Hicks — Egoism in Nietzsche and Rand
Rand’s ethical philosophies—and to stronger interpretations of similarities and differences between the two. Nietzsche has acquired his place in the history-of-philosophy canon, and Rand is moving strongly in that direction. It is usual for that process, in the first generation or two, to be messy and marked with half-truths, under- researched speculations, cheap shots, and propaganda warfare.
Yet in the context of the history of philosophy, there are major similarities in Nietzsche’s and Rand’s ethical theories. Both are naturalists, which puts them on the same side against the supernatu-
the good with the same side against
practical and the healthy, which puts them the deontologists and those who advocate
opposition between the contempt for the “last
the practical. Both have great “social metaphysician” type of
human being and hostility for altruism, which puts side against the conformists and the small-minded
them on the same self-sacrificers.
Further, both Nietzsche and Rand embody a high romanticism— exalting life’s challenges and noble quests. Both are philosophical and literary geniuses who integrate the content of their philosophies with brilliant romantic rhetoric. And in temperament both combine a gentle, delicate sensibility with a cold, hard, warrior edge. That puts them on the same side against fluffy sentimentalism and the turgid academic style common to much philosophical prose.
So there is certainly something to a first-glance, highly abstracted connection between Nietzsche’s and Rand’s views.
But a closer examination does not bear out that connection. On the negative issue—the critique of altruism—Nietzsche and Rand do not agree on the most important issue of whether altruism is the egoism of the weak. On the positive issue—the advocacy of egoism
it is not clear that Nietzsche believes in the existence of egos, and
Nietzsche disagrees entirely with all twelve constituent elements of Rand’s egoist philosophy. In consequence, they disagree entirely on the social and political implications of their ethical theories for issues of freedom or slavery, political equality or aristocracy, production and trade or war. And, while the issues are outside of the scope of this essay, Nietzsche and Rand disagree fundamentally on the issues of metaphysics, epistemology, and human nature; those disagreements lead logically to their radical divergences in ethics and politics.