting her views.”

That was an excerpt from an essay by David Kelley called, “Unrugged Individualism: The Selfish Basis for Benevolence.”  It’s a great read and, I think, an important essay in general. If you are interested in Objectivism, but turned off by the supposed idea of “me me me” (at the expense of everyone else), this will really resonate with you.

Of course even orthodox Objectivism is not about personal gain at the expense of others, but that is what mainstream media, academia, and government will have you believe.  In reality, Objectivism promotes everyone achieving their highest potential as an individual and working with others to achieve mutual benefit.  Nothing in Objectivism explicitly says you should work for your own gain while screwing over others along the way.

Of course the PC Police and SJWs (social justice warriors) don’t like any of this.  To the government, it would be their worst nightmare if every individual realized they are strong, and smart, and capable, and that great things can be achieved by working hard, and working with others for mutual gain and that government “help” and “welfare” does nothing but enable and create dependency. They do not want people realizing society’s needs can be provided through entrepreneurship and private initiative.  It is in their interest to have people believe that only government can provide the basic needs and services of society.  These days this has all gotten so bad, there seems to be a sort of reverse prejudice.  If you are strong, smart, capable, and able to provide for your needs and become successful, then you could be judged negatively for that, and possibly seen as discriminating against those with less ability, simply by existing.

Anyway, I went a little off-topic there; back to benevolence.  So while Objectivists don’t advocate taking advantage of others to achieve our goals, they don’t make a strong enough point that they DO NOT do this. They don’t emphasize near enough that it is, in fact, possible to be rationally selfish and still treat others with kind, helpful benevolence, and that that kindness is actually in our self-interest in the end.

In his essay, David Kelley bridges this gap and helps show us benevolence is and should be a part of our lives.  See the full essay here, “Unrugged Individualism: The Selfish Basis for Benevolence”.

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