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Hicks — Egoism in Nietzsche and Rand



1. This is to define “altruism” neutrally, as against the common terminological confusion of labeling “altruist” any action that has a positive social result. Altruism is one thesis about what is necessary to achieve positive social results.

2. Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Supplement, Q. 94, Articles 1 and 3: “Whether the blessed in heaven will see the sufferings of the damned?” and “Whether the blessed rejoice in the punishment of the wicked?” In Article 3, Aquinas qualifies the rejoicing by stating that it is in reaction to the justice of God’s punishment of the wicked.

3. Keeping in mind that toward the end of The Will to Power, Nietzsche argues that the new masters will thus combine the physical vitality of the aristocratic masters with the spiritual ruthlessness of the slave-priests of Christianity: the new masters will be “Caesars with the soul of Christ” (WP, 983).

4. Rand later mentions the “pyramid of ability” in “The Establishing of an Establishment,” Part II, ARL 1:17 (22 May 1972), 76.

5. Nietzsche also advances another hypothesis about altruism, one that interprets it not as the egoism of the weak but the nihilism of the weak: “‘Not to seek one’s own advantage’—that is merely the moral fig leaf for quite a different, namely, a physiological state of affairs: ‘I no longer know how to find my own advantage.’ Disintegration of the instincts! Man is finished when he becomes altruistic. Instead of saying naively, ‘I am no longer worth anything,’ the moral lie in the mouth of the decadent says, ‘Nothing is worth anything, life is not worth anything.’ Such a judgment always remains very dangerous, it is contagious: throughout the morbid soil of society it soon proliferates into a tropical vegetation of concepts—now as a religion (Christianity), now as a philosophy (Schopen- haurism)” (TI, “Skirmishes of an Untimely Man,” 35). GS 119 also speaks of those who desire only to be a function of others. Nietzsche thus seems to have two theses:

(1) Egoism is universal and natural since all organisms have the will to power; but not all are equal, so altruism is the power strategy pursued by the weak to achieve their egoism. (2) Egoism is not universal, since some organisms are physiologically sick beyond repair; this causes a will to nothingness and a consequent moral nihilism; so altruism is the will to nothingness of the weak.

6. Here I am using “liberalism” in the philosophical sense, not the provincial American sense. Rand generally puts the word “liberal” in scare quotes when discussing its contemporary American use; for example, “’Extremism’, or The Art of Smearing” (CUI, 178), and “The New Fascism: Rule by Consensus” (CUI, 209).

7. In a journal entry dated 2 January 1946, Rand had written that the period of peace was briefer—“During the eighteenth century the trend of men’s thinking was toward free enterprise, and as a result we got the nineteenth century—a period of achievement, progress and prosperity unequaled in history: a period during which there were fewer government controls than at any other time, before or since; and—most important to our subject—the longest period of peace ever recorded (between the times of Napoleon and Bismarck)” (“Top Secret,” Chapter 9 of JAR,

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