The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies Vol. 10, No. 2
and Locke a debasement and lowering of the value of the concept of ‘philosophy’ for more than a century. It was against Hume that Kant arose, and rose; it was Locke of whom Schelling said, understandably, je méprise Locke [I despise Locke]; in their fight against the English-mechanistic doltification of the world, Hegel and Schopenhauer were of one mind (with Goethe)—these two hostile brother geniuses in philosophy who strove apart toward opposite poles of the German spirit and in the process wronged each other as only brothers wrong each other. (BGE, 252)
In other cases, however, the association of Nietzsche with Rand is based on ignorance or a superficial reading of one or both—or upon a desire to package-deal Rand with Nietzsche in order to tar her with the unsavory elements of Nietzsche’s philosophy. So the issue is worth a closer look.
A caveat: In this essay, I will be focusing only upon Nietzsche’s and Rand’s ethical philosophies, and only upon Rand’s mature ethical philosophy. I will leave aside for other scholarship their views on metaphysics, epistemology, politics, and art, as well as the issue of how Nietzschean or not Rand’s youthful writings were.
Egoism, Altruism, and “Selfishness”
The normative content of an ethics follows from its standard of value. What should be one’s highest value, the value to which one dedicates one’s efforts and against which one measures all other values? The two major contenders in the history of ethics are self and others. Ethics of self-interest hold that one’s own self is one’s highest value, that one should pursue one’s self-interest, and that one should measure all other values in terms of their impact on one’s self-interest. All such ethical theories are egoist—from the Greek “ego” for “self” or “I.” Ego-ism is thus a principled self-ism. Ethics that reject self- interest as the highest value usually substitute the interests of others as the highest value and hold that one should dedicate oneself primarily to the interests of others and measure all other values in
terms of their impact on the interests of others. altruist—from the Latin “alter” for “other.” principled other-ism.1
All such theories are Altru-ism is thus a