Rational egoism encapsulates Ayn Rand’s ethical system. According to this theory, the only ethically good actions are those that are channeled towards self-aggrandizements. Reason which is the basic surviving and epistemological tool of man is the only means for discovering what is good and bad .Emotions and desires are unreliable for such feat. Hence, the ultimate end of man is survival on earth and so the basic struggle in human existence is struggle for survival. Any action capable of truncating or threatening man’s individual existence is morally bad whereas those that enhance it, are the good. Individual survival becomes the paradigm for knowing the morality of an action. However, the major problem Rand identified in ethics is that moral philosophers before her were unscientific in approach and as such the ethical theories they formulated were equally unscientific. She moved further to assert and propose that ethics should be based on the nature of man, reflecting his survival needs. Consequent upon that, she advocates for “rational egoism”, the ethical system that urges man to always maximize his own rational self-interest
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Obviously, one of the inherent characteristics of human society across history has been the unequal relationship among people and differences in disposition cover a wide range of human activities and conditions. Some of the conditions are necessitated by nature as opined by some philosophers while others are brought about by structural imbalances in the human society. This unequal relationship contrasts with the natural and philosophical ideas that all men are born equal.
The basis for this conviction is that we are so structured by nature and also endowed with reason and conscience and as such ought to act toward others in a spirit of brotherhood. But then, on the contrary, it is noticed that social equality among individuals and groups in the society has been a willow d’ wisp because of the differences in interests and needs. With that people in vantage positions tend to exploit, suppress and even mash underfoot the rights of less privileged of the society. The result of this social inequality has been glaring in our social contexts ranging from war, kidnapping, and murder amongst others.
No doubt, unequal relationship has created a lot of problems in human society and Rand’s ethical system tends to give vent to such a situation. It is against this background, however, that we are motivated to discuss and examine Rand’s ethical system
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Rand’s ethical theory states that man should always act with his own self-interest in view. According to this theory, reason is the only veritable tool for knowing that which is of interest to man. This form of ethics was formed, principally to oppose the ethics of altruism which was prevalent in Rand’s time and to provide man with ethics based on nature. Rand found fault with altruism because it does not reflect the condition of man’s existence, the basis upon which ethics should rest. However, Philosophers have found fault with her theory on the grounds that it fails to reconcile the conflict of interests amongst men. The following important questions have given the Researcher a deep worry:
(1) What is the basis for this form of ethics?
(2) Can the ethics of altruism vitiate man’s ultimate end?
(3) Can rational egoism lead man to a morally acceptable end?
(4) Is there any relevance of this theory to man and to the society at large?
As a matter of fact, the critical problem that this work shoulders and attempts to resolve is provision of sound and convincing answers to the above questions (problems).
1.3 PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
A major goal of this study is to unveil the primary influences on Rand in her formulation and development of a version of egoism tagged, “rational egoism”. Another aim is to investigate numerous attempts made by some philosophers at denying or refuting rational egoism. This work will also look at the necessary conflict or contradiction inherent in identifying Randian form of egoism with traditional morality.
Moreover, this study will attempt to resolve or put an end to the numerous problems inherent in Rand’s egoism. Hence, there will be a clear juxtaposition between rational egoism and altruism, which is advocated mostly by Christianity and other duty based theories .This work, in addition to these, will establish a link, if any, between rational egoism and Altruism. It will also examine the nature, meaning and any possible value of rational egoism in the domain of moral philosophy.
This research hopes to express the following:
- That the concept of egoism as presented by Rand tends to entrench inequality in the society.
- That Rand’s theory of Rational Selfishness could not establish beyond reasonable doubt that the peace of the society is guaranteed if all should pursue their self-interest.
- That Law should be set up to act as a check to the excesses of our impulses and interests.
- That Rand’s theory of self-interest has some positive and vital implications for mankind.
1.5 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
Ayn Rand was a versatile philosopher who dwelt on many issues bordering on: Ethics, Metaphysics, Epistemology, Political philosophy, and Aesthetics. In this work however, the focus would rather be to investigate strictly her contributions to ethics.
It will study the primary and major influences on Rand and her formulation and development of this form of egoism. Furthermore, we will intermittently make references to her famous novels, which underlie the theme of her philosophy.1
Again, this research work will also look at the views of many interpreters and commentators on Ayn Rand.
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This study will help to understand the meaning and value of rational egoism which is relatively a novel concept in philosophy. It also advances the course of humanism in the 21st century. This is because it maintains that man is the maker of his destiny, even his moral end is in his hand. It holds that man marries the potentials in him with that latent in nature in order to achieve his life goals. With this, then, the society is made better both scientifically and technologically.
In addition to that, this study equally supports the fact that ethics does not just originates or issues from religion or society, ethics is also possible from man’s nature, ethics for living on earth.
Besides, it will help contribute to the body of literature, not just in Ethics but in philosophy. This work will be of immense help to researchers and students of philosophy in particular.
1.7 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
The information and data needed for this work were largely drawn from published works and articles from the libraries, internet, sand journals, amongst others.In harnessing the collected data, the researcher employed historical, expository and evaluative approaches. With historical method, Rand’s rational egoism was found within a historical perspective. With the use of expository approach, her ethical thought is displayed and expounded for better understanding. Through evaluative method, her ethical ideas were subjected to critical scrutiny with a view to finding out whether or not it is practicable, sound and a good guide to human happiness.