Stoic ethics vs Objectivist ethics

Ayn Rand was somewhat of a virtue ethicist and believed her values were inspired by Aristotle.  Ayn Rand took a turn towards egoism though and explained her values as selfish but not the worst kind of selfishness but the best kind selfishness – known as enlightened selfishness.

From what I understand Objectivist virtues included rationality, honesty, justice, independence, integrity, productiveness, and pride.  This doesn’t seem bad but all of these virtues are defined within the realm of enlightened egoism, which is superior to regular egoism but still has many problems.  One problem is that Ayn Rand suggests that you should never live for another but only for yourself and another should only live for themselves and not for another.

Living for yourself and not for another seems great at first or maybe great in general but it’s actually problematic as an absolute philosophy to live by.  The problem is most people will find it highly ethical for a soldier to land on a grenade to save the lives of other soldiers from being killed by the shrapnel and explosion.  Or what about someone who selflessly gives up all their belongings to 20 people who absolutely need the belongings?  That is living for another before living for yourself.  But it seems absolutely ethical to do those things.  In fact, some instances of giving up one’s life for others is beyond the call of duty.

Ayn Rand was once asked if someone was drowning should you save the person?  She said that you should.  But she’s got a curious form of ethics that seems to undermine that idea.  It seems like following her ethical advice if saving someone meant some threat to your existence, you shouldn’t even bother.

The Stoic ethical virtues wisdom, justice, temperance, and courage are all within the mean between selfishness and selflessness.  Sometimes doing something good will require you to give up a lot of your free time and not rewarding some of your selfish desires.  But Stoicism doesn’t let you just treat yourself like a doormat to people.  Sometimes you will have to stand up for yourself and your principles.  But this is uniquely different than living only for yourself and not for another.  Sometimes it’s your Stoic duty to selflessly help others when their needs outweigh yours.  Being a Stoic doesn’t mean you always have to give up your life for others needs but it does mean giving up some of your time and some of your hard earned wealth to help others in need.  Just remember that before you think Stoicism and Objectivism are compatible philosophies.


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