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Hicks — Egoism in Nietzsche and Rand


For Nietzsche, by contrast, thinking is both derivative of passions and a less significant source of guidance for action. Thinking, he argues, is only “the form in which we come to feel” (GS, 333). The human being is a collection of (conflicting, as above) instinctual biological drives, and those drives manifest themselves psychologically in the forms of felt passions and desires; some of those passions and desires further manifest themselves as conscious, rational experiences. As such, conscious rational judgments are hardly to be regarded as legislative of action. Since reason and consciousness as a whole are Johnny-come-lately capacities, they are less reliable than the instinctual capacities and drives that have served us well for millennia. Nietzsche expresses pity for humans as they have come to rely more on reason: “in this new world they no longer possessed their former guides, their regulating, unconscious and infallible drives: they were reduced to thinking, inferring, reckoning, co-ordinating cause and effect, these unfortunate creatures; they were reduced to their ‘consciousness,’ their weakest and most fallible organ!” (GM, II:16). In most cases, Nietzsche holds, reason is at best rationalization, and as a general

policy of action, it is an either-or alternative: instinct” (EH, The Birth of Tragedy:1).

“‘Rationality’ against

Consequently, while Rand exalts the power of reason and makes its exercise fundamental to her ethics of egoism, Nietzsche is mostly dismissive of the whole apparatus of consciousness, reason included, and exalts “unconscious and infallible drives.” So while Rand advocates rational self interest, Nietzsche does not.

Are Individual Selves Ends in Themselves?

The key normative thesis of egoism is that individuals are ends in themselves. They are not merely tools, servants, or slaves of other individuals or alleged higher beings or institutions. Individuals exist for their own sake.

The oath taken by the inhabitants of Galt’s Gulch is Rand’s literary statement of egoism: “I swear—by my life and my love of it

  • that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another

man to live for mine” (AS, 1069).

Those who reject egoism argue that individuals are not ends in themselves, that individuals exist as a means to some other end.

By this criterion, Nietzsche is not an egoist at all. For Nietzsche,

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